Category Archives: Other sports

From Payback to Payback

Melvin shoved his feet into the blue practice futbol cleats and started to stretch.  He had been recovering from a nasty cold for the last couple of weeks and hadn’t been able to exercise at all for an extra few days because he was so tired.  His best friend Chester said that Melvin’s girlfriend probably got him sick but the jury is still out on that one.  As far as he was concerned, if she had given him a cold then her best friend Maria would’ve gotten it too.  They were all so close together in that tent in the woods after all.

Melvin’s mom wouldn’t let him practice futbol drills either until his doctor said it was okay.  He tried to explain to her that after his sinuses cleared up and his appetite came back, the doctor’s permission wouldn’t mean he was any more “okay” to practice than if his physical therapist had said it.  She wouldn’t listen.  He filed away her concern as parental habits that wouldn’t change, particularly after the year she’d had.  Melvin was all she had left in the world.  Her last remaining grandparent and uncle died in a car accident with a distracted driver at the beginning of the year.  His dad left when he was eight years-old and might as well be dead too, considering he left a blank check for his college fund account.  Melvin wasn’t sure if it was legal but it was a considerable chunk of change.

As Melvin got into his warm up exercises, he realized he’d forgotten his phone in the car, which also meant he didn’t have any music to help the practice go by faster.  He jogged back to where he parked his car and was about to unlock the passenger side door when he saw the fuzzy, black blob by the back tire.  It was about the size of a quesadilla and was rocking from side to side.  Melvin did what any high school student who paid attention in biology class would do — he looked around for a thick twig and gently touched the fuzzy blob.  (What, did you really think he was going to touch it with his bare hands?)

It yelped.  Melvin thought perhaps it was a kitten, but he didn’t want to pick it up in case it had rabies.  He touched it again with the twig and the blob unfurled itself.  Two green eyes, a pink nose, and two sharp teeth fixed onto his position.  Melvin dropped the twig and got inside the driver side of the car and sat there for a few minutes.  He picked up his phone and searched the internet for “fuzzy, black animal, green eyes, sharp teeth.”  He thought it best to skip futbol drills.  He could always tell the coach he still wasn’t feeling up to it.  The coach would understand.  Melvin rolled down the back passenger side window and climbed into the back seat to see if that possible kitten was still next to the tire.  It wasn’t, but where did it go?

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This piece of prose came to me while listening to Tori Amos.

Original pic cred: Lukas Eggers @beschtephotography, unsplash

Likely Scenarios

Marguerite was ten steps away from the locker room when she realized she forgot to check if she had locked her car doors.  It had only been a habit to check and double check the car doors for a few weeks, but Marguerite couldn’t do anything without checking…and sometimes vlogging herself doing it so that if she forgot, she could just look at her private social image-sharing account.  She used to boast to anyone who would listen, and sometimes to those who happened to be within earshot, of her impeccable memory.  Locker combinations, class schedules, menu items, board of directors, starting rosters of her favorite sports teams — all she had to do was study those printed lists for three to five minutes and it was filed away in her brain.

Something changed when she was a junior in college, though, because it took more than five minutes to commit to memory the names of the rookies on the volleyball team.  She was on the team captain; if anyone should know their names, it would be the team captain.  There were only six names to remember and she could only recall four of them easily, because they were short and rhymed.  Lori, Glory, and Zoe.  Marguerite didn’t want to alarm the coaches unnecessarily, so she didn’t tell anyone.  She didn’t even worry about it initially — she figured it was just stress.  Being a junior meant she had to pick classes strategically not only to fulfill the requirements of her applied statistics and data science major but also the general education requirements.  

If only the names of her new teammates were the only instance, but the memory lapses continued.  She couldn’t always remember if she’d brushed her teeth before going to bed or if she’d swapped out her dirty practice clothes for clean ones.  Routine activities that she’d previously hardly had to think about were suddenly consistently in the spotlight of her mental checklist.  It had been a couple of months since her memory began to fizzle, and while Marguerite still wasn’t alarmed, she was becoming increasingly frustrated.  Forgetting to check if she’d locked her car doors when she was so close to the locker room was the first likely scenario among many subsequent ones that could offer a modicum of rationality for the strange events that befell Marguerite over the next several months.

