Another (One-Sided) Tempest is Raging in the Teapot

We live in an age in which a fundamental right of individuals to never be offended has apparently been ratified. It remains unclear to me by whom and on the basis of what authority this right has been granted, but there’s little doubt that it now exists.

Personally, I don’t subscribe to the use of this dubious privilege and wish that my point of view was more widely held, but I’m wise enough to recognize that the genie is completely out of the bottle on this one.

That said, I find it troubling that it seems that this newly identified right may only be exercised in certain situations, rather than applied universally.
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Last Thursday night, I was watching the NCAA basketball tournament “March Madness” pre-game show on CBS when expert analyst, Doug Gottlieb, well and truly stuck his foot, not just in his mouth, but all the way down his throat.

Describing his inaugural appearance on the pre-game show, Gottlieb intoned, “Cream rising to the crop. I don’t know why you guys asked me, I’m just here to bring diversity to the set here. Give the kind of white man’s perspective on things from the point guard position.

Understandably, double-takes and uncomfortable shifting in chairs was evident from all four of his colleagues on the broadcast, all of whom happened to be black.  Obviously, it was an incredibly stupid thing to say, not to mention an assault on grammar and the English language.  At best, it was an extremely lame attempt to make a joke which fell harder and faster than the proverbial lead balloon.

I sat in front of my television dumb-founded and somewhat slack jawed at what I had just witnessed, knowing full well that this segment would soon become grist for every sports columnist and main stream media talking head desperately searching for the next controversial nugget to feed to the voracious 24-hour news cycle.

I was not disappointed.  Articles, commentaries, and news stories roundly criticizing Gottlieb have been appearing unabated since Thursday.  At least one sport’s commentator called for his immediate firing from CBS.  To his credit, Gottlieb admitted his mistake and issued an apology.  “It was not a smart thing to say and I apologize.

Let’s go back for a moment to our culture’s “Thou shalt never be offended” precept.  I’ve always believed that if a rule, or even a guideline, is to be effective – it must be universally and consistently applied.  Hold that thought for a moment, if you will.
NBA: Miami Heat at Chicago Bulls

On Thursday morning, the same day on which Gottlieb verbalized the faux pas heard round the world, the sport’s website SBNation, published an article on the ending of the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak which was entitled, “White people celebrate Heat loss in exceedingly white fashion

The article included a photograph of white male fans celebrating the Chicago Bulls’ victory over the Heat which was captioned, “White people in their natural habitat.

The article was rife with derogatory references to these fans.  Here’s a few quotes from the article:

This guy is pretty white, I guess.
…white dudes had courtside seats (because white people looooooove courtside seats) 
Just two white guys, enjoying each others’ company, wearing their finest Cherokee-brand shirts.
Never change, white people. You are a GOLD MINE.”

I’m still waiting for someone in the media to express righteous indignation at these characterizations of white basketball fans or to demand that the author of this article be dismissed.

At the moment, those voices appear to have been drowned out by the sound of crickets chirping.

Enjoy the rest of “March Madness” and have a blessed Easter.

OM

Photos from rawstory.com and newsbusters.org

 

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Remembering the (little) Boys of Summer

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Like millions of other 9 to10 year old boys before and after me, I was possessed by a burning desire play Little League baseball.  The memorable summer of 1961 saw me donning the uniform of my hometown Franklin Drugs Little League team for the first time.  I went on to play three seasons with the Franklin Drugs squad.  The thought of free agency having never crossed my mind.

Our uniforms were modeled on those worn by the New York Yankees.  We may not have played the game very well, but we sure looked good doing it.  Since one of my favorite major league players happened to be Yogi Berra, the Yankees catcher, I asked for and received uniform #8.  It would be difficult for me to put into words the pride that I took in wearing that uniform and being part of that team.

Even though Yogi was a favorite player, I was never called upon, nor did I ever ask to catch for the team.  Not knowing where my unique skills as a ball player could best be put to use, I wasn’t quite sure which position I should attempt to play in my inaugural season.  For that reason during our preseason practices, I migrated out into the friendly and wide open space otherwise known as right field.

I’m not quite sure why I chose that position.  It may have been due to the fact that most hitters were right handed.  This meant that in the unlikely event that a batter actually managed to hit a pitch, the ball would most likely stay on the 3rd base, shortstop, and left field side of the diamond.  Assuming these contingencies to be valid, it seemed to me that right fielders would not be called upon to field the ball too often.  Even at that young age, I understood probabilities and how to work them to my advantage.

