Saturday, January 31, 2009

In her honor


Cheerleaders and fans wore pink in memory of recently departed NCSU women's head basketball coach Kay Yow, and in support of the battle against cancer. Good will transcends fanhood, and regardless of being the hardest of hardcore Tar Heel fans, I've always been a Kay Yow fan, just as I was a Jim Valvano fan. They're heroes in my book, largely because of their bravery battling cancer, but also just the depth of their character.

One NCSU fan, during today's UNC vs. NCSU game, had black hand-written lettering on his pink t-shirt that said: "This one's for Kay" Another placard referenced that the game was dedicated to Coach Yow. The coaching staffs of both teams wore white tennis shoes as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer awareness drive. And then the students, fans, and ultimately even the players showed how little regard they have for the legacies of those fallen heroes. Shame on them.

I understand wanting to win. But, I'll never comprehend sacrificing good sportsmanship toward that end. While the home fans moaned over obvious calls that just happened to go against their team and carried on their off-color chants, I found myself wondering: "which part of this behavior honors Coach Yow?" At the end of the game, Coach Williams substituted Michael Copeland into the game for his first action. With less than five seconds to go in the game, he (Copeland) gets a feed in the lane, and goes for a dunk. Wuss-packer McCauley runs at Copeland, not to block the shot, but to deliver an elbow to Copeland's temple. Copeland, getting up from the court, did exactly what I'd have done. He charged after McCauley. McCauley, instead of showing the slightest contrition or concern for Copeland's potential injury, taunted Copeland with: "Not in my house! Not in my house!" The lousy State fans got in on the act as well, throwing objects on the court.

Copeland was ejected (even though he didn't throw any blows) and McCauley wasn't (even though he did throw an elbow, and landed it). Anybody who would want to claim that the contact was just continuation of a play on the ball, lost that argument when MacCauley took full ownership of the act with his bragging.

Because I work in the Construction/Civil Engineering field in North Carolina, most of the people I've worked around in the past 20 years here are State fans and/or grads, NCSU being the predominant engineering school in the state. One place I worked, everyone else there was a State fan. All of them. Once, driving down the road, my employer volunteered to me his rationale for hating Carolina fans. First he said he hated Duke fans, because they didn't live in North Carolina.



Then he said, he hates Carolina fans because "they" think they're better than him.

"Let me get this straight," I said. You hate Tar Heel fans, because you think they think they're better than you? You say this knowing I'm a Carolina fan?"

"Well, not you so much..."

So, I just let that whole line of discussion die away without further participation.

Thing is, though, that's exactly how some folks think. They're so teeth-gnashingly jealous, that they project their ugliness on the people who they imagine are victimizing them: "If we were the 'haves' we'd look down our noses at you we're going to act slighted because of what we think you must think." Give me a fucking break.

Sam Cassell's "wine & cheese crowd" label is often quoted by the lamest of commentators (Vitale, Phelps, Limberger, Packer) as a slur against the fans of Carolina basketball, but looked at a different way, the way that most infuriates the haters, it's a slap at their team. Here it is, from our perspective:

Our team can beat your team...without OUR help.

We come out to see our team win, and cheer for the great things we see them do, while winning.


Not to intimidate the referees, not to embarrass the family of the players, not to spit on other fans, or throw shit on the floor.

I played a lot of pick-up basketball in my "more-agile" years (It wasn't THAT long ago!...) and due to my build, I could bang around in the paint with anyone. Plus, I had a 36" vertical leap in high school (yeah, my black teammates couldn't believe it either: "test him again!"). But, I can't remember ever swinging my arm down on someone else's head, like Duke's Gerald Henderson against Tyler Hansbrough or McCauley today against Copeland. Coach Williams did the right thing in both cases, publicly downplaying the incidents as a way of diffusing future ill-will. But privately, I hope he's as angry as I am. McCauley wasn't just playing hard, any more than Henderson. He was trying to injure Copeland. I ask myself, when was the last time I saw a Tar Heel player take a swipe at any player like that? The answer is never. It's a question of sportsmanship. NCSU's Lowe should have manned up in the post-game interview, and publicly apologized for his player and fans, and their poor taste and sorriness. He should have pulled McCauley from the game for his actions. He should suspend McCauley.

