Monday, January 31, 2011

Don't Play That

As a kid I was never fond of clowns. I didn't get what was supposed to be so funny about them. They dressed like morons. And their jokes were hokey. Except for the clown car. I admit it. I liked that schtick at the circus. So clowns, you got me on that one. Well played.

I've just never felt comfortable with clowns, not to the degree of coulrophobia but a general uncomfortableness with their hokum. They are always so fake happy. I would think as a kid, "Give me a break. Everybody knows you're faking all this, 'The world's such a funny place, and I bring comedy into the world.'"

To me, if that guy who Robin Williams played in the one movie, you know that Patch Adams fella, if he came to my hospital room and tried to lighten my mood, I'd be "Get your painted ass out of here, chief. Clowns need not apply for my hospital room. I got standards. Go to the book store and bring me some Camus or Twain or Larry Brown and get the hell out of here. And I want my change back!"

Then things changed.

I became a regular viewer of In Living Color, the sketch comedy series that featured the Wayans brothers, brothers who attempted to rival the Marsalis brothers in artistry.

Well, in my humble opinion the Marsalis brothers would easily beat the Wayans brothers on some grand, arcane scale of artistry, but I digress.

Damon played a clown I can get behind, and to this day I use Homey's catch-phrase (in my head) when someone is telling me something stupid or wrong or silly or obvious bull poo.

I think, "Homey don't play that."

So if you want to be introduced or reintroduced to Homey D. Clown, check out "Introducing Homey D. Clown."

He does a great magic trick.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Music Friday: "Working Man"

A few weeks ago on VH1 I watched the documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage. It was pretty interesting film as far as documentaries on bands go. I had forgotten how long the band has been around.

Of course, when I think of Rush, I remember the "Rushathon" we had at my old apartment in Kirksville affectionately called "The Brewery" in, what, maybe 1994 or 1995?

See, a bunch of us had the idea of taking certain bands that we liked and listening to their albums all day/night before we went to the party or the mixer we had that night.

The first was a Led Zeppelinathon.

Then I think we followed with Rushathon, which if I remember correctly was a two-day affair.

The final part of the -athon trilogy was a Stevie Ray Vaughnathon.

Libations were quaffed. Musical geekdom was embraced. Strange behavior was tolerated. Bullshit was shared. Balls were busted. Wagon wheels were unearthed. "Dallagher!" was yelled. Some people came and went. Some people stayed the duration ("first to come, last to leave").
Very good times were had.

Very good times.

When we did the Rushathon, I remember relating to my comrades that I didn't have one of their albums, but I've always been interested in their stuff. While I disliked the synthy period that happened in part of the band's career, which is talked about in the documentary, they do have a sound I like: solid bass, hard rock guitar, and expert drumming. But Geddy Lee's voice, that takes some getting used to.

During the Rushathon, I thought, "Hey, I should buy some of Rush's CDs."

Here over fifteen years later, I still haven't bought one. While I have listened to their music through friends--in fact, one of friends in high school let me borrow a 2112 cassette, and I remember one stoner guy in high school going on and on and on about the greatness of "Tom Sawyer"--and while I've listened to their songs on classic rock radio stations, Rush just isn't a band I've gotten into. I've always kind of liked them even though the fact that 2112 is based on Ayn Rand's work creeps me out a bit (big surprise there, huh?).

But one of my favorites of the songs I know from Rush is "Working Man."

Enjoy and have a good weekend.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Design Matters

As I'm sure you've noticed if you've been reading my blog for a while, the design changed recently. PlannedOb is now ensconced in milk chocolate brown.

Mmmmmm ........ chocolate. [In my best Homer Simpson voice]

For some time I've been fighting with myself about changing the blog's template to something more current than the crude design I used from years ago. Heck, now the blog even has sans serif font throughout, which is commonsense for the Web, but I still cherish the little feet on Georgia typeface from before. And Garamond and Baskerville, I love those bastards.

I like the new design. Don't get me wrong.

But I kind of like the idea of having an old-school, rudimentary design for blogs and websites like the one purposively done as a throwback for the band Deer Tick. The lead singer, as the interview recounts on website, "isn't a fan of flashy websites," which sounds exactly like something Mr. MaCauley would say. He's a wiseacre. He's trying to be funny.

