Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Standarized Testing Blues and Yawns

Today was Day One of Six standardized testing snooze-a-thons at my little corner of Albuquerque Public Schools. The testing really takes around 12.5 hours total, but "studies" have shown test scores improve if students ingest the thing in smaller portions. I hear another school in town is stretching the fun over eleven school days. Eleven. Eleven messed up, disjointed class days. Roughly half a month of instruction spent bubbling answer C, reminding students to make the circles "heavy and dark" and keeping test and answer booklets in a hermetically sealed room to prevent possible tampering.

Our "hermetically sealed" room is the old shop class, unused since the shop teacher retired years ago. I wonder about the hermetically sealed nature of the room, as this morning I found a cockroach dancing around the bottom of the cardboard box holding my class' precious stash of test booklets and answer documents. Or is that test documents and answer booklets? I always get those confused.

The power of visual images is strikingly present when it comes to standardized testing. No teacher can possibly look at a "test document" or "answer booklet" without instantly going into a near coma of brainwave inactivity. Instantaneous enervation. Immediate narcopletic-quality head lolling. I'm thinking of stealing one of the test booklets to put beside my bed for times of insomnia, but ferreting a test booklet or answer document away from school is considered a crime punishable by gruesome death.

In fact, test protocol and security is really the funniest aspect of the whole standardized test shindig. Every year a story gets out about how some teacher somewhere invalidated the test through some, always hilarious, means. Maybe a teacher reads the answers out loud in a pointed way that emphasizes the correct answer. Perhaps an administrator schedules a testing session split between two class days enabling students to go back and change answers after studying at home.

Doubtless another such story is being germinated right now and we'll all have a hearty laugh at the expense of the poor schlub(s) who screwed up. Outside of our inherent desire to laugh at the misfortune of others, these stories are always really funny because they imply that teachers/administrators actually CARE how students do on the standardized tests.

And this is where your humble blogger needs to step in and expose a truth about teachers and standardized testing. Many of us really DO NOT CARE how students perform on these tests. Not one bit. Couldn't give a crinkly hair on a rat's behind. That's not true for every teacher, mind you, but there's quite a few of us who are just plain mystified any teacher would bother trying to improve test scores by cheating. Mystified that anyone would care about these scores enough to get a paper cut, much less unemployed over something this meaningless.

What just about all teachers do care about is getting inadvertently busted for violating test security and ending up in the newspaper with people at office watercoolers all over NM laughing at them. This paranoia breeds some pretty darn funny staff meetings in which the most paranoid in the bunch outline a number of outlandish scenarios which reflect both a grand imagination and tons of paranoia. Students sneaking into hermetically sealed, cockroach-filled rooms and changing answers...that sort of thing.

Funny, but not worth showing up at multiple 7:30 staff meetings for. We have several over test protocol. My personal favorite is the state-mandated PowerPoint presented in Fall Semester. It includes tons of Driver's Ed. film-level dire warnings and horrific outcomes, but the funniest thing about it is that it takes place four months before testing begins. Nobody remembers anything about it, other than it was a PowerPoint and really boring. Maybe we'd remember more if the PowerPoint included video from real Driver's Ed. films featuring drivers impaled by steering wheels and blood flowing from open head wounds into a black-and-white river along a glass-strewn highway. Just an idea. Or maybe we could have the meeting at some point other than November. Again, just an idea.

So today was Day One of Six in this year's standardized testing saga. We chased the cockroach away from the test booklets, tested for a scant few hours, then released the kids after serving them a lunch featuring wild, crazy testing-released students hurling stinkbombs and setting off fire alarms. Then we had some parent-teacher conferences and tried to forget the whole testing thing for a few hours.

We all know there's a better way, but this is the Soviet-style bureaucratic loony time we live in, at least for a couple of weeks each school year. We mindlessly bubble and proctor our way through the languid days, completing our cycle of meaningless drudgery with a walk to a cockroach-filled room, a wiping of the hands and a re-entry into the sunlight of a real world which has never seemed so very different from the fakery that is public school and education.

