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January 2007

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
January 31, 2007

SCENE: THE MEDIA ROOM AT THE FRANK BROYLES ATHLETIC COMPLEX, FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS.

A crowd of reporters has packed into the room for a special announcement regarding the Arkansas Razorbacks football team. There are whispers and murmurs regarding the possibility that University of Arkansas Athletic Director Frank Broyles is about to name a new head football coach, replacing the current embattled coach, Houston Nutt. Replacement names bandied about by armchair quarterbacks have included the former University of Miami football coach, Larry Coker, and the current North Carolina football coach, Butch Davis.

And now...it looks as if something is happening in the room adjacent to the podium, and yes, here comes Coach Broyles. The room stirs with anticipation. Cameras click as Coach Broyles walks with a bit of uncertainty to the podium. He is, of course, in his eighties, so this can be expected, but there is a noticeable shuffle in his walk. His tie is loosened, and his hair is somewhat tousled. He looks, quite honestly, a tad disheveled, as if he has been up all night. And it looks as if he is carrying a beverage can of some sort in his right hand. He's now at the podium, so let's listen in.

Here, now, the U of A Athletic Director...Frank Broyles.

"Howdy, folks."

He coughs a bit, clears his throat. He takes a sip from the can, and there seems to be a bit of a burp after his final swallow.

"Excuse me," he says with a chuckle.

"Okay...let's just get right down to it. All these internet bloggers and newspaper columnists...plus, all these so-called Razorback fans have been on my hind end for the past month about the so-called mediocrity of Coach Nutt's football program. I've heard nothing but complaints from all types of people...hell, some of 'em even protested over here across the street. Everybody questioning Coach Nutt, questioning my judgment, my support of Houston Dale...hell, I'm almost 90 years old, and I've got some 25-year-old fat tub of guts with a computer blog telling me how to do my job. It's enough to drive a man to drink."

The coach pauses and smiles when he looks down to his can -- which, I've now been told, is Coors Light.

Coach Broyles burps again.

"Where was I? Oh. Yeah. Anyway, so, the other night, I was in the Jacuzzi with my wife, and I just told her I was dad-gum sick of it, so...I made a few phone calls...and, uh...well, I'm happy to announce today that the University of Arkansas now has a new head football coach..."

The room comes alive with loud whispers and more camera clicks. And then, from the adjacent room, we can see a tall thin man emerge wearing a Razorback baseball cap. He walks hesitantly, but smiles and waves a bit to the room. This is not, we can report, Coach Coker or Coach Davis. The man looks to be in his mid-30s. He has a moustache. He's walking to the podium and Coach Broyles extends his arm to the man.

"Folks, this here is the new head football coach of the Hogs -- Coach Borat Sagdiyev. Coach Borat...say a few words."

This is incredible news, ladies and gentlemen! Coach Borat Sagdiyev. He must be of some type of European descent because he has just kissed Coach Broyles on both cheeks. Let's listen to him now...

"Very nice. Very nice. Um, thank you Coach Broyles and the great state of Ar-kansas. Um...Woo-Pig! Woo-Pig! Oink! Oink! Very nice. Very nice."

Coach Borat has just turned to Coach Broyles with his hand raised.

"High five!"

The two coaches just gave each other five. I must say, this is the oddest press conference I've ever attended.

"Um...It is much exciting to be new football coach of Razorpigs. While I am sad Coach Nutts had to leave, I am still excite to be coach of such big group of players. In Kazakhstan, where I from, football is very big, very big. Only difference is, in Kazakhstan, actual football is head of goat and cheerleaders usually have no teeth. Here in Ar-kansas, it will be fun to play with real football and last night I learn the cheerleaders here are very nice! Very nice! High five! High five!"

Coach Broyles and Coach Borat have just given each other five again. They are also elbowing each other with big grins.

It looks as if Mike Irwin, a fellow reporter, has a question. He stands.

"Coach Broyles -- no disrespect intended here, but have you had any kind of major head injury in the past few days?"

Coach Broyles moves to the microphone.

"Hey, Irwin. I've been reading your blog, too. Do me a favor, will you? Kiss this."

Oh dear! Coach Broyles has just mooned the crowd. The audience erupts. Chairs are thrown. Oh, the humanity! In the chaos, I see Coach Borat -- who is still smiling, by the way -- turn to ask Coach Broyles a question.

"Coach. When I go back to see cheerleaders again? They very nice. Very nice."