But I've settled on brown, a color that invites yawns to most people, coupled with blue.

Wallow in PlannedOb's chocolate love, people.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stay Positive: Four Highlights from Today

Three highlights of my day are kid-related. You've been warned, people.

As we were discussing her day at school and the portfolio she brought home for our one-day perusal, Hannah let me know this: "I love math."

Recently Quinn has acquired a statement he enjoys repeating, and I smile at his Yoda-like syntax. When asked a question that he doesn't know the answer to, he consistently answers with "I not know."

Tonight at bedtime I read from the book Why is Snot Green?: And Other Extremely Important Questions and Answers by Glenn Murphy, a fine piece of non-fiction that tackles such important questions as "What is a black hole, and what would happen if you fell into one?," "Where does the wind come from, and where is it going?," "What do people taste like to sharks and tigers?," and "If Earth spins around once a day, what started it spinning?"

The questions and answers in the chapters are a blend of science and humor, sometimes low-brow humor as you'll see. Here are two examples from the answers to the follow-up question of "Why do you do more burps when you drink soda and more farts when you drink beans?" in the "If you swallow a burp, does it turn into a fart?" chapter:
  • "Drink them [pop/soda] down fast and the gases build up in your stomach until they blast their way back up your esophagus (or food-tube), out of your mouth, and in the face of a disapproving aunt" (150)
  • "In doing so, they [beans] produce extra carbon dioxide. This time it goes down instead of up, builds up at the rectum (or bum passage) and finally rattles out at an impressive speed into the waiting world" (150).
We're learning about science and laughing.

The final highlight is that thirteen years ago today Mrs. Nasty and I went on our first date.

Grumpy Monday

There were a lot of grumpy people around campus yesterday. Da Bears, they lost to the Packers in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday afternoon.

And their main object of hatred is Jay Cutler, the Bears QB who injured his knee and didn't give it a go.

Cutler is getting flamed by former and current players in the NFL along with all variety of sports journalists. This should keep ESPN tongues wagging for days.

If you teach rhetoric/writing/communication and you want a good example of someone having a bad ethos, Jay Cutler is your man. I listened to a small bit of sports talk radio yesterday, and there wasn't as much vitriol as I had expected. But then again, here in downstate Illinois I can only pick up 570 The Score. Maybe the message boards did their jobs and vented hatred effectively, or maybe talk show hosts are trying to just invite callers by defending Cutler. Regardless, when you see videos of Bears fans burning Jay Cutler's jersey, it's obvious why they're called "fans," which is short for fanatics.

In what has been described as a "warrior culture" of the NFL, Cutler not playing with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee makes him an apostate. And his status as a weenie is only amplified by playing for the Bears, a ball club that traditionally prides itself on being tough coupled with a fan base that reveres players of full of pluck and grit. To give you an anecdote that might reveal some of the mindsets out there, an ex-girlfriend of mine who hailed from the Chicagoland area really disliked Jim Harbaugh (QB of the Bears at the time I dated her) because she said he was a "pretty boy from Michigan." For Cutler, a guy who has a hang-dog, me-first look to him, the Windy City isn't going to be kind.

And if you haven't heard about this already, I'm sure you will. Monday wasn't a good day to be a car salesman who wanted to show his support for his team, the Packers, in the Chicago area. "Packer Backer Fired for Wearing Green Bay Tie" provides a darkly humorous account of what transpired at Webb Chevrolet in Oak Lawn. Most of the time I intensely dislike the use of rhetorical questions in writing and presentations, but "But what if the Bears had won?" is a good one.

That unfortunate incident gives a whole 'nother meaning to "Go Pack Go."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Music Friday: "Sometimes" & "Rye Whiskey"

This afternoon the Nasty family travels to the neighboring state of Indiana. I'm going to see the Punch Brothers perform at Hatfield Hall at Rose-Hulman tonight, and then on Saturday we'll head over to Indy to enjoy that city's Children's Museum and then take in Toy Story on Ice at Conseco Fieldhouse.

