humor, sports

If nobody recognizes you but you are you really you? The ironies of online identity

From the mind of friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney of Des Moines, Iowa.

I recently went online to buy a pair of pants.
The store wanted me to log in. I’m a valued customer, they tell me. I’ll want to collect all my reward points.

Reward? That sounds nice. I’ll log in.

Except I have no idea what my password is. I buy about three pair of pants a year. I don’t remember the last time I bought a pair.

I admit defeat to the pants peddlers. They send me an email with a temporary password. I punch that in. Then they want me to pick a new password.

I do.

I failed to use the correct combination of numbers, letters and symbols.

Try again.

Oops. You can’t use a previous password.

OK. I finally got one to work.

The website takes me out to the storefront.

I find the pair of pants I want. I pick out a nice T-shirt, too.

I go to check out.

They want me to sign in again.

No problem. I just set the password.

And … I forgot it.

I buy the pants anonymously. Damn the reward points.

I like online shopping. I’m not one for gatherings or crowds. I like to pick out the thing I want, buy it and have it delivered without contact with another human.

I know lots of people who prefer original-recipe shopping. I understand that. That’s how I buy comic books and shoes. Superhero stories and footwear are products that must be gathered in person.

But most other things I prefer to buy online, even groceries.

The biggest drawback to online shopping is the tracking. I buy a toy at one website and then go read the Wall Street Journal. There, the ads offer to sell me other toys of the same vintage. Sometimes the ads go as far as to suggest toys that I recently looked at online.

I was trying to read Jason Gay’s sports columns. I’m all done buying toys for today, thank you.

I was lucky to be able to get into the Wall Street Journal website.

I have no idea what my password is for that site. The Journal seems to remember me wherever I go or whatever device I’m using.

This is rare for an online newspaper website. I have a few subscriptions. I log in and click a box that says it will keep me logged in on the device I’m using.

At best, this works for two or three days. Then it’s back to hunting for a password.

This seems nice. This is how old-school shopping worked. You walked in and the shopkeeper greeted you. They knew your favorites and made recommendations.

I suppose that’s like what those ads I complained about do, but when a computer does it, it feels creepy.

When James from the comic store does it, I’m fine with it. When an algorithm does it, it annoys me.

Anyway, facial recognition seems nice except during a pandemic. I look at my phone most often during the workday – when I’m wearing a mask. The phone doesn’t know me. Then I enter a password. This one I have memorized.

I’m tired of logging into things. This is probably why I watch so much football.

Football never asks me to log in. It only asks me to endure the inanities of Joe Buck and Cris Collinsworth.  

I wouldn’t mind a username and password that let me log into a special broadcast of a football game that had no commentators.

I guess these are small problems.

But I think it is part of the overall exhaustion of modern American life that people are constantly forced to prove who they are.

It’s ironic. All this technology is supposed to bring us together, but hackers and hustlers endlessly attempt to steal from us, especially our data. So, we must prove who we are and maybe, after a while, we wonder who we really are if nobody can remember but us.

But this is no time for philosophy.

I’m going to read a comic book where things blow up and the good guys win.

No login required.

Daniel P. Finney wields a semicolon like a samurai sword.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. The new semester starts soon. All donations are greatly appreciated. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

humor

You think you’ve got it bad during the pandemic? Imagine being a bank teller

If you don’t enjoy a root beer Dum Dum lollipop, I’m not sure we can be friends.

Typed by friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney in Des Moines, Iowa.

Do you know who must be especially freaked out these days?
I mean besides everyone.
Bank tellers.
Bank tellers have to be on edge unlike anyone else in the middle of the pandemic.

You spend your whole career thinking that if someone comes into the bank wearing a mask, there’s probably going to be trouble.

Hit the alarm.

Call the cops.

Get the ink bomb ready for the getaway bag.

But in the pandemic?

Somebody comes into the bank without a mask and that’s trouble.

You’ve got to ask them to put a mask on.

Then you’ve got to tell them to put a mask on.

Pretty soon you’re yelling at them to put a mask on.

Sir? Sir! Masks are required in the bank!

And you know what?

