Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 - The year that was (because if it wasn't, we'd be in a pickle) -- Part one

As I write this, we are mere hours away from bidding adieu to the year 2008. What does this new year really mean?

It means calendars everywhere will be rendered obsolete.

It means millions of people will waste valuable seconds correcting themselves when they accidentally write or type 2008 instead of 2009; seconds they could be using to read some Writings... and then close their web browsers in either disgust or confusion.

It also means that you will see "year in review" articles and programs just about everywhere you look. They will be more prevalent than awkward conversations with people you barely know during a trip to the local market. You will see so many rehashes of 2008 that you'll feel like you've gone ventured to the past in a time-traveling phone booth (or a Delorean, if you prefer). By the time February hits, you'll be so sick of hearing about 2008 that you'll consider holding Punxsutawney Phil hostage to get the madness to end.

With that said, I really can't think of a better segue into the second-annual The Writings Year in Review.*

*Editor's note: We at The Writings do not condone groundhognapping.

January 2008-
The year started off in fine fashion for the author, along with thousands of others that bleed purple. (Figuratively, not literally. I do not know whether my blood type is B-positive or O-negative, but I do know that it's not "O-crap-how-did-my-blood-get-this-color"). On January 30, the K-State Wildcats topped the Kansas Jayhawks at Bramlage Coliseum, marking the first time such an event had ever occurred. It was a magical night in the Little Apple, as Michael Beasley led the 'cats to the 84-75 victory.

February 2008-
Daniel Day-Lewis wins an Academy Award for his uncanny ability to make the idea of drinking milkshakes both comical and creepy at the same time. There Will Be Blood was nominated for eight Academy Awards, but received no recognition for Best Alternate Title - There Will Be a Long, Long Story About Drilling for Oil... Make Sure You Visit the Restroom Beforehand.

March 2008-
India defeats Australia in cricket to win the Commonwealth Bank Series. The American reaction is dizzying. Millions blink in response. Others offer confused looks and ask the nearest person how people can train crickets to play sports.

April 2008-
The NFL Draft took place, and popular opinion was that the Kansas City Chiefs were one of the most successful teams in selecting draft picks over the two-day period. Eight months later, 14 losses would prove that popular opinion means about as much as a bit of catnip in a tiger attack. In effort to properly demonstrate cause-and-effect relationships to young fans, the Chiefs also traded defensive end Jared Allen (15.5 sacks in 2007). They ended the 2008 season by setting an NFL record for fewest sacks by a team in a season (10).

May 2008-
May lasted 31 days, as is custom.

... What? That's not news?

Also, the Phoenix lander arrived at Mars... unfortunately, minutes after landing, it remembered that it had left the front door unlocked at home.

June 2008-
Ice landed yet another blow in the ongoing conflict with the author, cracking his windshield in the midst of a severe hailstorm. Attempts to strike back by the author were rendered moot when grocery store personnel prevented him from unplugging all the freezers in the frozen food aisle.

... jerks.

July 2008-
A trip across America's northern border was largely uneventful until news arrived that the author was officially an uncle. While ideas of hitchhiking back to Kansas as quickly as possible were considered, responsibility won the battle and the new uncle waited until his work was done before heading homeward. Upon being introduced, the newest addition to the family turned the author into putty in her diminutive hands in approximately 0.7 seconds.

August 2008-
The NFL preseason began and the every third word spoken by NFL broadcasters was some form of "Favre." It was like every sportscaster had come down with some sort of wacked-out version of Tourette's syndrome. Unconfirmed reports (made up by me) even said that the NFL was considering changing the name of the sport it competes in from football to Favreball.


Alas, outside forces* will not allow me to complete the year in review in one Writing. Stay tuned for part two.

*Outside forces include - but may not be limited to - deciding on New Year's Eve plans with seven-and-a-half hours left in the the current calendar year. Who says I don't plan ahead?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Thoughts

Thoughts while trying to convince myself that frustratingly lengthy waits at fast food drive-thru windows are not signs of a crumbling society. (A 10-minute wait for a few tacos? Aaaaaahhhhhhh!)

-Whoever wrote the lyrics to "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" certainly did not conjure them while risking his or her neck trying to survive a trip through their local mall parking lot on the Saturday before Christmas. After all, there's no muffled cursing in the song. 

-Does it make any sense whatsoever that eggnog became associated with winter holidays? Forgive me, but drinking this concoction that sounds as if it was created by a very confused farmer does not bring to mind thoughts of manger miracles or jolly old St. Nick. (Unless the drink is the reason Santa has a weight problem.)

-I can't figure out why the word "merry" is only used in holiday speak. Have you ever used the word "merry" in a conversation that was not linked to Christmas? If so, odds are you got a funny look for your efforts. You know, the same look you get if you suggest that The Love Guru marks the height of cinematic comedy or that rabid guinea pigs will be the next big thing in American pets. (Take that, dogs so small you can fit them in handbags!)

-Of all the arctic animals, why were reindeer chosen as Santa's beasts of burden? Wouldn't arctic terns have made a lot more sense? They actually have the wings to fly. (However, it would probably take quite a few of them to pull a sleigh, so any rhymes list all their names would be pretty lengthy...) If they were sold on taking the land mammal route, why choose the reindeer ahead of other options? They didn't think "Cleburne the red-nosed caribou" would catch on?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Little Bit of This...

- Some might say that a laptop that takes 44 seconds to pull up iTunes after the desktop icon is double-clicked has seen better days and probably needs to be replaced. I just like to think that my laptop is putting sincere thought into it's actions. ("Now he double-clicked iTunes... Does that means he wants to open the program, or he simply wants to remind me that it's there? I know he uses the program to listen to music, and he currently has no other sound occupying his living quarters... Hmmm... I bet he wants it open... Now what's the safest way to do that?)

- Some also might say that I have too much time on my hands when I'm giving my aging laptop a voice and conjuring up things it might say... Touché.

- Months ago, before my precious little niece had been provided the opportunity to introduce two members of my family to the joy of parenting, I wrote an entry on baby names. I tried to consider a number of different options for possible monikers and may have even given a suggestion or two. Oddly, I failed to address the possibility of naming the newborn after the leader of Nazi Germany. How did I miss that one? Apparently a couple in New Jersey took that very route three years ago, and now has a little trouble getting a customized birthday cake. Granted, I'm no parent, but the idea of naming your own kin after one of the most evil people in history seems just a bit off. (In the same way the idea of giving yourself a haircut with a lawnmower is just a bit crazy.) I'm hoping someone has the decency to give this kid a (non-obscene) nickname he go by when he makes it to school. 

- When it comes to advertising, truth always seems to be in question. I know I tend to get a little skeptical whenever before and after photos are shown on weight loss ads. (Especially when the before and after pictures feature individuals of significantly different skin tones and facial features. Either that diet features some skin morphing nutrients or there's something fishy going on.) With this in mind, there's one ad that just caught my attention. The commercial in question advertises it's product as being the only one that provides permanent hair restoration. It would be easy (and probably smart) to make such claims and then show a bunch of guys with full heads of hair. Yet, this commercial features a balding man speaking of his hair being permanently restored... Either the guy was born with a pretty wicked widow's peak, or he's lying through his teeth (which seemed to be pretty white. Perhaps he was just taking the wrong commercial product).

- I have never undstood the idea of opening a movie on Christmas. Are there that many people that say, "I know how we should celebrate... Let's hop in our cars, drive for miles, stand in lines, pay absurd prices for tickets and snacks, and then sit in a theater where we'll spend half the movie being annoyed by other theater-goers and complaining about the sticky floors"? Or is it those that don't celebrate Christmas that they're counting on, thinking they'll catch a flick while a large number of folks are unwrapping gifts that leave them overwhelmingly excited or cripplingly disappointed?

- I have noticed that Dangerous Minds has been on MTV a staggering amount lately (sorry, I flip through the channels as if it was an obsessive compulsive tic). Does this mean Coolio is becoming hip again? Or does the film just strike those at MTV as a holiday film? At last check, Gangsta's Paradise had not been added to holiday radio stations... yet. It seems pretty simliar to Paul McCartney's Wonderful Christmastime.

- I actually just wanted an excuse to link to the Wonderful Christmastime video... Any video that can combine cheezy video effects, a synthesizer, and an inexplicable explosion is a winner in my book.

- Afer a bit of thought, I don't really understand the phrase "in my book." Sure, I own a lot of books, but none of them categorize what ridiculous traits I find comical to see in a music video... and if I were to write such a book, it seems that it would be rather short, and I doubt it would sell. Feel free to cross out "in my book" in the previous bullet point.

