Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Dear Alma Mater Be Our Guide / Reveal to Us the Way

I have gone to three schools that have an Alma Mater, and I still don't know why the songs are called that. I understand a little bit as to why the schools themselves are called that, since there is a bit of "nourishing" of a person through education. For all you ignoramuses out there (and yes, that is the plural, it's not ignorami), alma mater is Latin for nourishing mother. So, the school itself sort of makes sense, but the naming of the song doesn't.

Mr. Wagner, one of those teachers you'll remember forever (if you had him) made all of us new freshman in his class memorize the Spruce Creek High School Alma Mater. The totality of what I remember from that exercise is visible in the title bar above, so it made quite an impact on me. We also had to memorize the fight song, the Gettysberg Address, the Constitution, and the 1st and 4th verses of the national anthem. There were probably other things he had us memorize, but I can't remember what they were.

Rose-Hulman had an Alma Mater, too, I'm pretty sure. I must say that after three and a quarter years there if the Rose pep band played it in my living room, I wouldn't be able to identify it. Then again, they could be playing Pinball Wizard and I wouldn't recognize it (that actually happened - not in my living room). They weren't very good, but the point is I don't know the Alma Mater for my alma mater. I think the fight song is called "Dear Old Rose", but I don't know the words. I understand the football team sang it after wins, which I didn't know until halfway through the senior season. The probably did a lot of stuff that they didn't publicize very well. I blame the newspaper.

There is no mistake about Clemson's Alma Mater. They sing it all the time. Before games, after games, before class, when the president goes to the bathroom, etc. It's a fine song, with one glaringly monumental flaw. The first two lines are "Where the Blue Ridge yawns its greatness / Where the Tigers play." So far, so good; Blue Ridge Moutains are right up the street and yawning greatness is a pretty good image of effortlessly being awesome. We are all Tigers, and play is better than work, so I'm ok with this part. The next lines are "Here the sons of dear old Clemson / Reign supreme alway." I hate the missing s in always. It turns out, though, that it is an acceptable archaic or poetic form of the word, but it doesn't make it easier for me. The word looks naked. If it were a sexy, feminine word like curvacious or bassoon, then nobody would be complaining about the word being a little immodest. But with a stubby misshapen word like always, it needs the s to pull off its look.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A mystery for the ages

You know, every morning when I open my newspaper after I've finished reading the news, opinions and sports sections, I always go to comics. It may seem juvenile, but really, there are a few that I look out for and occasionally enjoy. There are a few that are just so ingrained in my newspaper experience that I read them even though I know they're not going to be amusing in anyway, like Garfield and Blondie. Dilbert is usually solid, sometimes brilliant and every once in a while terrible. But, if you know me, you know I don't want to talk about the good ones. I want to talk about the ones that are so maddening that I would rather set fire to the page and burn my initials into my right arm with the fire.

This is a tricky distinction, though, because comics like Snuffy Smith are immediately unreadable. This one is just blank space as far as I'm concerned, so it doesn't offend me nearly as much as, say, Mary Worth or Cathy. Most of the continuity print comics, like Mary Worth, are difficult to get into because you can't read from the beginning of the arc. Also, Mary Worth has been running since before World War I (Mary Worth was quite a dish when the series started), so it would take a lot of back reading to get started. Cathy is just ink vomit on the page; she a stereotype of annoying woman that I wouldn't tolerate in real life and certainly don't want any part of on the comics page. Oddly enough, I don't mind For Better or For Worse, though, even though that one's not funny and it is nominally a continuity comic. It manages to pack a lot of stuff into the four panels, handle the continuity and stand alone. That's the key -- standalone as well.

Family Circus, Ziggy and one called Pluggers all get honorable mention. Family Circus is supposed to be cute, I guess, but it isn't. It's like "Dennis the Menace", another one panel comic, without the "Menace." Who cares? Pluggers is one I don't recall seeing outside of the Greenville paper, but it's MO is describing what a plugger is, and basically it's an old fat person. Great. Just what I always wanted to see in average drawings and writing. I don't know what Ziggy's problem is, but I don't want any part of it.