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail himat max@maxfm.com. You canview Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com , the web site for The Max 93One FM.


All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
January 24, 2007


For the past few days, I've been caught up in the anti-Houston Nutt and anti-Frank Broyles shenanigans.

Boot 'em off the Hill, I've been preaching. Mediocrity has been tolerated for too long in Fayetteville, and the entire program needs fresh blood. When those contrarian Hog fans placed a half page, $5,000 advertisement in the statewide paper calling for the resignations of Coach Nutt and Coach Broyles, I slammed my hand on my breakfast table and yelled, "Amen!," and then grumbled a "Harrumph!" or two for good measure.

Then, I sat back in my chair, took a deep breath, and realized I don't know squat about college athletics.

Sure, it's somewhat entertaining to follow the Razorback soap opera. The gossipy tidbits were too juicy to ignore. Was it true that some of Nutt's assistant coaches referred to Coach Gus Malzahn as "High School"? Wasn't the meeting by the Springdale parents with Broyles a bit much? Did one of Nutt's relatives really send a nasty e-mail to Mitch Mustain? Was Nutt showing Malzahn and Mustain who the boss really was by sidelining the former Springdale High quarterback for most of the late season play?

With the Razorback grapevine buzzing with such talk, the temptation to be enveloped by the developments was simply too great for the majority of Hog fans -- including yours truly.

But, of course, the rub is this: none of this matters one bit in the grand scheme of things. Life moves on. Taxes are still due. War rages in other parts of the world. And the Statue of Liberty is still waving to us on Harrison Street.

And the majority of Razorback fans will still cheer on the Hogs even if Nutt and Broyles are still around next year. Besides, the team has the two best running backs in the country, and that's something in Fayetteville of which we can be proud.

* * *

A welcome is extended to the new director of the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce. Jonah Shumate, the former director of membership services at the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, became the president and chief executive officer of the chamber last week.

With the layoffs and probable closing of White-Rodgers in the near future and the need for essential infrastructure expansion in the area, the chamber has to focus on the aggressive recruitment of new industry and the continued economic development of our existing economy. For too long, it seems as if the only time the chamber's name surfaced in the local news, the subject was either related to the White River Water Carnival or the search for a new director.

Perhaps with the new hire and some new blood on the board, a renewed sense of importance and energy can revitalize the chamber and its role in this community. Don't misunderstand: I'm not slighting past board members (I was even on the board a few years ago) and presidents. But, now and then, things need to be shaken up a bit to prevent things from settling into stagnation.

In the Batesville Daily Guard, Ted Hall, the 2007 chairman of the chamber, put it best:

"We've all got to start pulling together -- that means the city, the county and the business people. We've got to do it in a positive way and help each other."

And...

"....we know we have to do the Christmas parade, the White River Water Carnival, but we have to got to be all about economic development and make it better for this community."

Italics are mine.

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail himat max@maxfm.com. You canview Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com , the web site for The Max 93One FM.


All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
January 17, 2007


Here's something many of you already know: I'm not a writer.

That is to say, I do not claim to have any type of special literary or journalistic talent. I'm not a professional at this stuff; I'm no Tom Wolfe or Norman Mailer. I'm not even in the same territory as Danielle Steel.

Which is a sad thing to admit.

I've always loved being behind a typewriter, and later, a computer keyboard, chronicling stories and thoughts, however poorly thought out and constructed they may be. For the past month, however, I've been stuck in a rut. For bona-fide writers and scribes, this is commonly referred to as "writer's block." Yet, since I do not count myself as a member of the writer's club, I can't really attribute my lack of ideas to such a legendary roadblock long claimed by those with much more literary talent than me (or -- is it "...than I," or "...than myself"). That someone actually reads and comments on things I've planted in this ink-and-paper real estate is a blessing I very much treasure and appreciate.

But that's where I am: stuck. For most of the past few weeks, I've been rummaging around in the back of my mind, looking under dusty cushions and behind doors for any type of scrap of interest about which to write. Longtime visitors to "All Over the Map" mostly overlook the narcissism that permeates this column, but I'm beginning to realize that a friend of mine is correct in her longtime (and sarcastic) assertion that I should change the name of this column to "All About Me."

