Davy Jones, R.I.P.

I was saddened to read today of the death of Davy Jones, one of the Monkees.  Jones died of a heart attack at age 66.

When The Monkees TV show first began airing and their songs dominated the airwaves, Davy Jones became the heartthrob of millions of adolescent girls.  He was one of the first post-Beatles teen idols.  At that time, at least, the role of teen idol carried a certain responsibility — you had to be squeaky clean in your public persona, give mindless interviews about your pet peeves and favorite foods to magazines like Tiger Beat, and pose in the most ridiculous publicity photos imaginable.  Jones carried it off with elan, and then he handed off the baton to Bobby Sherman, who handed it off to David Cassidy, who handed it off to some other fresh-faced, inoffensive object of the platonic affections of millions of teenage American girls.

Who cares if Davy Jones wasn’t the world’s greatest singer or the world’s greatest actor?  He brought joy and excitement to the lives of many, he was part of a TV show that a lot of us liked at the time, and he managed to be part of some pretty darned good music that helped to define the ’60s.  I think Daydream Believer was one his best Monkees tunes, and it seems like a fitting point of remembrance.

Davy Jones, R.I.P.

Down To The Wire

The Ohio State Buckeyes are struggling, no doubt about it — but they aren’t out of the Big Ten race yet.

We’ve been saying all season that the Big Ten is balanced, and the regular season has proven that to be true.  The top team, Michigan State, already has four losses after getting drilled by Indiana last night, Ohio State and Michigan have five, and Wisconsin has six.  If The Buckeyes can win their last two games, against Northwestern and Michigan State, they would finish tied for first place.

That’s a big “if” right now.  The Buckeyes have lost two out of three at home and three of their last five.  In Sunday’s grim loss to Wisconsin, Ohio State had silly turnovers and couldn’t hit free throws, allowing the Badgers to stay in the game and pull out a last-second win.  The team seemed disorganized and undisciplined at crunch time.  These aren’t the kinds of qualities you want to see as tournament time arrives.  If a team can’t figure out to gut out close games, their season is likely to come to an early end.

Tonight’s game against Northwestern will be a good test.  The Wildcats are fighting for a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time, and a win over Ohio State would bring that dream a lot closer.  Northwestern already has beaten Michigan State this season, and behind their senior and scoring machine John Shurna they are fully capable of hanging another loss on the Buckeyes.  If Ohio State hopes to win this game, key players like Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, and William Buford need to step up and provide leadership at key moments, the team needs to play defense and rebound, and the players need to play smart basketball — which includes making their shots at the charity stripe.  It’s time for this Buckeye team to pull together and start playing like a contender.

Sitting On A Gas Price Spike

Dear President Obama and Members of Congress,

Could you please talk to your chauffeurs about the price of gas?  I know that you probably don’t drive or gas up your own vehicles, but your handlers and advisers and staffers just might, and therefore might know what I’m talking about.

The price of gas is spiking.  Here in Ohio, the average price per gallon increased 20 cents last week, and the price continues to climb rapidly.  This week, on my drive to Cleveland, a three-quarter tank fill-up cost more than $60.  Just to make sure you understand, that is not a good thing.  $60 is a lot of money.  If you have a job that requires you to drive a lot, as many of us do, higher gas prices suck.  As you’re driving, watching the fuel gauge drift down, you feel like you’re sitting on that sharp gas price spike, if you catch my drift.

Please don’t tell us nothing can be done about it right now, because drilling for oil in America wouldn’t affect prices in the short term.  Incidentally, why does that rationale only get used to avoid developing our natural resources, and never when we are talking about things like building commuter rail lines that wouldn’t be ready for years?  In any case, no one expects you to snap your fingers and lower prices immediately.  We do know, however, that the law of supply and demand works, and if we collect the oil and gas within our borders it will result in lower prices than would otherwise exist.  We just want you to stop flapping your gums and get off your duffs and do something to avoid the likelihood that we’ll be dealing with $6.00 or $7.00 or $8.00 a gallon gas for the indefinite future.

