Saturday, August 28, 2010

A very noisy exit

We have all thought about it. When we are at work, we sometimes have days that make us want to walk out the door and never come back.

These types of days follow a familiar pattern. As we drive to work, we are already thinking about the stack of tasks we will have to do when we get there.

However, our plan for the day usually goes out the window about 30 minutes after we arrive. Many times, we are doing our job and minding our own business. Then, out of the corner of our eyes, we see our boss. For reasons unexplained, a cold chill goes down our spine.

Yes, he is walking our way, and he is walking with purpose. At this point, we have to drop what we are doing and follow his directions right now. If we do not, the entire civilized world will be turned upside down.

This is because if we do not, our boss will get mad. And then his boss will get mad. And then his boss will get mad. It is funny how these things have a ripple effect. One failure can set in motion a series of events in which we hear from people we never knew existed.

This can be doubly bad if days like this occur in the customer service industry. Not only do we have to deal with our bosses, but also the wrath of the public. It is a double-edged sword that can cut deep.

The fictionalized scenario just described is similar to what played out earlier this month on an airplane flight. Steven Slater, a flight attendant with jetBlue, got fed up with the abuse he felt he was receiving and walked off the job. He said that he had been cursed by a passenger and konked on the head by a suitcase.

At the end of his flight, he got on the intercom and said his goodbyes. Then, he grabbed a couple of beers and slid down the emergency escape ramp of the plane.

I guess if somebody is going to leave, why not leave in style?

Still, we have to be very careful about doing something like this. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and think about how great it would be to make a grand exit.

But, what about after that? Jobs are tough to come by these days. Unemployment remains above nine percent nationally. A job is a job even if it is one we hate.

Back in the late 1970s, country singer Johnny Paycheck had a big hit with 'Take This Job and Shove It.' Also in the seventies, Peter Finch's character in the film Network encouraged listeners of his television program to open their windows and scream that they were mad and would not take it anymore.

It is no secret that it is easy for people to get fed up with their jobs. The reason for this could be that employees have been expected to produce more but with less resources in recent years.

Productivity rose 3.5 percent last year, but as high unemployment statistics show, this increase has not been because more people have been hired.

In some respects, the bad economy has been good for employers. Because of high job demand, it is easier for them to retain employees and put bigger burdens on their shoulders.

However, as the Slater example shows, people are getting restless and can bring lots of publicity to a company if they do something drastic.

Economic cycles eventually turn around. Employers better treat people with a little tender loving care or more may hit the exit.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

'Beggars Banquet' is the Rolling Stones greatest album

Released in December 1968, Beggars Banquet was a return to form for the Rolling Stones. Coming off 1967's ill-fated Their Satanic Majesties Request, the Stones returned to their rhythm and blues roots and kicked off their greatest period of music.

Their Satanic Majesties Request was the Stones attempt to jump on the bandwagon created by the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Though not a bad album, it seemed more like an attempt to cash in on a fad. In its aftermath, the band bounced back and made remarkable albums from 1968-72. Beginning with Beggars Banquet, the Stones produced Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street during this period. All these albums appear on lists of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time. However,
Beggars Banquet is the greatest.

The album begins with the powerful and provocative 'Sympathy for the Devil.' By this point in their careers, the Stones had already been branded as rougher trade than the Beatles. Songs like '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' and 'Let's Spend the Night Together' developed the public perception that they wanted to do more than hold a girl's hand. The title of Their Satanic Majesties Request and drug arrests further developed the Stones dark persona.

So, does 'Sympathy for the Devil' add to that persona? It does only if a person ignores the words of the song. 'Sympathy for the Devil' is definitely an attention grabbing title, but even a casual study of its lyrics reveals that it is not an anthem glorifying hell.

The song is a fictional narrative in which the devil sings about his role in major events of history. Beginning with Jesus' crucifixion, the song takes us through the Russian Revolution, World War II, and the murder of John and Robert Kennedy. The song ends with a threat as the devil says to treat him with respect or he will 'lay your soul to waste.' Would anybody expect less from the real devil?

