Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I Love Memes

So when I discovered a meme generator it was a match made in Heaven.  Time is better served reading, or better yet, writing.  And I'm getting right back to that.  I just needed to create and post a few of these first.


I end this barrage of memes with one I did not create.  It was found on Pinterest and is being included because it sums this post up perfectly.

When all the involved calculations prove false, and the philosophers themselves have nothing more to tell us, it is excusable to turn to the random twitter of birds, or toward the distant mechanism of the stars.  - Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Vick Still Slick?

Welcome to the Jets, Michael Vick.  I thought I was done writing in depth about you, but once again your polarizing self has entered my radar and set my words in motion.  Perhaps you will be a sideline mentor to young Geno Smith, or maybe you will end up as Gang Green's new leader and potential savior.  Many Jets fans are having a difficult time embracing you, and I can't say I blame them.  Dogs are man's best friends after all, so your actions are unforgivable to a wide range of people.  They don't care that you did your time, that you seem to be a rehabilitated man who handled your situation honorably in the city of brotherly love, or that they have looked the other way in rooting for other athletes who did harm to fellow human beings.  There are Jets fans willing to turn their backs on a team they've spent decades rooting for on account of your presence.  If you're in, they're out.  Or so they say for now. I won't try to convince them otherwise, especially those who have still not gotten over the sting of letting Darrelle Revis slip through our hands again.  If you end up playing a prominent role in New York that results in glorious victories for a team that has not had enough of them over the years, plenty are sure to come around and forgive you.  Those who won't, won't.  

I had some harsh words to say about you when I penned Man Bites Dog.  Yet when you were released from jail after missing two NFL seasons, I felt that the Philadelphia Eagles' decision to bring you in as a back-up to Donovan McNabb was a "no brainer".  Deja vu.

You ended up starting and playing well in Philadelphia.  All good things come to an end though, and just as you came to take over for McNabb, eventually you were supplanted by a younger quarterback.  Now you are in search of one more comeback, most likely the final one in your storied career, and that goal has brought you to the Big Apple.  Well, technically New Jersey, but who wants to bother with being technical?  

I have no idea what the future holds in store (hopefully no butt fumbles, speaking of which, Bon Voyage Mark Sanchez), but I do vividly recall the promise of the past.  Below is what I had to say the very first time I wrote about you in an article penned for  Standing between you and the chance to take a shot at your first Super Bowl appearance was the team that years later would give you an opportunity for redemption after your spectacular fall from grace.  How could I not write of your exploits on the field that season?  It was truly a thing of beauty to witness.  I was confident that with your never before seen level of athleticism, through the brilliant flair with which you played, you were changing the very nature of the game.  Considering your extraordinary potential, it's fair to say that you ultimately underachieved.  Getting in your own way is the surest way to guarantee coming up short.  Yet look around the National Football League today.  Look at the most recent Super Bowl featuring a dying breed quarterback from the old school versus one who was educated in the school of Vick, that is, a QB as dangerous with his legs as with his arm.   Scary in the pocket, terrifying on the move.  You may have failed to take over the league by earning multiple championships, but you sure as hell altered the game's landscape.  So basically my vision of the future was spot on.

People look forward to the Super Bowl for a variety of reasons. To football fans, at least in theory this game is an exhibition of the sport they love at its highest level. In reality, a high percentage of Super Bowls have been blow out snooze fests. If the team you root for happens to be one of the participants, the opportunity to see your team play for the league championship is certainly a thrill. The team I pull for hasn’t been to the big game since 1969, so I can only imagine feeling such excitement. 

Professional gamblers look forward to the Super Bowl for the obvious reason, and amateurs, many of whom don’t watch a single game of the NFL season except for the Super Bowl, put their dollars and hopes into office pools across the nation. Those who do not have a financial or sporting interest in the game still watch it for the theatrical elements of the televised broadcast. I think it’s safe to say that last year’s halftime show will never be topped. Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson are now as big a part of Super Bowl lore as Vince Lombardi, and no offense to Vince, but Janet looks far better topless. Last but not least, there are the highly anticipated, often amusing, increasingly clever commercial spots that negate ideal opportunities for bathroom breaks.

This year, there may be a different reason for people to watch the Super Bowl. It’s quite possible that we’ll be witnessing a changing of the guard in the NFL. In order for this to take place, the Atlanta Falcons must first get past the Philadelphia Eagles. This task has been made considerably easier due to the untimely injury of Philly’s top receiver, Terrell Owens. With TO in uniform this season, the Eagles have been considered favorites from day one to finally get over the NFC Championship hump and make it to the gala event. Without him, the Eagles-Falcons game is a toss up. Plus, it’s also doubtful that another receiver will step into Owens' shoes and attempt to top the horrifically controversial (in the opinion of various talking heads) or rather amusing (in my own personal opinion) act of pantomiming a moon of the crowd, as recently performed by Randy Moss.

