Month: October 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

Planning Ahead

I’m going to try something new for the next 30 days. It’s actually something I wanted to do a year ago, but I got sidetracked in my three-month journey that was reading Infinite Jest. I’m finally going to give National Novel Writing Month (Or NaNoWriMo to the kids) a shot.

The idea behind NaNoWriMo is that anyone can write a novel, you just need a strict plan and lots of encouragement. Their plan is simple: write 50,000 words over 30 days. Good words, bad words, in between words. Doesn’t matter, just write. If you can pour out 1667 words per day, at the end of the month you might not have the next great American novel, but you can call yourself a novelist.

I don’t enter this endeavor with great expectations. I have a very rough idea of what I’d like to write about. But I don’t have outlines, character sketches, or even a real idea of how to get from A-to-Z. The idea is loosely based on things that have happened to me, a combination of events from different parts of my life brought together to one time period for literary purposes. If I’m lucky enough to get to 50,000 words and have a decent ending, I still don’t expect it to be some great work of art, though.

This is all about going through the process, getting those words on the page (or into the text file), and learning about what it takes to put a long piece of writing together. I’d love to write a book of some kind at some point. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction I don’t know right now. Going beyond a few thousand words seems like a monumental task. If nothing else comes from this, I would love to get to December 1 and have a better understanding of the preparation, commitment, and effort it takes to write a book.

If I get really lucky, what I write won’t completely suck, and somewhere inside is a nugget that I can use to write something I might try to get published. But that’s the absolute high end of my goals for this, and not something I’m expecting. I just want start and complete the project so I can say that I did it.

“Will I get to read any of this?” I can hear some of you asking. Probably not. Since it is based, at least for now, on some things from my life, I don’t know that I want to share them with the world. At least not yet. However, I expect the project to jog some interesting memories, and if any of those feel like they could be a blog post as well, I will certainly post them here. I just don’t plan on uploading the entire file at the end of the month and letting everyone read it.

So that’s what I’m going to be up to for the next month. When you break it down to 1667 words per day, it sounds within reach. I can write a couple thousand words a day easy when I put my mind to it. The challenge is connecting those words to each other each day for a month. Thinking about that is when my confidence begins to fail me.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Young Jordan

Much to my generation’s chagrin, Michael Jordan has not aged well. He came back one time too many, and when he finally left the league was a rather ordinary professional baller. Since his retirement, he’s had mixed success, at best, as an NBA executive. He offered a mean, bitter Hall of Fame induction speech. And he seems to be constantly cruising the party circuit with younger women. Kind of a dirty old man, not what we expected of the allegedly regal Jordan of his prime.

The linked article is an interesting excerpt from a new NBA book, the <a href=””>Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History</a>, from the makers of the <a href=””>Free Darko</a> website. It recalls NBA Jordan Version 1.0, the unstoppable, revolutionary force that took the league by storm. That Jordan was something to see, not yet the polished, complete package he would become, but a long, lean bundle of energy, raw ability, and competitiveness. He mesmerized me, and a lot of fans my age, and we were sucked into one of the greatest myth-making machines ever.

<a href=””>The Invention of Air</a>

Michael Jordan wasn’t the first player to jump to the rim or abuse defenders. But there was something different about MJ. Not only could he get higher and do more while hanging in the air than anyone who had come before, Jordan was outright vicious in the way he used this exquisite ability, careening around the court and knifing his way to the basket with recklessness—as expansive as Magic, but replacing Johnson’s glee with a kind of freewheeling, vigilante menace.

Making A Difference

I’ve had a draft sitting around for awhile that I was unsure whether to post or not. In fact, I think I have three different versions of it sitting on my hard drive.

The New York Time’s Nicholas Kristof had a terrific story in last weekend’s Magazine about international philanthropy. Kristof was one of the people who worked hard to raise awareness of the Darfur genocide and continues to write about similar issues.

His latest piece struck a nerve, as it shows how people who want to make a difference can, if they just make the effort to get involved. Even if you don’t read the rest of my post, I recommend reading his article and thinking about where and how you can help others.

