Monday, March 20, 2006

Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?

I just watched Peter Gammons do his dead level best to convince the watching audience of the first ever World Baseball Classic championship Game that baseball was still America's pastime. Looking like a solitary black exclamation point scrawled amongst a sea of colorful scribbles, Gammons reported from within the ranks of rabid Japanese and Cuban fans while arguing, down a somewhat meandering path, that America's cultural values have been clearly exhibited along the base paths these past few weeks. Only in America, Gammons claimed, with our cherished values of diversity and freedom, could such a baseball spectacle take place. One can't help but wonder whether this argument ever would have seen the light of day had the hulking giants of American baseball not been thoroughly thrashed by team after team of Louisville wielding Davids.

Surely, the foundations of Gammons' argument were laid months ago when the United States government suddenly informed Major League Baseball that the Cuban team would not be allowed to compete in the inaugural WBC as its participation would constitute a violation of the ridiculous and out-dated embargo our nation has insisted on maintaining. Rarely do such cosmically divine opportunities for vengeful karma go unfulfilled, and the US team's quick exit and lackluster performances, coupled with a championship matchup which pitted Cuba against Japan, seems to pay the karma bill quite well.

Gammons' argument was nothing more than a desperate attempt to defend the national ego and give American baseball fans an excuse that took the sting out of the righteous beatings our team endured. We could not create a victory on the diamond so we have claimed the diamond's creation as our transcendent victory. As young, enthusiastic Cuban and Japanese ball players battled it out in San Diego, American baseball culture was left in displaced limbo, its traditional Rockwellian baseball values of pluck, hard work, humility, perserverance, and patriotism; values that smell of stale playing card bubble gum, sunflower seeds, cut grass, and leather, supremely demonstrated by the new ambassadors of the game.

Baseball is still a reflection of American cultural values, just not the values our national memory or Gammons would like to concede. Those bygone values, the ones that make our fathers teary-eyed, have been firmly exiled to a vacant lot in the Dominican Republic; a parking lot in Korea; a cane field in Cuba . . .

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What can and cannot be wonky

The previous post was to include a more in depth discussion of things that can and cannot be wonky, but the rabbit hole had a fork in it. So, as promised, the list:

1. Any appendage can be wonky so long as it is not missing. This just makes sense. If it's gone it can't be wonky unless it was wonky previous to its being gone, in which case you have horrible luck.

A. As a sub point to point number one: Prosthetics can be wonky so long as they were not wonky to begin with. If it was wonky when you got it, it was defective and should have been replaced. However, if it was in fine working form and then became wonky through accident, its wearer should be commended for living a full life . . . and also encouraged to review proper safety procedures for whatever it is he/she does.

2. Spines cannot be wonky, there's just too much there. Unless you're an exceptionally good natured victim of paralysis, do not call a spine wonky.

3. Internal organs cannot be wonky. One cannot have a wonky liver, heart, kidney, pancreas, or lung. Hereditary dysfunctions and hard living preclude wonkiness as wonkiness must be brought about by an accident, preferably involving sports, war, or farm equipment.

A. Another sub point: Brains cannot be wonky. One is either crazy or not crazy.

4. Eyes can be wonky so long as they are still nominally functional. Blind does not equal wonky. However, a twitchy eye with a partial cataract could definitley be wonky. I know, I know, twitchy eyes and cataracts are not usually brought about by accidents, but wonky seems to fit here.

I'm sure there's more to this and will add to it as inspiration strikes and definitions become more founded.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

National Wonky

It's good to have a wonky appendage, necessary even. There are far too many people who go through life these days without achieving an acceptable level of wonkiness in any body part. It's a consequence of our societal values and the way in which we live our lives. How can someone get anything that is truly wonky simply by playing Xbox all day or lying around eating butter? I find this hugely disappointing and not a small bit alarming.

Now, before I jump onto my soapbox and call for a healthy increase in our national level of wonkiness, a definition of "wonky" may do us some good, especially as we are about to delve into the minutiae of determining what can and cannot be wonky. As far as I'm concerned, Webster's be damned, "wonky" is a state of permanent, although not debilitating, dysfunction in an appendage brought about by physical injury. The path to wonkiness may follow thusly: I broke my hand. My broken hand was not well set. My knuckle is now in an unnatural position. Due to my knuckle's unnatural position, I have lost range of motion in my pinky finger. I now have a wonky hand.

Isn't that charming? Doesn't it bring to mind images of Norman Rockwell's world where old men sat on wooden porches and predicted the weather by interpreting the creaks and throbs of their own wonky appendages? What if, after dull and uneventful lives, these men had no wonky appendages with which to predict the weather? Then they'd just be old men sitting on a porch . . . guessing.

There's nothing interesting about a man saying, "I think it's gonna rain." But if a man says, "It's gonna rain. The old trick knee's actin' up," not only is that much more interesting, it acquires a level of certainty missing in the previous statement. The essential component comprising the difference is the man's knee and its wonkiness. Simply put, the man's past colors his present and helps him to predict his future . . . . jeez, that's altogether too serious for my present mood. Maybe a discussion question is in order here. Like this one:

Taking the aforementioned principles of 'wonkiness' as truth extendable to the societal level, what inferences can be made about our collective lack of experiential knowledge? What repercussions might this have on our country's future? Does this question have an answer given your own possible lack of 'wonkiness,' broadly defined? Are we screwed?

