Saturday, November 29, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #13

Welcome to another week of Football Counter-Programming. This week I"ve got to fight for your attention as many significant rivalry games are competing for your eye-holes. So I'll try to make you divert your gaze over here with this bit of news.

Q: So it looks like they’ve recorded yet another version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas”, and guess who’s back? Yep, it’s your old pal Bono at it again.

He’s even singing your favorite line — wait a minute. They changed the lyric! Instead of “Well tonight thank God it’s them, instead of youuuuuuuuuuu,” it’s “Well tonight we’re reaching out, and toooooouuuuching youuuuuuu.’ I’m still not sure if that makes any sense, but they went and messed up the best/worst thing about that song. How does it make you feel?
—Jon, Bellevue

BS: I feel like someone just tried to repaint the Mona Lisa. That’s how I feel. You can’t even consider remaking the greatest holiday song ever without every A-list voice from this generation — and even then, you’d never consider it if it wasn’t for a good cause. But for Bono to come back to THAT? And THAT lyric? Oh my God. Why not just rerelease the greatest holiday song ever with everyone resinging their parts? I’m so bitter. I’d be madder about this if Bono didn’t just get injured in a cycling accident. Get better, Bono.

So, yeah, there is that.
But really, I;m here to 'not talk about this week's version of The Game. And this week, The Game is tOSU versus Michigan.

But I'm not here to talk about that game--mostly because that is counter to what this counter-programming is all about and also because the game is over before I ever had a chance to write any of this, so if you care, you already know everything that you need to know.

Instead of watching any football or blogging earlier in the day, I took Grace to watch The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. And it was a sad tale, to be sure.

But it related to The Game in the sense that it does a pretty good job--as the book did before it--of making the viewer struggle with the notion that modern war is sometimes and in part fought in the media and that it can be treated as a sort of game by those insulated from the actual experience of the fighting. And that is too bad. Because war of any kind should not be treated as anything less than the most serious of decisions. And we should not trivialize it or minimize its damaging effects.

And that also relates to how we use the word war in our discourse, which is often so flippant and sarcastic in its tone. We equate actual war with football, with political disagreements, with many other much more trivial things. And that is a disservice to the people that have actually experienced warfare.

Lest we forget that in our country, we are so distanced from the wars that we drag out nation into. And so few of us every have to pay any price at all for that choice. And lest we forget that real wars and severe hardships are happening all around the world all the time and we know nothing about it and we rarely spend any time acknowledging it.

Instead we make fun of the one line in the song designed to reach out and help the people who are in trouble.

So, maybe I need to resolve to be more sincere and to remember as this year ends that there are people across this country who are suffering. May I find the time and the resources and the desire to make their lives a bit better every chance I get. And may I remember that people I will never meet are always struggling to make their own lives better. May I remember them and find paths to reach out  to them with the many blessings and resources that I may take for granted.

I live in a wonderful world. May I take some of my own wonder and hand it off to someone else.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #12

This weekend I'm traveling in Boston so I'm not gonna be able to post a regular Football Counter-Programming post today. But never fear. Everybody here in Boston knows that the only thing worth talking about is The Game. 

You Midwesterners may think that The Game is Ohio State versus Michigan but here in the northeast, and to many other people, The Game is the annual fight between Harvard and Yale.

So, to honor that, today as I try to ignore another regions football experience, I'm going to illustrate this travel-shortened post with something that is a little bit related to The Game and a little bit within the illustration ethos of my Football Counter-Programming series. 

We'll see you next week . . . and remember--nobody cares if your team wins.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #11

Today's Football Counter-Programming is (non-intuitively) actually about football.

Well, it's specifically about Big Ten football rivalries, so some of you might argue that it is only football-ish.

Anyway, before the last decade or so ruined all of our lives with Alabama and Auburn and SEC, SEC, SEC hegemony, the Big Ten was the bastion of footballness. It was Midwestern and it was the keeper of sacred tradition.

