Archive for March, 2012

A Parade of Terrapins

Posted: March 17, 2012 in Art, College

Back in 2006, the University of Maryland celebrated its 150th anniversary. Maryland Day, a special Saturday in late April, was bigger than ever. Besides the special festivities on the day of celebration, the university planned to unveil a parade of Testudo statues across the campus and in a few additional locations across the state. Each of the statues were sponsored by an organization and turned into a themed presentation of important characteristics of the school. There were 50 statues in total. I have a selection of theme posted below to give a sense of the awesomeness that was the Testudo Statue campaign.

  

  

  

   

   

   

 

  

   

 

 

Legend

Top Row: 1 Team; 150 Years; The Arts (front); The Arts (back)

2nd Row: Basketball (front); Basketball (back); Big Terp on Campus; Bustin’ Out

3rd Row: Fireworks (front); Fireworks (back); Celestial Terp; Champions

4th Row: Chaos; Equality; Out in the Field; The Freshman

5th Row: The Grad; Hell in the Shell; Kertle; Lax Terp

6th Row: Marching Terrapin; Maryland Day; Metalli; Mighty Terrapin

7th Row: Mosaic (front); Mosaic (back); Ninja Turtle

8th Row: Old Line (front); Old Line (back); Path to Success; American Pride

9th Row: Recycle Terp; College Park Scholar; Super Fan; Super Terp

10th Row: Terpedo; Testuda (front); Testuda (back)

11th Row: Tuxudo; Warhol’s Terrapin

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Although my last post was about Friday Night Lights and even highlighted a few of the Matt Saracen moments, there is something about the Saracen episodes that invokes a strong reaction. Zach Gilford took a character that never imagined being in the spotlight, was forced into a tough situation and then deals with the circumstances of a broken family. There are truly a number of amazing moments for the unlikely star. The scared look on Matt’s face during his first several games was phenomenal. While his relationships were vital to the intrigue of his character, his battle with himself was even more engaging.

In season 1, he fought with not feeling good enough to be the star. What ended up happening…he leads the team to winning the state championship. Season 2 became a battle with his feelings of abandonment, including his father, his girlfriend and his coach. While he was poised for recovery for season 3, the introduction of JD McCoy stole away the spotlight and forced him to rethink his future. Season 4 became his opportunity to sort out his future and find his source of inspiration. In the final season, he makes a few appearances but actually seems to have settled into a comfortable existence.

  

 

Returning to season 2, the season finale was heartbreaking for so many reasons. Smash Williams had been struggling through a rough season that ended with his suspension from the game and revoking of his scholarship to TMU. Coach Taylor attempted to go coach in college but was drawn back to the struggling Dillon Panthers. For Matt, he went from championship to a feeling of being lost all season. He gets into fights with Smash, forces Coach Taylor to bench him upon his return, breaks up with Julie and quickly loses his next girlfriend. This leads him to start skipping school and drinking with Tim. When his grandmother has an accident during the episode “Leave No One Behind,” Matt gets a ride to the hospital to care for her. Coach Taylor shows up to take the two of them home, leading to Matt’s negative feelings stirring fueled by alcohol. After getting Mrs. Saracen back to her bedroom, Eric drags Matt into the bathroom, throws him into the bathtub and turns on the shower. The interaction is a rather emotional one because Matt finally lets out all of the anger and frustration over feeling like his existence is one filled with abandonment. In the slightest of ways, Eric simply tells him that he truly does matter.

