Superfluous 7 – TV Shows Actually Worth Your Time

One of my consistent mantras over the course of the last several years is that television has become a wasteland of mediocrity. I know it is perfectly natural to have a revisionist memory and recall one’s childhood as being far more idyllic than it probably was in reality. But I don’t think my recollection of how interesting the TV landscape was 20-30 years ago as compared to today is that far from the truth. I fondly remember legendary comedies like Cheers, One Day At A Time, Happy Days, Taxi, Family Ties, and The Cosby Show, as well as well written dramas like Dallas, LA Law, Hill Street Blues, and Little House On The Prairie. I even have a soft spot for not-so-legendary shows like Three’s Company, The Love Boat, The Dukes of Hazzard, Newhart, The A-Team, Night Court, Who’s The Boss?, and ALF. I could probably name dozens more memorable shows. I almost feel sorry for today’s generation of kids. They flip through the channels and are faced with a glut of “reality” shows that in no way represent anything real, kicked up action programming where death and mayhem reign supreme & sc-fi is bastardized beyond recognition, and animated fare that just further emphasizes society’s descent into depravity, crude behavior, Godlessness, and disrespect toward our fellow man. It is amazing that we have hundreds more channels available now but far less quality programming. However, if one looks in the right places at the right times there still are some interesting, informative, eminently watchable shows on your television. And since I am here to not only entertain but to educate, it is my pleasure to give you…..

 

 

 

from the home office in Monkey’s Eyebrow, Arizona…..

 

 

 

The Superfluous 7 TV Shows Actually Worth Your Time:

 

 

7 Man vs. Food

Strangely enough, this show is NOT on The Food Network. Now I love me some Food Network (Alton Brown is interesting and informative, Giada De Laurentiis is just plain smokin’ hot, and a plethora of other shows satisfy any foodie’s entertainment appetite), but amongst the abundance of food-centric fare on television, Man vs. Food stands out. The basic premise is that the host visits a city and takes on one of those infamous gigantic food challenges, the kind where one attempts to consume enough food to choke a horse within a limited window of time, all so they can get a crappy t-shirt or have their picture placed on a wall in the restaurant for the masses and posterity to celebrate.  I’ve watched Adam (the host) try to defeat such precipitous tests of will as a 12 pound hamburger, an 11 pound pizza, 15 dozen oysters, a 7 pound breakfast burrito, a 2 gallon ice cream sundae, and all manner of inhumanly hot wings. He is successful in his quest about 60% of the time, but that’s not really the point. If all there was to this show was the ginormous food feats of craziness I probably wouldn’t be all that interested. To be honest watching someone try to eat such epic portions of food can make one a little uncomfortable and concerned for the host’s health. However, what I find so cool about Man vs. Food is the celebration of food and the spotlight it shines on local eateries that many have never heard of but might now be inspired to check out. I don’t travel as much as I’d prefer, but when I do I try to stay away from chain restaurants and things I can have any time right in my own back yard. I like to venture out ever so gently onto a limb. After watching Man vs. Food I now know of hidden gems I should seek out if I ever find myself in places like Durham NC, Boise ID, or Amarillo TX. There are other shows on TV that do some of the same investigative work, but I find Adam accessible, like a guy me and my buddies might hang out with and share a pitcher of brew. Man vs. Food airs on The Travel Channel. Check your local listings.

 

 

