The Winner Takes It All.

I’ve made no secret of my lack of knowledge of, and interest in American sports of any stripe, save for a marginal interest in seeing the Seattle Sounders do well.  It may then  come as a surprise to you to learn that for the past five years I have been a regular participant in an NFL fantasy league. I’ll let the deafening noise of jaws hitting the floor  like a collapsing pile of encyclopedias subside  before continuing. You see, when someone from school floated the suggestion I saw it as a way to have a bit of harmless fun and  wind people up at the same time.

Not knowing the first thing about the relative merits of the players, I was performing the digital equivalent of picking a prize from the lucky dip bin whilst blindfolded. If  I finished dead last without a win to my name, I’d be doing about as well as could be expected, so anything better than that would be a victory for me. As I’ve said in other posts, any A.M whiff of Napalm will do. My first two seasons were remarkably unspectacular, and  I was out of the running for the playoffs by the half way point.  Two seasons ago my team took such a comprehensive and brutal beating that last year the Glenbuck Violets (named in honour of the first team Bill Shankly ever played for) changed their name for the following season to The Rodney Kings. Tacky? Yes. Borderline offensive? Certainly. But since when has that ever stopped me?

Last season saw a reversal of fortune as I reached the final with a semi final win so overwhelming that it made a fight between the 1st SS Panzer Division and the Girl Scouts look like a fair contest.  The game ended with yours truly achieving the  biggest points total of the season as well as the largest winning margin of the year. This after another member posted a message to the website  with the title  “How the fuck did NWSingledad get into the playoffs?”  Of course, I  suffered a convincing defeat in the final with the same starting lineup that had performed so heroically only the game before. Ah, well, it’s a funny old game.

So of course, when the email regarding this season came around, I duly signed up and sent my $20 entry fee to the Commish. I won’t bore you with a game by game analysis, but there were some noteworthy moments: winning by 0.2 points was most certainly one of them. No, that wasn’t a typo. The league moved to a new platform which awards points for actions other than points scored. Of course, the day I picked the wrong QB – Joe Flacco for anyone who cares- I lost a game I would have won had I played my usual first choice – some guy called Ward? . Humph!  In fact, despite a 7-6 season I had quite a good year, with several victories snatched from the jaws of defeat. This was enough to get me into the playoffs, and that was all that mattered.

Naturally, finishing fifth of six qualifiers meant I was in for a rough run. Despite this, I won my first game only to face the regular season champions in the semi final. At this point I thought my goose not only cooked, but eaten, carved up for sandwiches the day after and in the pot to be boiled down to make stock. Guns, Germs and Steel, for that was their name, had beaten me pretty convincingly during the season. You don’t end with a record of 11-2 by being crap.  I’ve always picked my team purely by the numbers – the expected points score of each player, and despite my best efforts, I looked doomed.

Oh me of little faith, to quote Lewis Black. My reputation as the Comeback Kid paid dividends as I won by a decent margin. That meant that the final would be between my Craggy Island Feckers and the Glorious Goats, a team that finished sixth with the same overall season but a worse points differential. Again, despite doing all within my power to add better players and run out my strongest squad, the almighty algorithm had me down for a defeat just short of double digits. Ah well, even second place would mean getting back more than my original stake, so I was in no position to complain.

Christmas got in the way and managed to distract me from my impending defeat as we celebrated on the 24th with the kids. They always spend Christmas Day at their own home, so my sweetie and I celebrate a day early. After their departure we headed into the city for a night in a very nice hotel in lieu of going out of town. As we sat in the bar enjoying our drinks I glanced up at the T.V. to see a game in progress and through the powers of  thought association I checked my phone to find out the worst. I knew I was behind as my opponent had had  a player in action the previous day, so imagine my surprise and delight to see that before the days’ games were over I was already more than 50 points ahead. My lead increased during the afternoon and by the time we turned in I was assured of a championship win barring all but a disaster of a scale only associated with the extinction of the Dinosaurs.

