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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Oscars!

The Envelope, Please

Tonight is the Oscars.  The night when those who have played well their parts get to thank the Academy for its recognition, Billy Crystal tells a lot of jokes, people obsess over what each actress is wearing on the red carpet.  The men, on the other hand, just rent a tuxedo as if it were prom night and go with it.

Everyone nominated is obviously very attractive and very talented.  However, these award shows are completely and entirely subjective.  Which they must be, because there is no objective way to determine which actor or actress or director is truly "better" than the others.

Chances are we may have felt like we got the shaft from some other arbitrary or capricious system:  Maybe a judge or a jury decided against our argument, no matter how right on the money it was.  Maybe the pretty lady you asked out on a date turned you down because you weren't manly/cool/smooth/rich enough, even though you're the best you can be in all of those areas.   Maybe someone flat-out told you they didn't like you.

Most teachers and camp counselors have gotten used to telling little children that even when they lose a game, they still win, just so they won't cry.  As corny and unrealistic as it seems, it's actually similar to what we all need to do for ourselves.  The fact that some system picks someone else instead doesn't mean you should reject yourself!

So tomorrow morning, anyone who's been feeling like they came in second, or that they came up empty-handed somehow, do the following:

(1)  Open an envelope in front of your bathroom mirror;
(2)  Announce that the Oscar goes to [insert your name];
(3)  Give your own acceptance speech.  If it won't make you late for work, go as long as you want.  Include the following:
       (A)  Role models that taught you to believe;
       (B)  Loved ones who returned that love; and
       (C)  Anyone who moved you ahead, or convinced you to move yourself ahead
(4)  Just before you finish, tell everyone who did the opposite of the above that you didn't have time to fit them in, and then rush off the stage!

Good night, all, and don't forget to comment!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

In Memory of Miss Whitney

The Way You Live or The Way You Leave?

Hi All --

Had some big happenings this past weekend, so my blog is a little late.  But here goes --

The passing of Whitney Houston was a shock, to be sure.  Her passing left a sharp division in public opinion -- should she be acknowledged for the way she lived, or for the way she died?

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, no stranger to controversy, injected himself into this issue last week.  He issued an executive order directing the flags at all state government offices to be flown at half-staff in Whitney's honor.  He caught a lot of flack for that from many people who thought that Whitney did not deserve such an honor.  Veterans' groups got up in arms, because our honored war dead deserved such deference, while an overdosing celebrity did not.  Others questioned how her conduct and habits, which may or may not have been in existence before her marriage, warranted such a display after her passing.  And of course, many of our friendly neighborhood intellectuals pontificated, "why is the media taking up so much time on Whitney, isn't there any more real news in this country?"

As usual, the Governor had a good reason for his decision.  He stated that he wanted to honor the accomplishments that Whitney had achived in life, and the wonderful talent she brought to this world, and not to deny her the same because of the manner of her departure.  He wanted to show respect to her as a "daughter of New Jersey," and honor the contributions she made to the world around her.  For someone who's admitted to being the "biggest Springsteen fan ever," it took guts for him to not only acknowledge the passing of another very talented musician from New Jersey, but also to acknowledge the strengths, and not the weaknesses, of a terribly tragic soul.

It's conveniently easy to blame her estranged husband for the manner in which her career suffered and her life ended.  That's what her family did when they looked for and found reasons to convince him and his "entourage" of his own children to leave Whitney's funeral.  It's also conveniently easy to say that she first began her addictions even before she met her estranged husband.  It's even more conveniently easy to say that her marriage was a sham to begin with.

Instead, we're better served to remember the beauty and wonder of her talent.  Specifically, her song "Greatest Love Of All" has special resonance with me.  Granted, when we see a man singing this song to himself, we're expected to conclude that he's a narcissist or an egomaniac, and sometimes we're right.  However, this song is meant to describe the beauty of self-acceptance, the joy that is found in self-reliance, and the fearlessness that comes with self-actualization.  Regardless of what her ex-husband may or may not have done to her, or whatever it is she put into her body, this song, as well as her other hits, are how we should remember Whitney. 

We should also remember the patriotism she stirred when she sang the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl in 1991.  Just try to YouTube that and see if you don't get choked up!

My point is that we are better served remembering the happiness and joy that people bring to this life, assuming they've actually brought some, than we are by reveling in the cause of their demise, or by criticizing the choices they made.  Let's bury Whitney's errors, lapses in judgment, and bad habits along with her remains, while her voice and talents live forever.  And let's continue to do likewise with all of those who may have lived imperfect and flawed lives, but nevertheless left behind love, smiles, and memories.
Hey all -- busy during three-day weekend -- blog entry coming up tonight!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Say what you want about the Whitney funeral -- R. Kelly's song was amazing! Right up there with Jermaine Jackson singing "Smile."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nice To Visit The Old Town . . . .

Revisiting Old Surroundings

It's often said that one way to relieve stress and get re-centered, other than the perfect and primary solution of running, is to visit places that you're familiar with. 