Of course, in my defense, I'm always trying to find the humor in my everyday life. I am a rabid proponent of laughter and silliness, particularly in a world where these two items are becoming more and more scarce. In my (likely) delusional and sickly sentimental mind, I think it's sometimes necessary to try and spread as much laughter and silliness and smiles as one can -- even if the end product fails at delivering much merriment. (That is to say, my attempts at humor can many times be lame and fall flat.)

And I'm not to keen on poking fun at others -- unless they truly deserve it.

For instance, if a column isn't about me, it's more than likely about how ridiculous and dismal such people as Britney Spears, Donald Trump, Lindsay Lohan, and some political leaders can be in this world.

But I've come to a point where none of this seems interesting or worthy of focus. It first hit me around November. I thought it would pass in a few days, but then it stretched into weeks, and then I started writing about things as mundane as sloppy desks and lame stories about my honeymoon.

This past week, we re-ran a column about the messy playroom in our home simply because I started and threw out four different attempts at a column until we could not wait any longer. When it was time for this week's piece, I had attempted two different columns until I realized it would be best if I simply wrote about this rut in which I'm stuck.

It's frustrating.

But it ain't the end of the world.

And there are plenty of topics on which I could offer my thoughts: Newport and Batesville's future; how the new Apple iPhone will eventually revolutionize the cellular phone industry; my dream to re-build the White River Drive-In and retire (emphasis on the word "dream"); the Batesville city council/health insurance issue; those happy-go-lucky Statue of Liberty wavers on Harrison Street; why Karin Mohlke slanders me in her column on page 7; the critical need for the expansion of the Batesville sewer system; why I'm excited about the redevelopment of the Landers Theatre property; why I'm addicted to the new video game, Guitar Hero II, etc., and etc. and etc.

So, I shall struggle with this silly dilemma, and for those of you who may have been disappointed with my output as of late, I offer the above as somewhat of an excuse.

And, by the way, the playroom at our home is now clean as a whistle. Most of those toys from last week's picture have mysteriously vanished.

Just don't tell our little boy.

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com , the web site for The Max 93One FM.


All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
January 10, 2007


The following is a reprint from the May 4, 2005 issue of the Arkansas Weekly.

Our playroom at the house is a disaster, to put it mildly.

One of my pet peeves is to walk by the room and find the door open. Inside, there are roughly 15,000 toys of all sizes and shapes scattered and piled across the floor, shelves and other larger toys. Walking by and catching that mess out of the corner of my eye can send me on the road to a nervous breakdown. I begin to ask myself what are we going to do with that pile of plastic junk? How are we going to sneak some of the stuff out without the kids discovering our secret cleaning job? What if someone attempts to walk through that war zone of a room, trips on the pogo stick and ends up impaled on a G.I. Joe helicopter blade?

Sometimes, I even think the pile is moving. What if there is some type of mutant monster melded of mold and plastic forming under there? One night, I know I'm going to wake up and see my wife being slowly devoured by a moldy mass of Rescue Heroes action figures, Tonka toys and Beanie Babies that has trudged up the stairs to our bedroom.

Of course, all of this is our fault. Years of birthday parties, Christmas gifts and surrenders to the innumerable whines and begs at the toy stores helped contribute to the pile. Plus, mom and pop could have done a better job enforcing the kids to clean up the room every now and then. But it should be noted that 95% of the toys in the playroom belong to our seven-year-old son. Our daughter, thankfully, discovered the joys of reading about two years ago, and her books probably outnumber her toys. (I should also note, however, that her shoe collection probably outnumbers both her toys and books. She's her mother's daughter. I call her Imelda Marcos, Jr.)

So, that leaves us with the Boy. I capitalize Boy because our son is 100% Boy: footballs, rescue vehicles, toy airplanes and motorcycles, G.I. Joes, Rescue Heroes, cowboy pistols, Matchbox cars, miniature monster trucks, John Deere tractors, junior tool sets, and etc., etc., etc. And most of that stuff is in a pile in the playroom.

Don't get the impression that he doesn't play with the stuff -- he does, and that's part of the problem. When he's finished playing with something, he just opens the playroom door and throws everything back on the pile. And when he's looking for a particular toy, he gets down on his hands and knees to begin an excavation project on the pile that sends toys scattering and flying through the playroom doorway. If someone happens to walk past the playroom during one of these digs, there's a good chance they'll be nailed in the head by a Hot Wheels projectile.

All of this brings me to what happened the other weekend.