My opponent did recover some ground the following day, but even so I ran out winner by nearly 60 points and only missed recording the biggest victory margin of the season by a hairs’ breadth. I’m sure my sweetie was delighted to see the season come to a close as I did rather lay it on a bit thick, checking the scores somewhat more often than required and letting my delight show a little too much. Still, the prize money was pretty decent and a very nice bonus Christmas present. There was one more element that sweetened the win – my opponent was the same as the year before, so it was justice repaid.

Don’t think that I’m being disingenuous in all this. I’m not lying when I say I don’t follow football. I don’t spend hours reading reports and obsessing over video clips. At most I spend 10 minutes a week selecting my starting lineup. I honestly do make my selections purely on the predicted scores for each player, although I do take into account their actual, as opposed  to their predicted ranking. Even I know that an over performing player is worth having on the books.

Is there a moral in this? Is just a case of blind, dumb luck? I’m not sure. Maybe this was my Leicester City moment. Perhaps next year I will be beaten like a red headed stepchild on a rented mule. Who knows? I certainly don’t. All I know is that when next season hoves into view, I will be ready with stake in hand, hope in my heart and the knowledge that if I can piss off even a single  person in the league who actually puts effort, thought and emotion into it, it will all be worth while. Yes, I’m looking at you, Krog the Sportinator.

 

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Filed under Christmas, Sport

Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye.

The end of year review is something of a trope. A chance to look back on the previous 12 months and muse on all that has happened. From newspapers to radio, to television news, everyone wants to get in on the act.  Why anyone in their right mind would want to waste the energy of even a single neuron on 2016  is beyond my comprehension, not that it’s going to stop me. Besides,  I want to get this done before anything else happens to bring us even lower.

I will gloss over the political aspects of the year, as both Brexit and the U.S. presidential election defy both understanding and reflection. They merely add grist to the mill of the old saw that the search for intelligent life in the universe must continue, as there’s bugger all sign of it on Earth. The theme of this year has been loss, and  it is on loss that I wish to dwell. Particularly that of loss in the music world. You may have worked out from oh, every single one of my post titles, that I am a music fan. Music has always been a part of my life, and a damn important one at that, so with no further ado, let’s get to it.

Of course, I have to start with the biggies. There is nothing that I can say about David Bowie that hasn’t been said already and much more eloquently than I could ever manage, but  I do have to reflect on the impact the news had on me. I was in a different job then, and had plenty of time to read the online news, so you can imagine my utter shock and disbelief upon reading of Bowie’s passing. Of course, I knew nothing of his illness, and it came like a punch to the solar plexus. A little later that morning, our delivery guy Richard arrived for his regular pick up of boxes, and we just stared at each other in disbelief. He is as big a music fan as I am, and we would regularly chat about our favourite bands and artists whenever he came by. But that day, we just exchanged “WTF?” stares and shook our heads.

There never was, nor will there ever be anyone like Bowie. No one could ever come close to his level of talent, ability for reinvention or originality.  Admittedly, I’m not keen on his work from “Let’s Dance” onward ( Black Star excepted), and I never paid attention to Tin Machine, but he left us so many seminal albums that any temporary lapse of genius can be forgiven.

Likewise Prince.  I only had the Black Album and a greatest hits tape, but even I could see the genius of the Minneapolis Midget. I know that overdosing is a very rock and roll way to go, but to die as a result of taking prescription  meds taken for injuries sustained whilst performing is just too much.  Had they been the only musical deaths of the year, that would have been bad enough, but of course, 2016 just hates us, so the list got longer.  Again, Motorhead were never my kind of band, but anyone with even minimally functioning hearing – most Motorhead fans, if truth be told – has to admit that “Ace of Spades” and “Bomber” are classic tracks. Lemmy was unmistakable, and whilst certainly no Ginger Baker, Phil Taylor was a ground breaking drummer. His style set the groundwork for thrash metal, and anyone who can kick start a new style, no matter how incomprehensible to most people, has to be accepted as a true talent.

