Sometimes You Have to Write for Yourself

This was not what I had in mind for today. I had planned on posting something completely different–something a bit more fun. Well, “fun” might not be the word I was looking for, but it will have to do.

There is a subject that I have been wanting to write about for many years, but I could never find the right words–yet that has never stopped me before. But seriously, every time I wanted to write about this subject, I found that words failed me. The best I could muster was a couple of lines of ramdom notes. Often, I will make notes or a series of bullet points and attempt to build from there. But this time something was missing.

I see myself as an emotional writer; that is to say that I often need to have some sort of emotional connection to the subject matter. If I try to write from a purely intelectual place the piece comes off as dry and uninteresting. Basically, it reads like a third grader’s report on a book that they really didn’t want to read. In other words: it’s nothing more than a series of declaratory sentences, which is what I really should call my blog.

A couple of months ago I had an “A-ha!” moment, in which I figured out exactly how best to write about this thing that has been stuck in my noggin for oh so long. I was able to take what for years had been two lines of notes and turn it into a multi page collection of thoughts and recollections. In fact it almost became the “monster in a notebook” that my piece on The Eagles became, but unlike that one, this was far more coherent and designed to be in multiple parts from the beginning.

When I had finished, I was actually pleased with the final product, which should have been a giant red flag waving in the wind. I felt good about myself as well, which rarely happens, since I am my own worst critic. I’m not saying that I was about to change the world or set it on fire, I was just happy to get my thoughts on paper.

As I’ve said before, a lot of times my first drafts are written longhand because I am a slow typer. Also, I find it easier to edit and move stuff around, especially with the longer pieces. Plus, I find that when I write longhand my work contains far more of my “voice,” whatever that is.

Since this was not a time sensitive subject, I set it aside to marinate for a bit. I wanted to wait until I had a few days in a row with nothing going on so that I could post it on consecutive days without interruption.

When I woke up this morning I thought, “Today is the day!” so, I decided to spend the morning in the editing room putting a final coat of wax on the post before foisting it upon an unsuspecting world.

And then I started having second thoughts.

It’s not that I think it sucks, but it isn’t quite as good as I remembered. But, then again, none of my stuff is. I always do this; I always hesitate before pulling the trigger when I give myself too much time to think. There have been too many times where I have written something on the fly, or fired off a tweet, when I should have heeded the advice of Herm Edwards: “Don’t press ‘Send!'”

If I ever do press “Send,” the post will be in a completely state from the one it is in now. It’s not a story that you needed to read, but it is one I needed to write… For myself.

Halt and Catch Fire “Up Helly Aa”

Halt and Catch Fire has done something that a few weeks ago I thought impossible: They made a great episode without Toby Huss. For a while now I have been championing Huss as the main (and for for a whlie there, only) reason to tune in, but in “Up Helly Aa” the rest of the cast, Kerry Bishe in particular, picked up the ball and ran with it. I won’t say that they have scored a touchdown… Yet. I want to wait until next weeks season finale before making any sort of grand proclamations.

The triumvirate plus Donna (quadumvirate?) make a trek to Las Vegas for COMDEX ’83, which is being held next door to the porn convention, which goes to show that porn and computers are made for each other like chocolate and peanut butter. Dammit! I should have tweeted that. Anyway, due to the stuff that happened in last weeks episode, they no longer have rooms. But have no fear, they have a plan. They find two guys who are giving a demo of their new printer; and let’s just say that these guys shouldn’t even bother going on Shark Tank if this is how they give a product demo. I wouldn’t want to watch them attempt to chat up a woman; it would too painful. Hilarious, but painful.

Joe pretends to be from IBM and he tells the guys that they shouldn’t even bother, and that they should just go home and cut their losses. Oh, and that he is willing to take their hotel rooms. The two guys agree to the deal, as long as he pays for the tower of shrimp. Yep, I said “tower of shrimp.” It looked like something Richard Dreyfuss would have constructed in Close Encounters.

The plan is to use the booth at the convention to lure potential customers up to the suite, because everyone knows that is where the action is. But… The Giant is having technical difficulties. So, Joe brings in some women from the porn convention to distract the crowd until they get the PC up and running.

However…

It turns out that Donna’s ex boss/boyfriend, Hunt, and Brian the neighbor/ex Cardiff employee have built their own portable PC, called the, wait for it . . . “Slingshot.” *Cue ominous music.* And not only that, it’s cheaper and faster. (Insert porn joke here.)

As many inventors have learned, much to their dismay, it’s not always about having a better product, it’s about being the first one in the mind of the consumer.

Doing what he thinks is best, Gordon strips out Cameron’s program. Now, the Giant is not only faster than the Slingshot, it is one hundred dollars cheaper. Boom! Take that Hunt and Brian.