If people use this song to brand the Stones as Satanists, then they conveniently overlook the inclusion of 'Prodigal Son' on the album. A song written by Robert Wilkens, it is a bluesy retelling of the parable of the prodigal son that appears in the New Testament. Because of its subject matter, does this make the Stones good role models? I have no idea. Good music is good music, but my advice is to look away from rock and roll when determining good or bad role models.

The bulk of the album is dominated by Mick Jagger's vocals and Keith Richards' acoustic guitar. Songs like 'Dear Doctor,' 'Factory Girl,' and 'Parachute Woman' all grind forward in an entertaining fashion.

Jagger and Richards were consolidating their control of the group as guitarist Brian Jones was continuing his slide toward death. This was the last album that he fully participated on, and his contribution was sporadic. However, his lovely slide guitar on 'No Expectations' is one of the most beautiful aspects of Beggars Banquet.

'Street Fighting Man' is a rocker that communicates the violence and protest taking place in 1968. At its release, it was considered quite a controversial song, but now its subject matter seems tame though well performed.

The album closes with 'Salt of the Earth.' It is primarily notable because Richards sings the first couple of lines and is one of his first recordings as lead vocalist. The song itself is a salute to the workers of the world. Jagger has said that his lyrics were meant in a cynical way because the people being sung about were the ones with no power. Basically, the song is meant as a hymn for the suffering masses.

There is no denying that Beggars Banquet is a great album. It was an album of resurgence for the Rolling Stones. If it had failed, the band might have faded into the sunset instead of becoming a musical corporation.

I do not know which fate is worse.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Oh, sweet Barrow, please bless me with cool thoughts

The heat wave that plagued us for most of July and early August has eased up a bit. However, summer is still with us for a while, and it remains much too warm for my liking.

Because of this, it is time to take one of our infrequent looks at the weather in Barrow, Alaska. Barrow is the northernmost permanent settlement in the United States. Even though we have been scorched this season, the weather there has been more likeable.

For the next three days, the forecast there is: Tuesday -- high temperature of 46 and a low of 40 with partly cloudy skies. Wednesday -- high of 46 and a low of 41 with a 40 percent chance of showers. Thursday -- high of 46 and a low of 43 with a 30 percent chance of showers.

That makes me feel better. Soon, the weather will take a turn for the better here.

And folks in Barrow will wish they lived in Tennessee.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Me want Krispy Kreme bacon want it now

Recently, I have become more and more fixated on the Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburger. For those who don't know, this delicacy is a conventional bacon cheeseburger but a Krispy Kreme donut is used for the bun. It is not served nationally by a restaurant chain, but it has popped up at several state fairs and minor league baseball parks.

Based on what I have read, one of them runs somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 calories. Since adults should only eat 2,000 calories per day, one of these babies can bankrupt a person's diet.

I have never eaten one, and I know I should not eat one. But I want one really bad. Bacon, beef, cheese, and donut in one sandwich...oh baby, oh baby, oh baby, oh baby, oh baby.

For kids reading this, don't do what I do, but do what I say. Don't eat one. I'm just a poor man whose taste buds have gotten the better of him.

I'm heading to a very dark place.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Precious religious freedom

We should always cherish the freedom that we enjoy here in our country, and included in that freedom is the religious liberty we have at our disposal.

It is easy for people of faith to take for granted just how good we have it here. The only obstacle that we face when it comes to attending a worship service is our own willingness or lack of willingness to go. Complacency can be a mighty foe, and all too often, we let it get the best of us.

Of course, our nation's religious liberty has not always come easy. Just about every major religious group has faced some kind of hardship or opposition during its history. I will not go into much detail on that fact, but if a person disagrees, simply 'Google' it on the Internet and a massive amount of information will be presented.

We see this struggle play out in many different ways. Currently, we have seen controversies involving Muslims wanting to open cultural centers and mosques. The most prominent of these disputes have been efforts to open a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City.

