In Memoriam: George Carlin, 1937-2008. & Some other stuff.

Shit! These things really do come in threes, don’t they: first Jim McKay, then Tim Russert, and now George Carlin. George would hate that I included him in that silly superstition. I certainly don’t feel as sad for the loss of George as I did for Tim. George would also hate for people to say, “He left us,” or, “He passed away.” George would prefer we simply say, “George died.” No, I feel more grateful than anything; grateful that we were all graced with his unique genius for such a long time. George Carlin had that rarified ability, that all great men and women posses, to be able to make us all see the world and ourselves in a different light.

There is really not much else I can say about the man that you don’t already know, or haven’t read. But I will say this: George Carlin has been a huge inspiration in my life. First and foremost, he made me appreciate words on a whole new level, and made me believe that language is most definitely a living, breathing entity. If you are familiar with George’s material, then you know that one of his biggest gripes is that, in the age of political correctness and over-inflated vernacular, so much of that life, the soul of our language, is dying. The other big reason I am so inspired by the man and his work is that he had a big set of brass balls on him. You have got to respect George Carlin for his courage to play by his own set of rules when that meant really putting yourself out on a limb; and in so doing he changed the face of comedy.

Oh, and he gave me, and any other aspiring writer or comedian, the greatest piece of advice of all time: Write everything down. Thoughts and ideas are like butterflies; and they need to be pinned down in a glass case.

If you really want to honor the memory of George Carlin, tell someone to go fuck themselves.

Stay tuned for my Arbitrary Commentary section later today or tomorrow, renamed for this week only in honor of George…

Brain Droppings

  • A big up to all of you for carving a little time out of your busy lives to spend it with the Monday Morning Punter. We hit 1,000 hits yesterday, Monday, June 23, at 12:24 pm(est). Believe it or not, I cannot find words to express how much I appreciate everything. I am so blessed to have such supportive family and friends. It stinks in here; because You people are the shit!
  • Don’t forget that our man Andy’s show, I Survived A Japanese Game Show, is premiering tonight at 9pm (eastern) on ABC. Lordhavemercy!
  • Just so you all know that I’m not starry-eyed in love with Barack Obama, I’d like to share a few gripes I’ve recently had with the Junior Senator from the great state of Illinois. Mr. Obama better mind his Ps & Qs when it comes to the recent revelation that he and his people are closely tied to the whole ethanol movement. This ethanol stuff is a lot of bullshit, and is greatly tied to the farm lobby (the corporate farm lobby, mind you, the guys who fuck the little farmer) and huge copanies like Cargill. We should have all been driving electric cars 10 years ago – a not some little wind-up toy; i’m talking about svelte little whips that can zip around at 60-80 mph and get a range up to 100 miles per charge. See for yourself: So forget ethanol. Another thing that’s bothering me is the idea of just taxing the oil companies profits. We should be keeping a closer watch on practices, but to arbitrarily tax a company, no matter how high the profits, just seems a little un-American to me. And finally, Mr. Obama better get with the program regarding this FISA bill, that will be voted on by the Senate next week. He has expressed that he will support the bill that grants protection to the telecoms from prosecution retroactively regarding illegal surveillance. Mr. Obama has the opportunity to filibuster this on the floor of the Senate, as well as vote no, and not puss out the way the likes of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi did, and just rolled over. http://blog.washingtonpost.com/the-trail/2008/06/20/obama_supports_fisa_legislatio.html
  • And speaking of abandoning your principles in favor of playing politics: don’t think for one minute I’d even consider voting for John McCain. Hahahahahahahahaha.
  • And while we’re at it: Joe Lieberman has really been pissing me off lately. First he threw in the towel in the 2000 election before the fight even started for the recount. Then he gets beat in the Connecticut primary by Ned Lamont, only to switch to Independent in order to continue to fight for his Senate seat, which of course he eventually won. He is the lynch-pin swing vote in an evenly split Senate. And now this dude is throwing away everything he has stood for for the past 20 years and supporting McCain, all over one issue. Oh, and he is planning to speak at the Republican convention this summer. Joe, you’re punking us, right?

