Friday, June 09, 2017

Cleavage Coverage

Ocean City, Maryland has a problem.  A problem town officials may want to nip in the bud before they rack up mounds of trouble.  I say problem, but only some perceive it as that.  Many individuals have no issue with the city allowing females to hit the beach topless this summer.  Count me in with the latter group.  And not because the fourteen-year-old boy trapped inside me hopes to see naked boobies all season.  (Let's be honest, the majority of exposed breasts aren't going to belong to swimsuit models.  Be careful what you wish for, men making travel plans.)   Count me in because this issue has spurned a broader discussion that needs to be had.  A discussion that, for me, includes three related topics: why bare breasts are considered taboo, how we treat and talk about women's bodies in general, and freedom and equality.

Before diving in, let me recap how we got here.  In 2016, a female toplessness advocate (Boy, did I get into the wrong business!) challenged Ocean City to allow women to go topless since men are allowed to go shirtless.  The city petitioned Maryland's attorney general for clarification on the ordinance currently on the books.  Following nine months without any word on the matter from the AG, the O.C. Beach Patrol has decided they neither can, nor will ask topless female sunbathers to cover up.

Predictably, like any remotely controversial subject, the OCBP's decision has sparked a firestorm on the internet.  As usual in these contentious times, battle lines seem to be forming along classic polarizing lines.  People in favor of covering up are quickly labeled conservative prudes and advocates of "freeing the ta-tas" are painted as crazy and/or disgusting.  For me, the line is blurred and the answer lies in that great gray area in between.  Of course, maybe I'm just a crazy, disgusting prude.

My eight-year-old daughter, Grace, and I spend tons of time at the beach.  It is one of our favorite places on the planet.  One of the few benefits to my retail work schedule is it affords us the opportunity to hit Ocean City about once a week on a weekday away from the higher volume of weekend tourist traffic.  About three or four years ago, Grace asked me why she had to wear a shirt on the beach if boys didn't.  I did not have a good answer for her.  I'm sure I mumbled something about private parts or that's just the way it is.  She didn't push the issue, but it has bugged me since that I didn't have a better answer.  This recent news story brought the question back to mind.  So, really, what is the difference?  Why shouldn't females go topless?  It seems we are mostly talking the nipple.  That's all that many bathing suits cover on a woman.  Plenty of tops show ample breast save the nipple.  What makes a woman's nipples naughtier than mine?  (Now you're thinking about my nipples, aren't you?  My eyes are up here.) 

The difference is that we have sexualized the female breast.  I'm sure there is some argument to be made about America's puritanical past, but when did the breast become something we have to cover?  It seems like it is one of those things that has "always been that way."  Other cultures, don't cover all the time.  I'm sure there are tribal cultures where breasts are rarely covered.  Why taboo here?  Yes, the breast can be an erogenous, sexual body part, but it can be for men as well.  Yes, advertisers trade on the notion that boobs are sensual mysteries to be discovered or uncovered.  Don't get me wrong, I often find a woman dressed to leave something to the imagination sexier than one that lets it all hang out. But these are constructs that we have put in place.  The body is so much more than a pleasure device.  Breast-feeding without covering is thankfully being normalized and de-stigmatized; this can be the next logical progression. 

Though it is not a direct line, this topic relates to how we treat and talk about women's bodies.  Assuming women "must" cover up is not much different than women "asking" to be raped for dressing provocatively or girls being sent home from school because the way they are dressed is distracting the boys.  A woman's body is hers and hers alone.  Despite the litany of romance novels that line my store's shelves that might imply otherwise, a woman's body is not something to be possessed or conquered.  I recently read a quote from a lady who mentioned she should be able to, not that she would, walk naked down the street without fear of harassment.  And she's right.  Nudity is not an automatic invitation to be touched, groped, or even hit on.  I'm not advocating being uncovered below the waist, I have to draw the line somewhere, but the point is the female body, as beautiful as it can be, is not a trophy or an instrument.  If a woman chooses to go topless or share her body with a number of men and women, it doesn't make her a slut, or disgusting, or lacking in self-respect.  It's her choice, not mine or anyone else's.  I may not agree with her choice, but, to put it bluntly, it ain't my business.

I have been asked if I would be upset if Grace saw exposed breasts on the beach.  I wouldn't.  Amanda and I try to have frank discussions with her about being comfortable in the skin you're in.  That said, I would not allow Grace to go topless.  Because we also talk about what is best for our family and our beliefs.  Hypocritical? Maybe.  Until she is an adult it IS my business.  When she turns eighteen she can do what she wants. 

