Tuesday, August 18, 2015

...You're fat, you're gay, I'm outta here!!

The title of this post is a quote from one of my favorite comedians, Mike Birbiglia. He's talking about the supposed class clown from his adolescence who got his yuks by calling out his targets and making shallow, meaningless jabs to elicit chuckles from his peers. It's an experience that I'm sure many of us are familiar with (with which many of us are familiar) and is also indicative of what I consider to be a big problem with modern American society.

A major part of the zeitgeist is a push to ensure that everyone feels good about themselves, that everyone is accepted for who they are and what they look like. On the surface it sounds good, right? Just because you're gay, overweight, like video games, can't run fast, are missing an arm, or whatever, does not diminish your value as a human being or your ability to contribute meaningfully to society. This is a sentiment with which I can totally get on board, mostly because it's the truth. (nailed the grammar that time...)

My problem, though, is with the way that many people approach the self-esteem issue, and particularly the language they use to do so. Well-meaning people frequently twist the meanings of words in an attempt to reassure people struggling with whatever personal attribute is in question. The true result of that effort, though is to give that attribute even more power over the person and overshadow whatever meaningful and positive qualities that person may possess.

I realize the above paragraph is clear as mud, so let me throw down a few examples that really bug me. One is the concept of beauty. How many ad campaigns have gone around in the last year or two about "natural bodies" or "real women" or whatever? The sentiment is a good one - the way you look does not determine your intrinsic value. (Take that, Disney!) But the way the concept is presented simply drives home the idea that not only does beauty confer value, it confers a LOT of value, and worse - to lack beauty is to lack value.

Here's the deal - "beauty" means a specific thing. Now, take a quick trip to the living room and open your Big Red Dictionary to the B's: Beauty = "An assemblage of graces or properties pleasing to the eye, the ear, the intellect, the ├Žsthetic faculty, or the moral sense." I don't deny that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I DO deny that everyone is beautiful, and I certainly deny that everyone SHOULD be considered beautiful....and THAT'S OK!

Remember, the way a person looks does not determine their value. Sure, it's an attribute that has value or else we wouldn't have models and celebrities, and that's fine. However, it's not the highest value, and definitely not the only value. Telling people that everybody is beautiful, though, is the wrong message, and not just because it's a blatant lie. In my opinion, the RIGHT message is this:

"Guess what - maybe you're beautiful and maybe you're not. Whatever. That's one minor characteristic about yourself over which you have very little control. Here's what's more important: How do you treat people? What are your ambitions and what are you doing to achieve them? Are you a positive force in your world, working to make it better for yourself and those around you?

Because THAT is what determines a person's value, isn't it? The choices they make and the actions that they perform. I get so tired of hearing about "gay pride" (Whoa, that took a turn, didn't it? stay with me...) Look - you don't get to be proud of being gay. Again, it's a twisting of language to encourage people to accept something about themselves that some find difficult. Again, the motivation is good!! But the application is very problematic. If you'll forgive me for using the second-person voice, you didn't choose to be gay, right? That's not a decision you made or something that you've worked to achieve. You either accept that about yourself or you don't, but you don't get to be proud of it. That's like me saying that I'm proud of having black hair, or that I'm proud of having reached a height of six feet. Doesn't really work, does it?

The problem with that type of language is that it creates an atmosphere in which a person's entire identity and sense of value is tied up in that one arbitrary, accidental attribute (alliteration, for the win!) You don't gain or lose value by being a man vs. being a woman, or by being gay or straight, or having pretty eyes or not. We're asking the wrong questions, teaching the wrong lessons, and building a society where a person's inborn attributes, or their feelings about said attributes, matter more than their decisions and actions.

Like many of you, I was bullied in junior high. I'm not going to play the victim and pretend that it was this terrible experience - I was never taken out behind the building and beaten up, or given a wedgie or whatever, and I certainly can't relate to the horrors that some people have been through. But I was the smallest kid in the school, a bookworm and band nerd, and jokes were made and it was tough sometimes. Obviously I didn't realize it at the time, but in hindsight it is clear to me now that the reason those jokes weren't harder on me than they were is that my sense of value wasn't wrapped up in the qualities that were being attacked. Maybe I wasn't a great athlete, but I was one of the smartest kids in class. Maybe I wasn't good at talking to girls, but I could play a mean trombone. I had other qualities of value that trumped whatever shortcomings were being exploited by my classmates.