It’s not my intention to catalogue all those we’ve lost, far greater sources have done that: http://blog.kexp.org/2016/12/14/to-those-we-lost-in-2016-part-one/ , but I feel honour-bound to continue.  No one would regard Leonard Cohen as a great vocalist, but his distinctive gravel growl combined with his wordsmithing made life much richer for so many people. I don’t begrudge Bob Dylan’s literature Nobel prize, but if Dylan could win one, Cohen should have been hip deep in them. I came to Cohen late in life, but haven’t regretted a second spent listening to him. His death, even though he was a good age really did mark  rock bottom in so many ways.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it got worse. Of course it did. What did I expect, that the year would give us a break? How fucking stupid do you think I am? Actually, please don’t answer that last question. On a Friday not too long ago I set off to pick my daughter up from her riding lesson. Of course, the radio was tuned to KEXP and I was delighted to hear Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings’ version of “This Land Is Your Land”. It was too good to be true as  just after the song ended, the DJ announced her passing earlier that day. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!  You know how in every cartoon Wile E. Coyote will be pummeled by a deluge of rocks or other suitably heavy objects? The torrent stops and a suitably bruised Wile E. pops his head out of the pile only to have one last, immense boulder strike him with great force. Well, this is what it felt like that day.

Sharon Jones was a singer who could give Aretha Franklin a run for her money. I first heard her on “Sound Opinions” and instantly got hold of every item of her back catalogue I could.  She was an artist who on first hearing you just knew was a rare  talent. I can’t tell you how quickly I wrote down her name- probably before the track was four bars old.  Soul music is much, much poorer for her death. As indeed, are we all. She was the special guest at the opening of KEXPs’ new home, and although she and the Dap Kings played for only 30 minutes, it was such an energy packed performance that it could have powered a city for a month. I never had the opportunity to see her perform, and now, I never will. It is one thing that I really regret. Seriously.

Merle Haggard had a long, successful career, and to die at just 74 ( no great age these days) seems cruel. Any man who can start a song with a line like “I turned twenty one in prison doing life without parole” had a lot going for him.

It’s not just music that got hammered this year. Gene Wilder is a talent that can’t be replaced. Just watch any of his films and I dare you not to laugh. “Blazing Saddles” is still funny. Offensive, crude, vulgar for sure, but still a movie to have anyone with a pulse laughing out loud no matter how many times you’ve seen it before. Likewise “The Producers” and “Stir Crazy”. “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” is still a classic that simply doesn’t age. I’m not a fan of musicals, but that one gets a pass. And of course, who hasn’t thrown the phrase “Actually, it’s pronounced Fronkensteen” into a conversation at least once?

Entering the last week of the year I assumed we were in the clear. Well, you know what they say about what happens when you assume, don’t you? Yeah, I’m talking about Carrie Fisher. My love of “Star Wars” doesn’t reach the level of Fanboy obsession, but having watched all seven episodes, and taken my daughter to see “Rogue One” only two weeks ago, this one really stung. I still remember standing outside the Odeon cinema in Liverpool in 1977 for over  two hours waiting for the doors to open.

George Michael was never on my list – I despised Wham and their manufactured corporate style. Still, he did pretty well for himself and to die at 53? It makes me wonder about my own mortality. At 94, I guess it was only a matter of time for Richard Adams, so I can’t feel too upset. Like a lot of people, I read “Watership Down” as a kid, and had the joy of reading it to my son a few years ago. At least he had a full life.

The year still has three days left, so I am a little wary. I wouldn’t put it past 2016 to have one last kick in the balls waiting for us.  Has anybody checked on Mick Jagger lately?

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Filed under Celebrity, death, Music

Fuck Christmas

You may not be too surprised to learn that in general, I am a miserable, sour-faced old git. Better living through chemistry helps, but even so, it can’t overcome my contempt for the forced, almost mandated so-called “spirit of Christmas”. Spirit of Scotland, yes, particularly if said spirit comes from the highlands or the island of Islay and is at least twelve years old. But I digress.