After his football career was over, season 4 ended up being his experience of delaying the start of the rest of his life. He chose to stay in Dillon and deliver pizzas. While he was studying art, he was not really going anywhere. At the end of “A Sort of Homecoming,” Matt learns that his father stepped on an IED and was killed in action. “The Son” became truly one of the best episodes of the series and truly one of the best dramatic performances in years. Matt goes through the 5 stages of grief throughout the episode. At the start, he is sitting in his room watching a video on his computer of a Christmas message from his father. In an attempt to get him to take his mind off of the situation, Landry and Julie drag him into a movie night. The next day, there is a gathering at his home to show respect and support through the difficult time. An Army recruiter comes over to talk about his father but knows nearly nothing about him. Matt gets angry as he cannot think of a single moment his father smiled in his life. This is followed up by the McCoys coming by to show their respect and Matt slamming the door in their faces. Shifting into a stage of bargaining, Matt struggles during the meeting about the casket as he desperately wants to see his father’s body. Still fueled with a little anger, he spends time with his friends while drinking on the football field and yells about his father’s failure to be around, leading him to go back to the funeral home to see his father’s remains. Distraught by the sight of the body, Matt finally arrives at the Taylor house and apologizes for being late. While he has a moment about the food, he stands up and delivers a heart-wrenching moment where he finally breaks down. Running out of the house, Eric follows him and helps to walk him home. He gets to his moment of acceptance when it is time to give the speech at the funeral. Talking about a moment as a child with his family in the grocery store, he speaks of the honor of service and giving everyone else a chance to celebrate their birthdays.

  

 

Besides the progression through the stages, the individual moments of the episode are truly amazing pieces of drama. Matt was never a violent person, but he has a moment of frustration with both the recruiter and the McCoys. Landry reigns him in for the moment, but there is clearly a bigger explosion on the way. Fast forwarding to the football field, he continues to open up as he yells about how miserable his father was, including how he felt like a burden to him. The trip to the funeral home starts the series of powerful moments. When the funeral director opens the casket, the look in his eyes and his quick exit from the building foreshadows his upcoming breakdown. When Tim has a moment with Becky, he states, “I saw something that, uh…rather someone see something that…you ever just feel completely useless.” When he arrives at the Dillon house, the struggles he has with the food only serves to crash through his defenses. He confesses his hatred for his father and loses it in front of the Taylor family. In the middle of the street, the pain that he feels at various times of the series is magnified a thousand times. While he turns it around during the eulogy, he feels compelled to shovel the dirt into the grave. While very easy to miss, the last images of the episode include Matt angrily piling the dirt onto the casket and the handle bloodied from turning his skin raw.

Neither of these moments have a thing to do with football but highlight why this series was so great.

Panthers or Lions…Friday Night Lights was an adaptation of the film made for a television audience. The series focused on the town of Dillon and the Panthers of Dillion High School. Over the course of five seasons, the Taylor family and the notable people of Dillon go through moments of glory, shame and heartbreak. There are championships and tragic defeats. The town unites around football but divides after a dramatic decision.

Leading the way through the seasons is Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler) as the coach of the Dillon Panthers. He has all the talent in the world as a coach and gets recognized for every success and defeat through his 5 years in Dillon, Texas. His wife, Tami Taylor (Connie Britton), is a strong-willed woman who starts as the counselor for Dillon High, rises to the status of principal, gets caught up in controversy, returns to being a counselor and gets the opportunity of a lifetime as a Dean of Admissions. Julie Taylor  (Amiee Teegarden) goes through a transformation from rebellious teenager to confident young woman. Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) hangs onto the thread of his football glory but finds himself fighting between his big heart and his poor judgment. Matt Sarasen (Zach Gilford) never imagined he would rise to high school football glory, but struggles to find himself through the challenges of caring for his grandmother and figuring out his uncertain future. Buddy Garity (Brad Leland) is the leader of the booster who is a rather confused businessman and his obsession with football is unmatched by anyone in the town. Vince Howard (Michael B. Jordan) comes from a troubled family but never gives up his hope that his mother will get clean or that he can make something of himself. Luke Cafferty (Matt Lauria) struggles with getting stripped from the Panthers but becomes a leader for the Lions.