The culture of what passes for sport at NC State (as well as Duke, and some others) is shameful. What we see from opponents when we watch a game is: Our team, together with our fans will try to beat you, but when it becomes apparent that we can't outplay you, we'll resort to thuggery, and try to hurt you, because we think that you think that you're better than us.

And absolutely, the ACC should step up and levy a suspension against McCauley. If it doesn't, then it, the League, is equally complicit in the sorriness. The same goes for Lowe. He should be made to sit out the rest of the season. Just for fostering a culture of cheap-shot artists. In fact, that might also be a good thing for their level of competitiveness: I can't think of a less talented coach in the ACC; they'd probably do a lot better without him.

I don't hold myself as better than you, whoever you are. But regarding sportsmanship as conditional based on whether I'm winning? Yeah, I'm better than that! And, I hope the League starts insisting on being defined as better than that.

Rest In Peace Kay Yow. I will miss you. I appreciate your bravery and class. And the folks in Raleigh sure don't show any signs of having learned how to be good people from having had you around. I wish they had you back, or at least, that they'd find a better way to honor your memory.

Friday, January 30, 2009

My dog

This is Maggie.

In November 2001, I got invited along to hunt pheasant in Kansas for the first time. The 9/11 terrorist attacks had just occurred, and there was a general foul mood running undercurrent in opposition to our otherwise hopeful outlook for the hunting.
There were six of us (my uncle Jim, his oldest and my cousin David, David's son Tyler, and two others) wedged in Uncle's motorhome. As a rule, I like my space. So, regardless of the quality of the company, and when it comes to travelling companions there are none better, I was well outside the proverbial comfort zone. Also, just 2 weeks prior to the trip, I had quit smoking as a prelude to conditioning for a 6-minute mile and joining the Combat Engineers and hopefully going to shoot bad guys in the desert.
I remember the hunting was pretty bleak that year. In terms of the number of birds, that is. Still yet, I recall "missing" a lot (or what I would say is a lot) of makeable shots on birds...which I have since come to attribute to the Walmart/Federal shot shells I bought (another long story). So, combining all those things, I was kinda fighting off a general grumpiness.
Toward the end of the week, I could say that I had enjoyed the trip, and knew I would love to come again, but was already looking forward to going home. About the same time, though, that I was wishing aloud to David, "You know, I'd really like to have a bird dog...", one of the fellers in the extended group (there were about 16-18 of us total) who had lassooed one of the local free-range two-legged wildlife, was learning about a dog that she had inherited from a former boyfriend who had departed the scene. The gal in this story already had 5 other dogs that lived inside her house, and she couldn't keep another, and was simulatneously wishing someone would give #6 dog a better home.
"Sight, unseen!" I said, when I heard the situation. I didn't ask what breed, or age, or temperment, or experience. I had to pass a sort-of phone interview with Julie, the owner, to make her comfortable that I'd give the dog a good home, and to agree not to change her name. But, so far as I was concerned, the deal was done.
I really had zero expectations. It could've been a half-lame Setter, or a timid Viszla, and I wouldn't have cared. I was already like a kid on Christmas morning, when they walked her into the Forsberg's barn. I can still say that I've never been more impressed with the regal elegance of an animal. Love at first sight.

We took her to the field that afternoon, and although we didn't get her on any birds right away, we got to see how naturally well she quartered and responded to shot. Getting her home to North Carolina was an exercise in political schmoozing, as she was none-too-welcome in the camper, and had to ride out back in a crate on the extend-o-platform. I'm pretty sure my previous surliness had rubbed off on Uncle...maybe on everyone else, too.
Many times since, we've returned to Kansas where she enjoys quite a reputation, and has yet to meet another dog with her talent. She'll be 11 this year, and she still hunts hard, although it does take her a bit longer these days to recover and recharge. She may retire after next season.
Nothing can give a man's life more meaning or something to live up to than the love of a great dog.
Thanks, Julie...wherever you are.

Monday, January 26, 2009

UPDATE: Atlas Shrugged article

The original version of the article can be found here.