This year was particularly egregious in getting the holiday underway, as on a number of occasions I saw Christmas items competing for shelf space with Halloween stuff! Yep, you read that correctly. That really is too much, and it put me in a bad mood right from the start. I really dislike the fact that we’re all supposed to get excited about Christmas regardless of our age. No, it isn’t the happiest time of the year. It’s cold, the sun is gone by 4 p.m. and everyone is stressed out by having only just recovered from Thanksgiving and facing the prospect of plunging straight back into the fray.

In general I try to avoid this as much as possible, wearing earbuds with the volume turned up to eleven, and not doing much in the way of decorating. My house is not only too small to have a tree, I don’t even have the storage space for decorations. I do have a few things: paper decorations made by the kids, some glass balls my sweetie bought that are about the size of gumballs and a two foot tall tree composed entirely of tree ornaments, but that is it.

Not so my sweetie. She  decorates every square inch of her home and takes  great delight in her mid century modern aluminium Christmas tree. My kids take  almost as much delight in assembling it. It consists of three sections that form the trunk and a large number of branches covered in silver tinsel which have to be inserted into holes in the trunk in a specific order. Despite the fact that she is a hard core Seinfeld fan, she insists on assembling the tree so it doesn’t look like a Festivus pole. Admittedly, that would lead to the traditional airing of the grievances, but she usually saves that for special days.

The kids love assembling the tree, as they have for the last three years or so, and it brings out the best in them: my son gets to organise, and his sister gets to indulge her artistic side. Of course, we let them do all the hard work this year and they had a blast, as usual. I really couldn’t have cared less, but did my duty hanging decorations on the tree. I think the kids enjoy the novelty of an artificial tree, as they have grown up knowing only a ten foot Noble Fir in the corner of their living room.

Of course, the big issue is presents. As the kids have grown up, their tastes have become not only more sophisticated, but also harder to discern. This year was a real trial. My son the tech head is impossible to buy for without a very specific list. Thankfully he provided one eventually, but so much of it was pure wishful thinking that my choices were somewhat limited. My daughter was just as difficult – eventually giving me a half arsed list on the 13th. To some extent I understand. Neither of them is particularly acquisitive and both of them pretty much have everything they need.

My sweetie is a different issue in that for her, I was able to pick up things as I saw them, and when she did provide me with a list I was pretty much done shopping for her. I hate to buy only gifts on the lists people provide, so with luck she will be surprised when she starts the unwrapping – pleasantly, I hope.

Another thing that irritates me is the forced jollity. Peace on Earth and good will to all men is a fine sentiment, but why restrict it to Christmas? Shouldn’t that be the policy all year round? Am I missing something? I do realise that this year much more than most has been thin on the good will, and peace has been noticeable by its absence, but surely we can make an effort for rather longer than the last five weeks of the year.

To be honest, if it wasn’t for the kids I wouldn’t bother with Christmas at all. It just seems like such a waste of time. I’d rather wait until the spring and celebrate surviving another year and another winter. At least getting through another spin around the sun is something to celebrate, an actual achievement worth acknowledging , much more so than some  Iron Age fairy tale that went unwritten for three centuries. To quote Terry Jones in “Monty Python’s Life of Brian” “Creeping ’round a cow shed at two o’clock in the morning doesn’t sound very wise to me.”

I could go on, but if any of you are still reading, you probably don’t want to read much more. Besides, I have a lot to do today: I have to harness Max and remember to make sure to take the last can of Who Hash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Orange Crush.

I’ll put the primal screaming on hold for a second and try to be rational about this. I make no promises, though. So, where to begin? Despite following the election closely, by Monday of this week I just wanted the whole nightmare to be over. Enough was more than enough, and for the first time I didn’t bother reading many of the articles on the Guardian website. Even I was glutted by the coverage, like a once hilarious catch phrase repeated ad nauseam.

