Here’s your dissenting opinion.

Here we go again talking about sports.  The past few days the sports world has been abuzz because of comments made by the LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling.  For those who don’t know what happened, here’s a very quick summary.  Several months ago Sterling was talking to a woman that he knows, and he said that he didn’t appreciate the fact that she posted pictures of herself with Magic Johnson.  Sterlings exact words from the recording were as follows: “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”  (From the ESPN article found here.)  As a result of his comment getting out, Sterling was banned from all NBA related activities, find $2.5 million, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said that he plans to ask the other NBA team owners to vote to make Sterling sell the Clippers.

Now, from my understanding, this comment was made in Sterling’s home, and a recording was released several months later.  Per Wikipedia, Sterling was suing the woman who released the recording, and she said that she would “get even” with him.

Lets do something that not many other people seem to be doing, and take a look at exactly what he said. It bothers him that someone he knows is associating with black people.  Not a nice thing to say, but I’m sure you could find far more racially offensive articles from the past week, like this article talking about a fan throwing a banana at a soccer player in Spain.  That’s far more offensive to me, but apparently not to the public at large, in part because it’s from Europe, and in part because it’s soccer, a sport most American’s don’t care about.

Let’s take a look at Sterling while we’re at it, according to Wikipedia, Sterling is 80 years old.  This isn’t excusing what he said, but it does lend some context.  We’re a far more integrated society today than we were when Sterling was growing up.  When he was younger, interracial relationships were more rare, and it’s understandable that they might make him uncomfortable.

Secondly, he said he wasn’t comfortable with the girl associating with “black people.”  There are plenty of other more offensive racial terms that he could have used instead of “black people.”

Lastly, lets look at the punishment.  He’s being find $2.5 million, again we go to Wikipedia, which says that his net worth is something like $1.9 billion.  So yeah, it’s a big fine, but it’s not exactly going to send him to the poor house.  Next, he’s banned from anything to do with the NBA, including attending games or even attending a practice, I think this is going a bit too far.  He’s already a fairly quiet owner by comparison to others (Mark Cuban of Dallas comes to mind), and while he hasn’t done a great job of running a winning team over the years, I don’t think there were ever any stories about him not paying players, or refusing to sign black players, so as far as that’s concerned he’s done his job more than adequately.

And now we get to the most damning part, at least as far as I’m concerned.  Silver is going to try and get the rest of the NBA owners to vote in an attempt to force Sterling to sell the team.  He’s the longest tenured owner in the league, and over the time that he’s owned the team the NBA has grown astronomically larger and more popular.  I don’t know exactly how much, but he’s probably had something to do with that behind the scenes.  I think this sets a bad precedent for the other owners.  This is a very, very, small thing, and they’re trying to force him to sell the team.  What happens in a couple of years when the aforementioned Mark Cuban says something to offend someone, is he going to be forced by the other owners to sell the team?  What happens the next time a coach questions a league decision?  Will the commissioner put pressure on the team to fire the coach?  What about when it’s found that a player told a joke with the N word in it when he was a freshman in high school?  Is he going to be suspended?

This whole controversy boils down to two things.  One, we’ve somehow managed to sterilize our culture to the point where having an opinion that differs from the “politically correct views” in any way shape or form means that anyone who might possibly have been offended any time in the past 50 years has every right to crucify you for what you said.  And two, Adam Silver is brand new as a commissioner in the NBA, and he wanted to do everything he could to make sure that people realize that he is the commissioner and he has the power.

Is Sterling a perfect person, no, he isn’t.  But I doubt that he’s anywhere near as bad as he’s been made to seem.  We’ve all vented about things from time to time, and we’ve all said things that are politically incorrect.  If you took a soundbite of the worst things we’ve said in our private moments, nobody would have a job.  In the past week, I’ve heard plenty of things that are far worse than what Sterling said.  Quite frankly, I’ve said more offensive things than what Sterling said in the past week.  This is a stupid situation that got absurdly out of hand.  If I was Donald Sterling, I’d fight this every step of the way, sit court side at the next Clippers home game, and tell Adam Silver to take his lifetime ban and shove it up his ass.

But that wouldn’t be politically correct would it?

Sound tasty to you?

