Saturday, January 10, 2009

On Losing Gracefully

It may not seem to be common amongst the gentry to lose at anything, but I'm a firm believer that everyone either loses at something or fails to attempt to ever win at anything. Those who appear to be winning all the time are doing one of two things.

A) Not accepting any challenge that they are not confident they can succeed at


B) Losing gracefully.

I love billiards. I'm not good at it even remotely, but I bought a pool table last weekend because I enjoy it so much. My friends may even say I'm a decent player, or that I've won a game or two against them, but that would be a little bit more than somewhat innaccurate.

Everyone is well aware in the game of eight-ball that scratching on the eight ball or sinking the eight ball out of turn constitues loss. While I'm not at all unfamiliar with being on the perpetrating end of such losses, I've more often than not been on the receiving end of victories based on these rules.

That is to say, the only games of eight-ball I can really recall winning involved someone else fucking up.

I won my first legitimate game of eight-ball against my roommate last week. I believe I may or may not have won a second game, but there was alot of Canadian Club involved in the equation and my memory is fuzzy beyond the point that I recall crying out "That was the first game of eight ball that I've ever won legitimately!"

I much prefer nine-ball, or (when paying per rack) six-ball because you can always clean up and win after your opponent has done the rest of the work for you previously.

I say all this to say that losing gracefully involves more than just being a good sport and not a sore loser. We learn all of this in kindergarten, and it still astounds me to this day how many grown adults act like children when confronted with both victory and loss. It's not even about "getting back on that horse."

The most important thing about losing gracefully is learning how to lose. Learning how to "give it the old college try," and standing up to challenges that seem ridiculously difficult.

Another good example of this occurred during the purchase of my pool table. My roommate, Lance, and I went to Sports Authority (I usually don't name names, but the salespeople went above and beyond the call of duty delivering my pool table. That is another story entirely).

Whilst waiting for the sales associate to check if the pool table I wanted was in stock, Lance and I wandered over to the weights section of the store. Mind you, there's a bench press in my garage and I see no further need of weights beyond my 25lb. hand-weights; I can bust out 35 military-grade push-ups (albeit on my knuckles.. personal preference) in one set and can do crunches until I lose track of what number I was on, but I was curious about getting a pull-up bar.

It's good to balance any workout, and pull-ups (at least to me) seem to be the antithesis of push-ups. I grabbed a pull-up bar and found that, despite my proficiency at push-ups, I could only do one. Lamenting this, I exclaimed, "Well, I guess I should wait on buying that pull-up bar."

It was then that Lance said something profound. I've forgotten the exact wording, but the meaning was profound enough for me to absolutely butcher the syntax and still deliver a decent bit of advice:

To do pull-ups, you only need to be able to do one pull-up. After you can do one pull-up, you can do pull-ups. It may take weeks and weeks of trying, but eventually you'll do two or maybe three. There's no reason to not do pull-ups simply because you can only do one.

The advice could be taken further and more deeply into abstract warm-fuzzies to say that if you can only do one pull-up, you should make it the best pull-up you can do, but that goes without saying. Everything you do should ALWAYS be the best you can do, otherwise you're just half-assing it and wasting your own time and energy.

The second most important thing about losing is to not advertise it. I'm not telling you to deny that you've ever lost, but simply don't announce it to the world. This is somewhat analogous to the school-yard advice to not be a sore loser, but it takes it a step further. I was taught long ago, that when you miss a note while playing in a band, don't make a face or apologize. It may be that no one noticed in the first place; if you make a face, everyone will realize that you screwed up.

Competitive point-sparring is a good example of this. It is incredibly subjective and largely arbitrary in the three- and five-point style rounds, but when struck by an opponent, one should NOT stop fighting until the judges call "break" or "yame." If you continue fighting even after struck, there is a chance that you could land an even more visible point on your opponent; this gives some likelihood that the judges will not notice your opponent's point and award you the point instead. If you DO stop fighting immediately upon your opponent landing a point, it is incredibly likely that the judges will award your opponent the point, even if they didn't actually see the point land. You essentially admitted defeat when it may or may not have been necessary.

To bookend this with my billiard story. Most of my friends, (save the ones that have repeatedly seen me jump the cue ball off the table) don't realize how truly awful I am at the game. Simply because I never turn down a challenge, I enjoy the game whether I win or lose, and I make sure they drink heavily so they will have little memory the next day of my astounding defeat.

To summarize: lose, lose early, lose often and get used to losing. It will make winning occasionally that much more enjoyable.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Stache's Greens

It's a new year, and it was instilled in me as a young southern gentleman that it is important to ingest several key substances between midnight on New Year's Eve and midnight on New Year's Day (aside from massive quantities of Champagne or sparkling wine). Two of these important edibles are greens and black-eyed peas.

A traditional southern New Year's Day dinner/supper consists of ham, black-eyed peas and greens cooked with hog jowl. In this region, the latter is pronounced so as to rhyme with "y'all" and not "towel." My recipe for greens follows:

1/4lb. hog jowl or a half dozen nice thick slices
2 - 3 slices of thick pepper bacon
2 12oz. bottles of beer (lager, not ale)
1lb. of greens (turnip, collard, mustard... your choice)
3 tbsp pepper vinegar (homemade is best)
2 tbsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

The most important thing about greens is to wash them thoroughly. Tear the greens into slightly-larger-than-bite-sized pieces. Greens of all sorts wilt when cooking.

In the bottom of a big enamel pot, cook the bacon and hog jowl until they have given up their grease and are nice and crispy. Deglaze using the two beers, and add the spices and pepper vinegar. Once the "pot liquor" has come to a gentle boil, add the greens, put a lid on it and cut the heat back to medium low. Simmer for 45 minutes or so.