Archive for April 2012
When you’re a teacher, you sometimes find that current events and pop culture illustrate your content in ways you could never imagine. You never get tired of that happening, because it lends instant credibility to what you’re teaching, and thusly you don’t have to be pestered about how whatever you’re teaching is going to be used in real life. Sometimes, the connections between “real life” and class content come from totally unexpected sources, which is why I’m trying to wrap my head head around being able to use Ted Nugent as a reference point in my Creative Writing class.
First, it’s worth noting that Ted Nugent wrote and recorded “Stranglehold,” perhaps the most ass-kickingest song in the history of music. I defy you to listen to the first minute, starting with the opening guitar licks and the drums and bass kicking in, and not be totally pumped. It’s pure Ted Nugent jamming on his guitar, wailing on that thing for all it’s worth. There’s really no other way to describe the masterpiece other than as a balls-out psychedelic heavy metal jam. Nowadays, Nugent seems to be throwing himself into supporting gun rights and tearing down the Democratic Party the same way he threw himself into “Stranglehold” so many years ago. This is evidenced by his preposterous speech at the National Rifle Association convention last weekend in St. Louis.
One concept we study in Creative Writing when we study poetry is “hyperbole,” which is the intentional use of exaggeration. It is oft times used for comedic purposes, though it can also be used to make emphasis. You probably first encountered this by way of your parents: If I told you kids to shut up once, I’ve told you a thousand time! As you can see, hyperbole is figurative; it’s not meant to be taken literally. It’s also an easy concept for high school students to grasp, because THEY USE IT ALL THE TIME! “My backpack weighs a ton… Everybody else is doing it… I swear to god I almost died running laps in gym…” You might also be familiar with it by way of The Beatles’ “Taxman.” It’s all over the opening stanzas:
Let me tell you how it will be / There’s one for you, nineteen for me / ‘Cause I’m the taxman… Should five per cent appear too small / Be thankful I don’t take it all / ‘Cause I’m the taxman… If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street, / If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat. / If you get too cold I’ll tax the heat, / If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet.
Now, thanks to Uncle Ted, I don’t have to point to my students or Beatles songs as the best examples of hyperbole. Some of my favorite lines from Nugents speech:
“If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”
“If you can’t galvanize and promote and recruit people to vote for Mitt Romney, we’re done.”
“We are patriots. We are Braveheart. We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.”
Not to be outdone by even himself, Nugent hit one out of the park Tuesday on a radio talkshow while defending his comments and talking about how he fits in with the Democratic administration in Waashington: “I’m a black Jew at a Nazi-Klan rally.”
Nugent’s penchant for hyperbole shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. His career as a guitar legend seemed based heavily on bombast, to the point that in the heyday of his career, he may as well have been strutting around the stage with his junk hanging out the front of his pants. It’s easy to hear that after a few runs through “Stranglehold,” the guitar solo of which ranks at #31 on both the Guitar World list of the 50 Greatest Guitar Solos and Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All-Time. But take a listen to “Cat Scratch Fever,” “Free For All“, “Dog Eat Dog,” or Double Live Gonzo!, too. His way of crashing headlong and guitar-first through songs helped establish the tone for his genre of rock and cement his reputation as The Motor City Madman (if I had that cool of a nickname, I’d do everything I could to take it to my grave).
So it seems Nugent attacks everything with the same degree of gusto he once had for his music. It’s cool to be able to live like that, but the NRA (and the Republican party) are stuck with damage control in the wake of his rant. Maybe Nugent’s political leanings and zeal for gun rights will simmer to a tepid joke, much as his music career did with Damn Yankees.
Finally, hyperbole, just like any other element of poetic craft, is something a writer decides to use with a great deal of intentionality to convey certain ideas. So what if Ted Nugent wasn’t intentionally using hyperbole? Then it’s called melodrama. Either way, if you’re stumping for the Republicans in 2012, is Nugent the guy you want on your side? Wasn’t Sarah Palin embarrassment enough?
I don’t often take time to say “I told you so!” when I’m generating content for The Seeker, mainly because it would be a waste of time. After all, isn’t it safe to assume that I know best and can be counted on to be right? (unless you look at my baseball predictions last summer when I all but announced that the Brewers were going to be in the World Series… or three years ago when I pencilled in the Cardinals to win the series… or shortly thereafter when I said it would be the Phillies… or when I was lobbying strongly for the Bears over the Packers in the NFC title game… anything else?)
But there is one thing I wrote about in the last year that is an Absolute Truth: When animals and baseball cross paths, it’s ALWAYS an omen. Good or bad, it’s an omen. Last year at this time, I wrote about a Cooper’s Hawk flying around Miller Park and lighting into a poor pigeon during game play. I took it as an omen that good things were going to happen, and I was right. Milwaukee went on to post the best home record in all of baseball, and made a deep run into the playoffs before, ironically, being slain by a different type of bird.
Those birds went on to win the World Series, and some say it’s because the superstitious St. Louis fans rallied around a squirrel that ran across home plate during Game 4 the division series. They rode that superstition all the way through Game 7 of the World Series, and now that nutty squirrel is immortalized on the Cardinals’ championship rings.