My respite from fielding responsibility was to be short lived, however.  On the third or fourth day of practice, Coach, who was standing alone at 3rd base, waved to me out in right field and bellowed, “Hustle in here! 

Oh geez” I thought to myself as I ran across the infield, “This can NOT be good! 
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When I arrived at 3rd base, Coach handed me a ball and said, “Throw this over to 1st base.

Somewhat confused, I looked back across the infield in an attempt to gain the attention of the 1st baseman who at that moment was intent on studying a bug crawling on a dandelion.  Another bellow from Coach brought the 1st baseman back to his senses, thus allowing me the opportunity to hurl the horsehide spheroid over to him on the fly.

Congratulations,” Coach said with a smile, “you’re our new 3rd baseman.  Nobody else has been able throw the ball that far.

Such was the level of innate athleticism to be found on our team.  Our prospects for the upcoming season never seemed brighter!

So began my tenure as a 3rd baseman.  Inexplicably, I found myself playing at the “Hot Corner“, as it’s known in baseball parlance, due to the number of balls hit in that direction and the speed with which they get there.

My performance as a 3rd baseman was characterized by an unmistakable lack of range in covering my position, as well as a decided absence of speed in attempting to do so.  To put a positive spin on my athletic skill set, as the season progressed, it became clear to all that Coach could have used a calendar to time my attempts to steal second base.

But hey!  Beggars can’t be choosers.  On those occasions when I did cleanly field a ball hit in my direction, I could throw it all the way to 1st base….. usually on the fly!

And in that snappy Franklin Drugs uniform, I looked damn good doing it!

OM

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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hoto from oldchesterpa.com

Anything Goes in the Pursuit of Art, (Obviously)

You may have read about the “performance art ” piece presented by Tilda Swinton at New York’s Museum of Modern Art this past weekend.  Being the backwood’s clodhopper that I am, I had to ask my more erudite wife to explain to me who Tilda Swinton happens to be.

On learning that she is an actress, I Googled an image of Ms. Swinton in order to see if I was familiar with her.  When my vision returned, I quickly hit the back-arrow button on my browser and continued to read more about her MOMA “performance.
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As you can see, this particular work of art consists of Ms. Swinton taking a nap on a mattress enclosed in a large glass box.

A card mounted on the box read, “living artist, glass, steel, mattress, pillow, linen, water, and spectacles.”  I was quite relieved to learn that this detailed explanation had been provided because who, upon observing this work first hand, would have been able to figure all of that out on their own?

Swinton plans to repeat her work of art several more times, but the schedule for those showings is unknown even to the staff of the museum.  Apparently the timing will be solely dependent on when the actress feels a good snooze coming on.

A spokesperson for the museum explained that, “The element of uncertainty is key to the work itself.”  Of course, this is just artistic bafflegab which can easily be translated as, “I don’t get this either, but I’m not about to risk my elitist credentials by agreeing that this is just plain garbage.

Upon reading further, I learned that this piece (of what, I am unclear) is part of a larger performance art work entitled, The Maybe, the first installment of which debuted in London way back in 1995.  I can only hope that another eighteen years will pass before Part 3 inflicts itself on an unsuspecting world.

In the meantime, I’m penning a proposal to the Museum of Modern Art for my own original and innovative piece of performance art.  Inside of an enormous aquarium, I’m proposing to sit on a rickety wooden chair at a kitchen table eating Rice Krispies, while reading the Sporting News, and drinking coffee.

The card on the exterior of the aquarium will read, “real live southern boy, rickety chair, table, bowl, Rice Krispies, sports scores, coffee, and cup.”  Just in case the patrons aren’t quite sure what they’re looking at.

By the way, there’ll be no sequel to my performance.

OM

Photo from mydailynews.com

Gone, But Not Forgotten

Over the past few days, I’ve found myself reminiscing about my youth.   Specifically about events, cultural trappings, and social trends which I experienced while growing up in the 50s and 60s.  Without giving it much thought, I began to make a mental checklist of commonplace happenings from those days which, like the dinosaurs of old, have now long since become extinct.

Here’s a tribute to just a few of my memories of things which, to my way of thinking, have unfortunately evolved from the ordinary to the obsolete.