I realize that not every kid has as healthy a self-esteem as I did, and that not every kid has the loving family and support system that I did. That's all the more reason that we need to help people who struggle with self image to identify and develop the positive qualities that they possess. When we tell people, especially young people, that they're all beautiful, or that they're perfect just the way they are, aren't we just feeding them a lie that allows them to ignore their shortcomings? Aren't we placing entirely too much value on the things that should matter the least? We need to start focusing on and celebrating the things that matter - people's attitudes, their talents, their skills, their work, their energy, their passion, their goals, their dreams, their relationships. Until we do that, aren't we just speeding up our descent into an even more self-centered, shallow, reality-tv watching, cell-phone staring, low-self-esteem having world?

I dream of a world in which the response to "You're fat, you're gay!" is simply, "Yeah, that may be, but who cares? Neither of those things diminishes my value, and even if they did I have other qualities that make me a good person!" We need to help each other find and build on the qualities that matter, so that the qualities that don't will hopefully have a little less control over us.

Sidebar - it absolutely baffles me that in today's politically correct society we're still allowed to say "gay vs. straight" as if to suggest that heterosexuality is correct and that homosexuality is a flaw. Just something I've noticed. Stay positive, internet!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

...that's some good f-ing church music!

There are many things about myself that I find interesting, from sort of an outside-looking-in perspective. Now, I don't mean, "Gosh, I'm such a fascinating guy who anybody would be lucky to know!" (however true that may be...). I mean things about myself that don't really make sense and I spend a fair amount of time trying to understand how I got that way. One of these is my puzzling love affair with religious music.

Before I go any further, I should remind you that I haven't believed in God since high school (I 'lost my faith' when I was about 16, ironically around the time that I was going to (and really enjoying) a bunch of church camps, but that's a whole other blog post. At any rate, Catholic high school for the win!). Bizarrely, all throughout and even after college I spent many Sunday hours sitting in a Catholic church, guitar in hand, singing folksy tunes about the glories of God. Admittedly, I also spent large chunks of those hours rolling my eyes at the nonsense going on up there by the altar, but whatever reservations I had about the content didn't stop me from standing up and singing my cold little agnostic heart out about Jesus' love.

At the time, my rationale for going was that it afforded me a musical outlet that I couldn't get anywhere else. Playing guitar, singing, and improvising strumming patterns and vocal harmonies was, and still is, one of my favorite things to do and although I enjoyed the music that I made during marching band or orchestra, or even in my individual practice, it was simply a different kind of positive musical experience. Combine that factor with the super nice and usually fun crew of musicians and priests at nearly any service, and it was easily worth a few hours of my weekend.

If someone asked me what was I REALLY doing there, I'm not sure I had a decent answer beyond that. Maybe on some level I was just aching for whatever spiritual enlightenment I could find, but I don't think that's was it (sorry, Mom). I think I finally figured it out, though, after an experience I had at a gig this Christmas. There is a local Christian liberal arts college that has a terrific music program but is short on trombone players at the moment, so I've helped beef up their symphonic band for several concerts including their Christmas show which was combined with their choirs. Several times throughout that particular performance, the crowd joined in on standard carols, which somehow caused this bitter old man's heart to grow three sizes that day.

It was those moments that finally illuminated what really draws me to religious music. In that concert there were 200 musicians on stage and over 1000 in the audience, and when all of those people sang "Oh come let us adore him!" they freaking MEANT it. It didn't matter that the vowels and releases weren't completely in sync, and whatever little harmony anyone was singing was barely in tune. In spite of the lack of polish, or maybe because of it, that was an incredibly moving musical experience because of how genuine the sentiments were that were being expressed.

Looking back on my years of doing church music, I think that is what has kept me coming back for more. Yes, those musicians wanted to sound good, but they weren't doing up there for the sake of sounding good. The music was just a vessel through which they channeled some very powerful feelings and even though I didn't share those feelings, what I felt about the music itself was strong enough to at least fake my way through it. I was able to empathize with the worship that my friends were engaged in, and use that to help them make great music. It is no coincidence that in some of my least fun church music experiences, the musicians were focusing more on the music that what the music meant.

