Saturday, October 27, 2018

Football Counter-Programming 2018: Week 9 Bye-Week

Every football season has one. And so even Football Counter-Programming must take a week off each season. Sometimes I've got other stuff to do. Sometimes I'm just not feeling it.

Which is it this year?

It doesn't matter.

Just let the sense of mystery build within you so that you are ready and waiting next week when I resume distracting you from the waste of time that is college football.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Football Counter-Programming 2018: Week 8

Here are some things that you may already know about me.

First--two of my favorite characters on the great TV show, LOST, were the one-and-done side characters Nikki and Paulo.

Second--my favorite titles in the Chronicles of Narnia series is The Magicians Nephew.

(If you don't happen to know what these stories are about, please follow the provided links and learn more.)

From these facts, you may then be able to deduce that I enjoy seeing familiar stories from a new angle, sometimes retold with a different perspective. An attempt to broaden the narrative in new, creative, and exciting ways.

I am a committed counter-programmer after all--trying to fight against the accepted hegemony of weekend college football on each and every Saturday.

This is all preamble to give you background to what I am going to explain now . . .

A week ago I was surfing Facebook and saw a Young Adult novel title generator meme on one of my friend's Fb feeds (shout out to you Nancy). You used the first letter of your last name, the month and day you were born to randomly select three phrases. These phrases are the title of the YA novel you should write. After I plugged in the information, I got FRENCH KISSES, ASSASSINS, AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS.

Now, I don't have to explain to you what an excellent title for a YA novel that is. It has single-handedly motivated me to seriously consider writing this manuscript in ways that few other things in my recent adult life have done. But it has also reawakened in me an idea that I once had . . . to a.) either pair up with a teen and cowrite alternate chapters from teen and adult perspectives or b.) to write a YA novel from a parent's POV.

Admittedly, I haven't spent any time yet investigating whether or not these ideas already exist in accomplished form. But even if they do, that doesn't mean that I shouldn't do it anyway.

The first option was born sometime after I read David Levithan and John Green's co-written novel Will Grayson/Wil Grayson. Levithan and Green alternative chapters of this novel, telling the stories of two different young men with similar names. I originally wanted to partner with Sarah--back when she still talked about being an author. But I don't know if that is a viable option any longer. Grace is already quite busy with her own high school career. And I don't think I can wait for Hannah's writing skill to round out enough. So, I could either hire some other teen to work with me (not nearly as much fun as working with family) or go on to option b.).

Option B is like telling Harry Potter's tale from the perspective of Mr. Weasley. He is definitely not involved in every crucial moment, but he is close enough to the action to draw you into it when you need some jolt of familiar plot drama. But he is close enough to the action to know what is happening to the others around him without things becoming deadly boring and pointless. And it definitely provides a compelling point of view, right?

To be clear, I am not talking about writing fan fiction of an existing novel. I am not writing The Fault in Her Stars--as seen from the perspective of Hazel Grace's father. I'm talking about creating a whole new YA sub-genre, where the fans of the books can experience the familiar (or slightly familiar) beats of the books they love to read, but with a new outlook. Would they want to read those stories? I have no clue. That is up to the publishing company to figure out.

All I've got to do is find a way to start writing.

But I know I can't begin until after this season of college football is over. But I can't let you forget the following . . .

No matter how much you might imagine the deep inner life of the starting right guard on your alma mater's offensive line, you can never account for the fact that he probably just wants to play Fortnite and each Cheetos. Because . . . don't we all?

Until next week, just be honest with yourself and with each other. And the world will start to be a better place.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Football Counter-Programming 2018: Week 7

I don't know what to write about this week. So I am afraid that you are slipping into bad habits and settling down to spend several hours watching college football. That fear is intensified by the fact that --here in Ohio, at least--the autumn gloom has finally started to set in. The day's light is gray, the clouds envelop the sky, and the ground is wet from yesterday night's persistent rain. Ah . . . the midwest in October!

Some of you, I know, are busy recovering from the effects of Hurricane Michael. You're first and foremost counting your blessings. But you're also counting the limbs strewn about your yards. And you're finding chainsaws to dispose of downed trees. You are taking stock, helping others, and--in some cases--waiting for power, boiling water, and assessing your food situation.

Luckily, no one I know personally is also facing the loss of a loved one. And that makes me thankful indeed.

