Oh John Carroll

Month: September 2012 (page 1 of 3)

Kay Ess You

I now live in a college football town.

This is noteworthy because I’ve attended two schools which proudly sold “Undefeated in Football” t-shirts because, well, they didn’t have a football program.  To then live in a town that would suffer without such a program has come as a tremendous shock.

I live a few minutes from Bill Snyder Family Stadium, where the Kansas State Wildcats play.  They are currently undefeated, and are now ranked in the top ten thanks to a victory over their talented conference rivals at Oklahoma.  I’ve thrown myself into the team as best I could: Rachael and I have attended a game, and headed to a popular bar to take in the latest victory.

Coming from Philadelphia, I’m not unfamiliar with sports fanaticism.  But I was caught off guard by the consistent, unabashed and at times extreme pride that this town had for its college football team.  I came to Manhattan unaware of the Kansas State football team.  I assumed this was a basketball school.  Four weeks into their season, though, and I’ve already absorbed a good deal of the team history, and not even by choice.  I soak it all up just by making my way around town.

What I do identify with, though, is the joy in being recognized.  The KSU-Oklahoma game was broadcast in primetime across the nation on Fox.  Even though it was a road game for the Wildcats, there was plenty of talk, and some shots, of the Little Apple during the broadcast, as well as on subsequent college football wrap-up shows.

The town seems to thrive on such recognition.  And for someone who worried about falling off the map as he became swallowed by the middle of it, I wonder if my new neighbors share those same fears, or if we’ve simply found different ways to arrive at the same feeling.

I’m not sure, but I’ll continue to learn: each and every Saturday.

Season After Season

I did not watch the Emmys last night.  In fact, I never watch the Emmys.  This might come as a surprise to friends of mine, who have been to my various Oscar parties over the years.  At times, it comes as a surprise to me: I like watching good television shows, and I’m often familiar with a number of the nominees.  In fact, in recent years, I am probably familiar with more Emmy nominees than Oscar nominees.

As my Twitter timeline was flooded with Emmy tweets last night, I tried to think about why I have no interest in the show.  For years, I’ve assumed it’s simply because I disagree with the winners, and thought the voters had bland taste.  While this might be true, it’s not an Oscar turn-off for me, even though those awards can certainly be accused of conservative, and even poor, decisions.

I didn’t come up with a good answer until this morning, when I read a brief recap of the show.  I think what bothers me about the Emmy is the distinct lack of variety or nuance in handing out awards.  From year to year, there’s hardly any true variety amongst winners: shows tend to sweep large swaths of statues, as if there’s been a concerted effort to heap praise upon a show.  But rarely does such attention seem born of particular arcs or efforts.

We live in a time when television seasons are increasingly distinct entities.  Now, more than ever, we watch television shows as they were produced: we not only view episodes in the order they were aired (and/or shot, thanks to restructured episode orders on DVD and streaming services), but we talk about seasons as products in their entirety.  Episodes are no longer the main dish, but courses in a larger meal we’re consuming.

Emmy voters, though, don’t seem to view television that way.  And it applies to both the winners I love (Mad Men) and winners I don’t care for (Modern Family): their recognition doesn’t seem attached to any particular meaning, or arc, or performance.  In other words, there seems to be little value in winning one award.  Success is only achieved from winning several of them.

Maybe this is why the Oscars are more fortunate, and more popular: they have the advantage of starting with a new slate every year, thus avoiding this problem entirely.  At least when I watch the Oscars, I know what they’re awarding, and can suss out some reason.  Each individual award is infused with great import.  With the Emmys, such stature is increasingly unachievable.

Emoji Dickinson

Why was “Emoticon Dickinson” on my mind?  Well, I realized we needed a sequel worthy of our time.  Here’s “Emoji Dickinson”:

Emoticon Dickinson

Since a web site update seems to have borked the original, here’s “Emoticon Dickinson,” which originally ran at The Foghorn:

Let Teddy Win →

One of my favorite ongoing stories while I lived in the Washington, DC area: the ongoing plight of Teddy Roosevelt in the Washington Nationals Presidents Race.  Click the link above to view an E:60 piece on Teddy and company.  What fascinates me about the Presidents Race is how indicative it is of the Nationals’ own team philosophy of delayed gratification.  Whether it’s Teddy’s races, Strasburg’s arm, or Bryce Harper being plunked by a pitch, the Nationals seem not to take delight in any success now, focusing instead on what success might look like in 5-10 years.

