Thursday, July 01, 2010

Seeing the forest among the trees of writing

I developed this blog four years ago to rekindle a writing life. Writing is something innate to me. Though I don't consider myself an entrepreneur, constructing my own newspaper as a second grader came naturally to my existence, a fire fed for most of my life. The name of that newspaper was The Madhouse Gazette (sounds like a name created by second grader, right?).

The second plant of The Madhouse Gazette served two purposes. First, it provided me a place to sort out ideas not spoken from a pulpit or written in a newsletter. Occasionally I whittled an idea from a rough thought eventually carved into a sermon, but the blog turned into a place among the trees for me to rebuild a love for writing.

The second purpose sprouted after a vocational shift involving a move from pastoral work to parenting. I found myself missing the frequent theological wranglings among the work of diapers, naps, tight grocery budgets, and other topics for a home economist. The blog became my theological discourse in addition to my reflections of living as (mostly) stay at home Dad. The New Calvinists are shuddering somewhere...

My life has changed once again, and I now serve in a congregation that values my writing and me as a person. I live more as my true self in this congregation than any other I have known. Writing and ministry have an oak-like quality. Rooted, solid, branching out in interesting patterns and directions. Madhouse Gazette served a good purpose for four years, but the time has come for the blog to lay dormant--not to merely think about it, but write it down. Madhouse Gazette is going into hibernation, in a wooded cave. Maybe the dormancy will last a few weeks, months or years. I don't know.

I do not share my identity on this blog. Not that anyone cares, and not that it's too hard to figure out. It was a way to share my thoughts. If you want a more public side of my life and more regular writing, you can check me out at my other blog, your average pastor. The writing is more theologically oriented, without prominent references to pop culture or my children. I miss writing about those things, but this became more challenging in my crazy commute. I spend around 8-16 hours in the car per week--and my time in front of my desk top computers is limited. Regularly blogging on Madhouse Gazette is one aspect of my life that is pruned.

Something may grow stronger in the months ahead, especially if I can lay my hands on an iPad without going into debt.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

A musical history of Rush--on film

Why is this movie not coming to the Seattle Metro??? Rush fans, get together and bring this movie here. I want to see this on the big screen! Strange, I'm writing a piece of my own personal history related to Rush, and then I find out about this new documentary last night. It gives me the chills.

I'm am thrilled for the idea that my brothers and/or friends come join me to see Rush on August 7th.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Listening...(May 3, 2010 edition)

October Project--Funeral in his Heart
Grand Funk Railroad--We're An American Band
R.E.M.--Shiny, Happy People
Rush--New World Man
Good Charlotte--Thank You Mom
Good Charlotte--Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous

During my late elementary school years and middle school years, I discovered that access to being a cool kid (in my estimation at the time) was through listening to 2 radio stations, KISW and KZOK in Seattle. KISW was (still is) a heavier rock station, and KZOK was more "classic" rock. My mother and I used to listen to Top 40 on KJR AM 950. I enjoyed the heavier rock, but being a people-pleasing kid, I embraced some stuff I didn't enjoy. Rush was easily my favorite band, and I also enjoyed Van Halen, Sammy Hagar, Def Leppard, Ratt, Judas Priest, Queensryche, Journey fit in there on occasion, and a few others. I remember a stigma against synthesizers among the hard rockers. It wasn't cool and even blasphemy to be a hard rock band that used synthesizers--rockers became their own musical purity police. I remember that rock dogma preached on KISW. I saw a video for Iron Maiden touring behind the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe, reaching out to budding rock musicians. They told them "no synthesizers!" I kept up with the discussion of the genre scene, buying magazines like Circus and Hit Parader. Rush became a blasphemer on the album "Signals." Forget the band "Asia." I liked Asia, but a true rocker wouldn't listen to that garbage. People called up KISW and called it "Wimp Rock."