…on Same-Sex Marriage.

Jen and I are coming up on our 3rd anniversary in a few weeks; so I suppose that means we can no longer be considered newlyweds. And seeing as though we had been together for eight years prior to getting married, cohabitating half the time, we were never really newlyweds, in the traditional sense, anyways. But believe you me; something truly special happened on that beautiful July day at the Packer Chapel on the campus of Lehigh University. As one who is generally wary of any so-called tradition, ritual, or institution, I must admit that I had completely underestimated the power of marriage, and how it would affect me. At the risk of sounding clichéd: It really feels that we are now one, and greater than the sum of our respective parts. When two people sincerely commit themselves to one another in front of their God, family, and friends, a strong foundation is created, upon which a life of mutual love, respect, and support may be built. From that jumping-off point, the two can feel like together there is nothing they cannot accomplish, and no storm they cannot weather. Like I said, I wasn’t expecting it, but something special did happen, and continues to happen every day since.

This week California became just the second state to legally recognize same-sex marriages, joining Massachusetts. The Golden State’s Supreme Court overturned the ban on same-sex marriage (Proposition 22) last month by a narrow 4-3 margin; and the ruling went into effect this week. You’ve probably seen television coverage of George Takei, perhaps better known as Mr. Sulu, and his partner of 21-years, Brad Altman, among the first couples to receive their marriage license. They plan to marry one another this September.

Here is a summary of the ruling:

Relevant Constitutional Text:

Section 7 of the California State Constitution, which reads in part:

(a) A person may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or denied equal protection of the laws …

(b) A citizen or class of citizens may not be granted privileges or immunities not granted on the same terms to all citizens.

The Verdict:

In a 4-3 ruling, the California Supreme Court held that the terminology of marriage contains within itself many intangible benefits. To intentionally deny one class of citizens these benefits without meeting a strict scrutiny standards violates Section 7’s equal protection guarantees.

My reaction to all of this: It’s about fucking time! And quite frankly, it’s an abomination that in these United States of America there are only two states with high courts that have the courage enough to uphold the ideals of Freedom and Liberty that this country was supposedly founded upon. This ruling explains that it is not enough to simply allow for civil-unions, but that “the terminology of marriage contains within itself many intangible benefits.” And therein lays the crux of the issue: No matter how similar marriages are to civil-unions in the eyes of the law, the very act of separation creates an unfair distinction. The concept of marriage is as ubiquitous to the human experience as, oh, say, drinking from a water fountain when you are thirsty. Creating this type of distinct between what type of marriage two people can enter into, and disallowing one group of people, a minority group, from entering into the well established version, is absolutely akin to the “separate but equal” Jim Crow laws that were abolished in 1965.

I’m sorry to inform the people who feel that this latest ruling has somehow encroached upon their rights, but this country is not beholden to the Bible; it is beholden to the Constitution. This country was founded on the separation of church and state. People are actually talking about amending their state’s, and even our nation’s, Constitution to ban certain people from doing something that the majority of the world has been allowed to do for thousands of years. This is an anathema to everything the United States, or any free society, stands for.

And unless you adhere to a rigid, archaic interpretation of the Bible, cherry-picking certain passages, a ban on same-sex marriage is patently un-Christian and contradicts the teachings of Jesus Christ that the greatest of all virtues is to love and be just towards one’s fellow man.

You will hear opponents to same-sex marriage saying that this decision somehow invalidates their marriage; or that it is contributing to the erosion of the moral fabric of our society. You will hear them say that marriage between a man and woman is the only way because that is how we perpetuate our species.

I will say that, after seeing people travel across the country to get married, and after seeing the joy on George and Brad’s faces, after seeing lesbian couple Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, both in their 80s and together for 55 years, tie the knot, the value of and the appreciation for my marriage has only increased. I will say that hypocritical leaders and politicians who self-righteously preach family-values in order to win elections, and then find themselves standing before a press conference having to admit that they cheated on their wives, do far more to tear away at our moral fabric. I will say that the fact that two members of the same sex can love one another, the fact that love is not simply a biological process meant for procreation, does more to prove the existence of a beneficent God than all the scriptures combined.