Getting a guy to put a mask on could go either way.

It’s not like a bank robbery.

Most bank robberies are boring.

Guy walks up to the teller, hands them a note and they run out with as much cash as they can get from a drawer.

The other customers don’t even know what happened.

But today, a guy not wearing a mask could go either way.

The sensible people, of which there are precious few, will be like, “Oh, of course. My bad. I took it off in the car to eat a delicious burger and fries from that new place downtown. I’ll just slide the mask right on up. Sorry.”

But there seems to be an equal chance, perhaps greater than equal, that the teller asks a guy to wear a mask and they start screaming like William Wallace in “Braveheart.”

COVID-19 may take our lives, but they’ll never take our FREEDOM!”

As an aside, when you think of it, what a stupid thing to say.

Once they’ve taken your life, you have no freedom.

You’re dead.

Dead people have no rights.

They can’t even move.

They’re just decomposing in a box, crypt or urn somewhere.

They can’t vote.

They can’t engage in policy discussion.

They can’t even tweet.

Anyway, the anti-mask guy at the back of the bank starts shouting about FREEDOM and TYRANNY and HOAX.

And the clerk is like, “Look, I’ve got asthma, all right? COVID-19 would hit me pretty hard. Could you just wear a mask, sir?”

And this guy starts going off about he’s got a medical condition that prevents him from breathing with a mask on.

He can’t name the condition.

He has no medical documentation.

It can’t be anything with the lungs, because he can yell like a snowplow mom after her kid gets an A- in art.

Anyway, there’s cries of freedom.

Cops get involved.

There’s a lot of drama.

People record it on their mobile phones for their TikTok and Instagram.

And the teller probably has to fill out more paperwork.

They thought this would be a good job.

Count out money for customers.

Take deposits.

Traveler’s checks, back in the day.

Give a Dum Dum lollipop to kids who come in with their parents.

You saw a guy with a mask, you hit the silent alarm.

Now, you see a guy with a mask, you end up in a political debate.

Everything’s a big damn hassle.

It’s why four out of five bank tellers use the ATM.

Daniel P. Finney believes his country must come to a compromise. There has to be room for both the “Tastes Great” and “Less Filling” factions.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. The new semester starts soon. All donations are greatly appreciated. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Crime and Courts, des moines, humor, life, Movies, People

Emancipation by identity theft

Of course I don’t own this image. If you’re really sore about it, don’t sue. I’ll take it down. But you’re a real sorehead.

A colleague had his identity stolen. The thief ran up a $500 bill on one of his department store credit cards. He reported the charge. The bank fixed it.

I might do things differently.

My credit is so bad, if someone stole my identity, my credit score would go up.

I pity the thief. I’ve had this identity for most of 45 years. It’s been OK, but I’m no Kardashian. I’m not even a Jenner.

I’m a lumpy middle-aged white guy in the Midwest who spent 27 years in journalism and is collecting student loan debt in hopes of entering the lucrative field of public education.

If you steal my identity, I’m going to let you keep it.

I wish they sold identity insurance the way they sold car insurance. Somebody jacks your car, the insurance company writes you a check and you go get a new ride.

I would go down to Identity Emporium and pick out something new.

Do you have anything in a Tom Selleck, “Magnum, P.I.” era?

I’m sorry, sir, but with the payout from your previous identity, you’d be lucky to get into a Tom Selleck, “Blue Bloods” era.

How about Brad Pitt after Jennifer Aniston, but before he left Angelina Jolie?

Sir, there is the question of size.

Size? What size? Are you telling my my identity is big and tall? What if a short guy stole my identity? He’s going to look silly.

I don’t make the rules, sir.

It sounds like we’re making it up as we go.

Fine. What do you have for me in celebrity?

We could just get you into a John Goodman, “Roseanne” first series era?

Couldn’t I at least get John Goodman from “The Big Lebowski?”

I’m sorry, sir. Our last of those identities was stolen last week.

Daniel P. Finney covers board games and bird watching for paragraphstacker.com.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. The new semester starts soon. All donations are greatly appreciated. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Crime and Courts, des moines, Faith and Values, humor, mental health, News, People, Pop Culture, Taylor Swift

After the Capitol siege, I’ll believe anything

Well, we sure solved that one, didn’t we?