Van Halen bridged the divide a bit with the album "1984." Eddie Van Halen played the synthesizer??? Hmmm. The guys I knew went along with Van Halen's move, probably because the girls were going to follow Eddie Van Halen regardless of what he played. I didn't worry about Van Halen's evolution, I was still primarily a Rush fan. At the time, some considered Moving Pictures the last great Rush album (maybe some still do). They really lost some fans with "Grace Under Pressure," a synth-heavy album. I saved my babysitting money and bought the new cassette the day it came out for $8.99, a lot of money at that time. I loved it--Kid Gloves was my favorite track, and still is an all-time favorite. I was not allowed to go to concerts in middle school, but someone on my soccer team could go, so I sent him with 15 bucks (at least 3 babysitting jobs in those days) to a Seattle Rush concert so I could get a Grace Under Pressure t-shirt. I wore that shirt until it disintegrated into cotton-polyester blend powder (an honor shared only with my Mr. Bill t-shirt). My brothers and I used to pretend we were Rush if we had an evening home alone to play Moving Pictures on our turntable console stereo. Rush was the epitome of rock--for me it started with Neil Peart and the cathartic rhythms of "Tom Sawyer" and "Limelight." I lay awake for hours in those days listening to KISW or KZOK hoping to hear Limelight. I grew to appreciate Geddy Lee more, mesmerized, yet sometimes driven to my own air bass with my favorite solo on "Freewill."

Rush is probably the longest continuous musical relationship I've had with a band. Some favorite bands today have staying power, but not to the same degree as Rush. I have yet to plug into their releases in the past 5-7 years--though that is a new music project for me to consider. I appreciate the trio more and more all the time. Social analysis, critique, creative musical appreciation and catharsis wrapped in so many songs. "Signals" is a brilliant album. It becomes more brilliant in the numerous times I have listened in the past 25 or so years. It registers more today as I recently hit 40 years old. "Subdivisions" taps into teenage angst, yet it also analyzes the real world considerations of adults and where they shall live, how we organize our relationships and the meaning of community. "New World Man" is a song that speaks to my young adult outlook of optimism about my abilities and the opportunities before me in my emerging adulthood moving into midlife. It is a hopeful, yet realistic song. I still feel that optimism in my life, yet I think it's tempered with a little more wisdom--not a good or bad thing--my place in life.
Mary Fahl, formerly of October Project, is supposed to be releasing a new CD that keeps getting put off. I hope she tours in the Northwest. I've listened to Funeral In His Heart at least 40 times in the past 6 weeks. A unique, haunting, deep and smooth voice.
I saw the Grand Funk Railroad song on VH1's 100 all-time greatest Hard Rock Songs. It's been a long time since I remotely paid attention to this song. I love finding old songs like this that become like new to me.
I'm thinking of titling my day of Pentecost sermon "Shiny Happy People." The song is great for several reasons, but Kate Pearson of the B-52's makes this song. She can still belt it after 30 plus years. Athens, GA must have been quite a place to be in the 1980's as a musical hub.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Carbonated Beverage Tax

Returning to the Pacific Northwest brings a daily joy during the spring and summer months. While productively keeping my household in order, I listen to my favorite sports team, the Seattle Mariners Baseball Club (Ichiro led off the game with a ground-rule double and came around to score as I write).

After 30 minutes of the broadcast, a commercial decries the proposed carbonated beverage tax in Washington State, three times during that span. The merits of the tax are debatable. Seth Godin makes an interesting argument about these types of beverage taxes. What I appreciate about Godin is his creative approach to looking at issues, ideas and concepts. I have to think about the merits of the tax, but the commercial adds nothing to the debate.

I realize the goal of almost any political ad is to create an emotional response. The ad depicts a couple going over their budget. Their budget is busted by taxes on carbonated beverages (Even seltzer water! Even club soda!). I find it amusing that the ad attempts to establish that carbonated beverages are an essential grocery item. Regardless of carbonated beverages value to a diet if carbonated beverages are busting your budget, then you don't know how to live with a budget.

The website (linked above) goes even further, by making carbonated beverage bottlers the victim, that the tax will "depress (nice word choice, eh?)" sales. Carbonated beverage bottlers and companies are far from the ranks of victims.

