Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Well yeah, you're supposed to get an A"

One of the double-edged swords of my personality is that I like to impress people. The biggest high I get out of life is giving someone something they never thought they’d see, whether it’s an interesting piece of writing, exceeding expectations in a competition or simply giving them a smile and laugh on a dreary day. I love being the hidden treasure that adds a bonus, however small, to someone’s day. I was this way even as a kid. As Jerry Seinfeld said, “I wanted to do unbelievable on the hearing test.”

The flip side of this is, I’m all that more insecure when it doesn’t happen. I can be incredibly proud of something, but if it’s met with indifference, I feel like I failed. And while I’m almost militantly self-motivated most of the time, I can get frustrated when I feel like I don’t reach others. Or worse, when I get the sense they won’t, and don’t, care.

For the most part, I loved school. That, and inertia, explains the 21 years I spent there. But I hated having teachers I couldn’t impress. You know the type: They expected nothing but your A-plus game every single day, and anything less made them look down upon you. And even when you did meet their stratospheric expectations, the most you could hope for was a shrug.

I suppose that approach works with some people. And I can see its virtue in military or sports training. But in the classroom, I hated it. Part of my problem was that I tested into gifted classes in second grade. Before then, I had been a straight-A student in a regular class. My first-grade class was divided into three reading groups based on ability, with 3 being the most advanced, and I started the year in Group 2. One day, my teacher pulled me aside and said, “Ian, from now on, you’re in Reading Group 3.” Yeah! Having been misdiagnosed as a slow learner at an early age, I’ll never forget one of the first times an educator made note of the opposite. My grades stayed at the top of the alphabetical order all year, and then I tested into the gifted program that summer.

I never made straight A’s again. Or even honor roll most of the time.

For the next 10 years, my success in school hinged largely on what kind of teacher I had. That mattered even more than the subject — some of my most brutal teachers made hamburger of me in my favorite subjects: reading, English, literature, history. Conversely, even a math-and-science dunce like myself could thrive with the right quirky teacher. Instructors could be likable but difficult. Or not likable but easy. Or not likable and difficult. Occasionally, they’d be both likable and just right. And like Goldilocks, I would eat that porridge up.

Near the end of my senior year in high school, my IEP (Individual Education P-something or other) mentioned one of my weaknesses as disinterest in subjects in which I didn’t excel — a revelation made less surprising by the fact that I literally told them this. I explained to my IEP adviser that, while I like to succeed in as many areas as I can, that I’m inevitably going to favor my skill set over those subjects in which I struggle. And sometimes, it was a struggle to do well even in my strongest classes, because the motivation wasn’t there. How could it be, when my drive to impress means so little in an environment where achievement is demanded?

To wit: Some of my classmates would get grounded or lose other privileges for six weeks if they got a B. A bloody B! When I was in sixth grade, that was a 94. It seemed to work for them, though more out of fear than an earnest desire to achieve. I don’t get that. I’ll never get it.

For some, success is a game. Grades are points, and you want the high score. You join as many clubs as you can, lead as many of them as you can and rack up the awards. My approach was a bit different: good-enough grades, learning all the right lessons, joining a few activities but pouring my heart and sweat into them, not burning myself out and just being as decent a person as I knew how to be. That might not mean Princeton could use a guy like Ian, but I don’t recall anyone asking me my ACT or GRE scores lately. Both schools of thought can coexist peacefully; I just wish more educators thought to tout the latter approach once in a while. At the very least, it opens the door for the kind of surprises, bonuses and positive recognition that you don’t get with the all-A-game-or-else attitude.

I’ve struggled with this ever since. It’s not so much a function of anyone else’s attitude as it is of mine. I know that it isn’t fair to expect everyone to be bowled over all the time and that I should accept that some people are going to have stratospheric, ridiculous standards. But to anyone who reads this who teaches, parents or otherwise has authority over someone else, I ask you to consider this: Everyone deserves some credit sometimes. Not to a spoiled degree, but perhaps a little. You never know how much it could spur further success or give someone the motivation to overcome struggle. My family and favorite teachers, coaches and mentors understood that. The ones who didn’t taught me that the world can be a cold, cruel, indifferent place. That’s a pretty valuable lesson in itself, I suppose. But not one that makes me want to do my best.

Also, I miss summer vacation. And field trips.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Smoke screen

Springfield’s City Council just killed a proposed ban on smoking in public places. The majority of citizens just hacked raspy sighs of relief.