Outplaying Rush Limbaugh's favorite player will certainly be no easy task. Donovan McNabb is about due to stake his own claim of greatness. But if Vick and the Falcons prevail, all that would remain for them to do is vanquish either the defending champion New England Patriots, or else the Steelers of Pittsburgh with their rookie phenomenon quarterback. With all due respect to Tom Brady and his two impressive Super Bowl rings, or to Ben Roethlisberger and his impressive winning streak, the man to whom most eyes would be glued is Michael Vick. Why is that? Well, he just happens to be the most athletically gifted highlight reel making player the NFL has ever seen. He plays the most analyzed and admired position on the field, and does so in an unconventional manner never before witnessed. 

Yesterday in the NFL belonged to the likes of Dan Marino and John Elway, and today belongs to Peyton Manning and his two consecutive league MVP awards. However, if you take Peyton out of his domed home stadium and place him outdoors to face wintry elements, his prowess can be tamed by an elite defense. On any given Sunday, a scheme can be concocted to thwart veteran pigskin slingers such as Brett Favre or emerging hot shots like Drew Brees. But just how does one prepare to face a player as talented and unpredictable as Michael Vick? He is two superstars merged into one, both a quarterback with a canon for an arm and a running back with lightning fast legs. Michael Vick may be providing a glimpse at tomorrow in the NFL. Football purists who believe the prototype of a quarterback is a white guy who stays in the pocket and throws perfect spirals right before getting hit in the chest by a charging linebacker probably do not fully appreciate Michael's gifts. Those who can take or leave aging aesthetic values and prefer to focus on the bottom line understand that Vick may beat you with his arm, or he may beat you with his feet, but the important thing is that he will beat you.

Every now and again, an athlete comes along and changes the way his or her sport is traditionally played. You think you’ve seen basketball played as well as it can be played, then along comes someone like Michael Jordan to surpass all expectations. Wayne Gretzky practically reinvented hockey with his ease and grace of movement on ice. Barry Bonds broke the mold and fashioned a brand new standard of the ultimate baseball player. (Okay, so perhaps he had some pharmaceutical assistance along the way.) The Williams sisters have illustrated that the power game need not be the exclusive domain of men on the tennis circuit. Muhammad Ali replaced the image of the powerful, plodding inarticulate heavyweight champion with that of a man who could float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, rhyme like a poet, fascinate with his rhetoric, stand up for his religious and political convictions at any cost, and manage to look pretty throughout the entire process. These athletes proved not only to be more talented than their opponents, but dominated their respective sports in unique ways. In pro football, such is now the case with Michael Vick.

The NFL is known as being a copycat league. If a particular game plan proves to be very successful for one team, it’s a brief matter of time before half the league has adopted it. Offensive and defensive fads come and go, and for each one, numerous variations are devised. If Michael Vick proceeds to lead the Atlanta Falcons to Super Bowl victory, talent scouts throughout the NFL will go in search of running backs with strong arms, or quarterbacks with fast feet. The hybrid QB will be much sought after while the conventional quarterback will become an endangered species. Professional football as we currently know it may be transformed into an entirely different game, sort of like how the NBA went from a league of spot on jump shooters to one of acrobatic dunkers, or how sluggers in baseball could once lead the league in homeruns with 30 in a season, but now hit that many by the All Star break.

On second thought, the more likely scenario is that after scouring the college and high school ranks, the search for Michael Vick clones will come up mostly empty. That’s the funny thing about athletes who play the game unlike it has ever been played before. They tend to be one of a kind.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Bookish Stuff

I don't have much to say here today.  I was simply inspired to present a bunch of bookish stuff for your enjoyment.  I'll probably return to this post periodically and add new material as I stumble upon it.  It will take you a little while to listen to these many words of wisdom and beauty, so I suggest getting started right away.  RIP to the literary giants we have recently lost.  But their words will of course live on forever.  After all, that's one of the main reasons writers put pen to paper.

Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?

Literary Geniuses Who Happen To Be Super Hot

Wait, they forgot a hottie...

100 Greatest Novels of AllTime (according to Robert Crum in 2003)

Story that highlights absurd cowardice and lack of innovative thinking by today’s publishing industry

Cool informational illustrations by By James Gulliver Hancock:




Be sure to check out my reconstruction of

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Contemplation of Adultery - #ShortStorySunday

                    BY R0Y L. PICKERING JR.

     I am a happily married man.

