Sunday, November 23, 2014

Boys in the Bar

Last night at O'Hare airport I checked on the computer and saw that Boston College was tied with undefeated Florida State in the fourth quarter.  Across from where I was sitting, there was your standard airport quasi sports bar.  I went over there and nearly all the games were showing either Wisconsin or Notre Dame.  No BC//Florida State in sight.  So I shlepped my lame leg down the corridor and found another place. There the BC game was on the air.  I parked myself on a perch, asked for an Irish coffee, and began watching.

While Sammy, the barkeep, was making the coffee I saw an egregious facemask penalty on Florida State. So, I said "Facemask".  Sammy looked up.  "Sorry" I said. "That was definitely a facemask." My best guess is that Sammy is an anglicized version of Sami and he is from somewhere near the Red Sea.  He did not seem to get the significance of my blurting "facemask".

I am not a fanatic Boston College fan. I will root for them because I live in these parts, but it has been years since I got worked up about a BC game.   There is, in fact, something offputting about BC as far as I am concerned because despite the college name, the school is NOT in Boston, but in a suburb. (As opposed to Boston University that is in Boston, and of course Northeastern University, my employer the best school of the three).  Still I was cheering for BC at the bar.

A fellow to my right asked me if was a BC fan. I explained the nature of my allegiance.  He then, very affably, said we might have some trouble. He, I found out, is from Florida, went to Florida State, and can probably tell you the name of the third string guard and the waterboy.  When BC looked like it might go ahead, this guy started buying shots to calm himself. When BC missed what would have been a go-ahead field goal, the fellow bought a beer to rejoice. When Florida State kicked a game winning field goal, he knocked back a final shot.  This guy was just a wonderful football watching companion.  He described Florida State's entire season and their chances for making it to the final four.  He was a great example of fandom.

Today I went to a place I visit occasionally during football season when I feel as if want to observe my sport loving brethren.  At this place, every week, or at least every single time I have been there,  a group of diehard Cleveland Browns fans sit at the same table and stoically watch their team.  When the Browns were terrible (which they have been for quite some time) they still sat there in silence. These folks are older than I am or at least look that way. Gray, as bald as I am, look quite healthy but look also as if they have been around the track.  The Browns prevailed today and one of the group popped up after the last second field goal giving high fives to his compatriots. Earlier I had to laugh when the quarterback for the Browns made a foolish throw that resulted in an interception.  One of the Browns faithful--a fellow who is likely retired, or if not may be (or may have been) a senior executive at a computer company pulling in a million dollars a year--shouted his opinion of the play loud enough for me to hear it on the other side of the restaurant. "You stupid bastard." he said.

My dad used to say that he feels sorry for those who do not enjoy sports because of the joy it can bring to the fandom who do so enjoy it.  Another wise comment from my father


Several years ago I read a book called Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.  It was very good and subsequently became a motion picture which I never did see but heard was similarly well done.  I was looking for something to read a few weeks ago and spotted, Nightwoods by Charles Frazier in one of the bookcases.

There is a library near me that has, four times a year, a book sale which brings folks from all over.  It is held in a tiny basement, smaller than most basements in single family homes.  The sales take place on weekends. The joint is packed on Saturday. If you can hold off until Sunday, you not only can breathe in the basement, but the books already reduced to a dollar or two on Saturday, become half priced.  So for half a buck you can get a paperback novel that sells for sixteen dollars in your local bookstore.  The classics sell for a dime.  (And what are passing for classics these days are books that were novels when I was a teenager).

That is how I think I came to have Nightwoods on my shelf.  Can't remember for sure. But I see the reference to Cold Mountain on the cover, and the excerpts from raving reviewers on the cover as well.  "Impossible to Shake" Entertainment Weekly, "Fantastic" Washington Post. "Astute and Compassionate", The Boston Globe.


I don't buy it.  To me this novel was more like a short story that had been inflated.  I rarely stop reading a novel half way through, but I almost put this one down.  I'm glad I didn't because the last section was well done and perhaps that is what the reviewers refer to.  However, so much of the background was unnecessary, and the descriptions much too much so. It takes a very long time to get to the chase and not enough time spent on the residual effects.

I'm not recommending the book, but if you want to read it for yourself you can stop reading this review now as I will give some of it away.  A reclusive woman who had been emotionally abused by her worthless mother and her twisted father, takes in the two children of her sister.  The children are homeless because the sister has been murdered by the second husband and stepfather of the kids.  The stepfather is a nogoodnik down to his ankles who somehow gets away with the murder.  He believes his sister in law not only has the kids but money that the bad guy believes is his.  He comes to town looking for the sister to find the money.  In the meantime a contemporary and former townsperson of the guardian sister comes back home and falls in love with the sister.

There you have it.  I set the stage in a paragraph. It will take you 150 pages to get there if you read the book, and then another 100 to find out what happens.

