Search This Blog

9.21.2017

"Heartbeat" by Mat Kearney


Sometimes a person just needs a bit of positive dance music to get going, so here is one of my favorites by the serially underrated Mat Kearney. Mat's an Oregonian, by the way...

8.08.2017

Moving The Players Championship Back to March

 I first attended The Players back in 2006, which was the last year that the tournament was contested in March. It was a riveting event, and it catalyzed my love for attending PGA Tour events live. There is something about watching the approach to the game by those who make millions playing it that is both inspirational and instructive. I have always enjoyed studying how these players prepare, carry themselves, and interact with each other and the fans.

PGA Tour professionals are great with interaction. I've seen superstars like Fowler, Spieth, and Day spend hours signing autographs. Phil gives fist bumps. Bo Van Pelt once complimented my daughter, and Vaughn Taylor and I had a conversation. These athletes are approachable and genuine, and watching them has been a pleasure. It's why I not only attend The Players Championship, but I also attend the Winn Dixie Open and the RSM Classic up in Georgia.

Good times...

So when the news broke last night that The Players had moved back to March, my wife was super stoked. Since 2007, the tournament has concluded on Mother's Day. That's a good thing for moms that love golf, but not such a great thing for moms that are indifferent, but who are married to husbands that love golf. Couple that with my son's birthday in early May, and the tournament has always been contested at a congested time in our personal schedule.

My wife was excited. Me...I'm fine either way, and I mean that sincerely. It's cooler in March, but I love wearing sweaters and the rain didn't bother me at the tournament that I attended. Will the weather chase away some fans?

Possibly. I think the social fans that come out after 5:00 p.m. to be seen around 17 on Friday evening might find other things to do. But the tournament will be more comfortable for walking fans like me (I once walked more than twenty miles in a day, watching it from the first group to the last) and I don't expect it to compete too directly with March Madness.

I love golf, and this is my favorite tournament of the year. What can I say? Sawgrass puts on a great show and puts up a great test. That isn't going anywhere, and everything will be fine in March.

In the final analysis, this will be a good move that makes the PGA Tour better overall. It cements a huge tournament in every month from March through August, and it makes the FedEx Cup a better set of events because it won't have to compete with the NFL.

I hear so much negative feedback about the move, but that feels like a lot of hype to me. The tournament might lose some of the sun dresses, but that was never what it was about anyway. The Bogey Grille isn't going anywhere, so play golf, fellas!

7.17.2017

Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

I was fortunate to steal a little bit of time last week to see movies in the theater with both of my girls. My daughter and I enjoyed Spiderman: Homecoming on Wednesday, and my wife and I watched War for the Planet of the Apes on Friday. These were two fine films, but Mats Reeves's contribution to the Planet of the Apes series was hands-down the finer film. In fact, I don't think I've seen anything this year that I enjoyed (or would recommend) more than that film.

Reeves tells a compelling story that pays homage to Apocalypse Now (in one subterranean scene, someone has scrawled "Ape-pocalypse  Now" on the wall in red paint) while commenting on the nature of intelligence and the importance of speech. The movie plunges us into the central conflict with some expository notes on the simian flu just before a harrowing battle scene. The pacing here was excellent. Reeves (who co-wrote and directed) seems to have a keen eye for when to take the foot off the gas an allow for some fine moments of narrative reflection.

This film impressed on all fronts for me. The writing was excellent, the acting was strong (Woody Harrelson gives one of his best turns in a long time here--his final scenes are riveting), the effects are believable and will hold up over time, and the score was pitch-perfect. It's rare that I notice the score very often in great films, and that's usually a good thing. I don't like to be given clues about by emotional temperature by the filmmakers. But I was cognizant of the score (that insistent, single-note piano snippet particularly) throughout this film and it was always complementary to the storytelling. This is a violent film that feels contemplative and reflective as well. It's definitely a film that asks some important questions about the nature of mercy, the importance of our ability to articulate our thoughts, and the horrors of genocide.

Andy Serkis, as is usual for his work, is awesome here as Caesar. The swagger, gate, and facial expressions he renders bring the character to life, making the film's third act all the more difficult to swallow.

I give this film an 'A' mark and put it high up there in the pantheon of recent sci-fi and fantasy coming out of Hollywood. Give it a look in the theaters, friends, because you'll want to feel that audio in the film's violent conclusion. I thought Cinema 14 was launching for outer space, right there beneath my feet...

