Archive for the ‘Thinking Out Loud’ Category

Carl Edwards/Brad Keselowski: Some Perspective

March 9, 2010 Comments off

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So it finally came to a head.

It shouldn’t have come to anyone’s surprise when Carl Edwards decided enough was enough this past Sunday in Atlanta. It’s not like Brad Keselowski has a squeaky clean reputation amongst NASCAR’s other 42 drivers.  To a man, several drivers, upon finding out that Keselowski was okay, didn’t seem upset over the bit of frontier, vigilante justice that Edwards dished out. In fact, many of us would say he had it coming. He had it coming from last year’s Talledega flip, and he had it coming from earlier in Sunday’s race. You didn’t have to look too hard at the replays to see the 99’s tires make that short jog to the right, sending Keselowski flying into the wall. Edwards never came out and said, “I meant to do it,” but he may as well have. Take a peek at the quote on Carl Edwards’ facebook page:

My options: Considering that Brad wrecks me with no regard for anyones safety or hard work, should I: A-Keep letting him wreck me? B-Confront him after the race? C-Wait til bristol and collect other cars? or D-Take care of it now? I want to be clear that I was surprised at his flight and very relieved when he walked away. Every person has to decide what code they want to live by and hopefully this explains mine.

I’m sure Denny Hamlin isn’t shedding any tears.

I heard a lot of back and forth yesterday, both in print and on the radio, a lot of politically correct talk. I heard more tap dancing about when something like this might be appropriate, did NASCAR back itself into a corner by throwing their rule book out of the window. Honestly, I don’t get much of it.

I listened to Sirius Speedway’s Dave Moody on Monday afternoon, saying that there’s a time for this, but he wasn’t sure if that was the time. I’d love to ask Dave Moody this: Can you think of a better time? If your Carl Edwards, does it really matter if you’re down 156 laps or one?  Because you’re not going to want to put out a Wrath of Khan style “revenge is a dish best served cold” move if you’re 7th in back of the #12. That would be ridiculous. When you’re that far back, you’re racing because it’s what you do, not to mention you have an obligation to the sponsor on the hood of your car. But you’re no longer racing for points or money. In that situation, with nothing to lose, I can’t think of a better time to give ‘er the ol’ right turn herky jerk.

I saw a lot of sports guys, knowledgeable ones, wondering if NASCAR has a bigger issue on it’s hands by allowing the drivers to police themselves. “You’re going to see more of this in the coming weeks” they wrote. Good! This is the shot NASCAR needs. It’s been everywhere, right up to a report on Monday evening’s ABC Nightly News. Is a “have at it boys” mentality, along with a good old fashioned intentional wreck that bad for a sport with sagging television ratings and attendance? I can damn near guarantee one thing: Brian France and Mike Helton are in an office somewhere grinning ear to ear, silently adding “Lord, please allow this incident to boost our ratings” to the Bristol invocation.

Anyone remember Philadelphia Flyers/Ottawa Senators tickets going for a thousand on ebay after both teams established a new record for most penalties in a single game? The buildup for the Detroit Red Wings/Colorado Avalanche game following the brawl filled game where both goalies started pummeling each other? The Yankees/Red Sox games after the bench clearing brawl that even saw, of all people, Don Zimmer get into the action, charging Pedro Martinez? I’d love to know the dollar value in that kind of publicity, because street value it’s enormous. I’d bet it’s more than what AFLAC is paying Roush Fenway Racing to put the duck on the hood of the car. Bristol could be a lot more interesting than usual, maybe it brings some older fans back, and NASCAR isn’t paying a dime.

To everyone who says that someone could’ve gotten killed in the cars or in the stands, that’s the assumed risk in buying a ticket that close, or being in a sport that requires you to drive at speeds hovering 200 mph. It’s the same as buying a ticket to a ball game where line drives are prone to landing, or hockey games where pucks can hit fans. Take it from me, I’ve come within inches of being hit with a puck myself. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m only saying it’s there. I also doubt there’s a fan out there who became so fed up with NASCAR after the wreck that they’ll never watch another race, ever again, for as long as they live. That flip wasn’t the last straw for anyone.

