Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dropping the F bomb

No, it's not what you think. I'm talking about trends in education, schools, society and parenting. There are studies, movements and high-ranking educators who insist on not flunking students in school. If you give them an 'F' they will think less of themselves. They deride the concept as creating a culture of failure. The system will hold the student down; it will make them feel inadequate. They suggest replacing the 'F' with an 'H'(for held). What's the difference? I know of one school district that does not want the teachers to use a red pen when marking papers. It is considered demeaning. Yep, it's all hogwash!

The greatest lessons ever learned are those where you fail. Who learned anything necessary if it was not a challenge? After the age of six no child should be in any sporting event that does not keep score. I understand learning the rules and letting them play but that is what practice is for. Sports is not a substitute for life but it does help you learn life lessons. Sooner or later if you get tired of losing you will strive to do better. You will improve yourself through your own work and perseverance. You may inspire others to improve themselves as well. That is how a team is built. Successful teams win. Successful teams build successful individuals.

The adage "it takes a village to raise a child" is a ridiculous notion and the cry of those who don't want to do the work and put in the time. A society is built on different groups fulfilling a variety of needs for the community as a whole. Farmers raise the food, teachers educate etc. They are not raising your child, the parent is. Those who lament a failing child as a product of society need to look in the mirror. A child learns from the parent. I'm not so blind as to not understand social pressures and life in decrepit urban areas. There are challenges in the real world no parent can handle by themselves. I believe those are the exceptions and not the rule.

Those who promote the standard of not 'hurting a child's feelings' are only promoting mediocrity at best. Life is about overcoming challenges. Your future employer won't care if he 'hurts your feelings' in a work environment. Children need to be prepared for life and sometimes life is hard. If your ideals are only about building 'self-esteem' you don't belong in the education business.

I realize not every child will go on to become a doctor, lawyer or other 'titled' position but to hold them to a lesser standard within their own abilities is doing them a great injustice. Hold young people accountable or they won't learn a damn thing.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Small Victory

In one of my earlier posts I lamented the neutering, as such, of God the Father in many of the hymns sung today, and occasionally in prayers.

This morning at Mass, the music director told everyone (paraphrasing) that according to the Catholic Church directives as printed in such-and-such publication, the version of The Gloria we have been singing, in which "His" has been replaced by "God's" is not to be used; the word "His" is to be sung. Then she said "when you sing the song, sing it AS IT IS PRINTED (emphasis mine), not how we have been singing it".

Not me, lady, I have been singing "His" every time.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beauty and the Beast

Recently in the news (a very loose definition of the word, both news and celebrity) celebrity blogger Perez Hilton was afforded the opportunity to judge and ask a question of the contestants in the Miss USA pageant. Well known to most by now he asked the question of Miss California if her state should follow suit and allow gay marriage. I do not have an issue with the question, it is valid in the quest for the title. I do however take issue with 'Mr' Hilton.

Although I do not watch pageants I know what they are. They are a blend of American pseudo-culture linking beauty pageants of the past with celebrity focus. It may be the only way to keep them alive. Unfortunately 'celebrities' such as Perez Hilton have a role. His question although valid shows he brought a personal agenda with his appearance. His question asked, he did not like the answer.

The setup couldn't have been more conducive. Miss California's home state is possibly the most liberal in the nation and home to such culture busting legislation. I assume he was hoping for a pageant-neutral, politically correct answer. Carrie Prejean, Miss California threw his agenda right back in his face and gave an answer that upheld her traditional Christian values. Mr. Hilton was not pleased and it showed. Many believe her answer cost her the title of Miss USA. The next day Mr. Hilton took it upon himself to post the hostile reactions to Ms. Prejean on his blog. It was the weak and cowardly thing to do. Several of the other judges and benefactors spoke out condemning her answer thus exposing the contest for what it really is, a forum for others to pat themselves on the back for promoting political correctness. They should be applauding her for standing up for what she believes in and not backing down in the face of other's opinions.

I suppose the producers of the pageant are happy with all the publicity. Rarely are such shows in the news for more than a day announcing the winner and then never seeing them again until they hand over their crown the following year. If they wanted to keep things in the news Ms. Pajean would have been their best opportunity.

Do you know the name of the actual winner? I don't but I know she's from North Carolina. What does that say about your product?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Things you should know along the way

In the eighties, 1982 I believe, a book was published titled 'Real Men Don't Eat Quiche.' It was a reaction to the times when men were asked to turn to their feminine side. It didn't take long for a host of other articles to follow. Comedians then joined in the fray and a new era was born. It lasted about as long as 'you know you're a redneck'. It was fun then, thankfully it was over.