Atlas Shrugged (2011)

I just discovered that one of the all-time great books, Atlas Shrugged, is to finally be made into a film in 2011. While tracking down details about the movie, supposedly to star Angelina Jolie in the lead role, I came across a spot-on essay regarding its timeliness.

The article was written by Stephen Moore, in the Wall Street Journal. If you haven't read the book, you should. Every American should.

At least, go read the article. I would re-print it, but do not have permission, so for now, the link to the imdb discussion board shall have to suffice.

Efforts to make this movie have ebbed into and flowed out of reality for decades, and so don't be counting your chickens. As a matter of fact, I wager that the "sky-is-falling" global-warming crowd, hell-bent on wealth redistribution, finds a way to submarine the project. I can't see how they let this film get made. It's a motion-sensing flood-light on their cockroach-like activities, and way too embarrasing for them.

Learn more about Ayn Rand, and Atlas Shrugged.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Teevee doesn't get a lot of my attention. But somehow, I stumbled upon a show I liked on the Travel Channel. It's called, Man V. Food. I only watched it because the episode was to be about the host's foray into Austin, TX eateries. I know a little sumpin' sumpin' about Austin, Texas eateries, myself, having lived there for about five years, over two separate stretches. I loves me some Austin food.

The great thing about a great food town (and Austin is truly the Nirvana of great food towns, trust me), is that you can be an absolute authority like me, and never even scratch the surface.

This show was an excellent case-in-point. The thrust of the show is that the hero/host is out to eat. And, not just eat, but overeat...with gusto. Gotta love that. So, how likely is it that host Adam Richman's Austin experience overlaps my own favorites? You'd think, knowing my love for "getting piggy wid it" the chances would be quite good, right? Au contraire, mon frere!

Adam makes three stops while in AusTex, none of which have ever had me darken their door: Round Rock Donuts (where they market the "Texas Donut" which weighs 2 lbs. each), the Salt Lick BBQ (where they show you how to do it, which they should've kept secret, 'cause I'm gonna do it), and Juan-In-A-Million, where he tries to set the record for most (1 lb. each) breakfast tacos eaten in one sitting. I won't spoil it for you, whether he makes it to the record (which is seven), in case you want to maintain the suspense for yourself.

Some of my personal favorites are Threadgill's (try the King Ranch Chicken), Guero's (also, a scene from Tarantino's Death Proof was filmed here), Mangia (Chicago-style pizza), Nutty Brown (also with a great outside bar/deck/dance-floor/stage), Stubb's (great outdoor arena out back can host over a thousand music fans!...Stubb's marinades are the real thing, too), Rudy's (their slogan is "Worst BBQ in Texas"...get the extra-moist...they'll let you sample it at the counter), Opal Divine's (Maggie'e favorite, they're dog-friendly on the deck), and the Texas Chili Parlor (where you can help buffer all those great Texas Republican legislators from the local limp-wristers).

Austin used to be a great place to live, until all the people went there. Now, it's just too damn crowded. Don't bother getting in any kind of hurry when you go there, the roads are packed with dipshits all trying to test your patience. And don't try to plan "something else" behind your culinary highlights. If you've taken the appropriate time to appreciate the meal, you're going to be too full and it'll be too late to do anything else. Unless it's to the Broken Spoke for 2-steppin', or Antone's for some Blues, or a stroll around Zilker Park, or bat watching, or Mac at Lucky's on Thursdays, or The Continental just about anytime, or...oh well.

OOOH! I just learned, as I was collecting links for above, that Mangia is shipping their pies Nationwide! Be right back...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A horse is a horse

My friend Ted asked me along yesterday to go look at a horse he's thinking of buying for his wife. I had gotten what I felt was a relatively productive morning of work done (not that it's lead to real income, but...) I agreed to take a few hours and ride along, partly to pipe-dream-slash-window-shop for a horse for myself.

The animal in question is a handsome Appaloosa. Actually, I think they'd already decided on getting the horse, because Ted told me that the Missus wanted to give him an Indian name that starts with the letter, "N". Why an Indian name? I dunno. Why the letter, "N"? Dunno that, either.

After he said that, I kept thinking about it. Not quite dwelling on the question, but it kept creeping back in my thoughts: Indian name that starts with "N"...Indian name that starts with "N"...