This may be one of the most tasteless things that I’ve posted on my blog, but it made me laugh for most of yesterday and a good deal of today, and it’s talking about current events, so it’s always fun.

Apparently Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood home is for sale, and has been up for sale for a while now.  And while that’s entertaining enough, apparently PETA considered buying the house and turning his house into a vegan restaurant.

Immediately upon hearing that there were plans for turning it into a restaurant, my first thought was about asking people if they would want to eat there.  When I asked my co-workers if they would want to eat there, their reactions ranged from complete disgust to morbid curiosity.

Personally, I think the Dahmer House Bar and Grill has a nice ring to it, and I’d love to eat there.  Beyond the novelty of simply having a restaurant there, think of the marketing ideas.  Who wouldn’t want a t-shirt that says “I had dinner at Jeffrey Dahmer’s house.”

I think you could go a little further with it, turn it into a sort of theme restaurant as well.  Put liver and onions on the menu, sweetbreads (thymus gland or pancreas), chitterlings (intestines, usually pig), or haggis.

I know I wouldn’t be the only one interested in eating there, and I’m sure there are plenty of other people with a sense of humor as dark as mine who would have to make at least one trip there.  So how about you?  Would you eat there?  And while I’m on the subject, do you have anything you would add to the menu?

Good News Everyone!

I’ve mentioned on my blog several times that I bowl quite frequently.  I even work in a warehouse where we distribute bowling supplies.  Well, this past weekend I was bowling in a tournament and I achieved a couple of significant goals for any bowler.  I shot my first (sanctioned) 300 game, and backed it up with a 238 and a 290 to shoot an 828 series, which is also my first 800 series.

It’s been a long time coming, and I’m very glad to get the monkey off my back by finally hitting those milestones.

And speaking of milestones, I hit another one with my blog a few days ago, March 11th marked the 3 year anniversary of starting my blog.  It’s been a fun ride, and I look forward to keeping it going in the future.  Thanks to everyone who stops by to read, comment, and suggest books for the future, I hope you’re looking forward to more of my insanity in the future.


Why My Favorite Football Player is a Free Agent Punter

As I’m writing this, it’s about 2 or 3 minutes before the BCS National Championship Game with Florida State and Auburn.  We’re also in the middle of the NFL playoffs, with the Wild Card games taking place last weekend and the Divisional Round coming up next weekend.  I enjoy football, but I’m not nearly as big a fan as many other people I know.  The first time I ever been in a Fantasy Football league was this past year, and it will probably be the last time I’ll ever be in one.

So why is my favorite football player a punter?  And one who is currently unemployed?  Because he’s also an extremely intelligent person who is willing to speak his mind on some very important issues.  For those of you who don’t already know who I’m talking about, I’m referring to former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.  I first heard of Kluwe a couple of years ago when he was in the news a little bit for being a general nerd who was (at the time) playing World of Warcraft.  However, recently he’s been in the news recently for talking about his political views concerning gay marriage.  Here are links to a couple of articles he’s written.

“They Won’t Magically Turn You Into A Lustful Cockmonster”: Chris Kluwe Explains Gay Marriage to the Politician who is Offented by an NFL Player Supporting it.

An End To DOMA

I Was An NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot

I agree with everything Kluwe says, but beyond that, I appreciate the bluntness with which he writes.  So often when you hear politicians talking every sentence is layered with so much double talk and subversion that half the time you don’t even know what they’re talking about. (This is one of the things I’ve always liked about Jon Stewart as well, he’ll call politicians on their bullshit.)

Kluwe explains his points, he does it directly, and he doesn’t beat around the bush.  The first article I linked to is a perfect example of why his writing works.  You can see his anger at the blatant stupidity, but he also makes very valid points.  And while some people might not appreciate his profanity, lets face it, that’s how a lot of people – including many very intelligent people – talk today.  Along with that, I think it’s become obvious that trying to play nice doesn’t get anyone listening to you, so maybe it’s time to stop being nice.

His NFL career is basically over, but I certainly hope that he has a long future in whatever he decides to do.  We need more people with a public stage to call politicians on their crap and bluntly talk about issues the way that many people actually think about them.

