Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Wide World Of Sports Diplomats

In a world where one of the top stories of the day (okay, yesterday) is that the retiring pope will be sporting brown loafers instead of his stylish red shoes, I guess one shouldn't be too ruffled by the news that Dennis Rodman is among a contingent of basketball players headed to the stand offish global bully land of North Korea on a "basketball diplomacy" mission. Looking past the absurdity of the words Dennis Rodman and mission in the same sentence, the notion is preposterous, isn't it? Three hundred million Americans, one-hundred fifty (million) of whom probably have more basketball knowledge and skills than the average North Korean, and The Worm gets to go? I'm no mathematician, certainly no jingoistic, America is always the best booster, and hardly a Rodman hater--I always admired his rebounding, defensive, and all-around opponent-obfuscating skills and found him mildly amusing and benignly inoffensive--but really, Dennis Rodman, diplomat? It's like casting John Belushi in a Jane Austen novel.

But who knows, fifty years of staid American foreign policy weens haven't managed to dent North Korea, so maybe this is some crazily bright CIA reverse psychology ploy. Come to think of it, maybe we need to see more of this type of thing, sending our crazy sports personalities to all the world's hot spots--not only to get them out of our consciousness for a short while, but also to let them infect our enemies with their own unique brands of lunacy. It might not be Brave, but it's certainly a Ditzy New World out there; let's fight fire with fire. Send Lance Armstrong to Syria, please. If Jim Harbaugh wants to go jaw to jaw with the Taliban and Al Qaida zealots, who am I to object? God only knows if there's a crazed dictator wreaking global hellfire on Easter Island, but the Land of Those Big Heads sure seems like the ideal place to ship Barry Bonds to for a few months. Somehow Atlantis calls out for a visit from Manti Te'o, no? But really, all of this is just prelude, sowing the seeds of America's taking over the world by sending all of our sports idiots to troublesome spots to force the enemy to surrender in madness, to my proposed coup de grace, the sports diplomatic mission that will go down in American foreign relations as the ultimate triumph: I guarantee you, two days of non-stop airing of a Stephen A. Smith-Skip Bayless debate about Dwight Howard, RG III's knee, or Danica Patrick's racing acumen, and the current Evil Empire that is Iran will be reduced to a nation of keening, whining, ready-to-embrace-all-things-West-if-you-just-get-these-ESPN-blowhards-away-from-us-for-nothing-more-than-a-two-minute-station-break capitulants. Any doubters? I didn't think so. Rodman, you're a trailblazer. You go, Worm.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Big Deal, Eskimos, Or, I Bet Quinn Just Said Snow, Or, I'm Sick Of Winter

Let me start by saying, screw the groundhog. By my calculations, it's been 22 days, more than three weeks, since the celebrated beast allegedly didn't see his shadow, thus supposedly sparing us six more weeks of winter. Well, even a generous benefit of the doubt doesn't excuse 22 days, more than three weeks, which is more than 50% of the prediction time, of more winter. Cold, blustery, and snowy--that's the last 22 days--and my handy Internet 10-day weather forecast (which is absurd in theory, but in practice seems to be pretty accurate) is calling for nothing but the same. My usual carefree, live and let live, ambivalence toward rodents is being severely tested by cold gray windy snowy mornings, followed by cold gray windy snowy afternoons, followed by cold gray windy snowy nights. Mr. Varmint, I'm not all right.