And tomorrow is only Day Two....

Friday, February 23, 2007

Getting The Times With the Program

This mornings New York Times headlines revised to meet the demands of todays busy news consumer:

U.S. Used Base in Anna Nicole Smith's gravesite to Hunt Al Qaeda in Africa

Arab States, Wary of Ritchie McKay, Add to Their Arsenals but Still Lean on the U.S.

Long Iraq Tours Can Make Britney Spears Shave Her Head And/Or Leave/Enter Rehab

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Entering a Stream-of-Consciousless

The J-O-B is now officially getting in the way of Burque Babble. A horrific concept obviously designed when humans weren't thinking too good, employment has really cut down the number of witty, fascinating posts in recent weeks. One might argue that the utter lack of talent on the part of yours truly has played a major role as well, and I can't really dispute that. An example was yesterday, where I was only able to half-finish a piece about how everybody at Daily Kos is now an Orwellian groupthink freak, always at war with Eastasia.

So, dear reader, just take my word for it...everybody at Daily Kos these days is an Orwellian groupthink freak.

An additional reason for the lack of any content here at Babble in recent weeks has involved your humble blogster wearing a hiking headlamp while goats jump and headbutt around him. It's hard to blog when you're laughing at goats. At the same time, it is the opinion of your humble blogster that everyone get some goats to laugh about.

Conversely, at this point I'm not so sure I would suggest anybody start a blog, as the blog landscape has become so Crumb-draws-San-Francisco-urban-hell-circa-1970 that it is impossible to keep up with all the good bloggin' out there. Not to mention the mediocre and worse blogs such as the increasingly infrequent Burque Babble.

So....I suggest that all bloggers stop bloggin' and get some goats. This would increase the amount of laughter in the world, and laughter is a real important thing. A thing almost as important as one's J-O-B when one has to pay $7,000 to have one's roof re-roofed.

Oh, did I mention that I'm shelling out $7,000 to have my roof fixed? Did I also not mention that a cheapskate like me shelling out thousands of dollars on something is like getting 7,000 lashes in slow-motion with a barbed lash like on that "Rome" series on HBO?

I did have some fun when informed I would be spending $7,000 to fix my roof. I did some fun mental math while the contractor was giving me this knee-buckling figure and tried to calculate how much money Burqueans were spending this winter on roof repair after the snowstorms. What percentage of Burque houses have or will be getting new roofs? How many total roofs is that? How many millions of dollars will that add up to? Can't Bill Richardson declare our roofs a disaster area and have the Pentagon or somebody pay for our roofs to be fixed.?

Minute upon minute there of fun mental math that always made finding out I'd have to pay $7,000 to have my roof fixed worth it.

So between bourgeois homeowner angst, the J-O-B and laughing at goats wearing a headlamp at 5:30 in the morning, Burque Babble has suffered in recent weeks. Your humble blogster apologizes for the multitudes who have so arduously clicked their way toward this blog only to be stuck with the same old blogpost from six weeks ago complaining about some stupid thing, as opposed to this equally stupid blogpost complaining about roofs and employment.

And now I have to go to work. As a final note, I would like to hear from bloggers who have followed my advice and given up bloggin' for goats. I'd like to think there's a worthwhile movement there I could take some credit for, not to mention that "Bloggin' for Goats" would make an excellent name for the next Modest Mouse record.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

It's Enough To Drive A Man To Hike

It's funny how bad news can bring up good memories. A story in this morning's Journal relates how some old motorist swerved and almost ran down some cyclists on Corrales Road. I'll get back to cycling in ABQ, but first a bit of nostalgia.

Suspended from my ceiling is one of the biggest consumer splurges, a Colnago bicycle I bought three or four years ago. I'd always wanted an Italian steel bike and figured a die-hard cheapskate shelling out $2,000 meant plenty of guilt to ride long and often. Living in Seattle in the 80s-90s I'd gotten hooked on two things: backpacking and cycling. As vices go, you could do worse. Yes, I was spending too much money on -10 degree sleeping bags and dorky bike pants, but I had some incredible views of the rainy world and was in decent shape.