- If you did get out a marker and cross out "in my book" as it appeared on your screen, I'm extremely sorry... I owe you some computer screen cleaning solution.

- Think Planet of the Apes is completely fictional? Think again. If you live near a zoo, I'd invest in some better home security.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Fiction

What follows is a fiction story that I actually began a couple years ago. Lacking direction and - quite possibly - motivation, I moved on to other exciting ways to spend my free time like seeing how many peanuts I can stack on top of each other (answer: two) and attempting to solve the universal mystery of missing socks (mission: impossible). I haven't written any fiction in a long time, so I recently set a goal of finishing the story before this Christmas.

Is it finished now? Yeah, I guess... Although I'm not sure spacing two years between writing sessions is recommended practice in the world of writing fiction. It may be a bit disjointed (but some might argue that is fitting, considering the author). If nothing else, hopefully there's at least a chuckle in it. (And if there's not, you can at least say you're "being green" by not printing it off.*)

*The Writings: We're here for the environment


“I waaaaant a Playstation 3!”

The young lad on Santa’s lap was making his case for one of the season’s uber-expensive video game systems in the most convincing way he knew. With his sandy hair sticking out everywhere like a threatened puffer fish and his nose dripping like a faulty showerhead, the youngster gradually increased the volume and pitch of each syllable of his request, leaving the long-‘e’ in “3” sounding like a weapon of sound warfare.

Darren Orfelder, a 17-year-old admittedly years removed from belief in Santa Claus or Christmas miracles, cringed at the vocal talents of the baritone-ly challenged, wannabe gamer. To Darren, Christmas meant droves of noisy, mannerless, germ-ridden children converging on one single spot, and it was a spot Darren could not avoid. After all, Darren was an elf.

Granted, he was only one of Santa’s elves in the same way that Tobey Maguire was a superhero or Daniel Radcliffe was a wizard – he got paid to dress up and pretend – but when Black Friday arrived and Santa’s Village opened, Darren’s attitude strayed far from what one might expect from an associate of jolly old St. Nicholas. A perpetual frown lingered on his mug and his eyes rolled more than the dice in an average game of Monopoly.

“Santa’s Village” was located in the midst of the Center Town Center Shopping Center, but that did not keep the migraine-inducing echo of youthful tantrums from resonating throughout the crudely built set. Darren had often mocked the puffs of cotton that passed as snow and the backdrop of Santa’s “workshop” – a structure that had been a collection of shipping boxes just weeks earlier.

“With a voice like that, the kid should be asking for an early puberty,” Darren said under his breath… at least that was the volume he intended. The wide-eyed look from “Santa” and the cold-glare from the tike’s mother told a different story.

“Okay, smile big,” Darren quickly said, pointing at the camera set up in front of the cardboard creation meant to be Santa’s North Pole sweatshop in an attempt to divert attention away from his verbal miscue. He had found that quick-witted remarks were a fine way to deal with the seemingly demonic transformation some children made when meeting Santa. “Mommy’s little angel” quickly became the spawn of something under-worldly when he-or-she had the chance to request what might be under the Christmas tree, and a well-place barb was usually a fine way to deal with such nuisances… but he usually managed to keep them to himself.

As the disgusted mother pulled her youngster off Kris Kringle’s lap, and the little hellion simply asked, “Mom, what’s pooberdy?” Darren began to wonder if he had gotten a little careless lately. It was the third time that week that he had made a parent visibly angry. Should he just suck it up and do his job? Such thoughts vanished like Frosty in the Sahara when he remembered how, two days prior, he’d told a kid dressed in a tacky sweater that he should ask for “new fashion sense for mommy.” He had quite a laugh about that one when he went home that night.

“You aren’t the real Santa,” a chubby kid who looked to be nearing a baker’s dozen of birthdays said. “The real Santa’s cheeks are rosy.” Darren drifted back from his daydreaming and simply shook his head at the little Chris Farley clone’s statement. The tubby preteen had nailed it – this was not really Santa Claus, although the lack of pinkish hue in the man’s cheeks seemed to be an odd way to justify the statement.

This Santa’s real name was Roy Howard. Roy was a retired bus driver who worked as Center Town Center’s Kris Kringle for two main reasons.

First, he had the build for it. Retirement from driving a Center Elementary bus was “strongly encouraged” by the local school board after Roy had picked up three hitchhikers while driving a busload of third graders back from the Larkville History Museum. The simple act of stopping the bus to pick up the three men who were caked with more dirt than most harvested carrots was severely frowned upon, but the fact the one of them was wearing a t-shirt reading “If you can read this, can I see your cans?” was the tipping point. In the three years since “retiring” Roy had eaten enough food to feed a small, starving nation and consumed enough alcohol to keep the Olympic Torch burning through multiple iterations of the quadrennial event. As a result, a festively plump belly hung over his belt, and also provided a respectable dinner tray when sitting down (which he definitely preferred over the strenuous nature of standing). To top off the look, Roy could grow a napkin-white beard, and he was glad to do it. Who wanted to waste time shaving anyway?

The second reason Roy held steady employment as Mr. Claus was simple. Roy’s brother-in-law, Rex Bicksley, managed Center Town Center and kept Roy employed during the holiday season as a favor to Leeann – Rex’s sister and Roy’s wife.

“All right, Santa’s got to go feed the reindeer,” Roy said gruffly as he shuffled a young pig-tailed girl off his lap. In Roy’s Santa lingo, “feed the reindeer,” meant a 15-minute break to run to the john and then puff on a cigarette. Before being employed as one of Santa’s helpers, Darren had often heard the stereotype of mall Santas and their questionable character and hygiene, but he had not seen it perpetuated in the flesh… until Roy. Naturally, Roy scratched himself in inappropriate places as he heaved himself out of Santa’s chair and waddled off in the direction of the men’s restroom.

Roy’s break meant Darren and the other elves had to keep the assembled adolescents entertained while waiting in line. Granted, some seemed perfectly at peace spinning in circles until they were dizzy or trying to figure out what exactly was up their noses, but such ideas would fade soon, just as his job satisfaction had during his first week of employment. He was in his third holiday season of “elfing”, and had reached the point where he hated each day a little more than the one before it. The only reason he kept coming back was that he really needed the holiday cash, and the idea of putting in hours physical labor at a Christmas tree farm was one Darren ranked just above having all his teeth pulled by a near-sighted dentist.

“Who wants a candy cane?” Darren yelled with the enthusiasm one might expect from someone who had been screamed at, kicked, sneezed on and mocked by an assortment of youngsters in the two hours he had already worked that day. As soon as Darren mentioned candy he was mobbed by a swarm of tiny, grubby hands reaching into his bucket for a bit of the sugar-rush inducing bits of goodness inside.

“So this is the holiday spirit?” Darren thought. Here he was, a high school junior wearing a green felt cap, fake rubber ears, and tights that would make any male question his own masculinity, all to make these kids happy and grab a few bucks on the side. In return, he got one hundred sticky hands pushing and shoving to get a crook-shaped candy stick from a tin pail, and not a single thank-

“Orfelder, a minute of your time, please.”

This was not a voice Darren was accustomed to hearing. Nor one he anticipated. As he handed his candy bucket to a fellow helper, he turned and saw Mr. Bicksley himself standing before him. A lumped formed in his throat with the speed and urgency of used car salesman’s sales pitch. He’d been face-to-face with the mall manager just three times before – all when Bicksley would annually greet the season’s crop of Santa’s Village occupants. A one-on-one powwow with the suit-adorned executive was not common. In fact, the only people Darren knew who had spoken with Mr. Bicksley during their mall employment had been seeking new employment when it came time to recall said encounters.

The lump in Darren’s throat grew.

“Orfelder,” Mr. Bicksley begin, putting his hand on Darren’s shoulder and leading him away from the crowd, “We’ve had some complaints. Granted, it’s perfectly normal to get complaints, especially when you’re dealing with kids and their parents. Unfortunately, these complaints have all had one thing in common…”

“They’re a waste of your time,” was what Darren might normally say. Alas, Darren was far from his normal mindset. He knew exactly where this conversation was going.

The lump in Darren’s throat was now so large, he felt as if a second head might come bursting through his neck. Maybe this one would know when to keep his mouth shut.

“Every complaint we’ve had lately has been focused on one employee,” Bicksley said. “They’re all complaining about you.”

