Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More Than a Pretty Face

As cliché as it sounds, being in the right place at the right time is all that's necessary to become the next big thing.

For French pop singer Alizée Jacotey, it granted her international fame as a teen sensation, but the road to relevancy with age has been a much harder note to hit.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rock On... "The Lost Children of Rockdale County"

Fifteen years ago, a syphilis outbreak among middle and high schoolers in Conyers, Georgia uncovered a secret web of sex, drugs, and teenaged angst few adults knew about. The naivety of this situation by the parents, that it could never happen in a small town like Conyers, turned a blind eye to their own teenagers who inexplicably put each other's lives at stake. In so doing, the chasm between proper parenting and impressionable youth was divided even further, thus faulting both sides to this commonplace story.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On The Origin of Man's Folly to Explain the Creation of Life

In a class of mine I'm currently taking, we've just finished covering the chapter on the theory of evolution. It's a touchy subject, no doubt, because it champions science over religion, which frequently mix as well as oil and water. Having come from a Christian background and a private high school, learning about this material in a secular college was inevitable. But it wasn't as dangerous as the people from my past made it out to be. If anything, I feel enlightened.

Turns out, the theory of evolution is all smoke and mirrors.

So why has it been accepted as fact in the public sector for the longest time? Because it's convenient.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Stopgap #1

I think I've bumped my head against a writer's block over the past week and a half, and it hurts like a migraine.

So then what's the point of this post?

Simple. I need a little something to break this "hiatus" of mine while I prepare my next round of personal blog entries.

But to prove it, I'm gonna give y'all the inside track behind my writing process. I can't just sit down and write a final draft of a post from beginning to end in that strict fashion. I write in the manner of a sporadic impromptu. After I write a few good lines (or even just one good line), I get up from my chair, walk around for a minute, and I resume writing again. I repeat until I'm done with the final product, bored to tears, stuck in a rut, or need to go to sleep.

Take this post for instance. It took me twelve hours from the time I stared at a blank computer screen until I put the finishing touches on this juggernaut of a piece. I literally did nothing else that was productive during that time. But I didn't sit there the whole time writing. I ate, took care of business, and watched my fair share of ESPN programming. At the end of the day, I was gassed and didn't want to write anymore. In fact, save a quick rehash on the Tampa Bay Rays' acquisition of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, it took me nearly a week before I had another quality post up.

In all, I try my best to have some original content/commentary up a few times a week. I write in bunches, with the occasional dry spell when I've got nothing ready but plenty of ideas floating around. And as I've mentioned at least once before, I am a full-time student first and foremost. I have other duties and commitments that warrant my time and focus more so than this "hobby" of mine. I also know that I don't have a loyal following (I don't think I've got any following), so this (first) disclaimer will, for the most part, be disregarded as a waste of space. No matter.

For those of y'all who actually read this and have stayed 'til the end, thank you. To commend your patience, I'll let y'all in on a few posts I have in mind. By the end of next month, I pledge to have a piece on a hot-button issue that has evolved over the years, another on the greatest French import since the Statue of Liberty, and another on one man's improbable journey to a burger milestone.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Every Day Should Be St. Patrick's Day

Today is St. Patrick's Day, and I don't care.

It's not that I dislike the Irish, nor the Catholics, nor the debauchery that inevitably follows, or even the color green.

It's just that this holiday doesn't instill a fervent sense of pride in me than it does in some other people. I'm fine with that. But don't think for a second that I can't appreciate this day for what it truly is – a blessing of life.

On average, there are 365 days in a year, and it's amazing how many of them are taken for granted. 'Cause when you think about it, every day is always someone's birthday or a holiday to be celebrated. We simply tend to find new ways to belittle it's existence instead of living fully for what that day has to offer.

Don't believe me? Think about tomorrow or yesterday. Are those days any less special than today just because they don't follow a centuries-old tradition? It shouldn't. Every day should be St. Patrick's Day because that's the only way it'll get people to view the time from dawn to dusk and back to dawn as a unique experience waiting to be enjoyed. And before y'all know it, the whole world will become completely inebriated and people like this guy won't have anything to complain about.

On second thought, maybe it's best St. Patrick's Day comes just once a year... but I hope y'all get my point.