The highlight from the cycling side was riding twice in the Seattle-to-Portland (STP) event, a 10,000 rider extravaganza that has become so popular spots must be reserved months in advance. Riding STP meant significant training, and plenty of miles spent from earliest Northwest spring to summer hitting roads, the Burke-Gilman bike path/trail and wherever else my cheap "Centurion" road bike would take me.

I don't remember how I got that "Centurion" bike, but wherever I rode with "real cyclists" sitting on Kleins, Treks, Cannondales I was sure to have the most unaerodynamic, heaviest piece of crap on the road. That made it especially fun to pass people, my hunk o' junk whizzing or wheezing past a $4,000 carbon whatchamacallit. My times in Seattle were troublesome in so many ways, but my days spent cycling were uniformly exhilarating and adventurous.

Then I moved to New Mexico in 1993. I'd left the "Centurion" back in Olympia, moving to Burque pretty much only with what would fit in my hideous Buick Electra, but got another cheap bike when I got to town. Unused to riding at elevation, my first excursions up the canyon to Tijeras and South 114 were eye-opening and chest crushing. Still, it was a blast. I rode the arroyo bike paths to my classes at UNM, rode all over the place. It was like a hilly Seattle with far less moisture.

Then my good friend got a beer bottle thrown at her as she cycled down 114. I started to notice stories about cyclists being struck by cars, and then noticed more stories. I had my own near-death experience with a battered pickup on Rio Grande Blvd. These events and a Corrales move much too far from my job led me to reduce my riding to weekends along the bike paths. My backpacking was slowing for different reasons, and, over a stretch of time, I slid away from my two Washington State vices and toward the blogging sedentarism I am now immersed within.

Reading stories like the one in today's Journal bring all this back up for me, both bad and good. On the one hand, I think I have a Colnago steel Italian bicycle to sell. I should have sold it long ago, but have held its carcass from the ceiling almost literally over my head for two years now hoping that it's hanging-meat presence would get me off my ass to ride it. But I admit it, I'm a cycling scaredy-cat in Burque. I'm also lazy, and the combination means I won't be riding much anymore.

On the other hand, today's story in the Journal just makes me want to backpack that much more, if for no other reason than a desire to get away from a world where motorists in two-ton missiles "scare" vulnerable cyclists just because they are made to wait fifteen seconds to get back to the speed limit and beyond. In fact, looking around the room beneath the spectre of the Colnago I see that my backpacking equipment is dusty and three years out of gear-head fashion. I've moved my Roach's "Colorado Fourteeners" book to a spot right beside this keyboard. I'm motivated to have a backpacking season like no other since 1992.

Thanks, old near-murdering motorist. Your deranged actions may help lead to something positive. On the other hand, anybody wanna buy a Colnago bike?

Friday, February 16, 2007

At Least They're Honestly Evil

You know they think things, really despicable things, and they're thinking them all the time, but these days it's sometimes hard to identify exactly who the pernicious people are. I'm not so sure "Political Correctness" has corrected anything as much as made it difficult to spot the Neanderthals. But here are two folks that have made that a bit easier:

1 The NY Times has a story entitled "A School District with Low Taxes and No Schools". It's about some rich folks in suburban Phoenix (which I know is a redundancy) who formed a new school district in yet another new suburb with the idea of never building a school in it, thus never having any costs/taxes. The plan is to just send the few kids the mostly older rich people have to surrounding schools.

The leader of the idea, a Mr. Flynn, is paraphrased in the lede paragraph saying he "loves public education". Well, Mr. Flynn, I love fast cars, trips to Europe and the occasional bottle of Bordeaux, but most times I have to pay for 'em. I might even feel a bit guilty if I didn't have to. Good thing you don't have that "guilt" concept gnawing on ya or anything.

Phoenix is the anti-Burque. Let's keep it that way as much as we humanly can.

