Saturday, October 23, 2010

Are You Ready for Some Football?...'Cause I'm Not

After a long, hard week working in the tire factory, it is finally Friday.  I could not be more happy for the weekend.  I just got paid, I have two days off, I just got the news I have been waiting for about a new job, and the Eagles are playing the Titans on Sunday.

So, guess what I will be doing on Sunday afternoon.  I will help you.  I may be reading a book, walking around the mall, or wasting time on Facebook.  I will not be watching the Eagles game.  I also will not be watching the Saints, Patriots, Bills, Cowboys, Jaguars or Steelers.  What do I have against these teams?  Nothing.  I just don’t watch football.  What do I have against football?  Nothing.  I just have no interest.  None.

I have never had any interest in football.  Or baseball.  Or basketball.  Or any other sport.  I just don’t care.  Sports do nothing for me.  When I see those big emotional documentaries on Babe Ruth, Joe Namath, or Mickey Mantle, or footage of the Immaculate Reception, I can’t help but think, “It’s just a game.”  What’s the big deal?

I didn’t grow up in a sports family.  We didn’t watch the games on TV or go play baseball in the yard.  I did play Little League when I was in grade school.  I even tried out for basketball when I was in the fourth grade, but even then it wasn’t because I loved sports.  I did it because,…well, it’s what my friends were doing.  I even had fun playing baseball in the summer, but it’s because I was a kid and I was playing.  Playing is what kids like to do, but I would have been just as happy playing anything.

As an adult, I really don’t understand the fascination with a bunch of guys who throw a ball around.  I am not saying anything against sports fans.  They enjoy it and that’s great; I just don’t understand it.  A man goes to see his favorite team play.  Let’s say the Rams, since I am so close to St. Louis.  There are some good plays, some lousy calls by the refs, and in the end the Rams win (or lose).  Now, I understand the entertainment of watching the game, but when it’s over, it’s over.  The number went up in either the W or the L column.  What difference does it make?  If they keep winning and make it to the Super Bowl, even win it, what difference does it make?  Whether they win or lose, they will be back again to play next year.  To be so into the game that arguments break out in bars and living rooms over whether the coach should be kept or which players should be traded is beyond me.

Once again, I want to state that I have nothing against the people that are huge fans, not even the ones who paint their whole body the team colors and wear crazy hats.  If this is what some people want to put their time and energy into, that is fine by me.  I am sure there are many people out there who do not understand my extreme interest in computers, reading, and photography.  Those are the things I like to do, and could easily burn an entire weekend in front of my computer or reading.  So, I have nothing against sports or the people who follow or play them.  I just don’t get into it myself.

However, there is one thing about many sports fans that makes me want to take up cage fighting so I can make them tap out.  Why is it that if I don’t know the name of the Bears’ quarterback or the shortstop for the Pirates in 2006, I am suddenly not a man, at least, not one from this planet?  I have tolerated the endless discussions about the rivalry between Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon with my best smile, but as soon as I cannot participate in the conversation with any knowledge on the matter, I feel like I am being shunned.  “You don’t follow NASCAR?  What do you do on Sundays?”  The next question is the worst one.  “So what sport DO you follow?  Football, baseball, golf, soccer, MMA fighting, dodge ball, competitive bass fishing?”  It is unheard of that I don’t follow any sport.  Once I confess this dirty little secret, there is usually several minutes of silence while they try to think of what we could possibly talk about if sports is off the table.

I first noticed this prejudice in high school.  Near the end of my senior year, my school hosted a Sports Appreciation meal.  It was a rather simple affair.  The school ordered several dozen pizzas for the sports participants of the school.  Of course, the basketball and baseball players were all there.  I walked in with my team and the partiers of the room stopped and stared.  “What are you guys doing here?”  You see, the team I was on was the Scholastic Bowl.  We competed against other schools in academic challenges.

As far as we were concerned, we should be part of the meal.  What we did was a sport.  We would compete with 5-person teams and two alternates.  There was a countdown timer and we kept score (unlike cheerleaders, who were at the meal).  Our matches had officials (like referees), we practiced three times a week and traveled to our different meets.  It was very competitive.  Sounds like a sport to me.

We hadn’t even been invited to participate, but our coach found out about it and decided we should crash the party.  We got a lot of dirty looks and nasty comments, but we didn’t mind.  We just wanted the pizza.  Maybe if we threw balls at the opposing teams while they answered we would have gotten more respect.