Whatever personal views you may have on this subject are of course well within your rights. But what no one has the right to do in this country, or any country for that matter, is to let those personal views infringe on the way another person chooses to live his or her life.

Upon receiving his marriage license, George Takei, in his charmingly corny way, split his fingers into the Vulcan hand salute and said, “I see before me people who personify love and commitment. We are first and foremost delighted. It’s a landmark day. It’s going to be the only day like this in our lives and it is the only day like this in the history of America. I think it’s a glorious California morning to make history. Congratulations to all of us. May equality live long and prosper.” Well said, Mr. Sulu. Mr. Spock would be proud.

Arbitrary Commentary

  • Upon leaving the moving public memorial services for Tim Russert at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., minutes after Somewhere Over the Rainbow played on a eukalaly, this is what greeted the roughly one thousand people in attendance:

A rare double rainbow. Wow. I’m not saying, I’m just saying…

  • In case you haven’t been following the latest political news of the day, our government , in passing the FISA bill that President Bush has been pushing for, continues to wipe its ass with our Constitution, as they shred the 4th Amendment. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/18/opinion/18wed1.html

…on Andrew Kelly-Hayes aka Helmut.

One week from tonight a reality television star will be born. Next Tuesday, June 24th, at 9 o’clock, I Survived A Japanese Game Show premieres on the ABC network. Our man Andy is finally coming to primetime!

But before I introduce you all to the man, the myth, the legend that is Andrew Kelly-Hayes, I would like to take a moment to delve a little deeper into what this reality show is all about. By now, most of y’all have seen the commercials for I Survived A Japanese Game Show or have heard the word of mouth. What is clear from these ads, and the water-cooler talk, is that the major concept behind this latest reality offering involves running 10 young Americans through the gauntlet of bizarre and hysterical challenges that Japanese game shows are famous for. What has not been made all that clear, however, is that the other major hook in this show is how these 10 contestants navigate through a totally foreign land and culture, as they live and compete together. The early buzz on the show is that the “house mother,” Mamasan, is quite the pisser, and has been described as a “pot-stirrer.” This I like. The fact that some of the show will be devoted to the contestants’ day-to-day in Japan, all under one roof, is fantastic; especially because that will allow the force of nature that is Andy’s personality to come shining through the television, regardless of how the show is edited. Speaking of the editing process, I don’t envy the guy who is in charge of that; for I am sure that there will be some priceless gems from Andy that will inevitably end up on the cutting room floor.

So now it is time to properly introduce Andrew Kelly-Hayes to you, my faithful readers. Let me start by telling a little story of how we all met this character who became one of our dearest and most loyal friends. It was in early September and the first weekend of the Fall semester way back in 1998, that we threw a legendary, 12-keg, toga party at our off- campus house on Warren Square. We had people manning the door in order to maintain proper crowd control, as well as enforcing the toga dress code. A few hours into the revelry I noticed that a barrel of a man, toga-clad, and sporting a silver helmet securely strapped to his chin, had taken up a post, checking people at the door. My initial reaction was the same as some of my friends, “Who the fuck is this guy, making himself quite at home?” My next thought was, “And what is up with that fuckin’ helmet?” I never really did figure out the whole deal with the helmet. But by the way that Andy bounds through life, like a runaway freight-train, it is probably a good safety precaution. Years later, when Andy visited me in Connecticut, and we went out one night to Toad’s Place in New Haven, he tried to enter the club with his helmet on. While the bouncer seemed cool enough with the unusual headwear, Andy was rebuffed by the police officer at the door. So Andy did the only thing he could do: he checked his helmet with the coats. You should have seen the look on the coat-check girl’s face. I think her exact words were, “This is a new one.”