I am not against the right of free speech for the ad, and I'm not making a statement about the merits of taxes. I am such a victim that the joy of listening to the Mariners game by a terrible ad has been compromised. Woe is me.

Political advertisements with poor emotional baits that do not benefit public discourse on state government revenue? Put it on the Lame List!

I miss Almost Live.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Please. No.

I know more pressing world issues deserve more attention. But I deal with issues of the nature and paths of the cosmos on a day to day basis. What produces the most visceral reaction in my mind? NCAA Basketball.

What jerks my chain? Not that my beloved Jayhawks were knocked out early, or that the family favorite Washington Huskies underachieved, then overachieved, then underachieved again--being knocked out of the Sweet 16. Expanding the field from 65 to 96 teams will dilute a good product. I used to take off work with some of my good friends to watch the first Thursday/Friday of the tournament, and now it will be garbage--infiltrated with mediocre teams. My visceral reaction is to say I won't watch the damn tournament--at least in the early rounds--but I'm sure I'll come crawling back because I won't be able to stand spring training baseball.

Rather than worry about a lame boycott, maybe I'll take up an activity of my own and build my own presence in the field of athletic mediocrity. Curling, training for my next half-marathon, bicycling, etc. To the people at the NCAA, please stop this movement to mediocrity by expanding the basketball field. I feel hope and despair on this topic, as the NCAA isn't interested in doing something that makes sense. However, they are a bit unpredictable as well--maybe the foolishness stops and the insiders will look like fools.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I'm getting in touch with my inner Ah-nuld

I'll be back.

Writing. Maybe this week, maybe next. The Lenten vortex can only keep me down for so long.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Caught in a Lenten Vortex

Last year during the season of Lent, it was all I could do not to be a curmudgeon. See what Easter joy brings?

Last year, I wasn't even serving in a congregation full-time. I was a Saturday-Sunday only pastor, commuting 400 miles round trip on the weekend to South Dakota Ranch Country. I still had to face Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. I was crabby then. To be crabby takes a certain amount of effort, an effort for which I had time last year. Now, I don't even have time to be a curmudgeon. I can only put my head down, and pray that God will shine through me some ray of grace, because I don't have much in me, and any grace I will receive truly is grace, because I don't deserve it.

That being said I see good in the world around me. I see a budding call in a servant of the Church who has worked to turn his life from something destructive to something that can feed others. I am working hard to equip and encourage this person. I see a congregation working and praying to be vital in what they perceive to be scarcity. I see new congregations forming out of the dreams of beleaguered souls that desire to be redirected.

My favorite theologian, Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann calls this kind of proclamation I am doing a psalm of disorientation and reorientation. Though my writing doesn't match the psalms. I experience disorientation and reorientation during Lent, but the reorientation seems farther off.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Valentine Spider Attacks!

Above you will find a picture of the rare Pacific Northwest Valentine Spider. Only to be found near the southern waters of the Salish Sea, this spider can camouflage itself by hiding in blond-haired little girls. They must be removed by knife or scissor.

I don't think it matters that I never enrolled in one of those "Daddy learning daughter hair care" classes--there wasn't much that could have been done about this little trick. I can't seem to get hair care right for my daughters. I hope they're able to at least work with their mother. They're particularly strong willed about their hair. They'll probably end up doing something I find strange--but I guess it's their hair. Daughter #2 liked this PNW Valentine Spider in her hair. Her mother eventually removed it with a scissor.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fascinated by their play

When we discovered Daughter #1's challenges around the age of three, one thing we noticed after reflection and meeting with the doctors is how much she struggled with pretend play. Most of her play involved physical play with others, stacking, carrying around piles of toys, and scripting (repeating large chunks of dialogue) movies or television shows. She enjoyed art projects of all kinds, so we figured she would be an artist. Sometimes it was hard to watch.

In the past few years, she has been able to do a lot more pretend play. This is a good thing--pretend play is not only a path to greater brain development, but also a benchmark for brain development. The challenge to this path was the pretend play was by herself. For the most part Daughter #1 has played alongside kids and struggled to maintain a conversation.