Finally, I have heard it suggested that if it's equality these topless advocates want, they should press that men have to cover up.  I suppose that's one way to go.  I don't personally see the big deal about letting ladies hit the beach topless.  It's a personal choice.  In the same way the existence of gay marriage doesn't mean I have to marry a dude, if I don't want to see topless women I can choose to not go to Ocean City.  My freedoms are not being disrespected.  I say let the market decide.  If enough people stay away from Ocean City because a few women air out their areolas, I would guess some laws would be changed or clarified.  If the will of the people, declared through our elected officials, was to cover up then so be it.  Until then, ladies, feel free to pop that top.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Clang, clang, on the boards, Baby!

When news broke yesterday that 3-on-3 basketball might be an Olympic sport in 2020, my mind began to wander.  I was flooded with wistful memories of the past.  In high school and college, my friends and I played LOTS of pickup basketball.  From spirited games of 1-on-1 to two full-court, 5-on-5 games running simultaneously on adjacent courts, many weekends and summer evenings were spent on various playground courts around town.  The quality of some of the games may have made Dr. James Naismith cringe, but  we had fun.  Free throw contests, practicing our half-court buzzer beaters, H-O-R-S-E, running a beat.  Phrases I haven't uttered in years: Make It/Take It, Check Ball, And 1, Back Door Cut.  There weren't many better ways to spend a summer evening than shooting hoops 'til dark then sitting around shooting the breeze with your buds until you had the energy to get up and go home.  You were left that sweat-soaked, rubbery-legged, good kind of tired instead of the why-was-I-awake-from-three-AM-to-five-AM feeling with which I often wake these days.  Sometimes I miss those nights when our only care was finding a sixth guy for a game. 

Personally, my game left a lot to be desired.  From a skinny kid earning the nickname Boney Maroni for the ease with which I was pushed from the post by older kids, I grew into a poor man's Charles Barkley.  And by poor, I mean destitute. Broke.  Poverty-stricken.   I was simply the Round Mound to Sir Charles' Round Mound of Rebound.  Except for one summer when I got both my body and jump shot in shape, I relied on a hopeful hook shot and a prayer.  Slow feet and no vertical made me a liability on defense, living proof that White Men Can't Jump.  I never met a layup I couldn't miss in a key, late game situation.  In fact, my lasting basketball memory from the summer I was fit and actually played well, was blowing a bunny.  I ripped down a rebound, started the fast break with a crisp outlet pass, and sprinted up court.  Two quick passes later, my buddy rewarded the big man running the court with a slick no-look pass that would have, were I a few inches taller, resulted in a thunderous Karl Malone dunk or a George Gervin finger roll.  Instead, I botched the SportsCenter-worthy pass by banging the layup off the rim. 

Now, twenty-five (!) years after high school and twenty-two years, eighty pounds and one knee surgery since the summer I was "good", I find myself inspired to get back on the court.  In no condition to run full-court any time soon, I'm starting slow.  Real slow.  Like, with the one play in basketball where no defender can send my jumper into the third row: the free throw.  My goal is to take the bulk of the summer to make my free throw percentage go up and the numbers on the scale go down.  I hit one of the old parks this morning to shake off the rust and assess my shot.  I was quickly reminded that I love the distinct sounds of basketball.  The bounce of worn leather meeting painted cement.  The rip of the net cord on a swish.  Even the clang of the hoop on a miss. 

My assessment, after one hundred free throws, is that I have plenty of work to do.  And that my neck hurts.  And that my right arm will probably feel like it is going to fall off tomorrow.  It's all good, though, because it was just fun to be back on the court with the ball in my hands.  Of the one hundred free throws I took, I made a dismal, Shaq-like thirty-three.  Yes, 33%.  Terrible, to be sure, but a good omen, perhaps.  33 was Larry Bird's uniform number.  Larry Bird was one of the greatest shooters of all time.  Surely this means I am on my way to legendary shooter status.  Maybe not, but at least I have a mission.  A  mission that will occupy my time instead of the things I should be doing like looking for a better paying job or crossing items off my honey-do list.  A mission that includes studying elbow angles and adjusting my follow-through.  A mission to get better.  Time to hoop it up!

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Ride of the Midnight Tweeter

"Thank you, Mr. President," said the butler as he closed the executive bedroom  door behind him after delivering his third, and hopefully, final Coca-Cola can of the evening.