Although my first reaction to this crazy freshman was apprehensive at best, in a matter of hours, Andy had ingratiated himself with our crew; and 10 years later we are happy and proud to call him our friend. Andy has that special way about him: upon meeting him, you wonder if you had known one another in a previous life; because when you meet Andy, he acts and treats you like he’s known you for years. Andy doesn’t have time for that getting-to-know-you bullshit. It’s quite refreshing. He’s the consummate “people person;” and he’s always looking to lend a helping hand. Friends of our friends became Andy’s friends, and remain so.

Over the next few years of college, Andy was at the center of some of the funniest stories you will hear. And in the years since, few things bring me and others more joy than to recount these hilarious events over a beer or two or ten. Here are some of the highlights:

Next week will not be the first time Andy has appeared in a reality show. During college, he was a contestant on the MTV program called FEAR, in which 6 people must complete a series of tasks, or “dares,” over the course of two nights at a haunted location. Andy, of course, stole the show. In the first clip, Andy is charged with investigating a bathroom where a man was killed. Notice the way Andy comes flying through the door after he completes his dare, and almost knocks over the dude standing near it.

As Egon Spengler, Ray Stantz, and Peter Venkman will tell you, what Andy meant to say was, “I’ve got my PKE, bitch!” confusing the Psycho Kinetic Energy meter with the more common EKG, which is an acronym for the electrocardiogram that measures the electrical activity of the heart. Close enough; and funny as shit!

And in this second clip from the show, Andy is solely responsible for psyching up his fellow contestant, convincing him to follow through with his spooky task, and thus helping the kid win his share of the prize money. Like I said, Andy is all about helping other people.

When we in Jamaica, on spring break, after swimming naked under the glass-bottomed boats that frequented the little cove surrounded by a few bars and restaurants, Andy proceeded to run naked up the stairs carved into rocky cliffs, and continued his lap through the ‘Pickled Parrot’ establishment as the patrons cheered him on. From my vantage point, from atop a cliff, as Andy ran through the throngs of people, triumphantly swinging his swim-trunks like a Steelers “Terrible Towel,” it looked like they were doing The Wave as he passed them by. The crowd continued to cheer as Andy finished his streaking by leaping off the highest cliff of the cove. The crowd fell silent as he fell the forty or so feet, still swinging his shorts; only to erupt in a roar of cheer when he safely splashed into the clear blue water below. Classic. Absolutely classic.

Andy is also quite renowned for his dancing skills as well. For a big man, he is remarkably light on his feet. We all will never forget that time at Leon’s Bar when Andy climbed atop a pool table to perform the “Buffalo Bill” dance from Silence of the Lambs; and then proceeded to fall flat on his face on the dismount, pants still around his ankles. “And you wanna be my latex salesman?” And then there was our wedding; where Andy was tearing up the dance floor like a whirling dervish right before tearing up his pants after performing an impressive split.

So there you have it. This has been just a small slice of the Andy pie; and the stories above merely scratch the surface. And like the following bios on him regarding the show, while I hope to capture his essence, I know I hardly do him justice:

” Andrew Kelly-Hayes, a 28-year-old radio sales consultant from Boston, MA. With his hilarious stories and off-the-wall energy, this flip flop-wearing funnyman could be a long-lost Belushi brother. Whether he’s schmoozing old ladies at Bingo, harassing strangers while on “Smile Patrol” or joining his college cheerleading team to meet hot girls, Andrew has a reputation for being a nut.”

“Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Andrew Kelly-Hayes is your typical resident funny man. This radio sales consultant has a degree in journalism and communication and is one big ball of energy and humor. He always has a hilarious story up his sleeve to tell an unsuspecting stranger, whether its old ladies at Bingo or hot cheerleaders in college. Indeed, Andrew’s reputation as a nut goes a long way.”

Besides being a really funny, outgoing, fearless guy, he’s also very intelligent, and one of the sweetest, most caring and loyal people you will ever have the pleasure of knowing. So set your TiVos, people, because Andy is coming to primetime. I hope y’all are psyched for the show. And here’s hoping he wins the whole fucking thing, and the 25,965,000 Yen.