Our daughters are best friends. Daughter #2 has been the greatest gift imaginable to her older sister. For the past several weeks, the girls have played WITH each other for hours upon hours. Sometimes for 2-3 hour stretches, with a minimal amount of tears. Their favorite activity is playing doctor and hospital. Daughter #1 should be doing a lot of things. She should be doing extra activity for speech therapy, homework, reading, etc. I can't stop these kids from playing to do what the adults think is important. For years I have wondered whether Daughter #1 would have the joys of playing with another child, while giving joy to another child simultaneously. I have seen the reciprocation of joy, and there's enough left over for me.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Smells of the Pacific Northwest and other memorable geographic smells

My brother hooked me up with some music in college by The Young Fresh Fellows "Sounds of the Northwest." The introduction sounded like something from a filmstrip or an old tourist film--with tracks of seagulls, crashing waves and a ferry horn. I loved listening to this while in my Midwest exile, as it reminded me of home.

Today I was reminded of the smells of the Pacific Northwest as my olfactory nerves drifted me toward memories from the years of traversing the lands of the South Puget Sound. The landscaping material known as "beauty bark" sits in huge mounds in my rental complex waiting to be laid out. I smelled the stuff long before I saw it on a walk this morning. I thought of all the smells that I smelled here, different from all the odors of South Dakota and other places in the Midwest.

+ Tacoma Aroma (a distinct and pungent odor, maybe something like "Sex Panther" cologne)
+ A faint smell of the various evergreen trees combined with the dampness after a rain.
+ The air of the Salish Sea, a bountiful combination of sea life and brine--yet not quite as strong as the ocean.
+ The powerful spring blossoms of April and May.
+ Fresh scones from the Puyallup Fair.
+ Fish and clam chowder cooking at Ivar's.
+ The thin coolness of the Alpine air in the Cascades.
+ The powerful smell of hops coming from the many local breweries over the years. In my youth, it was Olympia and Rainier. Now it's Red Hook.

I could live without Tacoma Aroma (it's not as bad as it used to be in the 70's and 80's), but the bark, dampness and evergreen scent takes me to a better place.

I am also reminded of the smells of my Midwest exile:

+ The smell of hog processing at the John Morrell plant in Sioux Falls (aka "The Morrell Smell).
+ The smell of heat, corn and humidity all over East River South Dakota.
+ The smells of harvest time--processing hay, corn, soybeans, wheat and other grains--it almost inspired me to think of whole grain breads and a stew full of vegetables. That smell helped me find joy, exhilaration and relief for finally feeling a chill in the air after 6 months of heat.
+ Manure
+ The overwhelming smell of grasses that go absolutely crazy in the spring after laying dormant all winter.
+ The almost complete lack of odors (outside of manure) during a harsh winter.

The only time I enjoyed the smells of the Midwest was during the harvest time--about an 8-week period where I watched the hard work of people who help provide our food. People worried, celebrated and toiled with passion. I disliked the smells for the most part, and the harvest time almost made up for it. I appreciated those smells, but the smells of the Northwest can never be replaced.

Friday, January 29, 2010

More on satellite radio, iPhone, podcasts and social networking sites

I've been listening to a free trial of XM Radio in our Honda Element during my 60 minute commute. I appreciate the variety and range of easy access music that gives me ideas for worship services and sermons. I've learned of a few more new bands I to whom I wish to give a deeper listen. But it's still not worth $13-14 per month.

My iPhone is the free link to a much broader spectrum than XM radio. I have Pandora and CBC Radio free apps on my iPhone--and I'm sure I could find more. Since I've expanded my contacts on Twitter to more music-related forums--I know I can dig around my Twitter contacts for ideas for music. I am not at a loss for expanding my musical universe. And there's always the good folks I know at Trade Root Music who can fill me in on great music ideas. I will not be at a loss for music once the XM trial expires in March. Thank goodness XM doesn't have a credit card number for me anymore to renew me without permission.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A New Old Citizenship

When I attended McKnight Middle School in Renton back in the early 1980's, my report card gave other grades besides performance. One of those other grades was "citizenship." I wasn't exactly sure what that meant and how one teacher who saw me for a few hours per week (and worked hard to keep me occupied and learning) could observe my life as a citizen, let alone give me a grade. I think even the most self-aware of my classmates could attach this grade to behavior rather than performance. After leaving McKnight, I never saw this grade for citizenship again.