  • milkmanThe Milk Man:  Three times per week, in the early hours of the morning, the milk man delivered fresh bottles of milk to our front porch.  We would place the empty bottles there for him to pick up and if we needed eggs or butter, we’d leave a note stuck in the top of one of the empty bottles and he’d leave those items as well.
  • Doctors/House Calls:  Imagine being sick, calling your doctor’s office, and being told that the doctor would be out to see you at your house later that day.  Remarkable, but true. Now, I deem myself honored if my doctor even momentarily sticks his head through the examining room door as one of his Physician’s Assistants or Nurse Practitioners pokes and probes me.
  • Two Television Channels:  I grew up in a town of 250,000 people in which there were only two television channels available for viewing.  There was Channel 2 (CBS) from my hometown and Channel 12 (NBC) from a neighboring city.  About the time I entered Junior High School, Channel 8 (ABC) began to broadcast from another nearby town.  I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the selection and the quality of shows to watch on those three channels far exceeded what is available on the 200+ channels that I have access to today.
  • test-patternNo TV after midnight:  In the pre-cable television era, local stations ended their daily programming schedule a little after midnight with a 15-30 minute newscast quickly followed by the playing of the National Anthem and then static as the transmitter was shutdown.  Transmissions would resume the next day at either 5 or 6 a.m. with the broadcasting of a test pattern for a few minutes before regular programming began.  I have no idea what insomniacs and workers on the 3rd shift did with themselves during the intervening hours.  Nor why many test patterns included the portrait of an Indian chief.
  • Men in Hats:  When I was a youngster, most men wore hats when they were out and about.  Need proof?  Check out any crime or detective movie made in the 40s and 50s.  You’ll see men in hats everywhere.  My father, apparently an unwitting creature of fashion, wore a hat to work everyday for years.  This fashion trend came to a screeching halt in the early 60s when John F. Kennedy became President of the United States.  Kennedy simply didn’t wear hats.  Within a few years, much to the disdain of hat makers everywhere, neither did most other men.
  • $0.10 per Gallon Gasoline:  Through most of my childhood and right through my teen years, the price of gasoline never rose above $0.50 per gallon.  When I began to drive and pay for gas out of my own pocket, it was typically $0.35 to $0.40 per gallon.  But I remember one warm summer afternoon when I was at my grandfather’s house.  We hastily beat a trail across town in his Chevy because he’d heard a rumor of a service station that was selling gas for $0.10 per gallon.  It was simply too good of a bargain to pass up! 
  • attendant-cleaning-windowsFull Service Gas Stations:  I recognize that there are still a few gas stations around with signs over one row of pumps which says, “Full Service“.  Generally this means that some scruffy, totally uninterested guy will meander out to your car and begrudgingly pump gas for you.  The full service stations I remember featured attendants decked out in clean uniforms who would rush out to your car with smiles on their faces, check your engine oil level, check the air pressure in your tires, and wash your windshield, all in the time that it took them to fill up your gas tank.  Imagine that!
  • Tube Checkers:  Before the advent of transistors and integrated circuits, all televisions and radios utilized electron tubes.  If you’ve never seen one, imagine a glass test tube filled with glowing wires.  These tubes didn’t last forever and periodically one’s TV would cease to work properly.  The solution was to take the cover off of the back of the television set, pull out all of the tubes, and trek down to the local drug store.  There in the back of the store could be found the ubiquitous Tube Checker.   One at a time, you would plug your tubes into the appropriate socket and press the “Check” button.  Bad tubes would be identified by a meter located on the device’s panel.  Replacement tubes were stored in a cabinet underneath the tube checker.  You’d then rush home and plug the tubes, including any replacements, back into their respective sockets in time to watch the next episode of The Lone Ranger or The Ed Sullivan Show.
  • sodajerk2Soda Fountains:  While you were checking your TV tubes at the local drug store, you could have also strolled over to the soda fountain.  Most drug stores had one.  It could be found behind a low counter fronted with 10 or 15 revolving stools where you could sit and enjoy a soft drink, a milkshake made with real ice cream, a grilled cheese sandwich, a hamburger, or even the “Blue Plate Special” (whatever that might happen to be on that particular day.)
  • Paper Boys:  Way back when, newspapers were not delivered by shadowy chain smoking figures speeding through neighborhoods in battered minivans.  The papers, both morning and afternoon editions, were routinely delivered by young boys who rode their bicycles while tossing the papers from large baskets mounted to their bike’s handle bars.  Good paper boys could land a rolled up newspaper squarely on your front porch Welcome mat.  These were the guys who ended up being the quarterback of the high school team a few years later.  The others were more likely to deposit the paper behind a bush or in the gutter over the front door.  Years later, they could be found chain smoking while driving battered minivans.
  • Top 40 AM Radio Stations:   Today, AM radio seems to be universally populated with News talk or Sports talk stations.  Back in the 60s however, music programming was still ruling the airwaves.  There were of course stations playing all types of music, but I migrated to those stations with playlists featuring the ever changing pop and rock “Top 40 Hits”.  Now that I think about it, the demise of these stations and the migration to FM music broadcasts wasn’t such a bad thing.  The quality of FM stereo broadcasting far exceeds the static-filled monaural tones broadcast by the typical AM station.  Plus, today’s music stations aren’t quite as likely to play the current #1 hit at the top of each hour, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Believe it or not, there are many more memories captured on my list, but I think I’ll save them.  Maybe someday I’ll write a “Gone, But Not Forgotten – Part Deux“.