I have a dumb problem. For a couple years I’ve been trying to come up with a cause of some kind to support. I make a few donations a year, either to friends who are raising money for something or by adding some extra onto any runs I take part in. Each Christmas our family adopts a family in need and helps to make their holiday a little better. But I don’t have a cause that I’m committed to, something that I take great interest in, apply my time to, and believe I’m making a difference through.

I feel incredibly fortunate for the life I live. Our family is well-fed, clothed, and safely housed. Our kids are going to private schools. I am able to work in a low-paying job because I enjoy it, not because I have to. It feels like I should be doing something to help others.

But I’ve never adopted a cause because I can’t figure out which direction to go.

Should I get involved with something like Kiva, where I can make small loans to individuals around the world? Each month I could take a little of what I make and directly impact someone else’s life.

Or should I raise money for more broadly based development projects in third world countries, such as the various projects that aim to bring clean water to Africans?

Should I find something like the Darfur genocide groups that I got involved in during grad school and become a true activist rather than simply a donator? I could adopt a cause, blog about it, raise awareness, and create political pressure.

I tend to think globally, since I’ve always been most interested in world affairs. But what about domestic/local groups? Is it better to spend time helping the homeless of Indiana, sick kids at a local hospital, or funding a local center for cancer patients?

Or is it best to spread my time, money, and interest around, supporting a variety of causes over the course of the year as I learn about them?

I think about this a lot, but never come to a decision. Instead, I’m stuck in a strange paralysis where I do nothing. Well, nothing other than writing the checks to friends who are getting up early on a weekend for a cause.

One of my goals for the rest of the year is to break this paralysis and finally do something. I don’t know if I’ll adopt a single cause, or a handful. But I want to finally get to the end of a year with the satisfaction of knowing that I made an effort to share my good fortune with others.

I have some ideas. As I get deeper into this process, I’ll share how I’m progressing here. If you’re down for a cause, feel free to send me a pitch and perhaps you can get me on your team.

What I Watched

Even without a Colts game to suck up time, it was a solid sports weekend.

I covered an opening round football playoff game Friday. It was a blowout, but the coach I spoke with seems like a good guy and is struggling to turn around his alma mater. It was interesting to listen in as he spoke to his team for nearly 20 minutes on the field after the game, laying out a plan for the offseason.

I walked back to the car, wrote my story while listening to the post-game show of a game up the road (I was way the hell out again, about 20 minutes from Cincinnati), filed my story and stats, and headed home. I flipped over to the state-wide scores show and about ran off I-74 when I heard the #1 5A team in the state, which seemed to be head-and-shoulders above the rest of the state, got upset. Another top five 5A team lost, too. And a third dangerous 5A team from Indy got knocked off. Chaos in the opening round!

Our local 11, by the way, are ranked #2 in 5A, losing only to the former #1 team. They have a very difficult sectional, facing a 9-1 team this week and if they win that, likely a 10-1 team for the sectional championship. If they can get through the sectional, though, the schools that have beat them in three of the last four state title games are gone. Getting to a fifth-straight championship game would be a heck of an accomplishment. If they can do that, they would be the favorites to win their second title in four years. I hope I didn’t just jinx them.

I spent Saturday afternoon the way I’ve spent much of the fall: watching Auburn’s Cam Newton go nuts. I don’t have strong feelings for Auburn, good or bad. Newton is turning me into a fan, though, and each Saturday morning I check the TV listings to see if the Auburn game is on. That guy is amazing.

Saturday night I watched the Giants-Phillies game from start-to-finish. That was some fantastic baseball. Clutch hitting, great pitching, some questionable moves and calls. It had everything you could want from playoff baseball. As an added bonus, we now get to watch a World Series without the Yankees, Red Sox, or Phillies. I’m sure Fox will still find an angle to over-hype, but at least it should be restrained compared to most years.

I did watch some of the KU game along the way, but it was brutal as expected. That long Turner Gill post is getting longer. I’ll have to post it before it becomes unreadable.