I’m disappointed. Springfield lags considerably behind Lafayette (and most other comparable cities) in terms of smoke-free areas. I moved here one month after a comprehensive smoke ban took effect in Lafayette, an example of my typically ironic timing.

As far as smoking goes, if I never see or smell it again, that would be great. I grew up in a smoky home and remember when everyone smoked everywhere: in their homes, their cars, in restaurants, in the mall, in stores. It seemed normal then, but is all but unimaginable now. I’ve always been in favor of non-smoky air in public places.

That said, there was a time when I accepted that bars, clubs and casinos could allow unfettered smoking. But after having been to bars and clubs that disallowed it, and very busy ones at that, I can’t really back that anymore. Also, there was a non-smoker in Springfield who changed his bar to smoke-free after he learned he had the lungs of a chain-smoker. So there’s that as well.

Still, I’m torn a little bit. Should there be a smoking ban in a smoke shop? That seems stupid on its face. On the other hand, I’m concerned for someone who works there, even if they themselves smoke. No one should assume secondhand smoke damage just to support themselves. And it’s not a simple matter of, if you don’t like it, get another job. First off, in this economy? And second, no one ever says people should just deal with it if your job involves, say, potential dismemberment. U.S. businesses are rife with workplace regulations designed to ensure safety and keep down liability costs. In that context, a smoking ban seems like the easiest and cheapest way to slash a major, demonstrable risk.

And yes, secondhand smoke is a slam-dunk as far as demonstrable risk goes. Sure, you hear about study after study claiming otherwise; but then, tobacco companies have lots of money for alternate-universe studies.

Indeed, the evidence against secondhand smoke seems more cut-and-dry than most. Even as a child, I instinctually understood that cigarette smoke isn’t harmless just because I’m not actually taking drags. A medical evaluation I had at four years old noted my persistent cough, reinforcing my own memory of being unable to laugh for long stretches without hacking. I also had several bouts of chronic bronchitis, one of which kept me out of school for two weeks in first grade. I’m sure it also hampered my athletic endurance as well. Today, I live a virtually smoke-free existence, but I can only imagine for now what damage has already been done.

What hurts the most is I’ll always have to live with that choice I never made. I can’t even necessarily blame the smokers around me, because the effects of secondhand smoke were either not known or suppressed/rationalized for a long time. And now that we know about the risks, there’s no excuse to keep doing it.

I’ve known many smokers who believed vociferously in the harmlessness of secondhand smoke. Sometimes they’d make their case as they rolled down their car window for fresh air. That always made me laugh. And, in turn, cough.

Ultimately, a smoking ban is not an affront on freedom, private business or anything else that critics make it out to be. It’s simply a case of someone infringing on another’s rights. No one has a right to invade someone else’s personal space with substances that put the other person’s health in direct peril. And smoke is uniquely dangerous in a way that alcohol, intravenous drugs and fats aren’t.

Hopefully, Springfield activists will continue to press for change and tell smokers to suck it up. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Bobby Jesus

When I saw this New York Times photograph of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal...


... I immediately thought of this blog of mine from when Jindal was first elected. Key sarcastic quote:

"I have hope in Savior Jindal. Just as everyone now knows he would have parted the Katrina waters had the voters rightfully fulfilled his God-given destiny in 2003, he is also the answer to all of Louisiana's longstanding political ills."

That's not as hyperbolic as it might sound. Granted, then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco didn't do the best job after Katrina. But in my conversations at the time, it seemed like people really thought the levees wouldn't have broken under Jindal. Sure, the partisan climate of the time (heh) probably would have worked in Jindal's favor in the aftermath of the hurricane, but the spiritual aspect of both Jindal and some of his flock toward him was, and is, somewhat off-putting.

Which is why I was happy to see a friend's take on this photo. The original pic speaks for itself as is, but she added a little extra to it. She had to remove it from her own site for personal reasons, so I'm preserving it here with her permission:


Now if he can walk on the oil or turn it into wine, that would be a miracle. Get on it, governor!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Prayers: Return to sender?

Sometimes friends ask me to “send prayers.” The concept baffles me.

Full disclosure: I’m not what you’d call religious. I don’t begrudge people their beliefs, as long as they aren’t using them to justify prejudice, fuel political hatred or otherwise hurt anybody. But I don’t align myself with any group or label. I don’t even consider myself atheist, because that to me carries the same level of certainty about lack of God that religions have about God’s existence. I just don’t know. I’ll never know. None of us will for sure, at least as long as we’re alive. I think it’s entirely up to us as human beings to make life better for ourselves.