Undoubtedly, the be all end all of awful comics is Frank and Ernest. If you are unfamiliar with this comic, I have the deepest envy of you. It is a poorly drawn comic that is never funny. Yet somehow, every time I open to the comics page, I end up reading it. I don't have this problem with Snuffy Smith. I don't know why Frank and Ernest fill me with more hate than, say, Nazis. I think that whoever this Thaves character is deserved to be tried for crimes against humanity.

This comic, which I just made up, is better than any Frank and Earnest comic I have ever read.

Who out there thinks that Frank and Ernest is good? If you leave me a comment and say you like it, you better be able to describe to me your favorite strip or I will call you a liar and an accomplice. I cannot believe that this comic continues to run. I suppose newspapers don't really get a lot of complaints about comics, especially inoffensive ones, but I'm thinking about writing some letters.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Absurdity in Supporting College Teams

Strange things happen when you pull for a college football team. For example, orange and purple are colors that are much more appealing to me now than they were, say, a year and a half ago, and I wear orange twice a week. I don't think I wore orange at all before becoming a Clemson fan. Certainly not with purple. My fashion sense leaves quite a bit to be desired, but I knew that would look ridiculous; now I'm not so sure.

On Saturday, though, North Carolina State played against Boston College. BC beat the mighty Tigers by 1 point, and are our only loss so far. They led the ACC Atlantic division, until they traveled to Raleigh and lost to the Wolfpack by 2. Everyone in Clemson wanted NCSU to beat the Eagles, even though the Wolfpack and the Tigers meet every year in a heated rivalry called (this is true) The Textile Bowl. This strikes me as odd, because otherwise we're not such big fans of the Wolfpack. We don't really care for any of the other ACC schools, but any team with whom we compete in a Textile Bowl is clearly disliked more than others.

So, because of the way the conference is organized we find ourselves wanting teams to win that we actually hate. It would be like a circumstance where Ron Burgundy (Clemson) has to cheer for Frank Pritchard (NC State) in a ratings war to beat Wes Mantooth (BC), to help facilitate Burgundy (Clemson) dominance, because Pritchard (NCSU) sucks more. I think Public TV Anchor would be UNC, UVA, Wake or Duke because they're more liberal and aren't taken seriously and Arturo Mendes would probably be Miami because there are a lot of people who speak Spanish down there. I don't know if there are enough characters for people to give FSU a role, but let's just say they're one of the guys that Ron beat the crap out of in the rumble. Or Dorothy Mantooth.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Winners in categories of whatever I want

Keeping up with How Observant has slowed a little, sadly, because The Tiger is publishing again now, and I am a columnist for that fine publication. I don't think they have put up my first column on-line yet, but when/if they do (they should), I'll pop a link in here. I got another one coming out on Friday. Either I'm getting crappier at it, or a lot more demanding on myself because I have been having a lot of questions about how satisfied I am with my submissions.

Anyway, I am going to give you some winners of whatever categories I feel like filling, a la the Emmys. Except not tv shows or gay.

Best Song Involving Fruit
Nominees: Tangerine [Led Zeppelin], Grapefruit - Juicy Fruit [Jimmy Buffett], Coconut [Harry Nilsson], These Apples [Barenaked Ladies]

Winner: I know Bobby is going to throw a fit, but I've gotta go with Coconut on this one. It's weird enough to be funny, but sane enough to be good. Also, Jacob and I performed it at open mic once, so it has sentimental value. Tangerine lost out mostly because the only fruit involvement comes from the title. If it was actually about a tangerine rather than a girl nicknamed Tangerine, it would've probably won.

Most Irritating Grammatical Error
Nominees: Misspelling, Pluralizing with an apostrophe, Ending a sentence with a preposition, Incorrect subject/verb agreement

Winner: This is really an easy one, Pluralizing with an apostrophe is really in another league here. Misspelling is bad, but in this age of computers, typos are an evil with which we simply have to live. Preposition is close, but it definitely seems pretentious and subject/verb simply isn't a common enough mistake to get the air time it deserves.

Worst State I've Ever Lived In
Nominees: Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Florida, South Carolina

Winner: Those are all the states I've actually lived in for longer than like a week, so even the good ones are in there. This one is another with a clear cut winner; these middles ones are like the Best Score and Best Editor awards during the Academy Awards. Slow parts until the big ones come. Indiana is clearly the winner here; the Midwest is really lame.