I once had very high and positive expectations for President Obama--though I wouldn't go so far as to call it "hope." Though I've always had interest and passion about politics, I never held an illusion that politics and politicians were a place to invest the energy of hope. For me, party politics has sunk to a new low. I've haven't taken well to the two-party system in the United States since my college days, and the actions of Democrats and Republicans in my adult life have not inspired me to draw any closer to political life outside of being an educated voter. It's hard to advocate for misguided or power hungry leadership.

However, I am still a citizen of the State of Washington and the United States. I am not required to support a political party to be a citizen. To be a good citizen, I can participate in public life, independent of decisions of Republicans and Democrats--to make lives better for my family and other people. Ideology does not come in to play. Democrats or Republicans will not prevent me from volunteering at my daughter's school. I volunteered at my daughter's elementary school last Friday for the first time, and I had an awakening to the meaning of citizenship. I realized that my energy toward Republicans and Democrats was misplaced for all of these years. My energy will be placed toward being a good citizen.

More on this topic later--but today I had to make a proclamation of a personal investment in a new old citizenship.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Satellite Radio vs. Podcasts

During my days of driving the back roads of South Dakota, satellite radio was almost a necessity. In 2003, my cassette player and radio broke down in my 1992 Honda Accord with well over 200K miles. I remember some drives I could pick up 1-2 stations if I was lucky--a Jesus station and a bad country station. I could get NPR news and talk in the morning, but I could only listen to so much classical or jazz music. If I was meeting colleagues in the more desolate areas of the state, I wouldn't get any stations at all. I saved up a little money and took the plunge into satellite radio, which was the wave of the future at the time.

I loved satellite radio so much my brothers and I bought my father one for Christmas one year. I bought and set up satellite radio outlets in my house. Depending on contracts and mergers, it was the best way I could listen to Seahawks, Mariners, Oilers and Kansas Jayhawk games on the radio in the hinterlands of South Dakota, where the Big 10, Vikings, Twins and Wild ruled. I listened to the CBC often in the morning in between sporting events and I had better reception for good college radio music, without the faint signal of an actual college station. The service was well worth the 11 dollars a month I was paying. I had every media outlet I could ever want, and I wasn't tied to a television--so I could multi-task on some of my lower mentally engaging activities. With my long commute, I was engaged and had some good thinking time before arriving at home or at work.

Satellite radio was one of the first services to go when my dear wife and I started to be more sensible and cautious with our money. I missed it a lot, but my iPod and the expanding world of podcasts began to fill the gaps. I didn't have to pay for the podcasts. In canceling my service with XM, I was to receive a refund. I never received it after several inquiries into my account, and I gave up, learning a lesson about satellite radio that cost me about $142.

It turns out that XM/Sirius is quite desperate to get some customers back. I received a letter that my service was reactivated for 3 month--Free. Ha.

Sorting through my piles, I found the documents that pointed to my sizable refund. I called XM and asked them, what gives? You're offering me 3 free months when you didn't offer any customer service with integrity? I was on the precipice of giving up on satellite radio for good, and after 2 agents, I found someone who promised me a check, rather than a credit to my account (I was open to a credit, but I'll take a check).

I agree with Bill Simmons that satellite radio lost its niche with a younger generation when the podcast world expanded. The only folks I see using their satellite radio are elderly folks who purchase higher end new vehicles. This observation is completely subjective and anecdotal, but I hear little if any buzz about satellite radio. I am at least somewhat media savvy.

I think satellite radio is going in the tank. Why would I want to pay approximately $14 per month for a good product when I can get a better product for free on my iPod? Or pay less than than a satellite subscription for equal or better content via iTunes? I control the content on my iPod, whereas XM/Sirius controls the content on their end. What I have appreciated about satellite radio over the years on the music level is that I am introduced to music I may not have considered otherwise. However, as I have become reengaged with media after a little hiatus as a stay at home dad (with my iPhone and Twitter and a little with iLike) I still don't need satellite radio to expand my musical palette. I turned on my satellite radio for three free months, but spending 14 dollars a month for good content isn't a necessary expenditure and borderline foolish.