Women never had an opportunity to joyfully bask in their failings. They were never asked to change to something they weren't. The women's movement was not about change as much as it was about growth and opportunity. At least that's a man's view of it. However, things you should know along the way is gender neutral, mostly. They are nuggets hopefully most will come to understand as they make their way through life. Perhaps this will give you a leg up as you travel 'along the way'.

Don't live by the verse on a Beatles poster. Life is more involved than that.

Real men actually want a woman with brains.

If you are more concerned with style than substance you have the depth of a photograph.

It's OK to ask a question.

Remember the past and cherish those memories, but live in the present.

Manners are timeless, not a weakness.

It's OK to hold hands in public. (With your wife)

Live beyond the refrain of a song. It only repeats and you will be forever in one place.

If you do drugs you will eventually cycle down to the bottom of the well.

Problems are actually opportunities.

A parents primary job is to protect their child. The second is to know when to let them go.

If you don't work for it you probably won't get it.

If you don't set a goal you don't have direction.

It's not about the math. It's about learning to think.

Every 'opportunity' in life is a word problem. (See previous item.)

Life is littered with 'stop' signs. There are no 'go' signs. Don't wait, just go.

I'm sure I'll think of some more 'along the way.'

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Baseball as it was

When we were kids, we had baseball on tv on Saturday afternoons only, until the World Series, and those games were played in the afternoons as well. I would get home from school to watch each of the games, and I enjoyed watching my baseball cards come to life on the screen.

Beloved Father and Sainted Mother would occasionally take us to watch Columbus Jets games at Jet Stadium, in the era before stadium naming rights came along. The Jets at the time were a farm team of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and I saw a few Jets who made it to the big leagues, including Roman Mejias, Johnny Powers, Steve Blass, Donn Clendennon, Willie Stargell, Al Oliver, Dave Parker, and others; but while many of my favorites played hard, they were just not quite good enough to make an impact at the top level. I am not certain if any of them ever made it up to The Show, men such as Jack Damaska, Tony Asaro, Diomedes Olivo, George Spriggs, and a whole host of now-forgotten players.

We would buy a Jet Badge, which we wore to the games for a 50-cent admission fee. We sat in the general admission seats, and I longed to see one game from close to the field in a box seat, those blue plastic ones that looked much better than the gray metal seats we sat on. It wasn't until just a few years ago that I did finally get to see a game from the box seats. Alas, no foul balls came my way.

I clearly recall the smell of cheap cigars being smoked in the stands, but, strangely, not cigarettes, even though both parents smoked at the time. The hot dogs were great, and I almost always had peanuts or Cracker Jack. Nachos were an invention far in the future back then.

I would keep score on the scorecard I bought for a dime, and another nickel for a pencil, no eraser. The games were on the radio, on AM of course, and the away games were re-created from ticker tape reports, complete with all the sounds of the park. I never knew away games weren't "live" back then. Still, Joe Hill called a good enough game to make it convincing to a youngster.

Weirdly, the memory that stands out the most is not something by a Jets player, but rather when an outfielder for the Syracuse Chiefs hit 4 consecutive home runs against the Jets one night, and flied out to the deepest part of center field on the 5th at bat, narrowly missing a fifth homer. The fans gave him a standing O for his night's work. I believe his first name was Gene, and he had played a bit of ball in the majors before that night.

The Jets were preceeded by the Columbus Buckeyes, Senators, and RedBirds, and later became the Clippers, returning to Columbus after a several-year absence in the early 70s. They were again a farm team of the Pirates until changing to the Yankees for many years, then to the Washington Nationals for two years, and now the Indians.

Fond memories of a simpler time and place.

And the Galactically Stupid shall lead us

There are times in life where one is generally 'floored' by the decisions made by others, specifically those in places of power and prestige. No, this isn't a commentary on politics. I am referring to the incredibly stupid decision of Florida International University on hiring Isiah Thomas as their men's basketball coach.

For those of you who do not follow basketball closely, Mr. Thomas is the person who nearly ran the once proud NY Knickerbockers into oblivion. His record both on the court (as coach and general manager) and off was so pathetic as to cause the president of the Knicks to relegate him to a position within the organization that 'had no title and no one would report to him'.

