Archive for March, 2011

If I Never Hear It Again It Will Be Soon Enough: Clichés that Push Me Over the Edge

I've Got An Idea...Why Don't I Put An Attention Catching Photo That Has Nothing to Do With The Article On Top

“The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.” –Salvador Dali

There are simply too many clichés in the world.   The language is filled with them.  It is hard to get through a conversation without hearing one or saying one.  Most of them started out as colorful ways to describe an experience and have, through years of endless repetition, become mildly annoying, harmless platitudes that move conversation along.  For some strange reason certain clichés make me extremely angry.  Most float through my mental filters without much of a struggle, but every once and a while there is one that disturbs me.  Since the chances of me actually getting legislation past to outlaw these incipit expressions are remote at best I have decided to address them in a constructive way, instead of quietly fuming about them day after day.  I have been compiling a list over the past few months of these along with descriptions of why they bother me in the hopes of understanding the pain that they cause me and hopefully inflicting this pain on others.  I have also included helpful sarcastic responses to confuse the cliché user and possibly prevent the offending expression from being used again.   So, as they say, away we go….

Cliché:  “Throwing the Baby Out With The Bathwater”

What kind of sick freak thought this one up?  As a parent of two small children, I find the idea that I might actually forget one of them and toss them into the river with dirt-ridden water to be entirely preposterous.  I get that the creator of this one is trying to make the point that whatever the person is doing is a really ridiculous thing, but what sort of lunatic would toss a baby out with bathwater?!?!  They are certainly tiny, but not nearly small enough to accidentally thrown away.  Maybe the person is an evil, malicious hater of babies, but this is far from the most efficient way of getting rid of them.

Appropriate Response:  Look down at your shoes shaking your head for one dramatic moment, then look up and shout “Well, it’s better than shooting it!”  Turn and walk off.

Cliché:  “I wear many hats”

AGHHGGHHHH!!!  I can’t even think about this one without seething.  Yes, I know it means doing more one role, but the metaphor confuses me.  Do they mean at the same time?  What kind of fool would wear 3 or 4 hats at once?  It would be stupid looking.  There have been a lot of asinine fashion trends throughout history, but I cannot recall a single fad that had anything to do with the person wearing a lot of hats at once.  Is the point that the person has multiple heads?  Am I meant to imagine the person in front of me morphing into a giant hydra like beast wearing a prefaded Red Sox cap, a turban and a Michael Coreleone style fedora?  More than likely, the person who said it wants me to see them as a beaming icon of capitalism and industry, efficiently moving from task to task, a vaunted leader one moment, a regular lunch pail working stiff the next, a person who can be all things to all people, a technocratic “renaissance man”, a proud beacon of all that can be achieved in a 24 hour day with a little know-how and a fist full of gumption.  I think I’d prefer the hydra.

Appropriate Response:  Vomiting on the persons shoes

Cliché:  “Give it 110 percent”

I am well aware that the test scores of American students in math and science have declined over the last 30 years, but the fact that Americans have no qualms about repeatedly asking each other to violate common sense and mathematical reason in this way is alarming.  As if this wasn’t troubling enough, the cliché inflation that has taken place is now taking place is insane.  During the 2010 baseball season, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said that pitcher Gavin Floyd would only pitch if he were at “200 percent”. 1972 Democratic Presidential Candidate George McGovern, the Godfather of Cliché Inflation, started this madness when he said he was “1000 percent behind” his Vice Presidential Candidate Thomas Eagleton seconds before he tossed him kicking and screaming off of the Presidential ticket.  Of course, none of this compares to the all-time Cliché Inflation champion Atlanta Attorney George Lawson who asserted that he was “a million percent certain” that his client, Auburn Quarterback Cam Newton, did not take money.  Where does it end?

Appropriate Response:  Give an overly loud, awkward pretend laugh, and then shout, “If I ever see you again, I’ll break both of your legs!” Turn and walk off.

Cliché:  “Too many Indians, Not Enough Chiefs

This one has started to fade into cliché obscurity for everyone except people who write those grotesque books that quote Vince Lombardi a lot and compare great managers to Ghandi and Napoleon.  It doesn’t get play in the real world anymore mostly because “too many indigenous peoples and not enough chiefs” really doesn’t have a great ring.  Here’s the larger problem…Chiefs ARE Indians.

Appropriate Response:  Look deeply offended and reply, “Are you trying to say that there are too many Indians?  What kind of idiot racist would make a claim like that!”?

I’ve got a ton more of these but I’ll save them for a rainy day.

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A Dish Best Not Served

Jodie Foster Reacting to Her First Reading of the Script

It has taken nearly seven years for a film to eclipse Gus Van Sant’s trainwreck  “Elephant” as the reigning worst film of all time, but today, at approximately 4:33, I finished watching the Neil Jordan 2007 movie “The Brave One”.  All hail the new king!

