Saturday, March 30, 2013

What's Really for Dinner?

Did anyone hear about the GMO Bill that Barack Obama signed this week?

President Obama signed a spending bill, HR 933, into law, the “Monsanto Protection Act,” that strips federal courts of the authority to immediately halt the planting and sale of genetically modified (GMO) seed crop regardless of any consumer health concerns. In other words he’s allowing foods that have been enhanced to continue to be sold in America, despite pleas to stop it, because of the potential and probable health risks. I only bring this up because I think this is a far bigger deal (and a far quieter deal) than the legislation that has dominated the airwaves this week: Same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage means nothing to me. There is not a single issue in this country that I care less about than who marries who. This is a Sarah Palin issue. Don’t tell me about the sacred union of the marriage, how it must remain for procreation, how it must remain man and woman. Kim Kardashian got married. Michael Jackson got married. There are reality TV shows on every channel about meeting a stranger and fake-marrying him or her for fame.

While CNN and FOX News are worried about this same-sex nonsense, Obama is legalizing a food and drug act that could potentially (albeit slowly if at all) be killing Americans. It’s a six-month bill but I didn’t even know it was in motion. This is what I want to know about. The food that enters my body on a daily basis is my foremost issue. Too bad talk of this act can only be found in the dusty catacombs of the Internet. I don’t know if what Obama did is dangerous or not but we’ve all heard the horror stories of chickens being pumped full of hormones and genetic enhancers to fatten them up before they fall over and die in tiny cages. I want Anderson Cooper and Rachael Maddow coming at this story from every angle.

Am I blaming Obama for signing an act that requires the USDA to approve the harvest and sale of crops from genetically-modified seed even if the court has ruled against the crop for being dangerous to public safety and/or the environment? I’m not. Barack Obama is the smartest person in the room on this issue and any other issue in modern America, so I don’t want to see these Facebookers saying “that’s what you get for voting Obama.” This isn’t a GOP vs. Democrat thing. Any Republican would’ve signed this bill in three seconds flat. I just want to know more about it. Don’t you? Let’s forget about equal marriage and get educated on our foods.

For years, the left-leaning Bill Mahar has said it’s the food that’s dooming Americans, not the cigarettes, or six packs, or street drugs, and maybe he’s right. I’m quick to say that anyone who would eat genetically-altered foods are probably the same people who think THIS IS 40 was hilarious. Then I stop and ask: Does anyone really know which foods are and aren’t? Who knows if all these organic and grain-fed wrappings are actually legit? The stores that "claim" they don’t sell genetically-enhanced foods are Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Marsh Supermarkets, and Aldi stores, just to name a few. Who knows?

All we can do is micromanage what we eat and stay educated. Quit beef cold turkey. Stick to fish, organic, all-natural. And who knows if that's doing more harm than good. My point is a simple one: If our media is torn between covering the issue of same-sex marriage or the danger levels of the foods we feed ourselves, I say let raccoons marry chipmunks and chickens marry meat cows, just make sure they’re not genetically altered before feeding them to me.

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Brian Huba

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Little Billy

Why is the U Albany Men’s Basketball Team so smitten with itself after going to Philly and getting slapped by a pretty-forgettable Duke Blue Devils squad? I know the final score of 73-61 appears respectable, but let me tell you, it wasn’t that close. When Albany closed to single digits, Duke effortlessly retook control. Duke’s rotation worked the Great Danes. The outcome was never in doubt. But man oh man, our Albany boys act like they just went to triple overtime with Bill Walton’s Bruins. And that RUDY sentiment is supported by the coaches and the Capital Region Media. Read More: OR Read More:

When does feeling good about just getting there end? Why shouldn’t U Albany make the Dance? All they had to do was win through the second-rate America East Conference. Every Great Dane player and coach with a microphone in his face after the loss talked about being proud of making it, holding their heads up, playing in a game they’ll never forget. What? Men, you earned the Philly trip on an automatic bid, got abused, then bussed it back to Albany. Now everyone involved will be able to tell their grandkids about the day they shared hardwood with the mighty Duke.

Here’s what I would’ve said after the game if I was a player or coach: First, I must congratulate the Duke Blue Devils for playing a complete game and earning a hard-fought victory. As for our team, we had one goal when coming here: Win the game. That goal was not achieved. There are no moral victories. This trip was an unsuccessful one because we lost. We must get better. Next season starts right now. That’s what I would’ve said. "But, Brian, these aren’t pro players, they’re kids, and kids have to constantly be told how great they are, because we don’t want anyone to feel sad, or bad, or mad about losing."

College basketball today is an apartment complex of talent. Anyone with a shred of game plays one year (maybe two) then jettisons to the NBA. Our Great Danes didn’t lock horns with Bobby Hurley or Grant Hill on Friday. I don’t know anyone on the current Duke squad. Do they have a single NBA player? Maybe. Duke isn’t gonna make the Final Four. No way. And why shouldn’t U Albany be able to play with this Duke team? U Albany has 20+ thousand enrolled students, top-drawer facilities, and a direct line to NYC and Boston talent. Plus, the academic requirements aren't exactly stringent. When does U Albany ever take the next step? I’m so tired of feeling good about making it to the tournament and getting TKO’d before the bus engine cools off. The school’s only qualified for the Dance three times in the Will Brown era, and are 0-3 in doing so. That would get a guy at Siena canned.