5.02.2017

I Am Pulling For You, Blake!

The Jacksonville Jaguars picked up the fifth-year option on Blake Bortles yesterday and, predictably, this news is the talk of the town. I think it's even overshadowing the risky maneuver the Jags pulled to draft Dede Westbrook.

Starting quarterback is the most important position in all of American professional sports because it is the most important position in the most lucrative and popular league this country has. The fortunes of these teams rise and fall with quarterback play, and finding a trustworthy signal caller is the core of any NFL scouting department's mission.

The Jaguars have struggled in recent years to draft a franchise quarterback. Byron Leftwich had a cannon and he was tough as nails but his mechanics were off and he never could get it going here in Jacksonville. Blaine Gabbert has all of the measurables, but Gene Smith and company never put a decent team around him. He's not a great quarterback, as evidenced by what he's done in San Francisco, but I think things could have gone much better for him if we could have surrounded him with even an average offensive line and receiving corps.

Blake Bortles is an interesting case study in this subject. He had a rough go of it as a rookie, piled up some fine stats in his sophomore year en route to breaking the Jacksonville touchdown record, and then seriously regressed last year. But even in that regression, he played two strong games (including one with around a 70% completion percentage) with a new coaching staff. Did Doug Marrone pull something out of Blake that Gus never could have, or is that sample size too small for any meaningful analysis?

I think it was wise of the Jaguars to pick up the option on Bortles because I believe that he can be a top-twelve NFL quarterback. I also see it as relatively low risk and high reward, as outlined in this rundown from the Florida Times-Union. Blake has some major financial incentives to put this team on his back and improve his play, but I don't even think those incentives are the end-all and be-all of why he will succeed here in town.

Blake is tough. His teammates appreciate that and they play for him, even if he doesn't always throw the best ball.

Blake is mobile. Yeah, he's had 23 and 22 combined turnovers in the last two years, but his critics rarely discuss the many times that he has scrambled for first downs and touchdowns.

Blake can get the ball downfield. He led the league in 2015 in passes of longer than twenty yards.

He needs to take better care of the ball and improve on his touch and accuracy, but I think he's a smart guy and a great athlete. I really hope that he is improving his mechanics and training hard in California, or all of this will be for naught. I'll let those rumors of Blake's bar habits out at the beach alone--the man is 21 and can do what he pleases, but he needs to follow the example of players like Brady, Brees, Winston, Mariota, and Newton, who all take exemplary care of themselves in the offseason.

I would say that, for Blake's career, he has been above average 75% of the time. He has been bad 25%. He has never been great. 

Can he get there? Which Blake will lead the Jags in 2017? I'd like to think we'll see the great version of Blake Bortles, and it's not just because I'm a UCF alum. I love my Jaguars and I don't want to go back to square one. I want Blake Bortles to be the man here, make that option pay off, and take this team to the postseason.

I am pulling for you Blake. Make it happen... 

4.05.2017

The End of A Vast Landscape and the Beginning of a New Journey...

I began researching graduate schools in late 2011 with an eye toward finding a terminal credential that would help me improve my skills with digital composition, communication theory, and media studies. I looked at programs across the country that had a variety of different approaches. There were creative writing PhD programs, American Studies programs, and old-fashioned English PhD programs. I got into some and was denied entry into others. I thought seriously, albeit fleetingly, about a move for our family that would have taken us into a completely different part of the country.
Ultimately, I found a program in Orlando at the University of Central Florida that has exceeded my expectations and helped me grow as a scholar and a person in ways that I never could have anticipated when I began attending classes in the fall of 2012.

UCF was rigorous, practical, and engaging. I took courses in HTML and XML theory, Web design, transmedia narrative theory, electracy, technical writing, modern rhetoric, writing for the Web, and cultural studies. I published three essays, completed thirteen classes, passed three qualifying exams, composed a six-chapter, 300-page dissertation, and successfully defended that research project in a culminating exam last week.

Whew!

I am very thankful to UCF and to the faculty in the Texts and Technology program. The aims of the program, which combines traditional and historical communication theory with cutting edge computer science, are perfectly applicable to my work in Florida State College at Jackonsville's Converged Communication program. I have forged friendships and made relationships that I plan to keep well into the future, and I know that I am a stronger writer because the work I have completed has been met with greater enthusiasm by editors and readers. 