I featured the Punch Brothers on a Music Friday in late September of '08, so by now they have a second album out titled Antifogmatic.

They're a bluegrass outfit with sometimes a decidedly chamber music feel to them as you might notice from "Sometimes." But they also go the traditional route with songs like "Rye Whiskey," as seen on Letterman.

To Terre Haute and beyond...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ode to Blackberry Pie

There were a number of articles at the start of the year proclaiming that 2011 was going to be the "year of pie" since the homestyle desert was projected to supplant cupcakes as the next food trend out there. Apparently cupcake joints sprouted in major metropolitan areas all last year, a trend I knew nothing about.

Now I like a good cupcake. I'll gladly admit that. I'll stand as charged, but I've never been really all that fond of cake in general. But pie, that's a different story.

Behold the Dessert of the Gods, pie, glorious pie.

As the picture above shows, a good pie can put a body in a sweet stupor while watching such programs as The Fresh Beat Band, Dino Dan, or Wild Kratts. This was Quinn's first introduction to the one of my favorites: blackberry pie. And remembering him eating that delicacy puts pies on my mind:
Rhubarb Custard
Coconut Cream
Lemon Meringue
Sweet Potato
Sweet Potato Pecan
Banana Cream

I've had some pies that are so good they make your taste buds ache in pleasure, an orgy of culinary perfection. One pie besides blackberry that I've grown to love is my mom's rhubarb custard, which to some people doesn't sound appetizing, but the sweetness of the loose custard counterposed by the tang of the rhubard creates a delectable balance that exemplifies a strange bit of hyperbole I heard a person use once when describing great barbeque: "It's so good it'll make you slap your momma."

To me, pie is the consummate comfort food. And blackberries, you see, they're good for me , so that gives me an even more valid excuse to indulge.

But I loved pie before pie was cool.

Pie is never a trend.

It's the food of every year.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Five Drafts

For my birthday the other day, one present Mrs. Nasty got me is one of those bathroom reading, Cliff Clavinish tomes, a little book that has amusing and interesting information.

As I was leafing through the book, which is titled Contrary to Popular Belief: More than 250 False Fact Revealed, the other day, I stopped on page 35 because of the statue of the Lincoln Memorial and the long title "Abraham Lincoln did not write the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope while riding the train to Gettysburg."

My interest was piqued. I read on.

Apparently, Lincoln started a rough draft on Sunday, November 8, 1963, which is close to two weeks before the famous address on the battlefield. The author says that his final draft was on "executive letterhead and probably finished the night before the dedication ceremony." And his secretary reportedly says he didn't writing at all on the train ride to Pennsylvania.

The truth is that, according to the author, "He wrote five drafts."

That's right. Let me spell it out nice and slowly for you:


I remember hearing that story about Lincoln writing the address on the train from somewhere, and the fact that this myth might have aided and abetted and could still aid and abet people's rationalizations (especially college writers) that they write well "under pressure" pisses me off.


Here in the Prairie State where Lincoln idolatry is lively and also a lucrative affair, I wonder how many schoolchildren have been told this lie about Honest Abe churning out a cherished piece of polished oratory without the need for multiple drafts, revision, editing, and proofreading.

What's even richer about where the myth came from is from whom it originated. Lincoln's son, Robert, is supposedly the perpetrator who "claimed in a letter that his father wrote the speech on the train" in 1885.

So the son of Honest Abe was a liar.

Music Friday: "Heroin Addict Sister" & "El Camino"

An album that made it on a lot of top ten/twenty lists for 2010 was Elizabeth Cook's Welder because it is a damn fine album.

While she could be easily classified as a country artist, this album isn't one of those slick, saccharine-laced, overproduced Nashville affairs, the kind of music Todd Snider refers to in his own song "Nashville" with the lines of "There isn't nothing wrong with rolling in the cashville./
There isn't nothing wrong that we can't fix in the mix."

And Cook has some old fashioned country credibility because she started performing quite early in her life, and her father, well, he was sent to prison for moonshining.