Today is March 17, and I do care.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Method Behind My March Madness 2011

With the release of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament bracket yesterday, everyone's got their picks for who'll be the last ones dancing on the court April 4. From the experts at ESPN to practically any office pool, there are 147,573,952,589,676,412,928 possible combinations of filling out a unique bracket between 68 teams. Whether you play it competitively or just for kicks, there's bound to be some measure you take in deciding who'll advance how far, who'll be upset, who'll be this year's Cinderella story, and who'll cut down the nets in Houston at the end. If you've come this far (i.e., visited my blog), I bet you're at least curious about who I have making it through this year. Don't worry, I'm probably as clueless as you when it comes to picking against evenly matched teams and rely on gut instinct. Read on to see my selections and my reasoning behind the majority of them, and drop a line if you agree, disagree, or never want me in Vegas with you at the same time.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Psychological Interpretation on the Death of Wes Leonard

Last week, tragedy struck a small town in Michigan when junior Wes Leonard of Fennville High School was touched by the Angel of Death minutes after making the game-winning layup in overtime to secure an undefeated regular season for his team.

His passing is, undoubtedly, an incomprehensible loss. Leonard was the star player on the Fennville Blackhawk's basketball team, and he received a plaque earlier in the year for surpassing 1,000 career points on the varsity level. He also played football at the quarterback position, leading Fennville all the way to a Southwestern Athletic Conference North Division championship with an undefeated league record last fall. Those who knew him well remember the young athlete as a positive individual with a strong Christian faith.

An autopsy confirmed everyone's worst nightmare when it ruled that he died from cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart... but is that all there is to this story?

From a psychological perspective, no it's not. And to best explain this phenomenon, let's turn to the field of existential psychology.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Blessing in Disguise (Fiction)

(I wrote this piece about a year and a half ago [September 2009], but I lost it for the longest time. A few weeks ago, as I was rummaging through a file cabinet, I finally found one of my earlier [and better] creative writing assignments for an English class at the time. The following is a 95% reproduction of that original piece, with some slight editorial marks I've since made to elucidate my storyline. Enjoy.)

During the evening twilight, I stepped into a local restaurant and onto the crowded, smelly, wooden patio overlooking the Cooper River. Scores of people, adorned in decorative, floral attire were gathered around tiny tables, enjoying that day's catch. As I walked around, trying to find a vacant seat, I noticed an old, wealthy man sitting by himself, sifting through the skeletal remains of a hollow lobster. I asked the man if I could sit opposite from him at the table; he obliged, and I took a seat, not knowing what to expect from this strange man.

He appeared no more retired than anyone else on the deck that day. He left the top two buttons on his elegant, white shirt unbuttoned. His skin was remarkably smooth for his age, to the point where the sun's rays illuminated no creases on his face. The Van Dyke beard he had grown was meticuously styled and groomed, as if he were trying to look professional while eating at a casual restaurant. The brand of his sunglasses, Eckō, reverberated this man's fine taste in contemporary designer labels. I also noticed something that I missed at first glance: a gold Rolex watch. Like a jealous neighbor, I grew envious of this man's overwhelming wealth. Finally, I got up the courage to ask him, "Where'd you get that overpriced watch?"

"Oh, this old thing?" he said in a nonchalant tone. "I got this as a retirement present from all my colleagues about five years ago." He took his time choosing his words, as if not to rub me the wrong way. "I was a record producer for Atlantic Records. I helped get a little-known band by the name of Hootie & the Blowfish into the national spotlight. I dabbled a little bit with Bette Midler and Foreigner, but helping Hootie win a Grammy for Best New Artist in '96 was my magnum opus."

Meanwhile, I noticed that he occasionally looked down when he was talking. He seemed rather embarrassed to talk about his success, which he tried to keep underneath his perfectly woven straw hat. His voice was soft-spoken and his demeanor calm, which was hard to decipher on such a noisy, polluted place. When he did look up at me, the moderate tint of his hazel-brown shades masked his eyes, like he pretended to be blind to my question. I felt he was trying to hide something from me, so I delved a little deeper.

"So, what are you doing here in Charleston," I asked. "Why aren't you in some affluent, sleepless town like New York City or Los Angeles?"

"Young man, there comes a time in life where you can choose to work yourself to death, grasping for materialistic gains like a kid in a candy store, or you can accept the fact that there is more to life than success in the work force. What you see is not a man who wants to flaunt his wealth, but a man who wants to enjoy the niceties in life. Believe me, I don't go around town hoping that someone will appreciate me for how I look. That's not my style. Besides, you're one of the first to notice the brand of my watch."

"So, what you're wearing doesn't make you think twice about your riches?"

"No, why should it?"