On a cool, sunny Saturday morning, I take the Boy to the grand opening of Tractor Supply Company in Batesville. Expecting he's going to want something from there, I packed an extra ten bucks in the wallet before we left the house. And, sure enough, he found a treasure trove of boy stuff he wanted to purchase: a $900 go-kart (not happening, I told him), a construction helmet (nope -- he has about three already), a measuring wheel (forget it), a long link of chain (are you planning to be in a street gang, I asked him), and a Tractor Supply baseball cap (that was easy -- they were free that day).

Finally, he came to me with a roll of yellow caution tape. It's the stuff workers string around potentially hazardous locations at construction sites.

"What in the world do you need that for?" I asked.

"To tape on my doorway," he said, looking up to me with a smile.

"Why do you want to put caution tape on your doorway?"

"To keep my sister out."

So I bought him the caution tape. And, now there's caution tape on his doorway, caution tape around the yard, caution tape around the swing set, and caution tape across the mom and pop bedroom.

Our daughter also suggested we place caution tape across the bathroom doorway while I am inside with a magazine.

"I don't find that funny," I told her.

"Who said I was trying to be funny?" she said with a straight face.

Anyway, it's safe to say that the Boy has received more mileage out of a six-dollar roll of caution tape than the monstrous pile of toys sitting in the playroom floor.

Oh, I forgot. There's one other doorway with caution tape: the playroom.

How appropriate.

You can write Rob in care of the Arkansas Weekly or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the website for The Max 93One FM.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
January 3, 2007

January is "Get Organized Month" in case you didn't know.

I found this out after reading a recent article in the New York Times concerning the billions of dollars made by manufacturers of home and office organizing products. Such manufacturers make such money off of optimistic suckers such as me around this time of the year when we all seem overwhelmed by the piles, stacks and heaps of junk we've accumulated through the year (or, more likely, years) in our homes, automobiles, closets and offices.

Our messes worry many of us so much that the idea of, say, a nice spare office with neatly stacked piles, orderly files and a desk so empty and clean you could eat off of it seems like something that must be immediately realized, or you'll soon die of disorganization.

That's why many of us buy file boxes, shelves and new filing systems in hopes of taming our hopelessly cluttered spaces. Yet, all too often, those boxes, shelves, filing systems and other organizing tools end up unopened and smothered in the all-consuming and ever-growing mess we initially wanted to tame. Finding the initiative to organize can become a fool's errand as time passes and other more important and responsible projects reveal themselves or laziness simply precludes any stab at a serious clean-up.

But the Times article also touches on the other side of the messy vs. neat argument: the notion that a mess is indicative of an innovative and vibrant mind.

"Studies are piling up," the article notes, "that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat 'office landscapes') and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts."

After originally reading the above paragraph, I felt a peace wash over me like a delicate and warm breeze. I could now justify my messy office because, according to these recent studies, I possess a creative and limber mind. Whooo-hooo! Say goodbye to neatness at Rob Grace Central.

Sure, visitors to my office might gasp with horror upon first glance at my junk-filled office, yet I know that the mess only reveals that my wheels are always spinning upstairs, and I am in possession of a creative and limber mind.

And those of you who are neat freaks, with your bare desks and perfect stacks, I now know that you do not possess creative and limber minds like mine. Yes, you likely spend too much time organizing when you should be creating and being limber of mind! All of the papers and empty soda cups and years old Post-Its stuck everywhere in my office are proof that I've been slaving away at my desk, my mind limbering and creating.

Proof, that is, according to the New York Times.

Of course, my mess could also indicate that I am simply a slob.

Which is likely the case.

* * *

I do need to keep the New York Times article away from my wife and kids.

With my luck, they'll likely throw it back in my face when I start complaining about how messy the house is.

* * *

I've always been keenly interested in anything that comes out of Apple Computer. The company's cutting edge designs and amazing home computer technology is always so innovative that it puts the other PC-based competitors to shame.

But Steve Jobs, the visionary behind Apple, now seems to be in a little bit of trouble. It stems from 2001 when Jobs was allegedly handed $7.5 millionof Apple stock options without approval of the company's board of directors.

I hope this dilemma is resolved and passes. Losing Jobs would likely be, perhaps initially, extremely devastating to Apple. It's hard to fathom the company continuing to be so radically imaginative without Jobs at the helm.

You can write Rob in care of Arkansas Weekly, or e-mail him at max@maxfm.com. You can view Rob's blog at http://suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com. Or just click the link on the front page of www.maxfm.com, the web site for The Max 93One FM.

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