That last bit, I've learned, is also the key to a great performance of secular music. If the performer is thinking about notes and rhythms and air movement and blah blah blah, the performance can be as perfect as it wants to be but it will still be dry and lifeless. If, on the other hand, the musician has a message that they really believe in and are trying to convey with their music, the audience will latch onto that sentiment and really feel something beyond being "performed at." It doesn't even particularly matter what that sentiment is - it could be as simple as "This is really fun!" or "This part is sad...now this part is happy!" or "Here comes the knight to save the damsel!"

Whether the music is secular or sacred, with text or without, formal or informal, classical, jazz, or popular, if the performer really buys into what they are doing, even if that performer has only played for a week, it will be a moving musical experience for them and whatever audience they happen to have. And as long as I can find church musicians who really believe in what they're doing, I'll keep going back. Keep singing, Internet.

Friday, September 19, 2014

My Tribute to Talk Like a Pirate Day, 2014!

Twas the night before Pirate Day - all through the world,
Not a creature was sober, not the boys nor the girls.
The bottles were set on the counter with care,
In hopes that the rum fairy soon would be there.
The lubbers were nestled all snug in their beds
while visions of cutlasses danced in their heads.
The wench with her eye-patch and I with my hook
had just settled in for some pre-Pirates nook
When in from the sea there arose such a clatter
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter!
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The sails on the breast of the fast-rolling waves
Gave a frightening twist to the end of the day.
When what to my terrified eyes did appear,
But a crew of a few dozen scalawags near.
With a challenging captain, so angry and weird,
I knew in a moment he must be Blackbeard.
More rapid than cannons those rowboats they came,
And he cursed and he shouted and called them by name:
"Now, Basher! Now, Pegleg! Now Starbuck and Dead-eye!
On, Vomit! On Putrid! On Bad-Luck and Red-eye!
To the midst of the town, to each house and each hall!
Now pillage, and plunder, and loot away, all!"
As hailstones that before the hurricane fly,
When they met with resistance they made them all cry.
So all through the town the pirates they flew
with their sacks full of loot and that old Blackbeard, too.
And then, with a pounding, I heard on my street
The stomping and pounding of black-booted feet.
As I drew out my sword and was turning around,
Through the door dirty Blackbeard came in with a bound.
He was dressed all in rags, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of jewels he had on his back,
and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes - how they twinkled! His beard, how scary!
His cheeks were like leather, his stance made me wary!
His tight little mouth was pursed in a line
and his quick shallow breaths smelled like cheap german wine.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had two guns out, though his hands were unsteady.
As he'd clearly been through several bottles already.
He was lithe and was lean, a right spindly old dog,
And I cringed when I saw him, my mouth open, agog.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
did nothing to relieve me of my deep dark dread.
He spoke several words in a rough grinding drawl
while filling his bag with the best from my hall.
Then taking a pull from his hip flask of rum,
He growled and said, "Gyarr, this town has been fun!"
He sprang out the door, to his team gave a whistle,
and away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere they sailed out of sight -
"Talk like a pirate, ya-all, and to ya-all a good night!"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I want to be a teacher...or maybe not...or maybe?

I've had a few people getting on my case the last week or two to write a new blog post since I apparently haven't put anything out since the Reagan administration. Now seems like as good a time as any to write the easiest and most pertinent of blog posts: the "Hey, Paul - be sure to keep us posted!" post. The new things in my life in the last few months are my graduation and...well...that's pretty much it. Things have been pretty stagnant in PaulTown lately, which is mostly ok. The lack of excitement, though, has given me plenty of time to think about what I'd like to do next.

When I was graduating with my bachelor's degree, I had to decide whether I wanted to pursue teaching or trombone performance. In the four years since then I've been fortunate enough to do both, spending two years as a band director then two years getting a masters degree in trombone. I had hoped that by the time I finished grad school I would have figured out which of those two things I wanted to make the primary focus of my career, but alas I am currently in the same state of indecision that has kept my mind racing for half a decade.

The last two weeks, though, have made me think that the hazy picture may clear up a little bit. I'm fortunate to have several close friends who are very successful band directors, and if there's one thing that all great band directors know it's that they don't know enough. It's the really good ones who are constantly bringing in outsiders to help give their students the best instruction possible, and I was lucky this summer to play the role of Expert for a week each with Shawn's marching band in Nebraska and Geoff's in Ohio, both terrific bands made up of fun, energetic, and positive students.