2. Proving he would be right at home in any 7th grade Boys' locker room in Planet America, ex-NBA point guard Tim Hardaway (product of UTEP, btw) said (as you probably already know) the following about hypothetically having a teammate who made it public he was gay :

"First of all, I wouldn't want him on my team, and second of all, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don't think that is right. I don't think he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room...You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people... I'm homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."

"Something has to give. If you have 12 other ballplayers in your locker room that's upset and can't concentrate and always worried about him in the locker room or on the court or whatever, it's going to be hard for your teammates to win and accept him as a teammate."

Hardaway is being ostracized by the NBA, with whom he is still affiliated, but the sad fact is his opinion is still widely shared not only by 7th Grade boys with sexual ambiguity issues, but also 20, 30, 40, 50 & 60 year-old men with sexual ambiguity issues. Mr. Hardaway, I know I HATE IT whenever I get confused about my sexual orientation and these darn outed gay people just make it even harder. How dare they confuse me? How dare they exist?

I know, Mr. Hardaway, it just about makes your small mind explode...but consider this. What about all those gay teammates you showered with all those years who YOU DIDN'T KNOW WERE GAY? Roll that around for a few restless nights. Sweet dreams.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Closings and Delays

Burque Babble is on a two-hour delay this morning. I thought about making it an all-day closure, but since it's actually been about five days since the last post I figure I better pound a few cups of coffee and write something. Plus, I left my dig cam at school.

Just to change things up, I think I'll "live blog" today, adding things as events and caffeine warrant in little snippets I don't have to tie together, edit or even pay much attention to. Oh, the life of a blogger, especially one whose "straight job" packs up at the drop of a couple of inches.

"Live" Blog Observation #1: Why is the new Lucinda Williams "album" boring me? Is it because my "thing" for Lucinda is over, a "thing" which dates back to "Passionate Kisses" and her Rough Trade (no, that's not a double entendre, but a now-defunct record company) records? Is it because her new single "Are You Alright?" repeats the hooky title question about 543 times? Is it because the rest of the album sounds like a late-night lecture from some drunk older woman at a dive bar in Tuscaloosa?

"Live" Blog Observation #2: Speaking of music, looking outside the window at 3 inches of fallen snow while listening to Glenn Gould play J.S. Bach's "French" Suites is an excellent way to spend a morning.

"Live" Blog Observation #3: Let's practice for the SATs with an analogy question:

N.M. U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce talking about Iraq on C-SPAN

is to

J.S. Bach's "French" Suites



is to

Abraham Lincoln speaking at Gettysburg

Is ___________________________?

A. Loud phlegm-filled throat-clearing by an influenza victim
B. Confused, uneducated preacher sermonizing on string theory while on Romilar
C. President Bush speaking on any subject, at any time
D. Strained cries of rutting wildebeest amidst a noisy swarm of locusts

It's very interesting to get a chance to be stuck at home listening to stereo House/Senate debate on the "Surge", but boy is Pearce tough to listen to. Especially tough, I'd guess, if he was the Rep. from your district. It's bad enough that it says "New Mexico" under his name....

"Live" Blog Observation #4: Taking a nap interferes with "live" blogging.

"Live" Blog Observation #5: Even though an employee of the Journal, don't you think Dan McKay should be able to sue his employer for putting his picture right next to the lady in the "Get Fit!" section promotion pictures?

Part of ABQ Journal.com site haphazardly recreated to show juxtaposition of McKay and "Get Fit" person

Maybe it's just me, but there just seems to be something wrong about these graphics being next to one another. Very wrong. Of course, you couldn't swing an html cat without hitting something graphically hideous on the new Journal website. It's quite obvious that the Journal has decided the sure-fire way to get people to stop reading content online and start buying the hard-copy paper is to make the website so ugly, unusable, and unnecessarily long that even hard-core 'Netters will give in to print. The only reason I continue to hold out and read the thing online is that I get to find out about Dan McKay having an online chat about cell phones. Okay, maybe that isn't the reason.