Speaking of commuter rail, please don’t lecture us about public transportation.  Out here in the Midwest, we don’t have the luxury of subsidized Amtrak trains as a travel option, and most of us who need to drive can’t plan our business trips around bus schedules.  You need to accept and embrace the fact that ours is a country of car owners and drivers, and we need gas.  Welcome to reality!

So please, figure out how to get our oil and gas out of the ground and into our tanks, and to do so in a way that is environmentally sensitive.  If you can’t do that, we’ll find somebody who can.  If that happens, perhaps you can experience firsthand the joys of crushingly expensive gas as you are driving to your cushy lobbying job or your next lucrative speaking engagement.

Sincerely, the American Commuter

Having Class Outside

Today was a beautiful day in Ohio.  The sky was bright, the sun shone down with friendly rays, and it was unseasonably warm.  Looking longingly out the window from the conference room of an office building, I was reminded of grade school and those fabulous days when you convinced your teacher to hold class outside.

It usually happened on the first warm day of spring.  You would walk into your classroom through a landscape reeking of grass and growth, with flowers starting to bloom and birds chirping.  One of the kids in the class would raise the possibility with the teacher, and then other kids would join in.  Soon the pleas would build to a crescendo:  “Please, Miss Tibbles?  Please???  We promise we’ll be good!”  And then the teacher, who probably was dealing with a touch of spring fever herself, would relent, and we would go outside and sit on the asphalt of the playground to listen to the day’s lessons.  And, because we appreciated the gesture and didn’t want to get our nice teacher into trouble, we actually would try to be good.

I always had a soft spot for teachers who agreed to hold class outside.  Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it showed some real flexibility — and real confidence in their ability to control their class.  And when it happened, it made those rare spring days that much more special.  Who doesn’t look back fondly on the days when they got to have class outside?

The Vermilion Town Hall

The Vermilion Town Hall is found on one of the wooded town squares near the railroad tracks and the downtown area.  It was built in 1883, at a time when Ohio was booming and towns like Vermilion were interested in displaying their prosperity and success in tangible form.  Town halls were good ways to make that kind of statement in a civic-minded, yet unmistakable, way.

The Town Hall is an imposing brick structure with an eclectic architectural style that includes large circular windows, towers, and an odd bit of ornamental work over the doorway that looks like two swans yelling at each other.  I’m sure the distinctive architectural flourishes were the source of great pride when the Town Hall was built in the 1880s — but now, perhaps, the town government may look at them more as the subject of nagging, and ongoing, maintenance costs.

What Price Political Endorsements?

One good thing about this year’s seemingly endless Republican presidential campaign — it has demonstrated, clearly and conclusively, how empty and meaningless political “endorsements” really are.

We know this because Rick Santorum endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008, saying that Romney was the clear conservative candidate who could be trusted.  Now Santorum is arguing that Romney is a wimpy flip-flopper who couldn’t possibly be expected to govern in accordance with conservative principles.  What has changed?  Not much — other than that now Santorum is running against Romney for the 2012 Republican nomination.

We should all be grateful to Santorum for giving us such a powerful demonstration of how silly endorsements are.  Which really reflects Santorum’s beliefs — his wholehearted statements of support for Romney in 2008, or his strong criticisms of Romney in 2012?  The correct answer, in all likelihood, is neither.  In 2008, Santorum probably wanted to weigh in on the race — because it is hard for any career politician to remain fully on the sidelines — and to have a chit in the bank if Romney won.  In 2012, Santorum has been possessed by his own lust for national office, and he’s not going to let his past statements get in the way of his ambitions.

It’s hard for me to believe that any voter attaches much weight to endorsements.  After Santorum’s abrupt about-face, no voter should.  Whether they come from Republicans or Democrats, political endorsements are the product of calculation, not conviction.

Monday Night Not So Madness

A few months ago I was lucky enough to be asked by a great group of guys to join their pool team based out of Halftime Tavern and last night we went out with a whimper finishing in ninth place in the 2011-2012 Winter League. Our final record was 39-66 so there is plenty of time for practice and room for improvement during the summer before we start back up in the fall. Thanks again guys (me, Eric, Nevin, Mike and Nick) this was a lot of fun.