He finished the transaction, and dropped me off back at my house. I left to run a few errands, and kept thinking, "I'm sure I can think of a male Indian name that starts with 'n'..." Then, about the time I got home again, and was putting the milk in the 'fridge, it came to me.

I sent him the following email:

I thought of an indian name for your horse. Years ago, when cable tv was new, TBS showed the Atlanta Braves almost every game. And they had a big teepee out in the left field stands of Atlanta-Fulton County stadium, where every time a Braves player hit a home run, Chief NOCKAHOMA would come out and do a war-dance around his teepee. There you go.

Having not heard back from him, I don't think he thought much of the name.

Giddy-up, Nockahoma!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mr. Smarty-pants knows...

I'm going to try some new things today, including the insertion of a link in the text and maybe even a poll attached to the side of the main blog page.

I recently read on an online bulletin board, an invitation to take a poll questioning whether the reader thought that our country is a Democracy or a Republic. If this works correctly, answer the poll, then view the inserted (or linked, however it works out) video:

And while on the subject of the country, how about this civics quiz that I found. I have heard it suggested that Americans should have to pass a civics test such as this one, demonstrating a basic understanding of how our country works, before being allowed to cast a vote in any election. I'm not saying that I totally agree with that, but in light of how easily misdirected the general populace was recently at the whims of the media, I must say I like the notion of requiring a level of competence from the voters. Wouldn't this tend to also require more honesty and accountability of the media?

I consider myself fairly well-read and knowledgeable, and I only scored 85 on the quiz. I outsmarted myself on one of the questions, or I'd have done better. The astounding fact is that the quizzers randomly tested 2508 Americans, and 71% FAILED. There are 33 multiple-choice questions. Bon chance!

If the poll idea doesn't work, then feel free to comment.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The end?

It was New Years Eve, maybe 1989 or 1990, and I was at a party in the home of a close friend. I'll not say his name, but refer to him as WC. He lived in an apartment with his wife. I think they'd been married less than one year; I was in his wedding as a "co-best man." Brief aside: I'd never heard of a "co-best man" before, and haven't since...I'm sure there must be some bad luck attached to that arrangement, because we ain't friends anymore, nor is he married.

Anyhow, Mr. & Mrs. WC were hosts to some 12-14 people, and the mood was light and friendly throughout. There was eating and drinking, but I don't think anyone got over-served. I can't remember witnessing any vomitage or breakage of items. Midnight came and went, celebratory glasses were raised and good wishes were extended aplenty. Maybe there was kissing, but I had come stag to the party, and know that I went home alone, so there couldn't have been much to it. Around 1am, or so, the other guests had gone and Mrs. WC had excused herself to bed. This is when WC brought out his manuscript, the first chapter of a novel he was writing, and asked me to read and critique his work. Can you guess how this was going to turn out?

Let's say that the reading took maybe 20-30 minutes, and afterward, a brief reluctant assessment was rendered. There was absolutely nothing memorable about the prose, so I can't conjure up a phrase that justifies or explains my reaction. I do recall a statement that included "no redeeming value, of any kind" being uttered by me. I said it was reluctant, and it was. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but the fact of the matter was the writing started off bad and got worse. Maybe that's not it...maybe it was that the first chapter never really went anywhere or actually said anything. I remember worrying about the fact that if this was the first chapter, then there might eventually be more of it at some later date, and that would most certainly NOT be good.

Bottom line though, gentle as I was, the review wasn't particularly well-received. In spite of my efforts to twinkle-toe around the ugly truth, his feelings were hurt. But that's not the worst of it. Somehow, either in an attempt to change the subject, or maybe it was some element of the "book"...the subject of Affirmative Action was brought up, and a question was posed to me, "Would you not give up your job so that a black man could have it?"

In the already turbulent environment, I proceeded carefully. "If you ask me, 'All things being otherwise equal, if I am applying for a job and a black man is also being considered, who has everything to offer that company that I do, would I want any favoritism for myself?' The answer would be 'no'. And, I should have no problem if the hypothetical employer chose a black man, because of his skin-color, in an effort toward so-called affirmative action" I said.