If anyone else has a satellite radio story, I would love to read about it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Attempting to figure out my degree of disgust

My dear wife and I are working through season two of Mad Men. It took her a little longer to get hooked than I did. I think the writing on the show constitutes true story telling, at least the way I was taught. A story involves change in a character. The twists and turns in Don Drapers life and the changes he endures makes the story fascinating, regardless of his skewed moral compass. Peggy is also an interesting character in that sense.

Fine storytelling aside, there are some aspects to the stories in Mad Men that are challenging to watch. Some reflect "old-fashioned values," other values reflected:

+ Blatant sexism--though it is a heroic storyline to watch what Peggy encounters as she makes her way through the advertising world.
+ Smoking cigarettes wherever you darn well please without consideration for others.
+ For all the talk about the lack of social graces in today's world, the objectification of women is startling, it only happens in different ways and places today that is certainly not "social grace".
+ No social stigma for marital infidelity for a man (Draper is known as a "connoisseur" of women).
+ Alcohol consumption during work hours was no big deal.

I could go on and on, but I was most disgusted by another "old-fashioned value" in episode four of season 2, when the Draper family shares a picnic, and they actively leave their garbage in the middle of the park. I'm not sure why this scene troubled me the most, but for all of the things I could have screamed at the television related to Mad Men--the litter was the most disgusting. For that action of litter I could come up with no sympathy. What was more interesting is justifying that action with the question of daughter Sally to her parents. "Are we rich?" Soon after that statement, the garbage went flying.

Mad Men constantly makes me wonder what our children will find utterly foolish about our social conventions and values. Some of them truly are foolish, and we will be exposed. I think that is part of the intent of the show--and I find this writing and storytelling more provocative and effective cultural analysis of the 50s and 60s than films like "Welcome To Pleasantville." The characters in Mad Men are much more interesting and the story lines still connect viewers to current societal themes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Song Watch for Daughter #2 (January 14, 2010)

Bad Romance--Lady GaGa
Go Waggaloo--Sarah Lee Guthrie and Family
Take Me to Show and Tell--Sarah Lee Guthrie and Family
England--Great Big Sea
The Night Pat Murphy Died--Great Big Sea

Daughter #2 attempts to make conversation with almost anyone--in the grocery store, church, Target, at the park, etc. She can keep a conversation well, if she chooses to speak on a topic in which the other person is knowledgeable. "England" is easily her favorite song. She'll greet someone ebulliently and immediately say, "we were far from the shores of England." After the confused look (or at least a smile), she'll say, "that's my favorite song. We were far from the shores of England." It's truly a favorite for her. A conversation starter and a mood changer. Interesting how she and much of society assumes that the things to which we regularly pay attention are on the hearts and minds of whom we come in contact. I'm still learning about my limited view on the world, and how it's not as normative as I often think.

Lady GaGa is on a rocket-like rise up my daughter's music chart. I had never heard of Lady GaGa until a little over a month ago, and I've heard a lot of buzz since then. Equipped with an iTunes gift card for Christmas, I picked up her song and wasn't engaged after my first two listens. I heard a Madonna retread--but in some ways, she's better. GaGa has a much richer voice. Her influences of Queen, Madonna and glam rock are apparent. I'm not sure what kind of staying power she has, but we're having fun with Lady GaGa in the car for our commute.

The Children's Music Genre is much more enjoyable and expansive than I ever imagined. I give it closer look because of my parenthood, but Smithsonian Folkways has expanded my engagement with the genre and imagine enjoying songs for myself, and not merely for my children. Elizabeth Mitchell was a first for me in this regard, and now Sarah Lee Guthrie planted herself firmly in my own musical consciousness. Guthrie's latest CD came to our collection over Christmas, and our family is enjoying the songs.

