Category Archives: Basketball

Clearing My Head

I’ve been sick lately. Without going into too much detail, about the color and size of things that have been extracted from my body lately I will just say that I’ve never been one to let me body dictate to me my social engagements. That is unless my body just completely shuts down and does not allow me to move. So rather than making an attempt to get healthy by resting and taking medicine and eating soup, I have been gallivanting around town. I really have only done two things to help myself get better. I’ve avoided the basement and I made some wassail. I don’t know if the wassail really aided my recovery process, but I did feel better after throwing down a warm cup of it now and then. However, this morning when I woke up, I actually felt akin to a human being for the first time in almost a week.

I even pursued tickets to the ISU-UNI game. A game that I was emotionally invested in because a certain Panther friend of mine sure likes to remind me that we keep losing to UNI. I might have even made bold proclamations on their MySpace page about a certain Cyclone victory.

Well the Cyclones did not cover the check that my mouth wrote. In fact, they were thoroughly humiliated. That check bounced about a mile high. UNI fans were allowed to chant: “U-N-I” in the hallowed arena that was once home to Hilton Magic. Cyclone “fans” (although they assuredly do not deserve the moniker “fan” which is derived from the term “fanatic” and since these people clearly are not fanatical so there must be another term that could describe them like “fanciers” or “People who have a passing interest in the Cyclones”) began funneling out of Hilton Coliseum shortly after the final television timeout.

I left the arena half expecting my phone to ring at any moment. There was a chance that a thorough thrashing like the Panthers had put on the Cyclones might trigger a gloating phone call. I know a thing or two about the gloating phone call. I make one to Jason Baier about every week that the Chiefs lose. Well I used to, but they lose so often now it hardly seems worth the effort to dial his phone number.

My phone did not ring. This meant that the gloating was going to come through the medium known as MySpace. I knew I needed to take my medicine, figuratively speaking of course. However, I knew that I could buy myself some time. I descended into the frigid depths of the basement and opened up Photoshop. I decided to wait a bit before knocking down my full piece of humble pie. I began editing some images I created last week to clear my head and make me forget about the horrible display of Naismith’s great game that I was witness to earlier this evening.

This pictures are similar to the other pictures I made earlier. I haven’t quite captured the image that I’m striving to make, but I am moving into that ballpark.


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Why I Love College Basketball

This is taken from Paul Shirley’s ESPN Diary. It is a retelling of one of the greatest injustices in the history of College Basketball. Plus he only gives a cursory look to my least favorite college basketball memory (I watched that game in F-ing Hunky Dory’s!) and the peripheral reason why I will never have State Farm Insurance.

Journal 43: When basketball became the crying game

Because I am an American with at least one functional eyeball and/or eardrum, I was exposed to the regional finals of this year’s NCAA tournament. Usually I pay only cursory attention to the NCAA tournament; unlike most humans, I find college basketball to be subpar.

I’ve never fully grasped why people prefer it to the NBA. In my mind, the NBA is to the NCAA as a bottle of Pacifico is to a can of light beer. Increased consumption of both results in entertainment for all — one just makes the journey a little more enjoyable.

This year, though, I had a reason to watch the tournament. My favorite college head coach, Tim Floyd, managed to unexpectedly lead his Pre-Mayo USC Trojans into the Sweet 16. Sadly, his team lost its game with North Carolina but, because I had given the tournament more than one idle thought, I resolved to watch on.

Thanks to the shockingly humorless commentating and a realization that it matters not a whit to me if someone wins the national championship or the tournament is canceled due to an outbreak of hantavirus, I was quickly relieved of most of my interest in the tournament.

Except for one part: I paid attention to the crying. And that reminded me of why I should cut college basketball fans some slack.

Back before I embarked on my wending professional career, I played basketball at Iowa State. In March 2000, my team played Michigan State in the Midwest regional final, with a trip to the Final Four at stake.

It would prove to be a memorable game for me, but not for reasons I could have anticipated beforehand. In a semi-prophetic turn of events, I became known not for plays I made on the court, but for my actions off it — specifically for my actions at the end of the bench after I fouled out and it became apparent that my junior year of college would not include participation in the Final Four.

I cried. A lot.

This year, when I watched players break down when their respective seasons came to an end, I was sent into flashbacks via my own episode of quasi-post-traumatic stress syndrome. Thankfully, I was able to stave off tears this time. My brothers might have packed me away for admission to the sanitarium if I hadn’t.

My most memorable emotional breakdown was not an isolated event. I’ve cried after many, many basketball losses. In fact, I’m fairly confident that I teared up after every non-win of my junior and senior seasons of college. (I didn’t play much my freshman year. And we lost 18 times when I was a sophomore — I would have needed a tear duct transplant.)

But my moist and salty trend had begun much earlier. After a sub-state loss during my junior year of high school, I spent an hour in a bathroom stall in a locker room in Silver Lake, Kansas. When we lost in the state tournament the next year, it took me two hours to regroup enough to talk to the one college coach whot had waited for me to pull myself together — Tom Brennan, then of the University of Vermont.

But the loss to Michigan State in the Elite Eight was particularly crushing. En route to Big 12 regular-season and tournament championships, we had lost all of four times on the year. I had grown accustomed to winning. Losses came as shocks to my admittedly fragile emotional system.

I had played a fairly significant role on the team. I didn’t start, but was consistently the first player off the bench. That is, until one of our last regular season games, a matchup with Texas in Ames. During the first half, I came down awkwardly on my right foot and broke a bone within. (I, of course, cried when I found out it was broken.)

Because of my crippled status, I didn’t play in either of our first-weekend wins in the NCAA tournament. But I had healed sufficiently to play sparingly in our Sweet 16 thrashing of UCLA. Emboldened by my ability to tolerate foot pain (assist: injection-delivered opiates), coach Larry Eustachy returned me to my sixth-man status in our game against Michigan State.

I played well enough that I was still on the court with about five minutes to go. (Warning: Most of what follows will be extracted from my admittedly fuzzy memory of the events that transpired. Times and scores are approximations, mostly because I don’t want to take the time to do actual “research.”)