That brief, yet profoundly deep, question he posed left the two of us in awkward silence. As we sat, almost in disbelief, hypnotic tiki music continued to fill the air, while waiters breezed past tables and customers with graceful agility. The old man devoured the last few morsels of coleslaw, as if he was finishing up his last meal. I picked up a nearby menu, gazing at the vast array of seafood selections the restaurant had to offer. After sitting there for a minute, the man finally spoke up.

"Listen, I don't mean to chastise you for your beliefs on social acceptance. The truth is, I could care less about what I wear to some local restaurant off the coast. There's more to life than being accepted based on appearances. Just let your work do the talking, and you'll go far. Remember that, kid."

He shook my hand, left forty bucks on the table, and I never saw him again. I was perplexed to see such a successful man live in a humble manner. It was almost refreshing to think that anyone could live in leisure and not be motivated by constant greed. He seemed too good to be true. Then I realized the money he left on the table was real.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hello, I Must Be Going!: Phil Collins To Retire from Music Industry

I was listening to a Phil Collins track in the air tonight, when I first read the news at a quarter to eleven p.m. Eastern time that long-time drummer and vocalist Phil Collins of Genesis and solo fame will retire, citing health concerns.

But seriously, I really was listening to a Phil Collins song at the time. It was "Invisible Touch", from his time with Genesis.

Sorry, y'all. Back to the news.

If it is true that he's retiring from the stu-stu-studio ('coz he sang this tune once before), should this time be taken at face value?

From the sound of it, it kinda does. He lives up in Switzerland by himself, and he's expressed a sentiment that he's just better off wilting away in solitary. (Sounds like something former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel would do.) There's also been a report that Collins is retiring (for good) because he cannot keep up with the vitriol nor the style of contemporary music in this day and age.

You'd have to be real sincere to say these things and not take one more night sooner to make this decision.

Through it all, Collins has sold over 150 million records, and amassed eight studio albums and twenty one Top-40 singles in his solo career, seven of which topped the Billboard Hot 100.

Certainly, I hope his retirement serves him well. I've enjoyed his music for as long as I can remember, and if it weren't for several other artists making their way into my music library the past few years, I'd be a bigger fan of Phil Collins now. Nonetheless, the many times I have listened to him, he's been very candid about real life issues that double as catchy pop tunes and ballads. He's told me to never hurry love, watch out for easy lovers, and that every day in the U.S. is always another day in paradise. Try picking that up in today's music. Combined with all his charity work, it's hard to see him go if you're a fan, as well.

Whatever you do, Phil Collins, just don't dance into the light, but bicycle, if you must.

Friday, March 4, 2011

2011 Spring Training: New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers

A few days ago, I was able to pull some strings and attend a spring training baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida on Monday, February 28, 2011. Detroit won 6-2 in a game which featured both teams plating two runs in each inning they scored (New York in the top of the fifth, and Detroit in the bottom of the sixth, seventh, and eighth). Monday was also the spring training debut of Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who came under scrutiny a week and a half ago for getting arrested on DUI in the state of Florida. Cabrera, who has a drinking problem, went to counseling in the two offseasons ago, and he was assumed that he was clean. (Cabrera went 0-2 with a walk in the game.)

As a treat, here are several photos I took of that game, mostly about the big name players for the Yankees, though I have a few shots of Miguel Cabrera. If you're looking for a recap of the game, please go here or here (if you're into numbers).

The view from my seat that day.

Miguel Cabrera during his first at-bat of Spring Training with CC Sabathia on the mound.

Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander.

Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter getting into position.

Shortstop Jhonny Peralta right before he belted a stand-up double in the bottom of the second inning.

Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge.

Derek Jeter when he's not busy building mansions in nearby Tampa.

Mark Teixeira takes a big hack for a foul ball that goes a few rows behind me on the other side of the section where I sat.

Miguel Cabrera during his second at-bat.

Players in dark uniforms from left to right: Alex Rodriguez (sitting), Mark Teixeira (standing), Derek Jeter (off of first base), and Robinson Cano (at bat).

Andruw Jones and Derek Jeter bumping fists after Jeter scores the first run of the game.

Mark Teixeira sliding safely into home plate for the second (and final) run for the Yankees that day.

Don Kelly. I like Don Kelly.

The ESPN Baseball Tonight bus from it's left side. Yep, it's real, alright.

The ESPN Baseball Tonight bus from the rear. I've always wanted to have Tim Kurkjian and John Kruck as Fatheads. Where can I get 'em?

Leaving Tiger Town... for now