For me to try to describe the plot of this film in a way that did it justice I would need to use start making gorilla noises and smacking myself in the face.  It is purile, infantile garbage.  Just so you as the reader fully understand my contempt for this vile bucket of swill, I plan on divulging every possible plot point that might surprise a person who has the misfortune of watching it.  Hopefully, this will discourage anyone who has not taken my warning seriously from seeing this monstrosity.

Jodie Foster plays the preposterously annoying Erica Cain, a public radio “personality” who rattles on and on about her love of New York City and all of its whimsical, gritty charm.  Erica and her boyfriend go out to walk their dog and get brutally beaten, he dies and she quickly morphs from Garrison Keillor to Charles Bronson.  A Bernhard Goetz for the Starbucks set.  Erica must just be unlucky because everywhere she goes some demented sociopath shows up and puts her life in jeopardy.  So, she does what every red blooded New Yorker should be doing (if you follow the deeply embarrassing moral logic of the film).  She busts a series of caps in the collective backsides of some of the worst human beings this side of America’s Most Wanted.

Don’t worry, she won’t actually be doing any jail time for killing more people than Charlie Starkweather because Detective Mercer (played with remarkable disinterest by the usually reliable Terrance Howard) is on the case.  There are a whole bunch of conversations where he pontificates about the difference between cops and vigilantes and then, in a plot twist that carries the film to new heights of absurdity, he helps her murder the perps who killed her boyfriend.  The best feat of acting in the film takes place when Howard comes full circle and tells Erica that if she kills someone she should “use a legal gun”.  See, because we thought he was going to arrest her, but, see, he doesn’t and instead he helps see justice done.  What’s great about that moment isn’t what he says or does, but that he manages to do it without bursting into fits of laughter.  I’d love to see one of those old outtake reels that they used to run under the credits of Burt Reynolds films but with Terrance Howard trying to get the dumb line about legal guns out and cracking up over and over again.  Better yet, I’d like to see what Dom DeLuise could have done with that line.

After that, Jodie Foster marches triumphantly through the tunnel where she was attacked and, I swear I’m not making this part up, the dog they were walking at the beginning of the film COMES BACK TO HER!!!!  Months have past since the attack!  WHAT?!?!?!  It still has the leash on for the love of God!  Was the dog just waiting there performing some canine version of Waiting for Godot, hoping Erica would reappear?  How did it survive?  I know there have been some budget cuts in New York, they still have at least one or two people working animal control…right?!?!

Neil Jordan has never impressed me all that much, except for that five second stretch of The Crying Game where America collectively spit its popcorn on the person in the seat in front of them.  This, however, is a new low.  He and the writers spend two hours arguing that Americans should stop leaving issues like crime to the police and simply gun down any of the menacing characters they bump into while trying to find their car after a Saturday night performance of Jersey Boys.

It is a highly irresponsible movie, but I don’t even think it’s worth spending a lot of time on why.  If you can identify with the moral language used in this film you are way past being reasoned with.  Trying to talk someone out of relating to the message in this film is like trying to convince someone who just watched Plan 9 From Outer Space that they should not be afraid of alien controlled zombies.

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The Pitt of a Jamie Dixon’s Fears

Jamie Dixon...I Feel Your Pain

Unless you are a hardcore Butler basketball fan or a masochist, the ending to the Pitt/Butler NCAA basketball game this past Saturday was awful to witness.  Two basketball teams played 39 minutes and 57 seconds of basketball that was so beautiful it would have made John Wooden himself well up with tears.  Then, inexplicably, both teams spent the last three seconds going out of their way to implode on a Bill Buckner-esque level never seen before in the NCAA tournament.

The March Sadness began when Butler guard Shelvin Mack, who had played an astonishingly good game up to that point, fouled Pitt guard Gilbert Brown nearly 50 feet from the basket.  There was almost no chance Brown would have converted from that distance.  Instead of a wild shot from an absurd distance, Brown got to settle in on the foul line and shoot free throws.  Mack’s foul was beyond inexcusable.  For exactly 1 second, it stood in the annals of NCAA history as the most horribly timed foul ever committed.  Then, Pitt’s Nasir Robinson took things to the next level and committed a foul that will forever awaken Pitt fans in the middle of the night screaming.  With the game tied and about a second remaining, Robinson fouled Butler’s Matt Howard on a rebound.  Howard was roughly 90 feet away from the basket with his back turned.   The foul allowed Howard to go to the free throw line and hit the game winning shot.