We were up by four or five at the time and were playing well. I allowed myself to think — as I was running down the court — “You could be playing in the Final Four next weekend. Gosh, that’s neat.” (I had not yet been exposed to the cruelties of the world outside of the Midwest, so I thought in sock-hop.)

Then, it seemed like life got even better. I caught a pass in the middle of the lane, lofted up a shot, and ran into someone wearing Michigan State green. The referee in my field of vision immediately put his hands on his hips to signal a blocking foul and then dropped his hand like they do, counting the basket I had semi-inadvertently made. We would soon be up by, well, two more than whatever the margin was at the time. Three more if I could summon the wherewithal to make a free throw.

But then I noticed a referee conference develop. There was discord in the striped ranks — debate over whether the foul had been a charge by me or a block by . . . the other guy. The one in the green.

(Again, fuzziness. In my defense, much of what transpired has become twisted because the events quickly became part of Cyclone Nation lore.)

After a lengthy discussion, the officials came to the conclusion that they would call . . . a double foul. My teammates and I were, obviously, aghast. And a little awed. Our feeble minds had not contemplated the double foul to be a viable option.

We did quickly realize the following: Blocking foul, good for us. Charging foul, bad for us. Double foul, bad for us . . . and bad for the referees. Public admissions of ineptitude are rarely looked upon fondly by 18,000 basketball fans.

(Unless those fans are overwhelmingly in support of the team that stands to benefit from the call. Like if the game is played in Auburn Hills, Mich. and one of the teams’ campuses is in East Lansing, Michigan. Not that we found that 10:1 green-to-red advantage daunting. Or that I’m the least bitter about the logistics.)

The basket was waved off, I fouled out, and our momentum came screeching to a halt. I next looked up to watch Michigan State’s Morris Peterson finish off a lob with a dunk, which inspired the partisan Palace crowd to explode. We couldn’t stop the tide and, soon, it was over.

And so I cried.

Fortunately, I was given exceedingly ample time for emotional expression. With a few seconds remaining in a game that was then out of reach, coach Eustachy took it upon himself to demonstrate his frustration with the officials’ work by storming onto the court.

The circus that followed his ejection gave those manning the cameras — both television and standard still-photo — plenty of time to capture my mood. That mood being the one that inspires a clean-cut white kid to make really ugly faces as he cries and tries to hide behind his left hand.

I was sad because we had lost. But my despair was exacerbated by the personal circumstances at work. I had trained hard to return from injury in time to help my team. My efforts had resulted in a tragic loss. Obviously, I had let someone down.

The next 24 hours was a blur. I remember choking my way through a few postgame locker-room interviews, enduring a long charter flight home, and wading through several hundred Cyclone uber-fans who had awaited our arrival in Des Moines.

We had lost on Saturday, which meant that the poignant shots of the Iowa State basketball player crying his naïve little heart out were featured prominently in Sunday papers all over the Midwest. I vaguely remember hearing from a relative that my tear-stained visage made an appearance even in the Los Angeles Times.

I spent that Sunday holed up in my apartment, healing. That sounds melodramatic, but it’s actually true. Basketball was all I cared about. And that spring, it was all anyone in Iowa cared about. We were the talk of the state. Which meant that I felt like I had failed a population base of around 2 million full-on or partial Iowa State Cyclone fans.

And yes, I took myself a little too seriously.

But by Sunday night, I was ready to move on. I had another season to look forward to — my senior year at a Division I basketball program.

With the departure of Marcus Fizer, I undoubtedly would move into a starting role (true). I surely would have an injury-free season for a change (not true). And of course, we would avenge the previous year’s exit from the NCAA tournament (also not true: At the end of my senior year, we became only the fourth No. 2 seed to lose in the first round). Life was full of promise.

On Monday morning, I woke up ready to begin anew. On my walk to campus, I received a few sympathetic greetings from total strangers. I humbly shrugged off their condolences, nobly declining to confirm their rage against referees who had — in their eyes — bungled a call and taken the game away from their Cyclones.

As I did every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I stopped in at the cafeteria on the western side of campus. I opened the door to Friley Hall and grabbed a copy of the Iowa State Daily.

Whereupon my heart immediately dropped into my colon. In the interest of the entertainment of 23,999, and to the horror of one, the editors of the university newspaper had covered the entire top half of the paper, from left margin to right, with a picture of me, crying.

Specifically, this one

I’d like to say that the picture instantly crystallized for me the relationship between sports and money. I wish that what dawned on me at the time was a realization that the NCAA, CBS and the Iowa State Daily cared very little about my feelings — that they cared about selling tires, razors, and ad space to local bars. And if my inability to control my inner infant helped them to accomplish those goals, they would put a picture of it wherever they could.

But, instead of anything so cynical as that, I only realized that each of my walks between classes was going to be extraordinarily awkward.

I ate my breakfast and walked to class. My suspicions had been correct. As they passed, my fellow studentry looked at me with a mix of awe, sympathy and wild-eyed panic.

Except for one person. While I sat in the library, plowing through the mess of hieroglyphics that passed for my engineering homework, a girl walked up and, without hesitation, asked me to autograph the day’s paper.

I resisted the urge to push her down the nearby stairs and politely signed my name.

Eventually, it dawned on me that her request summarized the feelings of everyone who had watched me break down on the bench in Auburn Hills. They weren’t ashamed of me because we had lost, and they weren’t ashamed of me because I had cried like a sixth-grade girl who’s been told she will have to wait another year to get her ears pierced. In fact, they were proud of me for crying. They loved that I cared enough to cry.

Which, I suppose is why people like college basketball. They want to see heartbreak. They want to see the farm kid burst into tears when his Cinderella hopes are crushed by some basketball juggernaut. And they want to see vulnerability in the street-hardened eyes of that juggernaut’s McDonald’s All-American, when his team’s hopes are crushed by someone else.

On and on, until only one team is left. A winner. A conqueror. Whose head coach immediately chokes up on the podium.