Friday, January 08, 2010

My evolving relationship with coffee (Part 9)

I stopped drinking coffee recently--I can't tolerate it's bitter earthen taste without sugary or chemically laden additives. I've switched to my brother's Yerba Mate methodology for keeping alert via beverage consumption.

Daughter #2 questioned the change. On the way home from church on Wednesday, she asked me "Daddy, where's your iced mocha?"

I explained to her that I'm now drinking tea instead of iced mochas. She replied, "Oh! We'll have a tea party!"

Even though our family is looking for a better home base so we have less family commuting, I am going to miss the longer conversations in the car with my three year old. I will need to make sure that we find other forums for our conversations.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Pondering the Influence of The Simpsons

Who cares if some think The Simpsons isn't relevant or edgy as in its glory days? The show still makes me laugh and think. It's influence is undeniable. Check this out:

When I thought I couldn't hear anything interesting about Tiger Woods

It took me two days of Tiger Woods coverage since November to gloss over any comment about him. Analysts and reporters struggle to say anything new and interesting--and many of these same folks are actually intelligent.

Once again, Chuck Klosterman breaks the mold. In his December 21st podcast interview with ESPN's Bill Simmons, Simmons asks for a different angle, and Klosterman delivers. I am weary of sports, PR, and news folks saying that Woods needs to come forward. This proclamation is boring and unoriginal. The interview is great dealing with Woods, but the entire two-part podcast is worth your while (as if I could say anything different about Klosterman).

Klosterman says that two things could change the public perception of Tiger Woods at this point. One is that if stories came out saying that Woods did generous things for his mistresses, like pay for their chemotherapy. Two, that Tiger Woods go completely in the opposite direction of his current intensely private public persona and become like Charles Barkley, where he comments on everything and become this gregarious, joke-cracking guy who comments on race, politics and sports. I think this seems unlikely, but intriguing. Barkley has his detractors, but generally he is loved by many, even if people don't agree with him. His recent problems with DUI arrests haven't taken away people's affection for him, because he is at least authentic. I think it also helps that Sir Charles is funny. I find Klosterman's take on Woods interesting, because I find that the typical call for Woods to go public (usually the preferred strategy is to appear on Oprah) is a retread of any public figure path when they commit any type of indiscretion. This typical path is boring, and it's not really a story.

During my studies in creative writing in college, one of my professors said that what makes a story is the revelation of change in a character. Without change, there is no story, there's only a description or a report. I suppose that Tiger Woods doesn't have to change for the sake of a story, but I do find stories much more interesting than mere reports. Klosterman turned a series of reports and analysis into the prospect for a compelling human story. That angle from Klosterman, should it or any similar variant, come true, would make the Tiger Woods story interesting.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Three year old travels through airport resembling old Hertz commercials


An eventful 12th day of Christmas it was. Twelve drummers drumming, Bing Crosby or the McKenzie Brothers weren't present to mark the occasion--but the travel shall be remembered.

Travel duties over the holiday season were divided between my dear wife and I by a complex formula involving preaching schedules, vacation usage, school calendars, mileage expenditures, and airfare purchases. This equation kept daughter #2 and I in Minnesota until today, with an early departure from Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. My dear wife and Daughter #1 returned to the Seattle Metro January 2 for the school schedule, primarily. Traveling today for me saved about $400.

The problem with this kind of travel arrangement is early morning flights and layovers. This time we landed in San Francisco, an airport I hadn't seen in over 10 years. Turns out I still wouldn't see much of it. Arriving early at MSP in anticipation of security, we were well prepared for contingencies. Or so we thought.

A three year old in an airport always presents extra challenges. Timing of bathroom stops, snacks, drinks, activities and exercise while in a high security and frenzied pace setting keeps my head on a swivel, establishing some sense of order and direction. I knew this planning and administration registered with my daughter, because she offered advice to other adults, "you have to wait your turn."

We cannot control some variables in the trip, like sitting on the plane for an extra 45 minutes or so waiting for a gate while the plane was a bit late in the first place, dealing with important substances like wing de-icer. This delay put our connection in peril. Fellow passengers graciously let us out of the plane ahead of them expediently, and we waited at the gate for the stroller that help small legs manage a long walk to the next gate.

