Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stina Sternberg sucks back (so to speak)

Erroneously thought Swedes were definitively in pancake family of high gluten preference, but there's one member of golfing community showing predilection, based on recent comments, towards waffling instead. Said Nord is none other than the Golf Channel’s Stina Sternberg [See cartoon right] and evidence is her partial plus nuanced semi-apology in the Jan. 2009 “Golf Digest” for some highly offensive cigar-lover comments in the Nov. issue.

Apparently poor S.S. got a bevy of angry responses to her previously penned (and unprovoked) attack against cigar smoking on the golf course, whether as participant or spectator. In a memorable riff from her Sly Stallone-esque machismo hall-o-fame piece, the Swede S2 claimed that she has been known to haul around, grab a lit cigar out of some puffer’s mouth and stomp it out right in front of his girly-self when walking in the gallery. Obviously blonde basher is unbeknownst white female Samuel L. Jackson because anyone doing that (and without a pack of menthols in their shirt pocket) is one Jack Shaft bad motherf$%^&+r!

Although suitably, albeit - I must confess - only momentarily, cowed by such a rhetorical display of ripe bravado, your humble scribe able still to summon sufficient courage to send following to Ms. Sternberg's “Golf Digest” e-mail address:

That you don't like cigars is your right, but the faux machismo of "In crowded places like that, I've been known to grab a cigar out of a guy's mouth & stomp it out" is flat-out wrong + impertinent.

Public smoking is allowed at many PGA venues per the local ordinances. Not only do you have no right to follow that course of action in said situation, but I'm sure my fellow stogie workers will be glad to have the relevant authorities - afterwards - apply whatever criminal code redress is most suitable/penal should you try to perpetuate your hostile behavior upon one of us. As another golf aficionado once said, "Go ahead, make our day".

More importantly than the quasi-battery you espouse without even Pearl Harbor-like warning, your comment flies in the face of our game's inherent spirit. Leave the silly rhetorical bravado & verbal showboating such as yours to all the other sports which exploit supposed students to line, instead, the coffers for the developmental programs of their professional ranks. In the only game still which prizes the competitor who calls a penalty on themselves and continues to embody the true ethos of the amateur, there's no room for smack talk by spokespeople based on silly personal peccadilloes. You set a poor example for us all with these type of Chuck Norris-wannabe remarks, besides personally embarrassing yourself.

If you're offended by the smoke, simply ask my fellow indulger to refrain in your proximity. Based on bellicosity exhibited, I'm sure the gentleman (or woman) would be more than happy to remove themselves from such a toxic presence in favor of mild leaf burning at considerable distance to a potentially hostile fellow patron.

Your new enemy for life and I'm beginning post haste, rest assured, to line-up fellow compatriots. Keep up the columns; doing wonders for your PR.

p.s. Can't wait to see the "Cigar Steel Cage" Pay-Per-View of yourself vs. Dana Quigley on the back nine of next year's Champions Tour opener. Vegas odds-makers, no doubt, will give you the edge based on attitude alone, but I'll put my money on the cagey Bay State veteran. Go DQ!!

Well I shan't cite exclusive credit for such, but fellow stogie-imbibers must have swelled with rancor similar to mine own, and Ms. S2 was compelled to try to put out the simmering fire of resentment with following, under title of ‘Readers Smokin’ Mad’, in her Jan. column:

“My strong stance against public cigar smoking resulted in a pile of reader hate mail so large that I could barely find my way to my desk (some of the e-mails … were downright scary). Most of the wrath was aimed at my statement that I’ve been known to snatch a cigar out of a guy’s mouth and stomp it out in a crowded gallery. Let me clarify: …”

Stina-la, at this point, then becomes the “Golf Digest” equivalent of Bill Clinton expounding upon the ontological definition of what “is” is [Still my favorite Bubba moment] by stating that it only happened once, the guy was drunk, she had asked him to put it out (which she implied the opposite of in the original piece) and, finally, that it is, in fact, okay in her estimable opinion for the rest of us to keep puffin’ with our buddies without raising the prospect of her potential smack-down retribution. Basically her ‘clarification’ has about the same veracity as the argument for WMD’s poppin’ up like fresh-made Bojangles biscuits all over the Iraqi desert, but did we really expect any better from an Annika Sorenstam bud?

My latent animosity stands & don’t buy Stina’s re-stance; she is now, officially, on Enemies List. [A future post, to be sure.] Although fetching in figure [Not S.S. to right though], her voice - which makes fingernails scratching a blackboard sound like Bruckner by comparison - target Ms. S. as ripe candidate for ongoing rhetorical animosity. Most importantly though, the sheer sucking-back feebleness of her subsequent reply, in reaction to the lightning rod of animosity her original blowhard comments, is proof positive that only media venue to which she should be allowed future contribution is the next “Playboy” ‘Girls Of Golf’ pictorial extravaganza! The prosecution rests.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

All-time great cigar men

Of civilization’s many recent setbacks, the ever-widening loss of pipe-smokers is a prime milepost. “Did you ‘misnome’ this diatribe, Laddie Boy?”, one might be thinking after that lead. Nay, but I am at a loss to set a personal example – the optimal response always – to ameliorate above reasoned charge. Though my own father was a confirmed Dunhill private mix man, the lovely aroma of a lit pipe doesn’t suit me (though I do look quite fetching, still, in the requisite matching argyle cardigan with oversized ivory buttons).

No, I am brusque & biting not smooth & soothing. My personal Basie rhythm section modus operandi stands juxtaposed to this latter description of something more akin to a Bing Crosby, swingin' sweetly left, melody. [Preferably, one can only hope, sans a child wailing in the background from the incipient bubbling of their buttocks due to ‘Der Bingle’ recently exercising the family hair brush. Ahem.]