6 It’s Me Or the Dog

I became the proud master of a puppy…an adorable pug…about a year and a half ago. The first few months were a bit trying, as I had never trained a dog before and circumstances make it somewhat difficult to do so in the manner most others might go about the task. I read everything I could find online and elsewhere, and sought the counsel of knowledgeable friends. But one of the biggest sources of assistance and pleasure during that time became this little gem of a show. Most people have heard of and many rave about The Dog Whisperer Caesar Milan, and he is quite helpful and just fine by me. However, I am drawn much more to Victoria Stilwell. I am perfectly aware that her hot dominatrix aura likely reaches some sort of latent sexual yearning deep within me. After all, coquettish British minx vs. middle aged Latin animal pseudo-psychologist is an easy choice for a relatively young and virile single man. Putting all that aside though, I find Victoria’s methods and the people she deals with on her show much more relatable and entertaining. Does she tend to oversimplify things a bit?? Probably. But not nearly as much as Milan, who in my opinion just makes dog owners look stupid and incompetent. Sure he’s got a special gift, but that does me and almost everyone else no good because we don’t have that gift. It reminds me of college, where there were professors who were experts in their field and could not seem to grasp why no one else found the subject so simple, and then there were professors who appeared to realize they were dealing with a bunch of kids who had probably been out until 3am partying up a storm and were not automatically brilliant scholars just because they had pulled off the task of gaining entry into a university. Victoria is that type of understanding teacher, and trust me…she needs to be. The dog owners on this show are oftentimes hilarious in a pathetically aggravating sort of way, but somehow they usually manage to learn atleast a few techniques to make their lives easier. It’s Me or The Dog airs on Animal Planet, and I encourage all dog lovers to check it out.

 

 

5 How It’s Made

On your menu of hundreds of television stations there is something called The Science Channel. Now do not get this mixed up with The SyFy Channel, which has strayed so far from its original premise that it’s not even spelled correctly and the highest rated program is professional wrestling. The Science Channel is part of The Discovery Channel family, as so many of the best networks seem to be (TLC, Animal Planet, The Travel Channel). How It’s Made takes us inside various factories and shows the mass production process for a plethora of products, from foodstuffs like cereal and beer, to household items like washers, light bulbs and batteries, to more unusual things like slot machines and artificial Christmas trees. This is exactly the kind of show that I would have skipped right past in my younger days. Science was only slightly less tedious than math when I was a student. But somewhere along the line my intellectual curiosity branched out and the way the world (and the stuff in it) works began to be an appealing topic of informal study and observation. I blame mundane teachers who are somehow unable to grab the attention of kids and show them what a fascinating universe God has provided. Anyway, How It’s Made isn’t a fancy show with a lot of bells and whistles. It’s straightforward and very minimalist. But I look at it like one should view a good steak…..if the meat is high quality and tastes good then it does not need to be enhanced with sauces and other garnish. I would like to take this opportunity to say that another show was in the running for this spot but was disqualified because it is no longer in production. John Ratzenberger, better known as Cliff the know-it-all mailman from Cheers, used to host a program on The Travel Channel called Made In America, which was basically the same sort of thing except it highlighted only factories in the United States and had Ratzenberger instead of a narrator.

 

 

4 Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations

I have come to terms with the fact that, because of various monetary, lifestyle, and personal circumstances there are a lot of places in the world I would like to visit but never will. While some may consider it sad to live vicariously through television, I choose to embrace the fact that technology allows us to realize that there is a huge world outside of the confines of our small individual lives, and sometimes permits us to take a pretty fascinating ride all while dressed in cozy jammies in the comforts of our own abode. My philosophy is that if you are going to waste time in front of the “idiot box” then why not try to learn something and have it be a somewhat enlightening experience instead of wallowing in just how far into the abyss our society has sunk. At any rate, Anthony Bourdain is a master chef who, in this series, travels the globe and shows the viewer the real deal about the food and culture of various locales. He is dismissive of the normal tourist traps, going beneath the surface to seek the authentic aspects of what makes a place unique. Bourdain himself isn’t your normal television pretty boy. He’s a subversive, slightly contentious, crusty curmudgeon who makes no secret about his hard drinking, drug induced, very colorful past. He tells it like it is and if people don’t like it that’s too bad. On the flip side though, his genuine affection for food and average, hard working, real people is obvious, and his edgy sense of humor is infectious. No Reservations has explored familiar destinations like New York City, Vegas, Italy, London, Chicago, and Hawaii, but there have also been shows about such out of the way places as Ghana, Sri Lanka, Iceland, and Uzbekistan, which is apparently an actual country and not one of those places they used to fictionalize on The West Wing. I promise you this is unlike any foodie show you’ve ever watched. So light up a smoke, pour yourself a glass of single malt scotch or top shelf whiskey, and find Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on The Travel Channel. You won’t be sorry.