She resisted the urge to go back to her car.  She trusted that she’d locked the doors even if she couldn’t remember if she’d done so.  The idea of walking down two flights of stairs and crossing a courtyard to student parking wasn’t appealing either.  Marguerite proceeded into the locker room and changed into her practice uniform.  Midge, her co-captain, was supposed to meet her to go over some pancake maneuvers, but she wasn’t in the locker room or in the gym.  Obnoxiously punctual Midge was late.  Marguerite reached for her phone to make sure she had the time and date right but couldn’t find any record of it in the calendar app.  She sent Midge a text.

So Midge, are we practicing today or what?

Um, what?

I thought we were going to go over pancakes.

But we already did…two days ago ’cause you said you and Patrick had to finish a project together tonight.

Right, that’s right. hahah.

Marguerite opened the calendar again and there it was: Patrick project. Library. 8pm. 

She undressed and redressed back into her normal clothes as fast as she could and braked hard at the opening of the roundabout at the center of the campus.  There were four libraries and her calendar didn’t indicate which one she was to meet Patrick.  She texted him, hoping that he wasn’t already at one of them otherwise it’d be quite likely that the message wouldn’t reach him in a timely fashion.  Marguerite’s eyes flitted between her phone and her rearview mirror as she waited at the mouth of the roundabout and thinking about what Midge had texted her.  She had no memory of practice two days ago. 

A car approached from behind, prompting Marguerite to drive a lap around the roundabout and then pull into the guest parking spots in front of the food hall.  She pulled her dark brown hair into a low ponytail and checked her phone.  No word from Patrick.  Right as she was about to start calling the libraries to ask if a lanky, bronze-skinned male with a tattoo of a snake around the back of his bald head was waiting impatiently by the circulation desk, she saw him walking towards her car.  She honked and he slowed to a stop.  She opened the door and waved him over.

“Hi.”

“Hey, Patrick,” she said noticing the unlocked passenger side door.  “Get in.”

Patrick slid in and Marguerite pressed the power lock button.

“So, which library is it?”

Patrick’s jacket pocket started to play a lullaby.  He took out his phone, looked at the screen, and then turned his attention back to Marguerite.

“You forgot again.”

“I guess so,” Marguerite said more confused than ever.

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On Two Wheels

I’ve been watching and listening to videos on YouTube since Wong Fu Productions first started uploading content there in the early 2000s.  I remember those days of cat videos, dog videos, wildlife videos, stupid human tricks, fishing videos, and other miscellanea before brands of every industry started posting their content too.  As time went by, I developed a taste for vlogging and comedy channels, independent artists, educational videos (DIY, history, cultural criticism, language lessons).  In more recent years, food challenges, pet-soldier reunions, trying new coffee shops, and motovlogging have become my favorite non-guilty pleasure videos on YouTube.

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© Tim Cook, unsplash

I’m pretty sure I discovered the world of motovlogging after I did a search of “deer vs. biker” because I was curious about how a motorcyclist might react in such a scenario; and later YT recommended a compilation video of bikers helping people/being awesome.  I soon became hooked on the momentum and first-person POV that these hobbyist cinematographers were capturing.  Many of these content creators used GoPro cameras.  According to Tom Foster in an article for Inc.com, the camera “really started to take off in the early years of [the 2010s]. Point-of-view videos shot by GoPro cameras attached to surfboards, ski helmets, bike frames, and pets suddenly became ubiquitous on YouTube. Nobody had ever seen footage like this; it was a new, dizzyingly personal, and mesmerizing art form.”

And it certainly was mesmerizing to me.  What I relished the most about the motovlogs I had seen was the glimpse into the lives of people I’d previously never knew existed.  As they rode for the sake of making the video or while they were on their way to work, to run errands, or to a meetup (sometimes riding solo, other times in group), I got an ideal vantage point in what they saw on a daily basis.  It didn’t matter that many of them didn’t show their faces (ever or until they’d reached a specific number of subscribers).  On occasion, I’d fall into a rabbit hole of watching accident videos, road rage videos, and running from the police videos featuring bikers all over the world.  Motovlogging for fun or professional YouTubing had become so popular that there are thorough instructional guides on how to do it.