My persona is that of the cigar – burning brightly pungent & perniciously. Also, as occurred to me only recently (and as sworn to on whatever stack of books you consider holy) many of my favorite men were/are imbibers of hand-rolled delights too. So, in a most self-indulgent vein admittedly, let me expound briefly upon this pantheon of Cuban-derived greatness in character & taste by supplying some not so well known tidbits about these designated Connecticut wrapper gentlemen.

1.) H.L. Mencken

Many of you, I’m sure, have noticed a near felonious borrowing with pride on my part of the verbiage, flavor & tone in this ongoing internet funfest from Mr. Henry Louis Mencken of 1524 Hollins St. Guilty, as charged, is all I can answer. My only weak mea culpa is that even if I tried to exorcise such an influence, I would fail if only due to osmosis. Mine was a misspent youth, at least in part, and the Chrestomathy loomed large and often in my literary debauchery.

Mencken's latent anti-Semitism aside, there is much in the tragic figure of H.L.M. I have always regarded highly besides his obvious textual genius. In fact (and I do mist-up even at the thought of such), that which I loved more than anything else in this world was named in honor of the ‘Bard of Baltimore’. As alluded to in a previous post, FDR’s & William Jennings Bryan’s primary nemesis not only puffed copiously in his own private life, but, in fact, was the descendant of a family prominent in cigar-making and had, at one time, their own factory for manufacturing Indians right in the heart of the ‘Charm City’.

2.) Winston Churchill

Could I really need to write anything that would even approximate that which has been scribed (including most trenchantly - and voluminously - by the man himself) already? No, sir, certainly not. My only addition, albeit a small one, is to note that the Great Lion came to his habit early when, as a young man, he and a companion were literally stranded & near penniless in Habana. For a period of two weeks Winnie subsisted, by his admission, on nothing more than oranges and the peculiar size ‘stick’ that came to have his surname’s appellation. Surprisingly he doesn't add in this diet reference to a decent cup of Cuban coffee?

3.) Groucho Marx

Speaking of oranges, there's a nice biography of the comedic brothers which describes a '50's desert road trip they made. Strip malls then were still a concept rather than utterly ubiquitous. Groucho, as background, had lost a small fortune during 1929’s Great Crash. Since such time, he had never slept very well nor trusted practically anything. Paranoia, in this case, caused the prankster to bring on the trip a large brown bag of oranges & tomatoes just in case the car broke down somewhere near the future grave sites of various Teamster loan officers. His companions, much to their amusement, noted that he kept the bag in sight as if the Holy Grail, itself, were being protected. Another salient morsel: The funniest brother, in reality, was Zeppo and the top side-splitting prize in the family went to Gummo, a brother who dropped out of the act to become an agent when the troupe transitioned from Vaudeville to the silver screen.

4.) Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

‘Uncle Billy’ to his men, it is my regret that I will never attempt a historical work which examines the true lynchpin of the Civil War – Grant’s personal relationship with this quirky individual who – besides breaking the back of Confederate resistance – invented the modern theory of war. Possibly the only superior memoirs to U.S.G.’s are those of Sherman’s - “He (Grant) stood by me when I was crazy and I stood by him when he was drunk.” Personally I’m completely biased on this matter because, despite no physical proximity, the figure in history I most approximate is W.T.S. – with regards to the good & (in particular) the bad.

From a ‘stick’ perspective, most reports are that it was rare for the General, especially in the field, not to be seen working an Indian (lit at times, no doubt, by the smoldering remains of that which his “Boys” had just marched through). A soldier is said to have remarked during Sherman’s infamous ‘March To The Sea’, that his army’s practice of living-off-the-land was so effective “A pig found would be tossed back through the marching ranks – gutted, cleaned & eaten - so that only the bones and a piece of the ear remained by the time it reached the rear. The ear kept so that Uncle Billy would have something on which to strike a match!”. A bit of hyperbole this is, certainly, but colorful nevertheless.

5.) ‘Joseph Petroni’

Who? This one is quite a stretch and not even remotely in the same weight class as any of the other gents listed above, but, please, indulge me. This is the George Kennedy character [Seen right explaining the meat grinder effect through cabin windows of decompression at thirty thousand feet] in that late ‘60’s movie epic - and spoof engine extraordinaire - “Airplane”. The fill-um is remembered most now, I admit, for the near-splatter level testosterone contest between the characters of Burt “I love my job more than my damn wife!” Lancaster and Dean “Damnit, Lincoln, I need runway 2-9-er!” Martin. My favorite part by far, however, involves ‘Petroni’.

Despite being from TWA [There’s a blast-from-the-past name] in the picture, George Kennedy’s guy is charged with trying to dislodge a fictitiously named airline’s 727 from the infield so that ole Dino’s prized runway can become available for a landing which will save the passengers and, in so doing, also not further endanger the love child he has conceived with Stewardess Jacqueline Bisset (beyond, to be certain, a genetic proclivity of the tot to double Martini milkshakes during most of his/her elementary school years). When our husky hero, 'Petroni', finally climbs into the cockpit to “give her (the plane, that is) all she’s going to get” and blow, quite literally, the 727 out of the ditch, he so overworks his Indian in the process that the spent carcass is simply tossed over his shoulder after the deed is most assuredly (and violently) done.

Obviously I could go on, but enough frivolity for now. To those of who indulge, more power to you! To those who don’t but know/like someone who does, we appreciate your indulgence of our enjoyment and can only say, “May a thousand camels ring your caravan and you always be upwind of them!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The positively insipid Hank Haney

Bile built for this screed based on prepping for an alternative piece, "The disappointing Tiger Woods". Researching that to-be-finished project however, the sight of Mr. Woods’ current momo-head teaching appendage, Hank Haney, on the Golf Channel demanded priority for this brief broadside before the extended Eldrick effort.