But, in doing so, they took the soul out of the machine. Whatever it was that made the Giant special is no more. It’s yet another “beige box” which is exactly what they were trying not to create.

And, to make matters worse, later that evening Joe was introduced to a whole new computer. Literally.

“Hello, I’m Macintosh.”

From Hero to Villain

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Full disclosure: I’m not that bright. I thought that the 30 for 30 film “Slaying the Badger” was two hours long; so imagine my surprise when it ended after ninety minutes. I found myself with thirty minutes to kill so I decided to finally watch the 30 for 30 episode about the 1996 Olympic bombing.

Part of the reason I had never bothered to watch it is because I kept forgetting about it. Another part is that I was afraid that it would dredge up old memories… Bad memories.

I live just North of Atlanta and I had planned on going to Centennial Olympic Park the weekend it opened–one week prior to the start of the games, but my plans were changed for me. Now you know why I never make plans; not even years in advance. The only other time that worked for everyone involved was July 27, which was the day the bomb went off. Needless to say my plans were changed.

Again.

At work that morning I listened to the radio, hoping beyond hope that the park would reopen in the afternoon. I was beyond angry; for various reasons. I was also tremendously sad to hear that people were injured and killed. There were any number of people who thought Atlanta was a bad idea idea as a host city, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted this.

Later on, reporters started talking about a security guard named Richard Jewell, who was the one who first spotted the knapsack containing the bomb. He quickly started telling people to get away, and if not for his efforts many more would have died or been injured. It seemed that we had found ourselves a real hero.

As so often happens, things started to turn. A few days later the FBI made Jewell suspect number one. Background checks were made, and some of Jewell’s former employers had unflattering things to say about him.

The next thing you know, the media is camped out in the parking lot of the apartment complex where Jewell was staying with his mother; and law enforcement followed him everywhere. At one point he was brought in for questioning under the pretense that the FBI wanted him to make a training video. I still cannot believe he fell for it.

Eventually, he asked to speak to a lawyer, to which the investigators replyed: “Why do you need a lawyer? Did you do it?” Yeah, it all seems like a bad TV show, but this was far too real.

Richard Jewell had gone from hero to villain faster than anyone I can remember. He was the subject of incessant media speculation, and he became a punch line on late night talk shows. His life was made a living Hell. The race was on to interview anyone and everyone who had the slightest contact with Jewell. Yet, through it all, I never once thought he was guilty.

Eventually, the FBI stated that Jewell was no longer a suspect, but no one seemed to be buying it. In the court of public opinion he had already been declared guilty, and that’s all that really matters.

We all saw the “Person on the Street” interviews: “If Jewell isn’t guilty, why were government agents searching his property and towing away his truck?” “If he didn’t do it, why was he taken in for questioning?” “If Jewell is an innocent man, why do the media keep saying he is the bomber?” And so on, and so on, ad infinitum.

Even after Eric Rudolph was convicted for the crime a few years later, there are those who still believe that Richard Jewell was the Olympic Park bomber. I have nothing to back this claim, but I am almost willing to bet that the majority of those who think Richard Jewell is a bomber also think that OJ Simpson is not a murderer.

Sherlock Holmes famously said: ” Once you remove the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth.” I unfamously say: “Some people would rather believe a convoluted lie than a simple truth.”

30 for 30 Presents Heroes and Villains

Greg LeMond is the only American to win the Tour de France. Think about that for a second. No, this wasn’t written in 1986 after LeMond’s victory, nor is this some alternate universe. Look up; there are no passenger airships above us. The history books will tell you Lance Armstrong’s infamous “Look” never happened, and that Floyd Landis’ miraculous comeback the day after his epic bonk never took place either. As in so many comic books, history has been rewritten. But this time, the winner wasn’t holding the pen.

Like some of you, I wake up at Too Bloody Early in the morning to watch the Tour de France; all while thinking I should still be in bed. It is a yearly ritual that fuels my love of riding a bicycle while simultaneously making me question my sanity. In the early 1980s I didn’t have that luxury–all I had were highlights on CBS’s weekend coverage. Cable television, and ESPN Sportscenter, didn’t make it to my neck of the woods until 1988. The main, if not only, reason CBS covered the race was because of American rider Greg LeMond; much in the same way that OLN started covering the Tour live because of Lance Armstrong.

The 30 for 30 film “Slaying the Badger” chronicles Greg LeMond’s battles with Bernard Hinault a.k.a. “The Badger;” so named not only for his resemblance to the creature, but for his tenacity as well. An extra layer to the drama is the fact that the two were teammates on La Vie Claire. Unlike VH1’s “Behind the Music,” there is no formula that makes for a memorable entry in the 30 for 30 series, but I have to say that the teammate angle is an attention getter.