Spirituality is not a common everyday theme in my life. I rarely contemplate the mystery of life, why we’re here, what our purpose is, etc. I know that might seem strange for someone known for over-thinking everything, but I don’t find big-picture questions like those all that compelling. Not only am I sure we’ll never know all the answers, but I imagine that the ultimate truth is probably less spectacular and interesting than we all want it to be.

Very early on, I realized that everything seemed to have two explanations: folklore and scientific. I think I first realized this when my mom gave a volume of Charlie Brown’s ’Cyclopedia when I was about 5. The book explained the Adam’s apple got its name because, before people knew anything about the larynx and anatomy in general, they thought people got these lumps from Adam choking on a piece of that infamous apple. And while I chose to believe the apple story — presumably because it was the more interesting of the two — I realized for the first time that some things have two or more explanations.

This notion was only further cemented through my school years, as we’d read tall tales and study Greek myths. We were taught that no, foxes don’t really have white tail tips because some British girl spilled milk on one 100 years ago — but isn’t it fun to pretend so? Historic myths, we were told, were fascinating tales concocted by ancient societies to explain what they didn’t understand. They thought the gods made the sun rise! That’s so charmingly mythologic! After all, everyone knows today that the Earth revolves around the sun in a predictable cycle and rotates on an axis, which is a direct result of God saying, “Let there be light” in the Book of Genesis. We’re blessed to live in such enlightened, myth-free times!

So, back to the prayer thing.

I’ve lived long-term in two places: south Louisiana and southwest Missouri. Both are very religious areas, though very different in makeup. South Louisiana is a Catholic haven. This is what I grew up around and understood, to the degree that one can understand a faith so shrouded in mystery. Putting recent political rows and molestation scandals aside, Catholicism is a relatively quiet religion that employs faith in miracles, rituals and Mary as a way of finding inner peace. Prayer, of course, is a big deal and socially prominent. I’ll never forget the gas station clerk who, when told by my grandfather that my grandmother was ill, said, “I’ll keep her in my prayers.” Cajuns keep lots of people in lots of prayers.

Such sentiment is also common in southwest Missouri, which is the world base of the Assemblies of God. Megachurches, baptism, evangelism, mission work, casual talk of the rapture and tribulation and a lot of saving that doesn’t involve accounts. It’s the flip side of the Christian coin, but shares with Catholicism the power of prayer.

So again, back to the prayer thing.

Because of my scope of friends from both places, I’m frequently implored via social media to send prayers. Many times, I’m not even told for what. And I respect people’s privacy and hope they get past their bump in the road. I wouldn’t be a good friend if I hoped for anything less than the best. This too shall pass. That said...

Do you really want my prayers? They don’t seem to do me much good. I used to pray every night of my life, well into my teens. Mostly due to spiritual OCD, but also because it made me feel better. But then I just stopped one day. And nothing changed, for better or for worse. Life has continued to give me the same ratio of good things to bad that happened when I was whispering into my hands every night.

Prayer seems to work for the same reason flashing your high-beams at a red light to make it turn green works: because you remember when it works, and forget all the times it doesn't. Still, if it makes you feel better, then by all means do it! No harm done. Just be reasonable with the credit.

If I do pray for you, I’d prefer to know why. I know you can’t or shouldn’t always share, and your intentions are probably in the right place; but how do I know you're not praying for your abusive husband to make parole? Or that you want your driver’s license back even though you lost it for hitting a child while texting? Or that you're horrified that Barack Obama, not Sarah Palin, is president?

And to be fair, I feel equally weird about sending good vibes or whatever else stands in for sending prayers. I like solving problems and helping friends achieve goals in tangible, proactive ways. So if I can help at all, that’s what I’d rather do.

And I think that’s what any god would want.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More MySpace memoirs

Monday, August 25, 2008

Generic blog title

-- On my way to a service appointment at my car dealership this afternoon, I stopped by my neighborhood car wash. I go there every week, and the place is generally packed. It's called "Washin' to the Oldies," and they play 50s and 60s music to enjoy while you get sudsy. Today all the doors were open and people milled about. I pull in, only to see a flyer covering the buttons:

"We have gone out of business. Thank you for your years of patronage."

Huh? I was here last week! You bastards!

