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July 6, 2008

Time to Think

"Stop! Take some time to think, figure out what’s important to you -
You’ve got to make a serious decision."

- Against Me!, "Stop" (Click to play - lyrics advisory)

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I’m back on the grid – and as someone predicted, I’ve snapped out of last week’s lamentations about the whole Western States fiasco.

Predictably, it was on a trail run that a lot of things got sorted out – in fact, I’ve got a whole post in the works about how it happened. I’m holding that one for later this week, though, because I still have a couple of decisions to make regarding my immediate plans that should be settled soon. I’m taking some time to think, to figure out what’s important to me, before I make a serious decision.

Unfortunately, all that leaves us with today are random musings from the holiday weekend. I know not everyone is crazy about ramblings, and if that’s the case for you, just be glad you didn’t read my blog a couple of years ago, when every other post was random nonsense. Feel free to click away now, and check back later in the week for something more substantive. Otherwise, off we go …

* First, the introductory band: Against Me! They’re a great new group. Fun kids. Cool vibe. Great energy. But then there’s the issue of that exclamation point.

I’ve analyzed this before – and I thought the topic had been put to rest for good after when Panic at the Disco finally dropped the silly punctuation from their name. Now, Against Me! comes along and screws everything up all over again. The lesson, of course: I’ll never find peace. It’s simply not possible.

* I love Coldplay. I realize that’s a loaded statement to make, as they’re very much a love ‘em or hate ’em band. And I’m fully aware of the “You know how I know you’re gay?” scene from The 40-Year-Old Virgin on this subject. So it’s no wonder that for a guy to say he loves Coldplay is like going to a steakhouse and ordering a salad – even though there’s nothing technically wrong with it, you’re definitely going to trigger several people’s early warning systems.

The reason I bring all this up is because I’ve been crazy about their new single “Viva La Vida” ever since I first heard it … and I find myself feeling strangely protective of it after I saw it recently in a promotional spot for Apple iTunes. All of a sudden, I had flashbacks to a few years ago, when I was crazy for U2’s “Vertigo” for about 3 weeks, before Apple drilled it into monotonous oblivion with those incessant iPod commercials.

To this day, I can’t hear “Vertigo” without seeing those dang iPod ads. It’s like they’ve stolen a piece of U2 from me, and now they’re threatening to take Coldplay as well. I swear, you can have your presidential elections and global warming – it’s issues like this that really matter to me.

* Continuing the musical theme: is it unpatriotic to not like that “Proud to Be an American” song? I know Lee Greenwood was well-intentioned and all, but the song just seems terribly contrived and overwrought to me: it’s like he took every possible musical and lyrical cliché he could find, and crammed them all into one song. (No wonder the American Idol cast sings it every season.) It's played like standard fare every year now - and whenever I hear it, I have a sudden urge to leave the room. Anyway, I guess that’s my own opinion – and now I’ll just hope that the government isn’t tapping my blog like they do my phone lines.

* I can only hope that every sports fan was lucky enough to catch the weekend’s outstanding championship match. Anytime the two greatest competitors in the world go toe to toe, each one performing at the top of his game, and the competition requires extra time to determine who has the guts and stamina to triumph, that contest becomes an instant classic - one that will be talked about for ages to come. It was one of those moments you count yourself thankful simply to have watched.

I’m talking, of course, not of the Wimbledon men’s final, but of the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest, won for the second straight year by the amazing Joey Chestnut. He needed overtime, or extra innings, or sudden death (maybe sudden nausea is a better term), or whatever phrase they use to describe additional time, to knock off the formerly-indomitable Kobayashi.

I keep telling myself that one of these years, I have to keep a running diary of the Hot Dog Contest; if I can do it for spelling bees, I can certainly do it for this event. It’s a story that’s just screams at me for a blog post, so someday I’ll do it. But don’t worry – I’ll warn you in advance, so you’ll know what day to skip the blog if you don’t enjoy graphic tales of heroic gluttons.

* On a more serious sports topic, I have a question: how far are we willing to suspend disbelief in order to see an uplifting story come true? That was the lingering dilemma I took away from the U.S. Olympic swimming trials that concluded last night.

Here's the feel-good story we’re supposed (not merely that - but heavily encouraged, from NBC’s standpoint) to believe: 41-year-old former Olympian Dara Torres comes out of retirement to race the fastest times of her life, breaking American records and making the 2008 team in two events. Through nothing more than natural talent and hard work. Um … does this sound suspicious to anyone?

Actually, it sounds suspicious to everyone. Almost every news organization has run an item like this expressing disbelief that such a thing could happen naturally. Think of it this way: if a 41-year-old track star started doing the same thing in the 100m dash, is there anyone who wouldn’t be skeptical?

To her credit, Torres recognizes the scrutiny that such an accomplishment automatically triggers in the age of performance enhancing drugs. Months before the trials, she was profiled in this ESPN segment that raised the questions many of us were bound to have, and she’s never shied away from conversations about the unlikelihood of her present accomplishments.

She’s been one of the most heavily tested athletes, and has never tested positive. She’s one of the most outspoken advocates for eliminating drug cheaters from Olympic sports. She’s a naturally gifted athlete who has worked tirelessly for months and years to become one of the fastest competitors in the world.

Then again, Marion Jones was all those things, too.

I want to believe. I really do. But you’ll forgive me if I’m reluctant to embrace this fairly tale that’s unfolding before our eyes, which will be continued on the world stage at Beijing later this summer. I’m not telling you what to think; you’re free to believe what you want to about the enigmatic Dara Torres.