This ‘n That

Let’s cross some more T’s and dot some more I’s. Or whatever. In other words, clearing out some of the junk in my head.

High school football playoffs start tonight in Indiana. I’m assigned to what I expect to be a big blowout, with my team on the short end. Several of our teams have tough games in the first round, so there’s a decent chance this will be my last week covering football. Girls basketball starts in three weeks, so things will pick up again soon.

This week’s Modern Family was hilarious. Most of them are, but something about this week’s was especially great. In many ways, it wasn’t the typical episode where everything is wrapped up by the end. But there were a lot of moments of absurdity that the show does incredibly well. Gloria’s car alarm yelling. Cameron’s impromptu Cherokee. The bar of soap phone. Good stuff.

That said, Community has been right there with Modern Family every week so far this season.1 Shame Parks & Rec isn’t around to add to the fun. It’s a contest where the audience is the big winner.

The wife and I signed up to run the Indianapolis Mini Marathon next May. It’s been a goal of mine since we moved here, and I even signed up once but never got around to training and sold my number to a friend. There’s no room for excuses anymore! It’s go time! What better way to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of running 26.2 than by doing 13.1?

I’ve barely watched the baseball playoffs this year. I’m pleased the Yankees are on the verge of defeat, but refuse to count them out yet. More difficult to believe is that the Phillies are in the same predicament. It sure seemed like the Phillies getting through the NL playoffs unscathed was the easiest bet of the postseason.

The Colts bye week is traditionally a quiet week in Indy. That’s not the case this week. Joseph Addai got banged up in Washington and his prognosis is uncertain. Austin Collie just had hand surgery and is expected to miss several weeks. And now word has broken that Dallas Clark is seeing a hand specialist. Some reports say he could miss the rest of the season. That does not bode well for the second half of the season. If the Colts manage to get to 10 or 11 wins this year, it might be the finest effort of the Manning-era.

We’ve been super lucky health-wise this fall. Last year we were constantly sick from the second week of school to nearly Thanksgiving. C. and L. got smacked by colds this week, and we had an enjoyable L. puking on the floor incident this morning. Kids are awesome.

Happy weekend to you.

  1. I haven’t watched this week’s episode yet. 

I Love Fall

So does McSweeneys.

Carving orange pumpkins sounds like a pretty fitting way to ring in the season. You know what else does? Performing an all-gourd reenactment of an episode of Diff’rent Strokes—specifically the one when Arnold and Dudley experience a disturbing brush with sexual molestation. Well, this shit just got real, didn’t it?

<a href=””>It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers</a>

Via <a href=”″>Kottke</a>

Kurt and Axl

It’s already Thursday and I’ve yet to post anything? Weird. I’ll blame the nice weather and the time we’ve been spending outside. Also, I’m contemplating a post about Turner Gill, but struggling with how/what to write. Trust me, there will be something about Turner here soon.

In the meantime, here’s a fascinating article from a series at the Onion’s AV Club about 90s music. In this edition, the author examines the relationship between Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain during the period in which alternative rock rose to prominence. It’s an obvious comparison, and I’m sure it’s been made many times, but I don’t recall reading anything about it lately.

He’s right, though. G ‘n R might be the only rock band that scared me. “Welcome to the Jungle” might be the most menacing mainstream rock song of all-time.

“You shut your bitch up, or I’m taking you down to the pavement,” he growled, sounding more menacing in that one moment than at any point over the 150 minutes of the Use Your Illusion albums. (At least that’s how I imagine it.)
Without missing a beat, Cobain turned to his wife, and said sarcastically, “Okay, bitch. Shut up.”

<a href=”,46507/”>”What’s so civil about war, anyway?”</a>

Pyromania 27 Years Later

Recently I picked up a copy of Def Leppard’s seminal 1983 album Pyromania. I had been waiting for years for it to show up in the iTunes or Amazon MP3 stores, to no avail. After hearing a couple songs in the pregame mix at a high school football game, I thought it was time to finally take the plunge and order the CD.