But yes, nothing worked and no music played. And apparently I wasn't the only one surprised, as several would-be washers came in and out looking equally shocked. The automatic wash (which I never use because my car manages to not trip up the sensors) was open and had a gigantic banner advertising a cut-rate cycle. A sad day indeed, as I had started going there after the car wash across the street fleeced me last year and never returned my phone calls. That wash was thriving today. Go figure.

Being me, of course, I grabbed a pen out of my glove compartment and added a little something to the "sorry" sign. Nothing profane, personal or negative, just a way to vent my sadness. It then occurred to me that the place was wired with cameras (as evidenced by the "Smile! You're on camera!" sign with the absurdly happy face). But then I thought, could they even be working anymore? Well, I don't know. And judging by everything else I've seen in Springfield, a little "miss you" message written in ink pen on a piece of paper is hardly anybody's top vandalism priority.

--There seems to be an epidemic in Springfield of businesses completely boarding up their window fronts, yet staying open. Today, it was Smoothie King. "Drive-Thru Open," the board screamed in red spraypaint.

I hate drive-thrus. You can't understand them, they don't understand you, I never seem to line up close enough to the window and there's something about having to idle your engine amid several smoke-belching cars for 20 minutes that's somehow unappealing to me. There's also the fact that everyone else just loves them, which means walk-ins are always treated like we have all day because Mrs. Alpha Soccer Mom needs 15 smoothies RIGHT NOW!

But anyway...I wound up not going. Two sudden, jarring changes to places I like to go in Springfield was enough for one day. They lost my business today, and they'll just have to profit from my, er, free smoothie some other time.

Well, I'm off to the pool now. Assuming that hasn't been covered up by a giant tarp in anticipation of the cooler temperatures that are going to hit in three months.

Later!













What I looked like waking up in Louisiana in late 2008.

Monday, June 21, 2010

RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUULES!!

Rule #160: 1-1? Then no one won
A tie is not a win, no matter what World Cup fans say. At least, not as long as moral victories aren't counted in the standings. Can you imagine the uproar from Minnesota Vikings fans if the NFL dealt with ties this way? It would sound a lot like, well, the uproar from Minnesota Vikings fans.

Rule #161: Heat waive
Everyone who doubted global warming because it was cold this winter has to follow the same logic now and change their minds. I'm not saying that short-term weather patterns have anything to do with long-term climate change; they're two different things, and I said so in the snow. I'm consistent on that position. Time for those who base their reasoning on which way the wind blows to be too.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mining MySpace

It's hard to imagine now, but there was a time when I blogged on MySpace almost as regularly as I do here. Those blogs were sometimes exactly the same as the ones here — and, in the earliest incarnations, were simply promos of that week's Not Right material — but more often were more personal observations, intended mainly for close friends. Some of them will probably never be suitable for a wider audience.

On the other hand, many of them are really well-written and are the kind of detailed, uncensored commentary that got me excited about writing in the first place. They are priceless snapshots of my observations from 2006-08, and I'll be sharing some of them here from time to time. Also, stuff like this:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ouch!

Yesterday I donated blood. Not exactly the blood bank's A-squad out there.

During the screening, the nurse asked me if I was allergic to anything, "rusty needles, bitchy nurses? If you are, I'll send you to the other nurse because I'm mean." Then she said my pulse was too high. "Am I making you nervous or something? Do you not like giving blood? Go sit outside and we'll try again in a minute."

When I gave blood in February, my pulse was 64. This girl had me up to 110. And not in the good way.

Finally, I got down to a barely acceptable 90 (by sitting on the floor and in a corner, to everyone's amusement), and got sent to a very nice nurse with a great sense of humor. I spent the session assuring a co-worker who'd never donated (and I'd never met) before that it was all fun and games. And that it saves lives.

On the other hand, I felt lethargic and absent-minded afterwards, which has never happened to me in the past. Also, the prick point still hurts, which is rare for me when the needle's going in, never mind 11 hours later.

And on top of that, they didn't even give me the free pan-pizza voucher. Not that that's why I did it, but still...that's just piling on!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Fair, my ass!

Yesterday I went to the Ozark Empire Fair, my first-ever Midwestern fair experience. $8 just to get in.

Every ride ticket cost $1 each and every ride was at least four tickets. And the rides lasted half as long as any I'd ever been to before. The entire place was putrid with the combined aroma of fried pork and goat excrement. And I didn't even get to see Eddie Money, who plays tonight.