Although he knew it was true, Darren’s head still hung in shame at the statement. He was devastated. He had been long convinced that he hated his job, but now, with his employment seemingly at an end, he was terrified. Sweat drizzled down from his brow and his hands shook slightly. He knew a damning sentence was coming.

“You’ve been with us for awhile, and you seem like a good kid,” Bicksley continued, “but we can’t accept this type of behavior. I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to-“

“Giv’em a break, Rexy.”

Fresh from his “reindeer feeding” chores, Roy appeared out of seemingly nowhere (an impressive feat for a man his size), and joined the conversation. “The kid didn’t do anything wrong.” It seemed that Roy had overheard the entire conversation.

“Are you suggesting that telling a young child with thick glasses that he should ask for laser eye surgery is acceptable behavior from our staff?” Bicksley asked, his eyes sharp at this man who had married his sister.

“Not at all,” Roy replied, his hands resting comfortably on his sizable belly. “But why blame him for spitting out my ideas?”

Darren looked up quickly. He hadn’t said a word since Mr. Bicksley had approached him, but now he was truly speechless. This red-clad oaf who had often seemed concerned about nothing more than satisfying his craving for nicotine was taking the blame for his misbehavior.

“You’re saying you told him to say all of this?” Bicksley countered. “You realize you’re out of a job if this is true.”

“I’m as serious as Rudolph’s nasal condition.” Though it was an odd response, Roy emphasized it by flinging his hat to the Town Center floor. His days as Santa were done.

Bicksley stared at the red cap on the floor, as if reflecting on its implications. Firing Roy would not only leave them without a Santa for the rest of the day, but it could make an upcoming Christmas dinner pretty awkward. Nonetheless, he had a reputation to uphold. “That’s it, you’re gone,” Bicksley said, looking up and straightening his suit jacket. He turned and began to walk away, now talking over his shoulder. “I want the suit back by the end of the week.”

“You’ll have it long before then,” Roy replied, struggling to unbutton and remove his Santa coat. “I’m sick of this stupid thing anyway.”

While Roy focused on removing his crimson coat, Darren attempted to come to terms with what had just happened. A swarm of thoughts buzzed in his head. Finally, one became verbalized.

“What the heck are you doing?”

“These damn buttons,” Roy mumbled in reply. “I always struggle with this friggin’ coat.”

“That’s not what I mean. Why did you go and get fired for things I did?” Darren’s sense of confusion began to shift to anger. “You know you didn’t have anything to do with the stuff I said. You’ve been the jolly fat guy here for as long as I can remember, and you’re throwing it away to save my job? What’s this time of year for you if you can’t waste it wearing that suit?”

Roy’s hands quit fiddling with coat buttons. His arms dropped to his sides, and his pasty bearded face was quickly painted with a strikingly earnest look.

“The season ain’t about the suit, son. You come in every day looking like someone served you breakfast from a litter box. I understand if you get fed up with some of the highly visible elements of Christmas – the commercialization and the selfishness that can follow – but you shouldn’t get caught up thinking that’s the reason for the holiday.”

Unbelievably, Roy’s spiel was actually making sense. Up until this point, the only holiday talking points Darren had heard Roy mentioned dealt with torching gremlins, walking barefoot across shards of broken glass, and other elements drawn from movies that were loosely associated with the holiday season.

Darren glanced around the mall. He no longer saw screaming children with clammy hands or their grouchy parents looking to push down others to get their way. Instead, he saw families enjoying their time together. He saw people holding doors open for others and helping with dropped shopping bags.

He looked back to Roy to express his appreciation, but Roy was gone. On the floor, next to his cap laid Roy’s Santa coat, all buttons finally undone. A few feet down the hall sat one black leather boot, it’s large buckle unlatched. A few feet further away lay the other. It seemed that Roy hadn’t lied about returning the suit. Darren cringed at the thought of Roy walking the mall in his underwear. Following the scattered trail of Kringle attire, Darren noticed a figure now halfway down the corridor. It was a hefty man, trudging away, adorned in nothing but a pair of red pants, a large black belt, socks, and a raggedy undershirt.

“Thanks,” Darren yelled his direction.

Roy responded with a chuckle. “Merry Christmas,” he yelled. “Now I’ve got to work on this belt buckle.”

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thought for the Day - Amazon Kindle

In effort to avoid the crowded parking lots, thrown elbows, and general chaos that come with Christmas shopping, I'm doing my best to take care of at least a fraction of my holiday gift searching via the World Wide Web. In doing so, I have noticed that is doing all they can to advertise the Kindle this holiday season.

What is the Kindle? It's an electronic reading device that kind of looks like an oversized version of one of those old Tiger Electronics handheld games. Unfortunately, the Kindle doesn't seem to be using Bo Jackson as a celebrity endorser.

While I have never used a Kindle, the big draw seems to be the ability to instantly have access to hundreds of thousands of downloadable books. You can also access top newspapers and magazines, all on this glorified Gameboy.

I have no direct issues with the Kindle itself, as I support all forms of literacy (well, maybe not all forms). After all, if everyone was illiterate, these Writings would be kind of pointless. It would be a guarantee that no one was reading (rather than just a highly probable situation).

My issue with the Kindle is the way Amazon is advertising it. They list the product as their "Wireless Reading Device," and also tout it's portability. Hmmm... a reading device that is portable and has no wires... I think I might have one of those already... Maybe even two or three... shelves full.

That's right Amazon, it seems that books -the very paper products the Kindle is lookng to replace - are also portable and involve no wires whatsoever. It also seems that most books cost less than the Kindle's $359 price tag.

The product overview states that the Kindle's screen "reads like real paper." Funny... so do book pages.

The Kindle also involves "no computer, no cables, no syncing." If my books do, I'm missing the instruction manuals.

It seems to me that it would be more effective advertising all the reading choices available at a moment's notice and the ease of use, rather than stessing that it's portable and wireless. After all, my socks are portable and wireless, but you don't see me bragging.

Alas, it seems the advertising quirk is doing little to thwart the fun with e-words product, as it's currently sold out. Apparently a lot of people out there (meaning people not currently sitting with my laptop on my couch while watching a K-State basketball game) aren't quite as picky as I am when it comes to pointless details.

... Imagine that.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Another Evening with Ms. Sony

I just saw a television commercial for a prescription drug during which the following message flashed on the bottom of the screen: "See our ad in Home Cooking magazine.*" Is this really the best way to get people interested in your product? By giving them an assignment? Such ridiculousity** seems like an excellent start to yet another evening with Ms. Sony.

*Magazine name changed to protect the innocent... or because I can't remember it.

**It can be a real word if enough people accept it.

7 p.m. - CBS
It's time for Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, old-school style... Or at least the audio of it. Channel 4 on my television currently seems to be lacking a video feed. How long can one man stare at a blank television as the audio of Rudolph plays through the speakers... Sounds like a challenge.

This is kind of nice... must be like what life was like when people had to rely on the radio for broadcast entertainment.

Okay, apparently my eyes have some form of ADD, and I don't think this Pepsi sitting on my coffee table is helping anything. In a desperate attempt to find some sort of activity, they've now focused on the blinking light on my cable modem.

Whoa, look at that light go!

What's that? The video feed is back... and with that, my interest is gone.

7:09 - NBC
The Kansas Jayhawks are playing against New Mexico State University. Have I ever mentioned how much I love NMSU? No? Well, I've obviously never written while they've been competing against KU. Kansas is currently up six, the announcers are expressing their man-love for a certain Jayhawk, and I kind of feel like seeing how long I can keep my hand inside the toaster to divert my attention... Better change the channel.

7:15 - WGN
It's The Nutcracker... on ice! Obviously, given my history with frozen water, don't approve of the programming. I also don't understand why putting something "on ice" makes it infinitely more watchable to some people. Ice skating provides pretty much the same maneuverability as rollerblading, yet you don't hear about tickets being sold for The Nutcracker... at Ray's Roller Rink!

7:18 - CBS
When the creators of Rudolph made the young reindeer into the equivalent of an awkward teenager, I like to think they did it to give viewers something to relate to. If anyone reading this is a teen struggling with self-confidence, just remember, if you work really hard you too can someday pull an obese man around in a sled.*

*The Writings, motivating youth to achieve their dreams.

7:24 - Fox Sports
Am I the only one sick of seeing poker on every sports network? Isn't slapjack more of a sport than poker? At least there's a semblance of physical activity. When can I see the World Spoons Championship on ESPN?