OM

Dive for Cover! It’s a “Rainy Night in Georgia.”

With Apologies to Tony Joe White and Brook Benton

One of the really pleasant things about living in the Southeast can be the weather.  One of the more disagreeable things about living in the Southeast can be the weather.
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Before you jump to the conclusion that I must be referring to the heat and humidity for which the South is so famous, let me assure you that I’m not.

Being a southern boy, born and raised, I’m quite accustomed to hot weather.  Growing up in a house without air conditioning does a great job of acclimating one to the rigors of enduring temperatures over 90 degrees.

As far as heat’s cohort humidity is concerned, you’ll need to speak with a Floridian.  What we refer to as humidity here in Georgia doesn’t hold a sponge to the full immersion which one experiences from humidity as it exists down in the Sunshine state.

No, the weather which causes me to cast a worried eye toward the sky occurs here as regular as clockwork every Spring, from the middle of March through April.  You see, this happens to be our tornado season.

This is the time of year when misanthropic Mississippi cold fronts collide with agitated Alabama warm fronts and in just a few short hours spawn towering anvil top thunderheads which gather to form lines of powerful thunderstorms extending several hundred miles in length.  These tempests sweep rapidly across the Southeast like the steam locomotives of old, far too often generating multiple tornadoes.
tornado
A couple of years ago, just such a storm system plopped a twister with an attitude down in the middle of downtown Atlanta.  Aside from blasting hundreds, if not thousands, of windows out of high-rise buildings, the storm also peeled away a section of the Georgia Dome’s roof exposing some 30,000 or so sports fans who, at that moment, were attempting to enjoy the SEC basketball tournament.

Most of the towns which make up the ever-expanding conglomerate that is metro-Atlanta, now have tornado early warning systems in place.  Sirens begin screaming like enraged banshees whenever there is even a threat of a tornado in the vicinity.

I sometimes wonder if these warning systems might be a bit too sensitive.  Just yesterday, one of these storm systems rolled through my neck of the woods.  The tornado siren serving my neighborhood began to shriek a good 30 minutes before any rain had begun to fall and continued to screech away well after several local television weathermen had declared the “all clear” based on their Doppler radar data.
weather
The tornado sirens are my cue to tune to one of the local TV stations.  Invariably, these storms set off a “Battle of the Television Meteorologists” in which each station deploys it’s state-of-the-art weather radar system in an effort to out-do the other stations. With amazing accuracy, the weathermen provide up-to-the-minute reports on where the storms are currently located, where hail is falling and how big it is, and where funnel clouds have been sighted; right down to the naming of specific streets and intersections.

It’s as good as it gets if you happen to be looking for real reality TV.  Nothing grabs your attention quite like seeing the radar image of a tornado crossing an intersection ten miles north of your house and following a course which leads straight to where you’re sitting

It can be quite invigorating to say the least.

So yes; give me heat and humidity, but keep those colliding warm and cold fronts, thank you very much!

OM

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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hotos from Itornado-facts.com and rrj.ca

 

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

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Maybe it’s due to the enjoyment that I derive from writing, but I place a high value on one’s ability to convey information to others in an effective and efficient manner.  I become a bit frustrated when dealing with people who don’t seem to be able to get their points across, such that it becomes necessary to engage them in a protracted cross examination in order to determine what it is that they are trying to communicate.

