Saturday, September 28, 2019

Football Counter-Programming 2019: Week 6

Welcome back everyone to another post in this year's Football Counter-Programming effort.

Last week, I sat down to write and I was 100 percent convinced that I would have no idea what to write and then stuff just starting coming out and I decided to go ahead with it and call it a thing. But this week, I really am sitting down to write and nothing is coming to mind.

You see--and I do this sometimes because of reasons--I often try to pre-plan and pre-write these posts before Saturday morning. Especially when times like this weekend arise: where I am busy all of Friday night helping out Grace's marching band at an away football game performance and then immediately helping out again on Saturday with a marching band competition. When I'm working all week, I just don't often have the mental energy to sit down and start coming up with some hare-brained idea for an FC-P before Saturday morning rolls around. And so, I always have the "bye week" looming in my mind . . . wondering which is the best week to pull the trigger on that and just back out for a week.

I sat down last week, determined not to use the bye week. I was just going to sketch out something short and try to call it intentionally vague. But then I quickly wrote some mental dialogue that I liked more than expected and felt that it was good enough.

What constitutes good enough anyway?

I'd love to know what the public reaction to these posts are. I don't expect much feedback, sure. But I wish I could crawl inside your heads and track what is good and what is bad when you read these things. And isn't that the dilemma of all writers? (And, sorry if I am casually throwing myself into that category that I definitely didn't earn.) Since I left school and quit getting grades on essays and reports--INTERRPUTED BY DAUGHTER TO GO TAKE AN AFTERNOON WALK--

. . .  Sorry.

Um, well. As I was saying. When I left school and quit getting grades on essays and reports, I lost the direct feedback from readers to gauge how I was doing with my writing. Not that these writing assignments were creative in nature--or at least not directly. I guess all decent writing should involve creativity, a clever turn of phrase where appropriate, clear thinking and useful ideas.

Not that my blogging really reflects that.

But ANYWAY--I do welcome responses: both good and bad. Truly. Without that I'm just tossing junk into the social media void and confirming in myself that no one at all wants or cares that I keep pounding these things out week after week and year beyond year. It's not like I'm truly changing your mind about college football. It's only an excuse to write something and maybe, maybe, maybe stumble into something good every once in a great while.

Maybe I'll shift to rapid-fire poetry.

If there is one thing I'm sure is a good idea is quickly sketched poetic ideas with very little time for reflection or honing.

Well--I guess that feels like the end of this drafting session. How many football plays happened in the second quarter while you were skimming this? Or did you save it for a commercial break? However you chose to consume it, I thank you for sharing some time with me.

And remember, once more. For all YOU know, the third-string defensive end of your famous alma mater just might love performing slam poetry in the too-old restaurant that some of the professors (you know which ones) still dream about hanging out in when they were younger and trying for tenure. Football players are (certainly) large. And they are allowed to also contain multitudes.

See you next weekend?

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Football Counter-Programming 2019: Week 5

Good day everyone. Welcome once again to another (if tragically brief and entirely unprepared) installment of Football Counter-Programming.

To recap for all of the new people that are undoubtedly surging to this post after the several weeks of triumphant posts so far . . . every week during the college football season I sit down and try to think up ways to divert your attention from the mindless cultural practice that is Saturday college football.

Now, I can't come to your house and offer to play Jenga with you.

And I don't have enough money to buy everyone a ticket to Brad Pitt's new spaceman movie Ad Astra.

But what I can do is use my considerable powers of imagination and writing skill to persuade you with my words. I can spin a tale so beguiling that you find yourself shifting your eyeballs from whatever meaningless 2nd down and 8 to go scenario that your alma mater finds itself facing against Directional Tech (who happens to be winless in the conference and is no real threat to your playoff chances anyway).

Instead you are falling under my spell of story and song.

You find yourself reading through this post and then being so excited by what you've experienced that you click backward through Why Won't You Grow?! and you read the previous month of Football Counter-Programming for 2019.

And it is all so delightful that you decide to go ahead and forgo the plans you had made to grab a quick Saturday lunch at the neighborhood sandwich shop--you know that place that has the delicious garlicky spread?. You figured that you could swing by there during the halftime break--They never show the marching bands anyway--You'd pop in real quick and grab a sandwich and maybe a beer.