Lacking television, I knew that listening to the radio at home and sober wouldn’t do it for me, so I headed off to my favourite watering hole early on Tuesday evening to watch the results. A small crowd had gathered to watch CNN on the two screens that usually provide sports coverage as I took my place and sipped at the first of several  pints of stout, keeping one eye on the screen whilst reading “The Economist”- a publication that has become a security blanket as much as a source of information over the past few months.   I wasn’t too concerned by the early returns, as there was no doubt in my mind as to how the Confederacy would vote, but as the evening wore on and the gap refused to close, a sense of foreboding descended upon me. People drifted away, but I stayed until almost 9pm before heading back to Singledad Towers and logging on to the Guardian website.

It only got worse. Much, much worse. As the red column crept inexorably towards 270, I succumbed to the inevitable and called it a night, stunned by the implications of what had just happened. Wednesday was not a happy day, to put it mildly. My poor brain had a great deal of difficulty wrapping itself around the implications of the election result, and no, it had nothing to do with my alcohol consumption of the night before. Indeed, I still find it difficult to comprehend the existential crisis we face as a result of “The great American electorate” – Ha! The most oxymoronic phrase in history – choosing to elect  the Oompa Loompa In Chief.

Actually, I think Der Trumpher is in fact, TWO Oompa Loompas in a suit. The skin tone is the same, his hair has obviously been dyed, but the big giveaway are the  Oompa Loompa sized hands on what appears to be an adult human.

To be serious for a moment, though, the implications are horrific. Due to the unconstitutional and anti democratic stance of the Republicans, the Bigot elect now gets to choose at least one, and possibly as many as three supreme court justices. Kennedy isn’t getting any younger, and the Notorious RBG is an octogenarian cancer survivor. Let me spell it out: Marriage equality, Transgender rights, Roe V. Wade, environmental regulations, Planned Parenthood, Obamacare, the Paris climate accord, the EPA itself ( created, as you all know, by that dangerous  radical  liberal Richard Milhous Nixon), employee protection, the Iran nuclear deal, religious tolerance, immigrant rights, gender equality, freedom of the press, the fourth amendment, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, all of these and no doubt many more are now at risk. I’m not joking. We now stand on the threshold of a new Dark Age.

Think about whose tiny, tiny finger will soon be hovering over the nuclear button. No doubt it will be a gilt button, the finest anywhere, but just think about it. Would you give a machine gun to a four year old? That in effect, is what has happened. Except for the fact that when a four year old throws a tantrum, you can put him in his room until he calms down. Oh, and four year olds are rather more rational than President Pumpkinhead.

I’m still numb with shock, in case you didn’t realise. I feel like Charlton Heston in “Planet Of The Apes” when he sees the Statue of Liberty poking out of the sand – a prospect that is now very much in our future . How can I make sense of it all? Hillary was by far the most qualified and competent of any of the candidates. Do people really hate her that much? Is this, as it has been called, a “Whitelash” against the outgoing resident of the White House? Do people really despise and distrust liberalism that much? Is it a backlash against the establishment and entrenched interests? Ha! That would be ironic – republican voters voting for a candidate from the party responsible for the last eight years of gridlock and “Hell no!!!”

And people wonder why we’re fucked up as a species. I truly despair for this nation. I feel like I’ve been woken from a coma only to find that what I thought was reality was in fact an illusion. It’s a situation that not even H.P. Lovecraft at his inventive best could imagine. I’m floating in space with no sense of up or down, nothing beneath my feet, surrounded by an immense unfeeling and indifferent void. I know this all sounds a bit melodramatic, but how am I supposed to feel? Fear not, I’m not going to fall foul of Godwin’s Law, but the words of Pastor Martin Neimoller ring truer now than ever before.