Both songs for today are links to her playing at the studios of KDHX, a St. Louis-based community radio station that is one of finest radio stations on the planet. "Heroin Addict Sister" is a song that'll rip your guts out, so I've also decided to offer the more light-hearted tune of "El Camino" to stave off the depressive effects of the first song. Click on the titles to watch the videos.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stay Positive: Snow Caves, Shoveling, Sledding, and Calling Clowns

A mighty dusting of snow here in East-Central Illinois. And there was a lot of stay positive material for today. I haven't done a Stay Positive feature in quite a while.

As I drove my daughter to gymnastics practice this afternoon, Hannah made a comment about how not that many people were out driving in the "bad weather" today, which led me to waxing moronic on how "when I was a kid" we had much more snow than this place ever gets.

And it is true. It's not just one of those "when I was a kid" stories. Northeastern Iowa, particularly the Cedar Valley, gets its fair share of the white stuff. One of my fraternity brothers opined on the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area and how cold it was (he visited a few times because his sister went to the University of Northern Iowa) by saying, "Waterloo-Cedar Falls, man. God hates that place. It's damn cold."

But anyway, I was talking to the kids about how when plows would move all the snow in one large area in a certain part of the old playground of Kittrell Elementary, a bunch of the older kids created snow caves. You see, the plows would compress all that snow, then we kids of Nordic and Teutonic stock would dig into the great mound of snow and create a cave with tunnels and various rooms. There were only a few winters that the snow caveworks was created and enjoyed in that area of Waterloo, but it was like what I imagine an igloo to be if it was one large flippin' igloo. We're talking about an enormous igloo.

Of course, when I talked all about this, Hanah's eyes got wide in amazement and snowy desire while Quinn, the three old commented, "Yeh, like an igloo!"

So the boy and I got back to the house after dropping her off, and we got to shoveling. Well, I got to shoveling while Quinn in his snow get-up jumped into the mound of snow I had created and then finally shoveled a little bit but mostly took his miniature shovel and flung snow at me while laughing. It was the light stuff, not the wet, packing snow that is perfect for snowballs. Or else that kid would have got his.

Well, okay, I admit it. I started the snow flinging.

Sledding ensued followed by Quinn scarfing down a popsicle and then enjoying some hot cocoa. The kid is passionate about his superhero popsicles. What's a dad to do?

After Mrs. Nasty brought back Hannah, we had dinner and settled into our routine for Quinn: the 8pm Berenstain Bears episode watched before reading and bed time.

As cartoons go, the Bears are a good one. But this episode surprised me. The only real "bad guys" in Bear Country are the bully kid bear called "Two Tall" and his two ruffian sidekicks. Two Tall was making up @#$% about third grade and Sister Bear's not-yet-met teacher to plant bad thoughts and apprehension in her mind.

Brother Bear saw right through that nonsense and promptly called them "clowns," which caught me off guard, and all three of us found hilarious because it's a great put-down. First off, that word rolls off the tongue in a wonderfully condescending manner. Just say it out loud, and you'll hear what I'm talking about.

The epithet has a softer impact than one of my other favorite words: chump. Clown is the "softer side" of chump, if you recognize the Sears slogan reference.

Take care, clowns.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Women with/out Whiskey

As I was driving the kids to school this morning, I was listening to the news segment on the local classic rock station, and one of the little factoids the DJ ended with was some research about women who drink whiskey.

Apparently, someone has studied the characteristics and attributes of women who drink whiskey and compared those women to others who don't drink whiskey. I can't speak to the veracity of this research, but the DJ reported that women who drink whiskey were singled out as being "risk takers" who usually weren't good people to have relationships with. In other words, it sounds like the "research" has uncovered that women who drink whiskey have a ramblin' mind.

I did some cursory searches for this study, but I have found nothing yet.

But I'm wondering who funded this research, who did it, and what was the purpose because if you're a listener to the blues or traditional country or even bluegrass, you already might have come to that conclusion purely by repetition.

So is this a case of art providing us some truth or at least a large dollop of Truthiness? I don't know.

