Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bryson v. Brown...Push

So far this summer I have had the opportunity to read some books, a thing very foreign to my Davidson mind. Why would you actually enjoy reading books for self-edification. Schools are pretty messed up if that's the mental product of 14 years of....

Sorry. As I was saying, I have read a couple of interesting books and would essentially like to tell you about it.

My summer began with the self-induced challenge of completing the Da Vinci Code before the movie came out. This was a bad decision in so many ways. First, it briefly turned me into a Dan Brown-atic, googling the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail and such things. Second, it completely spoiled my 12 dollar movie experience (if you've ever been to a movie with me, you know that I have splurge on large drinks and popcorn with free refills, none of which I ever finish). Tom Hanks was reading from a teleprompter and I couldn't understand the girl. Plus, the book is better, but you already know that. Finally, reading the Da Vinci Code completely spoiled the opportunity to read Angels and Demons, Code's precursor. While it is reputedly a better book, Demons is a mirror image of Da Vinci in terms of plot structure and chapter design, and I got bored very quickly.

After putting down Angels and Demons, I started on a recently purchased book by the renowned travel writer, Bill Bryson. I had already sampled some of his writing in A Walk In The Woods and I'm a Stranger Here Myself. Both books exhibited flashes of brilliance as Bryson made his comedic impact through articulating the obvious with exaggerated language. Every once and a while you would come to a sentence that would make you drop the book and double over in laughter. However, the those lines became increasingly few and far between and I began to realize that this book didn't really have a point. And I like points. But, after floundering with Dan Brown, I decided to give Bryson one last shot.

I picked up The Lost Continent and started making my way with Bill along the backcountry of the midwest and south, enjoying every moment. This book has tormented me even more than the other two. Written in 1989, there are always elements of Bryson's writing that become quickly dated. His assessment of crime and technology and laws and politics are all completely foreign to me. And yet this book did not commit the cardinal sin that I'm A Stranger is guilty of: making fun of computers/internet and thinking that it'll all go away.

During the mid to late 90's, somehow it became trendy for older people to have legitimacy in joking about those fancy schmancy machines and all those 8 year olds that know how to use them. Read in 2006, those jokes seem very philistine and hardly prophetic. Computers aren't like 8-tracks. They ain't going nowhere.

Anyway, I heartily enjoy Bryson's unchecked critique of ignorant capitalism that replaces towns with strip malls, and makes everyone fat by telling them that they are not supposed to walk anywhere. So much of America, especially the South is modeled like this. Food is housed in big fast food places surrounded by parking lots and hedgerows. You're not supposed to walk there. Ever. Bryson is right on the mark in his adamant attempts to make the reader feel guilty about yesterday's big mac. In that sense, this 1989 critique was highly prophetic of our current trendy obsession with Earth Fare and Fast Food Nation.

But in many ways, Bryson fails to keep the reader with him all the time. While Dan Brown certainly has a unique flow and pace to his novels, you can pick up Bryson on page 200, read to the end, then go back to the beginning and it would make just as much sense. Maybe more. While it's not meant to have a story line, even non-fictional pieces have a reason for their order. Bryson's reason is essentially: I went here, then there, then there, then back here again.

Plus Bryson bitches too much. About everything. Gosh.

So I have started my summer out on the right foot. I have read several interesting and yet mediocre novels and hopefully imparted some sort of review of their value. Check back with me next time as I review blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

Saturday, May 27, 2006


It is finally here again: the biggest sports event anywhere. In the United States, we seem very dilusional to believe that the Super Bowl and the World Series are the ultimate sports events. Ever. Super Bowl Sunday is heralded as THE Sunday. The World Series crowns the best baseball team on the planet. Supposedly. But now it's time for America to understand real passion.

That World Cup campaign has come to America in the form that we understand best. Flashy media. Four years ago, the U.S. national team had an improbable run to the quarterfinals, playing halfway across the globe in Korea. Now the media onslaught has begun, seeking to encapsulate for us in 10 seconds why all Americans should get with the program and become as passionate about football (the real football) as the rest of the world.

Gatorade plays a commercial with the background music of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and images of American players being ridiculed all around the world. It ends with the tagline: It's a whole new ballgame. ESPN has run a commercial with U2's City of Blinding Lights and Bono's narration that shows and describes the world's passion for soccer.