I learned about the existence of this channel called Stories of Bike today via this video:

Even with all of the motorcycle videos I’ve watched on YT over the years, their video recommendation algorithm never suggested this channel, which was started in 2013.  I’m baffled but happy that I know about it now.  There are different series of videos.  The Riders type are not vlogs — they are audiovisual portraits, combining still imagery, ambient noise, and voice-overs to introduce a particular biker to the audience.  They’re pithy, profound, and all the more memorable because you don’t see the subjects of the videos ride.  Their voices are paired with images of their bikes, of themselves, and of the objects of their life.

There’s a Short Films type as well.

If you’re into bikes as a participant or a voyeur (or both), definitely check out their channel.

Let Me Lead You

You can lead me to water
but you can’t make me drink,
You can lead me to higher earnings
but you can’t make me believe
I have what it takes
to turn your paper crane
into a 3-D printed one
or the solution
to your predecessor’s mistakes.

You can teach me to fish
but you can’t make me eat,
You can teach me the virtues
of patience and reverence,
but you can’t make me believe
I have what you think it takes
to turn my playbook sketches
into a game-saving use case
or the antidote to my predecessor’s biases.

Let me lead you to water
I won’t force you to drink,
unless you’re thirsty
Let me lead you to higher earnings
I won’t force you to believe,
in your own potential.

Let me teach you to fish
I won’t force you to eat,
unless you’re hungry
Let me teach you the virtues
of slowing-down and kindness,
I won’t force you to believe
if you’re not ready.

Let me lead you,
if you’re willing
to try something new.

— yiqi 23 July 2020 3:44 pm

Chevaux

© Soledad Lorieto

The above poem was inspired by a musing on transferable skills and leadership that I read the other day.   The post begins by noting that “the problem with hiring (not recruiting) is this: Those who tend to get hired are those with the most direct experience…’Those who have will get even more while those without will have even less.  [Therein] lies the reason for lack of representation and diversity.“*

It makes sense.  If considering resume criteria alone, a violin player with five years’ experience in the city symphony will likely be chosen to play for a film score over the violin player with one year of high school experience.  The latter will likely be chosen over the music enthusiast with some childhood piano lesson memories but zero violin time.  If budget is a concern, however, the high school violinist probably has the best shot because not only will they be the least expensive, but they already have basic violin-playing skills.  (Whether or not they still remember how to sight read is a whole other issue).

The post then addresses the idea of transferable skills and that “it is still a seemingly far fetched [one] as hiring managers want people who can do the job on day 1.”  The pace at and the way in which technology, consumer/client habits, and marketing trends change across industries necessitate potential new hires to possess the knowledge and skills to enter a new organization with minimal instruction AKA “we’ll show you how to reserve a meeting room, how to navigate the employee resources portal, and someone will probably tell you which bathrooms and parking spaces to avoid**, but we’d prefer you already know how to use all of the productivity tools, relevant software and web applications, and social media platforms ever made because time is money and we have very little time and just enough money to justify hiring someone who can do everything we require.”  Consequently, companies find themselves in “the recycling of talent” or “hiring from the same pool over and over again.”

Sticking with our stringed instrument hypothetical scenario, the recycling of talent would consist of the same half-dozen violinists hired for any number of jobs where the employer does not want or cannot afford to (or both) teach anyone how to play said instrument.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with making hiring decisions based on time and money constraints, and yet, as more employers keep maintaining this type of status quo, the breadth of talent and skill potential serving those employers stagnates.

The post ends with a suggestion for the implementation of “development programs,” “[taking] a home-grown approach,” for “[leaders…to become teachers,” “[and for] companies… to transform and become learning institutions.”  The follow-up comments touch on examples of when transferable skills work (made by yours truly), how to diversify potential employee pools and re-evaluating job descriptions, and what good leadership entails.

Boats

© KOBU Agency, Faro, Portugal

What does effective leadership entail? Even if a company were eager to go beyond its modus operandi comfort zones and take a risk in hiring someone who doesn’t check off all of its “must have” boxes, how should it hire?

Perhaps one can begin by knowing who not to consider?

Rethink company priorities, thereby allowing for a wider range of leadership styles and dispositions? ***

Effective leaders should trust employees and not tell them how to work (within reason) or make unfounded assumptions about their motivations (or lack thereof)?