And, at one point, I saw a guy wearing a "Be the reason" shirt from UL. Huh? Turns out he was a Springfield native going to school there, and his mom used to work where I work now. Small, if awkward, world. I'm not all that sure they believed me.

Oh, well. At least there were tractors to look at.











"Eat your beans," says my first MySpace profile pic from September 2006!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rule spill

Rule #158: Oil Apologies
To all of you out there trying to paint BP and the rest of the oil-and-gas industry as the victims here: STOP. Yes, we know lots of people depend on the industry as their livelihood. Yes, all workers aren't guilty by association for the penny-pinching hubris of company executives and others tasked with the bad decisions that led to the disaster. Yes, we still need fossil fuels at this juncture. And yes, job losses are always terrible.

But enough with the persecution complex. Forgive me if I don't indulge your spiteful rants about excessive government "shakedowns." Or your disgust over how this has given your industry a black eye. Or how you think Obama should stay out of the way/do more, depending on what he's doing at the moment. It's not persecution or vilification if it's entirely justified. Anyway, I don't recall hearing any serious figure saying we need to stop drilling for and using oil. Saying we need to plan for a future where we use cleaner, less expensive and less-perilous forms of energy isn't a diss; it's common sense. And with this spill, it just got a hell of a lot more common.

And don't even send me that old e-mail about how Louisianians should be living like Saudi sheiks. Your blitheringly ignorant call for greed modeled on one of the world's most repressive nations rang hollow even before said greed led to the utter destruction of an entire ecosystem. Really. Retire that one right now. It deserves to go the way of the dinosaurs that your industry just spilled in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rule #159: Benjamin Like Button
You are not your baby, even on Facebook. My friend feed looks like a casting call for "Baby Geniuses 3: Oddly Net-Savvy Superchildren." Especially weird is when a friend I haven't seen since childhood looks exactly the same...because they now have a kid that age. Either that, or they use some really good cold cream. 

That said, I understand if you want to show off the pride of your life. But baby talk in the profile...well...let's just say I got your ripe diaper right here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm voting for common sense

By Earl “Clem” Bob

I tell you, this country is going to hell in a handbasket. I don’t think you need me to tell you why. What I want to know is, how did it get to this point? Used to be, people loved the U.S.! They understood that being a proud American meant salutin’ the flag, shootin’ a gun, drivin’ a Chevy and of course, praising the Almighty Lord Jesus Christ. Now that’s the definition of patriotism! And that’s the way it was in the good ol’ days when I was just a young’un Clem.

But then something happened. I can’t put my finger on it, but it was the Sixties. And ever since then, we’ve had to deal with politicians what hate America. Civil rights, war protests, progressive taxation — where in the Constitution is any of that? “Leaders” like George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Mike Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama, as well as their past and present minions on the federal, state and local levels, would have you believe that the only future for America is one where we’re no longer No. 1 or able to do anything we want.

I mean, really. Alternative energy? Higher taxes on corporations? Cap and trade? Ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? Caring what the rest of the world thinks? How wimpy and depressing is that? We might as well fly the flag at half-staff every day for all the impotence today’s neutered politicians are giving us.

Which is why I’m so hopeful about the new crop of politicians running this year. Personally, I’m voting a straight ticket, not of any party, but of pro-American leaders.

“Gee, Clem,” I hear you saying, “That there sounds like a darn-tootin’ idea! But I’m blinded by the liberal media. How can you tell if a candidate for office actually loves their country?” Well, here’s a few tips:

1) Don’t watch the media. It’s controlled by the liberal agenda (even Fox News is too candy-assed for my taste). The only way to get accurate, unbiased information on a candidate is by watching their ads. They’ll tell you what you want to hear.

2) Find a candidate who favors “common sense.” Common sense is a good thing. Same goes for “values.”

3) See where they stand on socialism. Just talking about socialism is a good sign, because real socialists ain’t gonna bring it up.

4) Does the candidate have a picture of his/her family? You’ll want them to have a family. Real Americans get married and give birth to children.

5) Are there bald eagles to be seen? That’s a good sign. Also: American flag pins and patriotic bunting.

6) Calls to Take Our Country Back. All proud Americans want their country back!

7) Apple pie. Mmmmm!

It’s time to give our elected leaders the old heave-ho. Every one of them. They don’t care about what real Americans care about — making and preserving wealth and not coddling the poor — they care only about their own greed and to hell with the little people! This November, let’s send a message to both parties, especially the Democrats. Let’s finally put our country back in the hands of pro-American Americans!