In Memoriam: Tim Russert, 1950-2008

America lost a great Patriot on Friday, June 13th, when Tim Russert died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. When the ‘Breaking News’ alert interrupted MSNBC’s usual coverage that afternoon, I thought it was about the attack on the Kandahar prison that had freed 1,500 inmates, 350 whom were considered Taliban militants. That story had just broken over the various news-wires. But when I saw that it was Tom Brokaw there to deliver the news, it became evident that something more personally profound was about to be reported on. My initial thought went to the safety and condition of the current anchor of NBC’s ‘Nightly News,’ Brian Williams, who has been reporting from Afghanistan this past week, covering the fight against a resurgent Taliban force. While I was relieved that Williams had not come to any harm, I was terribly saddened to learn from Brokaw that his esteemed colleague and friend Tim Russert had passed away at NBC’s Washington bureau, where he was Chief, and where he so tirelessly and passionately worked to inform the American public. Tim Russert was 58; far too young, even in spite of the fact that in his tragically shortened time he accomplished enough to fill three long life spans.

Over the past two days, the common theme found throughout the many eulogies of Tim Russert was the genuine love and care he felt towards his fellow man. Of course this was manifested first and foremost in the devotion to his family, wife Maureen and son Luke. For one so noted for his incredible work ethic and attention to detail – he made a point of doing his own research in preparation for his interviews on ‘Meet the Press – what friends and colleagues found most remarkable about the man was how he was able to put his family first. Often the first question asked by one of the most famous of all “questioners” was not about your career or your thoughts on the latest political news making headlines: he would ask you about your family, whom he would know by name. He also made it a point to pass on this preeminent value to those who would come to call him mentor. Even in the heat of late night election coverage, Russert was known to send Mothers and Fathers home so that they could put their kids to bed.

This extraordinary connection to the average American family, cultivated from his Buffalo working class roots, was always apparent in the way he did his job as a journalist. Tim Russert, as moderator of ‘Meet the Press,’ has always been lauded for his objectivity and fair treatment of all his guests from across the political spectrum. If someone left the studio on Sunday morning battered and bruised, it was because of the inconsistency of their own words and actions. Tim may have been the Hangman, but the noose was the intellectual dishonesty that passes for political discourse nowadays. And time and time again, political spin masters fell crashing through the trap door.

The greatest lesson that can be learned from the life and work of Tim Russert is that as a journalist he never made it about him. It was always about the Truth. Each Sunday, Tim labored to clear away all the obfuscation that stood between the American people and what the real story was. In this era of round-the-clock news coverage, and partisan anchors like Keith Olbermann and Bill O’Reilly, the type of journalism that Tim Russert practiced is needed now more than ever. Regardless of how he may feel towards and issue or a guest, Russert checked his political baggage at the door to the studio, and did his best to present the information as equitable as possible. For someone so famous for asking questions, his best attribute was the way he listened to the answers. If his life and untimely death can inspire a better Free Press, than it may be the best of all his great accomplishments.

I had the privilege to hear Tim Russert speak at my commencement from Lehigh University a few years back. It was a great speech that inspired as it entertained the thousands assembled on that hot day. But what was most noteworthy about the address was how little of it was spent on politics or journalism. He spoke more about the lessons learned from the Zen-like wisdom of Yogi Berra. The point of his speech – made quite eloquently and successfully – was that for the young graduates in attendance, who were blessed with the opportunity to receive a college education, they now have both the means and the obligation to take care of one another and those less fortunate. (I could only find a transcript of a commencement speech he gave last year at Washington University in St. Louis; but it is very close to what I heard, and is worth reading, here: http://news-info.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/9548.html )

In the speech he quotes his favorite commencement address in its entirety: “No exercise is better for the human heart than reaching down to lift up another person.” The tragic irony of that statement is that ultimately it was his heart that failed him physically. Doctors said that they found he had an enlarged heart; and after a life devoted to the lifting up of others, his friends and family could have made that diagnosis themselves.