The President, happy to finally be alone for the night, and clad only in an open luxury robe and his tighty-whities with the little presidential seals embroidered along the waistband, scratched his ample belly and ripped a wicked soda belch. Pleased with his burp in the smug way only a man accustomed to greatness can be, the President hoisted himself on to his bed.  Using the remote, he raised the volume of the Fox News midnight rerun of Tucker Carlson's show.  Just a few characters into what was sure to be an expertly crafted tweet, the bed began to quake and a misty fog gathered beside the bed.  Within the mist appeared the giant visage of a mighty orangutan hovering in the air.  The two proud beasts looked warily at each other for a moment.

The President broke the silence, "I wondered if you'd come tonight."

"Of course I have," replied the orangutan. "As your Spirit Animal, I am here to guide you through all your big decisions."

"This is a tough one.  You want a Big Mac while we talk it out? I have three left," asked the President, gesturing to the silver tray beside him on the bed.

The orangutan waved off the offer.  Nodding at the television, he asked, "What does Tucker think?"

"Oh, I don't know. I don't really watch. I miss Bill."

"Look, we all miss Bill, but don't be so quick to dismiss Tucker.  Did you know I am the one who advised him to stop wearing bow ties?"

"Proving, once again, that your advice is always great, the best advice," said the President.

"Exactly.  I've never steered YOU wrong.  Hair and complexion? Perfect.  Using a limited vocabulary?  Makes you seem real.  Spending the entire campaign flinging poo?  Brilliant, though I suppose calling yourself the Chaos Candidate was better than the Poo Flinger.  But the results were the same.  Projecting toughness?  You're the king of the jungle, baby.  Pee wherever you want?  That's how I do it.  Wait for female consent? Screw that, you're an animal with needs.  The King takes what he wants!  Dammit, I'm proud of you.  I couldn't be happier to be your Spirit Animal.  I am you and you are me."

The President chuckled.  "Thank you for your guidance Great One.  I've learned so much from you already.  It is funny, isn't it?  Everyone is worried about who is advising me.  Bannon or Miller.  Ivanka or the Kush.  Putin or the Saudis.  They would all shit bricks if they knew I was taking recommendations from a floating monkey head.  Now, about this Paris Climate Accord.  We have to stay in right?  There is an army of scientists that say we have to stay in.  Something about saving the world.  I dunno, I wasn't really paying attention in the briefing."

"Scientists!," the great ape bellowed.  "Scientists?  With their theories and their calculations?  With their data and their evidence-based deductions? Scientists, who have done nothing for my people but lock us up and perform experiments upon us?  Really, Prez, who are you going to side with, hundreds of researchers who have dedicated their lives to finding a thoughtful, data-driven solution to stemming the tide of global warming, or a fat, lazy orangutan speaking to you from the Great Beyond?  Are you the type of guy that bows to peer pressure?  If the rest of the world jumped off a bridge, would you?  Give me a break.  Get out there and lead.  Act bigly.  Be different.  Be bold.  Be a maverick, like Nicaragua and Syria. Ignore the propaganda and leave the agreement."

"Of course.  Thank you for your counsel.  When will I see you again?"

"I shall return when you are feeling confused, inept, or utterly incapable."

"Great. See you tomorrow, then."

"Indeed.  One more thing, big guy.  You're looking a little pale.  I'd add some more orange in the morning."  With that the great mammal faded away and the mist cleared.

The President, somewhere between sleep and a fever dream, slumped back against his pillow, his phone falling against his prodigious belly, tapping the send button.  As he slipped from consciousness, the President sighed the beast's name with a reverent whisper: "Covfefe."

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Waiting to Exhale

Made wary and weary by thirty years of playoff frustration, most Washington Capital fans I know spent Wednesday waiting to exhale.  Would the conclusion of Game 7 bring a resigned sigh nodding to history or a sigh of relief followed closely by a whoop of joy?  I want to write more, I wish I had poetry or beautiful prose to add, but words don't come easy this morning.  Honestly, you can pick about a half dozen of my previous May posts that convey the exact same sentiments if you want to read what I think about Caps playoff flameouts. Failing that you'll have to settle for a little math:
Curse >Mr Game Seven
Hockey gods>My positivity
Shaft of Fleury's stick>8's shot
30 years>My patience???????

Thursday, April 27, 2017

If not now, when?