Although I am one for giving second chances, this is not the focal point of this ramble. Rather, who at a college university would think it is a great idea to hire someone as their head basketball coach who can neither coach nor make quality personnel decisions. He put in place one of the most dysfunctional teams in NBA history. Mr. Thomas' personal life has as well been in question. He was the focal point of a sexual harassment lawsuit with the Knicks and has been reported having overdosed on sleeping pills.

Whether this hiring was the choice of Modesto A. Maidique, university president or Pete Garcia, athletic director or a board or panel, I can not fathom why anyone would think this is a good decision on any level. To bring a person with questionable ethics and background into a university setting is unconscionable. You are guiding young men in a vulnerable time in their lives. They believe they are men but many lack the life experience to make correct choices. They need guidance. What FIU has chosen to do is to put their athletic program in the news no matter the cost, obviously favoring the notion even bad publicity is good publicity. I believe the leaders of FIU have done a tremendous disservice to their university and should be called to task for it.

The Regents of FIU had better get ready. I for one believe they will have much more bad publicity in the near future due to this galactically stupid hire.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Oh to cruise again in style

In my formative years watching car commercials and looking at various cars on the road was fun. It fueled the drive for my brothers to learn to drive and hopefully have cars of our own, Sainted Mother and Esteemed Father permitting. I however was the only one permitted to actually own my own vehicle before moving from the family abode. I can only assume the others were jealous.

I was the proud owner of a 1971 Torino. Not a pumped up Gran Torino, but a true two-door Torino. It was candy-apple red with a black vinyl top with black vinyl seats that burnt the hair off your legs in the summer. Graybeard at one point owned an orange fastback Torino. After a few years mine turned into a rust bucket. I had repaired the body and it looked good but the underpinnings were rotting away. Unfortunately that was the way cars were made back then and they only got worse as the decade progressed and cheap gas went buy-buy. The decade of the eighties brought us some of the worst automobiles ever to come out of Detroit. It was sad. Baby Sis was relegated to a Dodge Polaris. I was never sure how it ever got her to the land of fruits and nuts, although it was the size of a WWII destroyer and probably got as good gas mileage. I have no idea what her husband drove in his day. (Sorry, I have yet to endow him with a suitable moniker. It shall come in time).

Sadder still was the lack of imagination of names. We had some clunkers in my early days like Edsel but gone were great car names. Nothing has replaced Cougar, Torino, Charger, El Dorado and El Camino. I have never been sure how Spanish made it's way into that culture. But they were cool names none-the-less. Also disappearing were Stingray, Corvair, Chevelle, Impala and Bel Air. I had always hope GM would revive the Bel Air name but that has not come to pass. The few plates that have been revived have not done justice to the old cars, although I can't figure out what resemblance a hulking '73 four-door family sedan has in relation to a sleek impala.

Instead we are saddled with Camry (what is a camry anyway), Accord, Sportage, Xbox and the like. Euro's seem to like alph-numeric titles; MX320 or RS300. They remind me more of a cell phone than a powerful automobile. Alas, I am riding in a small SUV called an Amigo. It's fun and has been a good truck but it just doesn't have the same thrust as a Torino.

Maybe someday I'll ride in style once again.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Who's #2 at Amen Corner

Again you can tell spring is in the air with the coming of the Masters. Although there are several tournaments before Augusta, golf doesn't start for me until the Masters. The others are just warm-ups, stops along the way; sort of like spring training. They don't really count. As the weather warms I too dream of 'getting out' and hitting my 300 yard drives from the tee as to which North of 50 can attest (200 out and 100 to the right).

Augusta gives us northerners our first taste of what will be. The flowers are in bloom, the grass is green and the air is warm for the first time in a season. The photography and camera work is always spectacular. That being said, who is No. 2?

We all know who is No. 1. It's Tiger and there is no disputing that. I don't follow golf too closely. I watch the majors and not much else. Each of the four have their own allure. The Masters is American tradition, southern style and hopefully, bigotry long since past. I wish the course offered a greater challenge. The scores are generally too low for my tastes. The US Open is my favorite because the varying courses challenge the players. Nothing turns me off more than a twenty under score. Challenge the best with the hardest courses. The Open is nothing like American courses and that is the draw for me. Windswept links next to old castles and seas, fairways that look like wheat fields; nothing says British golf like knickers and haggis. The PGA Championship is simply the conclusion of the year. I don't watch golf after that. It's time for football and my mood easily changes to autumn mode.