For those not familiar with such, double H runs a Juniors golf academy down Hilton Head way. As bubonic plague spread during the Dark Ages, the growth of reality-based TV has infected fully even a far-flung outpost like the Golf Channel. Mr. H-Squared has a show in which, laconically, he mouths platitudes with cliché chasers to panting pre-teens who, unfortunately, don’t actually genuflect reflexively [Maybe next season?] when a reference to El Tigre is worked-in for one time more per every 10 minutes than John Daly has had wives since winning the PGA. Nauseating as this is, the topper is Haney’s absolute blasé mien. The Parisian 1920’s ex-pat American literary crowd looks like friggin’ cheerleaders on double Espressos compared to the Hankster during most episodes. One only wonders when an EMT will appear from off-screen and whisper “Clear” while administering the paddles.

What spanked my wrath however was a 2005 "Golf Digest" ‘My Shot’ piece featuring a pair of truly vapid comments from H2. That they are inane isn't the point. Just because someone knows swing plane dynamics doesn’t mean, necessarily, they can expound upon failure of the Democratic Peace Thesis as the raison d’ etre for the Iraqi war. The disturbing thing is the mindset behind these comments, from someone so regrettably high-up in golfdom, vis-à-vis seemingly trivial concerns such as environmental sustainability, golf maintenance costs and – for good measure – the unimportance to keep historically-steeped courses viable for future major competition.

Bit hard on the lanky lad?” you think. Well, your kind Magistrate, let me enter into evidence following from said '05 magazine opus:

I can't believe all this talk about how we need to scale back the golf ball and how far it's going. Are you hitting the ball too far? Has the game gotten too easy for you? To 99.9 percent of us, the answer is no. Golf is too darn difficult. Courses have gotten longer and more challenging. Fairways are irrigated so the ball doesn't roll, but they're mowed so tight it's like hitting off this table.

The man is literally from sun-stricken Texas and Hanky's carping that fairways today get too much water so “the ball doesn’t roll” to justify the orbs' recent technological improvement? Then, to make matters worse, he adds that the short stuff is cut – surely by non-emission hand mowers – “so tight it’s like hitting off (a) table”. Hey, Einstein, here’s a radical notion: save some water and the extra fuel from bikini wax-like sod-trimming by dialing down the ball to something less than the current nuclear pellet. Not only would it be environmentally clever, but your maintenance budget would stop ballooning at same annual clip as health care and/or private university tuition increases.

This tasty nugget though is a mere appetizer. To show not only his eco-side, double H decides to take-on squarely this poppycock about history having anything significant to do with golf. Feast - albeit increduously, I admit - on below bon mot from same article:

The concern that courses like Merion are becoming obsolete for the U.S. Open because they're too short is a little nuts. It might be obsolete for the very best players in the world, but Merion is more than almost anyone can handle. So Hogan hit a 1-iron into the 18th hole and today they're hitting an 8-iron? I have a great solution to that: Just hold the U.S. Open somewhere else and stop lengthening all these courses. The game is hard enough for the rest of the golfers who play it.

Absolutely! Let us, in fact, create a whole new rota of courses each decade and obsolete the remaining catalog for merely play by the length-challenged lumpen proletariat who might remember the links’ faded glory days. Maybe – like an Appalachian coal family – we could set up a hand-me-down schedule of tournament course distance deprecation that went something like PGA-to-Nationwide-to-Champions Tour–to-LPGA-to anybody not wearing a wife-beater shirt on the 1st tee? What a dipsh$%! Forget, also, the whole notion that golf’s oldest championship, played across the pond, has only a prescribed family of tracks on which it has been contested since just after that wee skirmish of ours stateside concerning the keeping of those with dark complexion in perpetual bondage.

That somebody could be this daft is frightening (and not just "a little nuts" as Hank is quoted as labelling his critics above) for our hallowed game considering this man's position plus present prominence. People actually probably listen to what he says, is the unfortunate truth.

That he has, as well, the ear of Tiger Woods no less, speaks to the considerably less than stellar decisions and examples set off the course by the greatest golfer of all-time. Discussion of such will be made at length in a subsequent post.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

How to lose Nadia Comaneci plus a couple of car batteries

Could have just titled this epic ‘How to lose 100 lbs.’, but where’s the pizzazz in such a bland banner? Despite the jocularity, this is, indeed, a true story with only names changed to protect the innocent. [As is announced also, I believe, on the primarily female-oriented Lifetime network just prior to one of their never-ending series of movies depicting the usual cruel, indifferent and generally tasteless treatment of a good woman by some over-libidinal/uncaring man, but I digress.]

I have lost [Although 'exorcised' is probably most apt verb] 100 pounds (or whatever that equates to in English ‘Stone ‘or Euro-friendly metric something). My figuring is that Ms. Comaneci [See left from Montreal games of '76] during her Olympic heyday couldn’t have been more than ninety 16 ouncers and a car battery is roughly a fiver in heft, so there you have it. My understanding is this puts me in a very small percentile of the burgeoning masses who perpetually seek to shed weight. Considering this has been done over a ten year span, my achievement is all the more, statistically speaking, less likely. My only remaining question should be one that was, also, a favorite 3 grade catch-phrase - “Congratulations, soldier, now do you want a medal or a monument?”.

Never would I think this topic worthy of scribing effort, but my Cardiologist recommended I make a log of the endeavor. I made this new friend when my heart decided to annoyingly start keeping a rhythm in same fashion as Richard Nixon attempting to sit-in as a backup drummer for James Brown. Everything is fine and the excuse to go on beta blockers certainly has done wonders for my putting, which makes the entire ordeal more than worthwhile, Sonny Boy, let me tell you.

Casting my caloric journey in terms identical to Charles Darwin sailing with the H.M.S. Beagle to find the philosophical concrete to pour as support around that nutty theory of Evolution is appealing, I must say, but I’m a blog guy. As my Cardiologist is one of the less than Leper King handful of actually intelligent & empathetic practitioners, I thought it the least I could do for this aberrational white coat to try and boil down some lessons from my efforts plus dismiss a few of the hokum associated with dropping pounds. May the others he ministers to find some rice kernel of wisdom in the below and thank him for his efforts (as, hopefully, I do after each visit).