7:26 - MTV
A 22-year-old named Vanessa is competing to be Paris Hilton's BFF. That's right, a cute female with a ton of her life in front of her is "competing" on a reality show to be the best friend of someone who is in the public eye only because her family has more money than Scrooge McDuck. Instead of having a chance of leading a normal life, she's been sucked in to the absurd "reality" that is Hollywood. It's time like this that I curse the inventor of the television.

7:31 - TLC
It's Jon & Kate plus 8. I can't make fun of this show... I actually like it. This is what a reality show should be. It doesn't involve shallow characters, stupid contests, or people continually trying to get wasted and score. It just gives you a peek into INTERESTING lives.

7:38 - truTV
A woman recounts the story of her husband being struck by lightning. Seconds later, the name of the program flashes on screen. The title? Most Shocking.
... I guess it's fitting... but good grief.

7:45 - A&E
The censor with his finger on the bleep button earns his paycheck on Dog the Bounty Hunter. After having a civil conversation (a.k.a., a volley of swear words that would make Dave Chappelle and the 1980s version of Eddie Murphy blush) with a distinguished (read: inebriated) individual, Dog treks off to find someone, but to no avail.

7:51 - Cartoon Network
It's Sinbad... but not the good one. This cartoon sailor has nothing on the comedian that hasn't really been relevant since the '90s.


We're back after a brief* intermission**. One that interrupted my Sinbad thought, which is a punishable offense in some states.

*Painfully long and nearly requiring the aid of Dog's bleeping censor.

**Writerspeak for a reminder that my laptop operates as reliably as a remote control constructed out of Playdough and jelly beans

8:14 - CMT
Once again, the word celebrity is being tossed around haphazardly. This time, the culprit is Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling. When I see Dustin Diamond, Danny Bonaduce, and Butterbean, I can't say I'm star struck. On top of that, the wrestling "trainers" include Brian Knobbs and Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, who were never really known for their in-ring expertise. It seems the title should be changed to Hulk Hogan's Semi-notable Championship Jobbing.

8:21 - CBS
In case you were wondering, Ladies Love Cool James... That's right it's LL Cool J. Unfortunately, it's not in a program that involves Samuel L. Jackson being eaten by a shark in one of the oddest film events I've ever seen. Now he's basically just setting me up for disappointment.

8:25 - QVC
A woman is showing off how effective a vacuum can be in cleaning couch cushions, and mentions cleaning up after her dogs. She demonstrates on a cushion so caked with muck that looks as if it was recently excavated from an Egyptian tomb. Granted, the vacuum does a marvelous job in cleaning the cushion, but I'm a little concerned about the lady's dog at this point. What the heck is this mutt involved in if it's getting cushions that dirty?

8:33 - CNN
A commercial for a Barack Obama "victory plate" just mentioned how it features his "kind eyes." This begs the question, can other body parts exhibit personality traits. Someone may have "kind eyes," but what happens if they have "wicked ears?" What about "stubborn elbows?" I'm getting worried, and I haven't even brought up "lackadaisical lovehandles."

8:40 - Vh1
Young MC's "Bust a Move" is the current subject of dissection. I really enjoy the song, but there's one thing I've never understood. If my best friend Harry, has a brother Larry, and in five days he's going to marry, I know I'll make it there if I can, but why in the ceremony would I be the best man? After all, Larry isn't my best friend... Shouldn't he choose his brother for such an honor? Is there a riff between the two? Did Harry once date Larry's bride-to-be, and they're trying to avoid awkward situations?
... Should this type of stuff keep me awake at night?

I apologize to those readers unfamiliar with '90s hip hop. Odds are, you are wondering what the heck that last paragraph meant... Then again, odds are, this isn't this first time a Writing hasn't made any sense.

8:52 - TCM
I'm not sure what classic film this black-and-white motion picture is, but some guy with the largest nose I've ever seen just passed away in a dark alley... There's really nothing more to it than that... The guy's schnozz was just ridiculously large... It seemed notable at the time.

9:00 - CBS
A performance by Usher rings in the 2008 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. This program really provides no redeeming value whatsoever... Other than the fact that it contains nothing but scantily clad models and occasional bits of horrendous acting.

... This is a great show.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Assisting with Assistants

With Bill Snyder firmly in place as head football coach of the Kansas State Wildcats, the big question now is who will end up being on Snyder's coaching staff. In his previous stint as the leader of the Wildcats (a 17 year period heretofore referred to as "the good old days"), Snyder continually assembled coaching staffs with more collective knowledge than Stephan Hawking's book club.

We all know that Bill needs no assistance in picking assistants (if today was Homonym Awareness Day, that would be a pretty slick statement... but I don't think such a day exists), but I think it's my duty to my reader(s) to offer up a few ideas anyway. Proceed with caution.

Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach - John Madden
Anyway familiar with Coach Snyder realizes that he basically serves as his own OC. (Hint to those unfamiliar with football: I'm not referring to some teen drama television program that was about as watchable as a rotting pumpkin) He calls his own plays, be it first-and-10 or fourth-and-one. The offensive coordinator title, therefore, is kind of a glamor thing. With that being the case, why not give the spot to a big name.

Madden's resume is impressive enough. The turducken fan has a Super Bowl ring and was the youngest NFL head coach to 100 career regular season victories. Such information serves as proof that he once did more than continually repeat the obvious and draw things on a teleprompter. If Madden was ever called on to direct the offense, he could simply plug John Madden Football '94 into his Sega Genesis and use the playbooks found within.

The downside to a Madden hire would be that K-State would have to invest in a teleprompter for him to play with up in the pressbox. Snyder might also tire of hearing "boom" or "pow" in situations that don't necessitate it. After all, a bumped elbow probably doesn't call for "he'll be feeling that one tomorrow."

Defensive coordinator/defensive line coach - Obi Wan Kenobi
The "Jedi mind trick" could be valuable in many areas of life, and football is definitely one of them. Poor, weak-minded quarterbacks would not know what to tell their coaches after checking to an option left when three defenders were blitzing to that side of the field. "Sorry coach, something just told me that your call wasn't the play we were looking for."

Sure, the fact that he's not only fictional; not only fictional and overqualified; but fictional, overqualified, and deceased could pose some problems, but the man sliced Darth Maul in half. I'm certainly not going to take him out of the running for such trivial issues.

Special teams coach - Kathy Ireland
Ms. Ireland once played a kicker in Necessary Roughness... Works for me.

(Note from the editor in charge of making the author not sound shallow: What he means to say is, "I'm sure she has an abundance of knowledge when it comes to the Xs and Os of special teams, and she'd be an excellent addition to the coaching staff."... Yeah, that's it.)

Running backs coach - Whoever created Tecmo Super Bowl

I have never seen running backs dominate like they can on that game. Be it Bo Jackson, Barry Sanders, or Christian Okoye, Mr. Tecmo seems to know how to get backs to make defenders look foolish. Don't think I wouldn't enjoy seeing KSU running backs employ the zig-zag "running from an alligator" style if it meant more rushing yards.

Receivers coach - Kevin McCallister

If you're asking "who?" right now, you obviously need to waste more time watching movies. Kevin is the kid off Home Alone and Home Alone 2. You'll have to follow my line of thinking here (which is often a dangerous path). Jerry Rice, the best receiver to ever play, developed his hands by catching bricks. Mr. McCallister is very accurate with his brick tossing, thus it seems natural to give him the opportunity to work with some receivers at the collegiate level.

The downside is that this hire comes with the risk of potential lawsuits at the hands (literally) of angry recruits.

Offensive line coach - The guy who greets people as they enter Best Buy
Do you know this guy? If not, run to your nearest Best Buy right now (I'll wait) and see if you can enter the store without getting a "hey man," "what's up, dude," or "how's it going, buddy" from the guy by the entrance. He continually delays those trying to track down intended purchases. Now consider that the job of the offensive line is to delay those trying to track down the intended ball carrier. Sure, it might be weird when the Wildcat offensive tackle tries to strike up a conversation with the defensive end instead of going for a cut block... but it just might work.

Linebackers coach - Terry Tate
K-State had some definite issues with tackling in 2008. I've never seen the office linebacker whiff on a potential hit. Leadership, knowledge, and intimidation? Tate will handle all such areas, and more.

Defensive backs coach - Mario Smith
He's a former Wildcat safety and was the defensive MVP of the 1995 Holiday Bowl... Who am I kidding? This suggestion is mostly because it gives me an excuse to end with this.