So, who's No. 2? It doesn't really matter. It's Tiger and then everyone else. I was disappointed in the rest of the field last year. If there ever was an opportunity to step up and claim the mantle of 2; no one took it. Padraig Harrington made an offering but no one else. So until someone clearly steps up this year let the sports aficionados and golf magazines not even rank anyone else. It's just easier that way.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Greatest story ever interpreted

Over my lifetime I have on occasion read most parts of the Bible. I have heard it proclaimed through countless sermons in church, marriage and funeral ceremonies as well as my favorite service, Stations of the Cross. It is often said it is the greatest story ever told. That may be true but it is also the greatest story ever interpreted. Most would agree the Bible dates back nearly two thousand years. It is the story of our creation from God's hand, the coming of the Messiah and the eventual end of the world.

I have no doubt there are grains of truth in the stories littering the books of both testaments. From the Dead Sea Scrolls unearthed in the forties to the books inscribed in the middle ages and before there is some historical fact. The oldest books having been translated to various languages have certainly lost their accuracy. I believe the Bible has Divine inspiration but consider the experiment done in every grade school class. A story starts with the first student but by the time it gets to the last it is nowhere near the same.

Consider what much of the Bible is meant to convey and who was the original targeted audience. Whether the teachings came from priests of various orders, monks, scribes, pharisees or whomever it was meant to instruct uneducated sheep farmers about the ways of God and the proper way to live one's life. How do you teach such in-depth issues? You tell it through stories; simple stories with a clear message.

How best to promote fear in the uneducated? You do it with fire and flood, plagues and pestilence. All these are easily recognizable to farmers and city dwellers alike. Even now as archaeologists and believers continue to look for Noah's ark many cultures have stories concerning a great flood. Science has shown evidence of such a catastrophic event in layers of exposed stratified rock at many places around the planet. The evidence of flooding far predates the historical record both written and spoken.

I believe the Bible should be taken as reference and used as a guidepost but not as literal fact. The world is far older than described by literal interpretation of scripture. A teacher once told our class that "as long as you believe God started it, somewhere along the line he placed a soul in man and someday he will end it", you can believe in the science and take the rest as faith.

(Don't tell Mom.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rawhide and rosin

We have now come upon one of my favorite times of year. Spring has sprung yet the winter does not want to completely let go. What does that make you think of? Why baseball of course.

Baseball is deeply rooted within my immediate family. Both North of 50 and I grew up playing the game on old diamonds and on into high school. We happened to both be pitchers. I also stood my ground in the hot corner and at other infield positions. Graybeard also tried his hand at our national pastime though I'm not sure what position he played. I think he played the bench. The Moustache steered clear of the horsehide I do believe while Baby Sis did the same of the traditional softball.

There are many trappings of baseball that come to life this time of year. It is the dust of the infield, the smell of an oiled glove as you break it in, the feel of a wooden bat and chalk on your jersey. No self-respecting older player would even think of a metal bat. I understand today's game is different but a 'ping' just doesn't do it for me.

Baseball is a game of tradition and although it is a team game it is an individual contest. A pitcher is one-on-one against a batter. It is skill vs skill and a mental chess match. I won more than I lost. North of 50 was said to have great form on the mound in his day. I pitched with a great deal of heart, guile, fortitude, cunning, but enough of my unabashed modesty. Had I not hurt my throwing shoulder late in the season of my senior year I would have tried to pursue the game at the next level. Looking back, I don't think I would have gotten very far. I wasn't bad, just not better than the next level up.

I look forward each spring to the beginning of the season. Baseball is a marathon, too long at the pro level. Baseball shouldn't start and end with snow on the ground. As a kid I was a Dodger fan, then converted to a Red's fan with the coming of the Big Red Machine. I still follow the Dodgers to some extent but it is difficult when you can't listen to games live. Unfortunately the Reds aren't viable past the end of May year in and year out. North of 50 is a Yankees man. Ugh.

Our Esteemed Father would come to see my games at school and would inevitably yell something at me when things went bad. Sainted Mother only saw one game, the worst of my career. I hit a rather large batter in the mouth with a fastball. I thought I could put it high and tight and he wouldn't be able to get the bat up fast enough. I later learned it took over two years to get his mouth back to normal.

I wish kids still had the desire to go and play even a pick-up game. It just isn't something you see much any more. Everything is structured and I believe that takes away from learning the game. And for those parents who think you shouldn't keep score, learning to lose is part of the game. It is so in baseball and it is so in life.