Case in point: I spend a lot of time photographing sporting events.  As such, I periodically receive inquiries from media companies offering assignments to cover events for them.  Generally speaking, these offers are clear, concise, and require little, if any, interpretation on my part before I can decide whether or not to accept or decline an offer.

Yesterday afternoon, I received an e-mail from a photography company inquiring about my availability to cover an event for them on a specific date in April.  The e-mail indicated that the event would be held in a town that I was not familiar with.  For the sake of anonymity, let’s call it Smalltown.

No details about the nature of the event itself were included in the inquiry.  As far as I knew, it could have been anything between a baseball tournament and a karaoke festival.

Assuming that I was being offered this assignment because it and I were both located in the Peach State, I Googled “Smalltown, GA” to determine if there really were such a place and if I’d be interested in travelling there.  Sure enough, I found Smalltown, GA.  Unfortunately, it’s several hundred miles down the road from where I call home.
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So I fired off a response asking if it might be possible for my potential new client to verify the event’s location and to provide me with some details regarding the event in question.

Maybe it’s just me, but communicating the full “411“: the Who, the What, the When, and the Where seems like the very least one could do if they’re really serious about offering someone a freelance assignment.

My follow-up inquiry initiated a flurry of e-mail communication that went something like this:

Oh!  The event is only 24 miles from where you are located.  It’s the Spring Fling Classic.  You’ll need to be there all day.”  (I still didn’t know if the Spring Fling Classic was a quilting bee or a dart tournament.)

I Googled Smalltown, Georgia.  It’s several hundred miles from me.

ID-10060553Oh!  The Spring Fling Classic is in Smalltown, Tennessee.  And by the way, it’s not the Spring Fling Classic that we need you to cover, it’s the Southeast Invitational.  And it’s going to be held about 20 miles from Smalltown.

Yes, but you see – I’m located in metro-Atlanta.  Smalltown, Tennessee is even further away than Smalltown, Georgia.

Ooops!  My bad.  The Southeast Invitational isn’t going to be in Tennessee.  It’s being held just north of Atlanta.

Okay. Could you send me a link to a web page with details regarding the Southeast Invitational? ”  (Poetry reading, Beer Fest? Your guess is as good as mine.)

Sure!  And oh!  By the way, it’s not on the date that I originally told you.  And it’s actually a two-day event.

Believe it or not, my attempts to clarify the potential client’s expectations regarding type of photographic coverage they desired and the compensation rate which I could expect to receive were even more convoluted.

How some companies manage to stay in business is beyond me.

It probably goes without saying that my calendar remains open on the weekend (or weekends) on which the Spring Fling Classic (or is it the Southeast Invitational) is/are going to be held.

If you happen to attend either, or both, events; I hope you have a good time!  And could you let me know what it was when you get back?

OM

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Big Gulp Wins Reprieve in Big Apple

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I was extremely pleased when I learned that there is still at least one judge presiding on the bench who had enough innate common sense to overturn New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s, about to be implemented, ban on soft drinks which happen to be larger than 16 ounces.  Yes, Big Gulp has received a stay of execution; at least in the Big Apple!

New York Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling gets two big thumbs up from me for his finding that the proposed regulations, are “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences.

Well who didn’t know that?  And why didn’t the good mayor recognize that to begin with?

Justice Tingling went on to say that the regulation is “laden with exceptions based on economic and political concerns.” Who would have ever imagined that a politician would be likely to offer up regulations which would grant exceptions to favored economic and political interests?  Wonder of wonders!

Politics as usual aside, and of much more concern to me, is the impact which regulations of this sort have on our ever diminishing personal freedoms and the sustenance of our ability to exercise individual responsibility.

I’m proud to say that I’m the father of two sons.  My wife and I raised them into adulthood and quite frankly, they both have turned out nicely.  Thank you for asking.

When it came time to teach them the fundamentals of exercising and accepting responsibility for themselves and their actions, we were wise enough to recognize that meant that the boys would have to learn to make decisions for themselves.  If we had continued to make all of the decisions for them they would have learned to accept dependency, while learning nothing of personal responsibility.
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Back to Mayor Bloomberg and his dreams for a better world through soft drink prohibition.  For his part,  Bloomberg pledges to fight on.  He believes that “We have a responsibility as human beings to do something, to save each other.