Monday, November 24, 2008

BILLt to Last

On Nov. 30, 1988, the Kansas State Wildcats hired a 49-year-old offensive coordinator from Iowa named Bill Snyder to fill their football head coaching vacancy. Over the next 17 seasons, Snyder's Wildcats became what many deemed impossible. Namely, a national power on the gridiron and a championship football team.

On Nov. 24, 2008, those same Wildcats hired a 69-year-old coaching legend named Bill Snyder to fill the very coaching position that manned just three years prior. Guessing what Snyder's coaching future holds this time around is certainly no easy task, however that certainly isn't keeping many people from trying. 

Popular opinion from several who like to make their voices heard (literally) on sports radio and (not literally) on fan message boards seems to be that putting Snyder's name on the head coaching contract means the administration is waving a white flag (again, not literally... such actions are somewhat useless in football). Their reasons are simple: Snyder is nearly 70 years old, an age when most are not looking for new employment; he's been out of the game for three years and won't be able to relate to "today's players"; Snyder's Wildcats were not successful in his final two seasons as head coach, combining for just nine wins; and there were younger candidates who would be better for the future of the program.

These arguments have varying degrees of merit (yes, I'm counting negative merit as a degree of merit), and those disappointed with Snyder hire v2.0 certainly have the right to their opinion... But that doesn't mean I agree.

Call it hokey optimism. Call it drinking the Snyder Kool-Aid*. Call it living in 1998. You can call it whatever you like (even sensible, or genius... in fact, I'd prefer that), the fact remains that I cannot be disappointed with any move that brings Snyder closer the football program he built.

*Would I buy a glass of Kool-Aid if Snyder were selling it on a streetside Kool-Aid stand for 25-cents a cup? Of course. Thus, one could say I'm buying what Snyder is selling... if only he'd actually sell Kool-Aid.   

This is old news, but it's still relevant: pre-Snyder, any time the word football was associated with Kansas State on a national level, a words like futility, horrendous, or putrid were bound to be nearby. Snyder made them contenders for the national championship. Had Snyder not turned the program around, the "Decade of Dominance" out at Wagner Field, may have ended up being a decade of cattle grazing, as the football program was bad enough that folding would have been a legitmate option and the stadium sits near some fine pasture area.

The point is that Snyder is the reason K-State football became a product fans could get excited about. I'm not going to discount his chances at bringing some excitement back. Anyone who attended the final three homes games of the 2008 season could see the empty seats in Bill Snyder Family Stadium*. Did these empty seats play a role in Snyder's hiring?** After all, the athletic department has seen first hand what bringing in nationally-renowned coach can do for attendance (see: Huggins, Bob, and the K-State men's basketball team).***

*Has a football coach coached in a stadium bearing his own name before? Inquiring minds want to know.

**Rhetorical question.

***Rhetorical followup.

Along with excitement, Snyder's return from retirement brings another thing the program is in need of: hope. Yes, that's back on the hokey side of the fence, but any time a team's stadium is only half full for the season finale, it seems like it might be the right time for a hope booster. Those sick of the hokey arguments simply need to remember the guy's resume. He's been named National Coach of the Year and Big 8/12 Conference Coach of the Year, he's been inducted into the sports hall of fame in two states, and he has six bowl victories. I'll give that a second chance.

I have dabbled as a journalist in the past (although an admittedly lousy one), but it's a move like this that makes me remember that I'm definitely a fan first. Prior to the news of Snyder's hiring leaking, I was trying to view this entire coaching search objectively. I examined the positive and negatives of possible candidates and was trying to keep an open mind to the slew of available options. Now that I know Snyder will be once again walking the sidelines, it's been a barrage of one nostalgic thought after another. Will he bring back the pregame Van Halen? Does he still sport the Nike Cortez shoes? Will "young people" and "by and large" once again be staples of his press conference lingo?

It's a move like this that has me scrambling to YouTube so I can check out videos like this or this, reminding me of the days when there was a confident feeling surrounding every game. There was a swagger, and it was one that could be backed up.

The journalist side of me asks the question, "Does it really seem feasible that a man pushing 70 can get the program back to the point where it competes for championships?"

The fan side of me responds by saying, "Why don't you shut up and go proofread something!"

It may not seem like a great comeback to some, but my mind is pretty sold on who won the argument.

Is a dose of Coach Snyder the prescription K-State football needs to return to national prominence? Or will the second Snyder era be one that ends in disappointment and another coaching search where an answer is sought? Only time will tell...

For me, there's only one way to pass the time.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Big Thanks, Little Thanks, and All Inbetween

Unless my calendar has taken up lying to me as a hobby, it seems that Thanksgiving is next week. What does this mean? It means that children will be using hand tracings to make paper turkeys. It means that millions around the country will eat so much food they barely have the energy to blink. It means that, despite the grave economic conditions, people around the nation will flood retail stores on Black Friday* to get door-busting deals on half-price toaster ovens.

*I won't argue with the fact that it's a good day for shopping, but does it have to come packaged with a name that makes me feel like plague-infested rats will be flooding across the K-Mart tile floors.

Unfortunately, what this also means is that the month of November has gotten by me with nary an update here at The Writings. I could make excuses for this lack of updating, but anything feasible would not be very entertaining. If, on the other hand, I were to say that a pack of wild dingos stole my laptop and infected it with a virus, that would be a better fit for the general feel of this blog, although not exactly feasible. If I then followed by saying that the dingos attacked me and chewed off my fingers (which I find quite necessary when typing) when I tracked them down in their secret billabongside lair and attempted to put an end to their laptop abduction, it seems I would have quite the alibi. Alas,
such is most certainly false, and I can make a hand-tracing turkey to prove it.

Anyway, the focus of this should not be my struggles to pass along the useless items in my mind during the eleventh month of 2008. The focus is embracing the spirit of the upcoming holiday and giving thanks. (Cue uplifting music...) Sure, it's easy to point out things that are not great in life or the things you don't have each and every day, but never forget to be thankful for what you do have.

This past year has certainly not been lacking in new areas necessitating thanks for this writer. New additions to the family and new work opportunities certainly help a person realize how fortunate they are. Combine that with one's health, along with the health and well-being of family and friends, and the idea of getting down over trivial matters seems an awful lot like any arguments that curling is a sport - rather asinine. 

Along with those personal items in the previous paragraph, I'm thankful for the opportunity to cheer on the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, and the K-State Wildcats. Sure, I may spend a fair amount of time complaining about coaching positions or roster transactions, but it's all in unwavering support of the teams. The frustration of being a nonbandwagoneer is well worth it when those satisfying moments do come your way.

On a Royals note, I'm thankful that general manager Dayton Moore realizes that obtaining a talented position player for a talent relief pitcher is often a pretty good move.

I'm thankful that I've never been in a steel cage match with George "The Animal" Steele.

I'm thankful that my refrigerator is not home to some sort of demon-possessed netherworld.

I'm thankful for the fact that some TV executives really don't seem to have any idea what might be even remotely entertaining. After all, bad television can lead to pretty fun writing.

I'm thankful that I was able to pick Kurt Warner up on the waiver wire in one of my fantasy football leagues.

I'm thankful that people (hopefully) don't let the fact that I'm in multiple fantasy football leagues count against me.

I'm thankful that this winter provides a new opportunity for me to stay
a step ahead of my sworn nemesis. (I'm on to your slippery tricks, Ice!)

I'm thankful that those I communicate with via text message and/or instant messenger are mostly in agreement with my opinions on "terms" like "LOL" and "OMG."

I'm thankful that 99-percent of the time, my local Burger King does have "hamburger meat" available.

I'm thankful that Ben Folds released a new CD. It did not leave the comfy home of my car CD player for a solid month-and-a-half after the purchase date, making my motor maneuvering much safer for myself and fellow motorists.

I'm thankful that my apartment has never been infested with mice, rats, hornets, snakes, wombats, wildebeests or velociraptors. Granted, I can't say this has ever been a big worry, but I'm still thankful.

I'm thankful that my car has not turned out to be a robot from another planted that is hell-bent on wreaking havoc on Earth. (That could make sitting at stoplights a bit awkward.)

I'm thankful for entirely too many things to list in the pages of a blog.

Finally, I'm thankful for you (yes you) the reader. Granted, when writing I'm often aiming to keep myself entertained, but knowing at least one other person is reading (and at least occasionally appreciating) my oft-pointless meanderings certainly helps in maintaining motivation.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I'm currently stumped by quite a riddle... "What does one write about when he has nothing to say?"