(It would seem that sports fans just want to see people cry. Kind of the opposite of the bloodlust we might expect.)

As I watched teams fall in the tournament this year, I was struck with how ridiculous the players look when their seasons end. I know that they’ll probably play more games. For the better players, those will be more important games: Their ability to feed themselves will depend on them.

But, just like the 21-year-old version of me, they don’t know that yet. Their attention was more focused: They cared only about winning that game. And that, I grudgingly will admit, makes college basketball a little more watchable than I would like to admit.

i’m just glad my emotional fragility could contribute to the entertainment of us all.

Source URL: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/columns/story?columnist=shirley_paul&page=Journal-43

Something Out of Nothing

I went on a brief sojourn to Minnesota this past weekend. I had some pretty ambitious plans for a photo montage, but that fell through. So I put this little thing together to make me feel better about me.

The Drink


2007
“This beer tastes like dog rectum. Jay let me pour you a glass and see how you like it.”

2007
“Dog rectum. Indeed! Pour me a glass and I shall decide the truth of this matter.”

2007
Glug, glug, glug!

Jay's Last Drink
“Ugh! Not so good!”

2007
“Ha! Ha! I take joy from your suffering!!!”

The End

Also, I’m putting together a little NCAA tournament pool. I have already sent an e-mail out to everybody I know that likes basketball. If I missed you and you would like to enter, let me know. There is nothing on the line but pride. I say nothing only to bait the foolish people that think that pride is nothing.

Reflections on the Last Few Days (Part III)

I have had difficulty in getting back in my mode to finish up this mostly uninteresting tale. It has been over a week since most of this stuff has transpired. My memory of the events may be more than a little bit foggy. I’ll do my best recollect these events because in the last few weeks I have received the following comments to my face:
 
“See. I really do read your blog.”
 
“Kelly thought your commentary about Jay was spot on.”
 
“I can’t wait to hear about your lunch with Bill W.”
 
“I didn’t say ‘let’s go get a salad’!”
 
I’m not entirely sure that I’ve been able to get back into my mode. Once I’m out of my mode I can’t force myself back. All I can do is create conditions that are conducive to getting my mode back into effect. So I’m listening to a little Otis Redding and I’m typing away. If that doesn’t help me get back to my mode, it might be gone forever.
 
I believe the last time I took keyboard in hand in a creative direction I had just concluded my Oscar analysis. The Oscar analysis that moved people so much that not a single person decided to offer an opinion on what the most tragic ending to the movie “Blood Diamond” would be. This can mean only one of a few things.
 
#1. Nobody actually made it to the bottom of Part II.
#2. After getting to the end of Part II everybody was so emotionally exhausted that they couldn’t bring themselves to offer an opinion to a simple multiple choice question.
#3. Nobody thinks that what happens with conflict diamonds is tragic. Perhaps the real tragedy in their minds is that not enough innocents are murdered and enslaved.
 
I don’t know. I’ll just accept that despite the claims of some to the contrary, these writings exist in a vacuum.
 
I’ll just get back to the business of this writing, which is to weave the tale of my existence and recent exploits. Although, I’m sure there is somebody out there with a dictionary right now claiming that the events that have passed through my experience lately can hardly be considered exploits. More than anything they are a monument to a culture of consumerism and an attitude of narcissism. Except for making soap, that was certainly an accomplishment. Eating shrimp at the Oscar party was also an accomplishment. I’m telling you, these things were massive.
 
We left the formal Oscar party and made our way back to Jen and Derrick’s homestead. I believe we reached their front door pretty close to midnight. I entered the living room to see Jen’s first completed project from her stained glass class. She had made a stepping stone. I knew that this was the first project and I was always a little bit suspicious. How do you make something for stepping on out of stained glass?
 
She brought it up from the basement where it had been curing. Curiously this was the second time this weekend I had heard about something being left in the basement to cure. This time I did not see an activity known as “catproofing” though.
 
It was pretty amazing. I’m a stained glass man from way back and I was impressed. The stained glass was placed in concrete. The design was a butterfly. This is a particularly difficult design because it is symmetrical. This meant that for every piece of glass that Jen cut she had to also cut an identical piece for the opposite side. She did an amazing job. I am eager for the future stained glass night where we make our own coasters. Although I confess not being sure that I am up to the challenge.
 
There was one other curious thing about this stepping stone. The concrete was extremely smooth. Maybe I’m impressed by strange things, but there isn’t a trick to making the concrete turn out so smooth. You don’t sand it. That is the way it hardens. It is naturally that smooth.
 
I went home and crashed, not anticipating much of consequence to transpire on the following day.
 
I woke up on Monday and headed into the computer mine. My only hope was to make it through yet another day of arduous labor without developing the dreaded Silicon Lung. Jesse approached me and delivered some good news. Bill W. would be joining us for lunch.
 
Let me stop and make a point here. I’m not calling this man Bill W. because that is his name. I do not wish to be forthcoming with his actual identity because I might in my haste of writing this thing, blurt out some private information. You see Bill W. had stopped in Ames on his way home from the Twin Cities where he had a date with a lady friend. I will be coy with his true identity because he may or not be on the prowl with this lady.  There is a nearly infinitesimally small chance that she might happen upon this blog and read some of the things I’m about to put down about Bill W. and his attempts to make this date something a little bit more substantial. I don’t want to kill Bill W.’s game. Not that I think that is a likely outcome. I just want to hedge my bets. For that reason my friend will remain unidentified and I will refer to them by the name Bill W. as homage to the man who founded Alcoholics Anonymous.
 
My subscriber from Mankato was most interested in this bit of the tale. I’m not going to go into much detail about the lunch. There isn’t much to tell. He came to the mine. We went to Hickory Park with Jesse and Willy. We asked him questions about his weekend. Some details I won’t recount. There is one detail that I wish to recount. It is actually a question of strategy.
 