I do think the novel would have been good a short story and could have been such. The end does have some gripping moments and I found myself wanting to know what happened, but for me the book was not impossible to shake.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Unconventional Behavior

One of the "Classic 39" Honeymooner episodes is entitled, "Unconventional Behavior."  In it, Ralph and Ed agree, reluctantly, to invite their wives to join them and travel to the Raccoon Convention in Minneapolis.

In the second half of the episode, the men find themselves on the train without their spouses. Initially, they suspect that the women are elsewhere on the train and begin to review the various gimmicks they have brought along to dazzle their Raccoon brethren.  Bulging eyeballs, guns that squirt, funny masks, and something Norton just picked up on the way to the train--handcuffs.

The handcuffs are the piece de resistance as far as Norton is concerned. You latch them to an unsuspecting brother Raccoon and pretend that there is no key.  To prove the point, Norton attaches the handcuffs to Ralph.  When it comes time to extricate himself, Norton tries to do what he has been told to do in the store, i.e. say 1. 2. 3. boomf.

Problem is that while in the store, the magic word boomf separated the handcuffs. On the train, the two are attached and can't decouple. The rest of the episode is about how they are stuck together. And at the end of the skit, they realize that the reason the women are not with them, is that the boys got on the wrong train.

I'm in Chicago.  The national conference for those who examine what I do in universities is being held here this weekend.  The first time I went to this convention it was, in fact, in Minneapolis. This was 1978.   I like going to this conference.  It is enormous.  As many as twenty concurrent sessions every 75 minutes.  If you are interested in Health Communication, Mediated Messages, Nonverbal Communication, Presidential Rhetoric, Sports Communication, Interpersonal or Group, Crisis a type of Communication and someone has given or will be giving a paper on it this weekend.  (I will comment that there were not enough sessions this time on Sport Communication).

A question that I have been mulling for the last few hours is this:  How different is this group than the Raccoons to which Ed Norton and Ralph Kramden belonged?  We are more educated for sure.  A Ph.D. here or an aspiration to get one, is the ticket for entry .   And we did not bring bulging eye balls or funny masks to the sessions, but I'm not sure that beyond this, the group is that much different.

At the very first academic convention I attended, I went back to my room after a few hours--and wrote the following little poem.

At conventions folks come to attend; to pontificate and contend, with peers.
An excuse for a weekend away, a time for the heart to convey//allay--its fears.

(At this time in my life I was writing these little ditties regularly. It is meaningful I know--and not in a good way--that I rarely do this anymore.  Not sure why).

Like I said, I enjoy going to this particular conference.  There is a good deal that I listen to that is worthless, but almost always something I listen to that is valuable.  Yet, I continue to wonder if we are just better educated Raccoons.

It is almost forty years since my first trip to Minneapolis.  I see some of the people who were the elders at that time.  They look older.  Go figure.  How is it that except for when I catch a glance at myself in the reflecting walls all over the Hilton, I feel I am the same age as I was in 1978?

As was the case in Minneapolis. the place is flooded with young-uns.  Young Ph.D.s and graduate students hoping to make a name for themselves.  I recognize the lot, as I was once them.  Their duds are different.  When I started coming to these--for a time right after the "revolution"-- folks were, counterintuitively, conservatively attired.  Now jeans are as normal as ties.  Profanities are uttered in the course of academic discussions.

It is interesting that so much of what is said in the coffee shops and lounges is exactly what had been uttered forty years ago. What people are teaching; what are the chances for tenure; where are people being hired; who is the son of a bitch making completing the degree difficult.

There is an exhibition hall where textbooks are displayed.  I have a few books out so it is heady to see my titles displayed and hear salesperson say how swell they are to prospective adopters.  And if you want to be obtuse for a few moments you can become buoyed hearing the salesperson blow smoke at you.

Adjacent to the exhibition hall are poster sessions. There, young whippersnappers, talk through studies they are doing.  I go to a number today.  I see a young woman and then a young man who are very enthusiastic about their work.  I listen to the young woman but for the first five minutes I can't get past the fact that she has a hook in her nose.  She is very attractive and what I would like to say to this 20 something person is, "why are you wearing that ridikalus hook in your nose".  And then the fellow, equally handsome, speaks about something which, coincidentally, I know quite a bit about.  What he is saying is not that profound and, while not egotistical, he is speaking as if he discovered the wheel. Similarly the woman with the hook has spoken about a phenomenon that is not real new.  And I begin to feel embarrassed because I wonder if at age 26 I was spewing wisdom enthusiastically that proved to someone who had been around the track, just how unwise I might have been.

So, are we Raccoons?

In some ways no.  We are better educated; don't think throwing balloons with water out of a window is hysterical.  And many of the papers I heard do or at least can make a difference in what we know about Communication.