However – and returning to the holiday weekend theme – before you decide, here’s something else to ponder: would you feel differently if she weren’t an American, or if NBC weren’t profiling her in such a glowing manner? And if she’s an American but you remain skeptical, does that make you unpatriotic? Finally, on the scale of unpatriotic-ness, would this rate above or below hating that horrid Lee Greenwood song?

See, that’s why we need to pay more attention to the Hot Dog contest: it’s all of the international rivalry, with none of the ethical drama. Come to think of it … do you think it’s too late to make that an Olympic sport?


Danielle in Iowa 7/7/08, 4:24 AM  

Call me naive, but I prefer to give people benefit of the doubt. If anything swimming is somewhat unique - how many of us have been demolished in the pool by the 60 year old lady in the next lane?

And gees, you're obviously a terrorist if you don't like "Proud to be an American" ;-)

(that song sorta wants to make me gag with its contrivedness - sort of like the crying eagle)

Anne 7/7/08, 6:06 AM  

Yipee, the ramblings are back!

I wouldn't call Against Me! "new." I heard them on the radio last year when they came out with "Thrash Unreal." Then again, they did do away with your cool radio station, didn't they, so this may be new to you.

I really hope Torres comes up clean. It'll give the rest of us old-timers some hope that you can accomplish great things in "old age."

stronger 7/7/08, 7:45 AM  

Lots of ramblings here...

Lee Greenwood: my first concert. How sad is that? He played at the local fair grounds one 4th of July. I think you HAVE to like the song at your very first concert on the 4th of July.

The match. I missed your match but I let the kids watch their match. I'll have to make it a post.

Dana Torres: I'm suspicious of the man hands in the photo geekgrl posted this morning.

21stCenturyMom 7/7/08, 8:25 AM  

Welcome Back!

I love the Against Me! song, but not the punctuation. Anyhow, right now in my life I'm trying to stop, take some time to think and figure out what's important to me so in addition to being a kick ass song it's like a message that the time is now.

Second of all - I hate that other song as much as you do and for the same reasons.

Third of all, there is a woman who swims for our masters club but needs to work out with the fastest 18 and under US club in the area because she's so fast. She is pushing 50. Swimming, absent all the pounding and give that women have some sort of hormonal surge in their 40s is a sport that really could produce champions at an older age. Dara Tores is just the first one to push that envelope. I doubt she will be the last.

Spokane Al 7/7/08, 9:18 AM  

Donald, I am glad to see that you have made it over the WS cancellation hump.

I do take a bit of a different perspective on a couple of points in this, your most recent posting.

I am absolutely thrilled and amazed at Dana Torres’ performance, and until shown otherwise, I loose absolutely no sleep over vague suspicions. As an older age grouper I find her phenomenal.

During a previous military career I saw battle hardened veterans brought to tears by Greenwood’s song. That is enough to convince me that it means a great deal for many.

Deene 7/7/08, 9:48 AM  

that exclamation point could throw a person off.
I hate that Greenwood song, seems very divisive to me.
I heard "ancient" when watching coverage of Torres, I'm rooting for her. She's got a very androgynous appearance but clearly she's a girl because she has a baby.

Rainmaker 7/7/08, 6:11 PM  

1) Nice new band - I like the rythem of them.

2) I really enjoy the latest Coldplay album as well...so put me in that category also. Had Amazon deliver it the day it came out.

3) I'm willing to go along for the ride for now on 41-yo swimmers. But only because that means it gives me 16 years to figure out how to qualify for the Olympics.

Backofpack 7/7/08, 9:08 PM  

I think that those cliches in Greenwoods song are exactly why some people love it. Growing up in a small town in a conservative county, I heard those cliches spoken with heartfelt sincerity every day. My Grandpa, my Dad, our neighbors, the song sings their feelings. The generation of my parents and grandparents had a whole-hearted faith in the USA and in our leaders that we have never had, and funny, in some ways, I think it is our loss. I can't help but feel touched by the song because of the home I grew up in. It speaks to me of my Dad, my brothers, my Grandpa, of all the adults I looked up to growing up, and of their faith in this country. Hokey? Maybe, but I envy them that faith and patriotism.

jen 7/7/08, 9:13 PM  

I learned that Lee Greenwood song in elementry school and therefore it holds a special place in my heart. But yes, it's awful.

I am loving the Dara Torres story. I am pretty trusting and want to believe she is clean.

Happy belated 4th (that's a weird thing to say, can I just say Happy 7th?), glad you are back. :)

Bullet 7/8/08, 6:02 AM  

Tru-dat, up and down. I get nausea spurts everytime I hear LG crank up "Proud to Be..." I love this country, but I'm sick of the the song.
I've been absolutely enthralled by the trials. The whole time I've been watching I've had this "I hope their not doping" thought in my head.

Makita 7/8/08, 7:12 AM  

As a mother nearing 41 herself, I want to believe that Dara is clean. Not that I have any hope of ever qualifying in any event - but for the sake of the athletes and moms.

I agree with what Michelle said, "The generation of my parents and grandparents had a whole-hearted faith in the USA and in our leaders that we have never had, and funny, in some ways, I think it is our loss." Though the song is full of cliches, I think it hits a cord with people desiring a more united America.

I believe this is in part what has created a boom in homeschooling - a desire for stronger patriotism... the ability to say the pledge of allegiance with the phrase, "under God". To impart in our children the same values, dreams and goals that our founding fathers instilled within their families.


triguyjt 7/8/08, 11:46 AM  

rock on dara...

I believe I believe!!!!!!!

Give me another hot dog....

angie's pink fuzzy 7/8/08, 12:14 PM  

sometimes i miss the old rambling posts :) this was great!

PreFan1982 7/8/08, 1:37 PM  

I second your notion-I'm a huge Coldplay fan!! Great music!!

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