Bill W. is a fan of bored* games. So is his lady friend. While he was visiting her they played a series of games. In fact they played a best of 13 series. When he told me this fact I was quite shocked. I didn’t know they had made 13 different bored games. Off the top of my head all I can name is Trivial Pursuit, Sorry, Life, Chess, Monopoly, Candyland, and Sammy the White House Mouse. I have heard the beginnings of descriptions of other games. However, usually about 2 words out of the other person’s mouth I’m sound asleep. I might not have the best survival instincts, but my instincts for avoiding a boring night are as sharp as the sting of a whip.
 
Now I’m going to throw up a red flag. I am about to get into some territory that if you don’t know me very well could be described as sexist. It might not be in the next paragraph, but it will be there soon enough. You will know it when you get to it.
 
Bill W. claims that when they got to the climax of the evening AKA the rubber match, he threw the contest so that his lady friend came out as the winner. Let us not dwell on the veracity of his statement. Let us merely question whether or not that this was correct strategy. At this point we are going to have to talk in generalizations. I concede that all people are individuals. So my next question should be viewed at the aggregate level.
 
I also need to make the following distinction. My question is related to competitions where men and women are able to compete on an equal plane. Not in activities where men have to make a concerted effort to make the competition close. Of course, I’m talking about activities like basketball, naming the starting third baseman of the 1984 National League Champion San Diego Padres, driving, or mathematics.
 
My question is simply: Did Bill W. make the wise move? Was it savvy? Should he have let his female friend win the deciding game or should he have won?
 
This is a question that when it has been discussed in a few of my social circles has gotten some spirited debate and wildly varying answers. If you got an opinion please weigh in.
 
I understand that this is a small part of the “game”, but I’m curious if people think this piece of the game was well played or muffed.
 
After the meal Bill W. went on his merry way and I returned to work. The rest of Monday passed without incident until my bowling league.
 
You may remember that from past writings that I have clearly established myself as the worst bowler in the league. Despite my efforts to scuttle the team we arrived at the alley on Monday as the 1st Place team in the Pioneer League. We were matching up with a team that possessed the moniker “Giant Killers”. Before the game began one of their representatives ambled over to our table and told us to “Note the name.  We’re called the Giant Killers for a reason.”
 
Even though this bravado was laughable, I figured out that there team name wasn’t derived from  a story involving the climbing of a beanstalk or taking down a Philistine.  However, he insisted on continuing to allow words to escape from his mouth.
 
“We always beat first place teams.”
 
Great.  Don’t really care.  Take zero pride in my bowling and I’m not here to win any trophies.  I just want to hang out with the guys at my table.  We bowled pretty well. They didn’t. This meant halfway through the second game they quit. Yeah, they finished the games physically, but mentally and emotionally they were beat. They spent most of their time complaining about how throw a couple members of our team throw the ball. Well Mike is in his 60s. Jim is in his 50s. They aren’t going to throw the ball like somebody in their 20s. One of their team members took to throwing the ball as slowly as he could. I was leery about joining this league at the beginning of the year because of my limited bowling aptitude, but I have to say that this was the first unpleasant experience I have had all year.
 
I always have to shower when I get home from the bowling alley. I can not tolerate smelling like an ashtray. It always makes me want to vomit. It is the same way I feel every time the announcers point out that Michael Taylor has broken Dedric Willoughby’s consecutive games with a 3 pointer streak. At least I can wash the cigarette smoke smell off.
 
This tale is almost completed. I only need to cover my lunch with my Private Climatologist and his analysis of “An Inconvenient Truth”, but that will wait until the exciting conclusion of this tale in Part IV.
 
I will just wrap up this section of the tale with a small discussion of the Lenten Study Group I’ve joined on Tuesday nights. I was a little bit leery of joining this group because my previous experiences with Bible Study groups hadn’t been super swell. However, this is really the first time that I’ve joined a group at my own church strangely enough.
 
I was a bit worried because when I walked in to the room I was the youngest person in the room by 10 years. However, I’m really glad I went because our Associate Pastor Andrea said something that really helped me re-order some things in my head. What she said I’ll leave for a discussion at a later time. If you are really interested e-mail me and I’ll let you know.
 
I enjoyed myself enough that I’ve decided to continue going. Tonight we went 30 minutes over because of a heated discussion of the meaning of the term “citizen of heaven” in the Philippians verse we were discussing.
 
So I’ll leave it at that for now.
 
To Be Continued . . . .
 
 
* In the haste to get what I’ve got to say out there by any mean necessary I frequently stumble with words, grammar, and homonyms. I assure you 100% that the misspelling of board games by spelling it as bored games was 100% on purpose. In other words, I hate me some board games.

Reflection on the Last Few Days (Part II)

All false male bravura aside, the ride home from work today SUCKED!!! I can’t emphasize this point nearly enough. You could underline that word about 4 more times and the point still wouldn’t quite be made. I think visibility at times was a negative number. My sister asked me how many cars were in the ditch. The honest response to this question is that I don’t know. I couldn’t see the ditch.

So we are to Sunday. Church services were canceled. I can not ever remember a time when my church canceled services. So I sat on the couch being bored most of the day. I called Jen and Derrick to see if the Oscar party was still a go. I was concerned because I had an appointment with Kelly to get my hair cut and dyed black. This was a fairly radical move for somebody like me. I have never dyed my hair before. Dyeing your hair is one of those things on my checklist of things that “real” men don’t do. I have white hairs in my goatee and I accept that. I won’t dye my hair to get rid of them. I have earned every last one of those white hairs and I’m not about to cover that fact up. However, with the Oscar Party coming I held a meeting with myself about what in fact real men do. A motion was put forth and passed. An addendum has been placed on my list. Instead of reading that real men don’t dye their hair it reads that real men don’t highlight their hair. I was going to dye my hair.

This is a slight aside. I honestly don’t have a real strong list of things that real men do and don’t do. This led me into the following conversation with a co-worker.

“Hey man. You see Durant last night. He went off for like 37 points.”

“I didn’t see any basketball last night.”

“What did you do?”

“I went to see a movie.”

“Oh yeah, what flick?”

At this point it would have been helpful if I would have went to see some mindless blow ’em up. I could have lied, but I told the truth.

“The Queen.”