Rule #1: It’s dumb math

Would love to give some great pearl of wisdom or report a shining path of enlightenment, but it comes down to the simple (and rather boring) calculus of calories. No, only eating Foie Gras, isn't a good idea still, but if you want to sacrifice to enjoy a modicum of such it won’t hurt necessarily. You burn a certain amount of calories daily by just being another cog in ‘The Man’s’ (as Bill Ayers would call it) wheel. I’m not a physician (or even something useful like a car mechanic) but it’s generally agreed that if you eat more calories than you normally burn, then bigger boy pant sizes are in your near future. You lose girth by attacking that math from either of two directions: eat less calories or burn more of them. The latter, of course, is most efficiently done through exercise. The former is done by eating less and hinges upon recognition of the indivisible truth that …

Rule #2: All stomachs - no kidding - really only are about as big as five ping pong balls glued together

My blushing bride of now 16 years could not, intellectually, ever hold a candle to my IQ 26 German Shepherd [He was quite advanced for his breed, ahem]. Though the ‘Ball & Chain’ is bright, for years she – and billions of others (including moi) – hasn’t harnessed successfully their considerable frontal lobe capacity to marry the above reality to their food consumption. If she and legions elsewhere did, most of strip mall life in America would cease to exist in its present form. There is almost no portion size out there in restaurants of any stripe which hews to above. In fact, our current eating program is anathema to maintaining – much less losing – weight. Therefore it’s best to …

Rule #3: Graze, baby, graze

Do have one daily consumption session with family or your significant other (and without the blasted TV on in the background), but three squares is the enemy. I found no solace in diets or eating plans (though Atkins was wickedly enjoyable especially when travelling on business and having an excuse to hit the best steak houses on some vendor’s dime). No sequencing of meals or foods proved superior either. My reality today is I “eat” at least six – sometimes seven – times daily. If you enjoy tucking into any kind of feast, then you’re doomed. When I say “eat”, I mean an apple or half a can of Progesso soup or 1/2 a medium-size sandwich sans double meat or a cup of cereal with 2% [Death to Skim!] milk. Basically – to go back to Rule #1 – something that is between 200 to 300 calories is optimal. My only exception is the evening meal with my bride, but – even there – we will have a salad first and – half an hour or more later – then consume our 4 oz. of sensible protein (no skin, low fat, grilled & almost no fun) with a sliver of starches + le vegetable de la maison. Party hats are optional, but ironically fitting for this - compared to times of yore - disappointing nightly ritual.

Rule #4: Rationalize exercise

You can lose by not exercising, but that’s about as likely as a collective farm turning a tidy profit, Comrade. In this, I’m lucky. Don’t have an issue making sides of a treadmill as slick as Patrick Ewing, in olden days, standing on the foul line while towel boys furiously mop a sea of sweat deposited by the Georgetown grad. Whatever rational- ization gets you to the gym, fire up those Freudian crutches hotter than a pizza oven putting out calzones for Feast of San Gennaro patrons. I’ve found exercise, too, changes your mindset vis-a-vis eating. You’ll learn exactly what each machine burns and make rough calculations vs. your salivated dream menu, i.e. 15 elliptical minutes = a McDonalds Bacon/Egg McGriddle with Hash Browns instead of just an Egg McMuffin. This cruel algebra none too subtly kicks-in, thereafter, a different set of guilt reactions when, heretofore, you had stood in blissful ignorance before the local fast food emporium's cashier. That Hash Brown doesn’t taste so hot when you have to mentally wince at the thought of how many minutes it wastes from your daily sweat.

Rule #5: Variety isn’t the spice of life, but it’s cardio training’s cornerstone

Frankly, I’m more than content with my present existence of golf, cigars & general self-esteem lowering of others to enhance profitability. I don’t seek out any new paradigms to alter my, by now, well-worn bliss path. That Holy Father crossed-to, it doesn’t hold true however for cardio-training. I started-off running and still do on a treadmill once every three days, but my workouts – statistically measured – are much higher in calories burned now that I switch-off with elliptical machine sessions plus stair-stepping the other two days in rotation. I know many like to walk and, admittedly, it’s better than not doing anything, but you will train those muscles solely used and start to get diminishing returns fairly quick. Weight-training I’ve found useful, but I don’t track calories expended on such. For me, its ‘gravy’ to my daily burn count. Can’t speak to taking classes and would avail myself of them sporadically, but none are available at the early hours when I daily trudge to my gym despite fact that …

Rule #6: It never gets easy

There are some people who claim that exercise so invigorates them that they look forward to the panting and temporary blinding from salty streams daubing their eyes. Many of these folk are individuals with metabolisms set as high as a four cylinder engine trying to climb Mount Hood (with a trailer hitched) and capable of polishing-off the left side of Denny’s menu without gaining any appreciable lbs. I recommend they be treated as we did Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor or at least general POW's, like the unfortunate lad right. [I have been called, however, a tad liberal in the past.] Beyond this Gandhi-like admission, I can say unequivocally that I have never popped-out of bed in the morning and felt the urge to sprint to my local treadmill. Nor have I mounted a machine and experienced a surge of core strength bonhomie which rendered my session effortless. It’s a friggin’ war every friggin’ day; period.

That masochistic screed sequestered into evidence, it is true that exercise does get to be a daily ritual which I don't want to imagine not doing. On the few days I don’t get to sweat profusedly, I get a feeling of lethargy that usually I don’t come anywhere near during work hours. There is a definite sense of focus deficit. After the workout, I have yet to experience a jolt of adrenaline which wafts me out of the gym like Julie Andrews about to cavort through the Alps. However it is the case that the nightly aches diminish and, eventually, disappear, if you hit it, literally, each day. All this leading up to our final finding that …

Rule #7: The ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ is not always a bad thing

For those of you too young to remember Peter Frampton with dangling tresses or Stevie Nicks as a vixen of infinite possibilities, there was a young lady once who made quite a splash by the name of Patty Hearst. She was an heiress to the Hearst publishing dynasty [Think Citizen Kane] and got herself kidnapped back in the ‘70’s. During her captivity, however, a strange thing happened. Ms. Hearst began to identify with her abductors to such an extent that, eventually, she joined them in holding-up a bank in behalf of their terror group. The talking heads of the day labeled her reaction as the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’; the psychological stress becomes so intense that one is forced to sublimate your own moral standards and identify with the oppressor to avoid a complete breakdown.