 

 

3 Mike & Mike In the Morning

Anyone who knows me even the slightest bit knows I am a huge sports fan. And any sports fan knows that television and radio are chock full of folks whose job goes far beyond just reporting scores and reviewing highlights. As a matter of fact I wish sports talk radio would have been so ubiquitous back in the 70’s and 80’s when I was growing up because I am almost certain that after spending hours listening to some jackass yuk it up and discuss sports  and realizing that he was getting paid for it my career path would have been set at a very young age and my life would be dramatically different right now. Unfortunately for me such shows on radio and television did not come along until it was too late to change my precipitous descent into middle class mediocrity, so now all I can do is enjoy them as a fan and, for the present moment, write (for no money) about one in particular on my (free) blog. That one that stands above the rest is Mike & Mike In the Morning, broadcast on ESPN Radio and simulcast on ESPN2, aka The Deuce, every weekday. Now another little factoid about me is that I am by no stretch of the imagination a morning person. I don’t really get into the zone until noon-ish and my finest hours are usually between 10pm and 4am. So for me to enjoy a show that is broadcast from 6-10am it must be very cool indeed. The hosts, sports journalist/everyman Mike Greenberg (aka Greeny) and former journeyman NFL defensive lineman Mike Golic are the sporting world’s Odd Couple. Golic is a man’s man, tough and rough around the edges…a more family friendly Al Bundy. Greeny is a nerdy, wimpy, metrosexual that one can just picture driving the kids in the minivan to church and then out for ice cream afterward. The mix works perfectly. The show can be goofy and irreverent, but also is plenty meaty when it comes to actually covering the sports stories du jour. The guys have plenty of guests on to chat about all aspects of a topic and do so professionally and thoroughly while still having plenty of fun. A lot of sports talk shows have competing hosts or contributors who try to become the center of attention by shouting the loudest or exhibiting the most attitude. I don’t need that kind of diva mentality or arrogance. I like Mike and Mike because they are genuine…..genuinely passionate about their love of sports and genuinely affable in reporting the daily events in the sports world. The program does last 4 hours, and it can occasionally get repetitive, especially if there is one dominant story. Sometimes they will rehash at 8 what they opened the show with at 6. But that’s okay, because I know if I don’t tune in right at the beginning or can’t watch the full four hours I might not miss too much.

 

 

2 Pawn Stars

I have to give a shout out to my good friend The Owl for introducing me to this show. It has quickly become one of my favorites. There seem to be two different types of reality shows on TV. What most people think of as reality shows are pure poppycock like The Bachelor, Project Runway, The Biggest Loser, and Wife Swap. But there is a better class of reality…stuff like Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers (which almost made this list), Ax Men, and Dirty Jobs. Maybe these are classified as “documentary” shows?? I don’t know. However they are labeled though, an intelligent person will instantly know the difference. At the top of the class for me is The History Channel’s Pawn Stars, which takes us inside a family owned Las Vegas pawn shop, shows how the business works, and has the family dynamic as an added bonus. The family is three generations of the Harrisons…The Old Man, his son Rick, and Rick’s son Cory (who they try to put over as Big Hoss, but it seems like a forced nickname that no one really uses). Also along for the ride is Cory’s best bud and fellow employee Chumley, referred to often as the village idiot. The format of each show is pretty standard…someone comes in with some very odd or theoretically very old item that they want to sell (very few people want to pawn things on this show, which is interesting), Rick doesn’t know if it’s authentic or how much it’s worth or how much might need to be spent on repair and restoration so he “knows a guy” who can tell him. That expert comes in and gives the pawn shop crew, the item’s potential seller, and we the viewers a mini history lesson. A deal is struck…or not. There are 3 or 4 of these little storylines interspersed throughout the thirty minute program. As you might imagine, precious air time is not wasted on some college student wanting to ditch his outdated herringbone gold necklace for beer money or someone who just lost their job and needs to hock all the junk in their house to pay the mortgage. These stories need to be interesting to keep our attention, so the items we see being brought into the shop are things like Civil War weapons, American Revolution era currency, 1970’s & 80’s video games, mint condition classic guitars, and all kinds of vehicles…boats, motorcycles, airplanes, old cars. I can count on one hand the number of times I have ever been inside a pawn shop in my life, but I am smart enough to realize that it’s not always that interesting. Kudos though to the creators and producers of this show for taking the concept and finding a way to make it absolutely mesmerizing. The interaction between the guys is great. When I eventually make it to Vegas I will be stopping at The Gold & Silver Pawn Shop to meet The Old Man, Rick, and Chumley. Cory seems like kind of a tool.