'Ground Zero' is the term commonly applied to the site where Islamic terrorists attacked the World Trade Center complex on Sept. 11, 2001. Approximately 3,000 people died and many oppose putting a mosque in that area because they feel it is insensitive to the families who lost loved ones.

Though the sensitivities of the families are important, I do not see any legal reason to prevent the opening of the mosque. If the people proposing the facility have followed the regulations of New York, then they have every right to put a mosque there.

As Newsweek magazine put it recently: 'Does being American mean holding the personal pain of some above the constitutional rights of others...?' It is a fair question, but a person or group's constitutional rights still have to be protected even in an emotionally charged situation like this.

However, are the people proposing the mosque being insensitive? Yes. The people behind this effort had to have known that they would be walking into a storm of controversy. If they did not, then they were being remarkably naïve, but I believe they knew what they were doing.

The discussion we have seen on this has been a fascinating example of the 'marketplace of ideas' in action. Both sides have been under a lot of scrutiny but have done a good job getting their points across.

Of course, there have been some fringe elements that have engaged in rhetoric that has been regrettable, but that is to be expected these days. I will not single any of those people out because I do not want to give them publicity.

I will say this though. We should all be wary of anybody who advocates violence when it comes to dealing with this situation (or others like it). Personal disagreement and civil disobedience have their place, but when it comes to destruction, don't you know that you can count me out.

The bottom line is America is a melting pot. Throughout our history, our strength has come from our diversity. Islam is a faith that concerns many right now because of what we read in the newspaper and watch on television.

I share the concerns that a lot of people have. A casual look at Islamic governments around the world shows that most of them are hard line. Being a woman in those countries must be unpleasant.

However, the United States is a country that emphasizes democracy.

And part of being a democracy includes dealing with issues that are complicated.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fun at the movies

I enjoy movies a lot, and one of the best experiences of the summer can be going to see a movie in a cool theater on a hot day.

As the years have gone by, I have noticed a lot of changes when it comes to my movie theater experience. Of course, this happens with most aspects of life. For people my age, just about everything is different when compared to how they were when we were children.

However, the differences are dramatic when taking a close look at what makes up my movie watching experience today.

The first difference is the subject matter. A few years ago I graduated from the important 18- to 40-year-old demographic. That age group is the group that most movies are geared toward. On top of that, I am a male so I was a king when it came to the movies at my disposal.

Unfortunately, this has changed as I have grown older. I am finding that I do not have much in common with most of the new movies. It seems like half of them are about vampires. The other half are ultra-violent thrill rides that really are not that thrilling.

An excellent movie like Inception will come along every now and then. The rest of them are about as exciting as watching an infomercial about colon cleansing.

This does not mean that they are all bad movies. It just means that I have little in common with them, and if I cannot relate to a film, then it does me no good.

Also, the cost of going to the movies has become ridiculous. I was recently out of town and had some time to kill so I decided to go to the movies.

The cost of a ticket to a matinee was $7.50. The cost for popcorn and a soft drink cost about $11 dollars. So, the cost for one person was almost $20.

Multiply that number by four and it is quick to see that it can cost a family an arm and a leg to go see a movie.

I suppose the theater folks try to justify these prices by giving a person more food than they can possibly consume. The cup for my soft drink was so big that I could almost fit my head in it (and I have a big head).

The container for the popcorn was huge and could best be described as a small-sized grocery bag. I could not eat it all, so this became the first time that I have taken a doggy bag home from the movies.

I got the popcorn with "butter" on it. I put the word butter in quotation marks because it does not resemble any butter that I am used to.

After I had driven home with my grocery bag of popcorn, I decided to throw it in the yard for the birds to eat. When I went outside the next morning, the popcorn was gone, but there was a big stain that probably came from the "butter."

If that stuff is potent enough to leave a stain on grass then I guess I should not be putting it into my body. I hate to think of the poor animals who ate all that. My neighborhood now probably leads the nation when it comes to animals suffering from heart disease.