There, that should do it. Chew on that for a while.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Lotus Blossoms

I spend my days arguing with fourteen-year-olds. In some ways this is hugely entertaining, sort of like playing your favorite video game on the easiest level simply to enjoy the sweet taste of TOTAL victory. There is a certain sick thrill in laying a philosophical snare and watching a dopey-faced teenager humdiddle right into it.

As an educator, I know I am not supposed to delight in the ignorance of my pupils. I am supposed to kindly guide them with the light of knowledge and nurture their curiosity until their inner being blossoms forth like a lotus flower and drops infinitely into the pool of inclusive wisdom.

Let me tell you something, the mouth breather in seat fifteen isn't dropping anything anywhere unless it's a bag of fries into the deep-fat fryer at Dairy Queen. The bit about the lotus flowers is nice, but altogether unrealistic. If any teacher could perform their duties one hundred percent of the time according to the cutesy, hallmark descriptions of "teacher" that are so freely tossed around disguised as advice, then they would suddenly look up to find themselves in the company of Dr. King, Mother Teresa, The Dali Lama, and JC; in which case they would either be dead or, with concern to the Lama, at Richard Gere's house.

More probably, the teacher in question looks up to find themselves playing the role of an underpaid, over-glorified baby sitter who is constantly harangued by people who used to teach about things that have nothing to do with lotus flowers or pools of inclusive wisdom or even the students. The newly disillusioned teacher now has two choices: (1) Begin chewing on light bulbs or (2) Laugh a little. A little at themselves. A little at the students . . . a little more at the students.

The students in my teaching reality happen mostly to be fourteen-year-olds. There are a few wizened veterans peppered through my roll sheets, but they rarely supply the laughing fodder one needs on a really bad day. My most prolific students are young, gangly sprouts of their future selves. They have braces. Their voices crack. They accept no personal responsibility. They are anthropomorphic taperecorders of their parents conversations. Despite having little to no experience with The Big Bad World, they feel completely justified in commenting on its truths and fallacies in stark strokes of black and white. Some wonderful and sincere statements of fact I have recently heard:

"Red Bull has bull sperm in it. Seriously. You can totally get pregnant by drinking it."

"Bangladesh is the Capital of Bangkok."

"Is World War II the one with the Confederates and the guys who wore blue?"

After explaining that in Shakespeare's time young boys played the female roles because women were not allowed to perform and then opening a textbook to a photograph of Olivia Hussey from Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, "Hey, that doesn't look much like a young boy."

After mention of Pancho Villa as a "Robin Hood" figure," Pancho Villa wore red and was eaten by a wolf!?"

"Virgin who?! Virgin Mary? Who the heck is the Virgin Mary?"

All classics, and I'm not losing any sleep worrying about whether any of these pearls was uttered by an undiscovered lotus blossom. The way I see it, if I spend all of my time trying to grow a garden full of lotus blossoms I'll get to the light bulb chewing stage much sooner than I would like and I would miss out on the color pansies and daisies and lilacs and roses bring to the world. Besides, my favorite flower has always been the Jackass Clover.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

I Have a Blog

Good Lord, what have I done?

For years I have claimed some measure of writing prowess but have always been able to convince myself that I just didn't have enough time to sit down and write about the things and experiences that really interested me.

"I have to write my thesis . . ."

"I'm too busy with work . . . "

"I'm exhausted . . ."

"I don't have the time to invest in order to make my writing as earth-shattering as I know it could be . . ."

All bullshit. I'm actually your run-of-the-mill college graduate who uses cliches and colloquialisms in his writing (I just did it earlier in this sentence if you don't believe me), and whose excuses for not writing anything of interest at an earlier point in time are more honestly the following:

"I have just created myself as an unstoppable collegiate running back in Madden NCAA football '06 and am about to win the Heisman Trophy . . . "

"Working at Starbucks is taxing on my mental faculties . . . "

"I have to masturbate . . . "

"I have just created myself as an unstoppable third baseman for the Houston Astros in MVP Baseball '06 and am just about to lead the boys to the promised land . . . "

Lastly, but I could go on and on:

"I am busy carefully crafting excuses that will explain why my thesis is not completed without undermining my ability to claim that other things in my life are unfinished because I am working diligently on my thesis . . . "

So why start writing now? Good question. I have started to write and then deleted five or six sentences here in the last few minutes and am coming to the conclusion that I don't really have a conclusion. For now, I'll just say I see it as a way to commune with my sister. She started blogging long ago to vent to cyberspace, but has recently felt a little intruded upon. The phrase, "venting to cyberspace," does not imply that cyberspace will critique or even vent back, but so it has been for Rachel in the last few weeks. From my perspective, most of this boils down to the fact that she has disgustingly large deposits of talent that hang off of her personality like the bags of fat most kindergarten teachers have where their triceps should be . . . but in a good way. My folks see this, especially my dad, and while taking massive amounts of pride and enjoyment in her abilities, also want to encourage her to "do something" with said ability. Hence, they comment and critique and dissect. All of this is good and well as long as the posts have something to do with Navy functions and boating mishaps and not gyno visits and wedding beds.

So here I am, taking one for the team and offering myself up to the same scrutiny and dissection; and with a blog entitled "Drinking stories" no less (parents love stuff like that!). I'm pretty confident I didn't need a semicolon in that last sentence, but fuck it. There it is. Critique away!