I have been ruminating for days on a Caps/Pens blog post.  With so much history, much of it lopsided, there are not many fresh angles to take.  Pens almost always win, Caps dominate a game but lose, puck deflects in off defenseman's skate, no-name cheesedick in black and gold becomes a hero, hot goalie, blah, blah, blah.  Perhaps a deeper topic will emerge over the course of the series.  Until then, my brief fact/opinion preview of Capitals v. Tundra Pigeons:

Fact: Practicing mindfulness teaches us to live in the present moment, existing unburdened by the past or the future.
Opinion: In regards to the this series, I presently wallow in the past and fear the future.

Fact: Injured Penguins defenseman Chris Letang will not play in this series.
Opinion: Even without Letang, the Pens boast the douchiest roster in the league.

Fact: Despite being a whiny brat, Sidney Crosby fearlessly works in the dirtiest parts of the rink.
Opinion: His favorite "dirty parts of the rink" to work in are other players' crotches.

Fact: This is the tenth postseason series in which the Caps and Pens have met.  The Penguins have won eight of the previous nine.
Opinion: The hockey gods do not care about the law of averages, being "due", whose "time" it is.

Fact: Alex Ovechkin is 0-2 in the playoffs versus the Penguins.
Opinion:  Ovi and his mates have never been better equipped to defeat the Pens.

Fact: Good things happen when you go to the net.
Opinion: The Penguins do this better/ more often than the Caps.

Fact: The Pens are fast.
Opinion:  Having just dispatched the speedy Leafs will help the Caps.

Fact: There are two schools of thought regarding the Capitals first round series with the Leafs. One: such a close series versus the eighth seed was tiring and shows how vulnerable Washington is versus Pittsburgh. Or...the tough series made the Caps battle-hardened and ready for anything the Pens bring.
Opinion: We are waaaaay overthinking this.

Fact: Nate Schmidt played well while replacing the injured Karl Alzner. 
Opinion: When Alzner returns, Schmidt should stay in the lineup as well.

Fact: The Caps have twice (1992 and 1995) blown 3-1 series leads to the Pens. (Remember when we though that was as bad as it could get? Hahahahahaha, we were so young and foolish.)
Opinion: They won't have to worry about that problem in this series.

Fact: Pierre Maguire, the Doug Llewelyn of NHL hockey, will be interviewing a hero from the winning team at series' end.
Opinion: That player will be wearing.....Red.
Fact: Typing it doesn't make it true.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday Mailbag

On the morning of Caps/Leafs Game Four, my inbox is jammed with letters from readers asking about (surprise!) Game 4.  Let's dive in and answer a few questions from actual That's No Moon readers.  (It's called a plot device people.  Did you never watch Viewer Mail?)

Hi Bryan,  Given that he appears to be getting outcoached through three games, is #InTrotzWeTrust still a thing? - Doubtful in D.C.

Thanks for the question, Doubtful.  Yes, Barry Trotz seems to be getting outcoached thus far, with CSNWashington analyst Alan May going so far as to say that Toronto head coach Mike Babcock is "running the Capitals" right now.  Yes, Trotz seems too caught up in matchups, instead of trying to use his teams superior talent to dictate play.  Yes, one of my major criticisms of former Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was his inability to adapt over the course of a seven game series.  We'll see if Trotz and staff can and/or will.  Yes, Trotz, despite his resume, his professionalism, and saying all the right things, resembles a man who is just trying to keep his head above water as he begins to comprehend that he had no clue what it would be like to be swept up in the wave of curse that is this franchise.  But, yes, #InTrotzWeTrust is still a thing because I paid a lot of money for all those bumper stickers.

Hey B, longtime listener, first time caller.  The Caps gave up four goals Wednesday night.  Braden Holtby looks more concerned with hair flips and water bottle squirts than stopping pucks.  'Bout time to go to Grubauer, don't you think?  I'll hang up and listen for your answer. - Overreacting in Odenton

Uh, Overreacting, I'm not sure you understand how blogs, mailbags, or goaltending work.  The first goal took a fluke bounce onto a 40-goal scorer's stick.  The second goal was deflected.  The third goal was scored only after Holtby made an incredible save from point blank range with his defenders out of position, and the fourth goal occurred on a deflection in the waning seconds of a Toronto penalty on a fresh sheet of ice.  Holtby made many impressive saves and one daring (stupid if doesn't work) poke check forty feet from his crease.  Thanks, but even with his tics and peculiarities, I'm riding with the Holtbeast.