Despite my bellyaching, going to the movies is still an enjoyable way to spend time. After all, it provides us time to get away from the pressures of life.

And that is worth a lot these days.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The miracles of Jesus

Something to consider...

Jesus told us to believe in Him, if for no other reason than the miracles He performed. Here is a list of the miracles of Jesus. I forgot where I got this list, so I apologize in advance for not crediting the source. Also, I know I have posted this before, but I really like it.

"Many healings" – Matthew 4:23 and Mark 1:32
Healing the leper – Matthew 8:1, Mark 1:40, Luke 5:12
Healing of the Centurion’s servant – Matthew 8:5 and Luke 7:1
Healing Peter's mother-in-law – Matthew 8:14, Mark 1:29, Luke 4:38
Calming the storm – Matthew 8:23, Mark 4:35, Luke 4:38
Healing the men of Gadara – Matthew 8:28, Mark 5:1, Luke 8:26
Healing the lame man – Matthew 9.1, Mark 2:1, Luke 5:18
Healing the hemorrhaging woman – Matthew 9:20, Mark 5:25, Luke 8:43
Raising Jairus's daughter – Matthew 9:23, Mark 5:22, Luke 8:41
Water turned into wine – John 2:1
Healing two blind men – Matthew 9:27
Healing a demon possessed man – Matthew 9:32
Healing the withered land – Matthew 12:10, Mark 3:1, Luke 6:6
Feeding over 5,000 – Matthew 14:15, Mark 6:35, Luke 9:12, John 6:1
Walking on the sea – Matthew 14:22, Mark 6:47, John 6:16
Healing the Syrophoenician's daughter – Matthew 15:21, Mark 7:24
Feeding of 4,000 – Matthew 15:32, Mark 8:1
Healing of the epileptic boy – Matthew 17:14, Mark 9:14, Luke 9:37
Healing the two blind men – Matthew 20:30
Healing the man with an unclean spirit – Mark 1:23, Luke 4:33
Healing the deaf, speechless man – Mark 7:31
Healing the blind man at Bethsaida – Mark 8:22
Healing the blind Bartimaeus – Mark 10:46, Luke 18:35
The miraculous catch of fish – Luke 5:4, John 21:1
Raising the widow's son – Luke 7:11
Healing the stooped woman – Luke 13:11
Healing the man with dropsy – Luke 14:1
Healing the ten lepers – Luke 17:11
Healing Malchus’s ear – Luke 22:50
Healing the royal official’s son – John 4:46
Healing the lame man – John 5:1
Healing the blind man – John 9:1
Raising Lazarus – John 11:38

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Learning from history

Understanding history is one of the most important tasks we can perform because it can have a big impact on how our lives unfold. After all, as the old saying goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Some dismiss that saying as just an old cliché. However, there is a lot of truth in it. Even though the generations come and go, humans are not that different than they were 100 or 1,000 years ago. The circumstances may change, but each generation tends to make the same mistakes.

I thought of this recently when my grandmother found some old magazines at her home. I was eager to read them because there is no better way of understanding history than by reading about the events of the day as they happened.

For example, a simmering issue on our current national landscape is how to crack down on illegal immigration. Arizona recently passed a law that it feels will help that state deal with this issue. Opponents of the law have denounced it as an example of racial profiling.

With this issue fresh in my mind, I found a story from the May 31, 1947, edition of the 'Saturday Evening Post' titled 'Why Mexicans Don't Like You.'

In a twist, the story did not deal with Mexicans coming to America. It dealt with the anger many Mexicans felt toward U.S. citizens when they traveled south of the border.

According to the story, Mexicans felt resentment because they felt Americans projected toward them a feeling of superiority and arrogance. They also were upset that U.S. citizens referred to themselves as 'Americans' because Mexico is also a part of North America, and they deserved that title, too.

