Even Toast Has a Purpose

I enjoy writing. Honestly, I do. There is just something a bit cathartic to me about looking at life via my warped perspective and sharing it with the world. Admittedly, I also feel blessed when family, friends, or (on occasion) other bloggers/writers tell me that my writing is funny or that they can somehow relate to what I have written. My mother was an avid reader. She also, in her later years, wrote short essays as a form of pleasure (and perhaps also a bit of catharsis*). If there is anything I regret about my writing, it is that I did not begin doing so while my mother was still here on this Earth. That’s OK, though. I find a lot of my mom’s writing style in my stuff. So, if you find that some of my writing to be poignant** or insightful, the compliment does not belong to me at all. One only needs to give credit where it is due and say “Nice work, Norma Jean”.

Unfortunately, I am often quick to post my essays before properly proofreading them. This results in some overlooked misspellings or incomplete phrases that I have to correct in an essay that has already been posted for the whole world to see. Given that unfortunate trend, I try to have my younger daughter, Brianna, proofread my pieces before I post them. She is typically very accommodating about this. However, there are several comments that I hear from Brianna over and over again:

  • “Dad, why do you always use such big words when you write? I feel like I always have to ask you what something means and you just tell me to ‘Look it up'”.
  • “Dad, your writing is so dry. It’s like toast. You just ramble on and on about whatever random topic pops into your head.”
  • “Dad, why you use so many bulleted lists in your writing?”

Imagine my surprise when, one day, my baby girl approached me with that puppy dog look in her eyes. That is a look that always indicates that she needs something from Daddy. Apparently, she had a writing assignment for a college English class. Even more strangely ironic, she felt that I was an appropriate person to assist her in this task. I could help but feel my mother pointing something out to me as if she were right there in the room. You can go to any greasy spoon diner in the world and order breakfast. As you enjoy your meal, remember this: even toast has a purpose. Also note below are two words that you won’t have to look up their definitions.

* Catharsis -a: purification or purgation of the emotions (as pity and fear) primarily through art b: a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/catharsis)

** Poignant – a: pleasurably stimulating b: being to the point. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poignant)

Curling Up to the Olympics

I’ll be honest here; I’m not much of an athlete. Actually, to be truly frank, I’m barely qualified to be an armchair athlete. Like many red-blooded American men, I enjoy living vicariously through somebody else doing all the athletic work. I was thrilled to see the New Orleans Saints win their first Super Bowl. I have even experienced the thrill of seeing my beloved Atlanta Braves play at Turner Field. I have even taken my kids to see our local minor league baseball team (Rochester Redwings).

On top of all those great aforementioned experiences, I would be remiss if I did not speak of the Mardi Gras of sporting events; the grand-daddy of them all — The Olympics. This is the great armchair event to which our eyes, hearts, and spirited are treated every four years. Well actually, it’s every two years. You see, you get the Summer Olympics then you get the Winter Olympics two years later. Two years later, it’s the Summer Olympics again etc. This writing takes place in 2010. Therefore, I get to watch the Winter Olympic Games which are hosted in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I get to experience watching such great medalists as Apolo Ohno, Johnny Spillane, and Bode Miller. My blood pumps and my adrenaline flows at the thrill of watching the biathlon, the luge, and (wait for it) curling.

For the unlearned, curling is not an Olympic sport for cosmetologists. It is not even a form of weightlifting. Curling takes place on a flat sheet of ice. One player slides a big rock on the sheet of ice toward the center of a bull’s eye target. While this rock (actually called a stone) is sliding toward the target, two other players, each holding a broom (Honest, it’s a broom) sweep the ice ahead of the stone’s path in an effort to guide it toward the center target. These athletic sweepers can even guide the stone to knock their opponent’s stone away from the center target. By the way, did I mention that this is an Olympic sport that has many countries competing for a medal? If I had known I could rise to THAT kind of greatness, I would have been quicker to clean my room as a kid. I could have stopped my parent’s nagging and trained for the Olympics simultaneously.

As I sit and watch this sport (so deemed by the International Olympic Committee), my mind is full of questions:

  • Why is it called curling in the first place? It’s bad enough we have athletes with brooms. Couldn’t they have called it something like Nordic Rock Ice Sliding or Highland Floor Darts?
  • Are there kids somewhere with a poster of a curling team on their walls? Are their curling trading cards? Is there some kid trying to negotiate a trade for a 1976 Gery Kleffman (which will probably cost a 1981 Jürg Tanner and a 1979 Morten Sørum)?
  • Are there endorsement deals for curling athlete? Is there a box of cereal somewhere bearing the likeness of a curling champion with a wide grin and thumbs up pose?
  • I noticed the player wearing protective eyewear. WHY? Forgive my ignorance but it’s not exactly a contact sport.
  • What happens in the off season for curlers (is it OK to call them that?)? Do they audition for a role in “Stomp”?

