Friday, September 09, 2022

We Are All British Today

In the wake of the passing of Queen Elizabeth, I am reminded of my own British heritage.  Despite my anglicized French surname, a DNA analysis tells me almost all my ancestry hails from the British Isles.

Still, as an American, it’s interesting to watch the British react to news from the Monarchy.  This news wasn’t unexpected as was the news of Dianna 25 years ago, or even of King George VI in 1952.  But it is rightly met with grief and sorrow.  Ninety percent of the world population has never known a “King” of England in their lifetime.  The notion of anybody except Elizabeth sitting on the throne will take some getting used to.

In America, we have no established “royalty”.  Perhaps the Adams family or the Roosevelts or the Bushes or the Kennedys would come close.  But their royal-ness pales in comparison to the crowns and titles and regality that subjects enjoy in Britain.  (Indeed, Americans are not “subjects” to a crown; we are “citizens” -- and proudly so.)

But there is one institution that Americans hold as dear to our heart.  There is one item that we hold in reverence, much in the same way as Britons revere the Monarchy.

It is the flag.

When we are young, we are taught to pledge allegiance to the flag.  Not to the president, not to the government, but to the “flag”.  Is there something special about a swatch of nylon or polyester that demands allegiance?  

No, not the “flag” itself.  In fact, we are constantly reminded that the fabric of the flag is ephemeral.  When it is inevitably worn-out, it is not to be preserved; it is to be respectfully “retired”.

The flag is merely an image, a representation of something much greater.  It represents a nation of vast resources, and the capacity and motivation to properly manage them.  A nation that comes to the defense of our friends.  A nation that, for the most part, fights wars of liberation, not of conquest.

The flag does none of the above, but it represents everything about the nation and the people who live here that make this country so great. 

That was the purpose behind laws forbidding the wanton destruction of our flag.  That’s why we respect it enough to forbid it from touching the ground.  That’s why we salute it and fold it in a triangle.

Even our national anthem speaks to the power and meaning behind the flag.  The “Star-Spangled Banner” is not a song about war (as has been claimed).  It is about the enduring power of the flag.  “The rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our FLAG was still there.”  Francis Scott Key was rejoicing not in the victory of the army, but in the resilience that was demonstrated by the flag.

Such it is with the British and their Monarchs.  Kings and Queens are skin-and-bones -- basically carbon-based life forms, if you will.  They may be long-lived, but not immortal.  They may be regal, but not gods.

Just as America changes the flag with the addition of each new state, the national anthem of Great Britain will now be “God Save the King”.   The Monarchy is above politics, and thus deserves and receives the blessings of God, in the minds of the Britons.  The Windsors are thus royalty only in the sense that they represent the hope of the future for the great British Empire.

For the next few days, I think it would be appropriate for the entire world to consider themselves British.  The Queen is Dead; Long Live the King!

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Who shot who?

I have often been accused of over-thinking.

But I believe I don’t over-think, I think just the right amount, which is usually a little more than the average person.

Case in point:

In Barry Manilow’s 1985 hit “Copacabana”, the climax of the lyrics states: “There was blood and a single gun shot, but just who shot who?”

Who shot who, indeed?

Did Tony off Rico for hitting on his girl Lola?

Or did Rico kill Tony in self-defense?

The song employs a technique known as “deliberate ambiguity”.  During the ensuing chorus and instrumental interlude, the listener is forced to ponder the fate of both men.  A sense of satisfaction develops as one comes to one’s own conclusion with the limited number of facts presented.

This sense of satisfaction is fulfilled in the final verse.  We learn that Lola has “lost her youth and she lost her Tony, now she's lost her mind”.

Yes, it is now certain that Rico shot and killed Tony.

Or did he?

The lyrics only say that Lola has “lost” Tony.  It doesn’t say she lost him to death.

Perhaps she lost him to prison?

Maybe, in the struggle, Tony got the gun away from Rico, turned it on him and shot him.  Then Tony would have gone to prison for the death of Rico.  And maybe that’s how Lola “lost” him.

On the other hand, that’s pretty shallow of Lola to “lose her mind” over Tony when she could easily visit him in prison.

Unless ... Tony received a death sentence and was executed!

Please don’t mention in the comments that a 1985 TV film (and subsequent musical) settled the issue.  This isn’t a story about the star-crossed lovers Tony and Lola.  It’s an essay about “deliberate ambiguity”.