There is no upbeat ending here, just the mental image of a boot stamping on a face for ever. I’m off now to practice saying “Eh?” at the end of every sentence and sew as many maple leaf patches as I can find onto everything I own, especially my tee shirt that says “Don’t blame me, I voted for Cthulu.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ain’t That A Kick In The Head.

For the last couple of months I’ve been gainfully employed at a downtown insurance company. I work in the Agent Communications department, where I turn templates of articles into web pages for the Agent News bulletin, copy edit and proofread articles, upload videos, and update the homepage amongst other things. The job is more engaging and informative than you might imagine. Like most people, I regarded insurance as both essential and incredibly boring, but as a result of reading many  articles and transcribing interviews, I’ve learned that there is much in the industry that goes unnoticed. Fear not, I’m not going to bore you.

The office is on the 16th floor and surpasses many of my previous places of employment by having windows. In the interest of ergonomics I have an adjustable desk that gives me the option of standing, should I so desire. Being a lazy bastard I never understood why someone would stand when they could sit, but having tried it, I really appreciate the option. Standing also affords me the opportunity of admiring the view: If I look straight ahead, I can see the Sound and the various vessels plying their trade. To  my left I can see what was once the tallest building on the west coast and the baseball stadium. Between these lies a view of the dockside cranes and docked container ships. Funnily, though, I have yet to see any containers being loaded or unloaded.

I’ve enjoyed the routine of the commute, dressing in something other than tee shirt and jeans and being around other people, particularly people who are interesting, intelligent and who actually talk – I think I mentioned during the entire 12 months at my previous job, there were two co workers who NEVER talked to me. Not one word, despite seeing them on a daily basis.

The swag has been much better as well. My last place had nothing better than cheap shopping bags that were one grade above disposable and crappy earbuds with the acoustic quality of  a soup can telephone. Not long after I joined the department, a major relocation took place – we all had to move to different cubicles to allow for the arrival of staff from two other floors undergoing refurbishment. This also meant the loss of some storage space. Our location was occupied previously by the Marketing team, who simply abandoned all their stuff when they were laid off.  As a result, in the space of a week I scored two portable speakers, one of which is Bluetooth enabled, a tote bag with a built-in speaker (yes, that’s a thing), a picnic cooler in the style of a backpack, an official U.S. Men’s Olmpic ice hockey team shirt, a scarf, a travel mug, a signed photo of Kelsey Keller and good quality earbuds.  Not bad, eh? Mind you, our unofficial family motto is “If ever you are offered something for nothing, take it. And what you can’t carry, you drag”, so none of you should be surprised by my eagerness to haul away as much buckshee merch as possible.

Now for the flip side. Early last week I received an email from the agency that found me the job which opened with the greeting”All is fine!” It informed me that due to a reduction in  funding  for support staff in the 2017 budget, starting in mid January my hours would be cut by 50 percent. This is some strange meaning of “fine” that I’ve never heard before.  You can imagine my consternation. Rather than walking away, I agreed to stay on for the remainder of my contract, as any money is better than none.

Not all was lost, though. My supervisor offered me the option of working from home, which would save me the expense of commuting and also the need to wear trousers during the day. Of course, I accepted her offer, although the cut in hours felt more like being laid off than anything else. You can imagine my distress at the change in circumstances as I really enjoy the environment in the office. My colleagues are all very charming people, the free coffee is drinkable and there is a genuine sense of teamwork.

My first day working from home is election day, and that’s probably a good thing, as I don’t fancy having to dodge flying bricks, automatic gunfire and Molotov cocktails as Trump’s supporters react to the inevitable defeat of their beloved Fuehrer.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for post – apocalyptic urban hellscapes as long as they’re in the movies and not a part of my commute.

Of course, my changed circumstances do have an upside: I can start looking for another job while working, and my supervisor has told me that she understands absolutely if I need time to attend interviews, etc. Twenty hours a week doesn’t even cover the rent, but at least I have some forewarning, my resume is up to date and the received wisdom is that it’s easier to find a job when you have a job.  I just hope I remember to put trousers on before I head off to an interview.

