Tuesday, June 26, 2007

He's Smarter Because Mom Loved Him Best (IQ, Birth Order, and Family Dynamics)

Eldest children learned late last week that they have (marginally) higher IQ's than their younger siblings. Yes, as if their egos needed any more stroking. The study, conducted among firstborn children in Norway determined that 2.3 IQ points differentiate the average Norwegian firstborn from the average Norwegian second-born.

The results of this study confirmed what I’d long suspected: First-borns are know-it-alls and the root of the problem is the way in which their parents treated them as children.

I'm an only child, so I've got no horse in this particular race. I've spent years listening to: eldest children complain about being put under too much pressure; middle children kvetch about feeling ignored; and youngest children whine about never being taken seriously. They do all this while telling "singletons" like me that we're selfish, self-centered, and spoiled. So, I'm unbiased in the sense that I think all three groups are full of it.

(For the record, having your parents' undivided attention is a double-edged sword. You do get a lot of encouragement. There's also not a whole lot you can get away with, and it's not like you can ever blame anything on anyone else. If something's broken, it's obvious that you did it. If something didn't get done, it's obvious you didn't do it.)

Anyway, the study itself seems to highlight some important things about family dynamics. In the case of eldest children, they may "benefit" from somewhat higher expectations placed upon them by their parents. They are often called upon to tutor their younger brothers and sisters.

Family dynamics are important. I once dated a woman who claimed (only slightly sarcastically) that her parents had managed to raise 3 only children.

Family "roles" are often self-fulfilling prophecies. People do, within certain limits, tend to live up or down to the expectations of others. If you're told often enough at an early enough age that you're the responsible one or the smart one, there's a good chance you're going to act the part to the best of your ability.

I was heartened by certain aspects of the study. As an only child, I can now blame my parents for deciding not to have any more kids. This has cost me 3 IQ points. More importantly, their selfishness denied me the opportunity to develop important skills in terms of mentoring and teaching. Alternatively, had I been a younger sibling, I might be more inclined to take risks. Finally, their selfish (or prudent, depending upon one’s point of view) decision not to provide me with siblings has also fostered the sort of spoiled, self-centeredness that would cause me to interpret the study in this manner. Who knew?

Monday, June 18, 2007

IncreĆ­ble! El Pato bate el Tigre . . .

On Sunday, June 17, 2007, a duck beat a tiger in a fair fight.

Yes, Angel "El Pato" Cabrera held off Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk to win the 2007 U.S. Open in Oakmont, Pa. The 37-year-old Argentinean captured his first career major. Woods finished runner-up at a major for the second time in 2 months. He again played in the final pairing and again walked off the course empty-handed.

It was a helluva tournament. Phil Mickelson whined and went home early. Paul Casey shot one of the finest rounds in recent U.S. Open memory (a 66 on Friday), but could manage no better than a tie for 10th. Cabrera finished at 5 over par and was the only golfer to record 2 rounds under par. Angel took home the trophy but Oakmont itself came out on top.

I admit, part of me was hoping that someone was standing over a 3 foot putt to shoot a 62 to win on Sunday. That way, I could have seen Johnny Miller run onto the 18th green yelling "Noonan! Noonan!" before getting tackled by security. You see, Mr. Miller shot 63 on Sunday at Oakmont to win the 1973 U.S. Open and now, while commentating on the U.S. Open, can't seem to go 63 seconds without working it into a sentence.

Wait, where was I?

Oh yes, I wish people would take a deep breath and relax before claiming that Tiger Woods is somehow losing his edge.

Let's put this in perspective. In his last 10 majors (dating back to the 2005 Masters), Tiger's won 4 times and finished second (alone or tied) 3 times. He has 8 out of 10 finishes in the top 3 and 9 out of 10 finishes in the top 4.

He's played in the final group on Sunday in the last 4 majors (dating back to the 2006 Open Championship).

Since retooling his swing under coach Hank Haney, Woods is in the hunt each and every time he tees it up. When he's clicking on all cylinders, as he was at the 2005 Open Championship, 2006 Open Championship, and 2006 PGA Championship, he's still head and shoulders above the rest of the field. When he's not playing his best, he no longer shoots himself out of contention, something he did early in his career.