Granted, anyone who is even a casual reader of The Writings is probably convinced that I never really have anything to say (rambling posts about Google searches for his own name seem to support this argument), but this time I'm really stumped.

Such inability to think of anything even remotely worthwhile to put in print is often referred to as "writer's block." Unfortunately, it seems my mind is having such a difficult time conjuring any sort of prose that I'm having a hard time even finishing this... uhh... you know... hmmm... sentence.

This is certainly not the first time that I have found it difficult to come up with an idea for a Writing, but such afflictions are normally assuaged by a simply getting caught in the webbing of the World Wide Net. Alas, it has provided no luck this time, as I can't even piece together commonly known terms. (it's Earthly Wide Web, right?)

Sure, I could write about some pirates seizing an oil tanker, and joke that Captain Hook's cousin, Captain Hinge, must have been getting tired of his squeaky elbow. I even could have added an arbitrary pirate-speak joke (sorry, I meant ARRRRRbitrary), but the whole pirate thing seems to be a bit overplayed lately. (I blame the Goonies.)

If searching online doesn't do the trick, a journey through my cable lineup always seems to provide inspiration. Alas, one can only write that The Hills provides as much entertainment as cleaning one's ears with a powerdrill so many times before the words begin to lose their meaning. (Nevertheless, it's still a true statement.)

Right now, you may be saying to yourself, "Mr./Mrs./Ms. Self*, wait a second, doesn't this guy** like sports? Why doesn't he just throw some thing together about that?"

*If you're a self-respecting individual.

**If you aren't very good with names.

Sports are always there, and seem to be a subject I can always fall back on... yet, I feel there's really nothing new I can add to the conversation at this point. My favorite college football team has a lame duck coach and the search to replace him seems to be surrounded with more mystery than the motivation behind the creation of the movie White Chicks.

My favorite college basketball team has looked stupendous for two of the four halves it has played so far in the regular season, but the other two halves have been filled with an attitude best summed up by one (now official) word - meh. Thus, it's too early for me to create any sort of team assessment. (Although, I must reiterate, they have looked marvelous for two halves.)

My favorite NFL team has precisely one more win this season than the Kenosha Maroons - a team that has been defunct for 84 years. Sure, they've had some entertaining losses, and they are finally getting play from the quarterback spot that doesn't seem directionally challenged ("Which way are we supposed to go again?"), but it seems a little early to begin debating who they might take with their first round draft pick. (Cue gasping in horror from every "NFL Draft expert" who has been babbling about the the potential No. 1 picks in 2009 for three years.)

In the world of baseball, might favorite team is in the midst of an offseason where they have several holes to fill. In a perfect world, they would be able to fill all those holes this offseason. Alas, in a perfect world, I would have seen the aforementioned team in the postseason sometime in the last 23 years.

In a perfect world, my laptop would not require an extra fan to keep from losing all functionality out like a frightened goat.

In a perfect world, some dude that calls himself "Mystery" wouldn't have a TV show where he teaches guys that have apparently never talked to members of the opposite sex before sleazy ways to become a "pickup artist." I have to think that if I were to even consider putting any of his "methods" in practice, I'd begin punching myself in the nose repeatedly before I ever got a word out.

... Actually, that show may have Writing potential...

Nevertheless, writer's block can rear it's ugly head*** at any time. Never be afraid to pass along... uhh... you know, those things... the ones that come from your mind... ideas.

***The author of this Writing realizes it is unfair to deem the head of writer's block as ugly when writer's block is not actually tangible, and therefore possesses no head. It is with sincere apology that he writes this note, and he hopes things don't get awkward between he and writer's block.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Good Idea, Bad Idea

Albert Einstein once said, "If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it."*

*See that? An Einstein quote... We're all about education here at The Writings.

Einstein may have developed the theory of relativity, but I'm not sold on his theory about ideas. After all, if Animaniacs has taught us anything (aside from the fact that lab mice enjoy attempting to take over the world), it's that a lot of pretty absurd ideas turn out to be pretty horrible ideas.

I'd like to think that, if ideas were sumo wrestlers, my good ideas would outweigh all the bad ideas I've conjured. Unfortunately, I get the overriding feeling that, if the good ideas and bad ideas were opposing football teams, the bad idea squad (sounds like a nickname for the Raiders) would have subbed in its scrubs to show some mercy long ago.

Alas, we're not here to dissect my faults in thinking (this is a blog, not a dissertation), but those of others. Consider the following...

- Do not pass 'Go'
Never once, during any of the games of Monopoly I have ever been a part of, did I think, "Wow, another community chest card. I'd love to see this excitement on the big screen." Buying property, building houses and hotel, purchasing utilities, it's all great fun when you're driving that little metal car across Baltic Avenue, but I'm struggling with this idea that such can make an entertaining script. Granted, a movie where a little dog buys a railroad may have some potential (Lassie meets Thomas the Tank Engine), it seems that there are other board games that are more deserving to move to the big screen.

Tell me you wouldn't be interested in a Hungry, Hungry Hippos film...

- I'd hate to see what the sand trap is used for...
So golf is often referred to as a gentleman's game, right? Yet, here we are now with golf clubs acting as urinals. The invention may come off sounding pretty slick (figuratively... hopefully) in the article, but it certainly does not address my main concern. What happens when the fake club is inevitably mistaken for a real one and it strikes the golf ball? My guess is that the golf towel will be a necessity... As might a new crew of golfing buddies.

So how does one look when using the UroClub? "It looks like you're practicing your swing or something," according to the inventor. My guess is that the "or something" portion of that sentence is pretty accurate.

- One of the few foods that can clog your arteries just by reading about it
I'll admit, I'm a little curious. It sounds like a dish that would be fun to try.

I just want to know if you're expected to pay the waitress before or after your trip to the emergency room.

Monday, November 10, 2008

People in your Neighborhood - The two random folks edition

What happens when one particular location doesn't provide enough material for a Writing examining the ins and outs of those you encounter everyday? You improvise.

Don't get confused, I'm not going to ask member's of the audience to name an occupation and a location (partially because I have no audience and partially because it's rather difficult to have live interaction with web readers while writing). Instead, I'm just going to cheat the system a bit, and not focus on one particular location for this edition of People in Your Neighborhood. (Then again, it's my system, so I can determine whether or not I'm cheating... If you're editing text while reading this (keep your red pen handy), feel free to mark out the previous, non-parenthetical sentence.)

The guy at the grocery store who is a little too excited about a certain item in the frozen food aisle
If I had to venture a guess, I would say I purchase more food of the frozen dinner variety than most individuals. As someone who may occasionally struggle with motivation once he's planted on his couch in the evening (once in couch mode, devoting the effort to putting out a fire might depend on how content I was with the room's temperature), the frozen meals provide pretty simple forms of sustenance. If I was eating dinners with less prep time, I'd eating Playdough straight from the can. 

I may eat more frozen meals than most arctic foxes, but I try to keep a level head about them. Sure, some are decently tasty and satisfying, but I'm not going to go boasting about the food to anyone in particular... This guy was different. While I checked out the chilled culinary items, he regaled his shopping companion with tales of a frozen chicken pot pie. If one were to take his word for it, this guy apparently found the Holy Grail of chicken stew contained in a pie crust. No, he never went as far as saying the pot pie could give the gift of eternal life, but he did refer to the dish as "addictively delicious" in a tone normally used by eight-year-olds talking about their new bikes.

Perhaps I misconstrued his enthusiasm, and it was actually a cry for help. After all, addiction is never a good thing, even when the subject of said addiction is fowl in a crust.

The guy with inappropriately sheathed feet
I once wrote of how I disapprove of the idea of wearing flip flops with long pants. Two years later, I have not flip-flopped (clever, I know) on this issue. Alas, the aforementioned Writing was written in effort to sway the continued progression of a fall-weather fashion. My protest has proven unsuccessful, but I always assumed that people would be smart enough to not even consider such fashions upon the arrival of brisk winter breezes.

As is often the case, I was wrong.

With temperatures floating in the 30s the last few days, I have witnessed a couple different portrayals of Mr. Coldtoes. The motivation for adorning flip-flops in such weather has proven to be a subject my mind cannot comprehend. When outside for extended periods of time in the winter, there's little I despise more than the rapid chilling of extremities. Having my toes cool to the point of physical pain is certainly not something I'd volunteer for, yet it seems Mr. Chillyfoot is signing up for such duty every time he slides those sandals on.

