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Des Moines, Iowa
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The Little Book of Beards

Geoff Wood

 

It's pretty much a forgone conclusion that my young son, Graham, will one day have a beard. I had a beard off and on in high school (after I reached the point that I could grow one) and college and pretty much continuously since undergrad. In fact, the beard has become so much a part of me that when I asked my then-fiancé if I should shave it for the wedding, she said emphatically "no!" since a clean-shaven Geoff is not the Geoff she knew.

Not every man in my son's life has facial hair but most (at least on my side) do. My brother Joe has a beard, my brother Sean did have a beard (until he joined the Navy in April). My step-dad, Graham's Grandpa Mike, has a beard, too.

In recognition of this fact, my sister-in-law Mary (Joe's wife) gave Graham the Little Book of Beards (pictured above) for his first birthday with this inscription:

"Graham-

Happy 1st Birthday! Someday you will grow an EPIC beard!

Love, Aunt Mary + Crazy Uncle Joe"

It chronicles more than 50 styles of facial hair, like the Petite Goatee, Mutton Chops and the Captain Jack. It rates them on a five point scale of difficulty for things like Grooming and Growing and offers insights such as history of the style and instructions for growing.

The best part, is that suggests uses for those who wear the style, such as the Handlebar & Goatee (a combo!) which is suited to "Sinister 19th-century magicians and other aristocratic arch villains."

In other words, it's awesome.

Of Chuck Klosterman and Curb Your Enthusiasm

Geoff Wood

Chuck Klosterman

It just so happens that a few hours after writing the post yesterday about how I don’t find Larry David to be funny that I read an essay by Chuck Klosterman(1)that mentions David’s comedy in his new book Eating the Dinosaur.

This particular essay, entitled “Ha ha,” he said. “Ha ha.”, is about laugh tracks, the structure of sitcom television, and the human response to comedy.

You could say he’s not a fan of laugh tracks:

“I can’t think of anything philosophically stupider than laugh tracks”

Among other things, Klosterman opines that by omitting laugh tracks, which are used to cue the viewing audience on when a scene is funny, in “sophisticated” comedies, they are guilty of virtually the same ploy. The lack of laugh track is used to cue the audience that their show is “smarter, hipper, and less predictable than traditional versions of the genre”.

To (continue to) quote Chuck:

“Virtually every high end, “sophisticated” comedy of the early twenty-first century – Arrested Development, The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Simpsons, 30 Rock – is immune to canned laughter, and it’s difficult to imagine any of those shows supplemented with mechanical, antiseptic chuckling”.

Curb Your Enthusiasm is, of course, the show that I gave up on, yesterday, because I didn’t find it funny. I wanted to like it since it’s critically acclaimed and, as signaled by its lack of laugh track, supposedly “smarter, hipper, and less predictable” than other comedies.

But it IS predictable and that’s what drew my ire to begin with, to quote me:

“Unfortunately, what I found was that almost every episode features virtually the exact same plot:

  1. Larry does something stupid
  2. Larry tries to get out of it
  3. Larry argues with his wife and/or friend
  4. Larry seemingly diffuses the situation through lies and/or jokes
  5. Larry's stupid move from item #1 comes back to get him.”

Oh well. I know that lots of people love the show (such as my friend Matt who commented on my earlier post in Facebook “Sorry man, you are crazy. Curb is an awesome show. David is a genius.”) and that I’m in the minority. I’ll use that as a cue to move on to other topics. 

--

(1)I’ve been a fan of Chuck Klosterman for a few years and will write more about Eating the Dinosaur when I finish it later this week. I refer to Klosterman as a pop culture columnist, though he seems to be the type of guy who would object to any label. The insider cover jacket blurb calls the book “amateur anthropology for the present tense” and I like that description. He’s also my inspiration for using footnotes while blogging.

One of the Best Parts of Going Back to School is Winter Break

Geoff Wood

I’m writing this post a few days before classes start as I thoroughly enjoy my nearly one-month long break from having a 3 hour commitment in Downtown Indianapolis a couple of nights a week. I’m writing it now so that I can remember the wonders of free time while I still have it. I’ll read it (and so will you, apparently) next week when classes are in full swing and the following activities are nowhere on my radar. 

Here’s a somewhat comprehensive list of things that I’ve been able to do this month:
I borrowed and watched season one of “West Wing”, along with season six of “24” and three of four movies via Netflix. I took in “Marley & Me”, “Seven Pounds”, and “Yes Man” at the theater. I read two novels, one a fictitious account of Ireland’s history and another by Jimmy Buffett, along with most of a book on personal branding. I played enough Wii Tennis to be ranked as a “Pro” (I’m sure my high school coaches feel the value in their instruction) and then enough additional Wii tennis to lose that ranking. This was followed by more Wii tennis and a return to my ranking! I was able to update this blog several times. Participated in a few holiday parties, took an icy road trip home to Iowa for nearly a week over the holidays to see my family and my-inlaws and ate way too much food.

Unfortunately, most of those things are behind me and we’re on to another semester of learning.

Book Ideas

Geoff Wood

One of the goals on my "list of things to do at some point in my life" is to write and publish a book. I've been an avid reader, and writer, for most of my life and I've always thought that a natural extension of that would be write my own book.


I'm not yet ready to start on my book but the subject has come up a few times in the last few weeks and for some reason became top of mind tonight as I was working up some marketing homework.

I was at a luncheon with some friends from class the other day and one of the firms present was AuthorSolutions a company down in Bloomington that facilitates people publishing their own books. It's not necessarily the "I've been published and I'm rich" type of publisher but someone that I'll keep in mind for the future.