At the very minimum, balance the ratio of extrovert-to-introvert leaders or consider more ambiverts? ****

The consensus among these videos is that effective leaders are good listeners and mentors.  They don’t pretend to know everything and don’t belittle nor patronize their staff.  When the companies they own, the departments they oversee, or the teams they manage reach or exceed business objectives, are they automatically congratulated with such achievements or do they acknowledge credit where credit is due?  Likewise, when the companies they own, the departments they oversee, or the teams they manage not only fail to reach those goals but also bring external negative publicity or internal criticism and shame, are these leaders unequivocally held accountable for whatever happened to incur the wrath of public opinion or workplace disappointment?

In thinking about these matters, I was reminded of an entry I wrote a few years ago where a friend and I discussed the role of football coaches and the degree to which the numbers on a scoreboard is more or less attributed to the coach rather than the players.  Spectator sports are greatly affected financially by the number of wins and losses incurred over a season or series of seasons (depending on a team’s reputation).  As often as the roster changes to reflect a dire need for better athletic skills, better chemistry between teammates, or simply to put backup players on the active list to compensate for injured starters, coaches come and go with comparable levels of frustration and hope on the part of athletic departments, booster clubs, fans, and team owners.

Whether it’s the college game or the professional game, a lot of people have invested money and faith in a particular team’s ability to win.  Coaches are entrusted with the expertise to break out of losing streaks and maintain winning streaks.  They do their best with what the players and assistant coaches offer, nevertheless, the best data available is no guarantee of victory.  And as more reported stories of student-athletes or professional athletes misbehaving on or off the field circulate through media outlets and social media platforms, coaches may be unfairly blamed.  Furthermore, when a head coach is new to a team and isn’t experiencing a real-life redemption narrative, he can apply the same strategies from his last coaching job and not be sure that the players will perform as expected.  What brought accolades before won’t necessarily bring accolades again, but as long as they are good listeners and mentors, and don’t pretend to know everything, they’ll have more chances to prove themselves.

Hiring the right coach to turn a losing team around certainly involves a unique set of criteria that isn’t immediately analogous to finding an effective Senior Director, Team Lead, or CEO.  No combination of characteristics fits all, and for a company to make the correct hiring decision, it has to know both its end goals and the idiosyncrasies of the journey.  If Company A needs a charismatic leader in its sales or employee engagement departments, why shouldn’t it hire one?  If Company B has a global presence and needs guidance on making eleventh-hour decisions without resorting to rousing people from deep sleep, why not hire a centrally located night-owl or two (one near the Prime Meridian, the other on the west coast of the continental United States)?

~!~

* “Lack of representation and diversity” doesn’t have to be limited to visual differences between people (skin color, wardrobe choices, hairstyles, mode of transportation, body language, gait, et al) and protected classes (religious affiliation [or lack thereof], physical or cognitive disabilities, gender identification, sexual orientation).  Differences between people and their life experiences also involve pop-cultural tastes, dietary choices, philosophical beliefs, coping mechanisms, vices, sources of joy, sources of duress, and all the other characteristics that make no two people alike.

** In a pre-coronavirus world certainly, but in the current state of the world, the equivalent would probably be a note about which types of backgrounds to avoid using in virtual video conference calls.

*** As idealistic as this proposition might be that prioritizing kindness and treating employees well positively correlates to business success and a happy sales/finance department, if a company can monetarily afford to try it, why not then?

**** Is it “extravert” or “extrovert” and what is an “ambivert?”

I came across this article about financial scandals in pro sports.  Fascinating stuff.

 

Pic creds: Unsplash

For somber Waves of pain

Today’s post is brought to you by yet another of Jordan and Eddie‘s reviews.  I read Eddie’s thoughts on Waves (Trey Edward Shults, 2019) a week ago and was deeply intrigued by his remark that the film “tackles some weighty issues…[with]… a serious intensity and emotional surrounding as every camera movement, every blast of ambient sound and every drop of neon-like color helps create a wholly unique movie going experience that is just the type of unexpected and untamed type of imagination that cinema needs in today’s more carbon copy playbooks.”

I wanted to know what that observation looked like on screen as well as hear the “[Trent Reznor] and [Atticus Ross] experimental and at times hypnotizing soundtrack.”  I am so glad I watched this film.