Honestly, if the weather gets much cooler, Jonny Birkenstock is flirting with frostbite. At that point, wearing flip flops in the cold weather is somewhat akin to going scuba diving in a suit washed in a bucket of chum.

Then again, I guess Eddie Toecicles may just be preparing to play the abominable snowman in the live stage production of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (casting, production, and creation pending).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

While you were out...

A new theme seems to be that whenever I travel, big news happens back home.

In July, I went north of the border, up Canada way. While I was busy being utterly confused by the French language and trying to convert things to the metric system, my niece (a.k.a. the infant who has her uncle wrapped around her littlest finger) introduced herself to the world.

Since that time, I have enjoyed being a homebody, hanging in the heartland. Alas, duty called this week, and I currently find myself outside the state border.

Naturally, the K-State football team (a.k.a, the source of much pride, satisfaction, discouragement, and now embarrassment) made news today with the announcement of the (eventual) dismissal of head coach Ron Prince.

Some might argue that Prince was not given enough time to find success as head coach. After all, he's in just his third season at the helm, and coaches like Missouri's Gary Pinkel and KU's Mark Mangino were both struggling to find success in their third years. Now, both programs (unfortunately) find themselves competing for Big 12 North championships.

While such may be true, it can be argued that both aforementioned coaches at least had their squads showing improvements in key areas by their third seasons. On the other hand, Prince's Wildcats seem to have peaked in his rookie campaign. Back in 2006, the Wildcats found themselves in the post-season with a true freshman quarterback and speedy defense seemingly fueled by the energy of then-coordinator Raheem Morris.

Now, the Wildcats would be beating all odds to become bowl eligible. They feature a wildly inconsistent offense and a defense that may be fast, but tackles like weak cornerbacks on Tecmo Super Bowl going up against the Nigerian Nightmare. Granted, the passing game can be spectacular at times, but it's still not enough to compensate for the lack of a defense.

The question now is, who will be the next coach walking the Bill Snyder Family Stadium sidelines. Rumors are rampant, and even include the namesake of the stadium himself (a.k.a, the messiah of football in the Little Apple) coming out of retirement. Seems unlikely in most scenarios, but I guess it would make more sense than digging up the corpse of Vince Lombardi or awarding the job to the winner of an NCAA Football 09 tournament on X-Box 360.

I am taking such rumors with a mammoth-sized grain of salt, however I would not be surprised if the new coach came from the Snyder coaching tree. There are several names out there that would be intriguing possibilities, and I'm confident the athletic department will make a quality hire. (I'll even go as far as guaranteeing that they don't hire a blind hobo who combs his beard with a plastic spork.*)

*No, I don't think anyone has ever hired a blind hobo that combs his (or her, this blog is about equal opportunity) beard with a plastic spork for a Division I head football coaching position, but I figured the reiteration might be reassuring.

I would like to take the opportunity to toss my hat in the ring for the position, but I'm not really sure what that phrase really means. After all, I own several hats and I have never been tempted to toss them into any sort ring, be they circus rings, boxing rings, or burning rings of fire.

Oh well, my resume is pretty thin in the football coaching department anyway. I'm not sure yelling at the television when the weak-side contain gets sucked in on an end-around counts as "prior coaching experience," and my play-calling has been limited to the offerings available on my video game system of choice. (Watch out for the flea-flicker).

The really interesting thought in my head is what Prince's exit might be like following K-State's final home game. How will the crowd react? Boos? Polite cheers? By singing "Happy Trails?"

How will Prince respond? Humble acceptance? By swearing revenge? Maybe even something like this?

That would make for an interesting press conference, anyway.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

H-A-Double L-O... etc.

On Friday night, kids dressed as millionaire athletes will be seen begging for candy.

On Friday night, people will look forward to being scared to the point of screaming.

On Friday night, college-aged girls dressed as angels will dance in a fashion that is anything but spiritual.

All told, Halloween is quite the holiday. It's one that can be seen completely differently, depending on your age. Consider the following..

At a child's first Halloween, candy is no concern whatsoever. It's time for the parents to dress the little one up in a cute costume and show him/her off. It's really a win-win situation. The parents get to preserve the occasion with a plethora of photos, all while not having to worry about the child's teeth rotting away, since they don't have (m)any. Meanwhile, the little infant gets to ponder why their little hands are so tasty, and mentally poke fun at all those who talk to them with an assortment of "goos" and "gahs".*

*Please note, this is just a guess as to what is going on in the minds of the little ones. I have no psychic powers that actually enable me to read their minds. I simply observe popular trends.

Things get a little more interesting once the kiddos are walking. Halloween is no longer about getting some cute pictures for the photo album... It's about the Cs: costumes and candy. Granted, I don't really remember these early days from my youth, but my understanding from those with toddlers now is that once the calendar page flips to October, a Halloween costume is seen as much more than a one-night wear for the kid - it's a permanent addition to the wardrobe.

What about all those clothes you've spent your hard-earned money on? You may as well pack them up until November. The deceptively named October (I'm just saying it should be renamed Dectober... think about it), is time for the tike to spend more time in that costume than they spend barraging you with adorably intriguing questions. (How often does God trim his beard?)

You think you'll never let your kid dress like Super Mario for daycare? Replacing your morning waffles with an ear-crippling tantrum** may change your mind...

**Is an "ear-crippling" tantrum possible? I'm not sure, but I know a couple parents of a blog writer that could probably testify in favor.

 Along with the costume obsession comes the craving for candy. When it comes time to trick-or-treat, the evening will never be long enough for the kid. House-to-house, door-to-door, every single stop is like a junior jackpot. Why would you ever stop? At some point, the youngster may even get tired of walking, reaching a cranky stage... You might think that would mean it's time to go home... You'd be thinking incorrectly. Mention that to little Superman and you'll have yourself a superfit to handle. Lack of leg function is no reason to quit adding to a bag full of sugary treat... it just means it's time for mom or dad to practice some kid-lugging.

Back at home after bagging more candy than the folks at Hershey's, this is where the real fun begins for a kid on Halloween. You know that feeling you get when you've had too much sugar? It starts with a funny feeling in your head and a little shake in your hands. Before you know it, you feel like a couple gerbils are jousting inside your belly. The discomfort grows to the point that your only comfort comes from lying in the fetal position. Repeat that cycle for about two straight weeks and you have Halloween as a kid.

For better or for worse, such days come to an end. That end often seems to coincide with the arrival of puberty. Apparently a little more bass in the voice makes one think it's no longer "cool" to wear costumes. So, what do these pre- and early-teens do to celebrate All Hallows Eve? Go and stand around awkwardly and middle school dances, of course. Naturally, there's nothing cooler than standing with a group of your peers while a group of the opposite gender stands on the other side of the gym. Sure, you're at a "dance", but who has time to do any of that when you're busy refilling your cup with punch, reciting rap lyrics to yourself and avoiding eye contact. (Ah, middle school memories.)

Once the awkwardness of junior high runs its course, Halloween seems to zero in on the terrifying side of things. Horror is a big deal. There are haunted houses to visit and scary movies to view. If you have pent up rage, you apparently take it out on the pumpkins sitting outside the homes of your neighbors.***

***We worked pretty hard on those jack-o-lanterns. I'm not sure being splattered on a stop sign was a fitting demise for them... jerks.

In the college years, costumes make a comeback, but the spirit is just a bit different. Sure, you'll see doctors and nurses, angels and devils, but the costumes seem to have a common theme. I think Jim Gaffigan may have the most accurate assessment of the situation.

If you happen to hit that post-college, pre-marriage period of time, you're kind of in no-mans-land. Halloween means little more than draping a tissue over a pumpkin and entering it in an office contest as "Ghost Pumpkin." (What do you mean, "Are you speaking from experience?" Give me some credit... Fine. Yes, I am.) Luckily, it seems that having a young niece/nephew around for the holiday helps bring back the Halloween spirit. (All the fun of having a kid without the responsibility. Is that diaper beginning to smell? Look at the time, better pass the kid along.)

It seems parents have been properly covered in the respective kid entries (quick summation: if your child can walk, you're putting some work in), so that last group up for dissection (not literally... that's sick), is the grandparents.

Grandparents of the world have it great on Halloween. Odds are, they'll get a visit from the grandkid(s) and they will get to do a spoiling (take a candy bar... okay take another... here, have the bowl), which all grandparents take great pride in. If the grandparents live too far away to visit, it's a fair bet that they'll receive some new pictures of the kids in their costumes. It's funny, one might not think of Halloween as a great holiday for the grandparents, but that seems to be the case.