In 2002, I was grateful to have witnessed what everyone has been talking about. Traveling through Europe after my sister's wedding. My family happened to be visiting Genoa, Italy when the Italians were playing a match. Every store, restaurant and street-side establishment had the TV tuned the game and the onlookers screaming. In a usually bustling historic district, Genoa was habitated only by tourists for those several hours of the afternoon. I finally convinced my parents that we had to watch it. So, after visiting the faux home of Juliet, we snuck into a gelateria and watched as Italy pulled out the win. Immediately, people took to the streets waving Italian flags, jumping on cars and honking horns. I had never seen anything like it.

This year the Cup takes place in Germany. This site was not coincidental as FIFA is very aware of the global political implications of the World Cup. Germany's best player and national hero grew up in East Germany and is now and outspoken advocate for continued political and cultural unity. Iran will be playing its first round match in against Mexico in Nuremberg. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might care to join his predecessors from 60 years ago in claiming that the Holocaust never happened. However, in 2006 that would get him thrown in jail in Germany.

The World Cup will continue to grow and expand in its influential global power as soccer has swiftly become this planet's game. Usually an ardent believer that waving an American flag to make me feel good about toppling foreign governments is a bad thing, I will not hesitate to cheer my own country. Sure we've got some problems, but athletic identification and support is something that I will never shy away from. U-S-A U-S-A!

Thursday, May 25, 2006


How can so many people be so obsessed with such a boring sport. At least in football and basketball, excitement comes from making fantastic bodily moves instead of nearly killing oneself by driving a 300 MPH car into a wall.

From where did this ardent hatred suddenly arise? Well the Coca-Cola 600 all of a sudden just plopped into my backyard. In recognition that the home of NASCAR resides in Mooresville (Race City USA), Charlotte hosts a two-day event downtown called "Speed Street." The all-day carnival takes up several blocks of downtown Charlotte. With vendors, racing things and whatever else that "NASCAR dads" enjoy, the entire banking center of the southeast has been shut down from entry. Since Charlotte has no mass transportation system to speak of, everyone in all of those skyscrapers have to drive into their parking lots. But those streets are closed. It is absolutely ridiculous. I don't think that NASCAR is worth all of this. It feels like the Super Bowl.

Anyway, just thought I would vent a little.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"Real" Work

Well, I now realize how incendiary that last post was from a couple of comments that I got. I will try not to extrapolate such incapsulating moral claims next time.

I think today I was struck by the idea of grades vs. work. At Davidson, everyone knows that students do a lot of work. However, the hard part about all that work is having it result in a B, or a B+ or even an A-. But eventually you feel that your work is judged instead of finished.

Now I am certainly not going to claim that all work in school is bad because it's graded and all work everywhere else is sweet because its pass/fail, so to speak. However, I do feel that there is less of a value of personal worth that is attributed to most professions. While you certainly want to succeed at your job and lazy people are often fired, even most CEO's of major companies do not go home and fret about the next day's work. At least not the way that Davidson students do.

It is very rare to find a Davidson student, from Freshman to Senior, from barely passing to 4.0, that doesn't feel like their every waking (and sleeping) breath is some ultimate test of character. At least as long as they're sober. Whether in religious life, friendships, athletics or academics, the pressure to succeed and lead is astonishing and it spares very few. Some students try go through all four years drunk and unnoticing. Others try to find meaning by participating in the bizzare Davidson "random hook-up scene," and giving themselves new emotional highs with every new face. Others (and this number is higher than most imagine) spend most of their college life on Prozac and moaning to any friends still willing to listen.

Every year, Davidson students finish their summer and come back to campus remarking on one common concept: stress-free work. The work was stressful while they did it, but the moral tenor wasn't there. They didn't spend every minute letting it hang over them and they didn't bank their life on the small evaluations.

Before I go any further, let me soften any extreme language by admitting that one of my co-workers was up till 4 AM yesterday preparing our LLC's website for launch. That stress was squarely on him and he had a moral responsibility to get it done. And yet somehow he seemed more composed at work today than most Davidsonians before a mere quiz or presentation.

Perhaps, I might chalk it up to maturity. Davidson college students are a small demographic of specific age and specific personalities. Perhaps we are just a big mess of worry-worts that infect each other by our close quarters.

However, I would still like to argue that our culture's youth as a whole today seem to be worrying more. Although our quality of life is outstanding, our youth seem scared and judged. Once again, maybe this fear was always there but previous cultures did not allow such freedom of youth expression, but something tells me that we aren't enjoying ourselves as much.

I've written my way into this corner and could easily take another turn by mentioning greater knowledge, exposure and competition as possible determiners, but I am getting tired.