I like to say that doing short-term clinics like these consist of everything that I love about teaching (building positive relationships with students, seeing their eyes light up when they achieve higher than they ever have, etc.) and none of the things with which I struggle (negative parents, tedious meetings and paperwork, discipline problems). While this is certainly true, working with a group of kids for just one week is very shallow. I don't get to build the same relationships with them that their "real" teacher does, and I don't get to see the progression from day one to day 100. I leave feeling very good about the knowledge that I've imparted and the improvement that I've inspired, but I find myself missing the jokes and the nicknames, the rehearsals and the routines. I find myself hoping that they've taken my lessons to heart and wondering whether or not they'll maintain the same upward trajectory that I'd helped them start.

Wow, I'm a poet and I didn't even realize it.

The point is, one week just isn't enough. When I do a clinic, I love every minute of the time I spend with those kids and I'm not too modest to say that I can see the tremendous positive impact I have on the students, both musically and personally...but then I have to ride off into the sunset, never to be seen or heard from again.

When I left teaching to dedicate myself to the trombone, I often remarked how nice it was to be selfish for a while. As a teacher, my focus and energy is targeted 100% at my students and everything I do is designed to help them succeed. As a trombonist, though, while I want my audience to have a great experience and find something fulfilling in my performances, ultimately I play music because I enjoy it. I do it because it makes ME happy and I select the groups with whom I play and the pieces that I practice because I love to do it.

Working with students the last few weeks has made me realize that I can't live like that. With almost no students to worry about and no romantic interests to speak of for the past two years, I've been living for myself. Almost all of my time, energy, and focus has been spent on how I can make myself better and how I can make myself happy.

Now, don't get me wrong - all this Me Time has been great, and it has allowed me to learn a lot and develop a lot of skills that give me a wide variety of professional options. I've grown as a musician and a teacher, and now I think I'm ready to return to the classroom - ready to live for someone else again.

Well, at least I think that until I get into a rehearsal next week and think, "Man, this is great - screw teaching! I want to be a full-time musician!"


Keep practicing, Internet.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

...A child's tale...

"But mom, can't I stay up a little while longer??"

Sharon could almost hear the echo of Jeffrey's age-old complaint as she carried him up the stairs to his bed room. His eyelids still twitched while his five-year-old mind tried to muscle them open for a few more bill-filled moments of play. The moment Sharon gently laid him onto his dinosaur sheets, though, she knew that his struggle had ended. His mind, although desperate to return to the fierce battle between Sparkle the Fairy Queen and Chomper the evil Tyrannosaurus Overlord that raged in the living room, wasn't enough to overpower his limp body, exhausted from a hard evening's conquest.

Before returning to some late-night paperwork, Sharon paused to watch her son's tiny chest rise and fall and grinned at the thought of his silly childhood fantasies. As the scent of freshly brewed coffee invited her back downstairs, she took special care not to step on her daughter's Polly Pocket doll that she suspected Jeffrey had set up for a morning ambush.

By now, the boy, barely aware that his mother had scooped him off the den floor and carried him to his room,  had gone peacefully and swiftly into the land of nod where he currently drifted between asleep and awake. He could subconsciously hear his deep breaths and his mind's eye transformed that faint whooshing into a soaring adventure that swept him away as sleep took him.

The dreaming child opened his eyes to a peaceful scene. He was soaring on a dandelion puff, no bigger than an ant, drifting peacefully through the air above a lonely meadow, encircled by a wondrous green forest. One leafless maple tree rose out of the meadow, and Jeffrey leaped off his floating ride and alit on a branch. From here, he could see in all directions and gazed in wonder at the glorious and tranquil setting.

A tender breeze rustled Jeffrey's perch and directed his eyes to the lush meadow carpet below where, to his delight, he could see fairies dancing elatedly into and out of the grasses and flowers. At first, the pixies seemed to be moving at random, diving to and fro as various fancies filled them with terpsichorean energy. Jeffrey watched wide-eyed as two pixies appeared to be dancing together, complimenting and contrasting the other's movements amidst a chaos of sporadic, yet somehow synchronized motion.

One of the fairies nearest the edge of the meadow suddenly came rushing back to the maple tree around which others frolicked. Though it was silent, Jeffrey easily identified a warning to the other fairies, who abandoned their joyous dance and mobilized into what, to Jeffrey's eye, could only be some sort of defensive position.