 . . . Unless you want to drive back home to eat it, in which case maybe you'll cool it on the beer and see if there are any extras in the basement refrigerator. But you'll definitely be able to drive there, get your sandwich and maybe a drink, then get back home before the start of the third quarter. 

(But you really wish that this local sandwich shop that you love so much took call-in orders because then you could put in your order as you were pulling out of the driveway on your hand-free cell phone -in-car-hook-up and by the time you got there it would be freshly made and ready to go. Ain't technology cool? What a world we live in?! But also . . . speaking of technology . . . maybe this sandwich place is on DoorDash? or Uber Eats? or one of those food delivery things that your kids use?

Is that likely though? I mean, this is not a franchise shop. That is partly what makes their sandwiches so good anyway. Fresh ingredients. They know the locals. They have proven over the last five years that they can make it work in the difficult restaurant business. Not that you know what running a restaurant is like. But your sister-in-law did it. And your best friends cousin also runs a small business dry cleaners, and she is always saying how hard it is to make these types of things work. Not that you have any analogous work experience of your own with regard to that. Even since you were a high-schooler you've somehow always worked for some component of a corporate-type business. Funny huh? Maybe that is why America seems so distant and less personable than everyone on TV swears it used to be--not that you really believe that was ever true anyway.

Andbutso . . . sandwiches! Stay focused or you are going to miss that halftime window!)

So, yeah I guess I can afford to take that time and call in a sandwich--and NOT use that expensive food delivery nonsense--and I'll go and pick it up and be back by the third quarter. And then maybe--well this game isn't very interesting anyway.

Maybe I'll knock off the stupid football watching and keep reading these interesting blog posts. This dummy has been writing them for . . . [clicks around] . . . over FIVE YEARS?! 

Wow. There's gotta be something interesting in at least one of these, right? I'll just search through the archives over there and read some more and that'll probably be more interesting than watching Directional Tech punt another five times.


So, well, maybe that wasn't so short after all.

I hope you enjoyed that bit of unconscious stuff and were similarly inspired to look around and avoid some football. Trust me when I tell you that Directional Tech's head coach STILL makes more money than you do--and he can't even find a reliable left tackle.

See you next week with whatever I think of then.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Football Counter-Programming 2019: Week 4

Welcome back my friends to another week of Football Counter-Programming. It's that time of year where I take to the blog-o-sphere to combat the power of college athletics--specifically football. I want to give you a small island of difference in the Saturday stream of football-related posts on Facebook and Twitter. I want you to see my tiny line in the digital sand and stop for a moment, rest your eyes, turn ON your brain, and think about something more than first down, the skewed power dynamic of NCAA athletics, and the old gridiron.

How's it been going so far? Are you completely invested in your alma mater's pigskin prowess once again? Does your team have a winning record? Are they even done beating up on sub-standard opponents from Podunk U and Wasamatta Tech? When are they finally going to dig in and play an honest-to-God opponent?!

Well, who cares?! That isn't what we talk about here!

Let's shift topics entirely.


What strategies do you employ to break out of boredom? When you find yourself in a routine that is sapping your energy rather than giving you comfort? How do you face it and try to change it? Do you attempt a large scale change that really rocks the boat and throws everything out in a big, scrambled mess? Or do you make small adjustments that subtly shift you toward a new direction?

Or do you face challenges that are more significant than boredom? Are you actually facing a crisis in your life? Bad job? No job? Inadequate health care? Unreliable childcare? Other? Do you have strategies for tackling these problems? Are their government services that help you? Or are private organizations the better way for you to find solutions? Do you have problems with these aids due to bureaucratic confusion or is it a time commitment issue? Both?

Can you talk to family or friends about these problems? Or do you feel alone with nowhere to go? Do you feel that there is a social safety net in place? Or do you think that society pushes us further apart and you have no connections around you to lift you up when you need help?