“Haven’t heard of it, but it sounds pretty gay.”

“Well if I explain it, it is going to sound pretty gay.”

“What’s it about?”

“It is about the royal family’s reaction to Princess Di’s death.”

“Yep. Pretty gay.”

OR

There are also times that I like to wear a pink Iowa State hat. When you buy this hat a portion of the money goes to aid research on the prevention of breast cancer. My sister gave me the hat for Christmas. I wear it because I’m proud to have contributed in some small form to preventing this disease. Jessica, one of the people that worked with Olivia, is a breast cancer survivor. (I heard great news about Jessica this weekend that makes me very happy, but I can’t share it at this time.) A lady from Teresa’s office is currently going for treatment for breast cancer. I don’t think it is an emasculating thing to show support for this cause. In fact my friend Jay, who is a boob man from way back, would argue that it is a very masculine thing to show your support for breasts in any way, shape, form or manner.

The problem isn’t usually the cause. The problem is the color. I don’t have a favorite color. I also don’t have a least favorite color. If you think about it, color does not really exist. It is an illusion of light and it is silly to have a favorite illusion. If I am forced to pick a favorite illusion, I pick social mobility.

I don’t see colors as being masculine or feminine. I see that certain colors have certain purposes. Those purposes are usually to conflict or accent another color. So one of the reasons I can feel no guilt about wearing such a hat is that it goes with a few of the shirts I own.

I’m not what you would call a particularly superstitious person. I can see how you can make the case that luck is the residue of design. However, the statement that you “make your own luck” is absurd outside of whatever residuals you get from your design. I understand that there are an infinite amount of factors that determine the outcome of every single incident. Anybody that believes that they can control an infinite amount of factors to make their own luck is not only deluding them self, they are encroaching on God Complex territory. I advise such a person to study a little bit of string theory for god’s sake. I mean for their sake, not for the real God.

I bring this up simply because Iowa is currently undefeated when I wear this hat to Hilton Coliseum to see their forays into basketball. The men are 3-0. The women are 1-0. Do I believe that my choice of cap has any effect on the outcome of these games? I know that it doesn’t. Yet in the back of my head, I know that there are an infinite amount of variables deciding the outcome of everything. So what do I truly believe? See what hat I’m wearing this Saturday when Steve Alford’s dad comes to Hilton.

The point of this whole pink hat interlude is also that I had the following interaction with a co-worker.

What’s the deal with the hat?”

“It covers my head.”

“It looks pretty gay.”

“It looks pretty.”

“GAY!!”

“What’s your problem with my hat? I don’t bust your chops whenever you come in here dressed like a lumberjack to answer the phone.”

“Actually you do. (truth be known I do) Why are you wearing that hat?”

“I swear we just went over this, to cover my head.”

“Why that hat?”

“They give it to you when you donate money for breast cancer prevention.”

“It’s pink.”

“Pink is the breast cancer awareness color.”

“Why are you wearing it?”

“This is a cause I’m proud to support.”

“I think it is pretty gay.”

“Do you root for cancer? Most people root for the person. You must be the one person that roots for the cancer.”

“Let’s get lunch.”

It is because of this type of mentality that I do have a few things that I think that real men do and don’t do. I’ll keep that list to myself for the time being, except to say that real men don’t highlight their hair. Also real men don’t eat boneless wings.

Before I got slightly askew of the point, I was pointing out that if there was no Oscar Party, I sure as heck wasn’t getting an unnecessary haircut and my hair dyed. Even with everything potentially on hold, the dyeing of my hair had raised a few questions. Not really a few questions. One question.

The answer is simply, I felt like it. It was a one time thing. I wanted to try it while I still have money on the table. That window of opportunity isn’t going to be around for much longer.

So I initially talked to Derrick. He didn’t know. I told him that I had a haircut at 3 pm and if it was canceled before 3 pm to let me know before I went through with this whole hair management debacle.

Then I sat and I waited. At about 2:30 my phone rang. Party canceled. I called Kelly and canceled. 35 minutes later the phone rang. The party is back on. Now I’m in a pickle with my hair. I give Kelly a call back. She doesn’t know if she can do it now. There is a childcare issue. She’ll call me back.

Then I sat and waited.

The phone rings again. We’re back on. I meet her up at Salon 908. Now if you don’t know where Salon 908 is, it is around the corner from Belluci’s, the second greatest pizza joint to ever grace these United States of America I know some of my most loyal subscribers have not had the good fortune to reside in the confines of Boone, Iowa. I know some of you have escaped to your greener pastures.

Let me tell you about the Boone Snow Removal Crew. They don’t play with a full deck. If it is a full deck then it is a pinochle deck and the game is Parcheesi. That’s card talk, which I honestly don’t know if it makes any sense. Let me put it this way. They only have one oar in the water.

What they like to do is take all of the snow and put it in the middle of the road. You might be saying, “so what?” The problem is that they do this in the intersections as well. Which means that quite frequently you come to an intersection that you can’t cross because there is a pile of snow about 7 feet tall looking you straight in your mug and laughing at you. You have to make turns you don’t want to make while you are looking for the exit to this labyrinth. I swear to God that out of the corner of my eye I saw Jack Nicholson holding an ax frozen to death at the corner of 7th and Story.

I did finally make it to the salon and the rest is history. There was a moment in the treatment where we realized that we forgot to dye my eyebrows. Good thing Kelly caught that or I might look more sideshow freak than swashbuckling debonair.

This would be a good point to thank the people that agreed to donate money to the American Cancer Society though me via this event. Thank you very much to Jesse and Stephanie. It was very much appreciated.

When I finally got to Jen and Derrick’s street it looked like a war zone. There were trees down everywhere. It was by the worst looking street I’ve seen through this most recent set of storms. There is an old lady that lives in the corner house next to theirs. I would use the term elderly, but the term ancient seems more apropos. This lady loves to snow blow. Earlier that day one of their neighbors witnessed her snow blowing. A branch above her cracked and came screaming down towards the Earth. It landed not much more than six feet behind the old lady. She never heard it. She never noticed it. She just kept on blowing snow.