Whether that dog actually hunts, I’ll leave up to the more Dr. Phil amongst you. However it is true that once you get hooked on this program of less calories, more exercise and no more fun from eating, you do become quite the self-health terrorist of sorts. Compulsively you start looking at labels for calorie counts where, in the past, you were more likely to think about which frozen pizza would pair nicely with the leftover microbrews you had in the fridge. Some of this, I’ve found, comes from the self-imposed shrinking of your actual stomach. By constricting your calorie intake routinely to the proverbial five ping pong balls or less, you will get an actual discomfort if you go back to your old pounding portion sizes. Whereas a sense of low-level euphoria used to accompany a hearty sit down to tasty fare, now you will be in some mild pain and wish you had just split that Nature Valley granola bar instead. Sad, definitely; but true nonetheless.

Conclusion: Something besides your closet will change

… and it won’t necessarily be for the better, mi amigo.

The popular culture we dismally (and unavoidably) slog through is too littered with half-baked theories about why we weigh more than we should, so I’m not going to throw fresh manure on the stockpile. Here I’m referencing not just folks who have the proverbial 10-20 extra in the spare winter tire around their equator, but people like myself – morbidly obese (which I still am plus have another 70# to go before reaching the actuarial Green Zone of maintenance). I was that fat for a number of reasons and it’s not anyone’s business (except my wife’s) why that is/was, but, to my original point, it didn’t have to do with simply not being able to refuse Prime Rib daily with a Pot Pie chaser.

When I tackled finally my weight & fitness – for me, the two have been always a conjoined toxic twin-some – in a serious manner, I had to – by default – address also a myriad of other non-physical issues. It didn’t matter that I had a tremendous amount of discipline in other spheres of life and had been monetarily rewarded for such during most of my adult life. This was a different kind of grind. I can’t say that I’m a better person than I was before, but I am not the same. The only thing I’ve heard that sounds similar is what Alcoholics say about needing to find a new kind of life for recovery to work. I know that sounds extreme, but it’s got more ring of truth than anything else I could use to describe the trek's residual effect. My daily rituals – exercise, portion-control, etc. – are my new self-subscribed shackles. I won’t shake them off short of preventing a nuclear holocaust.

Admittedly that has the tone of taking my own self in gilded bondage to this new lifestyle. Maybe that’s what it is. At least now, though, I can buy pants from all the “normal” people’s catalogs and that’s a major fashion headache I don’t mind avoiding.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bring back Bubba!

One need not topple Rasputin's tea cup, Comrade, to see this one in the still damp leaves. Let me splain, Ricky, but, first, I must digress.

When your faithful correspondent was a mere tadpole and presidential aspirants talked incessantly about the "misery index" needing to not continue curling upwards like a Wehrmacht era Bavarian pretzel run amok, there was a new invention called HBO - Home Box Office - which ran for a solid eight hours daily with second run movies and a modicum of original programming. In the latter category were nightclub tapings of some now lost Borscht Belt and other smoke-filled room veterans doing then so-called 'blue' material [My favorite being Redd Foxx - a.k.a. 'Fred Sanford' - colorfully instructing one bleary-eyed patron on the attention-getting properties of slamming your hand in a car door]. There was, however, one original comedy show - Not Necessarily The News - and it had a recurring bit that brought my pre-pubescent self to howling joy with each new installment.

Starting off with an ominous voice behind movie thriller soundtrack strains, the bit would cut from the pictures of various world leaders menancing the U.S. and ask rhetorically whether any of a roster of then current (and implied insipid) American politicians had the chutzpah (or substitute your own ethnic phrase) to stand-up to this collection of global malcontents. Then - switching to a Sousa inspired march for its conclusion - the voiceover always would annouce in triumph that, "There is only one solution for times like this". At this point the bold-faced phrase BRING BACK DICK! would run along the bottom of a screen filled by the now ubiquitous shot of the ole Trickster giving his double V sendoff from Marine 1, the Presidential helicopter. Regrettably to the Pat Buchanan brigade of the party's former Franco-like PR division, that is the image now indeliably seared into the public imagination rather than natty sartorial snaps such as one to right (where candidate R.N. obviously is cementing the Eisenhower electorate's dog track/paramutual-betting wing by donning that year's entry from the always stylish Lucky Luciano collection).

The bit was funny because it had the ring of truth - a precondition for much of successful comedy. Just as Freud wrote that many (hostile) things start as a joke, our most holy secular humanist apostle - Spock of Star Trek - was most insightful when, explaining an action taken, he retorted, "Only Nixon could go to China". Nixon could do so due to 30 years in the trenches as a staunch anti-Communist, a personal history intertwined with exposing Whittaker Chambers and, therefore, not have to be being afraid of suffering the slings of being called "soft" on Reds. He was Goldwater-proof and could, with impugnity, play diplomatic top spin versus Chou En Lai across a ping pong table of 1970's 'shuttle' diplomacy without sending potential shudders of sell-out through the Republican ranks.

All this, colleagues, is preamble to why the multitudes should gleefully support nomination of the junior U.S. Senator from New York, Hillary R. Clinton, to be the successor (and consecutive distaff for first time in history) Secretary of State to the then very young lady pictured right with her Mom. Forget, for now, the bigger pants suit picture of how someone who thought John McCain was qualified to be President based on foreign policy but her then primary nemesis, 'Barry' Obama, was - most definitely - not. Also put aside, temporarily albeit, notions of Hillary prank-calling the private residence preciously @ 3:01 AM the first full day in office to reassure Barack that she was awake/ready should anything significant happen while he slumbered. No, no, fellow marauders of sarcasm, think through the scenario just a few more steps and see the landfill of amusement that awaits us all should the real 'Rod' deign to serve under Obama.