And fewer things illustrate that better than the Big Ten rivalries that are tied to Trophies. If you aren't familiar with these things-as I wasn't before I moved up here, most Big Ten (or as we must now call them, B1G rivalries are centered around which winning team gets to lay claim to some object or trophy or (frankly) made up thing that is the central totem upon which hatreds are laid year after year.

The best things about these rivalries is that many, if not most of them stretch back for more than a century now. And these trophies were devised in frontier times or in days when radio was the most exciting thing that anyone had ever thought to experience. And so it made perfect sense to devise a sporting contest around who would get to hoist the Old Oaken Bucket over the recently vanquished team while basking in gridiron glory. (The Old Oaken Bucket, by the way, is the rivalry trophy between Purdue and Indiana.)

Other examples? Well, there is the Old Brass Spittoon that focuses the rivalry between Indiana and Michigan State. And the Little Brown Jug that is the goal of the game between Minnesota and Michigan.

But one of my favorites is the Illibuck--a trophy featuring a mythical creature that is the focal point of the Illinois/Ohio State game. What is an Illibuck? The trophy is a wooden turtle, but it was once an actual turtle.(Can you imagine handing over the care of a live turtle to a bunch of rowdy college football players year after year? I know that turtles are hearty creatures that are long-lived, but I wonder how much continuity there was between one year and the next. How many turtles survived on a yearly basis?) And according to my (brief) research, this Illinois/Ohio State rivalry also used to feature the smoking of a peace pipe as part of the pregame ceremonies?!!! (Can you imagine how such things might be viewed now? Traditions are good, but it is also good to know when traditions needs to be modified.)

Surprisingly, one of the oldest, most storied rivalries in the B1G has no trophy associated with it. The Ohio State/Michigan game is hyped every year, regardless of the relative strengths of the two teams meeting for that contest. And there is no trophy as stake--which is even more surprising in that this is also a border contest. Both teams have terrible songs to sing about the other (such as Ohio State's "We Don't Give a Damn for the Whole State of Michigan".) And, even more recent--and maybe most infamously, given the Terrelle Pryor debacle, there are the Gold Pants which are given to tOSU teams that best the Michiganders.

But, don't forget that even century old traditions have room for expansion. As the conferences change and grow, traditions change and grow as well. When the B1G added Maryland and Rutgers recently, not to mention adding Nebraska prior to that, the opportunity for new hatred appeared.

But how do you create traditions like the Floyd of Rosedale when you have only been blood rivals for three years? And within what vessel do you pour all of your bile and your despair?

These were the issues considered when Nebraska and Wisconsin decided to inaugurate their new conference rivalry. Even though they first played back in 1891, they were not part of the same conferences for almost all of that time and so rivalries are diluted and not as intense. But now . . . now they are regular combatants. And to celebrate that disdain, they have created the FREEDOM TROPHY!

Yes, in this new era, new trophies are forged. But is this the best totem? Might it not have been better for Nebraska and Wisconsin to fight over the CheeseHusker--which is maybe a trophy in the shape of cheddar flavored popcorn? Or maybe they could have fought over the Internet Dial Up Modem? This would simultaneously give the appearance of battling to win a hoary old thing, while also reminding us of the cyberspace world within which we live? No matter what, I think we can agree that the Freedom Trophy is exactly what we would expect to come out of a focus-group session on creating some new rivalry trophy.

The Illibuck is NOT impressed.


Saturday, November 08, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #10

If they are still playing with the ole pigskin, then I'm still writing something to keep your mind off of football and keep you from noticing how pathetic the Big Ten actually is. (But I'm sure you are already quite aware how pathetic the Big Ten is. You've got ears and a television, don't you?)

Anyway, here is this week's edition of Football Counter-Programming!

Today's topic . . . clothing.

If you have followed this blog now and then over the years, you know that I sometimes write about my clothes, the history behind them, maybe a story or two. I call it The Clothing Project.

And so today I am wondering what do clothes mean to you? Are they simply something you put on to cover yourself and keep you warm? Do you look for clothes that are cheapest and utilitarian? Or must you have the recognizable name brands and align yourself in some way with what those clothes "say"about yourself or others who wear them.