Anyway, one of the barriers to writing a book is getting the idea to write about and I'm far from it. However, there are a couple ideas that I'm interested in writing about though I don't think any of them will become book-worthy. However, they are all interesting to me, most are interesting to at least some of my friends and family, so if they did become a book I'd probably be able at least give them away as Christmas presents.

Idea 1: A History of the Iowa Gamma Chapter of Phi Delta Theta
I love tradition and feel very attached to my fraternity. At some point in the last year the chapter unveiled a new website and I noted that the chapter history page is severely lacking. Part of the problem is that the chapter churns one fifth or so of it's active members every year and no one really takes the job of historian very seriously. Therefore, traditions morph a bit as does recall. This year was the 95th anniversary of the chapter and therefore just about time to have a historical account written. Unfortunately, with school, work, and the rest of my life, I never got more than five or so pages into writing to it. Perhaps I should embark now on putting together a comprehensive history for the 100th Anniversary in 2013.

Estimated Sales: Well, there are 1800 or so initiated members (though many have passed on) - maybe - 100 or so? Actually, now that I think about it, it might be something that could be included as an incentive with a capital campaign for the chapter. They did this with a drawing of the original chapter house during a capital campaign around the 85th anniversary.

Idea 2: A History of Iowa State Dance Marathon
Much like the Iowa Gamma history project, I also started this last summer and worked on it for a few weeks before getting distracted with other more pressing matter. Dance Marathon, my chosen philanthropy at Iowa State, suffers from the same churn as my fraternity, and I've noticed on the current website that a lot of facts and history have been forgotten or changed over time. I was part of Dance Marathon since it's onset (just an observer in Year 1 but part of the organizing committee for the next three years) so I'm somewhat at fault for not documenting those early days. Rather than a book, I have this targeted for a Wikipedia article.

Estimated Sales: 0 (Wikipedia is free for all).

Idea 3: A Research Project on MBA's an My LinkedIn Network
This idea is a bit random but when I started my MBA studies over a year ago I noticed that a lot of folks have their MBA. Nowhere is this more visible than in my LinkedIn network, where I can the history of higher education in for all of my (currently) 263 professional (and personal) connections. I'm not sure why this is of interest to me but it's the type of thing that I'll spend a bunch of time on some day.

Here's how I'd lay out the research, with lots of cross-indexed information on each connection...
  • All higher degrees
  • MBAs of any sort
  • MBAs by rank at time of the person was in school
  • Various circles of acquaintances (high school friends, Phi Delts, I-State connections, post-grad folks, business only folks, etc).
Estimated Sales: 0. This one's not book-worthy, either, but it might just be Web 2.0 enough to get into some sort of tech or Biz School journal. Actually, if I can make it professional enough this might just be an idea for an article in the Harvard Business Review. I've read a lot of the ol' HBR in the last few years and have added that to the aforementioned "list of things to do at some point in my life".

In summary, if I'm able to actually get any to the point of publishing (be it AuthorSolutions, Wikipedia, or HBR) I'll likely net all of $0. Oh well, great writers write for passion not for money, right?

Mr. Potter's Lullaby

Geoff Wood

I don't know what year it was but I remember that I was home for a weekend and I was amazed that my youngest brother, Sean, was willing to dedicate himself to a several-hundred page hard back book and it could hold his interest for hours on end.

That book was the 4th release in the Harry Potter series and it peaked my interest enough that I picked up his copy of the 1st release and sat down to read it. By the time the weekend was over I had read 1 through 4. I had decided that the tale of young Mr. Potter was as full on a cultural phenomenon as I may ever know(1) and it was my duty as a pop culture participant to be involved.

As the books 5, 6, and 7 were released I pre-ordered them from Amazon.com and had them shipped to my house on the release date. I read 5 and 6 within 24 hours of opening them which is a bit of a feat when you look at their page count. However, the stories move fast (though each seems to drag slightly in the middle) and would probably fit the description "page turner". Likewise, I pre-ordered book 7 before I realized that we'd be in London when it was released.

The Potter saga is wonderful but I'm almost more engaged by the phenomenon itself. It's pitched as a children's story, yet, I've had many watercooler discussions about it at the office. I'm fascinated with the story of it's author and how it's changed her life. It's strange to read things like "Harry Potter helped make his author JK Rowling the UK's richest woman with earnings six times higher than the queen, a survey has found" and think about how that affects her day-to-day existence.

It's neat to see it crop up in odd places of pop culture like Jon Stewart blaming parts of the war debacle on Voldemort, Homer Simpson renaming "Spiderpig" to "Harry Plopper" or the recent very strange episode of Doctor Who about witches in Shakespearean England where the Doctor (actor David Tennant, who had a role in the 4th HP movie) casts an "Expeliarmus " spell and thanks "Good Ol' JK" for saving the day.

I was also fascinated that from almost the minute the book was released in London I couldn't go anywhere without seeing a copy. I'll write about this more when I get the Europe posts finished, but at 12:10 AM BST a young kid walked into our hostel touting his copy. The next morning two or three were reading it at breakfast. An hour later 4 or 5 people were reading it on the Tube, even in the next pod on the London Eye I caught a girl ignoring the views to keep her nose in the book.

To no one's surprise I broke down a bought a copy of the book while waiting for the train in Paddington Station so I now own two copies that are different sizes, have different covers and artwork and were published on different continents. Since we were on vacation I took a couple days to read it rather than hole up in a hotel room to read it straight through (I finished on the plane trip home).

As an American Harry Potter fan, I consider owning both a first edition British version (1 of at least 12 million, I s'pose) and watching Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix in the theatre of the London premiere to be somewhat unique experiences.

Another unique experience was having dinner at my Pastor's house the other day when she and her husband pulled out the laptop to show this to the group:

Apparently, pop cultural phenomena are what you make of them.

1. This was pre-iPhone