Supporting the main cast are a number of integral members of the story. Landry Clarke (Jesse Plemons) serves partially as Matt’s best friend but also the quintessential punching bag for several of the significant female characters. Billy Riggins (Derek Phillips) never seems to maintain success but has a big heart similar to his brother. Smash Williams (Gaius Charles) is the bigheaded high school star who is brought down to earth by an injury and learns how to truly work for what he wants. Jason Street (Scott Porter) has his life change when a spinal injury ruins his chance to be a football star, but he learns how to find himself after he realizes the importance of surrounding himself with people for which he truly loves. Lyla Garity (Minka Kelly) starts as a rather devout Christian, but her struggles with caring for Jason and a confusing relationship with Tim broaden her understanding of self. Tyra Collette (Adrianne Palicki) comes from a struggling family but slowly finds the courage to make something of her life. JD McCoy (Jeremy Sumpter) is the phenom who gets corrupted by success and praise. His father, Joe McCoy (DW Moffett), is the overbearing father who tries to control more than just his son’s life. Jess Merriweather (Jurrnee Smollett) struggles with her feelings between Landry and Vince but explores her passion for football while serving as a student coach for the East Dillon Lions. Becky Sproles (Dora Madison Burge) is a young and spunky high-schooler who develops a strong attraction to Tim as both a love interest and an older brother. Mrs. Sarasen (Louanne Stephens) is the sweet grandmother of Matt but slowly deteriorates with dementia.

Now with a feel for the characters, there are a significant number of moments that make this show fantastic. Here are some of the best of the best…

  • “The Son” – When Matt loses his father, he travels through the 5 stages of grief in a way that finally gets him to release so much of the anger and frustration that had been plaguing him for a long time. When he goes to the funeral home and sees the remains of his father, there is a moment that rocks him to the core and allows him the chance to reevaluate his life. His speech at the funeral represents his transition to acceptance of his father’s shortcomings.
  • “Pilot” – Jason Street, the star of the Dillon Panthers, gets injured in the most difficult way for a rising talent. His spinal injury rocks the team to its core and inspires a fantastic speech by Coach Taylor to bring perspective to the team with a combination of realism and hope.
  • “The Giving Tree” – When Julie has sex for the first time with Matt, neither Eric nor Tami know what to say to her. Eric has a moment when he asks his wife what she is going to say and she just sits down without a single bit of confidence of what to do. When she finally gets Julie to sit down for a conversation, she simply says, “I wanted you to wait.”
  • “Tomorrow Blues” – After Joe McCoy did everything in his power to get rid of Eric, the coach has one last chance to fight for his job. He simply shows up to the meeting and delivers a short but power statement. Though he loses his job, he becomes the head coach for the East Dillon Lions and later learns that he never was supposed to take the job. He of course proves everyone wrong after going through his rebuilding year.
  • “Leave No One Behind” – Matt Sarasen has a number of truly difficult moments, but late in season 2, he gets to one of the lowest points of the series. Unable to reconcile his ability to lead the team and his struggles with having everyone leave him, he gets thrown in the shower by Coach Taylor and screams, “What’s wrong with me?!?” Quietly, the coach tries to help him understand that he has been dealt a tough hand.
  • “New York New York” – While Jason Street struggled to find himself after the accident, he finds something to strive for while searching for a chance to be with his love and his child. Going to New York, he is able to get a friend to sign with a small-time agent and goes to Erin’s house. Proclaiming his love for her and their daughter, he convinces her to accept him back into her life while he says goodbye to his best friend, Tim.
  • “Underdogs” – Though the team won the state championship in the first season, the third season was so much meaningful. With some of the main players graduating (Matt and Tim), this game becomes bigger than the actual contest. Tim walks out onto the field after coming up just short of victory and soaks in his last moments as a high school football player for the Dillon Panthers. Placing his shoes on the field, he symbolically leaves it all behind.
  • “Kingdom” – With so many of the moments of the show being so heavy, this is one of the humorous interactions that keeps the show in check of its dramatic roots. Vince, Luke and Hastings are out on the balcony chatting about an assortment of random topics in a moment of male bonding. With the coach secretly listening in, he finally feels like these players that were outcasts and delinquents are finally on the right track and gelling as a team.
  • “Hello Goodbye” – After all of the blood, sweat and tears, Smash Williams finally gets his big break. He was turned away after the injury, broken because of his failed dreams and worked hard to get back into shape for the recruiters. When he gets the call, he briefly jokes about it and then the moment of celebration arises. He stops by the coach’s house to thank him for never quitting on him.
  • “East of Dillon” – The aftermath of the splitting of Dillon leave Coach Taylor with a team and a school that are utterly broken. He challenges the players to leave if they do not want to play and ends up with only 18 guys remaining. The team plays hard the first half and sits in the locker room beaten and broken. Eric sees the team and does not feel comfortable putting them back on the field. Going out to the refs, he calls the game, leaving the town of Dillon confounded on his supposed abandonment of team.
  • “Texas Whatever” – In the series finale, the East Dillon Lions get to finish their existence on a high note with a state championship, but the team is set to merge back with West Dillon. In a series of flashes between characters, viewers are left with the transitions of each of the notable members of the Dillon family. Eric tells Vince that he is the star of the Panthers, reassuring him that his future is still in front of him. Luke heads off to join the army and is seen off by Becky. Tami’s demand of a new chapter leads to the family moving to Philadelphia and Eric coaching a small high school program.