Is the cultural conflict described in a story written 62 years ago playing a role in today's conflict? Probably, but a person would not know it based on how this issue is reported today.

Another article I discovered dealt with violent crime. Reports of rape and murder are common place today. When looking back at the past, we sometimes romanticize how tranquil life was back then.

However, concern about the growth of violent crime was addressed in the December 11, 1948, issue of 'The Post.' The article I read primarily focused on crimes done by adults against children.

In 1948, there was not a glimmer of an idea that our society would some day have technology like the Internet at its fingertips. Today, stalkers wanting to exploit children have a lot more resources at their disposal compared to back then. Despite this, the article understood that more aggressive steps were needed in dealing with these crimes. So, even though the circumstances were different then, people knew that this was an issue that was not going away.

On a lighter note, old magazines can remind us of the cyclical nature of pop culture. Today, the amount of information regarding life in Hollywood and in the music business can drown us if we are not careful. However, careers that seem unstoppable in these fields can go down within a matter of months.

For example, the November 6, 1970, issue of 'Life' magazine denounced the offerings of just about every major artist of that year. It called Bob Dylan’s recent album 'Self-Portrait' a self-caricature. It criticized Aretha Franklin's work for her new record label.

The magazine bemoaned the recent break up of the Beatles and Paul McCartney’s first solo album as lightweight. Even the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were integrated into what it called the 'Year of the Bomb.'

I guess 1970 was a bad year to be an artist.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Volunteers have to improve quickly to earn a bowl berth this season

The University of Tennessee football team faces its most imposing rebuilding effort since Johnny Majors took over the team in 1977. Under normal circumstances, the Volunteers would be facing a lot of work this year. However, the schedule this year is brutal, making the rebuilding to be done all the more difficult.

As we begin, here is the schedule:

Sept. 4 -- vs. UT Martin
Sept. 11 -- vs. Oregon
Sept. 18 -- vs. Florida
Sept. 25 -- vs. Alabama-Birmingham
Oct. 2 -- at LSU
Oct. 9 -- at Georgia
Oct. 23 -- vs. Alabama
Oct. 30 -- at South Carolina
Nov. 6 -- at Memphis
Nov. 13 -- vs. Mississippi
Nov. 20 -- at Vanderbilt
Nov. 27 -- vs. Kentucky

Tennessee plays Oregon, Florida, LSU, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina all before November. Florida, LSU, and Alabama have each won national championships in the last four years, and Oregon is the reining PAC-10 champion. Tennessee has lost three consecutive games to PAC-10 teams, including against UCLA last year.

Tennessee has to win six games to become bowl eligible. So, who will the Volunteers beat this year?

In September, Tennessee must win at least two games, but most likely will need three. The Volunteers should beat UT Martin and Alabama-Birmingham (notice I wrote 'should' because nothing can be taken for granted this year). As for Oregon and Florida, the best bet for a win will be against the Ducks. Oregon is a solid program but is coming off a lot of off-the-field problems that resulted in their starting quarterback getting booted off the team. A cross-country journey and a hostile crowd could make the Ducks vulnerable. I know this did not help us against UCLA last year, but the power of Neyland Stadium can intimidate good teams.

Unfortunately, October looks like a mess. Who will we beat? Despite regressing under Les Miles the last couple of years, beating LSU on their field is unlikely. They still have a lot of athleticism and can physically beat up teams, especially teams like Tennessee that lack depth. Georgia is a trendy pick by many to be the dark horse team in the league and should be worked up to pay Tennessee back for the 45-19 pasting they received last year.

Alabama is the defending conference and national champion. Despite returning only two starters on defense, the Crimson Tide should be formidable this year. As for South Carolina, its success or failure this year will be because of its offense. However, if Tennessee loses there, it will be more because of the Volunteers shortcomings than the Gamecocks ability.