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

So, this is 2021.
One week of 52 in the books.
Do you really feel better off than you did eight days ago?
So far, 2021 feels like a tray of relishes and finger sandwiches left out in the office for a week. After what happened Wednesday in Washington, D.C., I’m open to the possibility that any news headline is real no matter how absurd.

DALLAS COUNTY, Iowa — A giant pit of fire opened near Adel on Thursday night. The gaping maw devoured land, buildings, humans, animals and vegetation as it drifted south-southwest, growing larger with each object consumed and leaving only a black void that witnesses said seemed to stare back.

Well, you know how unpredictable Iowa weather is.

MOUNT SAINT HELENS, Washington — Giant robots that transform into automobiles and aircraft are apparently doing battle around an offshore drilling facility here. The robot monstrosities seem impervious to their own weaponry, but the crossfire collapsed the drilling facility, pitching the human crew into the icy waters below. Despite an unprecedented hostile extraterrestrial incursion that destroyed millions in energy infrastructure, no local first responders, law enforcement nor state nor national law enforcement have as at yet to respond to the catastrophe.

This story is more than meets the eye.

TOKYO — A giant lizard similar to a muscular Tyrannosaurus Rex rose from the waters from the Sea of Japan and smashed its way through the streets as tens of thousands fled amid shrieks of terror. The beast’s breath appeared to be some sort of flame that leveled skyscrapers. Its footfalls rocked the city like an earthquake. A Japanese philosophy professor proffered the theory that the creature was Mother Nature’s revenge for humanity’s poor stewardship of the planet.

That was bound to happen.

WATCH HILL, Rhode Island — Top musical artists Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa and the Haley sisters merged into a single 50-foot woman at Swift’s mansion here. Their combined voice blasted a sonic cry so alluring and catchy it lured scores of ships to their doom on the rocky shoreline despite warnings from authorities of unsafe waters ahead.

Taylor Swift is always up to something.

NEW YORK, New York — A giant ape kidnapped a plumber’s girlfriend and climbed atop a construction site in downtown Manhattan on Friday. The plumber made multiple efforts to rescue his betrothed, scampering up ladders and using hammers to smash obstacles. However, the ape rolled flaming barrels down the inclined site structure that landed and crushed the skull of the plumber. The rescue attempt lasted less than a minute.

Those wild apes in New York have been a problem forever.

SOMEWHERE IN AMERICA — A broken-hearted man turned off the TV, picked up a novel and read until he fell asleep with his bedroom light on. A widowed woman watched the news late into the night, horrified by the country she’d known for 66 years and wondered if she ever really knew it all. A woman sat on a white couch and deleted videos of her estranged husband from her phone and tried to blunt the sadness of the world by preparing for an upcoming move. A woman left work early, walked her dog, ate a sensible salad and went to bed about 5 p.m. local time. She turned off her phone. An accountant traded jokes with his best friend about events too big for either of them to change. A man had the day off and went to the comic store to pick up his weekly books. A store manager asked him what he thought about all this as a newsman. The newsman paused. He said it was sad. He felt as if there wasn’t a single thing he could write or say or publish that would make anyone feel better. He said he was glad he had the day off. He paid for his books and went to the bar for a beer and cheeseburger.

Actually, that one surprises me.

Daniel P. Finney is just as sad and angry and depressed as many of you. He just doesn’t know what good it does to keep yelling at a wall of ignorance that shows no sign of buckling. So he’s not going to do it.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. The new semester starts soon. All donations are greatly appreciated. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

Faith and Values, humor, Iowa, TV

To my family and friends on the occasion of Christmas, 2020

Episodes of Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show” air on a special channel of PlutoTV.

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

The internet streaming service Pluto offers a channel that plays reruns of “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson,” minus the musical acts.

Watching Carson’s monologue would be an interesting way to study history. We tend to think things are the worst they’ve ever been.

If you judge by Carson’s jokes, we always have.

During a show from 1989, Carson told a joke about a TV movie about the last days of Richard Nixon as president.