Earl “Clem” Bob speaks for all America.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Brake time!

Technician: "Your rear brakes are at 75 percent."
Me: "At my last diagnostic check in February, they were at 95 percent. Could they have worn out so fast?"
Technician: "You could say they're at 95 percent. There's hardly any wear at all, really."

Friday, June 11, 2010

I'm now on Twitter

Look to your right.

Yeah, I'm a little late to the party. But hey, I'm getting too fit here. I needed another reason to sit in a chair and stare at glowing rectangles.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

That was a fast 'Kick-Ass' sequel

So President Obama's getting lots of static for his remarks about "whose ass to kick" over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Why? This is exactly what I'd say. 

Like Obama, I'm an overly analytical type. A metaphorical lover, not a stereotypical fighter. If I felt the need to kick ass and the whole world was watching, I would lay out my case for said ass-kicking. I'd do this with the best of intentions, to appear tough but intelligent at the same time. It's a difficult line to straddle on any level, much less on a presidential one.

And has anyone taken as much heat from both sides as President Obama? There are the conservatives who will rip into him for absolutely every reason, even if they trip all over their ideology to do so. That's to be expected. And there are the liberals who chastise him for not doing enough or for saying the wrong thing. No surprise there either. Obama's in what would be a bad spot for anyone, let alone someone so cerebral in an age of ass-kicking, often accused of not kicking enough ass and then getting slammed when he finally speaks of kicking ass.

And never was that dilemma more clear than it is here. For whatever progress the Obama administration is or isn't making in the Gulf, the perception issue is one he isn't likely to win in the short term. His options are thus:

1) Continue being calm and analytical, as he had been up to this point, and have people angry at him for not being angry like them;

2) Express uncharacteristic anger, earning derision for the unexpected behavior (mainly from the same angry people who'd deride him over the first option) and accusations that he's being handled by PR flacks; 

3) Straddle the line as he did, showing disgust in the calm, cool way that should actually impress the hell out of people, if we weren't so hopped up on jaded-flavored contrarian syrup laced with testosterone powder.

No matter which road he chose, Obama would feel every bump and pothole.

Obama reminds me of my late track coach, who never cursed or otherwise showed negative emotions. So when he gave you a glance of disapproval or finally let loose with a "fuck," it hit you with that much more impact. I remember early in Obama's presidency when Joe Biden made a crack at a Republican, and Obama stood next to him with a stern, disapproving face. It actually scared me a little bit just watching on television. But it was also reassuring, because it showed that Obama aims to take the high road almost to a fault.

George W. Bush made a lot of ass-kissin' comments in his day, appealing to the base that today wags its finger at Obama for allegedly doing the same thing. The difference with Bush was that he did it with a smirk and proudly in-your-face rhetoric, with a self-satisfied gusto that can be seen even in his current Haiti aid commercials with Bill Clinton. It was reckless and counterproductive. It was also, ultimately, worthless. When it's your only language, as it was with Bush, it's hard to take seriously. But Obama talking even slightly more tough? It's hard not to take notice. And that's why his comments caused such an uproar in the first place.

Somewhere, a guilty ass is clenching tight, knowing deep down that Obama will eventually kick it with fury. Not your standard fury, but a measured, calibrated, cerebral fury. The worst kind there is. And Obama's giving them time to think about it, which itself has to be devastating. That's kick-ass, no matter how you slice it.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Blog rules (relatively speaking)

Welcome to Not Right About Anything. For more than six years now, I’ve been blogging about politics, sports, my own life and many other things that interest me. I don’t do it for profit or out of obligation; it’s more like a calling (though compulsion might be a better way to put it). This site is my primary outlet for expression, rivaled perhaps only by my Facebook statuses. I’ve been writing in some form since I first discovered that crayon scrawls show up really well on walls. If blogging had existed in the 1980s, I’d probably be celebrating my 25th year doing it about now.

So who am I? My name is Ian McGibboney. I am 30 years old (in real time, anyway) and currently live in Springfield, Missouri. I’m a native of Lafayette, Louisiana. I’m not married or dating, but I’m not a loner. I have more education than is good for me. I’m a hardcore fan of the New Orleans Saints. I’ve been a reporter, a columnist, a copy editor, a freelance writer, a sports videographer, an equipment manager for various sports teams, a warehouse worker, a fast-food drone and have swept floors. I also once had a job that involved standing in the street and telling customers the bank’s new drive-through was across the street from the old one. I tend to leave that last one off the résumé for space.