Given all this, I’m more than willing to spend my own time and money to install an expressway from the Lincoln Park Zoo to Wrigley Field so that every possible animal-baseball interaction can occur. I figure if you shotgun the whole thing like that, something is bound to happen that will fate the Cubs to finally win the damn World Series. This is in no way an endorsement for the Cubs to finally hoist a championship banner; nor is it a plead to the Baseball Gods to finally have mercy on the Cubs–I’m just sick of hearing about The Billygoat and The Black Cat.
Easter was time well spent. When two different sets of family plans didn’t pan out, when plans to go to a flea market were upended, when there seemed like no other option but to sit at home and free-base jelly beans and watch Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail, I did what any level-headed person should do: I went to the ballgame.
It wasn’t the greatest game ever. In fact, it sucked. The Brewers got shellacked by the Cardinals; it was all the worse that they were done in by a guy making his first-ever MLB start at pitcher. But it’s early yet. I think the Brewers are going to spend a good deal of the spring finding their identity now that they are without Prince Fielder. My faith in Ron Roenicke also leads me to believe that once they find that identity (i.e.: they are a speed-oriented, on-base team with power pitching), they’ll be back in the swing of things. If you’ll pardon the pun.
What am I complaining about?! I was at the ballgame for the first time in 8 months.
There’s baseball elsewhere, of course. You’ll have that when it’s opening weekend. One of the compelling stories is the re-branding of the Miami Marlins, complete with a bizarre, whimsical stadium. The franchise wanted a Latino voice that would appeal to their fan base, and they got one by hiring coach Ozzie Guillen, but they also got a foul-mouthed, gibberingly unintelligible voice who is currently employing something like a construction crane to pull his foot out of his mouth after some comments he made about Fidel Castro.
Guillen also figures prominently into a recent article in The New Yorker. I started reading the article last night, and was soon in stitches. A sample dialogue between Guillen and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria as it appears in Ben McGrath’s “Old Fish, New Fish”:
“I heard you say the F-word,” Loria chided.
Guillen ignored the remark, slapped his boss’s hand, and patted him on the shoulder several times. “If I get this man to where he should be, it gonna be a raise,” he said.
Loria lifted his eyebrows. “The World Series?” he asked.
“Oh, no, that’s up to them,” Guillen said, and turned to look back at the players on the field.
“Oh, so they should get the raise,” Loria said.
“I get paid to win World Series,” Guillen continued.
“O.K.,” Loria said, verging on impatient. “So just do it.”
Guillen shook his head. “They gonna do it,” he said, and gestured at the field again. “My job? Hey, listen, if I get involved in the game more often, that means we’re horseshit. See, I stay away from them? That means we winning… Make sure Ozzie’s not involved during the game. As soon as I start making moves, I might fuck it up.”
Loria must like the abuse. He hired Joe Girardi to manage the team a few years back; Girardi told him to “shut the fuck up” during an August, 2006 game in St. Louis.
Anyhow… I was trying my hand last spring and summer with writing some Onion-style pieces here on The Seeker. Incidently, I targeted Ozzie Guillen with a couple of satires, one of which I never published that references the mid-season struggles the White Sox had last year after signing Adam Dunn. Given all this unexpected baseball, now seems like a good time to let it loose.
Manager Explain Pun Inherent in Slugger’s Last Name
Several Chicago-area sportwriters were part of an impromptu linguistics lesson today from an unlikely source: English-impaired White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. Guillen took time out of the pre-game press conference to explain that given his disappointing performance this season, struggling designated hitter Adam Dunn’s name presents a classic pun. “Think about it,” Guillen encouraged reporters. “He whiff 142 time already. He hit 11 home runs, he bat in 40 runs, and average .162. He not even hitting his weight.” Guillen pointed out that the slugger’s numbers were far less than his 162-game averages of 38 home runs, 96 RBIs, and .245 batting average. Guillen went on to explain paranomasia, a type of wordplay wherein one word sounds like another, though the words are spelled different. Addressing the quizzical look on the faces of the press corps, Guillen explained, “Dunn his last name. His bat say his career probably done. Get it? Dunn is ‘done.'” Once the explanation sunk in, resigned chuckles rippled across the room, which only seemed to encourage Guillen. “I got one better. When you say ‘Dunn is done’ is a $12 million joke, you get syllepsis. You using the phrase literally and figuratively all at once.” Surveying the once again blank stares, Guillen scolded reporters, “You dumbasses don’t have a clue, do you?” He wrapped up his comments by returning to the initial, simpler pun concept. The latino-born skipper quipped, “Same apply to (pitching staff ace Mark) Buerhle. He got a lot of muscles when you see him in locker room.”
Here’s a poem I wrote about 6 years ago, appropo to the time of year. I tried to get this thing published in Elysian Fields Quarterly. No dice. I forgot about it until recently. Seems like now is as good a time as any to post it.
Waiting by Jeff Burd
Until your inevitable return
in April when we wait with baited breath-
our tickets in hand- behind a turnstile
and feel the flutter of the butterflies;
Until your vendors hawk their salted nuts 5
and icy beers as we who settle in
familiar seats scratch names of starters on
scorecards and the anthem is proudly sung;
Until your umpires cry, “Play Ball!” and teams
ascend worn dugout steps to take the field 10
and sculpt a masterpiece of speed and power
for starry-eyed dreamers outside the lines;
Then, only then, can we love you again
and breathe you in until October ends.