NASCAR needed an injection like this one, and I believe they saw it. By putting Carl Edwards on probation, they sent two huge messages. They’re not backing off on having their drivers police themselves this season, along with an “I told you so” to Brad Keselowski (he has friends in no places these days). And if there was an ever-so-subtle thank you to Carl Edwards by not suspending him, that’s okay by me as well. NASCAR wanted 43 drivers to police themselves. We saw the first instance of it, even if it was Dirty Harry style.


The Meeting of Two Great Civilizations: A New Jerseyan in North Carolina

January 25, 2010 Comments off

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Anyone remember the initial shock of relocation? When you first arrived to your new town, what were the first things that came to mind? I remember what mine were.

My God, what did I just do?

There’s a huge race track where my baseball stadium used to be!

Who names their grocery store Food Lion? And what’s a Harris Teeter, anyway?

I’ll never get used to this.

I can still remember the first time I got off of I-85 and onto Highway 29 heading to my new place in Concord. I caught myself looking at the most mundane buildings . . . a Taco Bell, a McDonalds, a BP gas station, and thinking, “Wow, okay, they have these here too,” as though I were traveling through a foreign country. I was probably expecting those places to not be here just because it wasn’t New Jersey. Even though I was settling into one of the more northernized areas of the south, it was almost like setting down on another planet.  Move over, Neil Armstrong. I’m taking that giant leap for mankind, even if it’s my foot out of the car door.

That’s one small step for man, one . . . giant leap from the Garden State.

I carried my camera everywhere  those first several weeks, intentionally getting lost and taking pictures of everything. It didn’t matter if it was the outside of a shopping mall, a highway, or a grocery store parking lot. I sent them back to family and friends, partially as a way to keep everyone updated, partially as a way to justify the move to others, as well as to myself. “See how beautiful it is here? I did make the right decision.” I still look through those pictures from time to time, thinking that I was probably also taking them with the mindset that I was just passing through.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve driven by those same spots since then, oftentimes with another New Jersey license plate right in front of me.

Like most things in life, you eventually get used to your new surroundings, generally while you’re not even aware it’s happening. Stunning for a fiercely proud New Jerseyan such as myself, someone who swore he could never, nor would he ever, leave the state, I did get used to it. No light went on or some moment of truth, it was just the slow realization that I had stopped fighting the inner battle (and if you know a New Jerseyan, we know how to fight). Instead of becoming something to just look at, the race track became a place for a lot of good times and races. I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen in Charlotte, the Allman Brothers and Widespread Panic about ten minutes from home. I’ve seen minor pro hockey games for as little as $2.50 a ticket. While it’s no substitute for sitting in the 300 level at Madison Square Garden for a New York Rangers/New Jersey Devils game, it’s always been a really good time. I’ve gone to every Lowe’s Motor Speedway tree lighting , and driven through McAdenville for their town wide display at least once each year. I do my weekly shopping at a Food Lion and get the best potato salad ever at Harris Teeter.

That’s always been one of the keys to relocation: never compare to what you had, but embrace what you have.

I’ve still gotten razzed by Devils and Flyers fans living here, and dished it back out, too. Just goes to show that some things manage to follow you everywhere.

The most lasting memory will always be sitting at a red light, my car packed so high that using my rear view mirror was a fantasy, and staring at the race track and the Charlotte skyline in the distance.

Is that the . . . I think that might be the race track . . . and I see a skyline in the distance that looks an awful lot like the pictures . . .

In a mad scramble to get the shot before the light turned green, I took my first picture of my new town (note to self: always keep that camera out of the case and within reach). Technically it might be the worst shot I’ve ever taken, emotionally it still means a lot to me. Through that picture I still see someone who challenged himself to start a new life, start over, and move forward with the hope of something better than what he had.

For every time I ever thought, “My God, what did I just do,” it’s also meant one less regret I’ll ever have.

I’ll take that any day.

Flip Flops in March: a Newcomer Settles into the South

January 20, 2010 2 comments

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Carolina Lifestyles is pleased to introduce Erin, who will be blogging about her life in Charlotte from time to time.