When I was younger, and still lived at home during law school, I would sometimes take a walk by myself on a Sunday afternoon and venture up to the old high school track.  There was nobody around, as the building was closed, but I would just walk around the area and soak up the memories.  That was where I had those annoying classes, that was where I asked that girl out in that geeky, unsure, nice-guy way I had.  And THAT, over there, was the auditorium.  That was where I acted in all those drama club plays, and was happy.  In fact, that was where I was the happiest -- nothing could shake me, nothing could faze me, and nothing could bring me down back then!

Since then, I've moved a far distance from my home town, but I sometimes visit.  And when I do, it's good to visit some of the old stomping grounds.  Just being near some of those old sites brings back old, comfortable feelings.  Yes, I may have traveled and advanced pretty far from there, but there's always been a refreshing feeling from re-visiting those places.  In a way, it's like visiting a sanctuary or a shrine -- from the old familiar feelings of the past, there can be a spiritual replenishment and a restoration of happiness.

Of course, this was before I discovered the secret of running.  Nowadays, it provides me with this sanctuary on a regular basis.  However, visiting the old neighborhood can sometimes provide that feeling on an even larger and more personal scale.

Next stop?  This summer I'd like to take a road trip to visit my old college town.  Anyone going up to Oswego for the reunion?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Post Super Bowl Thoughts!

Not Just The Big Game!

Hey All --

Sorry I missed my usual Sunday night spot.  However, I spent that night at the home of my friends on Long Island, hanging with their kids, and watching the Super Bowl.  In all the post-game euphoria, as well as my trip home to get ready for work the next day, I just couldn't really sling it together.

But I can share with you a few scenes from that Super Bowl weekend that made me smile.  First, I'm proud of my godson's older brother!  The day of the Super Bowl, both boys went to the high school track to let off a little steam -- the kid is 7 1/2 years old, and he ran 2 miles around the track without stopping!  Unreal!  As it happened, the high school track coach was in the vicinity and came over to his mom to compliment her on her son's perfect form!  He suggested that she have him run every day, so that by the time he hits 9th grade, he can go out for the team!!!! 

You know that seals the deal for me -- say what you want about Eli Manning, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Mario Manningham, that weekend this kid was athlete of the year to me!

Another scene that made me smile was an attempt to do something slightly uncomfortable to make a child happy.  My godson received as a present from a well-meaning relative a model roller-coaster kit.  This thing, when finished, would measure six feet by six feet, had a motor, would be the envy of all who saw it or played with it.  Essentially, it was a model train set taken to the next level!

While this would be played with by children ages newborn to 7 1/2 years, it was meant to be assembled by ages 10+ -- with a degree in engineering!  The three grown men in the house who tried to follow the directions step by step found themselves stymied not by what they said, but what they didn't say.  While we were smart to build this device in sections, the directions had absolutely NO EXPLANATION how these sections would all come together.  In fact, part of these directions told us to build portions of the roller coaster incorrectly.  This led our faithful band, two of whom were familiar with the concepts of construction and wiring, down the path of oblivion, leaving us with a scarier feeling than the steepest roller coaster drop.  I myself was left to wonder why, if I had legs sturdy enough to carry me 26 miles, I felt as sore as I did kneeling on the floor while navigating this infrastructure.

In the end, the call of game-time caused us to halt construction on our mini-scream machine before it could be finished.  However, we promised our young charges that we'd finish it for them another time.  A lesson to carry with me whenever I reproduce my progeny -- part of fatherhood necessarily includes putting things together that make no sense for the sake of children's happiness.  I would feel even greater happiness later knowing that Gisele Bundchen would not take us to task for not finishing the job.

Last but not least, was my favorite part of Super Bowl Sunday -- explaining the game of football to my father.  G-D bless him, the man is the anti-sports fan!  He came from a generation that thought sports was a waste of time, and so never picked up the difference between a two-point conversion and a third-down conversion.  So every year, this would be my time to teach him the basic fundamentals of the game -- no, kicking it through the uprights is not a "hat trick," and he didn't score a "home run" when he reached the end zone, and there is no "free throw!"  This year I called him at halftime to keep the tradition going.

And so was the way I spent the un-official American holiday of Super Bowl Sunday -- with a bunch of good friends, young and old.  I ingested and imbibed a large amount of food and drink that would melt my insides if it were my normal diet.  I felt young again the way only kids can make you feel young again.  And even though I remain a proud Jets fan, it still felt good to see the Giants win.  Now all Rex and the boys have to do is put in a season just like that.

So now, as we enter the dead zone of the professional sports calendar -- spring training weeks away, hockey and basketball playoffs months away, and no clue what happens with soccer -- it's better to let other pursuits grab our attention.  I'll be back to my normal Sunday night jam, and I'll look for those who like this blog to keep on commenting, including this "Anonymous" person, whomever he or she might be!  ;)

As I advance towards this year's NYC Marathon, I'll be sharing my progress as I seek a PR in the Super Bowl of running!  More inspirational posts to follow . . . .