I had learned via e-mail that Jen was planning as going to the party as Audrey Hepburn’s character Holly Golightly from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I had learned from Shannon on Saturday that on Friday night Jen and Derrick had an Audrey Hepburn marathon. I also learned that absent from the movies they had chosen were “Roman Holiday”, “My Fair Lady”, and “Sabrina”. I was going to let these glaring omissions slide, but I got there and my mouth ran away with me.

“No Roman Holiday. Come ON!!!”

In the back of my head I heard a conglomeration of many of the “real men” I’ve known over the years point out that what I had just uttered was “pretty gay”.

I shot back, “No! What is pretty gay is eating boneless wings!”

Jen had managed to pretty much nail Holly Golightly. I would offer photographic evidence of this and my black do and Derrick’s own debonair style, but I didn’t bring a camera to this event. Maybe some day I’ll get some of their pictures and post them. Maybe someday Willy and Jesse will actually square off in a real peanut butter cup eating free-for-all. Maybe some day somebody will defeat the longest reigning Log Champion of the World in human history.

I don’t want to overanalyze the party. I mean, what kind of guy analyzes a party. It is either off the hook or it isn’t. That is all you need to know. If you would have called this party all you would have heard is: “The party you are trying to reach is busy. For 95 cents you can hang up and we will call you when your party is available.”

Something that just popped into my head, I have problems remember which side of the number the cents symbol is supposed to go on. I used to work with this German girl named Tabea. Every time I would ask that question she would roll her eyes and denigrate the American educational system. I always got her back by slamming David Hasselhoff though. U.S.A! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

What I do care to analyze is the Oscars themselves. Yet, I will not broach the subject of “An Inconvenient Truth” winning for Best Documentary. Okay, I will broach it, but I will not dwell on it very long.

I knew this movie was going to win. This is a category that has pretty much gone downhill since Michael Moore started passing propaganda off as documentary. I was only able to see two of the nominees this year. The other one being “Jesus Camp” which is a merciless hack job on Evangelical Christians. That is fine. I think that they probably deserve it. It certainly isn’t my brand of Christianity. These are people that are teaching their children that there is no such thing as Global Warming. They are teaching their kids Creation Science. They are teaching their kids that the world is only 13,000 years old. They are teaching their children hatred for homosexuals, nonchristians, and Christians that practice differently than they do. These people substitute ignorance for faith and try to claim that it is the same thing. It isn’t. Hiding from science and history doesn’t make your faith stronger. It makes your faith a sham. It deserves to be shown up. These people deserve to be exposed. However, to do so isn’t a documentary. It is propaganda.

If you want to see a great documentary I would strongly recommend “March of Penguins”. However, my first and strongest love would be “Born into Brothels”. It is an absolutely amazing movie. It is my top ten favorite movies of all time. It is a shining example of what a documentary can and should be. If you haven’t seen this movie I recommend you check it out. If you are the type of person that I have access to and you are interested in seeing it, I will loan it to you. I like it that much. It is simply one of the most hauntingly beautiful movies that I have ever seen.

I wasn’t born yesterday. I understand that all documentaries are told from a perspective, but movies like the work of Michael Moore where they just flat out lie or “Jesus Camp” where they use music so perfectly to make you understand that what is going on is just wrong, moves past a perspective and into the realm of propaganda.

By the way, if you are interested in seeing “Jesus Camp” I can hook you up on that one as well.

As far as I can tell “An Inconvenient Truth” deserved to win Best Documentary. It is certainly better than “Jesus Camp”. It isn’t over the top in the propaganda department. In fact, the propaganda has really nothing to do with the Global Warming part of the movie. The propaganda is in how the filmmakers try to sell you on the greatness of Al Gore. Ironically, that part of the movie is going to hurt getting the message of the movie out. However, I’ll talk about that in an entire blog dedicated to my lunch with my Personal Climatologist at an undetermined point in the future.

My major complaint is that Melissa Etheridge won an Oscar for her song from “An Inconvenient Truth”. Whether or not the song is a piece of garbage I won’t debate. Personally I think the song is kind of catchy. My problem is that this song is really only used in the credits. I am a firm believer that the song that wins the Oscar should be important in developing the story line as well as being a great song.

Now if I was just going to pick my favorite song it would have been “Patience” from “Dreamgirls”. Although it is my favorite song it isn’t instrumental in the movie. That song would be “Listen”, also from “Dreamgirls”. It is a great song and it comes at the climax of the movie, when Dina is finally able to summon enough personal strength to leave her husband.

I would just take a little bit of time to point out that there is one thing that I have to take exception with in the movie “Dreamgirls”. Jamie Foxx’s character is based on Berry Gordy. The movie intimates that Berry Gordy had no taste in making movies. Berry Gordy no taste in making movies? Are you kidding me?

We’re talking about the man that would produce the 1980s martial arts epic “Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon”. I will refresh your memory if you have forgotten this classic of the American cinema.

The movie focused on a young martial artist living in Harlem by the name of Bruce Leroy. His adversary is the Shogun of Harlem, Sho’ Nuff. Right there, that is all you need to know about the greatness of this movie.

But back to other categories that annoyed me. Quite frankly there weren’t that many. One that stands out is “The Danish Poet” winning for best animated short. I sat through this 15 minute cure for insomnia. Trust me, I can take a slow moving movie. You are reading the writings of the largest Stanley Kubrick fan you probably know. “The Danish Poet” is only 15 minutes long!! It feels like 90. At the end, the payoff is nothing special.

I personally would have chosen “The Maestro”. I’ll grant you that the ending is somewhat predictable, but I’m impressed with their dedication to their theme. Moving the camera angle every second to be consistent with the gears of clock was rather ingenious in my mind.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” didn’t win for Best Foreign Language Picture. This was the biggest joke of the night. Not only should it have won for Best Foreign Language Picture, it should have won for Best Picture. The fact that it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture is the fault of the film’s makers. They didn’t put it up for Best Picture.

I can’t really dispute any of the winners in the 6 major categories.