"Live" Blog Observation #6: From looking at the comments below, it appears everyone is in agreement: we like Lucinda Williams' early, funny records better. Perhaps Lucinda will now go through her "Stardust Memories" period before moving on to "Hannah and Her Sisters" and eventually becoming completely superfluous. Perhaps she is a already a bit ahead of that downward curve. Burque Babble says there's no dishonor in downward curves...we've been experiencing one for years now.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Shell of an Answer Man Tackles Various Topics

It's Six O'Clock on a Friday morning, it's dark, I have a sore throat. Still, I'm excited for today in my little classroom corner of the world we begin our annual "mock trial" process. Today students find out which of three trials they will be working upon, and in what capacity. In an educational world of dittos, worksheets, word searches and cafeteria food served on Styrofoam trays, kids really seem to respond to lessons that rely on their ability to think and outthink others. Especially if it involves a murder, even an invented one. Not every student digs it, but just about all of them will treat the posting of trial & placement (attorney/witness) somewhat like a bunch of medical students crowding around each other to see a list of residency placements. It's pretty cool.

And buoyed with today's educational pleasantness, Burque Babble will try to briefly tackle a few questions/ideas before the sun rises. By the way, questions/ideas are taken both from comments posted in earlier Babble entries (see below) and ideas that have flitted through my coffee-addled mind while fuming at red lights while surrounded by stupid drivers who will not get off their cell phone or use their turn signals. By the way, none of these answers/ideas will be exactly Einsteinian in meaning, scope or applicability.

  1. How can we get voter turnout in APS Board elections higher? The simple answer is to stop separating school elections from other governmental ones. I know this scares the bejeezus out of many, but splitting APS Board elections from "political" ones is a setup for six percent turnout like we had this week. This is especially true when the Board election so closely follows a hotly contested political season that left many voters burned out (I know, talking "burnout" about having to vote twice in four months seems silly, but voters are some lazy, lazy folks in this country). One solution would be to move School Board elections to match the City's Mayor/CC cycle. This would still mean a short ballot, so APS wouldn't get lost amid a bunch of judgeships and obscure Constitutional amendments, and might even give a little boost to the piddly turnout for City races. We could also tie Board races to the Primary cycle, but that would require a Party aspect that would be tougher to overcome.
  2. How can we get younger students interested and more proficient in reading? Admittedly, I have no magic wand for this situation. I also admit that my solutions tend to blame parents more than teachers for the situation. That's because intellectual socialization, just like political socialization, is far more powerfully embedded by parents than school. Really. I think everybody knows that, but how do you intellectually regulate parenting in a democracy? Let me know if you figure that one out. Meanwhile, here are some ideas we've all had and know would help immensely if they could only be implemented:
  • Parents read more aloud to their young kids
  • Parents have more books in their house
  • Kids see their parents reading at home
  • Kids do not see their parents regularly watching TV
  • And the same goes when the student gets to school: teachers read out loud, have more books in the classroom, are seen reading those books themselves, and do not show movies regularly as a teaching pacifier
  • Just like North Korea and nuclear weapons, text messaging technology is rolled back and no longer offered on cell phones. Hell, get rid of cell phone technology altogether. Admittedly, this last solution is more of a personal rant on my part and might not do as much to address the reading problem. It can't hurt, though, I say.
3. (out of proper formatting because I can't figure out how to get back to a numbered list in Blogger): Why can't ABQ use those new red light traffic cameras to create a web-based traffic news system for motorists like you find in every other city in America? Let's face it, ABQ's traffic has worsened to the point where we need traffic cameras like those found in Denver, Seattle and such. Also, recent snowstorms have illustrated what a piss-poor information source is the NM DOT "NM Roads" site. In fact, interestingly enough, I was going to link to NM Roads this morning...but it's apparently down. It's time for us to use these new red light cameras as an excuse to join the late 20th Century and setup a statewide system of traffic cameras. I'll be first in line to click on the webpage with the camera in Chama, and I'd be clicking every work morning just before leaving the house to see how backed up things already are on Rio Bravo and I-25.

