Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kennesaw, Dear Kennesaw

Kennesaw, dear Kennesaw,
Nestled in the Georgia pines,
What a special place you hold,
Treasured in this heart of mine.
For the candles you set burning,
Lighting paths of love and learning,
For the gifts you have given me,
Kennesaw, I will cherish thee.

Kennesaw, dear Kennesaw,
Fairest of the Southland’s fame,
Sons and daughters gathered here,
Stand to praise thy lovely name.
For the friendships that were made here,
For the dreams we dared to dream here,
Kennesaw, we will cherish thee,
Kennesaw, we will cherish thee. -
The Kennesaw State Alma Mater

In case you didn't know it, poor little dinky Kennesaw Junior College has grown up to be big old Kennesaw State University.

Actually, it hasn't been Kennesaw Junior College since the late seventies. It became Kennesaw College and awarded its first Bachelor's degrees in 1979. Your humble correspondent was a graduated of the class of 1983 with a BA in History. Which was about as dumb to graduate with back then as it is now. But, hey, it is a degree and I can call myself a college graduate with all the rights and privileges that come with it. Those are: I can call myself a college graduate.

Kennesaw State is different from Kennesaw College. For one thing, there were no dorms anywhere close to the campus. There were no sports teams. I take that back. There was a dorm. It was called: your parent's house.

I can't describe what it was like going to Kennesaw College except to say that it was a place where everybody seemed to hate you and hate the idea that college could possibly be fun and interesting.

If they had FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) back then, it would have looked like this.

How Come Kennesaw Does Not Have Any Sports Teams?

Shut up, you are here to learn.

Why Aren't There Any Dorms?

It is cheaper to live with your parents.

Why Do The Professors Seem To Hate Me?

Have you looked in a mirror lately?

Before I hear the screeching of my fellow Owls, I am just joking and it wasn't that bad. Kennesaw was trying to make a name for itself back then. One of the ways that it made its name was being tough.

Kennesaw had "open" enrollment back then. This means that if you showed up, you were a student. However, they made up for the "open" enrollment by the classes you had to take.

Freshman English was usually where Kennesaw tried to kick out their students. I remember one paper I wrote in Freshman English.  I thought it was pretty good. After all, I made a B in Roger Hines' class in high school and I spoke English.

I got the paper back. It looked like the professor slit her wrists while grading it.

As part of my degree, I had to take a math. I had a big math phobia back then mainly because it required you to work at it. I decided to take College Algebra because I sort of passed High School Algebra. First day of class, Dr. Kahn comes in the room, a middle aged Asian man. He is screaming at the top of his lungs.


I am not exaggerating when I say this went on for an hour. I looked at this challenge and decided to do the most obvious thing: drop the class.

It wasn't a simple process to drop a class in those days. I had to go to a line to get a card. Then you filled out the name/number of the class you wanted to drop. Then you got into another line to hand the card to someone at a table, which meant you officially dropped the course. The someone behind the table that I had to hand the card to was: Dr. Kahn.  "WHY ARE YOU DROPPING MY CLASS?"

Dr Kahn got his revenge. I ended up taking some courses during the summer and I took this course called "Decision Math". It was "Math" for Business Majors. I thought, how hard can this be?  I saw a high school buddy of mine, told him I was taking "Decision Math". He said, "Bad decision".  It was twice as hard as College Algebra.  I don't know how I (barely) passed. Divine intervention is my only conclusion.

I could go on and on with my Kennesaw horror stories. Like the time in "History of The New South", I took a test that had four questions. I spent an entire weekend studying for this test. First question: "Describe Tobacco Production In The New South".  After the test, I checked my notes. I had only a half page of notes on Tobacco Production. I made a 30 on the test. It was in my major. The professor graciously curved the score to be a D-. Somehow, I passed the course with a C. Again, it was all Jesus.

I drove by Kennesaw the other day. I know a lot of kids from the various area high schools that are now  going to Kennesaw. I saw kids wearing Kennesaw State t-shirts. I don't think they sold t-shirts at the bookstore when I was there.

Kennesaw, I will cherish thee.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Here's Johnny

There's this stupid joke that I've repeated several times about the book Moby Dick: It is a whale of a tale.

My history with Moby Dick is not a complicated one. I was assigned to read it as a junior in high school and I didn't because it was long and didn't have any pictures of girls in bathing suits. I think I made a B in that class, but I'm not sure.

I was issued a challenge via Facebook to read Moby Dick.  I bought the "illustrated" Moby Dick for my Kindle. (The illustrations so far: a whale). I have made it through 15 chapters. I don't think the lead character, who I will call "Ishamel", has even gotten on the boat.  But he has slept with a New Zelander with tattoos.

One of the problems besides lack of pictures in Moby Dick is that I've become interested in other books. One book I've became interested in is Johnny Carson by Henry Bushkin.