I can’t tell you how many “Teddy’s going to win!” false alarms there have been over the years.  I was even in the ballpark for a few of them.  I’ll be interested to see when they do let him win — if they ever.

Horsing Around

Needing some time to kill in a waiting room this afternoon, I read Malcolm Gladwell’s recent New Yorker piece on Jerry Sandusky and the mind of a pedophile.  The piece has a lot of strong reporting, and is often fascinating.  But some of its conclusions bothered me: in particular, I was troubled by Gladwell’s seeming sympathy for Joe Paterno and some of his incriminated colleagues at Penn State.

I wasn’t the only one.  Once I got home from my doctor’s appointment, I soon saw a piece on Deadspin that shared my concerns.  It’s worth not only reading, but diving into the comments as well: Gladwell himself offers a reply.

That comment provides some clarity for what Gladwell was attempting to do, although I still think it’s ultimately unearned.  As the Deadspin response notes, there’s simply too much left out here.  Gladwell is right to point out how thorny these incidents are, and how we shouldn’t let hindsight blind what we do and do not see in the subsequently investigated moment(s).  But that doesn’t seem to forgive the repetition of mistakes made at Penn State.

The piece reminds me about what frequently bothers me as I read Gladwell: that in seeking some new or contrarian stance, too many liberties are taken for the sake of the perspective.  I almost feel like I can see the author’s awareness of shaping his own persona in the text.  This would be troublesome in any piece of writing, but certainly one like this with such high stakes.

Drinking and tweeting →

Another week, another piece in The Hype Weekly: in advance of the local Oktoberfest, I prepped readers on ways to use their smartphones to learn about the beers they’ll be drinking.

Is It Better Than Geno’s?

During my first week in Kansas, I tweeted about my initial encounter with a local “Philadelphia cheesesteak.”  My pal D-Mac replied: “Better than Geno’s, I assume.”

I loved his reply, as it was quite a simple way to judge a cheesesteak.  Geno’s is a not-very-good cheesesteak further torpedoed by the stand’s garish design and its now-deceased owner’s terrible politics and misguided interpretation of patriotism.  It’s the city’s cheesesteak tourist trap, and the last place anyone should spend their time while visiting Philadelphia.

“Is it better than Geno’s?” had a nice ring to it.  “Philly Cheesesteaks” are notoriously terrible because the name is evidence enough of how they’re trying too hard.  If the name is unnecessarily redundant, what else are they getting wrong?  The answer, usually, is: “A lot.”

My initial idea was to write a blog where I tried cheesesteaks and reviewed them on a simple scale: are they better than Geno’s?  But this would have been a miserable task: I don’t want to eat cheesesteaks all the time, let alone potentially bad cheesesteaks.  Plus, I wasn’t about to travel the country looking for them.  I had options around me, but not many.

And so, Is It Better Than Geno’s? is born.  I started the blog by adding the first five entries, and I’ll certainly chip in with others along the way.  But my main goal is to broadcast it to Philadelphians, former Philadelphians, and cheesesteak lovers, in the hopes that they might eat a cheesesteak or two (or ten!) for the sake of contributing to the blog.  There’s a submission link right on the main page.

The site is currently hosted on Tumblr, but you can get there easily by clicking the link above or going to www.betterthangenos.com.  Hope to see some of you contributing in the future!

Seeking PHL in MHK →

Also in The Hype Weekly: I went around town tasting Manhattan’s cheesesteaks.  I was surprised to find a lot of them — so many, in fact, that I may need to work on a sequel, as I’ve found others since publication.

Better Know Your Record Store →

I wrote a piece for The Hype Weekly — the alternative weekly of Manhattan, KS — about Sisters of Sound, a great record store located in the town’s Aggieville area.  My idea was to profile the shop by learning more about its most (and least!) popular records and artists.

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