 

 

1 Modern Marvels

If you have ever considered yourself to have any level of intellectual curiosity, this is the show for you. If you are not frightened of technology but rather fascinated by it, this is the show for you. If you are a history buff but seek more than what your school textbooks taught you, this is the show for you. But more than anything else, this is the show for anyone who likes to feel like they’ve just sat down for an hour, relaxed, been entertained, but also learned some cool stuff and didn’t completely waste their time. Modern Marvels has been on the air for about 15 years, but I am sad to say that it is only in the past year that I have discovered its brilliance. I suppose it is yet another example of my changing tastes combined with the erosion of traditional network television into the dark void of suck. History repeats many Marvels episodes, so usually what I do is DVR several shows and then on a night when there is absolutely nothing else going on (which isn’t unusual) I have an instantly entertaining and informative backup plan. Many episodes are available from Netflix as well, which is cool. Modern Marvels has covered a vast array of subjects over the years, everything from The Brooklyn Bridge, The Golden Gate Bridge, and The Hoover Dam to the telephone, fireworks, and nuclear submarines. The topic can be a specific place or structure (Times Square, The St. Louis Arch, Disney World) or a more general, esoteric theme (water, fire, candy, ice, milk). Over 500 episodes have been produced, so a lot of ground has been covered. It is indicative of what a wonderfully intriguing world we live in, something we should embrace.

 

 

 

 

Random Thoughts 16

The baseball community is up in arms because Mark McGwire finally admitted he was on the juice. I’m not sure how anyone with a brain could be the least bit surprised.

 

I recently saw someone list their political affiliation as “demacrate”, which speaks volumes about the intelligence of your average liberal.

 

Faithful readers of The Manofesto know of my affinity for late night television and that I have made several comments on the topic in the past year. Recent events have seen the powder keg explode in a way I certainly never imagined. I had a brief flirtation with writing a whole piece on what’s been going on, but really my thoughts can be boiled down to a few basic statements. The people that run NBC are incompetent assclowns…that is undeniable. Conan O’Brien has gotten the shaft in this whole thing, but just may have the last laugh when he lands on his feet at another network later this year. I think his decision to not accept having The Tonight Show pushed back to a 12:05am starting time showed that he has a huge set of…well, you know what I mean…..and good for him. And then there’s Jay Leno. Anyone still buying Leno’s selfless nice guy act really needs to take the blinders off. He’s as shrewd as they come. A true class act would have either walked away 5 years ago when the NBC brass were wringing their hands about what to do, or walked away now. Then or now he too would have landed on his feet on another channel. But he showed back during the original “Late Shift” that he’d do just about anything to hold onto The Tonight Show, and nothing much has changed in 17 years.

 

I have no interest in seeing the movie Avatar. I don’t know why.

 

What is it about grocery stores that turn people into complete imbeciles?? I honestly believe that maybe a two part training course should be given, one for the outside and one for the inside. I fear for my safety in some parking lots more than I do on a busy highway. And then once one makes it inside you see people standing around in the aisles, lollygagging, and generally making life for their fellow shoppers more difficult than necessary.