Best Supporting Actress – Jennifer Hudson from “Dreamgirls”

This is who I wanted to win. This is shocking because the only thing that I knew about her going into the theater that night was that she was from American Idol. I have a little math equation I do in my head that helps me when confronted with situations that involve American Idol. It goes something like this:

American Idol = Garbage

Jennifer Hudson is the first time that my little cognitive shortcut has failed me. Jennifer Hudson blew me away. She is undoubtedly the first decent thing to come from that entertainment wasteland. I’ll give some props to it spawning “Cyclone Idol” where Stephanie has been robbed people who were looking for “mass appeal and quality”.

Best Supporting Actor – Alan Arkin from “Little Miss Sunshine”

I was okay with this choice. His character is complicated and entertaining. He gives the most important speech in the movie when he is in the hotel room with Olive and he tells her what a real loser is. Plus an underrated sequence in that movie is the sequence where he tells his son that he is proud of him. Underplayed beautifully.

My first choice would have been Djimon Honsou for “Blood Diamond”. His portrayal of a father searching a civil war torn country for his son that has been turned into a soldier is a great.

I also would have been pleased with Eddie Murphy winning for “Dreamgirls”.

Best Actress – Helen Mirren for “The Queen”

This category is almost an afterthought. That is how good she is in this movie.

Best Actor – Forest Whitaker for “The Last King of Scotland.

This category is also almost an afterthought. Forest Whitaker is amazing as the charismatic, sociopath Idi Amin. There was some belief that Peter O’Toole might win this category. If he would have, it would have been more of a lifetime achievement award than anything else. Kind of like . . .

Best Director – Martin Scorsese for “The Departed”

I can’t really argue with this choice. “The Departed” is a pretty good movie. It isn’t one of Scorsese’s best movies. Not by a long shot. I know there was a big groundswell of support to finally get him an Oscar. To be honest there are worse things in the world than not winning an Oscar. The two greatest directors in history (Kubrick and Hitchcock) have zero Oscars between them. The problem is that the Academy made huge mistakes in at least 3 other years. If they need to get an Oscar for Scorsese so bad, they should call up John G. Avildsen up and ask him to return his Oscar for “Rocky”. “Rocky” is a great movie, but that year Scorsese should have went home with the Oscar for “Taxi Driver”. Then call up Robert Redford and ask him to bring in his Oscar for “Ordinary People”. Once again, “Ordinary People” is a great movie, but that year Scorsese release “Raging Bull” which is hands down the best movie in a decade that was fairly devoid of great movies. “Berry Gordy’s That Last Dragon” is an obvious exception. Finally, they should call up Kevin Costner and ask him to return his Oscar for “Dances with Wolves”. Undoubtedly “Dances with Wolves” is one of the worst movies to ever win for Best Picture (right next to “Annie Hall”). Scorsese also deserved the win that year for “Goodfellas”. That is a movie that changed the way I hear “Layla” forever.

In the end history will record that Scorsese won an Oscar for Best Director. However, when movie critics survey his body of work, the movie he won for won’t be near the top. It will be an interesting story. What did Scorsese have to do to win an Oscar? Remake a Japanese movie and set it in Boston. That is the ultimate irony. A man who will always be affiliated with New York City finally won the big prize by taking a movie to Boston.

Scorsese was a good choice, but I would have preferred Clint Eastwood. What he did by telling both sides of the battle of Iwo Jima was much more ambitious than taking a Japanese movie and throwing Boston accents and swear words on it. I know though that there is no way that Eastwood would win a third Oscar while Scorsese has zero.

Best Picture – The Departed

Honestly I wasn’t that crazy about this year’s crop of nominees. I would rank them in the following order bottom to top.

“Bab3l” – Interesting, but not great. I think the core message about this movie is that if you are an American, everything will turn out just fine and dandy for you. But if you are from the developing world, you are screwed. I do like the concept of following a story of how one event can affect the lives of so many people around the world. It is that string theory that I love so much.

The Queen – Entertaining. It managed to make me feel sympathy for people that I hold in complete disdain. I went to see this movie with Derrick and Jen. Derrick came out of the movie thinking that royalty was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Although I felt bad for they went through, it reinforced to me how British royalty is a completely archaic institution and the sooner it is ended, the better. If you have an opinion on this let me know. I am interested in other’s peoples opinions on how this movie made them feel about the British royals.

Letters fromIwo Jima – As a companion to “Flags of Our Fathers” this movie wasn’t I was expecting. I left “Flags of Our Fathers” with lots of respect for the Japanese on Iwo Jima. “Letters from Iwo Jima” kind of destroyed that respect for me on some level. They were completely unorganized. Nobody followed orders. At the first sign of trouble everybody wanted to commit suicide.

The Departed – Funny and entertaining. Very well acted. A bit gratuitous in the language and violence at times, but it is a gangster movie. To expect anything else would be lying to yourself.

Little Miss Sunshine – The first words that came out of my mouth when I left the theater after seeing this movie was “best road trip movie ever made.” I stand by that now. You all know that I’m a big fan of the road trip. I’m also a huge fan of road trip movies, with the obvious exception of “Roadtrip” which sucks. The only road trip movies I would put it up against are “Sullivan’s Travels” and “It Happened One Night”. Plus this movie had my favorite scene of the year. The scene where the pageant lady asks Greg Kinnear what his daughter is doing on stage. He turns to her and says: “Kicking ass. That is what she is doing.” Kicking ass is also what this movie does.

I won’t complain about “The Departed” winning. Comedies don’t win very often.

There were a couple of events that actually transpired that I would like to share. First and foremost, Jen won the prize for being the Best Dressed Female”.