As I type these words, it is exactly 10:30 am on the East coast; and that means its time to ‘Meet the Press.’ The Good Lord had better brush up on the Good Book, because Tim is coming, and I’m sure he has some questions.

…on Hookers, Heatwaves, & Horseracing.

What a weekend for Punters!

I hope everyone on the Eastern half of the country managed through the ridiculously early and brutal heat wave. The first blast of humid, sweltering air is always the worst; as if our bodies are shocked before making the adjustment. I’m finally able to comfortably sit in my leather desk chair and type in my unconditioned office and wear something other than my undies…the whites. But bitching about the heat makes me feel like something of an asshole when I think about what people in the Mid-West go through this time of year, every year. We are so blessed here in the Northeast, when you consider how relatively benign our weather is. And it is easy to forget that in just about every other region of our country the residents are regularly threatened by at least one type of deadly natural disaster. My heart and prayers go out to everyone whose lives have been lost or upended by these catastrophic tornadoes and floods. Peter King wrote a great article in his MMQB column about the town of Parkersburg, Iowa, which was nearly wiped off the map by a devastating tornado a few weeks back. You can check it out here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/peter_king/06/01/mmqb/index.html

OK, so I promised y’all that not all my writing will be political and full of liberal bed-wetting; and not all my pieces will involve harbingers of impending doom. With that said, the following are some random thoughts regarding a Puntastic weekend, with a healthy does of sex, drugs, and rock & roll.

On Saturday, with the mercury racing into the 90s, my wife Jen and I had the good fortune of being invited out to the Jersey shore by our recently married friends, Mr. & Mrs. V. They live about a mile from the beach, and let me tell you that the temperature must have a dropped a good twenty degrees in that distance. Lovely. And little did we know that just yards away from us was the “business associate” of Eliot Spitzer, aka Client #9 and early favorite for Punter-of-the-Year honors. That’s right; Ashley Dupree was catching some rays just up the beach from us. I thought it felt a little scandalous that day. And then later on that evening we again rubbed elbows with the infamous Lady of the Night, at the Parker House where we had dinner and drinks. Of course we were oblivious the whole time. That is the nice thing about going out with another married couple: we actually conversed and paid attention to one another, rather than have members of the group on the prowl, hungry like the wolf. You know that if we were out with a single guy, he would know that the most famous hooker in the world was just yards away. http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2008/06/09/2008-06-09_ashley_dupre_eliot_spitzers_undoing_spot.html

And speaking of Punters: 150,000 of them gathered in Elmont, Long Island, New York, on Saturday for the 104th running of the Belmont Stakes. Big Brown was vying to become the first Triple Crown winner in the 30 years since Affirmed won the elusive title in 1978. As everyone now knows, Big Brown failed miserably, placing last out of the nine horse field. He became the 6th horse in the last 11 years to come up short in the Belmont, after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. I couldn’t be happier. One reason is that the bombastic trainer Rick Dutrow, Jr. is a hard guy to root for; as are the shady owners of Big Brown, who brought Hooters sponsorship with them into the “Sport of Kings.” But the other big reason for my wanting to put the maloik on Big Brown’s run at history is this: I wasn’t there to see it. I know it sounds selfish and petty, but after going through the heartbreak of being there at Belmont to see both Funny Cide and Smarty Jones succumb to the grueling mile and a half, to miss seeing a Triple Crown winner would be insult to injury. Believe me when I tell you that those few minutes before post time, when a horse is going for the final jewel of the Triple Crown, are among the most exciting in all of sports. And when that horse gets passed up in the home stretch, the way Smarty Jones did back in 2004 by Birdstone (trained by Nick Zito, who also trained this year’s 38-1 long-shot, and wire-to-wire winner Da’Tara), what follows are among the most depressing moments in all of sports. My family is from Woodside, Queens, about 25 minutes from the racetrack; and my Father and Uncles were there to see the last two horses awarded the Triple Crown. What can I say? We’re a family of Punters: horseracing is in our blood. So I feel that it is my destiny to be there at lovely Belmont to see history made; and the fact that the juggernaut Big Brown was foiled means that the gods favor me…for now anyway.