The New Year

Another year has passed, and once again I sit at my computer trying to think of something creative to say for a New Years Day blog post.  Even saying that is slightly wrong, since it’s almost 9 at night, so it’s not really any kind of a “day” blog post.  But I suppose that’s just my bad sense of humor kicking in to the post, so we move on.

One of the first things that everyone talks about when it comes to New Years is the idea of a resolution.  If you’re really trying to better yourself, the changing of the calendar year is as good a reason as any to start doing it.  If you’re thinking of one, do it the right way and give it some thought for a week or two before you really plan to start it.  There are a couple of things you can do to help achieve your goal; break it down into steps, reward yourself for completing each step, don’t panic and give up if you backtrack a little, and tell other people so that you have support in your goal.  There are a couple of things that I want to do in the coming year, and perhaps in a week or two when I’ve outlined everything better I’ll do a post about it here.

All that said, I hope that you enjoyed the new year however you decided to spend it’s arrival, I hope that you and all of your loved ones were safe after whatever partying they did last night, and I hope that you have something to look forward to in the coming year.

So much as I did last year, in a post with the exact same title, I leave you with an old Irish blessing, or proverb, or whatever you want to call it.  (Although I did look it up online and I found it worded differently than I had it last year, I think I like this version better.)

May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past.

Violence in Schools

This post is here as much for me as for anyone else who reads it.  I’ve had a few posts before where I’ve talked about school shootings, or mass murders in general in the USA, so it’s been a bit of a recurring theme on my blog.

Today while browsing through the Freshly Pressed posts on WordPress, I came across this post and it really intrigued me:

Circumstantially Newsworthy

This is a really interesting take on the entire issue of violence in schools and the level of violence in our country as a whole.

On a semi-related note, there’s something that I heard the other day that I’m going to relate to this, and it’s something else that bugs me.  I was talking with a friend about the movie coming out depicting Walt Disney’s life.  Apparently Walt was someone who constantly smoked, but there is some outcry that any movie showing someone smoking should automatically receive an R rating (hey, I even found an article on talking about it: Should Smoking Trigger an R Rating?)

So here’s my comment.  Smoking should automatically trigger an R rating, what about violence?  A quick check of a couple of James Bond movies shows that some of those were rated either PG-13 or just PG.  On top of that, how many TV shows depict murder on a daily basis, some of them going far enough to show the act of one person killing another.

There are no easy answers to the questions of how to deal with the problems we have in society.  But as the post I linked to illustrates clearly, the level of apathy that most of us have towards the problem means that it’s not going to change any time soon.

Literary vs Genre

I’m pretty sure that I’ve talked about this idea before on my blog.  And people who read genre fiction a lot have undoubtedly heard from one circle or other that they’re reading “lesser” books, in large part because Fantasy and Science Fiction novels don’t tend to win – or even be nominated for – major book awards such as the Nobel Prize or the Booker Prize*.  Going through the list of blogs I follow I came across a post by Larry Correia, a NYT bestselling author of several different books and series, where he is talking about an article within the NYT.

Larry’s Article

There are a couple of things that he says in his article that I’m going to bring up, but the entire article is entertaining, informative, and well worth reading.  The first thing that nobody who supports literary fiction above genre fiction wants to acknowledge is that all of the “classic” novels that are lauded as the high points of literature were the popular fiction of their day.  The reason that we still read them today is that they have stood the test of time and have shown that they are still worth reading.  It’s easy to look at the fiction of the past and say that it was all being written at a higher level than today, but that’s obviously not true, we’ve just had 50 or 100 or 200 years to wade through all the crap and let the cream rise to the top.  It’s the same with genre fiction today.  There is a lot of very good genre fiction being written today, but there is also a lot that is popular today that simply won’t stand the test of time.  Anyone who has read The Wheel of Time will probably agree with my saying that it will stand the test of time, because it’s an incredibly well written story.  I’ve said the same thing about the Harry Potter series, it’s a well written children’s/teen’s series that I think we’ll still be reading 100 years from now.  Will we still be reading Twilight 100 years from now?  Probably not.  (I have nothing against the Twilight series, and have never read them – nor do I intend to.  But I’ve heard a lot of people say that the writing is not at a very high level.  That said, Stephanie Meyer has made a ton of money from the series and I don’t begrudge her that at all.)