So, this Sunday, if you invite me over to watch the game and I say, “No, thank you,” know that it is nothing against you.  It’s just that if you want me to sit through three hours of sports talk and watching people yell at a TV then you need to have some really good snacks.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Family Reunion (Shurtz & Skins)

This afternoon Kirsten and I went to our family reunion. This was the Shurtz reunion. Shurtz is the maiden name of my father's mother (my grandmother Margaret). My grandmother was one of several (I forget how many) children. I am thinking it was about 7 or 8. This reunion was for all her brother's and sister's descendants. This is the first time we have gotten together in about 15 years. I don't know why we stopped the yearly tradition. We used to have one every summer and I looked forward to seeing my family that I usually only saw at this function. It was great, but it stopped suddenly and it took over a decade to make it happen again. However, now it is different.

Because we haven't seen each other in so long, I really didn't know who anybody was. I knew a few of them, but they were the ones that had lived close enough that we saw each other all the time growing up. Since they were part of my childhood, I obviously knew them. But that only applied to about a dozen of the people there. The other 90% of the crowd had to be explained to me by my parents. We had many conversations similar to this one (names changed to keep from offending).

ME: "Who was that woman taking pictures of me?"
MOM: "That's Sarah."
ME: "Who's that?"
MOM: "You know, Duane's wife."
ME: "Who is Duane?
MOM: "Brett, come on, tell me you remember. Duane is Gladys' second son."
ME: "So Gladys had two sons?"
MOM: "No, she had four. Three with her first husband and one with her second."
ME: "So, who is Gladys?"
MOM: "She's not here, she died in 2005."
ME: "Sorry to hear that, but who is she?"
MOM: "Your grandmother's sister."
ME: "Which one?"
MOM: "Brett, your father only had one mother. Which one do you think?"
ME: "I KNOW THAT! Which sister was she?"
MOM: "The one named GLADYS!"

So, needless to say, I still don't know who that woman taking pictures of me was, but she seemed to know me and my parents. So, I assume she was part of the family, but I honestly don't know how. I talked to several second and third-cousins about how we do not know any of the people in this room. Most of the time, I didn't know the cousin I was talking to. We would introduce ourselves, and sometimes explain whose kid or grandkid we were. The older people would always ask, so they could place us properly in the family tree, but the younger ones never asked. I think we were just happy to get to visit with someone without having to validate why we were allowed to be in the room.

Despite being surrounded by all these long lost relatives, my brothers and I (who live within a mile of each other) sat together when we started eating. I had a brother (Kyle and Trevor) on each side of me. Kyle's wife sat across from him. My daughter, Kirsten, sat across from me with Kyle's sons (Gage and Isaac) on each side of her. My aunt Claudia, my dad's sister, sat next to Trevor. We sat and told stories like we always do when we get together and had a very good time.

I really enjoyed eating in the same room as all the other Shurtz clan and cannot wait until next year when we can do it again.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Problem with Russian Literature

I love to read.  I am reading something everyday.  Books, magazines, newspapers, comics, Internet anything: I have read it.  I even read the video game booklet before playing the game.  It drives my kids nuts.  I just love to read.  I am usually reading about 3 books at one time.  I keep one to read at work, I have one by my bed, and I have one in the car.  So, needless to say, I consider myself a fairly well-read person.

That opinion came to an end a few months ago.  I was perusing the library again for my newest literary conquest and found an interesting book, "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die"  by Peter Boxall.

Being the bibliophile that I am, I was immediately interested.  I thumbed through it in the library to see what classics I may have missed.  To my surprise, there were quite a few books I had never read.  So, I checked out the book for further investigation.  For the next four days, anytime I was in front of the television, I was typing the books into my laptop (not knowing the list is already on the Internet here and dozens of other places).  I had decided that if these were the best books ever written, according to the critics that contributed to the book, then I wanted to read them all.  Once I got them all typed in, I soaked my fingers for a few hours, then I began to eliminate the ones I had already read, so I could make the list smaller.  When I was done the list was down to 952.


How could that be? I have read approximately two books per week since I learned how to read. This is impossible. I began to go through a mental checklist of the books I have been reading, and I realized that for the last several years, I have not been reading books that would ever be considered classics of literature. I have read hundreds of political commentaries, books on law and psychology, Christian social commentaries, and the works of Stephen King. I realized that although I had read a huge number of books, I typically just read whatever sounded good to me at the time. I am not saying that was a bad thing. That is probably how most people choose their next book to read. Well, no more. I decided to expand my reading repertoire.