I don’t know if any of these questions will be answered. I may have to just sit and enjoy in silent ignorance. After all, it will all be over soon for another four years (or is it two?). I’d like to take a moment and apologize if I have unintentionally maligned or offended any curlers (that is hard to say with a straight face). May you all play your best and sweep your competition (Did you really think I was going to let that one get by?).

And Now, A Word From (insert product here)

    I have written about media entertainment (in one form or another) on occasion. I have spoken about reality shows, soap operas, and classic songs. I have rattled on about my dependence upon my laptop (which is currently in the shop). I have spoken about how my portable media player acts as my own soundtrack. Even as I type this, “Green Onions” is playing in the background. I have sometimes even silently wondered how my life would sound as a movie trailer. You know, those cool trailers where Don LaFontaine describes something really cool and it ends in some kind of O. Henry ironic twist: “In a world where a man is seated at the table by his beautiful wife. She stands in a beautiful red dress and serves him the best homemade lasagna known to mankind. She kisses him lovingly on the lips. Life SEEMS wonderful. Sadly, [sound of vinyl record abruptly skipping], he can’t get the seal off the romano cheese. [man screams] NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Anyway, I digress.

    It is no big secret to anyone that knows me that I love classic television and radio shows. I have enjoyed many shows that take me into an alternate reality (“Alien Nation”), allow me to witness a top-notch cop solving a case (“Dragnet”), or make me laugh and cry at the same time (the 6 O’ Clock news). However, there is a sub-genre of entertainment in television in radio that people tend to dismiss, ignore, or tune out. That’s right, folks. I am talking about commercials. 
    I have heard many people go on and on about how much they despise commercials. My wife typically holds the television remote in her hands with her right thumb literally hovering over the buttons. If it is a show that was recorded on our DVR, she fast forwards through the commercials with the speed and execution of an Olympic fencer. If it is a live show, she will switch to another channel. There have been many nights throughout our marriage where I have missed 10 minutes of three different shows due to her incessant commercial dodging. I admit to savage amusement when she changes to several different channels and they are all airing a commercial. It’s even better for me if more than one of them is airing the SAME commercial.
    For the most part, I am on the other side of the fence from my wife. I love watching commercials. I think part of it is due to one fact that is as old as television and radio themselves. Television and radio shows would not exist without corporate sponsorship. No commercial, no show. In the early years of television, this was very transparent. Most TV and radio legends such as Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Abbott and Costello starred in shows that were named after their shows sponsor. Commercials were incorporated into the script. To a point, such product placement still exists. 
    Nonetheless, commercials for me have the same effect sometimes as full length shows. Commercials have shown how we have changed (for better or for worse) as a nation. Personally, I am grateful for the fact that we no longer see celebrities advertise tobacco products. On the other hand, we still see people describe embarrassing medical conditions to their friends in a public restaurant. Personally, if I go out to eat with a friend and he happens to have anti-diarrheal medication handy, I question his taste in restaurants. Some commercials entertain me due to their placement. I personally think a conspiracy is afoot whenever I see a commercial for diamonds during a sporting event. Sometimes, I get to see an advertisement for prescription medication followed by an advertisement for a lawyer willing to take your case if you actually take this medication.
    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the icons commercials give us that we all take for granted. People are prompted to buy car insurance because a) a caveman tells us NOT to buy it or b) a hyper-caffeinated woman wearing too much makeup is willing to guide us through the process. Exotic animals urge us to buy breakfast cereals, snack foods, and the same car insurance provoking a caveman hissy fit. We even, on occasion, see a diaphanous, scantily clad model advertising a triple bacon cheeseburger (I don’t know about you, but I am hungry all of a sudden).
    Today, on the day of this writing, we get to witness the event that brings the best commercials have to offer: the Super Bowl. My wife is not even allowed to hold the remote during the Super Bowl. Man, there have been some great ones to debut during the Super Bowl.I still get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I think of the commercial with “Mean” Joe Green throwing a kid his jersey. The kid got the thrill of his life during that moment and you can see it in his eyes. These days, that same kid would auction the uniform to the highest web bidder. But hey, that’s free enterprise. He could probably get that stock trading baby to help him invest the proceeds of the sale.