 

I can only say this about the terrible tragedy in Haiti:

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:4-14


Congratulations to new United States Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, a Republican who won the seat formerly held in a vise grip by the late Teddy Kennedy. The wacky, out of touch, not so subtly Communist libs still have control of Congress, but rumors of the death of conservatism were obviously blown out of proportion.

 

The Winter Olympics just don’t frost my cupcake. Except for curling…..I really dig curling.

 

I can’t believe this is the first edition of Random Thoughts in 2 ½ months !!

 

Just because you’re a pedestrian and therefore legally have the right-of-way does not give you the right to casually meander in front of or behind my moving vehicle. Get out of the way!!

 

I have suddenly become a huge fan of both cereal and soup. Strange.

 

Chan Gailey?? Really Buffalo…that’s the best you could do??

A Fair Review of My NFL Prognostications

When it rains it pours. Mere days after the always melancholy end to the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s corridor we call “The Holidays” the beginning of the end is here for football. Just a couple more college games remain, and the NFL regular season has concluded. The playoffs and Super Bowl will be fun and interesting in all likelihood, and knowing that football will pack it in just about a month from now and we’ll be entering into the darkest days of the sports calendar…those cold February days when Nascar hasn’t yet begun, golf is still two months away from The Masters, and college basketball hasn’t quite heated up…makes one want to savor every remaining snap of the pigskin. But before we get into that mode let’s take a moment to look backward. Before the season began I predicted the records of every team and the order of finish in each division. It’s time to see how I did and where I hit & missed. I think the easiest thing to do is to examine the league division by division. I will then assign myself a letter grade. Please don’t hesitate to comment, whether it be on my brilliance and pigskin savvy, or my complete and utter ineptitude.

 

NFC East

A couple of hits and one big miss. The Cowboys & Eagles both finished 11-5, and I had both at 10-6. Not bad. I did say that Dallas was overrated. Since they won the division I suppose I owe someone in the Lone Star State an apology. Washington finished dead last as I predicted, although I generously gave them a record of 7-9 while they actually finished 4-12 then fired their coach. Word is that Mike Shanahan is on his way to fix the mess, but as I said in my preview I believe the issue with the Redskins is incompetent ownership, and I am not sure anyone can do much about that. Where I was way off was with the New York Giants. I thought they’d go 13-3 and once again be a title contender. Instead they went 8-8. Oops.           

Final Grade = C+


NFC North

Nailed it. Predicted the order of finish…Minnesota, Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit…right on and was only slightly off on the records. The Vikings went 12-4 just as I said, Green Bay was one game better than my 10-6 prediction at 11-5, Chicago finished 7-9 which was only one game worse than I predicted at 8-8, and Detroit improved upon last season’s winless record with 2 wins…2 less than what I foresaw. I said I didn’t buy into the Jay Cutler hype in Chicago, and I was spot on.    Final Grade = A-


NFC South

Ehhh…not so good. I didn’t give this division enough credit and I gave them too much credit, if that makes any sense. I did have New Orleans finishing on top, but at 9-7. Instead they made a darn fine run at an undefeated season before finally closing out at 13-3. I had Carolina at 9-7 edging out Atlanta at 8-8 for second place. I was sort of close…just reverse the positions and the records. I said specifically about the Panthers “they have tough out-of-conference games against Miami, New England, and the Jets, plus they start the season against Philly, Dallas, and Atlanta. That may be 6 losses right there”…..and they did in fact lose all 6 games. I mused about the Falcons inability to sustain success and how they tended to follow up playoff seasons by going backward. In 2008 they went 11-5 and were a wildcard team…in 2009 they finished 9-7 and out of contention. I rest my case.  And I said Tampa would finish in last at 8-8, but they finished last at 3-13.