(I don't know where a lot of that came from. I started typing and then tried to reflect the problems and challenges that people have. Our modern world is complicated and, at least in my experience, the culture defines us as individuals (or atomized individual groups) floating alone in a sea of problems and maybe solutions. Maybe you are different. Maybe you have a strong connection to nearby family and friends who you are very comfortable turning to for aid and support. And it isn't like I don't have those as well, but my family is not nearby so it feels a bit different for me. And I was also raised to be independent and take care of my own problems. Which can be expected when my problems are not systemic, ongoing, and not significant. For others who face real, crushing disadvantages, the expectation to be independent is just another problem to add to the list.)

So . . . I don't know. I need to remember that the world can be very hard and it feels like we all face those hardships alone. But I guess I'm here now to say that if I can help you with your problems, I'd like to be asked. And while I won't stick my nose into your life unannounced--and I might not be the most courageous person to confront you about yourself--I can be of service.


So, I guess that is it for this week. I'll try to be more aware. Certainly more aware than your alma mater's backup quarterback is currently being on the sideline.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Fall TV Preview 2019: Post Apocalypse Edition

This may well and truly be the final edition of my Fall TV previews.


Because TV barely exists anymore and the concept of "Fall TV" stopped being a real concept about four years ago. I only hold onto the conceit because I am imaginatively bankrupt.

Still, I feel the need to lead you through the radioactive wastelands of what used to be called the TV Zone--now a blasted wasteland of unpredictable premieres, new networks and programming outlets, whole seasons of content appearing overnight, and all the rest.

Follow me into the unthinkable . . . if you dare!

So, what will I do with mainstream television? Will I cut my ties to cable television before this calendar year is done? And if I do that, am I guaranteed to fill that entertainment void with Disney+ and the like? Will I shift my television connections purely to . . . let's say . . . DirecTV streaming? Streaming HBO Go? Will I stay on Hulu and Amazon Prime? Include Disney+? And even add CBS All Access? (But probably NOT Apple TV? Good lord--am I forgetting something?

It's a very complicated world forming out there and I haven't yet decided which way to jump? And a lot of it is going to depend on what are the comparison bills between pure streaming and mainstream cable + some streaming?

But enough nuts and bolts business talk--I've been watching too much Succession, I guess.

Let's get down to the business of which entertainments will demand my time this season?

A few behind-the-scenes notes. I am taking back the full reins of writing these posts this year. My friend Dean is far more focused on things that matter to him and fair enough. But if he changes his mind, he should know that my blog is always open to his thoughts on any television matter he wants to discuss. I've enjoyed collaborating with him over the years and I miss our lunchtime conversations on whatever is happening.

Otherwise--how to handle it this year? I am thinking that I am going to simplify things down even more this year and only have a single post that focuses on a few broad categories of shows. In this mixed up media world, how can I figure out what is the right thing to do? I can only tell you the story that I feel like telling. So . . . enough preamble.

Let's go!

Category I: the only show that truly matters

Holey Moley

You may quibble with my selection of this show on this list, since it was a summer show and is not being broadcast in the Fall. But I don't care. It was my best viewing experience of the last few months.
I loved the imagination. I loved the ridiculous contestants. I really loved the humorous commentary from the announcers. I loved the concept of extreme mini golf. I loved the notion that I might consider auditioning to be a contestant for next summer. And I love the idea that even if I somehow managed to get on the show, I would be a huge embarrassment to myself, my wife, my children. So. Much. Fun!

Category II: Shows to look forward to

The Good Place (NBC, September 26)
Last year, this was the only mainstream show that I could muster up any anticipation for. And this is the last season of The Good Place. So I hope that I enjoy it immensely. This show has proven its ability to reinvent itself many, many times in its short life. But I have found good things to like about it every time. I like the heart of the characters and the goodness within the show's message. This being season 4, I don't guess I can convince any of you to try it at this point. But since everything can be found on-demand and streamed whenever you feel like it, I'll try one more time before The Good Place ceases to be a "going concern." Watch it.

Watchmen (HBO, October 20)
Did you ever read the graphic novel? Did you watch the movie? What was your opinion on the movie? Did you like LOST? Damon Lindelof? Are you experiencing comic book fatigue? Do you have an HBO subscription? These are all relevant questions that will determine your interest level in Watchmen. I am favorable on all of the questions above, which I wrote, and which came out of my brain seconds ago. So . . . I'm going to be giving this show a try. I do hope that I like it.