Unfortunately, the “We” to which Mayor Bloomberg is referring does not include people like your neighbors, close friends, or family members.  No, in my most humble opinion, the “We” to which Bloomberg and Company refer to is Government; and that’s the one with a great big capital G.

This really isn’t rocket science, nor is it Political Science 101.  It comes down to a simple principle which we all know to be true.  If you don’t use it,  you lose it.

Each and every time that Government with a capital G mandates new regulations which usurp the responsibility which each of us have for making decisions regarding our personal behavior, our freedom and ability to maintain the responsibility for making our own decisions is slowly, but most assuredly eroded away.
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Imagine yourself on a playground.  Personal Responsibility and Dependency are sitting on opposite sides of the see-saw.  Bloomberg and like-minded advocates of Big Government are sitting over there with Dependency.

Fortunately for all of us, yesterday Justice Tingling stepped up and decided to sit along side of Personal Responsibility.

OM

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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hotos from Iipolitics.com and politico.com

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Extra Effort

I just work here
Customer service has always been something that I’ve valued highly.  Nothing turns me off quicker than walking into an establishment only to find that the individual who is supposedly there to assist patrons would clearly rather be anywhere else, doing anything other than what he or she is currently being compensated to do.

The blank stare, the listless attitude, and the palpable irritation at having their personal downtime disturbed by someone requiring assistance are just a few of my personal plethora of customer service hot buttons.

newman-mailman1On the topic of poor customer service, it may seem as if I’ve arbitrarily singled out the Post Office as one of my primary whipping boys, but I really haven’t.  It’s just that the performance (perhaps it would be more accurate to say the lack thereof) of some, not all, postal workers qualifies them so well to serve as poster children for poor customer service.

The events of yesterday afternoon provide a classic example.  The building in which I work contains office space for five or six companies.  Located on the ground floor is a mail room with post boxes for each company.  Every afternoon at around 1:30 p.m., one of us meanders downstairs to pick up our mail.

On this particular afternoon, we were surprised when our letter carrier walked into the office with a large registered mail package requiring a signature before it could be delivered.

As she was signing on the dotted line, our receptionist happened to ask, “This is all of our mail, isn’t it?
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Drawing her head back, with furled eyebrows, and mouth gaped open in complete disbelief, our letter carrier sputtered, “No. The rest of it’s downstairs in your box.”  For in her mind, where else could it possibly be?

Now let me say that if our mail box had been jammed with a large quantity of letters, periodicals, other packages, I would have had no issue with the postal worker leaving the mail there.  In this case however, it contained only two standard size envelopes.

Time for a rhetorical question.  How much additional effort would it have required to bring those two envelopes upstairs with the registered package?

I can answer that.  Not much.

Which exactly equals the amount expended.

OM

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yer Outta Here! European-style

Many English football fans probably woke up this morning hoping that the travesty that they had witnessed on Tuesday night really had been nothing more than a very bad dream.  Unfortunately, Real Madrid’s 2-1 victory over Manchester United was all too real, no pun intended.

To my mind, one of the greatest travesties which can occur in any athletic competition is for a referee to insert himself into the flow of a game in such a manner as to effect its final outcome.   I believe that the old adage regarding children would be more appropriate if it were applied to referees.  That is:  “Referees should be seen and not heard.

The perfect athletic official is the one who is so efficient in the performance of his responsibilities that he is almost transparent to those playing and watching the game.

Unfortunately, officiating opaqueness trumped transparency in Manchester on Tuesday night.

Manchester United was playing Real Madrid in the second leg of a two-game series to determine which team would progress to the quarterfinals of the European Champions League, a football competition second only to the World Cup.

Manchester United was comfortably in control of the game, leading 1-0 early in the second half when United forward, Nani, raised his leg high into the air in an attempt to control a cross-field pass.  At that same moment, a Real Madrid defender, similarly intent on gaining control of the ball, attempted the physical impossibility of occupying the same space as Nani’s right foot.

The collision of foot and torso resulted in the Real Madrid player writhing on the turf in faux agony, which is de rigueur in European football and which has been raised to an art form as practiced by most Spanish teams.
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There was clearly no intent on Nani’s part to kick the Real Madrid defender.  He probably didn’t even see the other player until the contact was made, but Cüneyt Çakır, the Turkish referee perceived things quite differently, giving Nani a red-card and a quick heave-ho straight to the showers.