But the stroller did not come. After five minutes, my plane was boarding, and I didn't have time to chase down United Airlines officials to locate the stroller. I made an executive decision (that's why they pay me the big bucks)--we had to go. This was a risky venture with an unpredictable three year old. I told her to run. She ran. I had our semi-bulky and awkward carry-on bag, two insanely heavy coats for the West Coast (but important for Minnesota in January), and her little carry-on. I wanted her to focus on her keeping balance and her eyes on the path before us, which included maneuvering through three moving sidewalks.

As I watched her move, encouraging her to run, pay attention, watch out for others, stay with me, etc., all that came to mind was an unfortunate comparison--O.J. Simpson cruising through a busy airport as a spokesperson for Hertz car rentals. She dodged, she spun, she bobbed and swayed, but she never fell--and she stuck with me as well as a three year old can in a sprint through an airport terminal. We ran, jogged, and walked quickly for about a half-mile.

With about 100 yards to go, she started crying. She looked like a marathon runner who had hit the proverbial "wall." There's only so much a little girl can take. She was up at 4am, yet to have a successful trip to the potty. No lunch, and had run the most in one stretch she had ever run. So I held up her Nemo stuffed toy as a makeshift motivational speaker and said, "Do you want to carry Nemo??? Run to Nemo!!!" She ran to Nemo, grabbed her toy, and continued sprinting to the gate. I stopped when I got there, and she kept going toward the plane, only to be stopped by laughing TSA officials. It almost had the same feel to it as Forrest Gump running a football for the University of Alabama. I wasn't going to stop her, but it would be a trio of laughing TSA officials doing a "Stop Forrest, Stop!" to my daughter.

Wiping the sweat from my brow, we slowed down and made it to our seats. All the while, she proclaimed orders to random seat holders, "you have to wait your turn."

We're still waiting for the stroller. We had to make a claim to get it returned from United Airlines. The employees at baggage service noted how cute my little girl is. What I didn't tell them is that she pulled off a small athletic miracle.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Desperate Housewives--Usually Enjoyable, Occasionally Inspirational

The television tides have turned. Years ago in our more struggling days, my dear wife and I would enjoy a few days at her parents house because they had a slew of cable television so that we could meet the visual equivalent of Cheetos to the human diet. Feels good going down, but contributes little if anything to my overall health. These days, we have cable in our household, and my in-laws have removed many choice in worship attendance at the cathode cathedral. Because of Chuck Klosterman, I have lowered some of my disdain for television and recognize that I don't need to be a culture snob about it--and recognize it for its contribution. I can remember all the while that moderation is more important for my television diet and recognize its artistic value rather than attempting to set myself above culture for my own gratification. I come to my in-laws during this Christmas decompression time and know I don't have to watch television for it's own sake.

I don't watch Desperate Housewives because it's a great show. I watch it because it is the only show that suits my dear wife and I after a long Sunday at work. We enjoy the characters (even if they are caricatures) and the twists, though the stories on the whole seem weak.

Tonight's episode presented a storyline for which I was surprised (in a good way) and not by a sharp plot twist. Lynette is faced with the possibility of one of her unborn children living with a disability. Whereas the other dreams highlighted in the episode often reinforce the caricatures in the show, Lynette's character is given more complex situations. How do you raise a child with a disability to raise their lives to the best situation possible? I wonder that almost every day with my child and her autism spectrum disorder. We will have to work hard for the rest of our lives to provide opportunities for daughter #1 to thrive. Some days we miserably fail. Other days, we merely wonder. Other days we peer into the future to see what is possible. Daughter #1 is amazingly artistic--she wrote and drew some books for her sister and grandparents. She invented a board game and played with her mother and grandparents. I continue to dream that she will bring great joy to others and herself with her artistic pursuits. I don't ever expect Desperate Housewives to inspire this kind of pondering, but I'm happy when it does. I look forward to getting back home to the Pacific Northwest and talk with my wife about what we saw on tonight's episode.