Mr. Robot (and while we're at it . . . Briarpatch) (FX, October 6)
I kind of lost track of Mr. Robot. I thought that it was done. And I couldn't really tell you what happened in the last season--which I am sure that I definitely, for sure watched. The show was so interesting in season 1 and it was less so after that. But Rami Malek is still a fun actor to be involved with and the premise of the show is still (I think?) worth pursuing. So I'm going to at least try to look forward to it and give a few episodes a try. If I find myself scanning my phone more than I'm paying attention to the visuals? Well, then maybe I'll drop it before it finishes.

And I've got to make sure that my DVR series settings still have it ready to record.

And because of its production company connection to Mr. Robot creator and showrunner Sam Esmail, I want to put in a bit of a plug for Briarpatch. It is a new show that I believe will be on USA Network. It is based on a book and the head creator/showrunner is Andy Greenwald. I've loved Andy's TV reviews on Grantland and his podcasting acumen on The Watch. So I think this show will be full of character depth and intriguing to experience. Go look for its premiere and commit to watching it!

The Mandalorian (Disney+, November 12)

In case it is not obvious from the trailer above, the Mandalorian features the same race (?), citizens (?), sect (?) of people from the Star Wars planet Mandalor--where mysterious bounty hunter Boba Fett came from. I don't know, based on this alone, if this show is worth watching. But I liked Rogue One and I've been much more pleased with the recent SW movies since George Lucas left it all behind. So this might be one of the main reasons why I'd add this payment to my entertainment plan in the coming months.

Picard (CBS All Access, ____ 2020)
Speaking of space shows . . . I resisted joining up with CBS All Access last year--even when the critical buzz continued to say that the new flagship show, Star Trek: Discovery was excellent. Then CBS went ahead and delivered a new second Star Trek series focused on Jean Luc Picard. It really seems like they are doing good things. Will that persuade me to "Make it so?"

Looking for Alaska (Hulu, October 18)

Happy--belated--birthday to me! John Green's first publication is finally being filmed. Not as the long-rumored, often shopped movie, but as a Hulu series. And I'm very excited to watch it. The press on this one has been quiet--both from the network and from John himself. But I watched the original trailer and I thought it looked good. This story of high school love and mystery works very well with the Hulu brand and I think it can make a fun serialized show. If it does well, might we see a Will Grayson Will Grayson series next?

Stumptown (ABC, September 25)
What do I know? It's got Cobie Smolders. (Yes.) Jake Johnson. (Double yes.) And she is a private eye. (Fine.) Cobie's character seems like a less comic booked Agent Hill and I'm ready to give her a watch or two. It may end up being pretty predictable. But hey, I watched Whiskey Cavalier last year and enjoyed that diversion as well.

The Flash (The CW, October 8)
I'm still hanging in there with this superhero show, even though I dropped Arrow a while back as well as Supergirl. And I only ever gave Legends of Tomorrow part of a season. I don't know if I'll be willing to sample Batwoman (The CW, October 6) because I strongly lost interest in Gotham last season--even though I came back for the finale. I'm worried that Batwoman will be very focused on gender politics and be less about vigilante justice.

Silicon Valley (HBO), October 27)
The funniest show of computer nerds come back to finish out its story close to Halloween. But full disclosure, will I like it as much without T.J. Miller? I know he is supposed to be off the show now and I am sorry for that. I liked the tone of his character. But I'm sure the residuals from The Emoji Movie are keeping him in houses--even if he isn't yet a member of the Tres Commas club.

Marvels Runaways (Hulu, December 13)
This was one of the first shows Lynda and I watched when we started using Hulu. It's an okay superhero show. I'm willing to check in on it and see where things are now. It's based on a comic book story of teens who have super-ish powers and the twist is when they find out that their parents are the supervillains. So they escape from home to find out how to deal with this and how to deal with each other.

Category III: Be still my heart!

The New Pope (HBO, _____?)

It is entirely possible I might end up going to hell for loving this bananas show. But maybe if I balance it out by going to confession?
I'll risk it.

Kidding (Showtime, November 3)
See my pick for Number 1.

