Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What's In a Name? Or, the Charlotte Hornets Debacle

I'm big on the meanings of names. Not in a hyper-Dickensian, Aged Parent kind of way, but in a practical, "Hey, that's interesting" sort of manner. You may recall that I wrote a two-part post about my own name back in 2014, for example. And so it should not come as a shock to anyone that I have very strong feelings about the history of the Charlotte Hornets, North Carolina's only NBA team.

Way back in the mid-1980s, construction began on a new arena in Charlotte that was to be called the Coliseum. The building was a sort of salmon pink, and it was elliptical in shape. Odell of Charlotte was responsible for its design. George Shinn used the Coliseum to convince the NBA to place a team in North Carolina, and that's when the Hornets were born. They went on to play their inaugural season in 1988.

Not so many years later, in 2002, the Hornets pulled out of Charlotte and moved to New Orleans without changing their name. It's not completely unheard of for a team to move; one need look no further than the NFL's Rams, who started in Cleveland, moved to Los Angeles, decamped to St. Louis, and have now returned to California. But in this case, the name change seemed imperative. 

Because the Hornets moniker didn't come from the mascot playbook, like a spartan or a warrior. The Hornets were part of North Carolina history, after a fashion.

Charlotte, which is in Mecklenburg County, was named for King George III's bride, a German princess called Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz at the time of her marriage and later Queen Charlotte. During the American Revolution, when colonists were busy rejecting the authority of King George all along the eastern seaboard, General Lord Charles Cornwallis declared that Charlotte the town was "a hornet's nest of rebellion." While in modern times Charlotte is referred to as the Queen City, North Carolinians clearly never forgot what Cornwallis had to say, and that is how the basketball team got its name.

New Orleans, of course, is a fine city with its own historical significance. But the team had no business parading around Louisiana with its original appellation intact. Meanwhile, Charlotte's replacement team was called the Bobcats. Not a bad mascot, as far as that goes, but lacking all of the character of its predecessor. Lucky for all of us history buffs out there, the Hornets returned to North Carolina in 2014 with their name and team history intact (alas, their bangin' original logo was replaced with something more modern and streamlined). The replacement team in New Orleans has a mascot more appropriate to that state: the pelican. 

I do hope that we have all learned our lesson from this arena-hopping time in Hornets history. Because names can be extremely important, and not just when you've chosen to take the stage name of Holden McGroin.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Why I Disappear Sometimes

If you're a regular reader, you may have noticed that I went radio silent for about six weeks from late April to early June. Normally, I would post a sentence or two about an impending hiatus. This time, however, I said nothing, because I didn't plan this break.

In the course of a typical blogging day, I try to write at least two posts, if not three or four, so I have a buffer zone in case my life gets hectic and I can't find the time to blog for a few weeks. So what you read may be a month old by the time it posts to my front page; this is why my more topical entries are often a bit out-of-date. And that's exactly what I did during the last go-round. The problem is, I stopped writing sometime in March.

I meant to blog in May. There were no matters so pressing that I could not find the time to do so. Instead, a crushing sense of futility descended upon me, and I gave up for a minute.

Given my anxiety and depression, this is not an unusual phenomenon. However, I work at overcoming it because I can't check out on my entire life. I have a job to do, appointments to keep, bills to pay. Yet something is bound to fall by the wayside, because the act of surviving can sap my energy to the point where all I want to do is hide under the covers.

This is why I disappear.

I call it clamping down: streamlining my activities and conversations to the point where I communicate with only a few people and do very little beside hope that no one will knock on my door and ask for something I'm not prepared to give.

At this point, I can't promise that I won't disappear again. At some time in the future, it will strike again: that weight. But for now, I'm back. Even if I don't have much to say, I'll keep writing. And I hope you'll keep reading.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Missing Piece

It started in April.

I had taken three puzzles to Louisiana, each a thousand pieces. At first, I thought I was just going to put a single one together to pass the time when I couldn't concentrate on reading or a movie and didn't have the motivation to go out.

By the time I wrote this post (on June 12th), I had completed twelve more. 

This isn't normal behavior for me. I tend to do puzzles only when I'm extra-anxious, because they allow me to focus on something other than the things rolling around in my head, with the added bonus of bringing order to a little corner of the world.

At the outset, I wasn't aware of how bad my anxiety had gotten. But subconsciously, I must have known, because I felt compelled to take pictures of each project, which were consequently date- and time-stamped by my camera roll, as if I was documenting the duration and frequency of the attacks.

Looking back, I think that the inevitability of reaching my *cough*sputter*cough*th birthday contributed to this, as well as some situations at work. So why, then, have I continued past my birthday and into my summer break?

Whatever the case, the thirteenth puzzle was an unlucky one. Mom and I worked diligently to finish it one afternoon only to discover that a solitary piece out of the thousand was missing. Appropriately, it had disappeared from an image of Sherlock Holmes. Maybe he's the only one who can solve this mystery.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Spot the Difference

When I finished my undergraduate degree, a professor of mine gave me a copy of Lorine Niedecker's Collected Works. Years later, knowing that I am no fan of Emily Dickinson's but that Niedecker's work is influenced by and at times strongly resembles Dickinson's, that same professor asked me if I had disliked Collected as a result. It was an interesting--and valid--inquiry, one that I was able to answer truthfully by saying that I in fact found that I enjoyed Niedecker's work.

Having recently come across the volume in question, I wondered what it was, exactly, that attracted me in Niedecker's poems but repelled me in Dickinson's, and I think the most honest response is that there isn't necessarily a strong set of criteria. Sometimes, it's just a gut feeling that you have.

Here's another example. I love Quentin Tarantino's oeuvre, and my experiences with him began in high school prior to the release of Kill Bill, which was the first Tarantino film I saw in real time rather than on DVD or (gasp) video. But when Inglourious Basterds came along, I hated it with a force that surprised me. To this day, I cannot fully articulate what made me dislike it so much. The acting was superb. The editing was impeccable (RIP Sally Menke). The production values were unimpeachable. Yet there it was: I couldn't stand the thought of a repeat viewing. When Django Unchained premiered, I worried that perhaps I had lost my connection with Tarantino's craftsmanship and would despise it as well, but I was pleasantly surprised when Django proved to be at turns hilarious, haunting, and heroic. 

What, then, was the difference between Basterds and Django? I can't even say. The former simply felt wrong to me, just as Dickinson's poems always have. 

The reading, listening, and viewing experiences are, for the most part, deeply subjective. This is the easiest way to explain my quandary. Yet I continue to find myself shocked when people I meet profess their undying love for Emily Dickinson. What is the difference between us? It's nothing more than a matter of personal preference.