When the U Albany boys returned home from Philly, they were met with cheers for their “moral” victory, people telling them how good they should feel. I’m tired of this school that’s larger than many American cities willingly playing the part of David in every athletic venture. We’re as big as Florida State, and Auburn, and Michigan, right? I’m not saying U Albany was expected to win against Duke or should’ve won. What I’m saying is stop talking about how content you are with losing. I don’t remember Michael Spinks self-praising after going 90 seconds with Iron Mike.

To me this issue is bigger than 20 year olds drowning themselves in champagne for surviving the six-hour bus trip to Philly; it’s a societal thing. When did telling Little Billy he can’t kick a ball or shoot a jumper become so taboo? Then Little Billy enters the real world and is woefully unprepared to compete in a global market. The real world doesn’t care about Little Billy’s shaky self-confidence. If I stink at something, just say, “Brian, you need to get better or go elsewhere.” I’ll lick my wounds, come back stronger, and better, and tougher. That’s life. Who wants to live any other way? The only way to get better is to surround yourself with better people.

Am I being too harsh? Expecting too much? Why can't U Albany ever be a Cinderella? When I was in high school, Gonzaga was always the Bracket-Busting team, the dangerous 15 seed, every year. This year they were a #1 Seed. It can happen. You can move up in the world of NCAA Hoops. U Albany's been Division I for a while now. Let's go! Let's win something! Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we should just celebrate 64th place.

Brian Huba: U Albany Class of 2003

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March On

There was a time when I loved the St. Pat’s Parade in Albany. We’d go to McGeary’s and chase girls all night long. But I haven’t been to a Parade Day in many years, and today looking at the pics of green-clad parade goers, I don’t miss it in the least. For me March, St. Pat’s Day especially, has become a sad thing, a depressing gateway to spring. As fate would have it, I married a woman who also hates March and would prefer to see St. Pat’s expelled entirely from the calendar. So this year we went to JC Penney’s then Longfellow’s for dinner. No chance of rubbing elbows with the Blarney-loving bunch.

My March story starts in 2000 when my uncle Dave was dying of lymphoma. He was diagnosed in November of ’99, quickly got worse through the winter, then March hit and he went to the hospital, never came out again. His mantra was a simple one: Make it to spring. He died on March 21, 2000, the first day of spring. He was 33 years old. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through, and I went through it front row at 20. While my friends were away at college, I was learning about death way too soon. That was Black March, and the brightest light of hope this family had ever known was extinguished in a gut-wrenching swipe. Every March I retrace the steps of that time thirteen years ago. But no matter how many times I replay Black March in my mind, it always ends on the 21st with that call from my father. “I’m sorry, son . . .” No amount of green beer and goofy hats can rewrite March for me. March is Dave at Albany Med. March is that crowded wake room at McVeigh’s.

There’s a legend that says my family--on my mother’s side--is cursed. The curse supposedly comes from the German branch (I’m German?) and says that a male ancestor had married a woman in America then left her alone, went back to Germany, where he resumed his life with his first wife. From that a curse was put on the family that promised no descended woman would ever be happy. I don’t know about curses, but every woman in my mother’s generation was widowed by 50, and my mother’s one female cousin died of a heart attack in bed at 51, about five years after being widowed. My grandmother died the most horrific death you could imagine, as did her sister, who before dying dealt with a husband who cursed her seven ways from Sunday for five years from a stroke and dementia. My great-aunt’s son then died at 50, horribly, and her grandson dropped dead of a heart attack at 32, a week before his wedding. There is evidence to suggest the women in my family are slated to suffer.

But I return to March 2000, always March 2000, where the ultimate sadness in this family’s history waits. Dave was married into this family, and he was immediately the star of our funky bunch. He instantly made everyone’s life better. From giving my father a free truck, to giving me my first real job, to setting my aunt and her daughter up for life, to just being there and making us all better. Dave was the blessing this family had prayed for. He was the light. He would break the curse. Then it instantly and stunningly went the other way, and POW, he was dead and gone. And all the good he brought this family, all the light he shined on us, was instantly reversed. The curse had claimed another.

All these years later, I wish I never met Dave or knew him. It sounds bad but it’s true. As much as his brief time with us was a blessing, his horrific death was a shotgun blast to my psyche. With him I was the happy protégé. Then . . . In so many ways, his downfall ruined my life. It completely recalibrated the way I looked at the world, and gave birth to an unshakable depression and a certain feeling that doom awaits me, always awaits. I don’t feel blessed to have known him or any of that Hallmark-card crap. His life was a tragic one. This story is a brutal one. Dave’s death showed me that bright lights could burn out, the bad guy did win. The Fairy Tale ended when he ended.