Final Grade = C


NFC West

Another division where I had the general idea but was a bit off on some of the details. Arizona finished atop the division at 10-6 just as I said. I’ll give myself a little pat on the back for that one. Once again I had 2nd & 3rd reversed, as San Francisco was the runner up, winning two more games than my 6-10 prediction. Meanwhile, Seattle slipped to third at 5-11, four games worse than I thought. St. Louis finished dead last not only in the division but in the whole NFL, winning only one game. I said they’d win five. My bad. I wonder how hard receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh is kicking himself for leaving Cincinnati and signing with Seatttle??      Final Grade = C+ (based largely on nailing the Cardinals record…otherwise the grade would be worse)

Overall NFC Grade = B-


AFC East

I am not happy with the actual results of this division in relation to my predictions, but I am satisfied with the general direction of my vibes. I realize that makes very little sense, but allow me to explain. Before the season everyone seemed to be saying two things: the Patriots will run away with it and the Bills will probably not do very well. But I said “not so fast my friends” (the only semi-meaningful contribution of Lee Corso to the universe). Turns out I was right. I said that things felt kind of off in New England and that they were “in for much more of a dogfight in their division than most folks seem to believe.” The Patriots did end up winning the division, but by only one game. They finished at 10-6, exactly as I predicted. Yay me. I said that the Dolphins would finish 11-5 and win the division, but that was way too optimistic. Instead they finished 3rd at 7-9. Bill Parcells won’t be happy with that. Maybe next year. I predicted the Jets to finish 2nd, and indeed they did…at 9-7, one game worse than I thought. And I gave Buffalo a record of 4-12, while they actually finished 6-10. This was a very muddled yet competitive and interesting division all season, just as I foresaw. I can’t give myself a great grade because the numbers just don’t back it up, but my general sense of things was almost spot on.        Final Grade = B-


AFC North

Here’s where it gets ugly. I said this about the Cincinnati Bengals back in September: “I’m not sure even the re-animated corpses of Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry combined could polish this turd.” I then said they’d finish 8-8 and 3rd in the division. To say I was wrong would be an understatement along the lines of “President Obama is somewhat lacking in his affection for capitalism”. The Bengals went 10-6 and won the division. Second place and 10-6 was what I had in mind for Baltimore, and they did exactly that only at 9-7. Cleveland didn’t disappoint me, as I had them finishing dead last at 6-10 and they were a game worse at 5-11. But my biggest blunder was with my Pittsburgh Steelers. I just couldn’t take the blinders off. I should have known that recent history indicates Super Bowl teams often struggle the following year. Actually I did know it…I just ignored the facts. I proudly proclaimed that the Steelers would win the division at 11-5 and said “I get the sense that Mike Tomlin won’t let his team become unfocused, so to be honest I’m not all that concerned. I am predicting another banner year for the black n’ gold.” How very wrong I was. I was only two games off on the actual record, as they went 9-7. But numbers can be deceiving. The Steelers did lose focus and suffered embarrassing losses to Cleveland, Kansas City, and Oakland…three of the worst teams in the league. Even given the surprising turnaround in Cincinnati, if the Steelers would have won just two of those three games they’d be division champs. I’d like to say I’ll learn from this experience and not let my man love for my team cloud my judgment in the future, but we’ll see.           Final Grade = D+


AFC South

I am beginning to sense a trend. I seem to be okay with choosing division winners and bottom dwellers, but have an issue with 2nd & 3rd place. I guess the old crystal ball needs a little fine tuning. The Indianapolis Colts were even more dominant than usual, and fared much better than I predicted even though I did have them in first place. I said they’d go 10-6 and they went 14-2. They too made a good run at an undefeated season, losing two games only because they pulled starters in fear that they might get hurt. I foresaw Jacksonville finishing last and they did, with the exact 7-9 record I predicted. I thought Houston would be good and just miss the playoffs at 9-7, and that’s exactly what they did. However, I mentioned that I didn’t think Matt Schaub was the answer at QB, and he proceeded to lead the league in passing yards, completions, yards per game, and passing attempts. I guess he’s better than I thought. My downfall was the Tennessee Titans. I thought they’d finish 2nd at 10-6. Instead they started the season 0-6 before rebounding to finish in 3rd place at 8-8. Vince Young is back at the helm behind center, and they did close out the campaign going 8-2, so maybe next year they’ll be competitive again.            Final Grade = B