The fairies barely had time to assemble before a legion of massive reptilian warriors came crashing out of the forest. Jeffrey watched in stunned silence as raptors, tyrannosaurs, triceratops, and pterodactyls came pouring from between the trees and viciously attacked the tiny, defenseless creatures, only moments removed from their carefree flitting. Teeth gnashed against teeth, claws whistled through the air, and fairy after fairy was stomped, eaten, or fled in terror from the ravenous, remorseless beasts. In shock, Jeffrey tumbled from his quivering branch and fell, horrified, down down down into the chaotic fray below. Just as he was about to land in the grass, where his certain death awaited under the foot of the massive army above, the two fairies whom he had witnessed earlier swept past. Still paired, each fairy grabbed one of Jeffrey's arms and carried him to the other end of the meadow where the remaining survivors were gathering.

Jeffrey was being carried with his back toward the destination, so he was forced to watch with reluctance while the dinosaur horde still stomped around the meadow. The mosters gradually realized that their lilliputian enemy was either destroyed or had fled, and their thundering steps calmed from a frenzy of attack to a determined victory march. They turned tail and plodded back into their forest home, thoughts of a successful rampage fueling their contended and confident strides

By now, all the fairies and their rescued human guest had gathered, safe but shattered.They all ignored Jeffrey, unable or unwilling to spare any thought for this lone stranger while they tended their wounds, counted their losses, and caught their breath from the sad fate they had narrowly escaped.

Although Jeffrey could not understand their strange tittering language, he was able to follow the overall arc of their dialogue in the aftermath of the tragedy. It was clear, even to his childish mind, that a return attack on the dinosaurs was out of the question. Aside from the obvious futility of such an effort, the fairies were much more interested in mourning their losses. They sang their spritely dirges for hours, and Jeffrey was entranced by the beauty of their funereal songs and dances, even following such a ghoulish scene.

Having long forgotten that he was dreaming, Jeffrey drifted off to sleep, exhausted from the frantic scene that had transpired. He was jolted awake immediately and opened his eyes, shocked, to find himself in the opposite end of the forest, amid a scene of celebrating giants fresh off their resounding victory over the hated fairies. Though he could see the raucous party in the distance he was nearest to a pair of young dinosaurs not sharing in the larger group's revelry. Like with the fairies, Jeffrey could not understand the grunts and growls from the juvenile Tyrannosaurus or the whistles and howls from his partner, a triceratops, but the tone of regret was clear. These two, alone but united in their remorse, obviously wanted to somehow make amends for the gristly pain inflicted upon the fairies.

An older Brontosaurus waddled over. Despite wielding significant influence over the rest of the dinosaurs due to his age and size he had been unable to prevent the attack. He had noticed the young pair's reluctance and was coming over to share in their grief over the committed atrocity. Out of their heavy hearts, though, came more than a regret for past sins. Out came a firm desire for action. Jeffrey observed their foreign but clear method of communication and understood their growls, grunts and roars as the determination of the trio to somehow right the day's wrongs.

The trio, with Jeffrey following cautiously behind, approached the still reveling group of warriors. Steeled by the wisdom, eloquence, and influence of their elder compatriot, the passionate but nervous youths pleaded with the barbaric masses. The celebration gradually became more and more muted as the young pair somehow swayed a growing number to their cause of peace. Jeffrey watched in astonishment as the message of brotherhood spread through the forest and the entire army of dinosaurs, still wet with the fairies' blood, began to see the error of their ways.

They immediately set out of the forest en masse, this time not on a mission of murder and destruction, but on one of peace and restoration. They reached the meadow where the fairies had already begun to timidly resume their dance. The first sight of the dinosaurs send the sprites fleeing back to the safety of their side of the forest, but a few brave if cautious fairies began to realize the dinosaurs' true intention. More and more of the fairies joined the unlikely meeting under the leafless maple tree and a dance ensued the likes of which neither groups had ever seen.

Spurred on by the promise of lasting peace, fraternity, and happiness the oxymoronic gathering joined their numbers in a cacophony of apology, forgiveness, and eventually friendship. The fairies swirled their dance around and among the dinosaurs' bulk and the rapturous song reached a frenetic peak that jolted Jeffrey awake.