When we arrived in Charlotte just over two years ago, I didn’t really know what to expect.  My family and I had lived in four different states in the past seven years, moving from Colorado to Wisconsin, then to Pennsylvania, and now to North Carolina.  The first three places had their own unique qualities, to be sure, but Charlotte was a whole new ball game.  Different weather, different accents, different career for my husband.  A lot less small-town familiarity, and a lot more traffic.  Less Steelers fans . . . well, not that many less!  I found that different can be good.  No more parkas–and the unexpected pleasure of flip-flops in March.

I’ll give up a few Terrible Towels for my flip-flops, any day!

We jumped right in, joining clubs, gyms, and preschools.  I’m not sure how, but I managed to get a nice balance of “old Charlotte” and newcomers in my little world.  Enough newbies to talk with about the old days “up north,” and enough natives to feel I’m in the South.

Given my lifelong history of moving around, I’m pretty good at being the new kid.  Charlotte, though, was an experience unlike any I had encountered previously.  There were so many of us new kids!  Fortunately, I didn’t run into anybody who felt they already had enough friends.  We discovered amazing things only found in Charlotte.  Things like Price’s Chicken Coop.  I could list more singular places, but really, what can top Price’s?

I know my story is not unique, given Charlotte’s recent years of massive growth.  What is different for me, however, is that we have been here over two years, and I’m not looking for my map.  No escape plans are swirling around in my head.  Charlotte is pretty awesome for where I am right now. I find I have grown accustomed to life here.

The small things explain how I have eased into my life in this Southern city. I recently remarked on how chilly it was (while wearing a scarf) when the temperature hit 50.  And if you listen closely, you might even hear a “y’all” sneak out.

More here about Price’s Chicken Coop, a Charlotte tradition:

Greetings for a New Year and a New Decade

January 1, 2010 Comments off

I don’t know about you, but I am not sad to see 2009 come to an end. I won’t say it was “the worst of times,” but I am not going to describe the year as “the best of times,” either.

In fact, I happily move into 2010 with no regrets about emotionally abandoning the whole last decade.

Certainly, there were things that occurred between 2000-2009 that I feel added to all our lives. Love my iPod and my iPhone! Love the technological advances! But that’s about it.

This last decade has been disappointing on many levels. Most of us lost money; many of us lost work; and we all lost civil liberties, whether we wish to acknowledge that or not.

I doubt there were many amongst us who didn’t realize on some level that life would never be the same here in the USA after 9/11. What we didn’t anticipate was the greed of the decade, the stifling federal debt (and taxes to follow), and the outright fraudulent acts that would be committed–and which have cost us all, and will continue to cost us, long into the future.

That alone would make this last decade easy to abandon without expending much sentimentality toward examining that we survived as a people and as a nation. And no wonder: we have spent the bulk of the decade engaged in a seemingly impossible war, which surely is not what most of us had envisioned on January 1, 2000.

Hope really does spring eternal, though, and the human spirit seeks to believe in better tomorrows. After all, our individual destinies may be tied in part to the nation’s destiny, but how we seek to meet the challenges is on each of our shoulders. Perhaps that pioneer spirit of our ancestors will be resurrected in the coming decade, spurring us towards innovation, both in our own homes and families and in our communities, as well.

So it is with that pioneer spirit that I choose to greet the New Year.

Like my ancestors who settled this part of NC in the early 1700s, we will eat our black-eyed peas for dinner this evening (for good luck).  We will serve  those collard greens (for wealth) and we will make the cornbread, (for good health).

I am told the tradition of including fatback or hog jowls in this meal is based on the hog’s natural foraging instinct. Thus, using pork represents “motivation.”  At my house, some bacon will have to suffice as I rarely use fatback and I sure don’t have any hog jowls on the premises these days like great grandmother did.

And we will pray for prosperity, good health and good fortune in the coming days.

Happy New Year, 2010!