I have been all of these things at various times, and I suspect that you have as well. Defining oneself through our outerwear is one of the easiest and fastest ways to create an identify and to find others who seem to have that same sort of personal view. I know that I did this kind of thing a lot in high school and (to some degree) in college as well. Back in high school, I wanted to have the Coca-Cola rugby shirts and the right sort of shoes. I wanted a Members Only jacket or later a band letter man jacket. And in college I wanted to right sort of t-shirt, concert shirt, stupid-looking woven poncho, or other kind of nonsensical flannel shirt to look like I really enjoyed Nirvana all the time.

I had boxer shorts when those were popular. Now I wear a variety of thematic t-shirts that place me in the subset of the culture that I wish to identify with most strongly. And now I work in a Doctor Who-inspired bow tie from time to time.

In fact, thought, there was a time when I shifted my routine a bit. I once tried to move away from a reliance upon t-shirts and wanted to wear more buttoned shirts and polo shirts. And that held for a good few years. But even within that effort I had specific likes and dislikes. I didn't (and still don't) like to have polo and dress shirts that have brands and logos emblazoned on them. (I save that sort of obviousness for my t-shirt collection.) And I tend to like solid colors in my polo shirts and I'm cautious about how dynamic my dress shirt patterns get. I'd rather the tie carry the emphasis. BUT I don't want buttoned shirts to be purely plain either.

When I did wear lots of boxer shorts, I rather enjoyed brash patterns and bright colors. Not that anyone was enjoying that--unless they did my laundry. Heck . . . once upon a time I wore argyle socks all the time (especially in high school). But I don't do that at all anymore.

It is absolutely true that I still use clothes to define and align myself. And I'm not even subtle about it. What about you?

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Football Counter-Programming #9

This may start out kinda deep in today's Football Counter-Programming. But don't worry. It won't stay that way for long.

I have to stay here. This is my homeland. I have no where else to go.

 I heard a Crimean say this on the radio Tuesday morning, describing his desire to avoid being forced into Russian citizenship and his desire to live in his ancestral homeland and for the Ukraine to become independent again someday.

Hearing this made me think about my own life--so much nicer than his. And I thought that I don't have that strong a sense of place. I don't have such an overwhelming desire to maintain historic roots. This is clear, because I left my home(land) and show no sign of preparing to go back. Certainly I am not moving heaven and earth to go back to it. And it's not just the politics of the situation either. If a foreign nation, like say Mexico, took over Georgia next month, I would be EVEN LESS inclined to move my family back into that mess. (Though I hope I would try to provide a refuge for my family members living down there who wanted to try and get out.)

So, is this "lack of place" a failing of mine? Or am I reflecting the privilege of my economic status and my national freedoms? Because I have the opportunity and the luxury and the freedom to go wherever I can manage to go, do I have no urgency to be anywhere in particular?

Do I simply care more about me and what is happening to me now than I care about where I have been and what brought me to this place and this time? And if that is true . . . is that a personality flaw?

What do you think? Are you drawn to a certain place? Do you feel less than yourself in a new environment or do you make adjustments and settle easily anywhere? Am I missing out on a fundamental part of my heritage? Leave me scathing--but honest--opinions in the comments below.

Maybe I don't have an answer to these questions. But I do have some connections to the past, as evidenced by this item that I found today.

I was helping Lynda in the basement this morning, sorting through old saved kids clothes, looking for some new (old) seasonal stuff for Hannah.

And lo and behold, look at what I found! The Boaz onesie that my coworkers gave me when Hannah was born!

Certainly it is one of the weirdest kid gifts you may ever see--it features fluorescent pink wording of one of the Old Testament's most famous people. And of course, it is accompanied by everyone's favorite lettuce-eater, the gentle manatee. Sadly none of my kids are small enough to fit into it anymore. It should have been a cherished heirloom that would have been proudly handed down from generation to generation. But now it is a flash-in-the-pan oddity that future generations can't hope to understand.