AFC West

Damn near perfect. I nailed the order of finish…San Diego, Denver, Oakland, Kansas City. The Chargers went 13-3, one game worse than my prediction. I got Denver’s 8-8 record exactly right, which is remarkable considering they started off a very hot 6-0. I still can’t figure out what they accomplished by running Shanahan out of town. Oakland was predictably bad and I hit their 5-11 right on the money. Jamarcus Russell might be playing in Canada next year. Kansas City went 4-12, one game better than I thought. I grant you that this was probably the easiest division to figure out because everyone knew San Diego would be good and that both the Raiders and the Chiefs figured to be pretty awful. Still, I have to say I did rather well.

Final Grade = A

Overall AFC Grade = B-


So I give myself an overall grade of B-. I didn’t make any pre-season proclamations about the playoffs or the Super Bowl, but now that the field is set I have to say that the AFC looks like it comes down to Indianapolis and San Diego. Maybe this is finally the year for the Chargers. In the NFC I like Minnesota, New Orleans, Green Bay, and Arizona. I know that doesn’t narrow it down all that much, but there truly is parity there. A Chargers-Cardinals Super Bowl might not frost the cupcakes of east coasters, but that may very well be the matchup.

Superfluous 7 – New Year’s Resolutions You Won’t Keep

A new year…a new decade…has dawned. What better time to introduce a new feature here at The Manofesto, a little ditty I am calling The Superfluous 7. Modestly modeled after Letterman’s Top 10, I am calling my lists superfluous because I am not arrogant enough to think they are in any way necessary or important. Most of the time they’ll be flippantly fun, sometimes maybe a bit more mocking and edgy.

 

Our first topic of 2010 will be, fittingly enough, New Year’s resolutions. I am not a big fan of the resolution. It just seems like an exercise in futility. If you really want to accomplish something just do it. There’s no reason to wait for an arbitrary date on the calendar. There’s no way of knowing how many people actually keep their resolutions, but I suspect the percentage is extremely low. As I write this it is the 3rd day of the year and I’m betting the vast majority have already broken promises they made to themselves. I am not trying to be negative, I am just being honest.

 

So, without any further ado…

 

 

from the home office in Waxahachie, Texas…

 

 

The Superfluous 7 New Year’s Resolutions You Won’t Keep:

 

 

7 Stop Smoking

I’m not a smoker. Never have been, never will be. Oh sure, I’ve smoked a cigarette or two or three in my time (usually in a dark bar at 1am while under the heavy influence of adult beverages while in college), and I have nothing against the occasional cigar…..but that does not a smoker make. I put this in the 7 spot simply because I do know people that have quit successfully, and I think more often than not, out of all of these resolutions, this is the one people really WANT to keep. But I also know that quitting is a very difficult task and something that has to be done because a person is really truly ready to make a change and not just because the calendar says January 1.

 

6 Get Organized

What does this even mean?? I live a fairly simple life, so I don’t really have all that much to keep track of and manage. As long as I remember to feed the dog, pay the cable, phone, and internet bill, and show up to work on time it’s all good. I did go through a phase where I carried around a very nice looking planner for a couple of years, but I came to realize that I rarely had anything to plan. Now I know life can be a bit more hectic for folks with a spouse, children, an important job, and lots of social activities. But it is my opinion that there are two kinds of people…those fastidious, Type A, jet setting, always-on-the-go types who need to “be organized”, and then the other 90% of the population. If you fall into the first group you are probably already organized, and if you’re a common ordinary schlub like me then why bother?? Really, you aren’t that important. Nothing in your life is that dire of an emergency…you just like to ramp up the drama to inflate your sense of importance and self worth. Calm down, chill out, and have a beverage. As long as you feed your kids and keep them in school, make sure you’re a good employee at work, and keep the car gassed up you’ll be okay.