For photo and some other terrific recipes:

Brian’s Decade in Review: The Loose Ends

January 1, 2010 Comments off

The 2000s were quite a ride. An unpopular war and a tech school killer were bookended by two collapses (the World Trade Center on 9/11/01 and the global economy during the last two years).  Ending as badly as it started, it became the decade that most would rather forget.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. A lot happened along the way from those first few moments of realization that the Y2K bug was a hoax. We became familiar with hanging chads, Brittney Spears kissed Madonna on television, and Janet Jackson’s breasts turned the FCC on its, well, ear. The iPod overtook the Rio player to change how we download and listen to music. Social networking became the fastest method of communication, self promotion, and finding that old high school buddy you’d rather forget. As a reminder that it wasn’t all dark skies, calamities and bad reality shows, let’s look back on a few random moments, loose ends, and the “I forgot about that” stories that shaped the first part of the 2000s.

Biggest Sports Collapse – New York Yankees: As a Yankees fan I can’t bring myself to use the phrase “comeback,” especially when it involves the Boston Red Sox. Semantics aside, what happened during the 2004 AL East Championship series could best be described as the greatest choke in baseball history. Not having won a World Series since 1918, and after being routed 19-8 in game three, the Red Sox seemed on their way towards baseball futility.  With the Yankees up 4-1 , the Red Sox found themselves three outs away from being swept from the series. David Ortiz’ two run walk off in the bottom of the twelfth started a comeback . . . or a collapse depending on your point of view . . . which was completed three days later with a 10-3 routing at Yankee Stadium. Boston would go on to win the World Series, the first of two championships.  The Yankees fans lost their chants of “1918,”  but true to the back of the t-shirt, “it won’t be another 86 years before we win our next one,” the Yankees still ended the decade off with a championship of their own.

Whatever Happened To . . . The Chandra Levy Case: This was the meaty crime story with legs. Chandra Levy, a Washington, DC Federal Bureau of Prisons intern, had been last seen on May 1, 2001. Reported missing by her father on May 6, the story took its tabloid turn a day later, with police and intense media focus turning towards an affair Levy had with Democratic Congressman Gary Condit. Condit, not helping his public image at all, refused polygraph testing as well as avoided directly answering the questions Primetime Thursday’s Connie Chung had asked. While the police never considered Condit a suspect, the Levy family played the media like a fiddle, keeping crews at their doorstep in an attempt to bring justice to their daughter. The networks would eventually leave the story cold, focusing their attention on the World Trade Center attacks. In April of 2009, a Salvadorian illegal immigrant named Ingmar Guandique would be arrested and charged with Chandra Levy’s death. His trial is set for January 27, 2010. Congressman Gary Condit’s reputation suffered, losing the democratic primary election in 2002 and losing his Congressional seat in 2003.

Greatest ScreamHoward Dean : Coming in third never sounded more thrilling. Democrat Howard Dean had the younger, more hip vote; he had some of the Hollywood vote; he certainly had more of an outlined plan than anything rival John Kerry laid out (Kerry seemed to have a plan for everything, we just never certain what it was). He received key endorsements and was making political noise. On January 19, 2004, Howard Dean was responsible for a different kind of noise. Howard Dean placed third in the Iowa Caucuses, in back of John Edwards and John Kerry. Undeterred by the loss, the flu, as well as seeking to energize his base, Dean rolled up his sleeves and proceeded to rattle off what he envisioned for the future of the campaign:  state after victorious state. Seeking to be heard above the crowd, he become more emotional, ending with a scream that sounded like cats mating while having their tails trampled. Many of us woke the next day wondering who on earth the screaming lunatic was, only to find out that it was a politician who placed third in a primary. Really. Some say Howard Dean never overcame certain key endorsements.  The rest of us believe the banshee wail did him in. If AC/DC ever needs a new lead singer, Howard Dean might be their man.