I was pretty sure this would be a great, clarifying, diffuse-the-situation reply, and I meant it. I thought of myself as, more-or-less, progressive at this point in my adulthood. But, my statement only served to inflame him. Which only shocked me. "You mean to say, that you would not give up your job, your current job, to a black man who needed it?!"

"Just on the basis of need? Or a feeling of guilt, for his race's previous sufferings? That I should abandon what I have earned, so that someone else, through no exhibited qualification of his own, could have it, instead? Only to satisfy some collective definition of equality? The answer is emphatically, 'NO'."

This was the moment of absolute antipathy. Both of us were genuinely stunned at the other. I'm sure there was more said, and I think the argument lasted for a few more hours. But in that instant, the friendship was set on its downward spiral. At some point, he ordered me out of his house.

And, to this day, I do not understand his stance, nor in any way subscribe to his opinion. It did open my eyes, though. I learned on that day that there are people who honestly believe that the pendulum swing of justice toward "wrong" but in a perceived opposite direction from a previous wrong, is in some way honorable. Because of this attitude, Affirmative Action not only persists, but has contributed to the election of a man to this country's highest, and most important, office. This man, Barack Obama, can not claim to have ever led anyone, anything, at any level, and yet, will be sworn in today as Commander-In-Chief...president of the United States. No qualifications but his rhetoric and charm and the color of his skin gained him this position. He has never, not even once, accomplished anything by his own hands, except getting elected, and even that can be owed to his allegiences and accomplices. And many of these same accomplices carry a lot of quite scary baggage in my book.

This day, the inauguration will take place, and it looks like the media and pop culture view it as a coronation. A cult of personality. An orgy of celebrity. I, myself, will not indulge. The only thing "historic" about today's events is how despicably low we've allowed our society to sink. The media's embracing of one side, and hatred of the other, won this election. And you out there, WC, wherever you are today, are victorious. Affirmative Action has won its greatest prize. And so, I propose that it should immediately be shut down and abandoned. There are no longer any excuses for this ethnic minority, or any other, in the struggle for success in America.

Change? For its own sake? No thanks. Change to something better, if that were defined? I would have been all for it back in November, and I will jump in with both feet now, if and when I see it. Obama, you abolish Affirmative Action, and I'll start thinking that your notion of change might have some relevance. Appoint a socially and fiscally conservative supreme justice and I'll sing Kum Ba Ya with your minions. Hell, I'll go so far as to kiss Ashley Judd right square on the mouth if you'll reaffirm President Bush's label of "axis of evil" to Iran's Ahmenijahd. But, back to the point.

Today, for me, I'll use it to celebrate 7+ years of safety. I thank President Bush for that. He deserves the credit. I cast my vote for him (both times), hoping that he would have the fortitude to stand up to the terrorists. I had hoped that he would go back to Iraq, and finish the job. I didn't care then what excuse there was. WMD's? Who cares. I certainly didn't. I would've gone to war against Hussein, if I'd have had to go alone. Me, myself, alone. I was prepared to go fight under my President and flag. And I applaud your bravery, President W, for standing up to the liberal Washington peace-mongers and the ineffective UN. Perhaps I'd like for him to be able to say, "NU-clee-uhr" but I'll trade polished public speaking for honest effective leadership, every time! I give President Bush a B+.

Not to offend, please! I do not wish to diminish this day for black people. You should be happy, and I should be happy for you. I wish you had a better representative to be happy about. I, personally, would have voted for Herman Cain over every single one of the Republican candidates, including Senator McCain (although I had long fantasized about seeing Jane Fonda publicly tortured for her traitorism in Vietnam, and thought maybe Johnny was the man for that job). But that's another blog, for another day, and I have actual work to do.

Wherever you are, WC, you can go to hell for wishing this on my country.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Esse Quam Videri!

Say something profound, asshole.

I've thought for some time about creating a blog, but have struggled with the prospect of deciding on its content, maintaining a sense of direction and purpose, and most basically, remaining committed to production. The thoughts are there, and so are the many experiences that influence them, but the dedication to spill those thoughts onto the page (especially at anything like a regular basis) has always been a tough, tough hurdle for me. Partly, it's a general unwillingness for different parts of my brain to function in concert: the imagination is going at the speed of light and the vocabulary is stuck in traffic. Or maybe that's just an excuse... something that everyone experiences, and will get easier with practice. Dunno.