... Unless those angry high schoolers get ahold of their pumpkins.

Dang kids.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Putting things in perspective

A few quick thoughts...

- I embarrass pretty easily. I'm not sure why, but my face can be prone to flushing at a rate that would make Joe the Plumber (if he was actually a plumber) spike his crescent wrench in jealousy. With that in mind, it's always refreshing to see a story like this. No matter what trivial matter gets me red in the face, I can always take great assurance in the fact that I'm not lying on stretcher looking like someone who has been attacked by a rabid toilet.

Alas, I have now been focusing an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what this guy was thinking. According to the story, he's 26, so I should be able to relate. Nevertheless, if me cellular phone ever somehow escapes the confines of my pocket to go for a dip in a public commode, I'm not sure my first reaction would be deciding to do my best imitation of a plunger. Cell phones are replaceable, after all, but I'm not sure the memories of latrine scavenging are easily forgotten.

- In other news, someone called me "bro" in a public setting tonight. That's right, bro... People still say "bro"? Last I checked, the year is not 1991 and I haven't been carrying around a boogie board. As I understand the term, it's slang for "brother," but I'm fairly certain that I was not related to this guy. The only other "bro" I am aware of is the male bra made popular by Frank Costanza. Alas, I was not wearing one of these, either.

- I spend a lot of time complaining about the utter drivel that several television channels call programming, but if there's a show on TV that is a bigger waste of time than MANswers, I think it may be time to admit that this whole picture tube fad has run its course.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Nothing Really...

Quick thoughts while taking part in a fantasy basketball draft and watching the World Series...

- If I understand this correctly, Iron Man (as documented in the film
of the same name) flew across the world to the Middle East in his Iron
Man suit. That's sure to be a lengthy flight. Did he equip the suit
with GPS so that he wouldn't get lost? And, how exactly did he... uhh,
relieve himself during the flight? The film shows that the suit isn't
exactly easy to remove, so did he wear a diaper, crazy astronaut-style?

- The amount of tolerance one has for football play-by-play announcers is directly proportional the the success of one's favorite team. As a result of this theorem, I'm hitting the mute button any time a football game is on my TV.

- Why didn't watermelon carving ever catch on like pumpkin carving?

- Being single, one often hears the phrase, "Well, I'd set you up with (insert name here), but I wouldn't want to do that to you." Is it a bad sign for our society that so many friends of friends out there are apparently torturous to spend a few hours with in a social setting? Aren't friends supposed to be people one enjoys the company of? And how can one be sure that his/her friends are not saying the same thing about him/her? Maybe Jerry Seinfeld was not exaggerating when he said 95-percent of the population is undateable.

- FYI... If you would ever go on television to compete to be someone's BFF, you fall into the aforementioned category.

- Even if I understood Spanish, I still don't think I'd be able to figure out what is going on during 88-percent of the programming on Univision.

- We're just over a week away from the presidential election and it seems that the only place candidate Duck is being taken seriously is here at The Writings... I'm just glad I have educated readers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You Win!

If you have ever seen the movie "Eddie," I'm sorry and I wish you could get 100 minutes of your life back.

...Wait, while that may be true (so true it's frightening) that's not the direction I meant to go. Let's try it again...

If you have ever seen the movie "Eddie," you witnessed some extremely horrible acting, and not just on the part of the basketball players pretending to be actors. Odds are you were tempted to begin poking at your corneas with Q-tips you'd lit on fire by the time the film was halfway through.

... Nope, that's still not the right route (although it's still scary true). One more time...

If you have ever seen the movie "Eddie," you probably thought the idea of someone earning a position with an NBA team because they won a silly in-game contest seemed pretty absurd. You may have even spat at notion (if you did, I'm truly impressed, since notions aren't exactly tangible). Whatever your reaction to the possibility of your average John Cupo'coffee (Joe Sixpack's cousin, fresh out of rehab) getting anywhere in the world of sports thanks to a little skill combined with a little luck, it seems the basic premise may become reality.

According to a Texas Tech fan site, the recent winner of an in-game field goal kicking contest may be lining up for extra points this weekend for the Red Raiders. He put a 30-yard kick through the uprights weeks ago and now he may be called upon to do the same against the No. 18 team in the nation (who shall remain unnamed).

As with most things I bother writing about, this provoked many thoughts in my head. Particularly, if this plan works out and the Red Raiders solve their kicking issues thanks to a simple contest, why can't this work for the teams I root for?

It's pretty obvious the Kansas City Chiefs have a problem at quarterback right now. They entered the season without a proven signal caller, they've just lost two mediocre QBs for the season, and they'll start a quarterback on Sunday who has thrown with the accuracy of a cross-eyed marksman who has had too much caffiene. But what if the answer to their problems didn't lie in free agency or the draft, but in a contest at halftime? Whoever can throw the most footballs through a tire from 10 yards out wins the starting QB gig.

... Oh, I forgot to mention that the contest participants will also have to avoid a constant barrage of 300-pound bags of flour while making their tosses, to get used to having no pass protection.

In Manhattan, it's tough to peg one single phase of the game as the issue plaguing the Wildcats, but tackling certainly isn't a strength. Sounds like it's time for a contest. Put the opposing mascot at midfield, and the first person to successfully bring it down with a mechanically sound form tackle (see what you hit, wrap up, shoot the hips through, etc.) earns the starting nod at inside linebacker the following week.

The Royals once invited a professional softball pitcher to spring training, so the idea of filling a roster spot with a contest can't seem completely ridiculous for the organization. While the boys in blue have no power to speak of on the roster, I think it would be a lot easier to address the lack of speed on the basepaths. If you've been to Kauffman Stadium in the last few years, you know the hot dog race (three people racing while wearing huge hot dog costumes) sometimes gets more of a reaction than anything that happens in the batter's box. Think of the added excitement when the winner is guaranteed a spot in centerfield the following game. The choice of whether they wear the hot dog costume or a baseball uniform for their Major League debut is up to them.

This contest idea may very well sweep the nation. It can even be applied to areas outside the world of sports. Areas like blog writing.

Sure, I've complained about areas in the world of sports that I find subpar in this Writing, but I will certainly admit there are things people find subpar about all of these Writings (writing, editing, and content come to mind). Thus, it may be time for the inaugural Writings contest. Naturally, I have no idea what the terms of the contest are, or what the prize could be. Submit your ideas, and you just might win... the opportunity to choose the contest you will later compete in.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Things I Don't Understand - the equestrian atop a pale pony

I read a newspaper editorial this morning, the subject of which was an injured quarterback retuning to lead his team on the football field. The columnist argued that this young signal-caller would not make this struggling squad instantly competitive simply by standing under center.

I have absolutely no qualms with this argument. In fact, since the youngster has never actually been the starting quarterback in a game his NFL franchise has won, it seems that the title of the column could have been, "Reiterating Common Knowledge."

All statements of the obvious aside, the thing I found interesting in the article was the use of a certain cliche. The writer used a quote from the head coach, in which the coach stated that the quarterback would not come "riding in on a white horse."

Reading the aforementioned statement made me pause.

Was this expected of the quarterback? Had his injury rehabilitation been combined with some equestrian training?

And why the emphasis on the fact that he wouldn't ride atop a white horse? Was he establishing the fact that the quarterback is drug free? Or refuting any inane ideas that he might be the antichrist?

Since this phrase was used to support the argument that the QB would not be a difference-making player this season, does this mean that there is some sort of cause-and-effect relationship between someone's ability to ride white horses and their prowess on the gridiron?

I know newspaper editorials are meant to get people thinking... but I'm not sure these are the type of questions they're supposed to spurn. I had to find out if this saying had any merit. Did Joe Montana ever ride atop a white steed prior to a Super Bowl victory? Did John Elway use a Denver Bronco as his means of conveyance while traveling to Super Bowl XXXII?

Alas, such research proved inconclusive.

In fact, the only event I could conjure in which someone famously rode a white horse in to quell the chances of defeat was (nerd alert!) when Gandalf the White rode Shadowfax down the slope the the Battle of Helm's Deep. Saruman's troops stood no chance.

Perhaps this coach was simply attempting to vanquish any possible rumors that the quarterback is a wizard that can tame equidae previously thought unable to be tamed.

In the end, the point is somewhat moot, as the quarterback left the contest (once again, his first game back from injury) with a new injury. His luck seems to indicate that he's been littering on ancient burial grounds and spitting on the Blarney Stone... I guess the white horse is probably lucky he wasn't called for duty.