However, this time it isn't a scared tired. I'm not scared to go to sleep for fear that I am not completing everything. Tonight, I will go to sleep burden-free. The way it should be.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The NBA: Excitingly Horrible

While I believe this year's playoff series' have been way above average, I still have some major problems with the NBA that can all be summed up in one image: The team bench. Or lack of one. Just having started watching intermittent NBA playoff games, I kept being drawn to the image of the head coach kneeling down on the sidelines and having some 12 year old kid sitting right behind him.

It seems that in the NBA, there are several seats on the first row next to the media table that go to the rich of the rich. In all real basketball leagues, those seats are reserved for the assistant coaches and the players. You have to look all the way down past the baseline to start finding players in their warmups. In fact, the NBA gives all new meaning to the term bench players. Usually referring to the scrubs who sit at the end of the bench and rarely get playing time, these players end up sitting on the floor in the NBA, right behind the photographers. What type of league is this where coaches have to be careful that they don't obstruct the view of the fans and players give up their view of the game they are playing so that we can get better pictures.

In the same way that the NFL has become the ultimate representative of gladiatorial majesty, the NBA has tried to imagine itself as an indoor spectacle of giants and heroes. Not there is anything wrong with highlighting the profound of the sport through extraordinary media coverage, but this game should belong to the players. Despite their money, arrogance, and pride (at least in the majority), it is still their game to play and they shouldn't have to sit on the floor to make room for the fan.

For marketers and ad salesmen, sports is all about making the fan feel important. Putting him in the shoes of power. We have the propagation of theory that fan support wins games (it does occasionally), that players are responsible to all of us, and that we should get to see everything in replay up close with the sound turned up.

However, I still believe that there is something powerful about sitting out in left field and seeing a tiny stick pitch to a medium size stick and knowing that guy is going to be second-all time in career HR's. There's something incredible about watching Ken Lucas' amazing zone coverage and miraculous interceptions and not having to know his feelings about women. We all want more access, and yet our original lack of success was what made the sport so incredible. It was being able to ask that star college first baseman for his autograph even if he is working in an investment firm now. Those moments, and we've all had them, were powerful. They moved us and stuck with us. I fear sometimes that the opportunity is beginning to diminish. Our access has made us complacent and the sport holds less profundity.

The athletes always were human. The accomplishments were always comprable to the sacrifices that good people make everyday. But now they've lost the ability to influence people. Heck I'm the one who is sitting nearer the ref and yelling at him, why should I care what the coach is doing.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Life on a Wednesday

Back into the work world again, but here are some quick thoughts and news releases:

Director of Basketball Operations Mike Craft has taken a job as head coach at Ardry Kell High School in the Charlotte area. This was Coach Craft’s only year with Davidson after he came over from the Western Carolina coaching staff last year.

When commuting from Davidson to Charlotte, take Hwy. 115 to exit 23 then I-77 from there on. 77 is ridiculous north of 23 and it is worthless to sit in a bottleneck for 45 minutes to only go 7 miles. Although 115 has three lights, they can pretty navigable depending on your luck. It took me 70 minutes on day 1, 35 minutes yesterday and 40 minutes today. 115 makes a difference.

Make sure to stay abreast of the Davidson website as a new Wildcat Report will be up in a few weeks. With great new content and layout, this should be one of the best editions this year.

No matter how hard I try, I can never get the best stats out of Jorge Posada/Brian McCann. I have both catchers on my fantasy team, but am only able to start one at a time. It never fails that the starter has a bad night while the benched one hits game-winning home runs. I have tried to beat the odds by thinking to start one then switching it, but I can’t beat the sports gods who are out to cut me down.

Home life is good, especially when your roommate likes to host parties with people who bring food. Kristen (my female roommate) has been a pleasant surprise for me. She gets along well with everyone and is completely willing to cook and help clean the house. Last night, several baseball players came over and brought some dishes for a large chicken parm/pasta dinner. It was delicious and much better than my low-level concoctions of fruit, vegetable, meat, juice. I also got to talk baseball with several of the team’s leaders. It was quite an experience, especially after I found that several of the guys read the Wildcat Report as posted online (see the link on the right). That’s pretty sweet.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Vacation of Will