Speaking of which, I gotta go hit that traffic at Rio Bravo and I-25. I got some middle schoolers desperate to find out whether they will be an attorney in mock trials. Cool....very cool.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Six Percent Solution

Oh, I forgot...nobody cares who's on the APS School Board. Six percent turnout? That's even lower than the "estimated" pathetic 8-12 percent. Down here in the Valley, Dolores Griego won District #1 with a whopping 686 votes. Methinks I could have a small campaign kegger in my back yard and get 686 votes for anything. Total voter turnout in District #1: 1484. Well, it does only extend throughout the entire South Valley and includes, for some reason, the To'hajiilee area....

Note to self: Essays about APS and its School Board are sales/marketing death for Burque Babble. Now I know why my large team of ad salespeople has been suffering so.
Second note to self: More essays about NASA astronuts (sic) driving across the South wearing diapers; fewer essays about the APS School Board.
Reflection Note: How many current APS School Board members wear diapers to Board meetings? Investigate.

More important than the mind-numbingly low turnout is the fact that I guessed right on every single race! Okay, I had an advantage...I know every single person who voted. You can do that when turnout is a pathetic six percent.

Personally, my favorite part of voting yesterday was seeing Maggie Toulouse's signature on the ballot. I admit, shamefully, my first impression upon seeing her name there was to think the ballot had somehow been used as scratch paper. I thought to myself. Why did Maggie Toulouse practice her signature on this School Board election ballot? I wish I were making that up.

Oh never mind. Armed with their massive mandates (or persondates, if you prefer), new School Board members Dolores Griego & Marty Esquivel (he got a whopping 1,638 votes) now have the political capital to sweepingly reform APS, enact a "New Deal" of truly Rooseveltian scope, invade a Middle Eastern country if they so choose. They are invincible, supported by the mighty 2,400 or so losers who took time out of their day to almost embarrassingly show up at a dank, depressing school gymnasium and vote them into power.

American Democracy. You can just feel the ground vibrating from all the Founding Fathers (and Mothers) spinning in their graves.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Picking Winners for APS School Board

The following punditry should be taken with a grain of salt larger than what's left of the polar ice caps. Unmitigated guessing here. Sub-Mendoza line guessing. Uneducated dart throwing.

District 1:

Winner: Dolores Griego
Why: She's not Richard Ray Sanchez; has Teacher's Union endorsement; has the most intriguingly honest response to the "Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime?" question during the Trib's Q&A.
Good or Bad Thing: Sure, why not? Did I mention she's not Richard Ray Sanchez?

District 2:

Winner: Robert Lucero
Why: High entertainment value, general goofiness and an incredible ability to get quoted in the newspapers. He's also the incumbent.
Good or Bad Thing: It's good to keep up with the news on Planet Lucero, and the guy's re-election is just the thing to keep us informed, over and over again, soundbite after loopy soundbite.

District 4:

Winner: Marty Esquivel
Why: This is the toughest race to judge, but my total guess is that Esquivel wins out over Pauline Nunez for no other reason than he's a slick dude with smarts, panache and a politician's twinkle in his eye.
Good or Bad Thing: I have to admit I'm generally not one for politician eye twinkling, but if any organization on planet Earth needs a bit more panache it's the Albuquerque Public School Board. I wouldn't be surprised if Esquivel uses this seat to get somewhere else politically in the not-too-distant future. I'm still not convinced that's a good thing, either.

Best Supporting Actors Awards:

Mill Levy: For
It's not an exciting mill levy, full of dinky gym floor improvements and new ugly-ass barracks to replace the old ugly-ass ones, but hey, it's a public school mill levy...so you vote for it, right?
Good or Bad Thing: It's a public school mill levy for Christ's sake! Uh, I think that makes it a good thing, or maybe that's just me as a public school teacher talking.

Babble's Favorite Candidate: Charles MacQuigg, District 4
Why: What other candidate has written approx. 15 comments to Burque Babble in recent weeks?