I did find an interesting article in Newsweek called "Women and Whiskey: Why Not?". What the alleged study noted above is not taking into account is that Southern women have been drinking bourbon for ages. It's the liquor associated with the South. And as the author details early on in the article, Jack Daniels targeted women in their recent advertising campaign by trying to morph the usually "manly" drink of whiskey into something very domestic. In other words, Jack is trying to Ophrahitize their brand to capture another demographic.

Of course, the message is troubling: get sloshed and bake, ladies. You go girls.

As much as I know women have imbibed whiskey for a long time, from my own experience working in a liquor store, whiskey does have a gendered presence. Well, we've given it that essence as the professor quoted in article details briefly. I can't recall women coming into Independence Ave. Liquors and buying much whiskey. Maybe a blended scotch, but Maker's Mark, Jim Beam, Old Grand Dad, or Black Velvet? Nah, didn't happen. They gravitated toward wine coolers, vodka, schnapps, and gin.

Like seemingly everything else, booze, well, it's gendered.

But the author, Kate Daily, notes, "... gendering drinks as “male” or “female “ creates arbitrary distinctions about how people should respond to certain situations, based on stereotypes. “'It’s all about people’s personal taste,” says Ruderhausen. “Just as there are men who don’t like a big, smoky whisky, there are women who do.'”

Sure, that might be the case that it's about personal taste, but I still see women going toward the "girlie drinks" and men quaffing "strong" stuff to show their manhood. In other words, I don't think we've come that long of a way, baby.

Interestingly enough, I don't see certain proprietors of whiskey targeting other important demographics. For example, I haven't seen Jack Daniels, a brand some might tend to associate with rednecks even though it is a fine sippin' whiskey, target African-Americans or Latinos.

Booze choices cut across socio-cultural lines too as I'm sure you can imagine. Where I worked the clientile was approximately 60-70% African-American because my dad's liquor store was on the "bad side" of town (a perception I always found patently stupid, by the way), the side of the Cedar River where most African-Americans lived. We trucked a lot in gin and brandy, Bumpy Face gin and Erk and Jerk specifically.

We may recognize all this, but rarely is there change. But is it that big of a deal?

When Mrs. Nasty and I go out to dinner tomorrow night, I suspect we'll order a pre-dinner libation. She'll get some kind of martini drink because she enjoys sweeter drinks without the strong taste of alcohol, and I'll either order a beer or a stronger cocktail like a gin and tonic or bourbon on the rocks.

If we're merely falling into gendered traps, I guess I can rationalize that they're our "personal tastes."

Music Friday: "January Wedding" & "Harlem River Blues"

I learned this week that longtime reader of PlannedOb is getting hitched. A woman has finally tamed the mighty Fozzie. Congrats, brother.

To celebrate this news, I offer a romantic song by the Avett Brothers (yes, those guys again) called "January Wedding." I don't know whether Fozzie and his better half's wedding will be this month or next January or whenever, but you can click HERE to watch them perform the song off the album I and Love and You.

Here's a selected stanza from the lyrics:
I hope that I don't sound to insane when I say
There is darkness all around us.
I don't feel weak, but I do need sometimes for her to protect me
And reconnect me to the beauty that I'm missin'.
And in January we're gettin' married.

And speaking of Foz, I'm sure he was as geeked up as I was at seeing Justin Townes Earle's performance Wednesday night on Letterman. I'm a big fan of Mr. Earle--all of his albums are solid. In fact, when No Depression solicited community members' opinions about the best albums of 2010, I voted Harlem River Blues number 1 for last year.

On Wednesday night, as Foz and I knew about, Mr. Jason Isbell played lead guitar for Earle on a vintage guitar from the 20s. And I believe the talented Dawn Landes acted as one of the back-up singers for the performance.

So you can also click HERE to watch "Harlem River Blues" on Letterman from Wednesday night if you're so inclined. Note the juxtaposition between the peppy music and the lyrics about going down to the river to kill oneself.

What I was somewhat shocked about during Letterman intro is that it was Earle's network debut. What? He has three albums out and is the son of Americana music icon Steve Earle, and Wednesday night was his debut? Wow. That's an indictment of something.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Secret Sisters Interview

I know I haven't featured this duo on a Music Friday, but I thought I'd pass along this interview from No Depression.