He started in his bed, awoken by the wonders of his unusually vivid dream. Sunlight peaked through his window and in it he could spy his sister's fairy doll on his dresser and a dinosaur on his bedsheets. An impish grin appeared on his face and he whispered, "I know JUST how to end last night's battle!" He threw off his blanket and leaped out of bed, refreshed from the night's adventures and ready to begin a new day.

Full of energy, he ran out of his room and down the hall, crushing the forgotten Polly Pocket underfoot in his excitement to make his dream a make-believe reality.

The End.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

...the sky is falling!!!

Ok, boys and girls. I've resisted this for about six years, but I'm afraid it's time. I think it's time to call it a day on Bo Pelini's tenure as Nebraska's head football coach.

The negativity surrounding the Husker football program has always made me very upset. Every mistake, every lost game, and every bad call has driven a supposedly classy fan base to explode in a white hot rage directed at Pelini, Tim Beck, John Papuchis, or - least deservedly of all - Taylor Martinez. Many of the complaints have had a great deal of merit - the repeated defensive breakdowns, the offensive turnovers and penalties, the problematic playcalling on both sides - but it has really seemed like the Husker fanbase has felt victimized by mediocre football instead feeling supportive of a young team and young coaching staff still finding its legs.

However, we are now in Year Six of the Pelini experiment and the breakdowns and mistakes are still not fixed. The recruiting hasn't been good enough to keep experienced and talented players on both sides of the ball, instead forcing the coaches to decide on one or the other. The offense, even behind one of the most dynamic players in the country is still stagnant and conservative when, in my opinion, they should go big or fail trying.

To be fair, I know almost nothing about A) coaching football, B) the administrative and planning concerns of such a big program, C) the recruiting problems that have occurred beyond the coaches' control, and D) the behind-closed-doors conversations between Tom Osborne, Shawn Eichorst, Pelini, and the staff and players. It should be clear by now, though, that this isn't working, so I'd like to propose a (far-fetched and unlikely (read: won't happen...ever)) suggestion.

The first move: Replace Tim Beck and John Papuchis, the two coordinators. The problems with both units start at the top, and while both coaches and their players have shown flashes of brilliance and dominance, that has been the exception rather than the rule. I have neither heard nor observed any major problems with any of the position coaches but any knowledge about those jobs is clearly out of my pay grade.

I would like to see someone like a Scott Frost in the offensive position - not only does he have a Nebraska connection and would understand the pressure of such a job, but he has produced several years of very successful coaching. Additionally, he has learned under one of the best offensive minds in college football at Oregon and is currently calling plays for the Green and Gold offensive juggernaut. The difference between that and, say, Beck's success at Kansas is that Kansas's offensive firepower was a flash-in-the-pan for one season behind a fluky-good quarterback and the culmination of Mangino's tenure with the Jayhawks. Any given Nebraska game is a microcosm of Kansas's offense under Mangino and Beck: A few great drives and big plays sprinkled around extended doldrums. On the other hand, Oregon's success is proven, sustained, and reliable, which is exactly the type of program that Nebraska needs.

More to say about the defensive coordinator position later.

The second move: Put Rich Fisher or Ron Brown in charge of special teams. The receivers and running backs are consistently the best units on the team, and both coaches have shown the ability to develop and inspire players to play confidently, aggressively, and cleanly....three qualities that have been sorely lacking in the return/coverage game since, honestly, before Pelini even arrived. (Santino Panico, anyone?) A dynamic return game and stifling cover game (or a few blocked kicks every once in a while?) can do a lot to decide a game...or have we forgotten why Frank Beamer has been successful at Virginia Tech for 25 years?

The third move: This is the most unlikely of anything that I'm proposing, by a mile. I'd like to see Bo Pelini demoted to Defensive Coordinator. He proved over five years and three jobs that he can take players and turn them into a dominant defense. He did it at Nebraska, then Oklahoma, then won a national title at LSU. When he is allowed to focus 100% of his time and effort on defense, good things happen. In order for this move to happen, athletic director Eichorst would have to have some serious stones to even suggest it, and Pelini would have to have some serious humility and loyalty to even consider it. Additionally, both Pelini and the incoming head coach would have to handle the transition very carefully to avoid any sort of power struggle or loyalty battles (real or perceived) among the players.