“It reminded us of the terrifying days when Spiro Agnew was just a heartbeat away from the presidency,” Carson said. “Now, that doesn’t seem so bad.”

The audience laughed.

The president at the time Carson made the joke was George H.W. Bush, who was hailed as a hero of the World War II generation when he died in 2018.

Dan Quayle was vice president and the punchline of the joke.

People joked that Quayle was too young to be vice president. Editorials often depicted Quayle as a little boy. He once misspelled “potato” in front of a room full of schoolchildren.

Quayle was 42 years old when Carson made that joke in 1989.

I’m three years older than Quayle was then. I feel too old to be vice president. I’m not nearly a good enough speller.

People often talk about their past as simpler times. That’s not true.

Pluto plays Carson shows from the 1970s through the 1990s. A show from the 1970s makes jokes about inflation under Nixon.

Another episode talks about high gas prices during the energy crisis under Carter.

Carson dressed as George Washington in one gag and said fellow farmer Carter piled his manure higher.

Shows in the late 1980s poked fun at the rising Japanese investors buying up American icons such as Rockefeller Center in New York.

I doubt if you polled anyone in the audience of those Carson shows, they would have described their life as simple. Humans are complicated. Life around them is, too.

I think life was quieter then. Everybody yells these days. And technology has given a lot of people powerful tools to be louder than when they had to manually type their manifestos in cabins.

I wonder how many crazy people with truly terrible ideas just gave up because going to the post office was a hassle. They just had a beer and watched a ballgame.

2020 was a hard year both personally and for the whole world. I don’t feel like recounting all the ways why. That’s excessive and we are fully stocked on excessive.

Instead, I recall a story from my friend David Oman, former chief of staff to both Iowa Govs. Bob Ray and Terry Branstad.

The story started on the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001. David picked up his son, Graham, from school.

Graham asked what was wrong. His mother usually picked him up from school. David tried to tell Graham, then-6, about the buildings attacked in New York and Washington, D.C.

“It’s a bad day,” David remembered saying.

Graham said, “I think it’s a good day.”

This shocked David. He asked his boy why he thought that.

“Well,” the child said, “today is the newest day. And somewhere somebody invented something.”

Only children can pull a thread of hope out of such grim moment. Maybe that’s the simplicity people remember. The simplicity of hope.

I hope you’re still surprised.

I hope you’re still awed.

I hope you smile often and laugh easily.

I hope you read.

I hope you imagine.

I hope you create.

I hope you have a moment in the flurry of wrapping paper, cacophony of joyful noises and bellyful of food that your mind slows down so that your thoughts fit between the ticks of a clock and you realize just how nice all of this really is.

I hope you all have a happy Christmas and a merry New Year.

With love and hope,

dpf

Daniel P. Finney is a five-time winner of the Long Winter’s Nap contest.
humor, Movies, Pop Culture, TV

Why watching Stormtroopers die is wonderful

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONLY: An under-appreciated joy of watching “The Mandalorian” is watching the wholesale slaughter of Stormtroopers. They are easily the worst army ever assembled in fiction. They are not good at anything, especially shooting people at point-blank range. They look good. If you lived in a universe where there were no “Star Wars” and a bunch of dudes showed up in white armor and helmets with laser guns, that would be terrifying. But thankfully we live in a world with “Star Wars.” The very first time we met these guys, all the way back in 1977, they were banging their heads against bulkheads and tripping over themselves chasing down four Rebels. In the ensuing 43 years, the Empire has failed to improve their training programs. Designers have given them cooler-looking armor over the years, which has boosted action figure diversity. This has not, in any way, improved the armor’s defensive capabilities. On a recent episode of “The Mandalorian,” Boba Fett smashed through Stormtrooper armor with a pointy metal shaft. It’s no wonder the Ewoks wiped them out on Endor with sticks and rocks. Disposable soldiers are a longtime trope in movies and television. In “Star Trek,” they’re called redshirts, because crew members of the original series whose names weren’t in the opening credits and wore a red shirt were likely to be shot, evaporated or turned into a salt block and crushed under the boot of a menacing evil alien scientist. Stormtroopers have perfected disposability to the point that their very appearance means most of them are going to die. Maybe one of them will get a Wilhelm scream, but mostly they just fall over and clatter to the ground like plastic cups knocked off a sheet of plywood at a raucous game of beer pong. The best part of watching Stormtroopers get slaughtered is that you don’t have to feel guilty about it. It’s bloodless revenge on the musclemen of a dictatorial authority and clear Nazi allegory. Plus, when the troopers are dead, you can recycle their armor to make great instruments for a “Stomp!” set. Stormtroopers! Long may they live … so that they will die for our pleasure.