Secondly, we decided to have “A Clockwork Orange” Party. I shouldn’t say party. I will say “A Clockwork Orange” Night. The gleaming centerpiece of the evening will be a viewing of the Stanley Kubrick classic “A Clockwork Orange”. This is going to transpire because Derrick made the bold proclamation that “Dr. Strangelove” is the greatest Stanley Kubrick movie. I will not dispute the fact that it is probably the best comedy ever made. But for sure I would have to rank “A Clockwork Orange” as the better Kubrick movie. I’m also going to rank “Paths of Glory” above it. I would have to give considerable thought to where “The Shining”, “Full Metal Jacket”, and “2001: A Space Odyssey” rank. I’m not disputing the greatness of “Dr. Strangelove”, just its place in the Kubrick pantheon. This dispute led to this Night of A Clockwork Orange, but you just can’t watch a movie. You have to have themed food. So if anybody out there has a great “orange” based recipe and would be willing to part with it, throw it my way. It would be much appreciated.

I feel that you might think that Derrick and I just aren’t compatible. He is always running off his mouth and I always have to regulate him. It isn’t just Derrick, though. While we were discussing Melissa Etheridge Derrick asked the no-brainer question of the year. If Crosby, Stills, and Nash were giving a concert right next to Neil Young and Crazy Horse and you could only go to one, which one would you go to? What is the speed of light? Faster than that, that is how long it would take me to go see Neil Young. Jen is a hard case though. She actually stuck up for Crosby, Stills, and Nash. What are you going to do?

The third thing that transpired at the Oscar Party was yet another debate between Derrick and me. I won’t disclose who had what opinion, because I would like to get some feedback from other people. This debate is centered on the movie “Blood Diamond”.

The thing to remember about diamonds is that they aren’t rare. Not even a little bit. They have no real intrinsic value. Their value is artificially inflated by a company that owns almost all the diamonds in the world. This company buys up all the diamonds and puts most of them in a vault so that they can artificially raise their value.

Many diamonds come from countries like Sierra Leone where people are enslaved and murdered so these specks of carbon can be sold in malls all over these great United States. Allegedly this company does not buy diamonds from countries that are involved in war. However, the organization that oversees the diamond industry was founded by this very same company that owns almost all the world’s diamonds.

>Here is the question I would like you to answer:

In the movie “Blood Diamond” people are murdered and enslaved in pursuit of one particularly large diamond. What do you think would make a more tragic ending?

The diamond ends up in a vault and never sees the market.

OR

The diamond ends up in an American jewelry shop where some spoiled American purchases it because of the way it looks and never realizes how many people suffered and died so they could wear that sparkly piece of carbon around.

If you are interested in seeing “Blood Diamond” before weighing in on this question, I can hook you up as well.

Well, I better call it a night, but this story will continue. I need to discuss a stained glass stepping stone, my lunch with Bill, bowling, and my lunch with my personal climatologist still.

Random Notes, Nothing on a Scandal

I was saddened on Wednesday by the passing of the founder of Hilton Magic. I have one quick story about Barry Stevens I wish to share.

Back when Barry Stevens used to play for the Cyclones my mom worked the training table. After wins they would prepare a victory dinner. The dining staff prepared lobster after what was a milestone win for Johnny Orr. As the players got their lobsters, Barry Stevens asked for ketchup. Johnny Orr heard him ask for ketchup to put on his lobster and raised quite the ruckus

Today is a milestone even for all old Campusites. Today is the last day for James with DM. He is working a 3-10 shift if you want to go into West and slap him on the back and congratulate him. That leaves only 6 Campusites left in the employ of DM. The cleansing has almost been completed.

Today when I got to work I got a surprise in my mailbox. Mark’s newletter from Taiwan was waiting for me. This is always good reading and I would just like to share a portion of it with you today. Mark recently spent some time working in Indonesia. I would like to share a little bit of that part of the newsletter:

With all of this damage, many organizations came to Aceh to offer assistance.

Two of these organizations are World Harvest and LCMS World Relief. It was with these two Christian organizations that I worked in Aceh.

The tsunami was a devastating event that brought more questions than answers, but it has allowed more Christian organizations to work in this strongly Islamic community.

Aceh is nearly entirely Muslim, and this can be seen in the presence of many mosques, sound of daily Arabic prayer calls, and the site of women wearing head scarves.

Christianity is not common, and while it is legal to be a Christian in Aceh, it is illegal to evangelize.

The mission work being done in Aceh then is not direct evangelizing, but rather sharing God’s love through action and building relationships with people.

While I was there I helped lead an Internet seminar to introduce teachers to email, the Internet and how to use these tools to make them more effective English teachers.

The teachers were a joy to work with, and the workshop will hopefully empower them to improve their English instruction on their own.

Another part of my service involved traveling to schools. I went to four different Junior High Schools. At these schools I helped student practice their English conversation. Many of them have never had the chance to speak with a native English speaker, so this opportunity was exciting and educational for the students. They had real and practical application of these skills they have been learning about in their textbooks.

In the end, this trip was very educational and a blessing from God. On the trip I was not speaking boldly about Jesus, but I was sharing God’s love and helping LCMS World Relief and World Harvest in their continued attempts to build relationships with the people of Aceh.

The coordinator for LCMS in Aceh, Dennis Dennow, often describes the work in Aceh as moving rocks. I think this really fits the current situation there. I like to think about it like the Parable of the Sower. Jesus talks about the Gospel being like a seed that is thrown on four different types of soil: the path, the rocks, the thorns, and the good soil. It is only on the good soil that the seed grows and produces a harvest. People are the soil, and just like the parable, there are many rocks, thorns, and birds that prevent the seed of God’s word from growing in their lives.

In the Islamic community of Aceh, the Gospel cannot be openly preached and spread. There are many preconceived notions and fears about Christians that prevent this. But love can be shown. Fears and stereotypes can be taken away. Relationships can be built, and individual conversations can take place. Rocks and thorns can be removed, and it is my prayer that one-day God’s word can be openly preached. Then those relationships that have been formed and all of the love that has been shared will be the foundation for continued preaching of Jesus as Savior. God’s Spirit is definitely at work in Aceh, Indonesia.

Mark also sent along a copy of this picture of a boat sitting on top of this house. The tsunami hit the day after Christmas in 2005 and the boat is still there. I would wonder how that could still be, then I remind myself that we haven’t done much better helping the victims of Katrina in our country.