This was a big deal. First, I don’t buy CDs anymore. Second, Pyromania was the first cassette tape I ever bought, back in the summer of 1983. It’s a very important album in my musical development.

Fortunately, it holds up very well.1 It’s still a first-class rocker and an essential album for someone interested in the hard rock with a healthy dose of pop scene of the early 80s.

Listening to it nearly 30 years after its release opened up a whole new perspective on its songs. I had always believed it to be a straight-up heavy metal album. When you dig into it, though, you realize that it is much more than that. In fact, it is a deep rumination on the state of the British Empire in the early 80s.

What follows is by no measure a complete review, but I thought it would be interesting to dive into a few of the songs to support this assertion.

“Rock Rock (Till you Drop)” – They started off slow. This is a pretty standard plea to embrace every moment.

“Photograph” – Now we’re getting somewhere. This explores the temporal nature of our relationship with the world because of the controls government and big business place on the media. The device the band uses is the infamous Page Three girls, who were tools to distract the masses from the massive issues facing Britain.

“Foolin'” – Even in the early 80s, technology was already beginning to separate us. When Joe Elliott makes his plea, “Is anybody out there? Anybody there?” he speaks of a world where the traditional bonds of community have been destroyed by television and pop culture. The pain of his isolation when he asks, “Won’t you stay with me awhile?” is almost too much to take.

It’s not hard to hear the monotonous thwack of the cowbell in the chorus as the protagonist pounding on the walls that separate him from those around him. I would not be surprised if this served as an important point of inspiration for Radiohead when they were recording OK Computer.

“Rock of Ages” – This is clearly a warning that if the economic imbalance in British society didn’t change, and fast, the working class of cities like Leppard’s Sheffield were ready to take radical, destructive action to ensure their demands were heard. Was the burning sound at the end 10 Downing Street or Parliament or Buckingham Palace or just the working class neighborhoods of every British city left behind as the economy fell apart?

“Stagefright” – This is about being at a pub with your mates and needing to piss but some drunk bloke next to you in the men’s room keeps yammering on about Manchester United and you can’t get started.

“Too Late for Love” – An ode to the death of the idealism of the 1960s.

“Die Hard the Hunter” – Most take this to be the story of a soldier returned from combat who struggles to find his place in society. They key line “Put down your pistol, put down your toy” reveals the true message of this song. It is about the fears that a generation of youths were being turned into zombies by video games, and they were no longer able to differentiate fantasy from reality.

“Action Not Words” – A withering indictment of both Labour and Tory politicians who yammered endlessly in Parliament about what was wrong with Great Britain but did little to actually fix those problems.

“Billy’s Got a Gun” – A case against the reckless, cowboy militarism of the Thatcher-Reagan era.

Perhaps you hear different things when you listen to these songs. There is no doubting, though, that Pyromania is an all-time classic that carries much more weight that I realized when I was 12.

  1. Unlike the band’s next album Hysteria. That album sounds like shit today. 

The Have Nots

I’ve mentioned poor EHS several times when sharing my sports reporting exploits. They are the team that had A) a seven-year losing streak and B) have won only five games in the past decade. It was my week to draw the short straw1 and for the first time, I headed down to cover one of their games.

It promised to be a long night. The previous week they played, and beat, the only school they’ve defeated in the past ten years.2 No matter who they were playing this week, the odds were stacked against them.

It went as expected. EHS was able to burn some clock on offense, but never really threatened and their opponents put the game away early.

There was something unusual about the game, though. Or, more specifically, about how I had to cover it. Last summer EHS planned on building a new press box. They accepted bids, chose a contractor, and set a date to begin construction. In anticipation of that, they tore down the old press box and had the appropriate materials ordered and delivered.

On the day construction was set to begin, no contractors showed up. Calls were placed, promises made, and it was expected construction would kick off soon.

That never happened.

So now they have a football stadium without a press box. I sat in the stands with the rest of the crowd, juggling my paperwork and trying to keep track of everything in the semi-dark. Add in the severe drought that’s gripped central Indiana for months, and it was near impossible to see yard markers. The field was mostly dust, and once play moved inside the 20s, neither I nor the scoreboard operator had a clear view of where the ball was spotted.

