Friday, March 28, 2014

Five Things on a Friday: Turtles First Look!

1.  These are some giant, monster-looking turtles.

Not sure what else there is to say about it besides noting that there’s a definite Amazing Spider-Man (the movie) vibe to this trailer that I don’t think necessarily adds to the mystery.

Also: is the new Shredder a white guy?  What the fuck is up with that?  I mean, I don’t need my movies to be slavishly devoted to the comics in every detail, but it makes sense that the Shredder is Japanese and that the ninja turtles are trained by a rat who is also linked in some way to Japanese culture.  Why else would the Turtles be ninja?  It’s a niche profession.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure we’ll wind up seeing this one when it hits the theaters because the girls and I are all pretty big Turtles fans--in both their comics and in the current Nickelodeon animated TV series--but still…  I gotta say that I’m skeptical.
“A National Labor Relations Board official ruled Wednesday that football players at Northwestern University are employees of the school and can form a union.”
It’s a little odd that Northwestern University was the first one to test this theory, but the judgment is sound, and I’m personally sick to death of the NCAA’s amazingly willful hypocrisy on this issue.  The NCAA, the university system, and the TV networks all make gazillions of dollars on the backs of high-profile student athletes while the athletes themselves perform 90% of the work and take all of the physical risks, mostly without compensation.
That needs to change.  This is a capitalist country that can only succeed if employees force their employers to pay them for the value of their labor.  You don’t have to like that necessarily, but it’s still the backbone of the modern corporate economy, and you’re a fool if you refuse to realize it.  You’re probably also either making less than could or else willing to force a hard bargain out of your own employer but unwilling for some reason to allow others to do the same.
Fact is, folks will take advantage of you.  It’s up to you to stop them, and this is what a first step in that direction looks like.  
With all of that said, I personally only have a problem with the university sports system to the extent that it’s a for-profit institution.  For sports that aren’t big-time money makers, it’s hard to argue that a scholarship isn’t decent exchange for the value of one’s athletic effort.  And since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled on the basis of hours worked rather than income generated by the sport, it’s entirely possible that this ruling will actually wind up hurting a majority of scholarship athletes.  That would be unfortunate, but it doesn’t change the reality that major college athletics is an incredibly intense and time-intensive activity.  It just is.  In the sense that the ruling reflects the reality on the ground, it’s hard to argue with it.
3. While we’re talking about college sports...
If you’re wondering, one of the major reasons that I decided to go to West Point was because I realized while I was still a junior in high school that I was never going to make it to the Olympics.  I hated admitting that to myself, but with it came the realization that I’d be a fool to devote 40+ hours/week to a sport that, let’s face it, was never going to pay the bills.  Yeah, maybe I could’ve walked on at Florida or Tennessee, or I could’ve maybe taken a scholarship at a smaller swimming school--LSU recruited me, for example--but swimming at one of those places looked like it was going to be a frustrating and difficult experience no matter which choice I made.  On top of that, it wasn’t going to get me a whole lot of anything meaningful in the long run.  
I therefore decided to try to get something else out of my swimming career.  That something else turned out to be the opportunity to attend a better school.  Granted, that decision came with its own headaches--need-blind financial aid schemes, my family’s rather considerable tradition of military service, various school-fit decisions--but those headaches were a choice.  I knew that if I decided to attend one of the academies or one of the ivies, and I then decided to stop swimming later on, well, I’d still be in a pretty good place.  Come what may, I’d walk away with a degree that was worth having.  Taking a scholarship, on the other hand, meant essentially getting a job to pay for school--and that job would be one that I couldn’t quit under any circumstances.