Fact of the matter is, though, I write very, very slowly. And so it is difficult to bite off what will be a long time chewing. But, I shall forge ahead undaunted. Like Chief Dan George's character in the Outlaw Josey Wales, I'll "endeavor to persevere." And like I have always done, I'll embrace that which is the most difficult. Or, almost always, anyway.

What shall I blog about? Damn good question. I'm quite sure that the subject matter will include...

Well, no, I'm not sure about that, either.

Politics? Maybe.

Music and Literature? Certainly.

Things that amuse only me? Now, we're talking.

Sports and movies? Oh, yeah.

Will it have any kind of structure? Unlikely.

A good friend once advised me that I write on any employment application that I am an asshole, just to get that fact out there for prospective employers to see. The reason being, he said, to discourage them from seeking my opinion, because they would universally dislike hearing it. Good advice to you, fair reader! I've pissed off nigh everyone I've ever met...don't think you're special, just because you rode the short-bus to school.

Indeed, that might be what I'm best at: equally offending everyone. Lofty standards, I know.

Some things I'm passionate about (or give at least half a shit, anyway), in no particular order:
  • Hunting and fishing. Specifically, upland hunting (pheasant, quail, grouse, woodcock) with my German Shorthaired Pointer, Maggie, and flyfishing for trout. I should like to document my adventures afield.
  • Golf. I've generally been good at just about everything I've ever done, except golf. I hope to report this year about breaking 80 or a hole-in-one, either would be firsts.
  • Patriotism and national security. If you're a terrorist, I'd like to meet you. And shoot you. If you want to set the terrorists free from Gitmo, I don't necessarily want to shoot you, but I hope you choke to death on a chicken bone.
  • Movies. I love stuff that's inventive, well-written, well-acted, well-produced, and well-directed. Easy to please, am I.
  • Fiction. Currently, my favorites are Charles Frazier and Robert Morgan.
  • Music. I like what I like because I'm smarter than you, and because I don't depend on anyone else to tell me what's good. What I like is good, because I like it. What you like probably sucks.
  • Photography. I said I like it, not that I'm any good at it. Actually, I think the occasional photo-essay might be a good idea. I do like Bobzillas picture-blogs that document his travels. Once I move from SLR to digital, this'll be easier to integrate.
  • Sports. Notably, UNC athletics, Panthers football, Hurricanes hockey, and Cincinnati Reds baseball. I used to be a rabid Reds fan...then I went on strike. Now, I'm back. Sorta.
While I'm here, I read the report about Julius Peppers' desire to no longer play for the Panthers, and am perplexed, to say the least.

I am inclined to believe that this is some kind of ploy to get something, but I'm not convinced it's more money. Let me say that his legendary performances in Chapel Hill do NOT earn him a pass from scrutiny in Charlotte, my being a fan of both incarnations. I don't necessarily think he takes plays off, just that his super-powers sometimes feel the effect of some mysterious kryptonite. Often, I've noticed that he doesn't particularly enjoy hitting anyone that is in the process of hitting back, like a running-back coming straight at him, or tackling anyone where he wouldn't be the only tackler. I think it's fear of injury.

I believe he wants to force the removal of the Defensive Coordinator, and I don't blame him. Trgovac may be a great guy, but I don't see him as a coordinator. I didn't when Del Rio left, and don't now. From a fan's perspective, he doesn't seem to have the foresight into shutting down what any given opponent does well, and always seems to be late in reacting to an opposing team's successes. I think he's clueless. If you're a Panthers fan, when was the last time you felt like the scheme was infallible, regardless of the principals? Exactly. And if it really was one versus the other, would you rather have Jules playing the way he always has, full-speed sometimes, gingerly sometimes, but with the occasional flash of brilliance, or Trgovac's...what was it he does well?

But I didn't mean to digress...this was a blog about the blog. See how I am?

Esse Quam Videri is the North Carolina motto. It's Latin for "To be, rather than to seem." That said, I shall endeavor, in this space, to BE a writer, rather than to seem like one. Wish me luck. Or wish me the fortitude to be prolific. Perhaps with enough practice, I'll produce something worth keeping.