But to my point--why the hell do Eskimos get such good, non-damning press? I pondered this should-be-obvious question today when, while reading an otherwise great book, the author made use of that tired old trope, "the Eskimos have x amount of words for snow." First of all, have you ever heard the same number used twice in this claim? Never. It's like asking three conspiracy theorists how many shots were fired in Dealey Plaza and expecting anything like less than six different numbers. Seventeen, forty-three, one-seventy-two. Who knows? How's about one word--balderdash. I'd bet my battery-powered ice scraper that 99% of Eskimos wake up each morning, peak their heads out of their igloos, and say the exact two words I've been saying every morning for months now: "Effing snow!" (Please, don't get me started on igloos. Centuries ago, fine. But tell me now there's not a Loews or a The Home Depot within an easy dogsled ride of any in-the-market-to-build-a-new-home self-respecting Eskimo.) More than roses are roses or cigars are just cigars, snow is snow. There is absolutely no need to get poetic or effusive in your lexical creativity with regards to snow. And if you do, if there are indeed dozens of Eskimo words for snow, than I really pity the Eskimos; just goes to show you what cold redundant boredom can do to an entire race. But really, do we need to revere them so, to say in shaman-like wise hushed tones, "The Eskimos have eighty-three words for snow." Eskischmos, more like it. Show some spunk, people. If they've been that inundated with snow for millennia to the point where they have all that time to come up with new words for snow, how creatively inept can they be? My God, any other people with a decent language--the Chinese, French, English, Spanish, Swahilis, Esperantese--wouldn't have wasted all that time or energy on snow; there'd be scores of great expletives to pick and choose from: Each day of a February like this one could be greeted with a distinct one: Beebing snow, haitching snow, emming snow, dubyan snow. Imagine the fun cussing would be if the Scots lived in the Eskimos' climate. Have you ever heard of any these purported sixty-five words for snow? Didn't think so. If we had, if, on a particularly wet, flaky, blowy morning, we all got up and said, "effing, snow, no, this ain't no everyday snow, this is, as the Eskimos call it, effing groth," then maybe we'd be correct in so reverently saying that the "Eskimos have one-thousand-three-hundred-nineteen words for snow, you know?" But whatever the words are, not a damn one of them is worthy enough for any of us to know it, let alone use it. I mean, you used to hear all the time that Steve Allen had written 1.700 songs, but since you couldn't hum one of them if you had an Eskimo threatening to harpoon your skull if you didn't, you'd never include old Steverino in the same discussion with Gershiwn, Porter, Lennon-McCartney, would you? You ever hear any buzz around Nobel time that this year the Literature committee will probably throw a bone to the Eskimos and select, well, name me just one famous Eskimo writer? Jack London doesn't count. They build igloos, rub their noses, have ninety-three words for snow, and supposedly have good cholesterol numbers. Hey guys, get in line behind the Ancient Greeks for all-time best. I'm no polymath, but from where I sit on this cold night, the greatest cultural achievement of the Eskimos is the way Nat King Cole says, "Es-skee-mos" in "The Christmas Song."

Now I mean no offense. You certainly don't--as a race--need to be creative wizards for me to respect you. I have nothing but the warmest regards for the Flemish. But please, let's not get all mystical and whispery when referring to the Eskimos having two-hundred-and-four words for snow. And by the way, I do my research. Wikipedia claims the Eskimos have more than 1,000 words for reindeer. I think the people need not our reverence, but a one-week cruise in the Caribbean, power optional.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Smart Money's On Luigi Casmir Jones III

If you are anything like me and have a fetish for pundits (well, seek help, I guess), then nothing could delight you more shortly after a US presidential election than a papal conclave, or, as I'm sure some cable outlet will have it, Conclave '13! There's nothing quite like getting a name and face to attach to that wonderful appellation, Veteran Vatican Watcher. (Oh, remember the wonderful days of the early 1980s when the Soviets were getting a new leader like every six months? Yuri Andropov anyone? I knew at least one fraternity brother back then who daydreamed himself to sleep every night with visions of someday being called a Veteran Kremlin Watcher, but how times change, hunh? Being a Veteran Kremlin Watcher these days is akin to being a veteran typewriter repairman, isn't it? Hey Vince, could you fix my ampersand key?) And so, I will revel in this wonderful time until that puff of white smoke appears, grateful that I can ignore the daily comings and goings of Lindsey Graham. I don't want to get greedy, but oh what fun it would be if there's gridlock in the Vatican and we get things like: Papal Perplexity: Conclave 13!: Day 47.