After winning the tour in 1985, with considerable help and sacrifice from LeMond, Hinault pledged to support his teammate the following year. But once you get into the heat of compitition, plans tend to change. We all know the outcome, yet I don’t want to spoil the details for those that are unfamiliar with the story–it is well worth your time, even if you don’t care about cycling. Like a lot of sports movies, true or fictional, it isn’t always about the sport, but about the people involved. See also: Rush.

I have read some reviews that stated that the real star of “Slaying the Badger” is the Badger himself: Bernard Hinault. I can sort of see the point. Despite conducting his interviews in French, Hinault comes across as engaging and gregarious. In fact, he isn’t the mustache twirling Bond villain many would lead you to believe.

Not that Greg LeMond, nor his wife Kathy, paint Hinault as such… Not in the present day anyway. In the recent interviews they seem rather matter-of-fact about the situation, but in interviews conducted at the time there is a lot of anger and frustration, a hint of paranoia, and a metric ton of disbelief.

LeMond believed that Hinault was a man of his word, and maybe that is what Hinault wanted him to believe. The problem was that Hinault wasn’t the only problem. LeMond also had to deal with team owner, Bernard Tapie, and sporting director, Paul Koechli. Koechli was the man with the plan . . . That is when Hinault wasn’t making it up on the fly.

As for Tapie, his story would make for a great film–if anyone would believe it. He is kind of like The Most Interesting Man in the World if The Most Interesting Man in the World ever held a job. Tapie was a singer, actor, politician, businessman, and even did a stint in prison for fraud. Quick! Someone get Martin Scorsese on the phone.

At the end of the day, the record shows that Hinault is a five time Tour de France winner and that LeMond won it three times; he probably would have won more if he hadn’t been shot, accidentally, by his brother-in-law. It’s always the brother-in-law… Or the crazy uncle.

See? I told you it was a good story.

Talking About Practice!

NFL training camps are in session and for the forty-sixth straight year I couldn’t care less. If you like it, that’s okay, I don’t have any problem with it, I just don’t put any stock in it.

Every May they have OTAs, or whatever they are called, and at least one player gets injured and is out for the season. IN MAY!!! That’s four months before the season starts. Yes, football has become a 24/7/365 deal, as evidenced by the existence of the NFL Network. Gone are the days when players would have off season jobs selling insurance or building houses or whatever.

Then there is the NFL Combine, which a lot of people refer to as the “Underwear Olympics.” Basically it’s a bunch of dudes running and jumping so that the NFL coaches and scouts can give them the once over… Kick the tires, so to speak.

I can understand the idea of getting all the prospective draftees together in one location in order to talk to them and get to know them better, but as for actually learning if they can play? Isn’t that what college football is for?

Yeah, there are any number of players, especially quarterbacks, who are amazing college players, but whose skills don’t transfer to the pro game. And a lot of people can fling the old pigskin from one end of the field to the other in a controled enviroment, such as the Combine, but that doesn’t mean that they can do it under game conditions. Everyone is John Elway when they play two hand touch with a Nerf football in the backyard, but put that same guy into a real game and they suddenly turn into Jeff George.

Don’t even get me started on the Wonderlic test and the psychological evaluation that goes on during the Combine. Some players pass it with flying colors and get cut before the season starts, while others score impossibly low numbers and go on to become Hall of Famers.

Then you have the meaningless preseason games which you have to full price in order to attend. There is almost always one team that goes unbeaten in preseason only to flatter to deceive. The fans all proclaim; “This is our year!” and book hotel rooms in the Super Bowl host city only to see their team lose the first six games of the season. The funny thing is that they can never figure out where it all went wrong. Then there are the teams that lose all their preseason games and wind up winning the Super Bowl.

Whenever a team doesn’t live up to a so called “expert’s” predictions in preseason they often say, “Well, we don’t know exactly what they were working on. Once the season starts they’ll get it all sorted out.” And yes, in a lot of cases that is true. That’s why they should just call them “practice games.”

Halt and Catch Fire “The 214s”

Some days I have a hard time writing because an episode goes nowhere. Then there are the times when an episode isn’t very good and I have a hard time trying to withhold the snark. And there are the episodes like “The 214s” where everything clicks and anything I say would be kind of pointless.

If I were a better educated person I could tell you why everything worked. I could disect a particular scene and walk you through it. I could discuss story structure and character development, and reference classic films and television series that use similar themes.

There are a lot of people who can do that sort of stuff, and I enjoy reading it, but for some of you it spoils the illusion. I undertand that line of thinking but, as for me, most of that stuff goes right over my head.

So… What actually happened?