At this point, I must conclude that Tennessee will lose all four of its October games. Because of this, the Volunteers must win three or four games in November to become bowl eligible. The good news is the schedule lightens up in November. Memphis has a new head coach and is coming off a 10-loss season. Tennessee should be sufficiently fired up to repay Ole Miss for the loss at Oxford last year. Kentucky likely is better than Tennessee, but has problems breaking through on the field against the Volunteers. Vanderbilt is also breaking in a new head coach and coming off a 10-loss season.

Based on all this, I believe Tennessee will finish 6-6 and qualify for a bowl. I believe Tennessee will beat: UT Martin, Oregon, Alabama-Birmingham, Memphis, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt.

That is not exactly the resume of a team that should go to a bowl, but these are the times we live in. Let's enjoy the season and make the most of it.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Volunteers facing a ton of questions as 2010 season approaches

The 2010 season is right around the corner for the Tennessee Volunteers. While that news usually produces rejoicing, this season may cause more pain than pleasure for Tennessee.

The team has many questions to answer. It starts at the top with new head coach Derek Dooley. While he has impressed many with his recruiting and decision making since taking over for Lane Kiffin, the true test comes now. For better or worse, we know Southeastern Conference coaches are defined by wins and losses. So, if Dooley cleans up all the off-the-field issues that have plagued the program, it will not matter if he does not win. I do not like that either, but this is the environment of college football.

Additionally, the Volunteers face a major rebuilding effort on offense. The offensive line lost all five starters from last year, which is bad news in the SEC. Right now, it appears that two freshmen and a sophomore will be among the new starters. In other words, this unit will be young and inexperienced. By examining Coach Dooley's work while head coach of Louisiana Tech, it shows us that he did a good job of developing the running game. His success doing this at Tennessee will define how far the team goes this year. To achieve this, the offensive line must quickly develop.

There are also big question marks at quarterback. Right now, junior college transfer Matt Simms is the starter. However, he was less than stellar during spring practice, throwing three interceptions in the spring game and completing less than a third of his passes in another scrimmage. Freshman Tyler Bray is likely the long-term solution at this position so it will be fascinating to see how much ground he gains during preseason practice.

There is some good news on offense. The Vols appear to be deep in talent at both the running back and wide receiver positions. Running back Tauren Poole does good things every time he touches the ball, but he had problems getting on the field under Kiffin. However, he will get his shot this year and so should backup David Oku. Oku provided some thrills returning kicks as a freshman last year.

At wide receiver, both Gerald Jones (46 catches last year) and Denarius Moore (40 catches last year) provide plenty of experience. Also, tight end Luke Stocker returns. Scouts say Stocker has pro talent and if that is so, he may become an important security blanket for whichever quarterback is throwing passes.

Six starters return on defense, but the bad news is safety Eric Berry and defensive tackle Dan Williams are both gone. Both were first round picks in the NFL draft. New defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox comes from Boise State where his defenses led the Western Athletic Conference in defense three years in a row. I can already read your mind: The SEC is not the WAC. I agree, but the important thing is that Wilcox has been successful wherever he has been.

On the defensive line, the strength is the ends. Defensive end Chris Walker is an All-SEC caliber player. At the other end, Ben Martin had 11 starts last year. However, the Volunteers are thin at defensive tackle and that could cause problems in a physical league like the SEC.

Middle linebacker Nick Reveiz returns from an ACL injury suffered in the Ohio game last year. Anybody who doubts how important he was to the team should watch a tape of the Auburn game. The Auburn game was the first game after his injury, and the Tigers' misdirection plays killed the Volunteers time after time after time.

The secondary could be good and is led by safety Janzen Jackson. If he has put his off-the-field problems behind him, he could become the next star on the Tennessee defense.

The kicking game is up in the air. Place kicker Daniel Lincoln lost his job late last season, and punter Chad Cunningham has been inconsistent at best. The Volunteers must get better in this phase of the game. Expect there to be a lot of competition for both these jobs during preseason practice.

(Note: My next posting will break down the upcoming schedule and analyze what the Volunteers have to do to earn a bowl berth. It won't be easy.)