What follows are a few random thoughts that have been bouncing around the cavernous confines of my cranium; but after getting caught on the fly-paper they are presented to you in what will be the recurring segment known as:

Arbitrary Commentary

· Now that it is fashionable for men in clubs to slather themselves with the hemorrhoid cream Preparation-H, in order to make themselves look more “ripped,” I am officially happy to have outgrown the club scene. Story here: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/SkinCare/Story?id=4966867&page=1 I cannot think of a more unabashed act of vapid vanity. The thought that I once crammed myself into one of these overpriced, over occupied clubs, alongside these over gelled assholes, sends douche-chills racing down my spine.

· And while we’re raging against the garbage sensibilities of today’s youth, have you listened to the radio or seen the Billboard top 10 list lately? http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/charts/chart_display.jsp?g=Singles&f=The+Billboard+Hot+100 There is not one true hip-hop or rock song on there. Who listens to this soulless shit?

· And finally: I’m obsessed with this show that’s coming out in a few weeks on ABC (Tuesday, June 24th, 9 pm): I Survived A Japanese Game Show. You might have already seen commercials for it during the horserace or the NBA Finals. Of course, those wacky Japanese shows that have contestants doing all sort of ridiculous stunts are fascinating enough on their own merit; but when one of your best friends is on said show, well, that will really pique your interest. Our man Andy is quite the character, as some of you can attest to, and is sure to have America talking around the water cooler. I plan on doing a show preview and an introduction to Andrew Kelly-Hayes aka Helmut in the coming weeks, so stay tuned. In the meantime, check the show out here: http://www.realitytvworld.com/news/abc-reveals-i-survived-japanese-game-show-cast-identities-7204.php & http://abc.go.com/summer/isurvivedajapanesegame/index (Andy is the one with the sideburns who says, “This is not right.”)

…on A Change Coming.

In trying to find the right words for me to properly articulate the poignancy of Barack Obama being the presumptive Democratic nominee for President of The United States – the first person of African heritage to do so in the history of so called “Western” civilization – I had a moment of serendipitous fortune when I came across my senior project from college. It was an examination of Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, juxtaposed with the autobiography (as told to Alex Haley) the film was based upon. A shoutout goes to Professor Gallagher at Lehigh and his great class, ‘Reel American History’ (linked in the blogroll on the right).  My project can be found here at:http://www.lehigh.edu/%7Eineng/jace/jace-title.html

In one of the more memorable scenes from the film, the camera follows Malcolm en route to Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on that fateful day in February of 1965, as Sam Cooke’s amazing opus, A Change Is Gonna Come, plays in its entirety. I was reminded how this song is so moving and has such significance, especially in light of today marking 40 years since Robert F. Kennedy had his life taken. Cooke himself lost his life to violence in 1964. He was only 33, and did not live long enough to see A Change Is Gonna Come released, and later go on to be considered one of the greatest songs ever written.

Another moment of pure serendipity will come on August 28th of this year, the 45th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, when Barack Obama gives his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, in Denver, Colorado. In many ways, so much of Dr. King’s vision will be realized at that moment, regardless of what happens in November.

In the dark days of the 1960s, when it appeared that the forces of evil and intolerance would prevail, and the great leaders of the day were being cut down before our eyes, the seeds of a brighter and better America were sown. And in the following four decades, while it appeared that the progress was too slow, or that racism in America was simply lurking invisible in our institutions, a whole new generation of Americans gave birth to another, a generation that values other people not based on the color of their skin, but on the quality of their soul. Bigotry and ignorance of course still live; but the signs that their coming death is imminent are everywhere. Young people, progressives, and minority voters are energized like never before, and their will to realize the great promise of America has manifested itself into the largest and most effective grassroots political organization this country has ever witnessed. And meanwhile, those who ignorantly adhere to a biased and intolerant vision of our society are being increasingly marginalized and put in their proper place – often by their own children and grandchildren. Yes, our generation is absolutely the most colorblind of any before it, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our parents for that.