All of these moments come together in a way that is just perfect television. Though this is a series that you just do not want to end, five seasons were perfect to keep the characters and storylines engaging from start to finish.

     

     

March is one of the best months for sports. Although I am huge fan of the National Championship game for NCAA football and love the Super Bowl, March Madness is all of the best aspects of sports rolled up into a 3-week tournament. From Selection Sunday when the field is set, there are an abundance of highs and lows, blowouts and upsets, and defeats and victories. There are a handful of teams that are certainly disappointed to be sitting on the outside this year (Washington, Mississippi State, Drexel, Seton Hall and Northwestern), but the field is set and here are the thoughts about some of the teams…

First Four

  • Mississippi Valley State (21-12, SWAC)
  • Western Kentucky (15-18, Sun Belt): The only team to make the tournament with a losing record…automatic bid?
  • BYU (25-8, WCC)
  • Iona (25-7, MAAC): They have a chance to silence their critics.
  • Lamar (23-11, Southland)
  • Vermont (23-11, Amer. East)
  • California (24-9, Pac-12): How mad is Washington? California better prove something big about the Pac-12.
  • USF (20-13, Big East): Can they prove themselves yet again?

South Region

  • Kentucky (32-2, SEC): The tournament’s #1 until proven wrong.
  • Duke (27-6, ACC): Their inside game is only rivaled by their ability to shoot 3s.
  • Baylor (27-7, Big 12): This team has made a name for themselves over the past several years.
  • Indiana (25-8, Big 10): A strong start and finish diminish the challenges of their 4-5 start to 2012.
  • Wichita State (27-5, Missouri Valley): The Shockers are ready to shock some more critics with their prolific offense.
  • UNLV (26-8, Mountain West)
  • Notre Dame (22-11, Big East): They spoiled Syracuse’s perfect season. Who’s next?
  • Iowa State (22-10, Big 12)
  • Connecticut (20-13, Big East): Their opportunity is aided by the conference they play in.
  • Xavier (21-12, A-10): Experience could mean the difference of this team.
  • Colorado (23-11, Pac-12)
  • VCU (28-6, CAA): They ruined Drexel’s hopes of an appearance.
  • New Mexico State (26-9, WAC)
  • South Dakota State (27-7, Summit)
  • Lehigh (26-7, Patriot)

West Region

  • Michigan State (27-7, Big 10): The UNC game is in the past. Ohio State proved that.
  • Missouri (30-4, Big 12): Perfection out of conference and in the Big 12 Tournament. What’s next?
  • Marquette (25-7, Big East): These Eagles are truly Golden and are true fighters.
  • Louisville (26-9, Big East): Momentum is on their side.
  • New Mexico (27-6, Mountain West): This is one great offense.
  • Murray State (30-1, Ohio Valley): Is this the best seeding for a 1-loss team? Can they push themselves deep in this tournament?
  • Florida (23-10, SEC)
  • Memphis (26-8, C-USA)
  • Saint Louis (25-7, A-10)
  • Virginia (22-9, ACC): This is a team that plays it close to the chest.
  • Colorado State (20-11, Mountain West)
  • Long Beach State (25-8, Big West): A strong run in the conference helps to prepare them for something bigger.
  • Davidson (25-7, Southern): Benefits to the tournament include a weak conference and a little win over Kansas.
  • Norfolk State (25-9, MEAC)
  • LIU Brooklyn (25-8, Northeast)