While I use my real name here, I talk relatively little about my personal life. I like to say that those who know me only from this blog have maybe 1 percent of the whole picture. As much I share here, there’s always more. Much more.

Content

I write about whatever I feel like talking about that day. That’s all I ever aim to do. I don’t pretend to be an all-encompassing news source or an advocate. If I took that upon myself, I’d be a nervous wreck; I care about everything. My philosophy is, if I write about what inspires me most, it’ll show in the work and you’ll like it too. If all I have to say is, “This sucks and is depressing,” then I’ll probably pass. Unless that somehow works in and of itself. I break my own rules all the time.

Everything you see here is mine, unless it obviously isn’t. I aim for originality, but occasionally it’s necessary to crib. I try to make it really, really obvious when I’m citing another source, using colorful and/or italicized text, for example. Also, by actually noting/linking said source. And hopefully, it goes without saying that any photos of people such as Barack Obama or Drew Brees were taken by photographers other than myself. As much as it might seem that way, I’m not exactly on the inside here. When I use outside material, it’s so I can say something about it or do something artistic with it. You’re never going to find just a link. That’s boring. I don’t plagiarize for the same reason. Also, because it’s unethical. Sometimes, I might write something similar to something a comedian or pundit has said in the past. Stuff gets under my skin because I read and watch a lot. But I never do it on purpose and it aways reflects how I feel. I can’t help it if great minds think alike.

And I hope it goes without saying that the opinions expressed here are mine alone. I don’t speak for any company or for anyone who isn’t me. No one gets credit for this awesomeness but me.

Other people’s policies

Comments: Say what you want. I welcome intelligent, spirited conversation regardless of political stance. But don’t be surprised if you say something stupid and/or inflammatory and then get ragged for it.

I sometimes moderate comments. This is a direct consequence of Barack Obama being president. But don’t be surprised if you say something stupid and/or inflammatory and I publish it just to make you look accurate.

Press releases: Politely ignored.

Thinking: Strongly encouraged.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Life's a Pitch

Oh, Armando Galarraga. You’re perfect as far as I can tell.

Something really, really bothers me about that blown call. I’m not sure what, though. It seemed obvious enough at first, but the more I talked about it with people who assured me that not only was I wrong, but also whiny and melodramatic, the reason became less clear.

I’m not mad at the umpire, Jim Joyce. He made the call in a split-second decision, admitted he was wrong and apologized to Galarraga. If anything, that’s an impressive show of decency, not to mention a rare concession that umps are anything less than godlike. So it’s not that.

I’m not mad at Galarraga either. He’s a class act. An Associated Press photo taken immediately after the play shows him smiling, an expression that says, oh well. He’s also gone out of his way to show friendliness toward Joyce. He hasn’t been publicly frustrated at all, and if anyone ever had a right to be, it’s him. So it’s not that either.

I’m also not mad at those who suggest that we put emotions aside and do absolutely nothing, because absolutely nothing can be done. I don’t agree with that philosophy, but there’s a good case to make for it.

When I think about Commissioner Bud Selig rejecting any reversal out-of-hand, I think I get closer to the truth. See, there was once a time when baseball absolutely enraptured me. This was in years packed with nines and ones. I loved everything about it - the field, the ambiance, the statistics, the cards and the hats. Especially the hats. And I still do, to a large extent.

My first serious goal in life was to be a professional baseball player. I might have had vague aspirations to be a mechanic prior to that, and I know I wanted to make license plates at some point (that point being before I understood precisely who made license plates); but otherwise my entire adolescence was devoted to making the majors. Not that I ever played on an organized team or anything, at least after two years of T-ball, but I figured if I believed in my dreams and all that crap, I’d make it with ease.


(I’m the sensitive-looking boy, if that helps. Number 7 if it doesn't.)

Then reality interceded. The New Orleans Saints started winning, and suddenly I had a new, far more intense (and local) obsession. I wound up playing football my senior year in high school. By then, my transformation as a sports fan was complete. And is probably the precise reason why I feel very differently than many baseball fans about the Galarraga call.

Football and baseball are entirely different sports. No, I’m about to go George Carlin on you. OK, maybe a little bit. It’s very true what Carlin said about baseball being a 19th century pastoral game and football being a 20th century technological struggle. Football embraces technology to account for human error. Baseball not only does not embrace technology to account for human error, it actually celebrates human error as part of the game. It’s tradition!