The game was a catastrophe for Pittsburgh.  Few teams have ever self-destructed at such an inopportune moment.  The equivalent of this foul in baseball would have been hitting the game winning homerun in the World Series then missing 1st, 2nd and 3rd base.  Nasir Robinson, who seems like a nice enough human being, will probably have to carry this one for the rest of his life.  You never want to see anything like this happen.  However, Pitt’s coach Jamie Dixon has been excoriated for how the game ended.  I feel like most of the rage that is heaped on people that make mistakes at critical moments is unfair.  It is awful that Robinson will have to be known for this for the rest of his life.  The criticism of Dixon is particularly unsettling because, unlike Robinson, he didn’t actually make a mistake.

The big knock on Dixon was that he should not have had the rest of the Pitt team on the foul line when Brown took his second free throw.  I believe that this argument doesn’t make sense.  The game was tied at 70 to 70.  One of Pitt’s major strengths during the season has been their rebounding.  Pitt ranked seventh in the country as a rebounding team with 40 rebounds per game.  Further, nearly 42 percent of their rebounds have been offensive, the highest percentage in the country.  Dixon’s thinking was sound.  He believed that it was much more likely that one of his players might grab a rebound and tip it back in then one of his experienced, veteran players would commit a ridiculous foul.  Had the Pitt player grabbed the offensive rebound and put it in, few people would be arguing that Dixon shouldn’t have had players on the line.  Had Pitt been up a point, it would have been wise to pull the players off the line, but NOT in a tie game.  If Dixon had pulled his players off the line and then lost in overtime, I believe his decision would have been much more suspect.  Their rebounding prowess gave them a chance to win and Dixon tried to capitalize it.

This is not an argument to heap scorn on Robinson.  Everyone makes mistakes.  He happened to have his at the single worst moment imaginable.  There is no point to beat up on Robinson for his error.  He knows what he did and why he shouldn’t have done it more than anyone on earth right now.  However, criticizing Dixon for decision-making here is completely illogical.   As a coach, one thing that you have to accept is that bad things happen sometimes when your players ARE in a position to win.  You can do everything right and still lose.   Dixon made a logical, appropriate decision that didn’t work out.  Being a coach means living with being second-guessed, even when you are right.  This is an occupational hazard.   Unfortunately, part of the narrative around this game is that Dixon should have made a different decision.  One day, the memory of this game might cost Dixon his job.  This is unfortunate because he did the right thing here.  It just didn’t work out.

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The Sum Total of A Week of Rehabilitation From Foot Surgery: A Tribute to Samuel Beckett, ee cummings and The Reverend Norman Vincent Peale



Uninspired.  Uninspired.  Uninspired.  UNinspired.  UN-IN-SPIRED.  unINSPIRED?  UNinSPirED.  UNINSPIRED!!! UNINSPIRED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!UNINSPIRED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (uninspired)  …..un…………..spired……………..







Narrator:  Uninspired uninspired uninspired uninspired.

Uninspired #1:  Uninspired?  Uninspired, uninspired…unispired?

Unispired #2:  Uninspired!!!!

Uninspired #1:  UNINSPIRED!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Uninspired #2:  Uninspired?

Uninspired #1:  Un-IN-Spi-RED!!!!!!!!!!

Uninspired #2:  Un…in………..spired.

Narrator:  Uninspired, uninspired.  Uninspired {uninspired X uninspired= Uninspired}

Uninspired #1 and #2:  (uninspired)    !UNINSPIRED!

U. Ninspired

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We Are Bones, We Are Dust

This thing that I think that I am, sometimes, I am not.  Looking at an X-Ray of my right foot has twisted my mind into knots for the past few weeks.  It’s not that they found anything that disturbing. My doctor discovered a bone spur, which I was pretty sure that I had.  No surprise there.  I am having surgery tomorrow.  Again, not a surprise.  The thing that got in my head was the X-ray itself.  If I am what’s in that picture…what am i?

There was this picture of the bones in my foot staring at me.  The doctor was pointing to things and saying a bunch of words, but I was transfixed on the picture.  There I am?  There I AM!  There I am?!?!?!?  This picture is of the inside of me.  Underneath all of this skin and blood are a set of bones. These bones have been with me all of my life.  They were at my high school graduation, they were there when I got married, they attended the births of my two beautiful children, they have seen me laugh, they have seen me cry, they have been there when I thought I was alone.  I couldn’t process it. These bones are actually me!

The me that I think I am is the thing that experiences the world consciously.  I am aware of feelings and ideas.  I make plans and I remember experiences.  I see, I smell, I touch, I taste, I hear.  I have no problem associating these things with me.  Then, there are these bones. They are in me, they are part of me, but I can’t believe that they are me. This picture wasn’t some random x-ray they keep in the back and show everybody.  These were my bones!  Seeing them really sucked the magic out of everything.  I tend to think of myself as more than the sum of my parts, but maybe I am nothing more than my parts. Maybe, I am just bones and skin and blood with a few organs floating around.