So I’ve finished my sophomore year at Davidson College. So I’m only 2 months away from not being a “teen” anymore. So what? I don’t feel smarter. I swear that I didn’t learn that much this year. Was it really worth $30,000+? Maybe I’m just still reeling from exams about Vietnam and political parties. Both very interesting and informative. I could tell you all about NSAM 122 or the BCRA of 2002. However, I feel frustrated that that information won’t get me gainful employment. In fact, I happened to acquire an internship this summer merely by being a Davidson student and being related to the CEO’s good buddy.
I am a complete advocate of the theory of the liberal arts education. Teach people to think. And so I have presumably learned to think and write and analyze, but I can’t quantify that very easily. I tell people that I’m a history major, and then have to explain that I am aware that the intricate knowledge of modern China’s political history will not help me in my future occupation (becoming secretary of state notwithstanding). I will always value my college experience, but as I’ve already learned in the last half of a week, I don’t intend to be a professional student. At least not the way I’ve been for the last 16 years. I know many of my friends who fully intend to spend another 2-5 more years in school after Davidson, and while I appreciate the need for a graduate degree in order to get hired in several occupations, I don’t even know what I would want to study in grad school. I picked history at Davidson not because it’s a field that I want to pursue, but rather that it’s me. All of my male predecessors (dad, granddad, uncles, etc) were history majors. My family is history, period. And while I appreciate that knowledge for social reasons, I don’t see it to be profitable and that’s the bottom line now. You have to pay for rent/mortgage, gas, food, insurance, dependants, football tickets, shoes, electronics, cable bill…
Everyone says that the perfect life is to be able to get paid to pursue your passion. I agree. But does everyone have to have a “passion”? At least passion in the sense that our society dictates? It seems that the ones who aren’t gung-ho and emotional about something are just too lazy or ignorant to find their “passion” which inherently exists inside them. I enjoy sports, writing, talking, thinking, movies, music, good food, and interesting people. I don’t consider those things “passions” to be pursued, but rather entities that are within my flow of inertia. They don’t go against the grain, and therefore feel good. And so I ask the Career Services office about the janitor and cafĂ© workers downstairs. Are they pursuing their passions for stacking Gatorade in a fridge? Or is just that only the intelligent and “hard-working” are privy to having attainable passions and that the rest of the world is just trying to get there. If everything is about pursuing jobs of passion and vocation, then we wouldn’t have anyone in the services industry. No one to clean up after us. At least I would presume. So then those persons in those jobs become either unlucky or lazy in our eyes because we have no other way to justify their importance.
Ultimately, I have found out a lot about the world outside the walls of Davidson. Life is lived beyond the work. When we always attempt to justify the work through its inherent value, we will become jaded. Some work really just isn’t that important or fulfilling. But it allows us to continue on with a roof, food, and some resources. Life is about making the after-5 fulfilling. It’s about going to a local restaurant to hear a church band play. Or sitting with family learning about the way things used to be and getting to teach them about the way things will be. It’s about going sailing on the lake with friends. It’s hokey, but it’s my summer creed. And I now declare it. Summer is on. And once again, it isn’t about the work. It’s about what I learn about myself and the times I spend with others. It’s time for the “Vacation” of Will (Summer of Will was already taken).

Friday, May 05, 2006


Unfortunately for my blogging life, the last two weeks have been very rough. With several big history papers that were due this week, I have been absolutely swamped with projects, tests, papers and little favors for random athletic departments.

But I only have two more exams left and then I should be able to back in the blogging mindset.

Here's the latest news to keep you all up-to-date:

-The Davidson Basketball End-of-Year banquet was awesome. There were plenty of tears to go around and the highlight video played to rave reviews. It's certainly a keeper.

-The NBA playoffs have me feeling horribly ashamed for my years of bashing about how there is no parity in the league and how the players don't really care and the games are never interesting. This is like the years of the Celtics-Lakes,'s all back. Go NBA! I can't wait for game 7 with the Lakers and Suns.

-I have found gainful employment for this summer working in Charlotte, NC. It will be exciting to actually rent an apartment on my own and spend an entire summer in a new community (Davidson school is nothing like Davidson summer). I am hoping to pass a sailing test so I can go sailing on Lake Norman. Anyone with any suggestions for summer fun in the Charlotte area, feel free to contact me.

-Just so you know, my fantasy baseball team is tearing it up. I'm currently ranked second in my league behind the strong bats of V. Wells, V. Guerrero, and M. Cabrera.

-My pleasure reading this summer plans to include the Da Vinci Code (before I see the movie), blink by Malcolm Gladwell, and who knows, I might finally see what this whole Harry Potter nonsense is about (nah, I doubt it).

-Planning for those long rainy afternoon/evenings I've bought Civilization IV for my computer and The Show: MLB '06 for PS2. I'm also interested in the new college football game coming out in July. Apparently in the legacy mode, you have the option of playing with academic eligibility. Twice a season, you have to take tests for your players and if you do bad, they get kicked off the team. Holy cow that's sweet! Interactivity has been taken to a whole new level.

-That's it for now. Hit me up this summer if you are in the area. And look for weekly MLB reports and preseason reviews for all my favorite sports and teams for next season.