For someone my age, there has been only one host of "The Tonight Show" and it was Johnny Carson. All of us remember begging our parents to stay up to see Johnny Carson.

You can find on YouTube a lot of old Tonight shows. You won't find many pre-1972 because NBC either discarded or recorded over the video tape. But, there are plenty of 70's and 80's Carson out there and to watch it is to watch genius in action.

First, you hear the theme song. Quick: somebody hum David Letterman's, Jay Leno's, Jimmy Fallon's, et.al theme song. Then you hear Ed's voice. Ed McMahon, the greatest marketing pitch man in the history of television. Then you see Ed who says "Here's Johnny!". Spotlight at the center curtain. It opens and out walks Johnny. This was special. Johnny is going to tell us some jokes. And he did. When the jokes bombed, the band would crank up "Tea For Two", Johnny would do a little soft shoe tap dance.   It was absolutely brilliant.

You might remember Carson mentioning his "financial advisor Bombastic Bushkin". That was Henry Bushkin. He was Carson's attorney who took Carson from being a real famous TV personality to being a real famous TV personality with a boatload of money.

Of course, it is a warts and all portrait of Carson. Carson always carried a gun. He enjoyed dating when he was married. He was an absent father. He hated Tom Synder and Rich Little (Little, for all of his flaws as a performer, was the first person to be able to mimic Carson. I wonder what Carson thought of Dana Carvey's imitation?)

There are some wild moments in the books. At the 1981 inaugural of Ronald Reagan, Jack Benny's wife is presented as smoking a doobie in a DC restaurant. If that thought doesn't surprise you, then the image of Carson frolicking in a pool with four nude women probably wouldn't make you blush either.

Even though Bushkin made Carson a very rich man, eventually they had a falling out. And when you fell out with Johnny Carson, you were literally dead to him. Carson retired from "The Tonight Show" in 1992. It is still kind of sad. Jay Leno was, at best, okay as the host. Conan O'Brien was never given a chance. Jimmy
 Fallon is better than I thought he would be, but he is still not Johnny.

Carson died alone in a Los Angeles hospital and was cremated. His production company, which Bushkin created, still makes millions of dollars. It produces DVDs of Carson's old shows from the 70's and 80's. They will be happy to sell them to you if you ever run low on Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter jokes.

Bushkin's Carson is ultimately a very sad one. With this week's suicide of Robin Williams, we are reminded that a lot of the people who give us happiness are actually unhappy themselves.

But do yourself a favor. Go on YouTube and watch any of Williams' appearances on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show". You'll be glad for the memory of those two guys instead of the reality they lived.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shark Jumping With Ann Coulter

Just in time for Shark Week, Ann Coulter's  August 6, 2014 column  really jumped the shark. And that is an understatement.

Coulter did a double back-flip over the shark in a column titled "Ebola Doc's Condition Downgraded To Idiotic" You can read it here: http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/2014-08-06.html#read_more.

I know Coulter isn't everyone's cup of tea. Here's a hot blonde Ivy League graduate that can go snark for snark with all of the opinion makers in the paper today.

I found her to be a great writer-funny and insightful. I always thought a lot of people got caught up with her brash persona and didn't want to deal with her arguments. They were more interested in pointing out that she has an Adam's apple.

Her books were always fun to read. I have read her column every Wednesday night for the past ten years.

However, last week's column was a total train wreck. It made no sense.  It definitely did not make any Evangelical theological sense.  There were not any Biblical quotations mainly because there aren't any to back up her point, which seems to be DON'T GO TO AFRICA IF YOU DON'T WANT EBOLA. Ok, we got it.

It wasn't mean spirited. It was just plain mean. I can't imagine what Dr. Kent Brantly's family and friends must have thought about it. All this column did was confirm what Coulter's critics have said all along: she is a non-caring, heartless bitch. It is hard to argue with that now.

This is a great time to point out that I do not want Coulter censored and/or removed from the newspaper. She has the right to say whatever she wants and make money at it at the same time. Just like Bill Maher. Just like Russel Brand. Just like Jon Stewart. If she can get a crowd cackling at a man in quarantine with a deadly disease, more power to her.

Coulter decries Brently's service as "Christian Narcissism". (On a side note, I wonder what she thinks of Mother Theresa?). It makes me wonder if this poor little Kennesaw State grad has the same definition of  "Narcissism" as the Cornell graduate has. I understood "Narcissism" to mean having an excessive interest in yourself. Generally this would exclude physicians seeing patients in West  Africa when they could be seeing patients in America. But on the plus side, they don't have to deal with Blue Cross in West Africa.

Ironically, Coulter was almost on to something.

There is "Christian Narcissism".  It is found in the form of church members and staff that try to be so dog gone cool.

