Monday, July 23, 2012

Thoughts on Penn State

I admired Joe Paterno for most of my life. I wasn't a Penn State fan, but like many football fans, I grew up respecting him. He seemed like one of the few people in college football who was doing things the right way. Over the years, the more I learned about Paterno, my admiration only strengthened. In 2004, the 79 year old Paterno was steamrolled by one of my Badgers during a game, a collision that shattered his leg. I marveled at his resiliency, further solidifying my respect.

Joe Paterno was a great football coach. That does not mean he was a great man.

Clearly, he was not.

Too often we equate success on the field with character. We assume winners are admirable. Joe Paterno won the most games in college football history. Everyone assumed he was a man of great character.

Until we learned the awful truth. Despite unprecedented success on the gridiron, Joe Paterno failed when it mattered most.

Penn State took down the Joe Paterno statue Saturday. There are Joe supporters who wanted the statue to remain, trying to separate his football legacy from his personal disgrace. Those people are delusional, Joe had to go.

The Penn State football program was severely punished by the NCAA today. I spent some time listening to sports talk radio, and there are people who think the penalties went too far, punishing current Penn State players who had nothing to do with the scandal. That's true, but it misses the point.

Penn State, as an institution, covered up horrendous crimes against children. In my mind, no penalty is too severe.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

WWW Wednesday

I started this blog a couple years back with the intention of writing about books and movies. I do a fair bit of reading, and I watch a lot of movies. I've kind of strayed from that original intent. Not that there's anything wrong with that (Seinfeld voice), but I've been meaning to get more books and movies in the blog.

So today I'm joining a weekly meme I came across on one of my favorite blogs, What Else Is Possible?. The meme was set up by MizB at Should Be Reading, and it's simple and to the point. Exactly the way I like things. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I'll do this every Wednesday, but if I do post on a Wednesday, this is what I'll be doing...........for now.

To play along, all you have to do is answer the following three (3) questions…

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I'm reading Canada by Richard Ford right now. In fact, I'll probably finish tonight. This is literature with a capital L my friends. Big themes, metaphorical, perfectly constructed sentences, keen insights, all the things you would expect from a writer of Ford's caliber. I really can't recommend this one enough. I mean seriously, if you get a chance, just read the first two paragraphs and I bet you'll be hooked.

I recently finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This book is a twisted good time. I'm sure this one will wind up on the big screen sooner or later. I kept thinking about The War of the Roses as I read it. The couple in the book is like the Roses..........on steroids. 

Next up for me is The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. Sounds like an interesting coming of age story. The earth's rotation is slowing, causing big environmental changes, and all the while, the main character, Julia, has to deal with life's usual problems. 

If you've read any of these books, I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you're not doing your own WWW Wednesday post, how 'bout sharing in the comments. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

What Were They Thinking?

Bruce Springsteen did a show in London over the weekend. The guy is 62 and the show was over three hours long. Even if you don't like The Boss, you gotta give the man his credit. He's out there puttin the young kids to shame.

The London crowd probably lost their minds near the end of the show when none other than Sir Paul McCartney joined Springsteen on stage. Bruce and Paul played "I Saw Her Standing There" and "Twist and Shout." Bruce told the crowd he'd been dreaming of playing with McCartney for 50 years, so one can only assume they would have played more songs together. 

Apparently there was some kind of curfew, and unbelievably, the plug was pulled on two of the all-time greats. I'm not normally one to worry about the fall of western civilization, but if Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney can't play music as long as they damn well please on a Saturday night, there is something fundamentally wrong with society.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Reading and Economics

A recent visit to Barnes & Noble has me thinking.

I had a $25 gift card, and there were a couple books I really wanted to get: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. The books had just come out, so they were only available in hardcover. I didn't want to spend a bunch of money, so I went back and forth between the two. The more I deliberated, the more irritated I became.

Did I really need to pay $10 more for a hardcover book? If they were both in paperback, I could have bought both books for about $5 more than the cost of just one of the hardcovers.

Then I had to decide if I should just find two other paperbacks and wait for BR and AHFTK to come out in paperback. But that takes months. I could get them from the library, but there's usually a wait for new releases from guys like Walter and Eggers. I was jonesing to read them now. I eventually chose to buy Beautiful Ruins (amazing book by the way-check it out), but I left the store unsatisfied.

The whole situation has kind of stuck with me. I buy a lot of books, but I hate paying more for hardcovers. I know some people love hardcovers and are willing to pay extra for them. Even though I've never liked dust jackets, I was one of those people for a long time. After this experience, I think my days of buying hardcovers are over.

If I knew the extra money was going directly to the author, I would be willing to continue buying hardcovers. I'm pretty sure authors don't see much of that extra $10, so then it comes down to what's cheapest for me. Of course, ebooks are often the cheapest way to go, and while I've done a few books on my phone, I'm not sure I'm ready for a full ebook immersion.

I still want to have actual books, especially the books of my favorite writers. Paperbacks aren't so bad. The cover art is still there, and it's not like I'm going to read a book so many times the binding won't hold up. As far as books I can't wait for, well, after this experience, I'm getting pretty comfortable with the idea of buying ebooks on itunes.

I just can't see paying $25 for a new release. Not anymore.

Are your reading habits changing because of economics?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

American Movie

The Fourth of July is a day to celebrate the birth of a nation, to reflect on what it means to be American. Movies are a big part of American culture, and certain movies encapsulate the American experience. Here are five great movies that strike me as particularly American.

5) Remember the Titans: Race relations have been a contentious part of the American story, and any number of films have attempted to deal with race. Titans certainly doesn't have the gravitas of other films tackling race relations in the US, but it reminds us that when we work together, anything is possible.

4) Rebel Without a Cause: This is the movie that made James Dean an American icon. Rebel perfectly captures the angst of the American teenager. Times may change, but older Americans always think the younger generation is going to hell in a handbasket.

3) Gran Torino: America is a country of immigrants, and Gran Torino is a movie about immigration. Walt Kowalski is a bitter old white man, watching his neighborhood change before his eyes. Walt is a metaphor for the US itself. He is a flawed man who evolves.

2) Rocky: Americans love an underdog, and Rocky Balboa may be the best underdog of all-time. Rocky Balboa is another cinematic metaphor. He gets knocked down, but always gets back up.

1) Saving Private Ryan: World War II may have been America's finest hour, coming to the defense of freedom and justice. Some would argue we haven't always fought for those principles, but freedom and justice are at the core of what America is all about. Saving Private Ryan is the best example of that spirit I've ever seen on the big screen.

These are five movies that scream America to me. What do you think of these choices? And what movies scream America to you?