     Oh sure, it's tempting.  I can't sit here and honestly say that if the situation were to arise, I wouldn't even consider it.  Take now for instance.  The woman seated across the bar from me is flat out gorgeous.  It's hard not to notice a thing like that.  And she's been checking me out.  It's hard not to notice a thing like that either.  Every twenty seconds or so she glances my way.  I could have this woman, I know I could.  I can feel it with every fiber of my being.  But like I said ...

     Where the hell is James?  He was supposed to meet me here at seven, and it's already a quarter after.  Big shocker.  In the eight years James and I have been best friends, not once has he been on time.  I usually show up about fifteen minutes early for appointments, even when they’re with James.  You'd think in eight years I would have learned my lesson, but I arrived here at exactly 6:45.  So now there is nothing for me to do but wait.

     Not that I've particularly minded today.  The bartender here makes a great margarita, the jukebox is the best in the city, and perhaps the most beautiful woman I have ever seen is shamelessly flirting with me.  A night with her would be incredible to say the least.

     But I have a devoted wife at home who I promised in church before several dozen friends and relatives to love, honor, and not screw around on.  Plus, we have a kid.  He'll be three years old in a couple of months.  It won't be too long before I can get Barry Jr. into little league.

     My life is what you would call comfortable.  Comfortable and normal.  Conventional, that's the word I'm looking for.  I have a nine to five white collar job which I hate, but it's too late to get out, so I'll just have to move up.  I live in a quiet suburban neighborhood in a pleasant looking little house, paying an astronomical mortgage for the privilege.  Unless I'm drafted by an NBA team in desperate need of a five foot nine point guard who can't dribble, or else I happen to pick the right six numbers on a lottery ticket, I'll be paying it off until I'm too old to chew my food.  Sharon and I haven't made definite plans for more children, but before her clock stops ticking we'll probably have 1.8 more.  We do after all have the proverbial Jones family to keep up with.

     My hair continues to be gray-less, ever so slightly receded, but bald patches have yet to appear.  No stationwagon or mini-van inhabits my garage, not that the vehicle I drive would ever be mistaken for a Ferrari.  I’m still most comfortable in jeans and a tee shirt, just like when I was a teenager.  I continue to play pick up basketball games in the park when time allows, no matter that these days I'm almost always the slowest player on the court.  Thanks to those games I'm relatively up to date in the slang terminology of the day, a source of pointless pride.  In short, I'm not a kid anymore, but nor have I quite turned into my parents.

     If only there was some way I could think of to quell this steadily increasing restlessness.  Maybe everybody my age feels like this.  No, James doesn't.  Maybe everyone my age with a wife, a kid, a mortgage, and a mind numbing job.  That must be it.  I'm carrying around all this adult baggage, but I don't' remember wanting, or planning, or asking to become a grown-up.  It seems like only months ago when I would have been proofed to get into this place.  But it was years ago.  My God, it was a decade ago.

     One thing I do know for certain is this. All the adventure can not already be gone from life. Maybe I'm a little too old for fraternity parties and spring break.  I could live without praying to the porcelain god every Friday night after chugging one too many plastic cups of beer.  I’ve been around the block enough times to recognize with minimal angst that my favorite dreams will not be coming to fruition.  I'm never going to win a Cy Young award, save the word in an action movie, or perform in front of my adoring fans at Madison Square Garden.  And I'm okay with that.  Still, there has to be more in my future than a few promotions, a few kids, retirement, grandkids, and death.  There just has to be.

     I should have been with more women.  Perhaps that's what it comes down to.  Too many wild oats burning a hole in my shorts because I didn't sow them when I had the chance.  I'm not a bad looking guy.  I had a few casual flings back in my college days.  But no more than can be counted on two hands with a few fingers left over.  If I had only been more aggressive, more confident, I'm sure I could have at least doubled the number.  But I wasn't, so I didn't, and that's that.  I met Sharon a couple years after graduation.  We immediately committed to a monogamous relationship, and within two years we were exchanging a matching set of "I do's". I don't remember the name of the last woman I was with pre-Sharon. I vaguely recall what she looked like, the fact that she was drunk as was I, and that a good time was had by all in the extra large closet sized space I called my bachelor pad.  The last fling I had, that I'll ever have. I was just shy of 25 years old.

     Maybe I'll flash a smile at this woman across the bar from me. I have been told that it's my best feature.  If she doesn't smile back, I won't give the matter another thought. There's no commandment against smiling.  A little flirting never harmed anyone.  Married or not, it's good to know that at least a few members of the opposite sex, spouse not included, find you attractive.  Mankind needs to feel validated every now and then.  Vanity is what separates us from the beasts.  Vanity and credit cards.