By the laws of the great Empire State, her current Governor, David Patterson, is allowed to name Clinton's successor as United States Senator. If memory serves, Hillary has four years left on her seat, so the replacement will have a mirror term to the new Obama Administration. Although Bill could not pass the vetting needed to join Barack's cabinet (and Hilary might barely squeak through due to association with him), the clear choice would then be our former President as the new Senator from New York. Hear ye, hear ye and let the pigeons loose!

Why, dear boy, is this so important? Because, Falstaff, there is a new menance about to enter the national political scene via the world's most deliberative body and only the winning charm, personal erudition and almost Oprah level of empathy that our former grand leader possesses - even to the admission of his staunchest critics - can provide the antidote required. Although WJC made many a misstep during the last election cycle on behalf of his better half, his political instincts will come back quicker than riding a bicycle once Arkansas' former pride returns to daily Washington back-slapping, horse-trading & general legislative hijinx.

As we lick chops over the delicious image of Bill - no doubt posted to Foreign Affairs amongst several assignments - putting his own bride on the testimonial hot seat during committee hearings, up way north the true trans-Siberian titan of politics (plus recent federal convict), U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, clings to a solid four digit lead in his reelection recount for the Alaskan seat recently contested. Based on a low ratio of actual voters to, say, sled dogs, that lead will stand and one of the few in the Senate who makes West Virginia's Robert Byrd look almost vibrant by comparison, will be returned to DC. Vowing not to allow him in the Republican caucus, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has given Ted S. few options other than cutting a deal with outgoing Pres. G.W. Bush for a last minute pardon to avoid reserving the Martha Stewart Danbury suite in exchange, one presumes, for surrendering his seat.

So? Whom does one think Alaskans would like/love to see replace the wizened Stevens? Which individual could encompass, as well, the unique message of a not too distantly supported state separatist party? [Calling 'Mr. First Dude', paging the 'Todd of Brioni suit catwalks' ... ] Who, in fact, has the actual authority to appoint that new individal? Hmmn? Bud, you got it ... 'Sarah The Barracuda'!

Imagine you're a muckety muck in the national Democratic party. Who do want mano-y-mano across the aisle and against the self-proclaimed "pit bull with lipstick"? Even if Al Franken pulls-out his Minnesota race, only SNL alum Tina Fey daily sitting by his side as a Legislative Aide would sufficiently bolster his testosterone to go really rhetorically hard into the boards with this Limbaugh All Star hockey mom. This time the peril is real and even a full throttle Hillary would come out bloodied badly from a steel cage Wal*Mart throwdown with the NRA's new permanent centerfold.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dana Quigley: An Appreciation

True, DQ – as Mr. Quigley is known - has never won a major. In fact, his highest PGA tour finish was a not quite yet Reagan Administration epoch sixth place back at the less than universally-acclaimed Milwaukee Open. However – and this is an undisputable fact - the man has more class & style that Kim Jong-Il possesses wackiness plus at least ten years of pomade stashed away for the Dear Leader's silly coif.

Too often, we just watch the ball or the leaders at the top. In 2005 on the Champions Tour, that kind of focus was on Mr. Dana Quigley. ‘Player of the Year’ – Dana racked-up two wins and five runner-ups to claim the money title. Overall DQ has been a solid Champions Tour player for over a decade now – a rare feat for a profession where fifty year old “rookies” fade, usually, well before even early dispersed Social Security money could kick-in. That, however, is not why you should look at Dana with interest nor why the man is still so damn hip at past sixty.

Respect. A guy who was a true struggler until the century meridian point of his life, DQ did conquer finally his personal fight with alcoholism. Along the way, too, he overcame the sense that he wasn’t worthy of playing with the best. As Dana said in a “Golf Digest” interview, during the three years he played the big tour he would purposely not hit range balls next to someone like Tom Weiskopf for fear of what someone in the crowd would think of his workman-like swing next to the future golf architect’s more classic arc.

Instead Dana chose to rebuild himself in a manner similar to that of a ball flight gone awry. He has spoken openly about having to find an entire new way of life in light of his decision to stop drinking. For someone who was a former long-standing club professional and socially is quite skilled, this must have been a horrific undertaking of unlearning well-engrained behavior patterns at such a late stage of adulthood.

Along this tough enough path, Dana continued to hone his playing craft despite the hardships. He became the top New England professional not actually on the PGA tour full-time and won all three of his adjoining state opens over a more than 20 year span.

Uniqueness. Maybe a reason Dana succeeded in his bottle battle is rooted within a huge chunk of his attractiveness as an individual. Amidst the benign but bland sea of corporate-sponsored Champions Tour links-men, DQ stands out like the sight of John McCain at an internet café. Nattily-attired always, our role model has a definite partiality to utilize accents with the kind of more strongly hued colors one might find during a stroll down Miami’s South Beach. On top of such – and like most outstanding men – our Mr. Quigley has a trademark – his ‘Indian’. Although not the only Champions Tour player to savor a cigar during his round, a tasty Romeo y Julieta Reserva Real No. 2 Belicoso stays with him, as I have seen, all round save the initial hole. In his stylish get-up, it is the perfect accompaniment to a man obviously at ease with his world. Only the accomplished Senor Jimenez of the European tour is his rival in combination of sartorial style & stick swagger, but I don’t believe Miguel Angel plays tournament rounds while also indulging his passion.