While I remember from my elementary Catholic school education that to be eligible for election to the papacy one needs only to be male and Catholic, I'm not expecting a congratulatory call from some secret holy phone booth deep inside the Vatican. I'm just honored, presently, to be in the pool of candidates. In fact, if you can keep a secret (no need to spoil the limelight time for all those VVWs), I know, unequivocally, who will be the next pope--one Luigi Casmir Jones III, soon to be Pope Canasta I. Born at sea on a steamer heading from the Cape of Good Hope to Saint Helena in 1950, Luigi is a true man of the world, not tied to any one country, continent, or race. Just going back two generations to his paternal grandfather, the original Luigi Casmir Jones, there's a veritable UN quorum in his genetic make-up, encompassing, but not limited to, Bengali, Sicilian, Kenyan, Korean, Peruvian, Estonian, Andorran, and West Side Chicago blood. With the skin tone of the rich nougaty goodness of a fresh Snickers bar, and a speaking voice that sends linguists into spasms of ecstasy, Luigi is the poster boy for a globalized, it's a small world after all, 21st Century. Name me another Catholic male who can be found at his leisure playing cricket between chapters of the latest (untranslated) Bulgarian murder mystery while carrying on a pretty learned conversation in Javanese with a Dutch lesbian about the bullpen prospects for this year's Cubs? After riding the world's rails throughout the turbulent Sixties, Luigi settled down for a spell as a urologist in Uruguay. His latent Catholicism was awakened with a fervor while appearing as an extra in a crowd scene in the 1986 Robert DeNiro/Jeremy Irons vehicle The Mission (alas, his scene was left on the cutting room floor). Within a decade he was ordained and became a bishop. In 2000, in a move widely scoffed at as an act of Canonical Affirmative Action, Luigi was named a cardinal by Pope John Paul II. His linguistic facility and acute ability to turn the perfect phrase soon made him the pre-eminent papal ghostwriter. Among the Vatican cognoscenti, Luigi, an avid biker (both the pedal and the vroom vroom kind), became known as the man who puts the cycle in the encyclical. In eventual retrospect, his election will look like the most astute no-brainer.

What, you say, spitoutyourgum, that nabob of nonsense, a VVW all this time? Not quite, though I appreciate the assumption. No, I've learned all this from my man in the Vatican, not an offical VVW mind you, though one every self-respecting VVW prays he had access to, one Dred Gelato Orianafallaci, the most successful, and I daresay, best-dressed corndog on a stick vendor in Saint Peter's Square. Dred knows everything Vaticanal. He knows the radio station the Pope Mobile is locked on (Sirius Radio's Siriusly Sinatra, naturally), knows which Cardinal receives fan letters from Sophia Loren, and knows that the biggest upheaval when Benedict took over from JP Deuce was the command that all official Vatican commodes switch from delivering toilet paper from over the top to from underneath. Due to issues regarding my life expectancy, I can't divulge just how I know Dred (let's just say we belong to an organization whose main form of amusement is telling jokes that begin, "A Mason, an Illuminati, and an Opus Dei guy walk into a bar ... "; Dan Brown would sell all foreign rights to rub shoulders with the guys we rub shoulders with), only that we communicate strictly through a high/low tech method involving Morse Code, Tootsie Rolls, Milk Duds, and Instagram. "Why should I publish this info to the world via my blog, Dred?" I dotted and dashed soon after Dred let me in on all of the above. "Nobody reads your blog, that's why. But after the fact, everybody will. It's a win win win situation: you actually get some readers, the Church gets the greatest Pope of the Millennium, and I sell more corndogs. Capice?" Now on the Daily Beast website I just read this from John L. Allen, a fledgling VVW: "The trash heaps of history are littered with the carcasses of so-called experts who have tried to predict the next pope." Too true, I'm sure, but Mr. Allen, in Dred I trust, and my carcass is going to rest on laurels, not the nearest historical trash heap, when the world sees that puff of smoke a few weeks hence. Luigi Casmir Jones III = Pope Canasta I. Book it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

PSA for CPT: Vote!