Look at the past twenty years. It used to be you got dressed in you Sunday finest and you went to church. Now, and I'm real guilty of this, a lot of people dress for church like they do for Wal-Mart.  It is like we're doing God this big favor by dragging our lazy rear ends out of bed and coming to church.

You used to sing hymns from a hymnal. I would be surprised if any sixteen year old at my church knew what a hymnal was. Hymns are kind of slow and don't have much of a beat. We had to come up with new songs so our beautiful voices can rock the heavens with our righteous sound.

You used have bulletins in church. They gave you the Order of Worship. Now, more likely than not, you just get a sermon outline that looks like this:

1. ____ is Great

2. God is _________

3. Let us ________ ______ for our food

You are no longer supposed to listen to the sermon-you are supposed to take notes like there is going to be quiz afterwards.

The problem is that there is a lot of posturing, posing and egotism in our Christian life today. There's always a hot new pastor who has written a hot new book and everyone says this book makes radical points.  Then a few years later the pastor turns out to be a jerk (I 'm looking at you, Mark Driscoll) or a guy that may/may not even believe in God at all.

That's where the narcissism is-not in Africa where a person actually sacrificing is infected with Ebola.

Forgive Ann, Lord. She knows not what she says.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Second Chance

I'm turning 55 years old this weekend. The BIG DOUBLE NICKEL. I think I start getting discounts at fast food restaurants now. Personally, I'd settle for getting my order right the first time

One of the ironic things about me: I majored in History in college, but I'm not really into telling people about MY history that much. I figure most people aren't that interested that I was the Social Studies Student of The Year at Wheeler High School in 1977.  What is interesting is that I had a teacher tell me specifically that if he was at the department meeting that day I wouldn't have gotten it. Yep, that's the type of life I've had  ("Where's your Cornflakes? I need to go to the bathroom.")

However, I've been thinking a lot lately about my marriage. I've been married for 28 years. There were times in my late teens and early twenties when I thought I wouldn't be married 28 minutes much less 28 years.

I do need to set the record straight. Although we have known each other since we were 7 and 5 years old respectively, Lori and I were not "high school sweethearts". As hard as it may seem, I was not nearly as sexy then as I am now. In fact, if there was an antithesis of sexy, it was me. For some reason, short skinny guys with zits, Coke bottle glasses, and b.o. were not popular with the girls no matter how many booger jokes you made.

My big sex moments in high school  (get ready because this is steamy) was "Couple's Skate" at the skating rink. It should be obvious that I wasn't one of those guys that was a great roller skater. I couldn't roller skate backwards and I don't remember ever stopping without using the wall. However, there were times when I would get to HOLD THE HAND OF A GIRL while skating during a "Couple's Skate". One girl told me I had sweaty hands.

I  managed to have a date in high school and I even went to the prom. I still have the prom picture although it is well hidden in my house. I showed it several years ago to a MetLife colleague. She said I looked like the President of The Accounting Club.

Needless to say, that relationship didn't work out mainly because I had no idea how to make it work. Plus, and this is pretty big, the girl really liked someone else.

Through out my college career I would zero-in on a girl, spend most of the semester working up the courage to ask her out and then she would turn me down for some odd reason like she was a nun, engaged, married or a lesbian.

Another problem was my friends liked the same girls I did. There was one girl in college I liked but I had a friend that liked her too. It was really no contest. He would have been a better catch than me: He was from a well to do family, very gregarious, and lived down the street from a future President of the United States. However, for some reason he was shy with girls. This girl was also shy. So I watched this kabuki dance where this couple was kind of, sort of, maybe dating.  By the time I made my big move, she had decided to transfer to another school.

Here's where my wife comes in.

My mother was always a big fan of my wife. She would always take the opportunity to tell me how cute Lori was. The problem is Mom said this about a lot of girls and 99.8%  of the them looked like they fell out of a tree. I was always a compliant child, but when it came to this subject I always bristled and did not want any help.

In fact, a lot of people were urging me to take Lori out. While I thought she was cute, there was that Mom thing.

Then one evening, I was 24 years old and had been on two dates in four years. I was at The Metro Bible Study in Vinings. It was where Evangelical young people would come to study the Bible, sing praises to God, and scope out members of the opposite sex.  Then I saw her with him.

There was this guy that took a fancy to Lori and they went out a few times. I was sitting in a pew, by myself, as usual, and I saw them walk in. They both waved at me. 

I sat there, forgetting whatever the teacher was saying about how to make double-triple sure I knew God's will for my life. I thought: they look good together and I just blew another chance I might have had with a girl. I left that night pretty depressed knowing that whatever it is that causes people to fall in love, I simply didn't have it and I would be alone for the rest of my life. It was God's will for my life to be miserable and unhappy.

Something strange happened. I learned that sometimes God gives second chances and he gave me a second chance. I took full advantage of it. In fact, just a little over two years from that moment, Lori and I were married.

And I've been happy ever since.