Innovative. His highest iron carried (by personal observation) being a '7' as of 2008’s Hickory Classic, Dana walks his talk of using hybrids to tackle today’s game. Presently four Adams Boxers - a 21 deg., two 22 deg. (bent, per Caddie Chris, to be DQ's 4 & 5 irons) and a 24 deg. - await pin-seeking glory in his Allianz-enscribed bag. In past interviews DQ has challenged readers as to why they still carry 3,4 or 5 irons? One of his best quotes is that today’s player – liberally using hybrids - should “hit all their clubs high except their short irons & wedges”. It’s a great statement – both in phrasing and, after pondering, course strategy.

As far as mechanics, Mr. Quigley is a tad old school and certainly unlike your average David Leadbetter Academy graduate with regards to form. Not quite as truncated in length as his fellow Champions Tour New Englander Allen Doyle, Dana’s nearly three quarter swing action has more than a share of Carl Yazstremski-like cock action during his inside takeaway. Combined with a hold-off finish, watching Dana hit on the range or the course is much akin to observing the repeated fluid action of a piston hammering into an engine. You’re not so much awed by his shots as you come away wondering how this rhythmic action can ever miss? That said, Dana does have the ability to be 'sneaky long' off the tee during to his boring ball trajectory and is rarely more than 15 yards back of the Champion Tour's longer hitters.

Gentlemanliness. I have heard that a then still-amateur Johnny Miller approached his idol, Ben Hogan, at the U.S. Open once while ‘the Hawk’ was dining al fresco. A very young Miller, nervous, drew-up to the ever-reclusive Bantam Ben, cited his current standing as low amateur in the tourney and stated his deep regard for Mr. Hogan’s record. Without pausing at least to acknowledge his presence much less offer any words of encouragement, apparently the Lone Star State's Mr. Personality dismissed the future blonde Hall of Famer with a curt, “Kid, can’t you see I’m eating my soup?”.

Think of the polar extreme of that kind of attitude and you have instead Dana Quigley’s persona. From personal experience I can attest unequivocally that DQ is one of the most approachable, likeable & generous men you’re going to meet – Champions Tour or otherwise. Even when not playing his best, Dana maintains a calm demeanor that befits a true gentleman. He is appreciative of crowd acknowledgement [“Thanks, man”], tips his visor graciously and gives lie to the perception that some athletes get too caught up in their own world that they fail to realize it’s a game the fans would kill to play at their level.

If you’re a man closer to the great beyond than your high school prom (not to be morbid, of course) and want to think of someone who has some attributes which you could borrow with pride, spend some time via the internet – or better yet in person – getting to know Dana Quigley. You'll thank me, I promise (and, no, I'm not related).
His approach to golf will certainly benefit your scorecard, but, I think, you’ll find a new long distant friend, too, in the man himself. Certainly his attitude on life and the manner in which he conducts himself is worthy of admiration and/or emulation by those of any age.
Bravo, Dana, and keep workin’ those Indians! You are truly a credit to our fine game, a great example in your personal life, a perpetual giver to your community and, most importantly, a gentleman.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Palin at RNC convention - "Right Wing MILF's Rule!"

Sometimes, it's just plain easy. Last night's speech by the estimable Governor of our 47th most populous state up yonder, is a truly delightful case in point.

From her "lipstick is the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom" line to sneering summations of Obama's lack of qualifications based on simply self-serving memoir writing alongside community block-party lemonade sales, Sarah sunk all but her back molars into the intended rhetorical victim and wasn't going to be moved off message save a cattle prod to the back of her beehive. Great stuff!

My previous high-water mark had been the 1976 circa Bob Dole in the 2nd slot as best hatchet man for the ticket. I'd like now to amend my ranking. Most are too young to remember the mid-'70's Gov. Reagan debacling of the RNC's presidential chances. Still I have 'The New York Times' Week In Review section speculating on an offer of a co-presidency with Gerald Ford in order to hold the Reaganauts. Instead the bone then thrown to the emerging conservative wing - now base - of the party was a spry Sen. Dole for Veep and not some Rockefeller East Coast cocktail clinker whom Lowell Weicker had not talked down to yet.

Ah, those distant halcyon days! Now we have a cultural Luddite in low heels who pines to pare off her respectable pantyhose if only to use as a crude garrote for anyone wanting to see what American education looks like in the reel after "Inherit The Wind's" conclusion. Perhaps the odd frames sported by our Pat Buchanan pal are really Bond-like daggers for pinning Socialists, literally, to the wall at 20 paces? [Can't wait, by the way, to see what Mr. C. Hitchens makes of this imbroglio?]

Cheap shots above, I admit fully, but let me express, as well, my thanks to the Governor and sincere appreciation of her speechification - as W., no doubt, would dub it. Her timing was exquisite (actually somewhat similar, no kidding, to an early Jesse Jackson's) and should be studied by anyone who aspires to public speaking. More importantly, I haven't had chortles during a talk like that for some time. Her zingers were curare-tinged and as deliciously divisive as the negative to a photo of Huey Long stumping way back when. Her America ain't at the crossroads of the bodega on Martin Luther King Highway and the Indian-run liquor store, but that doesn't vitiate Palin's posture as the true poster MILF for her peeps.

So now no further analytical content from this scribe and, instead, mirthful manna for the multitude of schandenfreude-deprived amongst you. I give you the vaunted Top Ten list from the Applachian home office of various reactions to Gov. Palin's glorious maiden speech.

#10 - Now you know why her husband was a commercial fisherman and left the house routinely for the comfort of 60 foot sea swells in the middle of the Pacific

#9 - Made Margaret Thatcher look like a crumpet-baking house frau by comparison

#8 - Made General Patton & the 8th Army look like wimps by comparison

#7 - If they did play basketball, Palin would foul-out but Obama’s jock strap wouldn’t be in one piece from all the elbows to the groin while driving the lane

#6 - That nervous smile on Cindy McCain’s face during Palin's speech really masked a desperate plea for a Vicodin Smoothie, stat

#5 - Not only does Palin actually know how to fire a rifle without collateral damage and skin her kill cleanly afterwards, but, a-right, Cheney is a borderline McGovernite compared to Sarah Barracuda

#4 - Want to bet that if Palin found Obama on a darkened street then a beat-down with a baby seal to Barack’s noggin wouldn’t be the result?