Best Actor to Play Batman
Nominees: Adam West, Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, Val Kilmer

Winner: I think it's interesting to see that Val Kilmer beat out George Clooney in the nominations; the judges are really taking a risk there. Really, though, Adam West has to win this. I think Christian Bale could really compete in the future, but he needs more than one outing as the Caped Crusader to take home the win. But sometimes you just have to ask the question, "What sits in a tree, weighs six ounces and is very dangerous?"

Most Annoying Classic Rock Radio Staple Band
Nominees: Styx, Supertramp, Rush, REO Speedwagon

Winner: This is definitely the most contentious category so far; any one of them could easily be the winner against lesser competition. But this isn't lesser competition; this is the winners in whatever categories I want. And I want to find the most annoying classic rock radio staple band. I think it really has to be REO Speedwagon, though, because they're not even really rock, and they get a lot of air time. Why? They're not very good. Rush and Styx are really annoying, but at least nominally they are a rock band. Supertramp had somebody cover their work and made it sound worse, so I think they get a pass for now. But REO Speedwagon seems to combine the worst of Styx and Rush - the faggety sounding singing with the soulless pop music backing it. Congratulations!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I have so many opinions my opinions have opinions

There are things about the internet that bother me. Well, I guess that's a little misleading. There are things about browsers that bother me, but they only do those things while browsing the internet. It isn't the internet's fault; that's like saying "There are things about stupid people I don't like" because I don't like listening to stupid people bitch. It's not so much the stupid person's fault, I just don't like want to hear it. Wait, that's a terrible example. Stupid people are annoying all the time.

Anyway, if I am ever working in two windows at the same time, and I click on a link that takes a while to load, switch over to the other window and start typing something, perhaps into the Google toolbar, and the other one loads I hate how it switches over in mid sentence. I hope there's a way to never have another window interrupt the one I have active. I wouldn't care if it blinked at the bottom or anything, just don't interrupt me while I'm typing. It's like getting between a fat guy and his roast beef. Not a good idea, and my computer knows it: there is a gash in my screen from when I dropped my compass on it. (Not the boy scouts North/South kind of compass, the drawing compass with a lethal javelin one one end.) I particularly dislike it if I'm typing into the toolbar at the top of the page and things are loading, I hate how it sometimes draws the cursor away from the bar at the top into some other text box in the page itself As far as I can tell, IE, Netscape and Mozilla all do this. Consequently, I hate them all.

I also have an intense dislike for tabs. This one I will have a harder time explaining, it's just something that really bothers me, like grapefruit juice, anything that feels sticky (yes, including stickers and bandaids) and Ashton Kutcher. I understand how tabs could be useful. I understand that other people can use them. This is America, go ahead and use them if you want. But I will not. Don't try to convert me on this; just leave me with my irrational feelings towards tabs like you leave your somewhat racist grandmother to hers. Actually, I have no idea why someone would try to convert me in favor of tabs.

I also dislike the memory in the URL dropdown. There's probably a way to fix it, but I'm either too lazy or ignorant to sort it out. I like having some things in there, and I like how IE used to reorder them according to frequency of use. Mozilla just adds them to the top, and sometimes removes them. I don't know how it decides which ones to weed out, but some webpages I would like to save get lost into the depths of the internet aether while typos are remembered for posterity. Some of those typos were caused by drawing my cursor away from the bar by a loading page.

I realized that it might be difficult to explain those problems in written form, and they have been bothering me for a while. I finally decided to man up and try to explain my internet woes, because I just couldn't take it anymore. I think you computer people should never stop in developing better ways to access this series of tubes we call the internet.

Monday, September 11, 2006

This one's not supposed to be funny

One of the things I remember about my freshman year of college was that when something really big was on tv you could walk down the hallway and hear it in stereo. One week there was a Star Trek marathon, and that sticks out to me as one of those times -– it was Rose-Hulman, after all -- on my way to my room, out of every doorway I could hear the unmistakable sound of the doors opening on the deck of the starship Enterprise. Every once in a while you could hear the voice of Apu from the Simpsons (it was popular enough that if you had the misfortune to head to the dining hall at 6:30 you would get caught in the Simpsons rush). Two other times like this are rather memorable: the NCAA tournament, when everyone could keep track of their inevitably busted brackets simply by walking down Speed Hall and the events that transpired five years ago today.