As for the "dubious" fact that he has yet to win a major when not leading after 3 rounds, come on. Most majors are won by the guy who's leading after 3 rounds. That's why the choke label gets applied when the 54-hole leader doesn't close the deal. That's also why final rounds like Nicklaus at Augusta in 1986 and Palmer at Oakmont in 1960 are so well-remembered. Most of the Golden Bear's majors were won when he held onto the lead he'd carved out during the tournament's first 3 rounds.

I'm going to make a bold prediction. Are you sitting down? Tiger Woods will one day win a major when trailing after 3 rounds. You're reading it right here first, folks.

So, congratulations to Angel Cabrera. The Duck came out victorious on a course playing as tough as any you'll ever see. Now it's on to the Open Championship at Carnoustie.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Happy Father's Day

My attitude on this can best be summed up in the sentiments a friend of mine expressed to me in an e-mail this morning:

"You won't be getting a Father's Day card from anyone.....you hope."

Seriously, though, Happy Father's Day to all the proud papas and papas-to-be.

3-Day Conference re: Redefining and Empowering Black Males

I guess this is appropriate with Father's Day coming up. Thanks to blackprof.com for the information.

3-Day Conference in Brooklyn, NY: Black and Male in America

Friday June 15, 2007 through Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Sharland Norris Group is presenting this event (headliners include: Kevin Powell, Hill Harper, and Michael Eric Dyson), a free conference geared toward redefining and empowering black males.

Sequels R Us

The news that Sean Connery would not be appearing in "Indiana Jones 4" got me thinking.

I'm always wary when it comes to movie sequels. I'm not talking about stories that need to be told in multiple parts (so I'm not including "Godfather II" and the last two installments of the original "Star Wars" trilogy in this indictment). I'm referring specifically to unnecessary sequels, the kind of flicks that extend a story that was satisfactorily concluded in the previous installment (so I am talking about "Godfather III" and all three installments of the second "Star Wars" trilogy).

Of course, sucker that I am, I always make a point of seeing unnecessary sequels. I start off with a bad attitude. I nitpick, I groan, and I roll my eyes. I've finally had enough. I am not going to see "Indiana Jones 4" when it’s released in theaters. This will be the first Indy flick that I will not see during its opening week. Enough's enough.

Still, the whole thing got me thinking about my own "worst case scenario". That is, what other movie sequels might be on the horizon and what sequels might have been served up to us back in the day if wiser heads hadn’t prevailed.

1. Raging Bull 2


I'm always up for a Scorcese/DeNiro/Pesci vehicle. We caught a glimpse of this at the end of the original. Now we get the entire story of Jake LaMotta's years on the lecture circuit and as a stage actor and stand-up comic. This time around, DeNiro doesn't have to go on any yo-yo diets and Scorcese's already got an Oscar.

Tagline: Although he can fight, he'd still rather recite.

Quote: "They still gotta give you a spot on Letterman. You know why? There's nobody left."

2. Top Gun 2


Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer reprise their roles as Pete "Maverick" Mitchell and Ted "Iceman" Kazanski. The two are now instructors at the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, teaching the next generation of elite fighter pilots. They're also still in the closet. Kelly McGillis returns as Charlotte "Charlie" Blackwood. Instead of trying to seduce Maverick, she helps him to recognize that he can stop living the lie. The movie closes with a scene of Maverick and Iceman reciting their vows at a civil ceremony in Amherst, Massachusetts. The credits roll to the strains of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling".

Tagline: Come as you are.

Quote: "You can still be my wingman any time."

3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid II


It's been a long time since Paul Newman and Robert Redford were paired together. This assumes, of course, that Butch and Sundance survived the shootout in Bolivia. You'll laugh as Sundance finally learns how to swim, and cry when Sundance buries his pal Butch to Kelly Clarkson's cover of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head".

Tagline: Not that it matters, but none of this is true.

Quote: "Butch and me have been talking. Wherever the hell Tobago is that's where we're off to."