#3 - Can I have the soft core video rights right now to a sudsy Palin squaring-off with Michelle Obama in some tawdry minimum security Federal Prison shower scenario? [“I’m always as proud of my country as I am of slapping down commie bitch Ho’s!”]

#2 - Made Barbara Bush, in tone, look like Mother Theresa handing-out cups of jambalaya in post-Katrina French Quarter

…, and, drum roll, please …

#1 - Even though Palin was 8 years old when Biden was elected to the U.S. Senate, she still could have kicked his ass!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

'Midcult' - Environmental Sustainability's Enemy

Sniggering aside to his fictional alter ego from Saul Bellow's Humbolt's Gift and description therein of how one part of the boychik's anatomy reacted adamantly to his own words during a moonlit Montauk beach encounter with an equally immodest lass, the eminent critic Dwight MacDonald [See left (of course)] is remembered in large part for a 1960 article in which he launched the term 'Midcult'. Despite its possible pyschological connotation to Khmer Rouge-like brainwashing, Midcult, instead, was a development, per MacDonald, which provided a thin gloss of culture - a "fig leaf" was his exact term - to the formulaic nature of most pop or mass culture. This latter strain was deemed 'Masscult' by D.W. and served as the polar opposite to true (and redeeming) high art, the secular God for many. Midcult, therefore, was an intermediate high ground. Per Mr. MacDonald, it was also a longterm metastisis because it drained the marrow from high art to make it more digestible for the upwardly mobile without the effort required to chew over the concepts, conundrums and dichotomies inherent within any significant cultural work.

Heavy stuff, eh? Regardless of MacDonald's thesis' correctness (and that debate, thankfully, is omitted here), there is a corollary to the promulgation of environmental sustainability in much of packaging design. Specifically modern Marketing folks stumble with Midcult-hued products when trying to build what they call 'Brand Equity'. By contract, Masscult items instead rely upon secondary advertising, i.e. radio/TV ads, and have no such need to use their packaging for a point of brand/product differentiation.

You eat, right? If so, then you ingest a fair amount of sugar. Possibly, too, you know the daily delight of a good cup o' joe like the one being enjoyed by the fraulein to the right? Some of your consumption - even if not as a result of your own toiling - happens in your own domicile, I bet. Chances are, then, you have some kind of container with sugar or coffee therein; might be a leaking five pound bag, maybe a zip-lock printed bag from the manufacturer, etc. Sugar and java beans are two examples, but it could be applied to any number of household commodity-derived items, i.e. cereal, rice, all manners of nuts, dried beans + lentils, pasta ... and the hits keep comin'.

Yes and your point? If you truly wanted to lower your individual carbon footprint - sustainability's real aim - with regards to consuming these types of items, then what would that personal supply chain look like? Would you pick-up discrete packages of each item, truck them home and throw-out packaging to make landfills grow? One superior scenario would have you bring to the store plastic containers made from recycled material (or purchase the receptacles there), fill-up what you need (and only that much) from large-scale dispensers and repeat the cycle when you needed more.

The packaging - and all the carbon emissions involved in producing it - would be eliminated save the original recycled material used for the container. Additionally, the containers could be configured on a nice pull cart which would be much easier to transport and unload than the current metal shopping pushers. One could presume that such a system in full operation would net a cost-savings to the consumer for elimination of several steps in the manufacturers' production. As our greatest non-war (during his Administration, that is) U.S. President no doubt would say of this, "Bully!".

Utterly fabulous (albeit highly unrealistic) idea, but what the hell does this have to do with Midcult and/or Dwight MacDonald? Ask why we have that packaging in the first place. When it comes to some food items, there is a legitimate safety concern. However for the types of items referenced above, tampering by a malicious entity would be easy enough in the current configurations as I know, unfortunately, from personal experience dealing with the fallout from such. The answer, I believe, is that the packaging allows corporations to perpetuate the appeal of slightly upscale items, i.e. Midcult, to build their brand equity.

Not just words nor images, but actual packaging design can denote the class of consumer who should use an item. Admittedly it's an excercise half Sigmund Freud and equal part Cindy Crawford (or name your alternate favorite advertising eye candy for melding sex appeal with an appeal to sophistication). Such is fine and certainly I am not one to protest having to gaze upon new graphics reminiscent of Malevich nor dew-eyed damsels draped suggestively across boxes of Post Toasties. This endgoal, however, is anathema to good functional design and precisely the kind of excess which serves as budgetary feedstock for the foes of consumer packaging's sustainability.

So? If that product differentiation were not needed for many/most common items, then a lot more of consumer purchases would be commodity-based. The latter is imminently amenable to enhanced environmental sustainability because it does not require the literal material of packaging to solidify its demographic appeal. All that stuff - paper, plastic, resin derivatives, etc. - is omitted from the supply chain to get the essential thing you buy into your pantry or larder. The crux here is Marketing's use of Midcult-like packaging design concepts (albeit, perhaps, unintentionally). This begets an inherently inefficient structure only to provide a brand marketing platform via the packaging (but is usually an utterly non-essential thing to the product itself).

Isn't that all Marketing does? No and, certainly, design doesn't have to cater to furthering such even outside the ole USSR. Thinking of a Rolex, is the best example. You'd take one even if it came under a wrapping of speckled jute paper because the thing itself is so impressive that the packaging pales by any comparison.

When the item is inherently worthwhile the point of product differentiation is achieved without any need for resort to ancillary marketing reassurances. It's only when a cultural fig leaf, of sorts, is needed that packaging takes on any importance beyond functionality to deliver the goods safely and/or cheaply. In that sense it's Midcult, not Masscult, which is the true enemy of enviromental sustainability.