I remember it was a Tuesday, my longest day. I’ll never forget that it was a Tuesday because it was the first day I was to put on the uniform of an Air Force ROTC cadet. That day it was only a t-shirt that read Air Force and khaki pants, because I hadn’t had my trousers altered to my size just yet; but nonetheless, I was wearing the uniform of my country on that day. I didn’t know there would be anything else remarkable about that day when I got up that morning and went to breakfast and physics. It started out like every other day did; a bowl of cereal and a battle to stay awake in the most impersonal 24 person 8 am class I’ve ever had. Most folks then, as they do now, try to avoid 8 am classes, but that first semester I was not one of the lucky ones. Afterwards, though, it became clear that my wearing a gym shirt proclaiming my membership in the Air Force ROTC was the least remarkable thing about this day.

I walked into the residence hall (they frown on the word dorm) and saw that the crappy big screen in the common area was tuned to CNN, and the most bizarre image I have ever seen. Black smoke was billowing out of one of the most recognizable buildings in the world – The Pentagon – which took me some time to digest, especially when they flashed over to two other instantly recognizable buildings – both World Trade Center towers. I didn’t quite put it together at first. I saw this image on the screen, but it wasn’t real to me yet. So I ran upstairs to turn on my tv where images like this never appear. I didn’t need to, though; I could hear the sounds of the news coming down the hallway. I watched it. I watched it all. The towers hadn’t fallen yet. When they told us what had happened, there was no mistake. This wasn’t an accident. I kept watching. I cried. I cried a lot that day.

I don’t remember exactly when my parents called, but my mom did, asking, in a panic, if I was all right. I was 800 miles from danger, but it didn’t matter to her. I can understand, though; the people in those office buildings had no reason to expect that Hell would open up in Manhattan and try to grab them. I’d like to think that Hell only managed to claim 10 people in New York that day, with another 5 coming from Washington and 4 more in an obscure field in Pennsylvania, while 2,973 others managed to escape that fiery grasp for a happier destination.

There was other happy news, though, too. Not all of it came immediately, like the story that would raise goosebumps on the dead, hearing the members of Congress gather on the steps of that building to sing “God Bless America.” Some took a few days, like the equally goosebump inspiring British changing of the guard ceremony that took place the following day under the sound of The Star Spangled Banner. We had a president who never looked quite as presidential as he did on that day. We had a mayor who told a Saudi prince that we didn’t need his money if he insisted we take any part of the blame. We all felt like Rudy was our mayor, even if we had never set foot in the City of New York. We all felt like we belonged to the city now, and it to all of us.

We watched it, all day, every moment, on its most vulnerable day. We cried with it, we grieved with it, we prayed with it, we got angry with it. The breathtaking height of these towers, a visibly proclaiming their confidence and worldly importance while gracefully avoiding ostentation, seemed to be twisted unimaginably as they were wounded. That very same height now seemed more to be more of a reach for God, asking for mercy. Although it didn’t seem like it at first considering the magnitude of nearly 3,000 dead, He did indeed grant it; around 16,000 people who stood below the ghastly sight managed to leave safely. Tonight, when you go before God like those towers did, it will be easy to remember the 18,973 people and their families who were there that morning, but don’t forget those who still wish us harm in your prayers, either. We are a big enough nation and people to do that. God Bless America.

"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." - Matthew 5:44

Friday, September 08, 2006

Do insurance villains attack with cartoon blimps?

Most of you probably already know that I have pretty strong opinions about television commercials. Like, for example, I think that Taco Bell's advertisement people should be put into a box with angry shrews. I also am convinced that the cell phone companies are in a competition to see who can generate the most inanity and put it on the air; it's really the only explanation that makes sense. Geico's still on top, their new campaign is pretty amusing (except the one with Mini-Me, that one sucks). The Sports Center commercials are also hit and miss; you've heard how I felt about Maria Sharapova -- the new one with Peyton and Eli getting the tour of the studio and Peyton kicks Eli is hilarious. The one with Ladanian kind of blows, though.