Greatest Television RoastingJon Stewart on Crossfire : Jon Stewart made a huge name for himself in the 2000s, going from standup comedian to one of the most influential men in media. Stewart may see The Daily Show as “fake” news; however, it’s still the place many seem to be using as an actual news source. Years before he held Mad Money host Jim Cramer’s feet to the fire, his January ’04 appearance on CNN’s Crossfire set a standard for cringe broadcasting. Stewart used his appearance not as a plug for his show, but seemingly to take down hosts Paul Begala and Carson Tucker. Starting with a plea to “stop hurting America,” Stewart used every tactic in his arsenal to expose Crossfire, as well as talking head media. Stewart never relented, keeping the pressure on despite Carlson’s attempts to steer the interview towards safer territory. When Carlson told Stewart that he was more fun on his own show, Stewart’s response, immediately before a commercial break,  was “you’re as big a d**k on your show.” CNN would cancel Crossfire in January of 2005, with CNN’s incoming president Jonathan Klein citing Stewart’s appearance as a reason for taking it off the air. Was it as uncomfortable as the Jim Cramer take down? Probably not, but Cramer still has his show. Crossfire was CNN history and the noise from talking head programming decreased shortly after.

Most Engaging Yet Confusing Television ProgramLost: This show lives up to its name. Oceanic Flight 815 taking off from Sydney, Australia and bound for Los Angeles, mysteriously goes off course and disappears in the Pacific ocean. While the rest of the world believes the plane is at the bottom of the ocean, its survivors are stranded on an uncharted tropical island. To explain the first season alone would require an article far longer than this one. Told in flashbacks, eventually in flash forwards, the story of the survivors, as well as the island itself, becomes more unclear with each passing episode. Each survivor splinters off not only onto their own present paths, but in some cases multiple futures and pasts. “Others,” “Freighter People,” “Hostiles,” a second or third batch of survivors . . . Multiple knots in the story develop, becoming tangled even greater as each of the five seasons wears on. The massive confusion hasn’t been a deterrent for the die hard viewership of 11 million who tune in each week. After each episode, “Losties” head to the online forums to dissect and discuss the possible meanings behind the show they had just seen. The series that started in 2004 is scheduled to conclude in 2010, with the promise that the biggest questions surrounding Lost will be answered. Not everything will have a resolution. Nestor Carbonell who plays “Other” Richard Alpbert on the show, said that some questions have to remain a mystery, as they should, like the island itself.

Biggest Television “what the hell?” momentThe Sopranos “Made in America”: The biggest question surrounding any television series is, “how will it all end?” Fans were split on The Sopranos. Would Tony Soprano be offed? Would he finally be arrested? Or would he have to suffer the ultimate punishment, living the rest of his life as Tony Soprano?  The penultimate episode, “The Blue Comet,”  had seen Bobby Baccalieri murdered in a train store, Burt Gervasi killed, as well as Phil Leotardo’s mistress. Silvio Dante was shot in the street, and Tony was on the run. The final moments were of Tony Soprano hiding out, slowly walking up a flight of stairs carrying a rifle, and laying in bed (“going to the mattresses,” ala The Godfather). It left Sopranos fans an intense next-to-last episode, as well as a week to contemplate how this all would end. Very few people remember the first 55 minutes of the final show, but everyone remembers the last five. Tony Soprano sitting in a diner, ordering onion rings, waiting for his Carmela, Meadow, and Anthony Jr. to join him. Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” played on the table jukebox, Carmela and Anthony Jr. eating their onion rings as though they were receiving communion, Meadow unable to park her car properly, and a man in a Member’s Only jacket disappearing to a bathroom in back of Tony. The camera shots continuously switch, Meadow gets out of the car, Tony looks up . . . the cable goes out. You looked at your cable box too. We all did, in utter disbelief . . . until the credits began to roll. Once the shock and anger wore off, the speculation began. Did he live or die? What happened? My personal belief is that Tony Soprano was shot by the Members Only jacket guy, given the nature of the camera changes. You knew that it would be a hotly debated topic amongst Sopranos fans. I’m sure David Chase knows for sure, but I doubt he’ll ever tell.