It can be very effective when used as a plot device in a novel (or a song lyric).  By not answering all the questions, it gives the reader (or listener) an opportunity to “fill in the blanks” for oneself.  My version of Lola’s story will almost certainly be different from yours.  And that’s okay, because that allows me to own my version.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Just Keep Playing! Fixing the NFL Overtime Rules

Here’s a novel solution to the NFL’s overtime rules conundrum:  Forget the coin toss and just keep playing!

It’s actually a very elegant solution.  If the score is tied at the end of regulation, whoever has the ball just keeps it, and the game continues until one team scores by touchdown, field goal, or safety.

The problem with the current NFL rules is that it places far too much importance on the coin toss.  The winner of the toss gets to receive a kickoff – regardless of the status of the game when time expired.  And the receiver of the overtime kickoff is the winner in an overwhelming number of games.

What about the argument that the defense is just as important as the offense?  Well, nobody told that to the rule-makers.  The rules of football overwhelmingly favor the offense (ostensibly for both player safety and for fan satisfaction).  The poor defense in overtime has very little chance of holding their own and preventing a score from an offense who is already pumped for victory and has the rules stacked in their favor.

So, I propose: just keep playing.

Here are a few details:

The game would be played in as many 15-minute quarters as necessary to declare a winner.   But the clock would never stop.  Since it’s irrelevant, it would simply keep running, primarily for statistics-keeping purposes.

The play clock, however, would be enforced.  Teams could not call a time-out; they would have to abide by the play clock.  Officials could call time-outs for injuries or other official business.

No challenges from the bench; all challenges would be called from the booth.  (That’s actually one overtime rule the NFL got right.)

And here’s a game changer:  No punts in overtime!  A team would get four downs to advance the ball ten yards or score.  If they fail, the other team takes over on downs.  (Just think of how much that would advance the tempo of the overtime!)  In the case of a failed field goal, the other team takes over on the former line of scrimmage.

If regulation ends with a score which ties the game, overtime begins with the scoring team kicking off.  Then the game continues with the above rules.

In the case of the divisional playoff game on January 23, 2022 between the Bills and the Chiefs, since regulation ended with a Chiefs field goal tying the score, overtime would have begun with the Chiefs kicking off to the Bills.  And the game may have turned out differently.  But at least every person on each team and every fan in the stands and every person watching on television would know what was about to happen.  And nobody could blame the Chief’s win or the Bill’s loss on a coin toss!

The following could have happened:  Chiefs kick off, Bills start on, say, their own 25.  But after four downs, if they haven’t advanced ten yards – and without a punt available to them – the Chiefs could have taken over deep in Bill’s territory and won on a field goal.

There’s no way of knowing how it would have turned out.  But one thing is for sure:  There is no reason to have a coin toss at the beginning of overtime and start the game over completely from scratch.  Simply start the game from the position that existed at the end of regulation and just keep playing.

It’s that simple.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Virology knows no political bounds

I have friends on the right who suggest that the President was infected by his enemies during one of his Covid tests.

I have friends on the left who suggest that the president is faking his infection to receive more attention and sympathy from the press, as well as to avoid another debate appearance.

Politicizing a virus makes as much sense as politicizing a chocolate chip cookie recipe.

The virus has political implications, but not political intent.

Viruses are mini-microscopic. They are invisible and almost impossible to detect.

They are also difficult to study and their behavior is difficult to forecast. Conclusions based on the best research are aggravatingly ambiguous at best.

Masks, hand washing, social distancing, and other protocols are effective, but not fool-proof.

In spite of his outward bravado, the President exists in the most sterile environment possible for any world leader. But even that wasn’t enough to protect him. He was infected just as was Herman Cain, Boris Johnson, Placido Domingo, and Tom Hanks.

If he can get it, anybody can. Virology knows no political bounds.

Instead of making political statements, I’m asking my friends of both ideologies to join me in wishing and praying for a speedy recovery for the President and First Lady, and an end to this madness, hate, and divisiveness.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

What About Your Child's Art?

Many parents wonder how much of their children’s pre-school and elementary art they should keep.  My answer:  all of it.  Or, at least most of it.

Label and date everything and store them in a large secure box somewhere.  Then leave them there and let them simmer -- like a pot of good chili on a cold winter’s night.  Let them simmer in that box for about twenty years or so.

By then, your child be in graduate school or starting a career of his own.  At that time, you can take everything out of the box and go through it.
Your reaction to many of these things will be, “Why in the world did I save this?!”  Those things, you can throw away.

The few art pieces left over may be true masterpieces.  At one time, they were precariously mounted on your refrigerator door with a kitschy magnet.  But now, they are worthy of spending a couple hundred dollars on professional framing.  Display them proudly!