Today I have officially outlived Dave, but my path to 33 and six months was a hard one, riddled with nightmares, and fear, and self-destruction. But I managed to survive. How? I'm no fool. I know the secret to my survival. Only one good thing has ever happened to me, and it is my wife, and now I’m here with her, and every success I have ever had has been with her. She is the second thing I have ever loved in this lifetime (the third counting Head Coach Tom Coughlin, of course), and as long as she’s with me, the doom will stay away, replaced by hope, laughter, life. I like to think she was sent to finish the job Dave started in ’90. I like to think that she can end any curse that could exist. Of course she would say that's not the ONLY reason she lives--to save me from some curse--and I'm selfish for suggesting that. And I am selfish, she's right. And she is the shining light of this family. Everyone is better with her here. And when St. Pat’s rolls around, you won’t find us anywhere near North Pearl Street. But wherever we are, we'll be there together. I'm happy and ready to March on.

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Brian Huba

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Burn in Hell

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Brian Huba

Sunday, March 3, 2013

It wasn't always this way

Friday night we were hanging in the kitchen, cooking dinner, and thought it would be a good idea to turn on MTV, see what the music mothership was showing on a Friday night. For kids who grew up in the 90s, there’s nothing cooler than a little MTV on a TGIF. From TRL, to Puck the bike messenger, to THE HILLS, MTV was the background of our teenaged and early twenties. There were weekends when it would be on from Friday to Sunday without rest. MTV was the pulse of all things cool. So we turned on channel 57 and were met by something called RIDICU-LIST.

From what I could tell this is a show that plays videos of people doing dumb things then a panel of F-List celebrities make fun of them. After that: The latest half-hour staple from those two human waste-disposals: J-Woww and Snooki. Um, not to sound old and outdated, but this is MTV on a Friday? Really? To get figurative: Does anyone remember when MTV was the cool dude at the party, with the sunglasses and leather coat, who hung in the corner, gave out the vibe? Now MTV’s the over-tanned, tattooed idiot who’s wearing a graphic t-shirt and drinking beer on his head before beating up somebody because he supposedly looked at his girlfriend. MTV is mean-spirited and uncool now. It’s not MTV anymore.

I’m not another of these knuckleheads who’s saying “put all videos back on.” Videos haven’t played on a whip in twenty years. In the 90s, post-videos, MTV was putting out pioneering television. The shows had heart and soul, and were fun. MTV was on the forefront in a responsible way. MTV was the voice of our generation.

This turn to trash-barrel TV has happened in just the last five years. MTV did what so many are doing in today’s world: It took the quick score, the instant gratification, rather than weighing the long-term and responsible course. When MTV got in bed with the JERSEY SHORE, it allowed crude and cruel to python around 1515 Broadway, squeeze the last drop of importance from the channel. The money came and the attention was huge. JERSEY SHORE added phrases to the lexicon, and everyone was watching to see what this bottom-feeding gang from Seaside would do next. MTV had stabled the hottest thing on TV. Cha-Ching. But it also had a malignant tumor growing in its gut.

What MTV didn’t realize as they reshaped the network’s image around this freak-fest was that they were rubber stamping alcohol abuse for fun, nonstop sex with anyone, extreme violence, and worst of all, finding humor from being cruel. That’s my greatest complaint with MTV now: It’s a 24/7 celebration of making fun of people. Of course shows like the REAL WORLD discussed alcohol and sexuality, but it was dealt with tastefully and responsibly. The Real Worlders didn't just get loaded and laid. They argued issues of race, and worked jobs, and fell in love, and chased dreams, and dealt with heartbreak and sickness and death, and grew as people THEN got wasted and laid. But MTV said to hell with the human condition, we’ll take the payday. A slippery slope with a nation of 14-24 year olds watching.

Why is MTV so worried about making money? The channel is established, the ratings will come. Why throw aside quality control just to ring the register? MTV was once a serious piece of pop culture. It gave the masses a lens to the music industry. It made us feel like we knew the Madonnas and Axl Roses of the world. It educated us about racism and AIDS and war. It got Bill Clinton elected. Kurt Loder brought a serious news presence to the network. Their handling of Cobain’s death was epic. Who does the news now: Ronnie and Teen Mom? Don’t be silly, Brian, MTV doesn’t do news anymore. They put on videos of guys riding snowmobiles into walls and make fun of it. They put on scripted reality shows that promise a good fight, a good lay, and a good round of cruel ribbing in every install. That really speaks to the youth with responsibility.

How can MTV even call itself MTV anymore? John Lennon would roll in his grave if he knew that Snooki and the Situation were being aired out as music television. Bunim would roll in hers too. Even MTV’s TRUE LIFE is scripted and phony now. The channel went from landmark television to 24/7 crap. And for anyone who thinks MTV and VH1 are against each other, I beg to differ. I think the channels are thick as thieves. I would’ve loved to have turned on 57 Friday night and seen an old concert on replay, or a video countdown, or a documentary about Justin Timberlake making his new album, or anything except three idiots making fun of people when their pants fell down. It wasn't always this way. MTV was once the coolest cat in the room, daddy-o.

RIP, MTV (1981-2012) Cause of Death: Swelling wallet pockets from complications of JERSEY SHORE cancer.

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Brian Huba