It seems that Bosworth got Cameron to hack the bank’s computer in order to move some money around so that they could complete their PC. In their defense, they were going to put it back once the Cardiff Giant started to sell. Try telling that to Nathan Cardiff and the FBI.

Joe was plannining on attending COMDEX alone since the last time Gordon went things didn’t go so well. Needless to say, Gordon was more than a bit upset since COMDEX is basically Comic Con for compuer geeks.

Joe and Cameron head over to Gordon’s house for a pow wow that quickly turned into a massive arguement where a lot of blame got thrown around. Gordon tells Cameron about how Joe switched the discs to make it seem that her work was erased. And then Cameron punched Joe… In the face. Not a slap, but a punch. I can’t say that he didn’t deserve it. After all, Joe has what the Germans call “backpfeifgesicht”–a face that needs a fist.

Joe finds out that IBM is working on their own version because sometimes more than one person has the same idea at the same time. Just ask Nikola Tesla–it’s all about who gets the publicity first.

Joe flies to New York to confront his father about it, and eventually asks to work on the project. Just when you thought he couldn’t possibly be a bigger scumbag. And, as it turns out, Joe was telling the truth about his mother and falling off the roof. Not only that, but we find out that he spent his “missing” year going around trying to find out about his mother, whom he thought died when he was a child. Joe Sr. had her commited and it wasn’t until she really passed away that he came clean to Joe. No wonder he is so messed up.

When the FBI raided Cardiff Electric they confiscated all the computers, so Gordon had the genius idea of disassembling the Giant so it wouldn’t be taken away. Clever boy. The then broke into the office and rogued it back. Not only that, but he picked up milk on his way home.

Not knowing that Joe is in New York, Cameron and Gordon head over to his apartment to tell him that they still have the Giant. And since he was nowhere to be found, they did what anyone would do–they drank beer, ordered pizza, and talked about their first time . . . Using a computer. It was nice to see the two of them getting along. When Joe returns, Cameron and Gordon talk him down and convice him into going to COMDEX.

Donna’s boss, Hunt, resigned without telling her. At one point she was about to leave Gordon but she got distracted by the awesomeness that is the Giant. Then she found the decoder ring that Gordon bought her (long story, but very sweet), and in the end she decides to tag along with our trio to COMDEX.

Road trip!

Halt and Catch Fire “Giant”

Halt and Catch Fire definately lived up to its promise with last week’s episode “Landfall,” and while it didn’t go from strength to strength with “Giant,” it still shows promise.

Most of that promise comes in the form of John Bosworth as portrayed by Toby Huss. I don’t know if Huss will be an Emmy contender next year, but he should be in the conversation.

Bosworth started out as a character that seemed to be an obstacle in the path of the lead triumvirate; one that couldn’t see the future, or maybe just refused to. The thing about “period pieces” is that the viewers know the outcome and get to point and laugh at those who have no idea of what is to come. Joe is the visionary who sort of acts like he can see the writing on the wall; almost as if he is a time traveler or psychic.

Bosworth has become the most interesting character on HFC, to me at least. He is the least cliche ridden character, yet he could have easily been the most. It is so easy to depict the boss as a bad guy, especially one who is from Texas. Not because Texans are bad guys, not in real life anyway, but because television tends to paint in broad strokes in order for people to say, “Oh yeah, I know the type.” It’s a cheap trick too often used as a storytelling shortcut.

Bosworth has gone all in with his team, so much so that he is willing to risk his house so that Cardiff Electric has the funds to finish the project. He also punched out a guy who called Joe a “queer.” I don’t know when Bosworth will find out Joe’s secret, or what his reaction will be; hopefully he won’t revert to type. Then again, if he does, it will make things interesting. Fingers crossed.

Cameron knows Joe’s secret, and she even met his former lover, Simon. Simon was brought in to design the casing, or whatever it’s called, for the computer because Joe doesn’t want another “beige box.” Who does?

I don’t know where the Joe/Cameron relationship is going, but it probably won’t end well. I don’t really see the point of it other than that it makes Joe seem like a sleaze who manipulates those around him so that he can achieve his goals. He knows what motivates people be it praise, respect, sex, etc. and he is more than willing to hand it out and equally willing to withhold it–whatever it takes to get the job done.

And then there is Gordon. Poor guy finally cracked. Donna goes out of town and he attempts to cook dinner, tell his kids a story about the Cardiff Giant, and fix a leaky faucet. What he ends up doing is cutting his hand, making a mess, and digging a hole halfway to China.

As for Donna, or should I say “Susan Fairchild,” she goes on a business trip with her boss, Hunt, and kisses him. There seemed to be some sexual tension building up between the pair for a while now, but most of it seemed to be coming from Hunt. In the end, Hunt turned out to be a good guy who rebuffed Donna’s advances. It seems that there are nice guys on television after all.