Daniel P. Finney played Little League so no one would know what a nerd he was. The ploy failed.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, News, obesity, People, TV

HOT SHEET: My first day in TV

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONLY: I started my new job at the TV station Monday. Everyone who was present, which was only a few, was very pleasant. No handshakes. The occasional elbow bump was offered, but this is the era of maximum caution in the pandemic. The day was a blizzard of new vocabulary. The unknown acronyms of insider TV talk hit me like a rapid fire blasts from a Super Soaker. I have a lot to learn. More than once, i wondered if they hired the right guy. But apparently they did. By late afternoon, a specially ordered over-sized chair for my special over-sized body arrive, alleviating some of the pain felt in my arthritic knees and back. A full workday is new to the ol’ Paragraph Stacker, whose been sidelined since May 1. I was more tired than I expected to be and my consciousness did not last long during the Monday Night Football games. I’ve got to get my caffeine in a higher does this morning and remember to pack a lunch. I really lost steam without some midday protein. I’ll wrote more in a day or two, but just know I’m working and that’s an improvement.

If you had “Daniel P. Finney goest to work in TV” on your 2020 bingo card, you have to ask yourself what the hell kind of bingo are you playing anyway?

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, Movies, News, People, politics, Pop Culture

HOT SHEET: Joyful Saturdays for Hawkeyes, Cyclones; ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ is a great movie; The taking of Baby Yoda

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: Saturday proved to be about as pleasant a day as one can expect to coerce from early December. Both Iowa and Iowa State won their respective football games. The temperature reached 47 degrees, allowing for walks, pick-up basketball or naps based on personal preference. It should come as no surprise to regular readers that the ol’ Paragraph Stacker chose naps.

ITEM TWO: I usually remain neutral in the rivalry between the Hawkeyes and Cyclones with a slight shade to black and gold because of my late father’s loyalty. But this season’s Cyclones can count me as a fair-weather fan. I’ve often joked that Iowa City is the statewide distributor of arrogance and Ames is the statewide distributor of insecurity. This year’s Cyclones, however, earned their swagger. They’re on the way to the Big 12 Championship for the first time and ranked No. 9 in the nation. They no longer feel like a team that barely wins six games. They’re a legitimate contender for one of the top teams in the land. I tip my Drake Bulldogs cap to you, Cyclones. Long may your run be.

ITEM THREE: “Hillbilly Elegy” is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Professional critics don’t like it. The movie has a low 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Professional critics like to smell their own farts. Amy Adams is outstanding as Bev, a drug-addled, mentally ill mother in a story set in the hills of Kentucky and Ohio. Bev’s addictions threaten to derail the career of her son, J.D., who’s at a critical point at Yale Law School. Glenn Close plays a domestic battle-hardened maternal grandmother to J.D., who steps in to keep the boy away from drugs and crime. I cried several times watching this movie. Adams rendered Bev so well it evoked the best and worst of my own late mother, who struggled with opioid addiction and undiagnosed mental illness. Both Adams and Close deserve serious consideration for Academy Awards, as does the film. I don’t know why critics didn’t like it. I feel like if it was a story about someone in New York City or Los Angeles, the praise would be lavish. But since the story is set in the hills of Kentucky and Ohio, this is the place the media tends to ignore or broadly stereotype. I’m not from those places, but I saw a lot of people I know reflected in that film. Entertainment is split between the East and West coasts. This is a story from a place where the rest of us live. I am glad it was told. I hope people watch it.