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Filed under employment, Politics, unemployment

Paperback Writer.

The end of last month was marked by an experience that not many people will have undergone: you see, I received a royalty cheque. Or rather, and electronic deposit was made to my bank account. I’m pretty sure that most of you are unaware of the fact that some time ago I turned my first 75 blog posts into an e-book available from Amazon.com. It was a logical progression from taking the blog public and required remarkably little effort on my part. All I had to do was copy and paste the blogs into Word, tidy up the formatting and correct some small errors. I also added an explanatory paragraph to each post in order to provide some context for new readers, and, I have to admit, in order to increase the page count to something approaching respectability. This done, all that was required was for me to follow the instructions provided by Amazon, hit “Accept” and wait for the cash to roll in.

You may wonder what sort of life I lead as a published author. Perhaps you imagine me sitting in my leather wing-back chair in my wood paneled study typing posts as I look out across the perfectly manicured parkland that surrounds the baroque edifice that is Singledad Towers. No doubt you imagine I spend my off time playing croquet with J.K. Rowling, Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie before retiring for drinks on the deck of a beachfront villa. Where that it were so.

You all know that I have a day job (post to come), so I ain’t fooling nobody. Much as I would love to be able to support myself purely from my ability to string words together in a coherent, um, thingy, the reality is somewhat different. You see, the royalties amounted to a whopping $1.05. Yup, you read that correctly. Not even enough to buy a cup of coffee.

I can see that none of you is even remotely surprised by this. Let’s be honest, only a few friends even know that the book exists, and most of them have absolutely no interest in buying it. The payment equates to exactly one sale, for which, lest you imagine otherwise, I am very grateful. My appreciation, to you, J.T. I hope you enjoyed getting up to speed.  I know exactly who bought the book: let me explain.

A couple of months ago a school friend moved to the area and I was one of three people who helped him unpack the van. Afterwards, as the others had prior commitments, he and I retired to a local pub in order to catch up, as we’d not seen each other for quite some time. During our chat I mentioned the e-book and he told me that as he hadn’t read my earliest posts, he would use some of the money in his Amazon account to purchase a copy. That $1.05 is  the result of his purchase.

I’m not complaining. At no point did I expect to make real money from the e-book, and seeing as most of the 10,000 books published in the U.S. every year go unread, I’m doing better than most, although when I consider the amount earned ( this isn’t my first cheque) compared to the amount of time involved compiling the book,  let alone writing the posts, the hourly rate is so low as to be invisible. I wonder if Andy Weir went through this. As you know, “The Martian” started as an episodic e-book, which through reader feedback he was able to parlay into a hard copy novel and then a movie. Bully for him. Seriously. He took a great idea, corrected the science and turned out one of the most enjoyable novels of recent years. I don’t see that happening in my case. I doubt very much if some bored producer from Netflix is going to stumble up on my e-book and decide it would be perfect material on which to base a T.V. show. Even if she or he did, would it be a comedy, a tragedy or a farce? Who knows, it could even end up as the next “Wolf Lake”.  I guess, to paraphrase Mr. Weir’s eponymous hero, ” I’m going to have to literature the shit out of this”.

Songs In The Key Of Single Dad

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Girls Just Want To Have Fun.

I’m sure you’re all sick to death of me bleating on about how great the kids are. If so, then skip this one. As you know, my daughter is something of an all-round athlete, and now that the softball season is over, her attention has turned to football. There is a regular sequence of events associated with the start of every season of every sport: First, a lack of enthusiasm, followed by the constant refrain of “I don’t want to play X, I don’t want to play X” followed by a slow growing interest leading to active engagement as pre-season practice begins.

This season was no different, except that her initial refusal to play was replaced by a “Maybe” when asked if she intended to play, although this may be due to the fact that  her best friend is one of her team mates. Due to the vagaries of the league schedule,  I have the kids on the weekends when her team plays away. There is only one U12 girls team on the island, so they are playing against teams from all over the county. The first game of the season was against a team based an hour away, and far enough off the beaten track that we could hear the banjo music long before we arrived. I won’t give a match report, except to say that despite a strong showing, her team,  now named “Riptide” lost. Not the best way to start the season, but at least they weren’t crushed.