Biggest Comeback in Music – Trey Anastasio (Phish): When we last saw our musical heroes, it was on August of 2004,  in Coventry, Vermont. Phish’s Coventry festival was to mark the end of the band, the final two shows of their career. Many had to abandon their cars roadside and hike miles in order to get into the campgrounds after bad weather forced the organizers to turn fans away. Those who ventured in saw a train wreck of epic proportions, an anti-Last Waltz of sorts. In front of tens of thousands, as well as a national audience who paid decent money to see the theatrical broadcasts (I saw both), the wheels came off. The downward spiral that started in 2003 reached its head that weekend. While three other band members played admirably, lead singer/guitarist Trey Anastasio played horrifically, visibly strung out, a shell of his fun loving self. Looking to drive the Phish legacy further into the ground,  Anastasio’s solo releases went from bad to worse, his solo live playing remained weak at best. His drug problems came to a head with a 2006 arrest for possession of hashish, heroin, and three prescription painkillers. After reaching bottom, 2009 saw a sober, renewed Trey Anastasio. Phish reunited in March of 2009 with three tight, yet well played shows in Hampton, VA. The year also saw two additional tours, a Halloween festival, and a New Year’s run. His other personal rewards had to have been playing with boyhood idol Bruce Springsteen at Bonnaroo, and alongside The New York Philharmonic. Most of all, the vibrant performance skills were as stunning as they had been before the fall. Welcome back, Trey. You’ve been missed.

Biggest Thunder Stealer– Michael Jackson: In an alternate universe, June 25, 2009 would have been Farrah Fawcett’s day. She was the flighty, yet stunning blonde with the long, flowing hair from the 70s poster so many of us had tacked to our walls in teen-aged adulation. Taking a role on a show with the name Charlie’s Angels (never mind that it was a crime fighting show) seemed fitting. She was iconic–a link to a polyester era. When Fawcett lost her battle with cancer, network news focused their coverage on her. There were to be tributes and remembrances, celebrities weighing in, and Larry King was to devote an entire program to her (sorry Farrah). By 6 pm EST, Farrah Fawcett was an afterthought, replaced by the death of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. You could call it a study on the shark attack qualities of the media and their facile ability immediately to drop one story to focus on another. Regardless, Michael Jackson was the inescapable talk that evening wherever you went or whatever you watched, drowning out every other news story,  and relegating Farrah Fawcett to “oh, by the way” status. In some warped way, I imagine, at least for her family, it was for the best. Let the paparazzi pursue their morbid photos of Jackson’s body, and let Farrah Fawcett rest in peace.

Holiday Traditions: A Charlie Brown Christmas

December 9, 2009 Comments off

As far back as I can remember, I’ve never spent a Christmas without watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” When we were kids, the holiday season didn’t start with Thanksgiving turkey and King Kong marathons. Christmas started with the stop motion animated “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I would make sure I was done with homework, or anything else I had to do, in order to be in front of that TV at 8 pm for Charlie Brown. As time wore on, it was the Peanuts special that remained my tradition.

You could count the amount of adults in any Charlie Brown special on one hand and have most of your fingers left. You never really saw them. The only adult we were ever aware about was Linus’ crush, Miss Othmar (played not so delicately by a muted trombone, possibly a reference to teachers being one of the most important instruments in a child’s future). In Peanuts cartoons, it was a world of highly intelligent children who still retained child-like awe and wonder. Schroeder could play Beethoven on a toy piano, yet had little interest in Lucy, the lemonade-stand psychiatrist who charged a mere nickel for her advice. Sally had quite the crush on Linus, who much preferred his blanket over anything close to resembling a romantic interest. Snoopy was off fighting the Red Baron at the first sign of danger, yet still had to kick his dog dish in front of his owner simply to be fed. Charlie Brown? Ever the optimist, in spite of his depressed rants. He managed to give up clothes removing home run after home run with every pitch, was never quite able to kick the football that Lucy held, and I don’t believe he ever got closer to the little red haired girl other than offering her his sandwich. Yet Charlie Brown still managed to hold on to his dreams, small ones to us, but large ones to him. And he never gave up.

Watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” as a kid, I never bothered to understand its message. To me it was a beagle who strung up lights around a doghouse, a Christmas play, and a few twigs that magically turned into a Christmas tree. Years later, its messages resonate loud and clear, probably moreso now than its initial airing in 1965.