So.  As it happens, major college athletics is still a pretty intense experience, even at a place like the United States Military Academy.  We routinely put in 20 to 25 hours per week on the Swim Team in-season, and it always cost me something like .6 on my GPA during the second semester.  On the other hand, the Academy has ways of using your time when you’re not swimming, so especially during my first two years, the incentive to stay on the team was pretty damned strong.  Swimming was more of a grind my last two years, but even then, I only really wanted to quit as a Firstie, and it was only because I got mono right before the academic term started.  Let me tell you, swimming and managing an Academy schedule while you’re recovering from mono is no fucking picnic.  When I took my Commissioning Physical, the Army’s doctors initially diagnosed me with a blood disease and labeled me unfit for service.  It was only after some rather incredulous pleading on my part and a slew of repeated blood tests that they correctly diagnosed me--and then threw me straight back into the pool.  They told me I needed to take it easy, though.  I’m still not sure exactly how the Hell I was supposed to manage that.
Anyway, that last season of college swimming was not fun.  I’d recovered enough by Christmas to get myself mostly back into shape during the team’s training trip to Florida, and I did reasonably well at the Patriot League and Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championships at the end of the season.  The first half of that season, though, was a miserable slog through a slew of shitty third-place finishes, and I did not enjoy it.  
That season finally ended on the last night of Easterns, after the finals of the 200 fly.  I made it into the Top 8 but swam like crap in that last race, and I can’t say that I cared.  I got out and Ray, our coach, met me with a smile.  He shrugged.  I shrugged, too.  And then I threw my goggles in the trash and walked away.  
Fifteen years passed before I started swimming again.
I really enjoyed Slate.Com’s Gentlemen Scholar this week, focusing on the etiquette for dueling.  Author Troy Patterson convinced me that we’d be far better off if we still fought like men rather instead of relying on lawyers to settle our disputes.
The following is my favorite excerpt, but the entire article is well worth your time.
“In the 1500s, it was supposed that only a gentleman had the right to a coat of arms—the heraldry that, originally, signified the right to bear arms itself. By the 1600s, studying at least a bit of fencing was de rigueur for fancy lads. For most of the 1700s, “anyone, civilian or military, with pretensions to gentlemanly status would have worn a small sword on a daily basis.” Fighting a duel was an upper-class privilege.
This is a first rule to heed, my gentlemanly reader: If some fellow makes a scurrilous remark at your expense, consider challenging him to a duel only if he belongs to your elevated caste. If the insult instead issues from the chapped mouth of an inferior, then simply give him a quick thrashing with your cane and get on with your day.”
Right.  I’m pro-union and a class snob.  What are your other questions?
5.  The West Point Society of Connecticut’s Founder’s Day celebration is Saturday.
And for once we’re going.  I haven’t been to Founder’s Day in more than a decade, but my wife Sally convinced me to go last week.  She said, “I thought you were trying to be a better graduate.”
Yeah, I am.  
I don’t know what to expect out of Connecticut’s version of Founder’s Day, but we’re going because it really is worthwhile to try to reconnect with my Academy roots, for all that the place drives me crazy from time to time.  Besides which, maybe one of my classmates will be there.  Who knows?  That would certainly be a Hell of a nice surprise.
That’s all I’ve got this week.  We’re running tomorrow at Tri Club Practice, hopefully an easy 7-miler for me.  I’ve kind of had that in the back of my mind for this weekend ever since deciding to take a Rest Week this week.  God willing, we’ll even have a little decent weather.
Enjoy the weekend!


  1. Great article man! Love reading about other peep's experiences in college because I treated my own as kind of inconvenience inside and outside of school. In comparison, everyone else's seems so exciting.

    Mono and swimming...bleh. Glad they sorted it out eventually.

    Quick tidbit: Last week's Anime Boston had someone request your autograph on RA #2! There's a little backstory there, but I thought you'd like to know that your signature is in demand. :D

    1. Really?! That's gotta be the craziest thing I've ever heard. Why?

      BTW, I saw your posts that the show went well. Congrats. I gotta say, I'm impressed with the fanbase you've built.

    2. Lora was signing copies of Issue #3 (she drew the cover and wrote a story) and a buyer noticed that you had a story in Issue #2 and wanted to get your autograph too. I told him you were doing an Alan Moore media freeze. XD

    3. That's hilarious! Excellent, excellent job.

  2. The movie looks like it'll be fun.

  3. I'm looking forward to the Founders Day dinner as it gets a chance to meet other WP graduates who live in the area and we get a date night too.