I am not a shiller by trade, but Cleveland Public Theatre is a great organization, and I have a few friends who work there. So, please consider taking all of a few seconds to click on the links below and register your vote to help out an outstanding Cleveland arts institution. Thank you.

CPT is one of six finalists for Cuyahoga Arts & Culture’s Creative Culture Grants Program. Two large-scale, transformative projects will be selected by the residents of Cuyahoga County to receive grants up to $150,000.

We need your help to get as many votes as possible for our proposal: OUT OF THE BOX AND INTO THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Here are a couple ways you can help CPT get the word out:

1. Send an email to friends, family and neighbors!! (FYI - Only residents of Cuyahoga County can vote.)

This is the link to the voting.

2. Post it on your social media outlets. Get the word out on Facebook and Twitter! Be sure to join our facebook event and share it with others.

You can learn more about all of the proposals here

Monday, February 4, 2013

Does This Shave Make Me Look Like A Jerry? A Biker?

I'm assuming that everyone reading this blog who is over the age of thirty knows at least one Jerry, right? Though I also assume that in thirty years hence everyone over the age of thirty will know at least five Ezras, Micahs, Jordans, and Calebs, but that knowing a Jerry might be a rare distinction. Jerry, to me, is like Phil, Ray, Earl, and Ron--a dependable name for a dependable guy. Don't know how to get it done, don't even have the first clue about the first step to getting it done? Ask Jerry et al. He'll know. Jerry knows torque, logistics, circuit breakers, and grilling. Jerry bowls, smokes meat, guts fish, and uses a slide rule with dexterity. God help the world when all the Jerrys die out.

I bowl once in a great while, but I am no Jerry. In many ways, I am the anti-Jerry. If I can get the hood of my car up and staying up without crashing down on my head, I consider it a success. Jerry actually knows why you might want to lift your hood in the first place. So, much to my, well, not chagrin, but imbalance, maybe, people at my new job are constantly calling me Jerry. The reason sounds simple--the only other guy in the office is named Jerry, and he came first--but the details leave one (me, at least) scratching his head. And it goes way beyond the obvious--Jerry is maybe thirty and African-American; I'm definitely almost fifty and Caucasian--to reasons I can't begin to fathom. Now I'd like to think I am as friendly and helpful and easygoing as this particular Jerry, but still, anyone with half a brain could tell within thirty seconds of being in my presence that even if you might mistake me out of the corner of your eye for a second for a friendly thirtyish African-American, you would in no way mistake me for a Jerry. If Jerry's name were George, Joe, Fred, or Andy, I could understand the mix-up, but me, a Jerry? Come on.

All I can think of is that it's my shaving. You see, for ten years I haven't really had the need (i.e., the occupational imperative) to shave every day. Now I do. So I'm thinking that even if all these new-job colleagues of mine have never known the unshaven Dan, the something's-different-about-this-guy subliminal aura I must be giving off has them thinking (never underestimate the ignorance of the human being, I think Charro said) well, sure he knows his way around a sander, a seven-ten split, a bait and tackle shop. Soon, I think, the jolt that my daily shave is obviously giving to my pheromones will lessen and my co-workers will have a tendency to call me Jerry as much as call me Merlin. Until then, while I consider it an honor to be mistaken for the particular Jerry in my office, I will never get used to being mistaken for a guy who knows the first thing about a sprocket.

As for (it was a weird day anyway, hence the discussion in the office about dream trips we all would like to take and one co-worker's surprise announcement that although she's scared of motorcycles, she would love to attend some infamous bikers' convention [wait a minute, there cannot possibly be a bikers' convention, maybe just a get-together] in Myrtle Beach) the co-worker who turned to me today and said, "Dan (notice, the pheromones must be abating already) you look like the kind of guy who's been to a bikers' jamboree," I'm just going to blame it all on solar flares or too much snow or something.

Roy, though, no? There's got to be a Roy attached to like every fourth bike at a bikers' stampede in Myrtle Beach, right?