And thus, I think this is where my anger over this situation lies: Even though the call was proven way, way wrong, and nearly everyone including the umpire himself thinks so, and it came at what would have been the end of one of the few perfect games in baseball history, it all fell into one man’s hands, Selig’s, to decide, eh, what can you do?

To err is human, yeah, I get it. But upholding that call requires a bizarre level of adherence to initial impressions. I’m just glad science and education don’t work this way. We’d still be warning our kids that tomatoes are poisonous.

I understand I’m in a minority here. For most in baseball, the idea of instant replay is a horrible prospect. It goes against everything the game represents, we’re told. It takes the game out of the umpires’ hands, or it would slow it down, or managers would abuse it, or whatever. They say if you start reversing calls, then you open up Pandora’s can of worms and you’ll have to change the winner of the 1985 World Series. Blast that Don Denkinger!!

So, clearly, we have to put all emotion aside and make the right decision.

As someone looking in from the outside on this terrible relationship, I have to ask: isn’t the fact that so many calls are consistently blown in baseball proof that, at the very least, someone should question the absolute sacrosanctness of umpires? Football does it with its officials, and the sport hasn’t collapsed. There are limits to the number of challenges, when they can be called, who can call them and what it takes to overturn a decision. And there are consequences for the challenging team if the ruling on the field stands.

My modest, admittedly undefined proposal for baseball is the equivalent of booth review: umpires can challenge and review a potentially pivotal, and contested, play. Maybe a set number per game, perhaps only in late innings and on highly questionable plays. It would keep the games in the hands of umpires, rather than outside whim, and would at least lend the impression that the sport is not so gleefully resigned to its self-imposed judgment limitations.

Something, at least. As cynical as I can be at times, I hate resignation. “That’s just the way it is.” “Nothing you can about it.” “Life isn’t fair.” “No whining.” I’m a born problem-solver at heart, so I always prefer evolution to tradition (that’s a whole different post, though). As long as the change is good (*cough*NFL*cough*). Even if they review it and determine nothing’s necessary, that’s still a positive development. At least think about it.

It’s probably for the best that I never became a pro athlete.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Deep Six

Not Right About Anything is six years old today. I just turned 30, which means I’ve been blogging for one-fifth of my life. Wow.

Hell, I remember being six years old. And now my blog is old enough to graduate from kindergarten. I should have it perform a song or something.

Maybe “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”?

Six years doesn’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things, but for a commitment-phobe like me, it’s a pretty substantial accomplishment. The longest I’ve held a single job was seven years — a part-time scholarship job that got me two college degrees. My longest relationship is eight months. The idea of a five-year plan is absolutely foreign to me, and if you’d told me six years ago what I was getting into with this thing, I probably would have given up right then and there.

I started this blog in the early morning hours of June 1, 2004. My family had gone to Disney World and I was house-sitting and puppy-watching. Back then, I was a graduate student, a published columnist, a stringer for an independent newspaper, the equipment manager for a college track team and a videographer for a local football team. Which sounds like a lot, but all of that was on hiatus on June 1. I had elected to stay home instead of taking the road trip to Orlando (which was, in retrospect, stupid, but again, this came out of it), and there wasn’t a whole lot to do. Really, I was bored.

People had been telling me I needed to set up a website for years, and so, largely inspired by my former Vermilion conservative counterpart Nick Bouterie’s blog, The Conservative Cajun, I cracked into Blogger and sowed the seeds for what you see today.

At the time, I thought the only people who would see it were my friends and maybe a few other people familiar with my college work. After nearly seven straight hours of coding, tweaking and adding material, I launched Ian McGibboney: Not Right, which I always figured was what I’d call my column if ever it got picked up by another newspaper. I e-mailed about a dozen of my best friends (pre-FaceSpace) to tell them about it. Maybe one ever responded. Some friends! At least I made some new ones.

Over the next few days, I switched templates and the name. Not Right About Anything was an afterthought, mainly a way to make the blog more about the material than about me. And since then it’s evolved and continues to evolve. I’ve learned a lot about HTML and with my writing and other creative outlets in general (all of which have helped me career-wise). I doubt I’d be where I am today in any sense without this little hobby site of mine. And I hope it's given you plenty of joy as well.

So, thanks for reading. Give me money.