The struggle is far from over; but it is definitely appropriate to pause and savor this moment, and realize that the future is always bright and that night is darkest before the dawn. Men like Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, and many like them, gave their lives in the struggle to make America a better nation. They died not knowing whether or not such a sacrifice would bear fruit. Sam Cooke sang:

“There been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come. Oh yes it will.”

Somewhere, Sam, Bobby, Malcolm, and Dr. King are together, smiling.

Meet the Monday Morning Punter.

The title of my latest blog is most definitely a play on the Monday Morning Quarterback column from NFL writer, Peter King, on SI(sports illustrated).com.  In his weekly column, King offers his readers unrivaled access and perspective on the world of professional football, as well as a few commentaries on the world in general, from his weekly ‘Aggravating/Enjoyable Travel Note’ to his ‘Ten Things I Think I Think.’ Check it out if you are an NFL fan, and enjoy unoffensive writing.  And if you happen to read King’s column, I highly suggest you then read the great Drew Magary mercilessly eviscerate every fucking word of it, here at his NFL site, ‘Kissing Suzy Kolber’ http://kissingsuzykolber.uproxx.com/.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/writers/peter_king/archive/

Of course, the expression known as “Monday-morning quarterbacking” refers to the act of second guessing – the clarity of hindsight. The Monday Morning Quarterback, in theory, would have won on Sunday, were he armed with the knowledge and experience gleaned from a weekends worth of games. The Monday Morning QB embodies, in it’s classic sports metaphor, one of the most universal of all human psychological experiences: “If I had only known then, what I know now…”

As Americans, we all have a little MMQB in us. Our individualistic culture has conditioned us to voice our opinions (even if we don’t know what the fuck we’re talking about). In America we say, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease;” while in more collectivist cultures, they are fonder of saying, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” For better or worse, we have a lot to say about a lot of things. The biggest problem, however, is that we are often misinformed, or that we are informed too late. After all, today’s papers are covering yesterday’s news.

But there is one thing about the proverbial MMQB not taken into account: Monday Night Football. That’s right; because every once in awhile we all will have to play a game in prime time, under the bright lights. It is that rare opportunity in life where we can actually see into the future. For if we learn enough from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, if we examine history with a critical lens, if we actively seek the truth rather than having it fed to us, than our hindsight can become foresight. That’s what this blog is all about, preparation for that Monday Night game. Here you will find the news, or to be more accurate, the stories people are talking about, dissected and critically examined. While most of what you read here are my opinions and perspective, I will regularly include sources of information not readily available to so many people today working longer and harder for less and less.

In the world of columnists, and football analogies, if Peter King is the quarterback, then I am surely a punter…in every sense of the word. We are all about field position here at the Monday Morning Punter. Sometimes I get the feeling that America is facing a 4th and long situation, and too many people are going for it even though we are only in the first half. No one likes to punt; but punting is essential to long term strategy and success (unless Devin Hester is fielding it. I couldn’t resist – you will all learn soon enough that I am a rabid Chicago Bears fan.)

And while a lot of what you will read here covers politics and some heavy issues, there will also be ample coverage devoted to sex, drugs, Rock & Roll, and all the other aspects of Americana that makes this country so wonderfully fascinating. Besides the sporting definition of punter, many British people will tell you that the term punter has an entirely different connotation. Punter is slang terminology that describes a variety of men. The first, and perhaps most applicable, definition of a Punter is that of a consumer – which was most likely derived from the earlier definitions of Punters as gamblers and patrons of prostitutes. Other definitions of the Punter are someone who is misinformed, a sucker, a poser, or a party animal. Also, Punter is slang for the swinging dick itself. If we, as American men, are anything at all, we are Punters.

I hope to publish at least one piece a week here; and I hope to get articles and opinions from many of you, my extremely intelligent and insightful friends and family, as well as any new friends who may stumble onto the playing field. But most of all, I hope you enjoy what you read (even though some of it might terrify), and that this blog can help you get ready for the big game on Monday night.

Let’s pin ‘em down inside the 5 yard line.