I am participating in commencement in a few weeks with my family in attendance, and that will formally conclude at least one part of the process. But beginning with my classes at FSCJ in May, I will begin a new journey as I completely re-vamp my teaching approach and curriculum to help our students at FSCJ. 

These are exciting times, and I couldn't have arrived at this place without UCF, the Texts and Technology program, and T&T's amazing faculty and community of scholars.

2.03.2017

The Wind Through the Keyhole

I am re-reading The Wind Through the Keyhole, and I am enjoying it just as much the second time through as I did a few years ago. I love the narrative approach here, as Sai King both fills in some backstory on Roland's life as a greenhorn gunslinger while also delivering a truly delightful (if not somber) embedded narrative in the center of the tale. 

King does this often, and to great affect. Whenever writers trot out that old saw about showing versus telling, folks are curious about the actual strategies one might use to reveal character or setting or plot in a way that feels natural and unforced. That is showing, and one of the best strategies is to tell a related story. King wants to illustrate the scope of Bobby Fornoy's genius in "The End of the Whole Mess," so he has his narrator tell a pair of stories about how he built a glider and a radio as a child. His chilling novella 1922 is chock full of great tangential, but wholly engaging and necessary, stories. All of it amounts to depth and complexity in the storytelling. 

I am also reminded of King's depth as a writer when I revisit his stories from this universe. It's easy to overlook his skills in writing magical realism and epic fantasy, but one shouldn't. He's got a lot of Tolkien and Lewis and Bradbury in him, to be sure...

This is a fine novel for both engaging with a great story and studying the structure of a pithy fantasy with a keen embedded narrative...

1.25.2017

Mapping A Future...

There are any number of ways that a young person just beginning his or her adult life can approach the future. I knew in my bones when I turned about fifteen that I had to leave Eastern Oregon. I did just fine in high school--3.5 GPA and played a sport in every season. I took AP courses and I enjoyed learning and the teachers I was fortunate to work with in Pendleton.

But I knew that I had to attend college and earn a degree in order to satisfy myself and achieve my goals. I focused, again, on sports. When I think about my youth, it was always concentrated on two things: sports and the outdoors. When I lived in John Day, I lived to fish and play baseball. By the time I had moved to Pendleton, my passion was playing soccer. 

I applied (and was accepted) to Oregon, WSU, Gonzaga, and Linfield. The last option was the only place where I could realistically play soccer in college, so that is where I went. 

We drove across the state in early August. I had just turned eighteen. My mom and dad helped me set up my room and look for a job in McMinnville, and then soccer started and it was brutal. Mac is hot and humid in August. There were about forty of us trying out for nineteen spots. We practiced twice a day in the sweltering heat, and campus was empty because we all showed up two weeks before the rest of the campus population. 

It was a trying, exhilarating, nerve-wracking time for me, but I worked my ass off and made the team. So began my Linfield journey, and I'm thankful for what I learned at that school every day.

I played soccer and ran track there. I earned my bachelor's degree and met my wife and joined the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and I made the bulk of my best friends. I still speak with the guys that stood up for me at my wedding at least monthly. We still get together every year, and I miss them all the time.

What I'm saying is that Linfield gave me my life, and I'll always be thankful for that. I have moved on to other places and attended other schools, but I know my formative learning took place in McMinnville.

When students ask me for advice on the future, I tell them to be mindful of their studies, their goals, and their expenses. Oh, yeah...Linfield is a private school and is a bit expensive. I still owe some money on my student loans and I am about to hit forty years of age.

Still, I don't regret any of it, and I will have these loans finished off soon. I think it's important for young people to work backwards from the important goals--family, location, and work--in planning their futures. 

Be mindful of which jobs will satisfy you. Prepare for a family, if that is a goal, and carefully pick where you plan to live. 

We targeted Florida because of everything it has to offer our family. Fishing, camping, hiking, kayaking, golf--this place is Eden, in many respects. We had opportunities in other places, but California and Alaska weren't in the cards. Florida, thankfully, was...

I think it's important to save, plan, prepare, and work. I delivered pizzas, waited tables, transplanted grape vines, coached soccer, taught at an after-school program, and managed a video store in McMinnville. I took a full load of courses and ran track and played soccer. I did it all so that I could have a future with Jeanne and a life in the moment. 

So enjoy your time in school, but look toward the horizon. What kind of life will you have in your thirties? What about your forties? Where will you live, and how will you live? 

Now is the time to pose those questions, and also to take actionable steps toward giving them some answers...