The sisters from the Muscle Shoals region talk about their music, their influences, and the highlights of their careers so far. Click HERE to read.

Their work is a beautiful anachronism--country/folky stuff out of the 40s/50s.

Messing with Huck Finn

As Professor of Law Jonathan Turley relates recently on his blog, a publisher has created a revisionist version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Click HERE to read the post, and thanks to PlannedOb supporter Fozzie for passing this along to me.

Turley ends the post by saying, "I find the editing of a great literary work to be nothing short of shameful and shocking."

I don't know about this move being shocking, but I find it silly.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Black/Dark Humor & Blackbirds

As Nick Neely writes about in "Blackbird Humor" on Audubon's blog, there was a strange incident in Beebe, Arkansas with the massive death of red-winged blackbirds. They just dropped out of the sky on New Year's Eve.

Since I'm a bird lover and the red-winged blackbird is one of my favorites, this is saddening, and I find the whole deal eery in a Biblical sense.

In his post, Neely explores the dark humor associated with how people have talked about what happened, which is one of the better explanations of dark humor that I've seen in a while. As humor goes, dark humor is my favorite since, as one of my students from long ago described it, "Dark humor, it's sort of funny. But then again it's really not once you get to thinking about it."

One of my favorite short examples of Dark Humor comes from George Carlin: "The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A death. What's that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you live in an old age home. You get kicked out when you're too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work forty years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You do drugs, alcohol, you party, and you get ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating... you finish off as an orgasm."

If you're interested in browsing more aphorisms of Black/Dark Humor, click HERE, HERE, and HERE.

If you're so inclined, post one of your favorites from the links or from elsewhere.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Lack of New Year Traditions

Yesterday Daiva Markelis on her blog The Adventures of Mighty Bear Woman provided a post about a past tradition for New Year's Eve when, as part of the title, says, "...I was old enough to stay up late but not old enough to get drunk."

I got to thinking about my own lack of traditions associated with New Year's Eve. While I've been known on occasion to howl at the moon (metaphorically speaking), I don't really care for New Year's Eve much. After close to forty years on this earth, only one New Year's Eve celebration really stands out, and that was a big blow-out for the millennial New Year's Eve at "Chuck's Place" in O'Fallon, Missouri. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to midnight that night. But for the most part I turn a jaundiced eye toward the holiday since it is a hollow one for me.

As my dad told me when I was younger, "Life is a struggle." And Virg knows something about that since he grew up on a farm in rural northeastern Missouri during the Great Depression. Since life is a struggle even though some English professors will try to sell you on the "life is a journey" metaphor provided by The Odyssey, New Year's Eve is just like any other day: another day closer to death.

When I think about my own family's traditions around the holiday, well, we didn't have any that I can remember. Back when I was old enough to stay up late but not old enough to get sloshed, I think I probably just brainlessly watched the New Year's celebration TV shows with my parents as my Dad read the Waterloo Courier.

When I was really young, my dad worked as a meat cutter for National Tea and then got laid off. He then sold insurance for a few years, thankfully got a small business loan to open up his own small grocery on the East side of Waterloo, and once he "retired" from the grocery business, he got bored and started a liquor store near the grocery store he sold to my brother.

I worked at both the grocery store and the liquor store. And December 31st was always a day when we were wonderfully slammed with business. Hours flew by because you were busy. The date is a gold rush for liquor stores as you can imagine. By the time I got off work at 10 or 11 on those New Year's Eves during high school and later when I worked over breaks during college, I was tired and tired of drunks.

But as we said in both stores, New Year's Eve is "amateur night." Rather than serving our regular customers who wanted half-pints, fifths, or Texas fifths (1.75 liters) of "bumpy face" (Seagram's gin), "Mad Dog" (Mogan David 20/20), "Erk & Jerk" (E&J brandy), and all manner of hard liquor, we trucked more in various cheap champagnes and spumante. Andre champagne or Cold Duck (one of my favorite names for a libation) for $5, people. And for whatever reason liquers sold well then but more so around Xmas. Nothing says booze like the holidays. You can even get your beloveds gift sets of booze with glasses and whatnot: liquor as gift ~ a gift that gives and gives.