After watching the play several times, I’d agree that an argument could be made for issuing Nani a yellow card, but there is absolutely no way that the contact justified the player’s ejection from the game.

Manchester United (and Fair Play)  Nil –  Intrusive Officiating 1

Red cards, or the ejection of a player from the game, don’t occur all that often in football (aka soccer or futbol), but I found it interesting to learn that Mr. Çakır has a history of red carding English football players, having ejected three in recent years.  I was also surprised to learn that Çakır isn’t a professional official.  He makes his living selling insurance in Istanbul; auto, home, and life, I suppose.

Hasn’t anyone learned the lessons so clearly taught by last season’s NFL substitute official fiasco!

In any event, Çakır’s decidedly inappropriate action had the immediate effect of reducing the Manchester side down to 10 players against Real Madrid’s 11.  But beyond that, the entire complexion of the game changed.  Çakır’s action completely unsettled Manchester United’s game plan, as well as their execution of it on the field.    All of the air had well and truly come out of United’s balloon.  Within a few minutes, Real Madrid was in the lead and would go on to win the game 2-1.  They will now move on to the Champions League quarterfinals.

Not surprisingly, the Champions League governing body UEFA, completely supports the referee’s actions.  No surprise there.

Meanwhile, English football fans are left pondering what might have been but for one part-time official’s penchant for flashing red cards.

OM

Image from Telegraph.co.uk

Miss McGillicuddy and Me

As I was driving home from church this morning, my thoughts turned to the car which I was driving.  It’s my wife’s car actually, but I always drive it when both of us go anywhere in it.  For the past 34 years, I’ve been the designated family chauffeur; self-appointed actually.  The car that I was driving this morning is getting to be a little long in the tooth, as the saying goes.  It has accumulated somewhere over 208,000 miles, but it remains in immaculate physical and mechanical condition.
220px-Energizer_Bunny
It’s a 1999 Toyota Avalon.  I wish Detroit built cars like the good folks over at Toyota, even like they did way back in 1999.  This thing is a veritable Energizer Bunny.  It just keeps going and going!

My wife and I have always been very conscientious about having regular routine maintenance done on all of our automobiles.  I don’t know if it’s the result of that level of preventive maintenance diligence or just dumb blind luck; but whatever the reason, we’ve never had to have any major repairs made to this particular car in all of the 14 years that we’ve been driving it.

I know that our automotive bliss could all come to an abrupt end tomorrow, but at the moment, the Avalon shows every sign of being able to continue to provide reliable, trouble-free transportation for another 100,000 miles or more.

It was at that moment in my thinking that I suddenly thought to myself, “Oh wow!  I’m about to turn into Miss McGillicuddy!

When I was about eight years old, Miss McGillicuddy lived down the street.  She was a very pleasant lady.  I  suppose that she was somewhere in her 70s, but at my young age I couldn’t be relied on to tell the difference between an 80 year-old and someone who was closer to 60.  The point remains that as far as I was concerned, Miss McGillicuddy was ancient; very nice, but ancient.
1940 DeSoto
Miss McGillicuddy also drove a DeSoto, circa 1940.  The car always looked as if she had just driven it out of the showroom.  I doubt seriously if anyone had ever sat in the back seat; maybe not even the passenger seat.  Miss McGillicuddy never gave the appearance of being much of a social animal.  The tires on her DeSoto were probably still inflated with original, unadulterated 1940 air!

I remember seeing Miss McGillicuddy cruising through our neighborhood on summer afternoons at a blinding 10 to 15 miles per hour.  If we were in a rambunctious mood, we could easily keep up with her on our bikes.  As far as I know, she only drove her DeSoto on weekly trips to the A&P and to church and back on Sunday mornings.  The rest of the time, it sat immobile in her carport.

Now I recognize that, by comparison, our Avalon is only 14 years old, but the fact remains that our objective is to be driving this car for many years to come.  You don’t just turn a good automobile like that out to pasture; or out to the local CarMax.

As such, I find myself wondering if there’s some young whippersnapper who, when observing me driving the Avalon out of the neighborhood, thinks that he could keep up with me on his bicycle; even the one with 12 gears.

I’ve got to tell you, he’d be in for a big surprise.  In some ways, I’ll never be Miss McGillicuddy!

OM

Images from Wikipedia and OldCarBrochures.org