But in some ways, we may be just Raccoons without the uniforms.  We frolic differently after the sessions are over. But we frolic. Probably knock them back as good as the Raccoons.  And I think symbolically we are handcuffed to assumptions about how we should be.  To boot, we sometimes. like Ralph and Ed, find that we are heading in the wrong direction.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Just saying

In case you missed the prediction in the last paragraph.;postID=8353714960969442325;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=0;src=postname

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oakland Chiefs

The first year of Monday Night football, the fall of 1970, the New York Football Giants played the Philadelphia Eagles in late November.  I just checked on the net to make sure that my memory was accurate.  It was/is.

I remember the game because at the time I was a fanatic Giants fan.  (I remember everything-as long as it was more than fifteen minutes ago).  It was the Giants to whom my dad, brother, and I paid homage during our youth.  In the late 50s and early 60s the Giants were contenders. In the mid to late 60s the Giants were from hunger.

But in 1970 the Giants surprised everyone and had a winning streak of six games.  And on Monday night November 23rd the Giants were scheduled to play the then hapless Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles were 1-7-1 at the time.  It looked like an easy game. A gimmee.  The Giants, inexplicably, were headed for the playoffs.

Except they lost.  On national television. They came into the game asleep.  And the Eagles who were flying barely off the ground during that season were the winners.  Because of this loss the Giants had to defeat the powerful Los Angeles Rams on the last game of the season in order to make the playoffs. Didn't happen. The Rams shellacked the Giants. No playoffs; Giants went home.

It is now 3 pm Eastern time, Thursday night, November 2014.  It is five and a half hours before tonight's Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs national telecast.  The Oakland Raiders are winless. The Chiefs have a head of steam going. The Chiefs are in a good position to win the tough AFC West.

But they will lose tonight.  You read it here first.  The Oakland Raiders who have a record of 0 and everything, will prevail against the charging Chiefs.  Just like the Eagles beat the Giants 44 years ago. The Chiefs will go to the playoffs, but they will lose to the Oakland Raiders tonight.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Last year on Thanksgiving I flew to Florida to be with my Dad.  We hung around watching football all day.  He had clipped out a coupon for a turkey dinner at a diner about a half hour from his home. Then, instead, we decided to go to a Chinese restaurant close by.

So that's how we spent the last Thanksgiving we had together.  The fare was fine as far as I was concerned. Hot and sour soup, egg rolls, shredded beef or something like that in garlic sauce, and ice cream.  Bliss for me.

But Dad was glum--as he was for the entire nine month period between the time when my mother died and his own passing.  He could not get through the loss.  While I tried to point out the good news that was all around for which we should give thanks, like---we both were healthy, we were enjoying the day together, he had a nice home, both of his kids had done ok, he had enough dough in the bank to pay his bills and still go out for hot and sour soup whenever he so chose, the weather was good, Obama was president--no matter what I pointed out--it did not stick.

After the ice cream we went back to the house and watched another football game.  Dad and I always liked watching sports together.  And, if we want truth in history, that was not always easy to do when Mom was with us.   Still, he could not see the glass full.

Three months later he died from a broken heart. Three months after that his brother's wife, who was the last Zaremba standing from that generation, died in an automobile accident.

As kids, Thanksgiving was always at this aunt's home.  We would drive into Queens around 4 on Thanksgiving day and meet with my cousins, my dad's brother and sister in law.  My grandfather would come and sometimes my maternal grandmother would be invited to join us for the day.  We sat around their table in the duplex townhouse on Springfield Boulevard and, implicitly at least, gave thanks for each other's presence.

No more presence.  This year all of the parents are gone.  My cousins' dad--my uncle--died in the early 90s and now their mother is gone.  My folks gone in a nine month period.

So, my cousin has invited us all to Philadelphia.  We are all going down.  My cousin Sam from DC is coming up with his two kids to his brother's place.  My brother, nephew, his wonderful sweet kids Jack and Sophie, spouses, we are all meeting in Philadelphia.

Life goes on.  This life. We have it until we don't.  And when we don't we cannot embrace and give thanks.  As Andrew Marvel wrote in a poem with different motives, but appropriate words nonetheless "The grave's a fine and private place, but none I think in there embrace."

Embrace. Tell the ones you love, that you love. Give thanks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I blogged last week about a facebook friend's posting after the election. He had written "the party without balls lost to the party without brains."

After I clicked on the link below, I felt that he would have better expressed the situation had he written, The party without balls and brains lost to the party without brains.

Still cannot get over how the Democrats in the last election tried to distance themselves from President Obama.  It was akin to how Gore distanced himself from President Clinton in 2000. This, another brilliant tactic.  Clinton would have won that election for Gore and for all of us. Instead we had to endure George Bush who brought the country to its economic knees.