East Region

  • Syracuse (31-2, Big East): No one expected the domination of the Big East to be without a stumbling block. They are poised for a run.
  • Ohio State (27-7, Big 10): Eyes are on Sullinger to elevate his team.
  • Florida State (24-9, ACC): This is a defense to be afraid of.
  • Wisconsin (24-9, Big 10): They have something to prove outside of their conference.
  • Vanderbilt (24-10, SEC): Are they the next Connecticut?
  • Cincinnati (24-10, Big East): These Bearcats can scrap with even the biggest foes (Syracuse).
  • Gonzaga (25-6, WCC)
  • Kansas State (21-10, Big 12)
  • Southern Miss (25-8, C-USA)
  • West Virginia (19-13, Big East)
  • Texas (20-13, Big 12): Did they deserve this chance?
  • Harvard (26-4, Ivy): Winners of this league have proven themselves in recent years.
  • Montana (25-6, Big Sky)
  • St. Bonaventure (20-11, A-10): Can they get a win over a bigger non-conference opponent?
  • Loyola MD (24-8, MAAC): Can they make something of their first appearance in 18 years?
  • UNC Asheville (24-9, Big South)

Midwest Region

  • North Carolina (29-5, ACC): How big with John Henson’s wrist be over the next few days?
  • Kansas (27-6, Big 12): This is a big squad with a big opportunity.
  • Georgetown (23-8, Big East): Can they break their cycle of losing in upset fashion?
  • Michigan (24-9, Big East): The Wolverines have been up and down all season and need to get their offense in order.
  • Temple (24-7, A-10): Can they channel their wins over Wichita State and Duke?
  • San Diego State (26-7, Mountain West)
  • Saint Mary’s (27-5, WCC)
  • Creighton (28-5, Missouri Valley)
  • Alabama (21-11, SEC)
  • Purdue (21-12, Big 10): Can the Boilermakers improve their 1-10 record against the top-25?
  • NC State (22-12, ACC): The Wolfpack may be stronger than record says (considering tough ref-calling in ACC Tournament).
  • Ohio (27-7, Mid-American)
  • Belmont (27-7, Atlantic Sun)
  • Detroit (22-13, Horizon): Opportunity is everything.

One of the biggest political topics at the moment is not the economy or resources or war. It is birth control. Over the course of the past several weeks, a number of “men” have been debating in Congress about whether birth control should be covered by health care coverage. The keyword is MEN. It is true that almost all issues regarding regulation have been decided by white men, but do these policymakers actually have the right to dictate what appropriate measures women can take to practice safe sex and birth control?

The arguments that currently exist against it are flimsy at best. There is a fear that coverage of birth control would mean that women would have their sexual exploits partially funded by health care coverage. Do our policymakers really think that women are going to take advantage of their access to birth control and all decide to turn to prostitution? The government  has been against Planned Parenthood for some time but have only limited its ability to function as a resource to women, couples and families regarding safe and mindful practices. What is the problem with an organization that seems to have a great support on the local level and is just misunderstood when taken at a national perspective?

One of the most significant debates is a religious one. Extremists want to ban birth control pills completely but religion is being used to support a general anti-contraceptive movement. Individual freedoms do not apparently factor into this debate, according to these religious republicans. Neither does the concept of the separation of church and state. A California lobbying group is actually trying to ban circumcisions, which is an infringement on Jewish and Muslim culture who believe this is a mandate of their religion.

While that last example is one involving men, the vast majority of the issues directly effect women and women are being left out of the conversation. If someone can explain to me how this is right, I would be more than happy to listen.

Just a little treat from TED.com..John Hodgman talks about aliens and issues with the concepts of mythical creatures and love. Telling some personal stories, he has a little fun highlighting some unusual situations that suggest the possibility of other-worldly beings. Take a look…