4. Footloose . . . And Fancy Free


Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer are back as Ren McCormick and Ariel Moore McCormick. Ren is now a high school principal, and Ariel is an outspoken member of the City Council. Their eldest daughter, played by Lindsay Lohan, is bright, ambitious, and talented high school senior. Unfortunately, she's a born-again Christian and wants to include a reference to her faith in her valedictory address. Principal Ren and Councilman Ariel butt heads with their strong-willed daughter.

There's a hilarious cameo by Sarah Jessica Parker as their old friend from high school who went out to Hollywood and made it big.

John Lithgow returns as Rev. Shaw Moore. In one of the film's most powerful scenes, Rev. Moore confronts Ren as he is about to cut off the power to his daughter's microphone during her valedictory address. Ren realizes that he's become the type of inflexible and reactionary authority figure that he himself despised. His daughter concludes her speech and Ren is amazed as, instead of tossing their caps into the air, the graduates break into an impromptu prayer session and Bible study.

Tagline: One kid. One town. Multiple opportunities to freely practice one's religion.

Quote: Student 1: "People think she's a Bible-thumper."
Student 2: "Is she?"
Student 1: "I just think she prays a lot."

5. The Continental Breakfast Club


They're back. John Bender (Judd Nelson), Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald), Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), and Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall)meet again. The quintet finds themselves in traffic school. Who's the instructor? You guessed it, Dick Vernon (Paul Gleason).

Tagline: Five people who actually know each other pretty well at this point, with a whole lot in common, like multiple traffic violations.

Quote: "You wanna know what I did to get in here? I didn't pay my #&^%$ speeding tickets!"

What Might Have Been

Casablanca 2 (Humphrey Bogart, Dooley Wilson,Ingrid Bergman, Claude Raines, and Paul Henreid)

Sam (Wilson) and Rick Blaine (Bogart) open another "cafe". The year is 1963 and the location is West Berlin. Of course, Rick ends up working behind the scenes to help escapees make it over. Ilsa Lund (Bergman) shows up, of course, with hubby Victor Lazlo (Henreid). Older and wiser, Rick figures out a way to do the right thing and get the girl. Captain (ret.) Louis Renault steals every scene his in. His banter with the East Berlin border guards will leave you in stitches.

Tagline: Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she had to walk into his . . . again.
Quote: "Play that song again, and I'll kill you."

Lost Weekends (Ray Milland, Jane Wyman, and Phillip Terry)

Don Birnam (Milland) relapses after 20 years of sobriety. Wife Helen (Wyman) and brother Wick (Terry) are in Al-anon this go round, so Don can't rely on his two favorite enablers. Instead, he checks into a rehab center. Don works on another novel while he's in treatment. Helen and Wick have a brief fling, but quickly realize that a romantic relationship between two co-dependents of their variety is doomed to failure. Don ends up being the addiction counselor that all the patients love to hate.

Tagline: All he wants is to stop taking shots.

Quote: "I'm gonna put this whole 28 days down, minute by minute . . ."

The Sound of Music, Part II (Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews)

It's June 1972 and President Richard M. Nixon has invited the von Trapp Family to perform at the White House. The musical Austrians set up in their plush accommodations at the Watergate Hotel, and quickly find themselves embroiled in a web of political intrigue. We learn what was really on those damn tapes as Maria von Trapp leads President Nixon in a drunken sing-along that leaves National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger shaking his head in disgust.

Tagline: He had music within his grasp.

Quote: "Ah John (Dean), you are funny. Expensive, but very funny."

It WAS a Wonderful Life (Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore)

Mary Bailey (Reed) wonders what her life would have been like if she'd never married husband George (Stewart). Let's see: she's married to millionaire Sam Wainwright and actually got out of Bedford Falls. When the police arrive, Mary tells them that George had been drinking heavily and took a nasty fall down the stairs. She claims that the gunshot wound in his back was self-inflicted.

Tagline: Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Quote: "You've been given a great gift, Mary, the chance to see what life would have been like without your deadbeat husband."

Honorable Mention:

Spartacus 2 (Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, and Tony Curtis)

Spartacus actually survived the crucifixion, and he's none too happy.

Tagline: Spartacus is coming to Rome . . . with a few days to kill.