I missed the second game as my sweetie and I were away for the weekend, making up for the fact that I missed the San Francisco trip. Again, the team lost, 2-1 and my greatest fear was that this  would turn into as dismal a season as her last softball season. Not so: the third game ended up as a victory, with my daughter getting her first goal of the season, so you can imagine how happy I was for her. Again, a familiar pattern emerged. She usually starts any season with some reluctance, but at some point, a door in her brain is unlocked and she realises: “Oh yeah, I’m competitive and aggressive”. From that point on, there is no stopping her, and she throws herself into the game with gusto.

This brings us to yesterday. The torrential rain of the night before, and the constant, often heavy  showers of Saturday morning left me with a sense of foreboding. I  had visions of the pitch resembling the first day of the Somme in terms of playability. I realise that the often knee-deep Flanders  mud didn’t stop some British troops from kicking footballs  in front of them as they left the trenches and walked very slowly towards the German machine guns, but I think it’s a bit much to expect 11 year-old girls to do the same, albeit without the machine guns.

This is not to say that she hasn’t faced similar situations in the past. Two years ago, her team played a game in November under inhuman conditions: As we parents huddled under a portable marquee, swathed in several  layers and  clutching insulated mugs, our daughters slogged through a quagmire in the pouring rain. My daughter has always disliked playing in goal, saying on many occasions that the Goalie always gets the blame when the team concedes a goal, and how she doesn’t like being cold, wet and muddy. However,  I have a picture on my phone from that day of her soaking wet and covered in mud after a stint in goal. She an expression of  unadulterated  joy and enthusiasm spread across her face, the result of the aforementioned door in her brain being opened.

Yesterday was a fine example of the determination that she and her team mates have developed: The team went 0-2 down, fighting back to lead 4-2 before ending the game as 5-3 winners. My daughter didn’t score, but throughout the game she showed commitment and determination, defending with strength and skill, often making important clearances. She does have certain advantages though. She is the tallest girl on her team, as well as being broad shouldered and athletic, although some times these traits work against her.

You see,   there is a substantial height variation among 10 and 11 year-old girls that is truly startling. Some of the opposing players  have been a good foot shorter than her, and referees, most of them dads themselves, presumably take such things into account. At the second away game, my daughter was running with the ball at her feet when an opponent much shorter and lighter than her attempted a tackle. They collided, with the other girl falling to the ground whilst my daughter barely broke stride. There was no malice involved, simply two girls subject to the laws of physics  attempting to control the ball, yet the ref awarded a free kick to the opposition, having, in his eyes at least, see a diminutive  player clattered to the ground by a bigger, stronger opponent. This  happened a couple of times to my daughter, as she quite vociferously told me after the final whistle.

I had to tell her that this is a common occurrence, even in professional football, and that at her  level, referees are often prone to their own biases, even when attempting to apply the laws of the game in as even-handed a manner as possible. However, I  did agree with her about the obvious favouritism of the referee – he being from the same area as the home team. Still,  her enthusiasm  for the game remains undiminished. No doubt two consecutive wins  for her team as well as her goal and sterling performances have helped in this regard. I don’t know how long her interest in the beautiful game will last, but as long as she enjoys it, I will be there on the touchline shouting encouragement and giving as much vocal support as I can. I do have to admit though, that at times I find it difficult to restrain my natural instincts and keep my shouts  “G” rated. It would be very bad form indeed for me to stand on the touchline and, to  the tune of the Pet Shop Boys classic “Go West” chant “You’re shit,  and you  know you are, you’re shit,  and you know you are” at a bunch of young girls.  Besides, I’ve seen some of the dads on the opposing teams, and they’re all  much bigger than I am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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