In 2009, Christmas has turned into the cog that helps keeps businesses alive. Have a great Christmas and next year’s bonus might reflect that. Have a lousy Christmas and you may be out of work– not exactly holiday cheer. Maybe the intensity of consumerism has grown over time; however, in 1965 it was brought down to something we can all understand in the form of Snoopy entering a lights display contest, taking advantage of the holiday for monetary gain. Sally’s biggest concern was what Santa could bring from her Christmas list? No toys? Send money!

Perhaps Charles Schultz had a message when he allowed his Peanuts characters to run rampant during rehearsals for their Christmas play. Only Charlie Brown was able to keep his focus while everyone else lost theirs. Only Charlie Brown was able to find beauty in an otherwise dreadful little tree, showing us that we can see beauty in anything so long as we look through unfiltered eyes and show a little love.

In the end, it was a one minute and twenty second segment that garnered the most critical acclaim. With Charlie Brown’s frustration at an all time high, Linus, a blanket toting grade schooler, takes the lone spot light and quotes the Gospel of Luke, verses 8 to 14:

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'” (See Video Clip)

And a child shall lead them . . . even if he carries a security blanket.

In this day and age of political correctness, I’m sure someone has found fault or has been offended by that scene, which would be a shame, as it’s one of the greatest messages of love, peace and joy ever written.  It’s the message that “A Charlie Brown Christmas” insists we’ve lost focus on, whether through consumerism or anything else going on in our lives. Sure, it’s partially about Santa Claus– I love giving and getting gifts, too! This program doesn’t so much demean that aspect of Christmas but rather asks the viewer to keep in mind why it is that we celebrate the season.

Peanuts characters have always been adults living life as children. They’re smart enough to rattle off of list of phobias, ask for the gift of real estate, know that Christmas is run by a big eastern syndicate and quote scriptures off the tops of their heads. Yet they’re always willing to accept, still willing to learn, all with an uninhibited view of the world. They represent our inner child.

At least once every December, to quote Jimmy Buffet, I give in “to the child in me that can’t say goodbye” and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” as though I were five years old again: a bowl of popcorn, a soda, my spot on the couch, happy that another holiday season is upon us. As an adult I finally understand its messages, yet I am child enough to still wave my arms over a small wire tree, just in case I can turn it into a large, decorated spruce with a star on top. I’ve always wanted to do that.

If Charlie Brown can hold on to his dreams, why can’t I?

Tsk, Tsk Tiger: we thought you were different

December 3, 2009 2 comments

He’s the most lucratively compensated athlete in the world.  Golf’s Golden Boy.  Married five years to a gorgeous Swedish model, father to two beautiful children. We have all admired Tiger Woods as the man who had it all–and who appreciated his good fortune.

We admired him because he earned his money the old-fashioned way: performance.  And his lifestyle suggested that he was a man worthy of our admiration.

A family man.

Unlike too many of his peers, Tiger Woods appeared devoid of that entitlement mindset which has meant highly compensated athletes live the Big Life by glorifying social misbehavior and discarding relationship commitment.  We never expected that Woods, who certainly has appeared to have it all, would find the need to have more: a tawdry relationship on the side.

We thought we knew you, Tiger.

For all the apologists out there who keep insisting this is no one’s business . . . we beg to differ.  Golf is a lifestyle for many of us, and Tiger has been the epitome of success.  He has reached near-hero status with countless kids who have sought to follow in his footsteps.  He has been a role model.

We didn’t put you on a pedestal, Tiger.  You claimed that spot for yourself.

Golf is a gentleman’s game.  Protocol and tradition are woven into the rules of the sport.  We are more than disappointed.   We are disgusted that Woods would trash the traditions of golf itself by dragging the image of the sport down to the NFL level, where such declasse antics are not only expected, they seem to be accepted as the norm.

Tiger, you have left us perplexed: You had it all–Fame, Fortune, Family.  Why wasn’t that enough?

Photo and more celebs misbehavin’,0,4609957.photogallery