Most Educationally Overqualified Candidate: CNM Board Candidate Penny Holbrook
Why: She went to Philips Academy Andover and Vassar College. I believe the annual individual tuition at these schools is roughly equivalent to that paid by the entire CNM student body. For their entire educational career at CNM. With plenty left over for beers and pizza at Brickyard.

Remember everybody: Vote! Or you'll feel guilty! And shamed! Don't forget shamed!

P.S.: Hooray for the ABQ City Council last night passing a cellphone ban for drivers! Yes, there are enforcement issues, and yes there are other dangerous driver issues...but something has to be done. Something has to be done before I personally walk up to the offending cellphoning driver at a red light, rip the phone out of their hand and smash it against the nearest pavement/light standard/skull. I hate to be policing the stupidity of others, but in this regard better for some sort of governmental policing than roving bands of vigilante cellphone smashers (i.e., me) doing the work.

Monday Morning Scatter Ranting

"I just don't know if brats are best suited to Joey Chesnutt's skill set."
--Color commentator, ESPN, announcing from the International Federation of Competitive Eating (IFOCE) sanctioned "Brat Days" contest, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, airdate 2/4/07

I always love to sports channel surf a bit on "Super Sunday". Eating contests, "World's Strongest Man" and tons of ice skating. Not to mention the cheerleading competitions. So unwatchable that it becomes hard not to watch. So ESPN "the Ocho".

Somehow, I think the sports programming run counter to Super Bowl stuff says more about America than the Super Bowl itself. I don't know what it says, but spending a few minutes watching the "player" introductions at a competitive eating event followed by highly orchestrated overindulgence on an intergalactic scale is something that should be put on the next DVD/Blue Ray we send on our next deep space probe. Intelligent life on distant planets will have just about all the info about us they need with a single viewing.

Three other things to rant about this early morning:

  1. Just received my water/sewer bill from city o' ABQ the other day, and noticed again that the "Graph and usage history table is under construction. Watch for improvements!" We've been waiting for improvements for about nine months now. What kind of state-of-the-art holography are we talking about that requires so many months before it's rolled out? What level of complexity beyond a simple bar graph do we need for a water usage table? Maybe the new information will include a talking Leonard Nimoy as Spock telling us how many gallons of water we used the past month as we open the bill. Perhaps the new graph will have a "scratch and sniff" feature for the sewer data.
  2. I'm wondering why the ABQ Journal didn't just combine the Bill Richardson and Brian Urlacher kiss-ass pieces yesterday into one profile with Richardson's head on Urlacher's football uniformed body and the title: "Gods Among Mere Mortals". What the Hell was that all about? That the Journal has decided to treat both of these guys like the Balloon Fiesta says something about Albuquerque. I don't know what it is, but it certainly says something. Meanwhile, I'm with Duke City Fix regarding the Journal.com's new look. Ugly meets unwieldy.
  3. I have to grade papers now, but ask me to tell you about American Airlines sometime soon, and my nascent plan for a massive protest of the entire airline industry. A massive protest, like that Orange Revolution in Kiev kinda-big. Gigantically large.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Burque Babble Reprint:: Brain Activity, Seven-Layer Dip and the "Super" Bowl

--Originally Appeared 2/5/06

The quickest way to start recovering from a sports addiction is "Super Bowl Sunday". As someone who spent some quality Saturday time yesterday brainwave-deprived on the couch watching the riveting Wichita State v. Southern Illinois State basketball game, I can definitely claim a level of addiction. There is a certain baby-in-the-womb feeling for us sports junkies, blankly staring at the ball and players going up and down the court, as we sprawl on the couch enveloped in a placenta of complete meaninglessness.

True, it's the same addiction as those who can't get off the Internet or "Amercian Idol", but sports does have it's own side-effects and impacts on society, most of which we sports junkies never like to think about. Then there's "Super Bowl Sunday", and every awful thing about sports is thrust into our face like gory photos of alcohol-related fatal car crashes forced upon an alcoholic.