All to say that some of you are doing anything BUT worrying about the pointless travails of college football. So, please know that I am not talking directly to you, but I am thinking of you just the same.

Now . . . as for the rest of you! 

You are most likely not facing the grimness of a midwestern day. You are most definitely not recovering from more severe weather events. And so, I ask you . . . what are YOU doing instead of watching college football?

As for me, I spent my time in the shower this morning dreaming up a post I could write today. But to do it well, I would need to spend more time than I am doing now, just dashing off some stream-of-consciousness thing to fill the space. (And, that probably means that I won't do it next week either. Because I won't build in the time necessary to write what I am imagining effectively. And because, when I am done with this post, I won't try to type some notes capturing the phrases that I had in my head only minutes before. And so, as always, this blog serves as a record of missed opportunities and paths not taken.

What are the missed opportunities in your life? What might you have done but chose not to do? What versions of yourself are living other lifestyles in multiple alternative universes that you will never discover?

Maybe today, my challenge to you . . . instead of watching college football . . . is to sit down and make a list of five or six moments in your past that you could have made a different choice. Was it a friendship missed or a relationship dissolved? Was it a college not attended or a subject not studied? Was it a job left hanging?

Write down these moments. Then consider what they could have led to in your life. Is there someone you should catch up with?  Is there some hobby you should commit more time to--an acknowledgment of a part interest that you think is impractical? Is there a source of happiness that you could resurrect in your life today, based on something you might have done before?

Look at your list. Jot down some notes. Consider what might be different.

And, also, please don't forget that your starting center on the offensive line had his own opportunity to take a scholarship at your rival opponent's school. Everything might be different for him and for you. So, don't take it all so personally, okay?

Until next week . . . 

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Football Counter-Programming 2018: Week 6

Welcome everyone to another week of Football Counter-Programming. This, as always, is my personal attempt to distract you from college football on Saturday. How is it going for you so far this season? How many games have you missed? What have you done in place of slavishly sinking into the hegemony of semi-professional non-professional athletics?

Last week I kept my day away from football by being outside almost exclusively, assisting at Grace's first marching band competition in Lebanon, Ohio. And this Saturday it is more of the same. This weekend's competition is closer to Kentucky and the performance time is closer to midday than evening. So, we depart much earlier in the morning and drive longer. But we will get back home before Sunday begins.

Andbutso . . . what shall I talk about this week? Well, I'm going to repurpose someone else's content today. (When do I not do that, I guess?)

Several months ago, I was toiling through some sort of work-related spreadsheet and listening to podcasts--one of which is John Green's super twee podcast that seems an auditory spiritual cousin to Charles Kuralt's original CBS Sunday Morning show.

And during this particular episode, John  describing how John and his Chicago (post-college) roommates were watching CNN in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. One of John's roommates (Hassan) had family living in Kuwait and Hassan had not heard from them.

"So one evening just after the U.S.-led forces had entered Baghdad, we were all watching the news on the couch together. New footage was being broadcast from the city and we watched as a cameraman panned across a home with a huge hole in one of its walls--that was mostly covered by a piece of plywood.
There was angry-looking Arabic grafitti scrawled in black spray paint on the plywood and the reporter on the news was talking about the anger in the street and the hatred. And Hassan started to laugh.
I asked him what was so funny and he said: "The graffiti." And I said "What's funny about it?" And he said "It says 'Happy birthday sir, despite the circumstances.'"
On a minute-by-minute basis, it's really hard for any of us to consider the Happy Birthday Sir, Despite the Circumstances possibility. We project our expectations and fears and etcetera on everyone and everything we encounter. We believe that what we believe to be true must be true because we believe it. We imagine lives that feel distant from ours monolithically. We oversimplify. And we forget that everyone has birthdays. . . . 
[W]hen we can't read what's on the plywood, but still think we know what it says, we're spreading ignorance and bigotry. Not peace and friendship."

[transcribed from Episode 7 of John Green's podcast "The Anthropocene Reviewed" beginning at time stamp 16:55]

I started formulating this idea as a draft several months ago and that is when I was struck by these words. I think the sentiment is a helpful one to consider no matter when you happen to read this post or under what circumstances this post comes to you.

May we each try a little harder to remember that everyone--even the place kicker who is trying really hard to beat your alma mater this weekend--has a birthday.

And from that realization, let us try to see a bit more of ourselves in each person we encounter--whether it happens to be their birthday that day or not.

See you next week!