ITEM FOUR: An October Hot Sheet noted a YouTube video by a group of scientists who created a cannon that fired a baseball more than 1,000 mph. The people behind the video call themselves SmarterEveryDay and they are back at the park shooting baseballs. The latest episode seeks to discover what it takes to catch a baseball fired faster than the speed of sound. The results: No one should ever squat behind the plate with a mitt with a ball going that fast.

ITEM FIVE: The latest episode of “The Mandalorian” did for “Star Wars” fan favorite character Boba Fett what the last 2 minutes of “Rogue One” did for Darth Vader. Children of my generation knew Boba Fett from two brief appearances on screen, first as the guy who tracked down Han Solo and crew in “The Empire Strikes Back.” He didn’t do anything spectacular, but he looked cool and we played with his action figure like he was one of the premium bad guys of all time. Boba Fett died sudden and silly in “Return of the Jedi,” which was fine because we were 8 years old and “Star Wars” was always for children. Still, that action figure was cool; purple in color with a jetpack, wrist rockets, a gladiator’s helmet and red missile we imagined he fired at his enemies. Writers added to Fett’s story over the years in prequel movies, comics, books and cartoons. But it wasn’t until “The Tragedy,” the sixth episode of the second season of “The Mandalorian,” that we finally saw a Boba Fett realized — and even exceeded — in the way the character played in our imaginations in countless battles against the forces of evil on the living room carpet. The only comparable moment in “Star Wars” lore came in 2016’s “Rogue One,” when a 2-minute cameo of Darth Vader bifurcating Rebel soldiers in an ultimately failed attempt to recover the Death Star plans brought the best on-screen moments for one of movies’ greatest villains. The good news is Boba Fett is honor-bound to the help Mandalorian recover the kidnapped Grogu, formerly known as Baby Yoda or the Child. That means more Boba Fett, which feels like Christmas.

ITEM SIX: The FX anthology series “Fargo” wrapped last Sunday. The cast put in a lot of admirable turns, especially by E’myri Crutchfield as a sharp-minded schoolgirl intimidated by no one, Chris Rock as head of the Black mob in Kansas City, and Jessie Buckley, a creepy nurse with a penchant for poisoning people. I never felt fully invested in this series and I’m not sure I can explain why. Perhaps because a piece of the “Fargo” story felt more like a traditional mob story, albeit with a rare look at Black organized crime. With the exception of Crutchfield’s character, the story lacked any strongly moral characters and I couldn’t root for Rock’s mob patriarch. Maybe the series just hit at the time of maximum pandemic-inspired anhedonia and the grim story just wasn’t the entertainment I needed.

ITEM SEVEN: “Bob’s Burgers” is always the entertainment I need.

ITEM NINE: The Chicago Bears led by double digits against the Detroit Lions. I was not to be fooled. The Lions had just four victories and had fired their head coach this week. I drew not a scintilla of hope. The Bears are losers. They lose in all the traditional ways. They lose in unusual ways. Sunday was the usual way, choking up a lead at the end of the game and then failing to mount anything resembling an offense, especially with less than 2 minutes remaining. I am not angry. The Bears have been losers most of my life. They won the Super Bowl when I was in fifth grade. I only follow them because of nostalgia for those lazy Sundays watching games with my dad. Dad died in 1988, which is about the last time I had any confidence in the Bears.

ITEM LAST: The new job starts Monday. It’s been a long time since I’ve done journalism and I’ve never done TV journalism. I know I have to shave and probably wear a belt. Oh, and I’ll put on deodorant. After that, I’m making things up as I go.

Daniel P. Finney is kind and rewinds.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, Pop Culture, TV

HOT SHEET: The eeriness of an empty Drake Knapp Center during the best game in Iowa