Where to start? Uh...how about the commercialization? The idol worship totally out of sync with what constitutes idols and heroes? Maybe a focus on how the game is supposed to dictate life not only for those who watch, but everyone else as we call everything "Super Bowl ....", as in "Super Bowl Blog Entry", "Super Bowl Breakfast Specials" and "Super Bowl Murder Rate Increase Stories"? Did I mention the commercialization?

Those are all irritating to the extreme, but let's face it sports junkies, the worst aspect of "Super Bowl Sunday" is that it's a day for amateurs. We who can remember watching the tail end of 42-0 blowouts on Sunday Night Football three months ago are now surrounded by the ultimate in bandwagon jumpers who wouldn't sit five minutes for a "regular season" game. Where we're used to having a Sunday alone with a few beers and a Fox NFL doubleheader, now we have "Super Bowl Watching Parties" with stupid things like seven-layer dip and conversations about which commercial is the funniest. Who cares about the commercials? We sports junkies know that commercials exist to give us a chance to switch to CBS for the Broncos game and maybe the NFL Network for an update on stats for our fantasy team.

But of course there is no other game. Not even basketball, or hockey, or my wife's least favorite televised activity, golf. Nothing. ESPN is running, as per normal, figure skating during "The Game". In other years it's been endless loop repeats of Cheerleading Championships and 9-ball tournaments. In other words, nothing.

Now for some full disclosure:
  1. I haven't watched the Super Bowl in its entirety since I was a kid and a Roger Staubach was the Cowboys' quarterback.
  2. I have never attended a "Super Bowl Party".
  3. I'm not really much of a NFL football fan.
Now some of you might be saying, "A Ha (or AHA, or A ha), Scot how can you get off criticizing "Super Bowl Sunday" when you don't even watch it?!? (or !?!) You obviously just don't get it!" To which I reply, it's exactly because of the Super Bowl that I am not much of a NFL fan. Maybe it took the "Big Game" to finally get through my brainwave-deprived skull, but the NFL is about everything but the game. It's about celebrating between the plays more than making them, it's about the commercials running every few plays, acting as their own little celebrations. It's about the friggin' Rolling Stones at halftime instead of the Highland High Marching Band from Pensacola, Florida. It's about incessant promos for whatever lame-ass Heather Graham sit com will be following the post-game and post-post-game shows.

Let's face it, the "Super Bowl" is as close to a completely successful consumer brainwashing project as we have in this country. And we're supposed to celebrate that? Just as you should never trust any legislation that is favored by all legislators, never trust or involve yourself in something that "everybody is doing". The "Super Bowl" shows that, given enough seven-layer dip and some cute commercials, Amercans are just as likely to fall for a totalitarian government.

All that is needed is to subtly change the irrational love from the Steelers to "ending tyranny on the Earth" and we'd be making the Iraq Occupation look like Lunch Detention in about five minutes. I can only thank whatever God, Goddess or Probability existing in the world that has somehow prevented the "State of the Union" from taking on "Super Bowl Sunday" proportions. I don't want to give President W or any future President ideas, but maybe some Budweiser commercials and seven-layer dip would do the trick. And screw the standing ovations, the Prez has got to break out the endzone celebration when he/she makes a point.

So, anyway. What I'm saying is that yesterday I'm sitting brainwave-deprived on the couch when it occurs to me that maybe watching Wichita State v. Southern Illinois State play basketball is a waste of time. Maybe even these dinky unheralded basketball games share the fascistic tendencies of the "Super Bowl". Maybe every sporting event has as it's core a slavish worship to supposed idols, a time-wasting obsession with what is really just a game of chance made to appear intentional, the observation of a sublimated battle in which we take sides and desire the obliteration of a needlessly invented enemy.

I thought that, or something sorta like that, before I got up from the couch to go do the dishes. But first, I had to check out the score in the UConn/Indiana game, and the Kansas State/Oklahoma State game, and the Arizona/UCLA game. I went through the other channels, but no other games were on. So I got up and did those dishes.