     Yep, I was right.  She's definitely into to me.  She returned my serve of a coy grin with a hard volley of pearly whites.  I'm at a precipice.  I can do nothing but sip my drink, shoot the breeze for a couple of hours once James shows up, and then go home to my wife and child.  Or I can take a step forward, a step towards this woman, knowing that once I do, there's no turning back.

     My body is serving as a battleground for the war being fought between my hormones and Catholic guilt.  This woman is devastating, and growing more so with every sip I take.  Her form fitting dress is accentuating in remarkable detail every curve God blessed her with.  She doesn't have an ounce of fat on her.  I could have almost said that about Sharon at one time, but her body never did bounce fully back after having Derrick.  Not that she's overweight or out of shape.  She just doesn't look quite like this Barbie proportioned she-devil.

     I love Sharon dearly.  That love has taken sides with the guilt complex.  The last thing I want to do is betray her trust.  I couldn't bear knowing how hurt she would be if I were to have an affair.  She would be destroyed, and she would never forgive me, and the comfort, and warmth, and safety of my present existence would be annihilated.

     Nevertheless, I find myself feeling sometimes that when I committed myself to Sharon, I gave up other things that life may have been planning to offer.  And I wonder if those things would have turned out to be better than what I settled for.

     No, that's the wrong choice of word.  Sharon is a wonderful woman.  I consider myself lucky, blessed to have a woman like her by my side.  A woman who swept an insecure young man off his feet and subsequently produced a son I adore.  I certainly did not settle.  But still, I can't help wondering, and longing.  I know they say the grass is always greener.  James for example, with his various girlfriends and casual liaisons, still envies me, or claims to anyway.  All in all I have a damn good life, one which it would be very foolish of me to jeopardize.  At this moment though, these potent facts are being overwhelmed by a single primeval urge.  I want to climb that mythical fence and mow that sumptuous grass.

     My mind is made up.  I'm going to talk to her.  My ability to speak comfortably to attractive women has improved vastly from my stumbling, bumbling college days. But I've had woefully few opportunities to display this hard earned talent, and only in practice drills, no real emergencies.  When I'm done with the smooth talk we'll go to her place, or any place with a mattress, and proceed to turn a fantasy into reality.  I will live one last adventure, make the final addition to my erotic memoir.  It will be just this one time, but oh what a time it shall be.

     As for Sharon, I'll have to rely on the old adage.  What she doesn't know can't and won't hurt her.  If the woman before me were any less than an absolute goddess, I would certainly refrain.  But her exquisite perfection has flipped the switch on my self-control.  I have become a temporary slave to my desire.  Starting from tomorrow I will be the model husband for the rest of my days.  As for tonight ...

     Man, I really thought I was bluffing myself.  As much as I had worked myself up, I was in fact convinced that this woman would become nothing more than who I visualize when I make love to my wife on the nights we manage to put aside for extracurricular activity. But I am off the barstool and on my feet.  I am walking towards her. I am taking action, commanding my destiny, seizing the day, and all that other good stuff.  Hey!  Some guy has cut in front of me.  He has gone right up to my woman as if I don’t even exist.

     "Hey, stranger," he says.

     "Hi, lover," she responds.  I shake my head to unscramble the words I’m hearing so they might make sense.

     "Sorry it took me so long," the man says smugly.  When your girlfriend looks like his does, everything out of your mouth is smug.

     "Better late than never."

     "You ready to go?" he asks.  Despite the completeness of my heterosexual nature, I cannot help but notice how annoyingly handsome the guy is.  I truly hate him.

     "Almost.  Just let me finish my drink."

     "I will if you give me some sugar first."

     I can't believe my eyes.  After all this mental masturbation, I find myself standing idly by as some GQ cover photo come to life rams his tongue down my dream girl's throat.  Ain't life something?

     "Hey Barry, what's up?  Sorry I'm late."

     "Like hell you are, James."  I return to my seat and down my drink in one swig.  "This round is on you.  I'll have a margarita with a shot of tequila on the side.  Make that two shots."

     "Sounds like you've had a rough day."

     "The roughest."

     In the end I'm sure I would have walked right past her, gone to the bathroom or thrown some money into the jukebox.  It's nice to daydream from time to time, but priority number one is the reality of my life, not saloon inspired wet dreams.  A beautiful wife, a great kid, a job with some potential if I work my ass off, which I'll have to if I intend to ever pay off my mortgage.  What I have is the envy of many.  Don't I know it.

     Had things worked out the way I was fantasizing, it would have been the biggest mistake I ever made.  All that guilt consuming me. I never would have been able to hide it from Sharon.  I don't have the constitution to keep so big a secret from showing in my eyes.  That's why I'm positive I would have just walked on by.  Well maybe not 100% positive, but pretty sure.

     After all, I am a happily married man.