I changed my attitude. Instead of being disgusted at how few of the classics I had read, I became excited about the huge list of books I now had in my future. So I dove in. One of the first ones I read was "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath. I read it one day at work and finished it that night. I wasn't sure what to think of it. It is an autobiographical piece from Plath. She has what many would call a wonderful life and isn't even twenty yet. She is an aspiring writer, has been given a scholarship to intern at a magazine in New York, is going to all the fancy places paid for by the magazine and just isn't happy. She is disconnected from life, tries to kill herself and ends up in an institution. Apparently, Plath is heralded as being one of the great American woman writers and is inspiring to many young women. I don't get it. She did write well, but where was the inspiring part. She constantly talked about suicide and eventually did it in real life. Not my sort of book, but I got to mark it off the list.

I read "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandré Dumas. Excellent book. I was already familiar with the story, but had never read it. I look forward to "The Three Musketeers" by him also. Next was "Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut which is basically about a WWII soldier who survives being a POW, starts a successful business after the war, and starts a family. Then, the aliens come and abduct him to the planet Tralfamadore, where he is thrown in a zoo-type structure to be gawked at by the residents there. He is forced to breed with another Earthling, who happens to be a big movie star in Hollywood. After that, it gets kind of strange.

So, I was getting books marked off of my list, but I was not looking forward to all of them. I noticed there were several books by Fyodor Dostoevsky, an 19th century Russian author who wrote most of his books while imprisoned in Siberia. A few years ago I read his book "Crime and Punishment." It was not an enjoyable experience. In a nutshell, the main character, Raskolnikov, decides to rob and murder an old woman. He does so, also killing her half-sister. Then spends the next 800 pages feeling guilty. I hated that book and even had trouble keeping track of the different characters. In Russia, your name changes depending on who is speaking to you. To give you an idea how complicated this can get, I found a webpage (click here) that explains it. Here, my name is Brett to everyone. Occasionally, I am called Mr. Minor. That's about as complicated as it gets. Not in Russia. Check the link for a moment to get an idea of what I am talking about.

When reading a book with several characters, it is important for the reader to keep the different characters straight in order to avoid confusion.  Being raised in the U.S., I am accustomed to names like William, Robert and Susan.  Dostoevsky has characters named Parfen Rogozhin, Dmitri Prokofitch Razumihin, Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, and Pavel Fyodorovitch Smerdyakov. When not being accustomed to these types of names and there are three dozen characters with such names, it gets difficult to keep track of who did what. Add to that the fact that everyone's name changes according to who is speaking to them, it gets even worse. A man is not addressed by an acquaintance with the same name his mother would use for him. It is even a different name for a business associate. Even the middle and last names change determined by whether the name is being used for a legal purpose or casually.

Therefore, I suffered though the book, not know what was going on half of the time. Add to that the fact that every character is so long-winded with everything they have to say. A character could go on for four pages just asking for a cup of tea. But now, I have to read five more Dostoevsky novels to complete my list. So, I decided to get them out of the way.

I have now read "Notes from the Underground", "The Brothers Karamazov", and am half-way through "The Idiot."  I have to admit, they have gotten better.  I had to get used to his writing, but I am coming to appreciate it.  Most of the characters seem to be insane, much like the author, but they are fun to watch.

I still have over 900 books left on my list and I have discovered there are groups of people who have decided to try to read all these books as well.  They have even started book discussion groups online.  So, I know I am not crazy for trying this.  Party at my house when I have finished the last one.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Feeling Pretty Good Today

I was quite impressed with the profile numbers today.  My first post went up about 24 hours ago and it has had 87 views already.  Of course, I have to mention that I posted it to my Facebook page twice begging people to go look at it.  Either way, it was good for my ego.  Not that my ego is suffering.  I believe it is very healthy and a few people have told me so, but that just made it stronger because it was noticed.  I try to keep it in check, but it often walks the line between healthy ego and acute arrogance.  Most the time I am not paying attention and just let it do it's own thing, trusting that it will behave itself.  But, like a spoiled child, it only looks out for itself.

I am aware of the fact that I come off as arrogant quite often.  I don't mean to do it and don't speak as often as I would like to for fear that I will dominate the conversation or even be condescending.  I sit quietly in Sunday School and meetings at work most of the time.  I do speak up, but try to keep my comments to the point and let other people speak.  I know this is what people are supposed to do anyway (it is just polite conversation), but I have to really concentrate to make this happen.  I have to fight with the great pride I feel in how much I know.  My mind retains information easily and it makes me feel that I am more intelligent than other people.  I know this isn't true, but it is still a struggle.  I find it hard to even explain this without sounding like I am bragging about how smart I think I am.