The fourth move: Hire a CEO head coach. (Mack Brown will be looking for work after this season...HA! Can you imagine the Nebraska fan base embracing him??) Look at the success that Mack has had a Texas (until recently, I mean), or a guy like Brady Hoke at Michigan, or Nick Saban at Alabama. These men are overseeing their programs but don't have their hands in any one major facet which enables them to handle all the big-picture things. When did Oklahoma State start to have big-time success? (no jokes, now...) When Mike Gundy gave up play-calling duties and focused on being a HEAD coach.

If I were to make a suggestion, I'd look to a guy who has had a run of success at a mid-major, or maybe even a FCS guy like Craig Bohl. I don't want to see a guy coming from a major coordinator job - I want to see a guy with experience and success as a head coach - who has sustained a program and produced a clean, consistent on-field product. Also, we don't need someone who has turned around a losing program (Bob Stoops, Bill Snyder) - we already have a successful program stocked with talented players - we need someone who has taken an already-good program and elevated it to championship status, a la Urban Meyer, Hoke, Les Miles, Brian Kelly, etc.

Regardless of what Eichorst decides to do with his football program, it is clear to everyone in college football that the Husker Machine is not operating at optimum efficiency, and honestly, it is difficult for me to imagine Bo keeping his job if he isn't able to drag his team into the Big Ten Championship game again. And even then, if Nebraska is blown out (again), he should feel the heat regardless.

Writing this makes me feel dirty. Even under Callahan, I was always a supportive voice for those in charge of the program amid a Red Sea calling for blood. I think now I've thrown my hat in the ring along with the thousands of others looking for improvement. Like many Husker Faithful, I'd be pacified by a conference championship, but after three games this team is still failing the eyeball test. Good luck, Internet.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I don't remember the last time I posted here at The Places, and I don't feel like going back to check just yet. I don't even remember what I wrote about, so I'll have to check that too, as soon as I publish this post.

Sorry for the strange opening. I've been reading Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" and I've found that my writing voice is heavily influenced by whatever I'm reading at the time. I noticed it especially during January and February when I was reading a lot of philosophy, and my (few) posts during that time took on that lofty, high-brow tone, and again now.

Bizarrely, my thoughts also follow that same pattern. Not that my thoughts and ideas themselves are so fluid as to mold themselves around the most recent influence, necessarily. But the actual voice I hear in my head (just one...) takes on a different character depending on what I've been consuming. The easiest example is that whenever I listen to a lot of Eddie Izzard my thoughts come in a British accent. It's very odd to go through my day like that. I don't actually speak in that accent, because I can't, but I hear it in my head which is a little unsettling.

I have found a few youtube videos that offer instructions on developing various accents, but I haven't actually followed through and practiced enough to convince anybody that I can really speak like that.

You may have noticed, but I don't have anything specific to write about. Somebody asked me recently why I haven't been posting, and I didn't have a good answer for her. (Hi, Amanda!) It's not that I haven't had the time, and it's also not that I haven't been thinking about things or making big life decisions since my last post. (Again, I don't know when or what it was)

...buuut, while I was reading about 15 minutes ago my mind started racing and I couldn't focus on Vonnegut so I decided to bring my computer out onto the roof (I read on the roof) and jot down some nonsense. It may have been the coffee that sent my mind into overdrive, but I don't think so because I usually pour myself a cup when I come out here and can generally put in about an hour of reading before I get too distracted and have to go inside to practice some more. Today it was only about thirty minutes. Oh well.

I guess now, since most of you have given up on this post containing anything of substance or value, I can throw in some brief "keeping you posted" nuggets. I have one more year of my master's degree and I'm very excited for it to get started in about a month. After this upcoming fall quarter I will have taken more classes than my degree requires, so that's something. I intend to maintain my first 4.0 GPA since grade school, so that's something too.

I've spent my summer mostly practicing and reading, with a little bit of teaching thrown in here and there. My playing has really improved over the last two months, which I'm very excited about. I've really changed the way that I listen to myself and the way that I organize my practicing which has made a big difference in my development.

That's long enough, I think. I have some more news that you may or may not be interested in, concerning my post-graduation plans (Dr. Paul, anyone?) and a possible part-time teaching job for this year.

Side bar: I love that phrase, "may or may not." It's a really dumb thing to say, isn't it? I mean, those are literally the only two options...

You may resume your regularly scheduled programming, Internet.