Also, as Larry mentions, many of the classics that the writer of the NYT article mentions had Fantasy elements, including Milton’s Paradise Lost, several of Shakespeare’s works, even older works such as the Iliad and the Odyssey.  But the difference is that they’ve been around for years and no one questions their legitimacy as works of art, and not just as pulp/genre fiction.

My last comments on this discussion refers to the ideas that Correia mentions when it comes to collegiate writing and English classes.  I’ve said before that I think the reason fewer and fewer people read today is because of the way that English is taught in schools.  If you take books that were written hundreds of years ago and try to cram them down a kid’s throat you’re going to scare them away from reading.  There were people in my college classes – and not just in freshmen level courses, but also in junior and senior level courses – who couldn’t read a sentence aloud without stopping and stuttering after every third or fourth word.

To immediately dismiss an entire section of a bookstore as crap just because it contains magic or hypothetical science is elitist and pompous garbage.  If you’re in any kind of a position of authority to determine what people are going to be reading, it’s not only elitist and pompous garbage, but also dangerous.

*A quick look through the Wikipedia lists for the Pulitzer Prize, Booker Prize, and Nobel Prize for Literature showed no authors that I know of who are definitively Science Fiction or Fantasy authors.  However, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (which won the Booker Prize in 2000) has a Science Fiction slant to it, as does The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood (which was nominated in 1986).  In addition, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2005 and I would definitely call that book Science Fiction, it’s subtle, but the premise of the world behind the story is a deep and interesting Science Fiction idea.

**Also, I have reviews on my Total Score page for several books by Correia, Atwood, and Ishiguro.  They are all skilled writers and I would suggest any of their books that I have reviewed for anyone to read.

D.C. Shooting

As I’m sure you’ve all heard by this point, there was a shooting near Washington D.C. that left 13 people – 12 victims and the gunman – dead this morning.  As sad as this is to say, I’m not terribly surprised that something like this has happened again.

Yes, I said again.  One of the first things that came to mind when I got home and heard my parents talking about this was something written in a blog post by author Dan Wells shortly after the Sandy Hook shootings late last year:

America has a mass murder about every six months, on average, which makes this one horrific and shocking but, sadly, right on schedule. Sometime in the next five to eight months we will have another.

So what does this show, that he was off a bit, we made it almost 9 months before this happened today.  Everything that Dan talked about in his post about Sandy Hook can be applied to this shooting as well.  Talking about how easy it is to blame the abundance of guns in our culture for everything.  Guns end up being the weapons used in the attacks, but a lack of guns wouldn’t necessarily prevent the attacks.

Already on there is an article about how the gunman had a “pattern of misconduct” throughout his life, and how he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the article also says that there were signs the shooter was unhappy, and that he had also had a history of anger management issues.  Much like in every other article about a shooter such as this, there are quotes from family and friends saying things like “we didn’t see it coming” or “I could never imagine him doing something like this.”

Maybe if we made it more acceptable in our society to admit that you need help, that you’re depressed, that you’re angry, that you don’t know what to do.  But no, we live in America, where only complete whack-jobs should ever even think about going to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist to talk about what’s bothering you.  Where we immediately dismiss anyone who isn’t perfectly normal as “crazy” or “a psycho” and talk about them as if they’re sub-human.

Are stricter gun laws the answer?  Maybe they’re part of it.  I think that a much larger part of it would be to make mental health care both more accessible and acceptable in our society.

Because the posts are worth reading again, here are the links to both Dan Wells’s post about Sandy Hook as well as his brother Rob Wells’s post about mental health, along with my original post about Sandy Hook.

Dan Wells post – Mental Health, Mass Murder, and So On

Rob Wells post – How Close are we to More Killings?

My Original Post – Sandy Hook and Mental Health

Nostalgia for a time I never knew

Nostalgia is a strange feeling.  It’s something that you don’t experience until you’re a little older in life, or at least I didn’t.  But it’s something that is really interesting to look at and try and figure out why you have that feeling.  As weird as the feeling can be all of the time, it’s even weirder when you feel nostalgic for a time you’re not even old enough to remember.