There is one that has an entire campaign that I have no idea what to make of it. Esurance, an on-line car insurance company, has got an animated ad campaign involving secret agents and villains and romance. I haven't been this confused by something I've watched since my old roommate rented Brazil. I'm sure you've seen one -- Erin Esurance, the super spy super hero, is a magenta haired animated babe (she does manage to pull off the magenta pretty well, much better than P!nk does, I have to say. Mostly because P!nk looks more masculine than Jerome Bettis lately -- oh that's another, the Square Table is a good campaign as well) who does things like drive racecars, go to sporting events and drop in on car dealerships being chased by villians that I'm pretty sure used to appear in Dexter's Laboratory or possibly Invader Zim. I don't know what the hell any of it means, or why the tagline is "If you're on the go, you gotta get Esurance."

Apparently you can get insurance over the internet and immediately print proof of insurance, and that's what is so amazing about this, even if you're being chased by an evil professor who looks vaguely like a composite of Frankenstein and Tom Brady wearing shades. Really, if I'm being chased by the likes of a Super Bowl winning quarterback that has been reanimated from dead flesh, whether or not my get away car has car insurance probably isn't going to be the first thing I worry about, it will be if that magenta haired chick is single.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I am going to invent a sandwich

Everyone is so sad about the death of Steve Irwin, so I thought I'd try to push the envelope of food (I don't think there has been enough advancement in the world of sandwiches lately) to try to cheer everyone up by describing to you a revolution in sandwiches.

I haven't made one yet, but I think I may give it a shot sometime soon. I don't think I've ever seen this on a menu anywhere, so I'm going to claim ownership. Allow me to describe it, because I really don't see how it won't be delicious.

On a hamburger bun, place a small grilled or broiled hamburger, then a small grilled or broiled chicken breast, topped off with a slice of American cheese and two strips of bacon. Mayonnaise and mustard would be the allowable condiments, maybe a piece of lettuce, some onion, perhaps tomato, and two pickle slices. Ketchup would probably be unacceptable. Oh, and toast the hamburger bun. I need a name for it though. Like the deliciaburger or chickenhamburgerawesome. Now that I think about it, though, the bacon may be a little too much.

If anyone tries it before I get a chance to, I'd love to hear how it turns out. I'd also like to hear about the results on experimenting with the bacon, and possibly the cheese. Maybe make a Swiss chickenhamburgerawesome by replacing the slice of American with a slice of white holey cheese instead. Also, I personally like honey mustard, but can see spicy mustard working quite well, too.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution

Have you noticed how classic rock radio stations within the past five or so years have started playing a series of songs by the same artist? They sometimes have cute little names for that segment, like a rock block or an artist twofer. It's kind of a weird development, because all of a sudden, everyone was doing it. It might just be Clear Channel decided to try it out, and every station happens to be owned by them, but radio stations are doing it. I have to say, I'm a little conflicted by this practice.

Sometimes, it's awesome, if you get an artist that you haven't heard in a while and get a pair of songs by somebody like the Cars. Let's Go followed by Moving in Stereo would be fantastic. I think I'll put that cd in and listen to them right now. But if you get a pair by like Rush or Styx, that's like a kick right in the balls. In fact, that should be a punishment for losing on a game show, because you know that you're going to have to wait like 8 minutes, which is a borderline eternity in radio time, before you're going to get another shot at even a remotely redeeming artist like Supertramp. Sure, they're not great, but they would sound like they rock harder than Quiet Riot after Dennis DeYoung.

I think, on the whole, I have to say I'm not in favor of it. I'd rather hear an interesting song by Fleetwood Mac, and then move on to ZZ Top. If I want to listen to the entire first side of Rumours, I'll go buy it. Now let me hear Tusk followed by Legs.

I would like to point out that there is a football game tomorrow, where Clemson will be meeting Florida Atlantic on the field of battle known as Death Valley. This is essentially a freebie, since I should be in prayer mode in preparation of the festivities tomorrow. If we were playing a real football team, there is no way that I would be posting right now. But I must say, Go Tigers, and on Monday night, there will be an inordinate number of Miami Hurricanes fans in Clemson, South Carolina.