This isn’t some poor me post, complaining about not having posh accommodations to track a high school football game. Rather it’s just another sign about how difficult the situation is for EHS football. The school won three sectional championships in winter and spring sports last year. Their rosters are growing, giving coaches a chance to run real practices and develop young talent. But in football, things remain tough.

  1. Or, as I prefer to think of it, it was the most difficult assignment of the week and my editor chose me to tackle it. 
  2. That’s right, they’re five-for-the-last-decade and all five wins are against the same school. Despite that, they still have a losing record against that team. 

The Outsider

It’s tough for dads to be one of the girls.

We go to the park; it’s me and the moms. We go to the Target, it’s me and the nannies.
This is my reality. And it drives me nuts when people feel the need to make a big deal of it.

This quote is from a recent Matt Villano column in the New York Times Magazine’s parenting section. Since NYT articles tend to disappear behind a log-in wall after a few days, the gist is a stay-at-home dad takes his daughter to a library event, and everyone makes a fuss over him being the only dad there. They change the lyrics of songs, the words of stories to reference fathers in addition to mothers.

This annoyed him.

I can sympathize, a bit. I too bristle when random people make a big deal of me being a dad in an environment that is dominated by moms. It’s not that I’m offended, it’s about not wanting to be the center of attention. Though there have been some times when people make comments about me “having the day off” when I do get a little bent out of shape.

The column did remind me that I just began my seventh year of being primarily employed as a caregiver to our kids. Every day is a challenge, as it is with every parent who stays home, father or mother. But I like to think I do a few things correctly each day and have been reasonably successful.

One thing that sticks out is the social awkwardness I feel in my role, something Villano touched on in his column. While I think most people are understanding and supportive of men who stay home, there are unspoken social walls out there. Perhaps it’s just me, but it does feel a little strange to walk into a library, onto a playground, etc. and be the only dad there. While moms are clustered in groups, chatting while their kids play, inevitably I’ll stand on my own or just chase my girls around without engaging in conversation with the moms. I don’t feel like the moms are staring at me, wondering what the hell I’m doing there. But I do think it’s harder for dads to walk into these situations and easily integrate into the parental conversations if we don’t know any of the other parents.

In six years, I can only think of a couple times when I’ve been out with the girls and struck up more than passing conversations with moms.1 Once was at Gymboree, when C. and a little boy kept playing together. After a couple weeks the boy’s mom and I started talking a little bit. The conversations were brief, and I couldn’t tell you her name today. The other time was last summer, at M. and C’s gymnastics class. There were two brothers in their class, and as we were the only parents present, their mom and I passed the hour talking and chasing our one year olds. Even then, once the summer was over, that contact ended.

I admit some of this no doubt stems from my reserved nature. It’s hard for me to walk into a setting where I don’t know people and start conversations. I wait for others to engage me. That’s as true if I walk into a room full of guys as a room full of moms. Along those lines, when there are other dads present at kid events, I don’t rush over and start talking to them. But I feel like I could approach them, where there’s an underlying (imagined?) tension with moms that they don’t want me barging into their conversations.

I have a few friends who are also stay-at-home dads. One has a completely different experience from me. We joke that he’s the perfect PTA mom, fitting in comfortably to every situation despite being the only dad present. He is a much more social creature than me, though. He has no trouble stepping into new settings and meeting people. Also, when he left the working world, he already had two kids in school and his entire family was already involved in school, church, and athletics so he had relationships with other parents already. So perhaps it is more about us as individuals than because of unspoken rules.

I don’t want to overstate this tension. It’s not something that keeps me awake at night, or makes me feel great dissatisfaction in my role as a parent. I’ve survived six years just fine after all. It’s just something interesting that strikes me about my place in society.

  1. I should point out that I’m talking about casual interactions. There are plenty of moms I’ve met at school that I’ve got to know and when we see each other, we immediately start talking. But these were moms I saw multiple times each week and pick-up and drop-off times, special school events, 
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