Mad About You (Spectrum, November 20)
Who do I have to kill to get Spectrum? Am I going to be able to watch this show? Do I WANT to watch this show? I'm intrigued, terrified, excited all at once. Lynda and I loved to watch this show so much back in our early marriage days. It only seems right that we all come back together again in our middling years of matrimony to check in on each other.

(Plus, I've got to find out if they have solved that vexing cell phone problem.)

Category IV: Why?!?!!

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (Disney+, November 12)
Disney + may giveth, but Disney+ also taketh away. And no, those are NOT typos in the title. According to some child based research I've conducted in my own home, this show is not a bizarre reinvention of the beloved Zeffron vehicle. Rather it appears to be a documentary (Office-style mockumentary?) of kids preparing and auditioning for a musical based on the TV show. I don't think Disney content needs to be so meta. But when you've got an entire network to fill with programming, you mine your IP for whatever it is worth, I suppose.


So, what did I miss? Which shows premiering and returning in the fall are you excited for? How many streaming services are you willing to subscribe to? How badly do you miss Dean's takes on television?

Category V: Random bonus moment for long-time readers

Years ago I used to write a lot about how Scrubs was under-appreciated. Someone finally appreciates the TV show Scrubs!

Friday, September 06, 2019

Football Counter-Programming 2019--Week 3

Welcome back to a new week of this season's Football Counter-Programming. In which I work slightly hard to divert your attention from Saturday college football clogging up your social media feeds.

This week? A window into my soul!


I have a fondness for logos and sports design. And I have a weakness for insanely stupid corporate hype copy. For example, I enjoy incredulously reading the descriptions on the side of beer bottles and cans.

And then on Thursday, August 22, this Ringer post dropped into my lap.

Now . . . I know . . . the goal of Football Counter-Programming is about diverting you FROM football. But the XFL isn't college football is it? And it doesn't perform on Saturdays, does it? And it isn't even available for consumption yet is it?

So, I think I'm fine to proceed here.


Before I get to the stuff I really want to focus on, I'd just like to say that I would--if I ever lose my current job--like to try and break into the field of corporate hype writing. It combines strong elements of brand brainwashing, insane confidence, frequent use of a thesaurus, and a desire to overwhelm the consumer with . . . something. Desire? Longing? Stockholm Syndrome?

And also, read carefully the details of the Ringer story that I posted above. Its seems that the XFL is leaning super hard on a Trump-based, MAGA, fan base with its must stand for national anthem regulations. I really have no belief that the NFL has been Kaepernick'd at all over the last two years. But if the XFL can out-Republican the NFL, then maybe there is hope of splinter political parties and a multi-party America after all?

But now, on to the hype copy!

Read this description of the St. Louis Battlehawks:

Are you not entertained!?!!!

Aren't you ready to strap on your jockstrap and risk your brain's future health all for the glory of the Battlehawks!?! Aren't you ready to curb stomp anyone who doesn't sufficiently MAGA the flag?

If you are, then this hype copy has definitely done its job.

I do worry, however, that the Houston Roughnecks have stolen the inspirational ethos of late 90s Columbus Crew (Hardest Working Team, etc):

It's pretty bizarre, right? But it is also entirely in line with what football is supposed to be.

Masculine. Hyper-aggro. Dependable. Gritty. Outlaw. Badass. Swagger. All of those adjectives that make me want to cringe and disagree with my voting record. All of the things that (apparently) you want in a sports hero--and perhaps a business corporate raider--but none of the things that you want to see walking toward you out in the world itself.

In short--the fantasy we want to tell others about ourselves and our nation. (At least from this exclusively male-centric point of view.)

So, as I type more, I realize that this ad-copy dream job is just another fantasy of my own making. It seems like fun. But wouldn't I hate myself while doing it? 

Would I become my own HeHateMe?

Well . . . just as long as YOU don't hate me, I'll be okay.

Come back next week for another edition of FC-P 2019.

And remember . . . it doesn't matter how well your alma mater might mirror the down-to-earth toughness of your campus town, they've still lace em up one foot at a time just like their gridiron opponent. So, let's be kind out there--at least to the halftime band members.

See you next Saturday!