So, with that said, I guess I am warning my readers once again about the statements that I may make in my blog.  For now, know that I can easily slip into arrogant jerk mode and I am sometimes not aware that I have done it until afterward.  However, that is me.  I stated that I wanted to be genuine in my writings, so I will try not to edit it out too much.  I am not making excuses for my attitude.  I do understand that it is wrong.  However, it should not be a surprise to anyone that I understand this.  After all, I am brilliant.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Bit About Me to Get Started

My name is Brett Minor and I welcome you to my blog.  Being my first blog and first time to this site, I haven't really figured it all out yet.  Therefore the formatting and colors and backgrounds will be changing a bit at first until I get it worked out the way I want it and know how it all works.

First off, I want to express my purpose with this blog.  I intend to be genuine and real with my readers (if I ever have any), and want to have fun with this.  My blog will demonstrate my sometimes sick sense of humor, my sarcasm, and various observations and frustrations with life in general.  Knowing that about me, I also want it known that I am a Bible-Believing, Jesus-Following, On-My-Knees-Praying Christian.  I love the Lord Jesus and am not ashamed of it.  However, I ask that my readers be aware of the fact that I am human.  I have more than my share of faults and I am not perfect.  So, please have understanding when you read something that may not sound Christian.  It may be my sense of humor showing through, which as I stated earlier, can be twisted at times.  It may also be my broken human side being genuinely displayed in my writing.  I do have struggles and hardships and would like to be able to openly share them without timidity.  Please do not judge me too harshly and let's have some fun with this.

The Transformed Non-Conformist refers to  Romans 12:2, which reads, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

I do not have a theme in mind for my future postings.  I expect this blog to slowly take shape as I write each time.  I may give my take on a book or movie I just finished.  I may make a statement about politics or even (gasp) religion.  It may just be my rambling for the day.  I may even recall stories from my youth or just yesterday.  I do not intend to preach or evangelize from this blog, although I do intend to speak what is on my mind that day.  That means that some days I will talk about Jesus, or morals, or church, or the stupid thing my neighbor did.  I have no idea where this is going to go.  I do know you will get to know me through this experience.

To help you get to know me, for my first post, I have compiled a list of things about me.

  • I just turned 39 and still don't know what I want to do when I grow up.
  • My favorite show is still "Boy Meets World."
  • I am an ordained minister, in fact, I have been ordained twice.
  • I despise cold weather.
  • I am a huge fan of Asian horror movies.
  • I consider myself a bit of a photographer and enjoy using Photoshop.
  • Both of my grandfathers died before I was born.
  • I was a school administrator and pastor in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
  • I love eating exotic food and will try anything.  ANYTHING.
  • For the record, I do NOT find Hilary Swank attractive.
  • I have three tattoos.
  • I have flown over the Bermuda Triangle 8 times.  Nothing freaky ever happened.
  • I hate anime.  I have tried several times.  I just can't do it.
  • I have two red-headed ex-wives.
  • I have had my ears gauged up to Double Zero. (3/8 inches).  They are back to normal now.
  • I have wasted hundreds of hours on Facebook.
  • I firmly believe 80% of any person's problems were caused by their own choices.
  • I love to travel and see new places, even if it is a short trip.
  • At one point in my life, I was a church pastor and professional body piercer in a tattoo shop at the same time.
  • I am greatly irritated by mispronounced or misspelled words.  I can't help it.  (If you ever find a misspelled word in my blog, please let me know, so I can fix it.)
  • I have never experimented with illegal drugs.  Not even once.
  • I count my steps when I walk, but I start over at 8.  I don't know why.
  • I used to have TiVo, but I don't anymore.  It is killing me.
  • I have never broken a bone. (None of mine anyway.)
  • I would never shave again if I didn't have to.  I hate shaving.
  • I like to play the stock market, but I never make any money.
  • I have never owned a Nintendo anything, but I worked for them for one weekend.
  • I am a Quentin Tarantino fanatic; except for "Death Proof."  I didn't care for that one.
  • I have a thing for girls wearing hats.
  • I have seen the sun rise and set over the ocean.  I preferred the sunset.
  • I can't wait until I have gray hair.  I think it looks distinguished.
  • I am allergic to artificial scents: perfumes, scented candles, etc.
  • I love studying and going to school.  I would be a professional student if I could make a living at it.
  • I am unusually good at recalling useless trivia.
  • The 1976 song "Afternoon Delight" makes me physically ill.  Always has.
  • I buy a couple of board games every year because they look like fun and then never play them.
  • Jobs I have had: waiter, EPA municipal water tester, emcee for Nintendo, house painter, 911 Dispatcher, veterinarian assistant, owner of tattoo shop, biscuit-maker, door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman, bartender, body piercer, pastor, cell phone technician.
  • It has taken me 14 years to complete my Bachelor's Degree.
I am still learning who I am and look forward to this experience to share it.