 

5 Do More Volunteer Work

Really?? Isn’t having a job enough?? I know volunteer work sounds like a really nice thing to do…like saving the planet or feeding those poor African kids that hang out with Sally Struthers. But the reality is that most of us get up, go to work, and by the time we get home, do any kind of family stuff, and do what is necessary to keep up the house our dance card is pretty full. Most of us want to spend any free time we have curled up with a good book, mindlessly surfing through the 500 channels on our big screen TV, or chatting with friends online. I myself am a Literacy Volunteer but if I am being completely honest I am a horrible one. I got into it at a time in my life where I had some surplus time due to health issues and not being able to work. Now that I am back on the job I just don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to be super volunteer…and I’m single with no kids and a rather sparse social life. I suspect most everyone is of that mindset, and you know what…that’s okay.

 

4 Take a Class/Learn Something New/Go Back to School

This is another example where there are two kinds of people…those who enjoy learning and those who do not. A lot of people look at the 12 years of public school as a marathon that they cross the finish line of sweaty, exhausted, and borderline delirious. Once they are out they are OUT. Some of us run a little further into college, but eventually we crawl feverishly across that threshold as well, glad that it’s over. Then there are those folks that never stop. They have 8 degrees, they take classes online, they attend workshops at the YMCA…they just can’t get enough. That second group of people doesn’t make this resolution because they don’t have to. The first group will never keep the resolution because if they were that sort of person they’d be in the latter group.

 

3 Read The Bible Through In A Year

I have real issues with this one. Reading…studying…The Word of God should not be an academic, organized, oppressive exercise. If you have to have a schedule to do it and force yourself to maintain that schedule then it is likely that you aren’t going to get much out of your reading. If we would all just shut the computer and the TV off for awhile each day and be lead by The Holy Spirit we would be guided as to what and how much to study. You might chew on a single verse of Scripture for a week, or you might get through all the minor prophets in a weekend. My point is this…don’t rely on a man-made schedule to compel you to mindlessly read what will ultimately be meaningless words. Be lead by The Spirit to engage God’s Word as you would any living, breathing thing. It’s the first step to what we really need to develop anyway…a truly close relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

2 Get Out of Debt

Depending on which source one believes, somewhere around half of us, give or take a few percent, are in debt of some kind. Credit cards, student loans, medical expenses, mortgages, and car payments take a big chunk out of a lot of folks’ paychecks. And every January people say “This is the year I am gonna pay everything off!!” But inevitably something happens…the car breaks down, the roof needs replaced, the kids get sick, the company downsizes. It’s called life, and oftentimes it isn’t kind. That doesn’t mean we stop trying. Hell no…we get back on that horse and we try again. And I am certainly not advocating wallowing in debt. However, I am also not a big fan of setting yourself up for disappointment and the discouraging feelings of failure that arise when you still owe some major bucks in 365 days. Unlike the previous entrant in this list, getting out of debt does require a plan and a steadfast, almost dispassionate commitment to a firm course of action. That’s why glibly designating it as a New Year’s resolution is a doomed proposition.

 

1 Lose Weight/Eat Healthier/Exercise

No you’re not. You’re just not. Weigh yourself right now. Weigh yourself again on December 31, 2010. My guess is that you will weigh the same or more, but almost certainly not less. You like to eat. So what?? A couple of years ago I lost 30 pounds. Want to know my secret?? I was in a “skilled” nursing facility, at the age of 33, for 6 months. I don’t really support that plan. And that experience also taught me that having access to tasty food is a gift from God that we shouldn’t dismiss so thoughtlessly. I am not promoting being purposely unhealthy. Don’t let yourself become one of those people on a Richard Simmons special that hasn’t been able to leave home since The Reagan Administration and needs a crane to take the side off their house and transport them to the hospital, like the mother from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? who died and they burnt the house down because that was the easiest way to dispose of the body. But again, if you need an arbitrary date on the calendar to make an empty promise that you are all the sudden…overnight…going to change your unhealthy habits then your chances of success are slim (no pun intended). You will make those changes when you are really motivated and ready, and there is less than a 1% chance of that moment magically occurring on January 1.