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: The Iowa Hawkeyes and Drake Bulldogs played a high-scoring women’s basketball game at the Knapp Center this week. One could hardly tell from driving past the Knapp Center. The lights were on. People were home. But don’t bother to knock. The doors are locked. The inability to watch a basketball game in person must rank low on the list of tragedies in this wretched pandemic. Still, it’s a stark reminder of how changed things are. This would have been one of the biggest crowds for a women’s game all year. Former Dowling Catholic High School star Caitlin Clark, a fast-blooming star for the Hawkeyes, probably could have filled a section by herself. The ties between Drake and Iowa are strong. Drake Coach Jennie Baranczyk played at Iowa for the Hawkeyes’ Coach Lisa Bluder. Bluder coached Drake for years alongside Drake superstars Jan Jensen and Jenni Fitzgerald. The trio have coached together for nearly 30 years. I’ve often said if you make a list of the best people in Iowa, you start at No. 4 because Bluder, Jensen and Fitzgerald are in a three-way tie for No. 1. The bright light remains on Bluder, Baranczyk and the women they coach. But they deserve the roars of the crowd too.

ITEM TWO: The ol’ Paragraph Stacker admits to some worry about his new job at WOI-DT. Not only have I never worked in TV, I spend a significant amount of my time looking for the remote to my own TV.

ITEM THREE: I finished my first full semester of graduate school Thursday night shortly before 8 o’clock. I would like to say I took to the truth of knowledge like a moth to the flame, but I won’t for two reasons. First, that’s a cliché and I hate clichés. Secondly, It was a long, trying semester. I made good marks and learned a lot, but the daily struggle of unemployment and the sundry worries that accompany said condition drained every last bit of energy out of me. I am glad for the break in schooling until February. I plan to continue and finish the degree. Teaching is something I want to do some day. I always secretly hoped I’d get Woodward’s old job at Drake. But for now, I’m still a newsman trying to get the paragraphs stacked.

ITEM FOUR: Another Carson Classic Zinger on PlutoTV: A 1986 episode ran long and they had to cut the appearance of the band Katrina and the Waves. As the credits rolled, Carson apologetically invited bandleader Katrina to come out and wave.

ITEM FIVE: Almost everything about unemployment stinks, but I admit I’m going to miss a few things, namely regular appointments with the rerun networks offered as over-the-air digital sub channels to local networks. I’ve become addicted to the Jack Webb classics “Emergency” — what I wouldn’t give for a Squad 51 firefighter helmet — and “Adam-12.” There’s “M*A*S*H” and “The Rifleman,” too. I don’t know why, but I would rather watch these commercial-supported reruns than the new stuff. I guess that’s a consequence of being a middle-aged man.

ITEM SIX: Congratulations to Des Moines East alumna and all-around great human, Megan Gogerty, currently of Iowa City, for being named local stand-up comedian of the year by Little Village, the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids culture mag. Megan was a classmate at East. I say nice things about her because I fear her intelligence and wit and don’t want her to unleash them upon me in a savage series of barbs that expose my insecurities and shallowness.

ITEM LAST: Oh, yeah, I’ll be missing one more thing about unemployment — naps. So I’m going to go take one. You should too. Unless your reading this while driving. Then you have other problems.

Daniel P. Finney had a red nightlight in the shape of a cow with googly eyes.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

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HOT SHEET: How I’m getting ready to start my career in local television news

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, Paragraph Stacker, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: I start my new job as an assignment editor for WOI-DT on Monday. The only thing I know about television is how to watch one. I decided to turn to the best possible source to prepare myself for joining broadcast media: movies. Here are five flicks I’m watching to get ready for my new TV job:

  1. “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”
  2. “Network”
  3. “Broadcast News”
  4. “The China Syndrome”
  5. “Good Night and Good Luck”

ITEM TWO: Today is new comics Wednesday. Let’s talk shop:

  1. Darth Vader: The Heart of the Sith Vol. 1— The story picks up in the hours after Vader cuts off Luke Skywalker’s hand and lets the young Jedi know who his daddy is. Vader vows revenge on the Rebellion and the people who made Luke such a wimp, but first he has some questions of his own he wants answered. First, how did Padme survive the force choke fallen Jedi Anakin Skywalker put on her, and who delivered baby Luke into this world? To find the answer, Vader traces Padme’s final days and crosses paths with Padme’s old pals from Naboo. Again, Marvel proves it knows how to handle “Star Wars” characters better than the people who make the movies. This is Vader as we all dreamed of seeing him: pissed off, cutting people in half with lightsabers and just too much of a force to be reckoned with — even for giant sea monsters. The first trade paperback of the latest Vader series is on sale now.
  • Star Wars: Bounty Hunters Vol. 1 — What Vader gives to “Star Wars” comics, Bounty Hunters takes away. That’s not quite fair. The story centers on a comics character resurrected from the original Marvel comics of the 1970s and 80s, which were often mediocre to terrible. There’s Boba Fett, the most overrated character in “Star Wars” lore, and Bossk, a reptilian bounty hunter who makes for a better action figure than character in a story. The story deals with a protection job gone wrong, some mafia clans and other jibber jabber that just doesn’t entice more reading. The art isn’t for me. I’m always hesitant to criticize art because even the worst comic book creators make things more beautiful than I could ever create. Still, this artwork feels like posed shots that belong in pin-up galleries or sold as paintings at conventions rather than pages of a comic. It lacks action and sense of motion. But I know Boba Fett and bounty hunters as a concept sell, so a lot of “Star Wars” fans might want to give this trade paperback a look.
  • Green Lantern Season Two Vol. 1 — Writer Grant Morrison and artist Liam Sharp team for some of the best Green Lantern stories in decades. Morrison is one of modern comics’ geniuses. His stories are trippy, fun and balance badassery with a hint of Silver Age fun. Sharp’s artwork is so tremendous one might be convinced this is why God invented pencils.
  • Batwoman/Catwoman No. 1 — Writer Tom King shaped the love story between Batman and Catwoman like no other creator before him. That story propelled through his entire 85-issue run on “Batman.” This issue begins a special year-long story about Batman and Catwoman set after the events of “City of Bane,” during which Catwoman nursed a broken Batman back to health in order to defeat Bane and an alternate version of his father, Thomas Wayne. I’m looking forward to this comic more than any other on the schedule. I usually wait for trade paperbacks for stories, but I’m buying this in single issues.

ITEM THREE: A recent study found that when people preface a statement with the phrase “with all due respect” the thing that followed was in no way respectful in 100% of cases.

ITEM FOUR: A joke from a Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” from the 1970s: “A new record is out that teaches people how to have better sex. It encourages couples to play the record in the act. There’s already been a tragedy. One couple put the record on at 78 instead of 33. Services are this week.”

ITEM FIVE: This is the best #2020 thing ever and of course it comes from a collaboration between Taylor Swift and Ryan Reynolds:

ITEM SIX: One of the few things I know about English soccer leagues is the concept of relegation. The poorest performing teams are sent down to a lower league and the better performing teams are brought up to play at the highest level. Such a thing would have been a mercy to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who posted 20 consecutive losing seasons from 1993 to 2012. It similarly would be a mercy to Chicago Bears fans to see the Bears sent down to the Big 12 or the Pac-12 for a couple of seasons. Let Ohio State or Alabama have a go at the pros. Their college programs are damn near that good anyway. Anything to ease the suffering of Bears fans who have to watch a team without an offense, a quarterback, a competent coach and general manager play pro football games against bonafide NFL winners such as the Green Bay Packers.

ITEM LAST: I was overwhelmed with the kind notes, messages and well-wishes after the announcement of my new job. I plan to continue to write for this blog. There will be no more politics talk and the profanity will be scaled back to PG-13 levels. As for what I’m going to be doing at WOI, well, I don’t know yet. I do know I won’t be on camera and that’s a blessing to everyone including me. I will be working with our team of reporters, anchors and producers. And I’ll be doing some reporting and writing for the WeAreIowa.com website. Frankly, it’s good to have something to look forward to each day besides more worry. Unemployment is a crushing mishmash of depression and anxiety. You’re depressed because your old shop sent you packing and even though they tell you it’s not personal, it sure as hell feels that way. It’s anxious because the money goes fast and when you start to wonder if you’re going to be living at the YMCA by this time next month, your guts churn. So at the risk of one more political comment, having been through what I’ve been through and knowing millions of Americans are still going through, I hope Congress and the new president figure out a stimulus bill as soon as possible to help everyone who wasn’t as lucky as I was to find a job in the middle of a pandemic.

Daniel P. Finney is getting down to this sick beat.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.