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Waves is comprised of two sections (the son, the daughter) with the son’s downfall organically linking the two halves.  The first seventy minutes (out of a rough 135 minutes) devotes itself to Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a high school student counting on success in wrestling to get him to college, but like many main characters in a sport film storyline, a physical injury can derail his plans.  A scan reveals that he has a SLAP tear — or a Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior tear.  The doctor (Holland Hayes) says it’s extreme and needs surgery.  As the camera takes in Tyler’s face for a close-up, it’s evident that he’s anxious and doesn’t completely understand the ramifications of his shoulder pain.  He offers quickly that he could get surgery after the season is over.  The doctor responds, “I can’t see you making another match let alone another season.  Then, to be honest, recovery would take much longer than just the summer.  You’re likely never to fully recover to the way that you were.  But the sooner we address this the better.”  These words catalyze a downward spiral for Tyler.

Up until this scene, our protagonist only has to consciously worry about pleasing his dad (an impeccably stern and coolly concerned Sterling K. Brown) and whether or not his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie) is pregnant, but once that medical assessment comes, Tyler’s life unspools.

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The cinematography mirrors that transformation from joyous chaos to tormented frenzy and finally stillness.  Specifically, from frame one, the camera is a roving vantage point of restlessness and excitement without being shaky.  Whenever Tyler is having fun, it encircles his immediate environment.  After this turning point, though, the circulatory movement of the camera is tense and claustrophobic as evidenced in the wrestling match following the doctor’s diagnosis.  It’s not at all freewheeling like in the beginning.

I shan’t divulge the plot details of the tragedy that Tyler, and thus his family, experiences in the middle of the film, but suffice it to say, the theatrical, garish colors and lights evoke giallo of the Dario Argento persuasion with a glimmer of Gaspar Noe‘s aesthetic sensibilities.  From the son and the consequences of his actions, Waves shifts its attention to his younger sister Emily (Taylor Russell), who gets a boyfriend (Lucas Hedges) and has equally life-changing experiences that bring her closer to her parents.  Although the film explicitly touches via a conversation between father and son on why Tyler has to work that much harder to succeed in life as a black man, thereby referencing a reality that not all viewers can ever totally comprehend, Shults (who also wrote the screenplay) does not confine the characters to a single facet of their existence.  The conflicts this family faces could happen to any family.

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I’m not sure why, but my favorite scene in the entire film happens in the first ten minutes when the family is at church.  The minister (Albert Link) talks about love, that it’s patient, kind, and not rude.  “It doesn’t boast.  Love also forgets wrong.  If we spent more time loving one another, hate would cease.  So, you have a choice.  Love works better.  Love is better for us.  It makes the world better.  But we have to be in action.  How do you want to love?  How can I love? Well, you know what?  It could be just by a smile.  A smile.  Amen.  A smile could change somebody’s day.  Now, you choose whether you use love correctly.  So I want to remind you that love is a four-letter word, and so is hate.  We’re in a world full of hate right now.  Everybody’s pointing a finger at somebody else.  And you’re no good.  And you’re no good.  And we’re no good.  And they’re no good. Ain’t nobody good right now.  So we need love to bring people back.  There used to be an old thing when I was growing up that says it takes a village to raise a child.  It’s gonna take that same village to bring us back to love as a country.

(Truer words couldn’t have been spoken any better regarding the state of Les Etas-Unis maintenant.)

In the middle of this sermon, Tyler is about to fall asleep and his dad looks over and shakes his head.  Sterling K. Brown has perfected “disappointed dad” when he shakes his head in equal parts disapproval and disappointment.  Tyler then chuckles as he looks at his dad.

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Miscellaneous Musings:

1. Do audio bridges have a special place in Trey Edward Shults’s heart?  So many scene transitions are flanked by audio bridges where the camera will linger on the end of one scene and the dialogue from the next scene is audible or the audio from the current scene continues as the visuals for the next scene appear.

2.  Minor spoilers ahead, highlight relevant words at your own discretion.  That whole sequence of Alexis not getting an abortion and what she and Tyler say to each other in the car is a little after school special.  And then that other scene where they text and she informs him that she’s keeping the baby with her parents’ support, he loses it and throws his furniture around; he trashes his own bedroom.  The emotion behind the meltdown is authentic, the audience feels it too — that loss of control — but is it cliched?  Drinking heavily is believable as a coping mechanism but doing a line of coke (if that’s what that was)?

3.  According to the making-of feaurette on the DVD, the director wrestled in high school and suffered from a shoulder injury.

4. My only complaint — not enough cat screentime!
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Check out the trailer.

The music in this film is marvelous.

Pic creds: imdb