Hope your favorite team does well, be it your pro team or your kid's team, except for the Yankees.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Donkeys to stardust

I have recently listened to radio commercials that begin with the famous 'stupid laws still on the books' theme. This one recalls an Arizona law that states it is illegal to let your donkey sleep in the bathtub. Ask yourself, how far are we removed from a time when such a law was passed? I'm sure the laws intention was valid and good but what does it mean?

Arizona became a state in 1912. I'm sure this law was passed before that time in the wild-wild-west. But consider, how far are we actually removed from that time 150 years ago? How much in our world has changed? We live in a comfort society where our every whim is within reach in a matter of minutes. Arizona 150 years ago was little more than what we would now consider a third-world country. Except for a relative few people no one would have any idea why such a law existed back then. The modern person has no basis in collective reality to that time period.

We like to think of ourselves as masters of our domains. But how far does our domain reach? The wondrous probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 launched in the late seventies have extended mankind's hand into the universe and they are on the verge of reaching interstellar space. Voyager 1 has crossed the termination shock of our solar system and is on the verge of entering the heliosheath (the first stage where the solar wind encounters resistance from interstellar space). It is the furthest point a man-made object has traveled. When they were launched they were state-of-the-art in space pioneering. Pioneer 10 launched before the Voyager crafts carries with it images of mankind and a gold record consisting of greetings and sounds of our blue marble. It too is on it's way into the void of space.

What would happen if it is discovered by a life form. (I for one believe there is life among the stars). There are just a few things that could happen. The life forms could be so primitive by our standards they have no conception of what it is. They would simply beat it to smithereens with clubs. A civilization could be the near equivalent of our own and understand it's meaning OR have such a different technology that a 'record' has no meaning. I suppose they could play Frisbee with it. Lastly, it could encounter a species that has evolved far ahead of us and our wonder of exploration would be so backward that it is the equivalent of the 'donkey law'. They may never understand it's meaning and our attempt would be futile.

I suppose it could be understood and after many generations sent back to us as the outstretched hand of brotherhood. Where is Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk when you need them?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Observations on the Road to Gundagai

These will be short and sweet. Just like my grandchildren.

- While commercials are a necessary evil, any that involves a ringing telephone or doorbell will be particularly bad.

- I do not know any person who has admitted having voted on American Idol or Dancing With the Stars, etc.

- The Love of My Life says I have a strange sense of humor; maybe that is why I do not "get" Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, Will Farrell, or Steve Carrel.

- I do "get" Bill Cosby, Jack Benny, Laurel & Hardy, and Monty Python.

- Doonesbury was funny 30 years ago, even though I disagreed with the writer's politics; it is long past time for that strip to be out down.

- Calvin and Hobbes needs to be resurrected.

- Long live Peanuts!

- I have no interest in "reality" shows.

- While anything that happens by definition is "news", 99.9% of what is reported is not newsWORTHY.

- A survey or poll result is NOT a newsworthy item, especially if it is a "something-something-something of all-time" list.

- After the end of this world, the human definition of "time" will still be in effect. There is no "end" of time, as we have defined it.

- I was born and raised a Democrat. Later, I was termed a "Reagan Democrat", then became a registered Republican. Now, I am a Conservative American. Perhaps it is what I have always been, but, politically, I am now "home".

- Most politicians do not understand The Law of Unintended Consequences, and we suffer because of it.

- As much as I like to see teams in the Big 10 do well, I cannot find it within myself to root for michigan to win any game.

- Children are a great source of entertainment.

- I am constantly amazed watching children learn and grow.

- I still get chills when I hear The Star-Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, My Country 'Tis of Thee, and The Battle Hymn of the Republic done well.

- Thirty-six years on(!) I still know the words to my high school alma mater.

- English people eat things called Blood Pudding, Treacle, and Spotted Dick. I did NOT make that up.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Friends, Romans, Countrymen...

Lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.



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I'm Sorry
Oops! I did it Again!
It's the Same Old Song
Don't Bring Me Down
Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Catch Us if You Can
Lyin' Eyes
I Fought the Law
Ain't That a Shame
Your Cheatin' Heart
Pocket Full of Gold

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I Honestly Love You
Baby, I'm-a Want You
Soul and Inspiration
I Can't Help Falling in Love With You
You Are My Sunshine
The Wonder of You
Only the Strong Survive
I Love You More and More Every Day
I Only Have Eyes for You
Amazing Grace
I Love You Because
The Wind Beneath My Wings

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