There are parts of myself I have never seen.  I don’t know what my hip bone looks like.  I don’t know what my liver looks like.  My heart, my brain, my lungs…all highly valuable parts, but I couldn’t tell mine from my neighbors.  The me that I know seems so special, so unique.  My memories seem so important, as if they are part of some great mystery that I have a lifetime to solve.  My thoughts, my ideas, my identity all seem to be pieces in the great “who am I?” puzzle.  They all conspire to make me believe that I am an enigmatic character whose mythology is terribly important.  And then, there is this picture of the inside of my foot.  It is not special.  It is not unique.  It is simply mineralized osseous tissue housed in a pile of skin that is called “foot”.  There are somewhere in the range of 14 billion of them and they all pretty much look and act the same.  Sure, there are minor subtleties and nuances, but for the most part, what is the difference?

My foot does not find itself unique.  It pushes against surfaces over and over throughout a day.  It works, it rests.  It does not feel loneliness or claustrophobia if it is trapped in a shoe for too long.  It does not become jealous that I am favoring my other foot.  It does not make plans to meet with my spleen for coffee.  It does not become romantically involved with my esophagus.  It does not ponder the mysteries of the universe and wonder what will happen to it when it dies.  It is material and material has no time for enchantment.  It simply is.  When it ceases to work, it will waste away along with the rest of this thing that is me.

There is a part of me that cannot imagine that this is possible.  There must be something else, there must be something more.  I am more than that picture.  I am not just bones.  I am not just flesh.  I am something mystical.  I am more than those parts.  I am more than words on a page saying “healthy, well-developed 35 year old male suffering from Hallux rigidus“. Right?  Right?!?!?!

Maybe this identity of mine that I find so fascinating is just a bunch of electrical impulses.  Maybe we are just piles of material walking around among other piles of material, thinking that thoughts and memories and ideas make us more.  These self-important piles of material spend much of their time avoiding damage so that they can one day be part of creating new piles of material.  And on and on with no direction, no meaning and no end.  Thousands of them are created each day and thousands disintegrate. It does not matter…it is only matter.

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The Politics of Sneezing

I sneeze and people feel obligated to reply.  The more you think about that, the weirder it is.  You are on an elevator with ten complete strangers, you sneeze and all ten race to beat each other to say “God Bless You”.  You are on a subway, it is 3 o’clock in the morning and you are surrounded by several odd looking strangers who look like extras from The Warriors.  They are taking turns leering at you with a detached sense of malice.  You sneeze.  A cacophonous chorus of disinterested voices mumble something that sounds remotely like “GesundheitGoblessyou”.

This pervasive but odd little social custom seems to insert itself everywhere without regard to circumstance.  There are plenty of bizarre customs out there, but this one seems thoroughly inescapable.  I have allergies and live in Atlanta, which means I spend a good portion of the spring testing the politeness of strangers.  A sneeze never fails to draw some sort of reply.  No one knows particularly why we do this.  There are several old stories handed down about it.  One story says that it was created during the Black Plague to ward off the spread of the virus.  Another story claims that the custom began over the fear that the heart might stop during a sneeze.   Yet another tale claims that it was a way of forcing the soul to return to the body after a sneeze.

Most of these stories are meant to explain the “God Bless You”, but there is less explanation for the “Gesundheit”.  Why would a room full of non-German speaking Americans suddenly nearly crawl over one another to shout a German expression at someone who has just fired a blitzkrieg of germs at them?  Politeness?….really?!?!?!  Occasionally when one sneezes they are given a “hatchoo” by someone near them.  Why on earth would someone imitate the sneezer?  I find this response to be quite demeaning.  To get how strange this is, imagine if a person burped and was greeted with a choir of fake burps in response?

I have only experienced this sort of weirdness in America, but apparently it is popular around the world.  Most cultures have some word that means “to your health” that is thrown at the offending germ cannon.  The oddest sneeze response I’ve come across are the Mongolians who say something that sounds like “burkhan urshoo”.  This translates to “May God forgive you”.  Not knowing much about the Mongolian culture, this leads me to believe that sneezing is serious business over there.  It must be some sort of crime or something.  God would be quite busy if he or she had to spend the better half of eternity forgiving sneezers.  In Iceland, they say something that translates into “May God help you!”  This sounds like a threat that is better suited to someone stealing your pet llama.  The Tamil language has a word that translates to “may you live for one hundred years”.  The sentiment of this is quite lovely, but the actual math becomes severely problematic.  If I were to sneeze five times a day for one year I would have added 182,500 years to my life.  Imagine the effects on the economy in many Southern Asian nations if they had to deal with taking care of scores of 2 million year old allergy sufferers?

No one particularly knows why we do it, but if your curious to see whether this custom is alive and breathing today, try sneezing in front of a room full of strangers.  If you cough, people barely notice.  If you blow your nose, most people simply go about their business.  Sneeze and the world stands up and takes interest.

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