I just finished watching a documentary about Johnny Carson, who I was never able to see on The Tonight Show (he retired in 1992, when I was 8 years old).  I really don’t watch that much TV, and most of the time when I do watch it I walk away either irritated or bored.  But I think I would have loved to watch Carson.  From all of the clips that they showed from his show on the documentary, he was very funny of course, but he also seemed like he had a very relaxed persona.

One of the points they made in the documentary was that Carson was willing to let the guest shine, to simply take a back seat and to do everything in his power to help the other person be successful.  Thinking about it after watching the documentary, that’s something that you very rarely see anymore.  The only television personality who comes close to having that type of personality is probably Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s Daily Show.

If I had to sum up what Carson had – and what Stewart approaches – in a single word, it would simply be the word “Class.”  It’s something that doesn’t seem to exist anymore.  Everything has to be bigger than before, the jokes have to be faster, the explosions bigger, the personalities more in-your-face, and I think it’s a horrible thing.

All of these changes come from the fact that we live in a different media world than the one that Carson was in, even than the one that Stewart started in.  I’m a random guy living in Ohio posting this online and as soon as I hit publish everyone in the world will be able to read these words.  In many ways this is a good thing, communication is one of the greatest aspects of humanity, and we have never been more connected as a worldwide society than we are today.  But like everything in the world, it also has it’s negative aspects.  Because there is so much striving for our attention, the only way to get noticed is seemingly to be louder than than everyone else, and it will work for a little while, at least until someone else comes along with a louder message.  Any semblance of class gets lost as we struggle to find meaning in the noise.  Unfortunately though, it often seems like there is no meaning, just noise.

It also makes me think about how well certain things in the past might have been accepted had they premiered today.  As funny as he was, I don’t know if Carson’s personality could sell a TV show today, let alone make him an American icon.  I don’t know if a TV show like M*A*S*H would even be noticed today if it wasn’t more outlandish early on.

So where does the title of this post come from?  Well, if you didn’t do the math earlier where I said I was 8 years old when Carson retired, I’ll come out and say now that I’m 28 years old.  I started high school in 1999, the internet wasn’t huge then, but it was up and coming.  I don’t really remember a time when we weren’t mostly connected.  But everything that I read and watch about history makes me think I would have been more in place had I been born 20 years earlier.

I know that part of nostalgia is that over time the cream rises to the top and that we don’t think about things that were popular 20 years ago that haven’t stood the test of time.  But I also think that we’re bombarded with so much media on a daily basis that we aren’t leaving time to look back and sort through everything to see what was worth paying attention to.  I also know that I sound very curmudgeonly with this post, and that I’m really not old enough to be this cynical, but I do miss the allure of a time that I never knew.

(Quick side note, the documentary that I watched was titled “Johnny Carson: King of Late Night” and is available on Netflix.)

Apparently further than I thought

So last week I wrote a post talking about Jason Collins coming out as a homosexual athlete and I ended the post by saying that I didn’t think we had come terribly far.  But about a week after the announcement I’ve been surprised by the reaction of most people which has been a resounding “meh.”

The media outlets that I’ve seen (primarily ESPN and Sports Illustrated) that dealt with the issue made it seem like something that would be completely Earth-shattering and change all of our lives forever.  Yet a week later, it’s not being talked about at all.  So at this early juncture, I have to say that I’m really quite impressed with the general social outlook.

But there is another aspect to the story that’s begun to bother me more and more.  In reading some of the articles, I’ve seen the names of about 10-15 other former athletes who have been openly gay.  These range from baseball or basketball players in America to European football (soccer) players to a professional bowler.

So why is Jason Collins being lauded as a pioneer in the homosexual community – particularly in sports – when there are so many other people who have come out?  Not even counting athletes, there are quite a few actors and other celebrities who are openly gay.  Another thing that was mentioned in at least one article that I saw was the fact that it’s – expected is the wrong word – more accepted when a female athlete comes out as being gay.

So to sum up my thoughts, we’ve come a lot farther than I originally thought we would, but I’m still a little confused with exactly where we stand as a society on the issue.  I’m still of the opinion that it doesn’t matter and shouldn’t even be an issue that we’re discussing.