I also dislike how New Year's spawns resolutions, but maybe that's just because, like most people, I rarely keep them. I've had better luck setting goals and working toward those goals irrelevant of the time of the year.

So why do I still lurch toward making New Year's resolutions though? Damn you socialization.

Lately, I've been drawn to something I read about in Brian Haycock's Dharma Road. As the author details in Chapter 18 "Thank You, Thank You," "Most of us have much more than the bare necessities. A Mahayana Buddhist practice is to make a list of everything we are given in the course of a day--not cab fares, but the small blessings that come our way. A tasty snack. A song on the radio. A water cooler with really cold water. They add up. If we keep a list, we can look back at the end of the day and realize just how lucky we are. And we can be thankful for that."

"Much of Zen practice is just to develop an appreciation for everyday life. Whether it's a glorious sunrise over the green hills of Texas or a frantic street scene anywhere in the world, we should take it all in and see the beauty behind it. And we can appreciate that and give thanks for it. Wherever we are, we're lucky to be there. We're lucky just to be." (120-1).

As he details in the paragraph after those two, "[t]he hard times are valuable as well" since "[w]e can be grateful for the trials we face, the obstacles we have to overcome" (121).

Okay, I admit it. I almost made a resolution to do exactly what he details above: listing the everyday blessings or positive negatives that happened in my day. But I didn't. I'm mulling it over. For a short while a few years ago, I was writing a daily tanka, which was usually fun and interesting but sometimes it just turned into work. And I got enough work. I got enough.

I may just do the list like I do my tankas, when I feel like it. But I'm drawn to the discipline of a daily practice.

For example, for today I could note how Hannah, who starts back at first grade tomorrow, held my hand as we went to and from the mall today. And I could also record how my first attempt at making Swedish meatballs didn't go so well. They came out more as Swedish meatblobs. I failed to remember a lesson I've learned before: adhere strictly to the recipe on your first try making a dish. And Mrs. Nasty joked with me about whether I'd write about that dish.

Well, there you go. I did. Duly noted.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sunday Hangover: Michigan State

A woodshedding, a beat-down, or downright destruction, name what happened yesterday afternoon in Orlando whatever sports cliche you like. The Crimson Tide dominated the Capital One Bowl Saturday, leading Cecil Hurt, the venerable sports writer from the Tuscaloosa News, to make the title of his story "Capital Punishment." And a writer from the Detroit Free-Press offered this snarky take on the game: "It is hard to pinpoint exactly when this Capital One Bowl started going poorly for MSU, but it was probably the moment Marcell Dareus was born."


And the touchdown Alabama gave up in the fourth quarter was on the second/third team defense, which had walk-ons playing in the secondary.

Yesterday's bowl game was one of the most dominating performances by the Crimson Tide against a solid opponent since the '08 Iron Bowl. With key players finally healthy (notably RG Barrett Jones, DT/DE Marcell Dareus, and Jack LB Courtney Upshaw featured above) after a tough regular season and the Tide finally playing a complete game, the total yards differential came out to be Alabama's 546 yards to Michigan State's 171 yards. The Spartans had -48 yards rushing.

The leading rusher for Alabama was third string tailback Eddie Lacy, who will probably take over as the second team RB behind Richardson next season if Ingram doesn't come back for his senior season.

Now the fans of the Crimson Tide wait to hear on whether important student-athletes in the junior class will go to the NFL next season. Ingram is one, and I suspect he'll go pro. On ESPN's ticker during the game, Todd McShay has him ranked as the number 1 RB in the draft, which I found surprising. But when I think about it, I can't think of a better running back in college football right now except maybe Richardson.

Julio Jones, one of the most best wide receivers in college football, might also take advantage of early entry into the NFL along with the bear-like Marcell Dareus. We'll see what happens, but the Tide should have another strong team ready to take the field next season, but the team plays in the most difficult conference division in college football: the SEC West.

As spring practices begin and culminate with the annual A-Day game, the most important competition will be at quarterback with A. J. McCarron and Phillip Sims battling it out for the starting QB position, a battle that might not get resolved until fall practices break.