Hello Bryan, Do you remember the exact moment you began hating yourself for being a Capitals fan? - Curious in Clarendon

No, I've been spending more time trying to deduce where this franchise went wrong.  The ineptitude in key moments is uncanny.  The lack of confidence in clutch opportunities is bizarre.  The wilting under pressure is nearly inexplicable.  Did Abe Polin build the original Capital Centre on ancient Indian burial grounds?  Did Vincent Price once give Nick Backstrom a cursed tiki idol when he vacationed in Hawaii?  Did Alex Ovechkin sell his soul for 700 goals and zero Cups?

Bryan, Supposing the Caps limp by the Maple Leafs, what is the probability Washington will get smoked by the Penguins in Round Two? - Resigned in Reston

I'm going to let my guy K2SO field that one:

Good morning Bryan,  Do you think fans will be excited when the Caps raise their latest President's Trophy banner to the Verizon Center rafters next fall?  Asking for a friend. - Ted  Fred in Washington


Beezer, If the Capitals lose Game 4 is it okay to burn all my red hats, jerseys, and pompoms tonight, or does fan code require waiting until the actual end of the series? - Kevin in Indiana

Put the cap back on the gas can, Sparky.  I say Washington wins tonight to even the series.  I'd like to say they will handle their business the way the Sharks handled theirs while down two games to one to a young, talented upstart, but I see no way the Caps hang seven goals on the Leafs.  As great as a dominating performance would be, we're likely looking at another back and forth, one goal game.  Heck, at this point, just for the sheer weirdness of it, I'd love to see seven overtime games; make it as a close a series as possible.  I think the Caps win Game 5, lose Game 6 back in Toronto, and return home for another historically-unkind, fraught-with-danger, watch-what-happens, pressure cooker of a Game 7.  As much as we bemoan it, would we fans want it any other way?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Beginning of the Beginning, or Beginning of the End?

And so it begins.  Like Opening Day and pollen-induced sneezing attacks, Spring brings with it another NHL postseason.  Writing about the Washington Capitals' hopes, battles, and failures has become an annual routine which I simultaneously enjoy and despise.  So many Aprils begin with promise only to crumble into disappointment.  Each year we fans can enumerate the reasons it will be different, while wondering deep down if it actually can be.  The reasons for the Caps' demises are sometimes surprising, sometimes predictable, yet always expected.  Each Spring the team treats its collective fan psyche like a United Airlines passenger in need of "re-accommodation."  With only a couple minor changes, last season's postseason preview could serve as today's.  The eternal question remains: Will 2017 be different, or will this team add another verse to the franchise's long-running hit song "The Second Round Blues"?  My notes for the first round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs:

Fact: The Caps and Leafs have never met in the playoffs.
Opinion: By series end, I will have added a new team to my Love to Hate list.

Fact: Leafs coach Mike Babcock has led teams to one Stanley Cup victory and two gold medals.
Opinion: So what?  In Trotz We Trust.

Fact: With Game 2 scheduled for Saturday night, an Easter Epic is possible.
Opinion:  Easter Epics suck.

Fact: Toronto is the media capital of the NHL.  The spotlight on this series will be bright.
Opinion:  Alex Ovechkin loves playing in Canada and will rise to the occasion.

Fact: Toronto rookie center Auston Matthews had a sensational season, finishing with 40 goals.
Opinion: Auston, meet Jay Beagle.  For the next two weeks, he'll be closer to you than your underwear.

Fact:  Olaf Kolzig, during his 1998 playoff run, posted the best postseason goaltending performance in Capitials' history.
Opinion: To win the Cup, The Holtbeast will have to surpass Godzilla's outstanding play.

Fact: The abundant available puns regarding sweeping/raking/crunching/blowing away the Leafs are difficult for this dad joker to resist.
Opinion: Shouldn't they be called the Toronto Maple Leaves?

Fact: This Leafs team is young, fast, and talented.
Opinion: This series would be better with Tie Domi.

Opinion: My beard is better than ever.
Fact: I'm grasping for good omens.

Fact: This season, the Caps earned their third President's Trophy.  No team has won three without winning a Stanley Cup.
Opinion: How you view this fact illustrates how you envision the next two months of hockey.

Fact: By regular season record, Washington is far superior to Toronto.
Opinion:  The playoffs are different.  Washington likes to make things difficult. Caps in six games.