Monday, April 30, 2012

The Dunces are In Charge

Rejoice! Rejoice all of you who loathe the what you so disdainfully refer to as the Main Steam Media*. This source of information that you believe to be the source of our nation’s problems is slowly dying. The newspapers are all going away. Radio news (hell – radio in general) is on its last legs. TV news has become a replay of the day’s most popular YouTube videos and mixed in with news of pop culture and the British Royal Family. Rejoice – we have almost completed the transition to an Idiocracy (who knew the Mike Judge film by that name was a documentary before its time?)

It used to be we had reporters to ask questions to make sure politicians were accountable. And at least semi-intelligent. Now with nobody to ask the dunces have taken over and are cashing the checks from the 1% while the rest of us are left to bend over and like it.  Don’t believe me – listen to this rocket surgeon. He’s the President Pro Tem of the Oklahoma State Senate. Listen carefully and tell me what the answer has to do with the question. No seriously. Tell me because I must be missing it…

What was that? “Very abundance of natural resources.” Wow. But what do you expect? He’s not even the HNIC – head neocon in charge. This is that person – the Oklahoma Governor lining out goals for 2012 in her State of the State address…

Just outstanding. Makes Rick Perry look like a member of Mensa. There will come a day when you will realize the MSM was NOT your problem. But by then it will be too late. Enjoy your success you bunch of mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging inbred banjo-plucking, tub-thumping IHOP-gorging monkey assholes.

*The Main Stream Media is also known as any outlet that is not Fox News, the Washington Times, Breitbart or World Net Daily. Put another way -- media outlets that just make stuff up like The Onion does except it’s not funny – just sad.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

R' Kansas City State Championship BBQ

(Arkansas City, KS) -- There is a river that runs through this charming little town called the Arkansas River. Ostensibly this is how the name was chosen for the community. For the sizable stretch of river that runs east from the Colorado state line to where it enters Oklahoma about 4 miles south of town it is called the ar-KANSAS. 

Sign says Arkansas -- townies say arKANSAS

So it follows that the town is pronounced likewise by townies and visitors alike. Mostly though it is referred to colloquially as Ark City. Apparently this is on account of the notion that only people in Kansas have even heard of this anglicized pronunciation of the word most commonly associated with The Natural State. The home of the Arkansawyers over there in that state which watches the river flow into the Mighty Mississippi.

High School 1890 - now serves partly as part of the college cosmetology department

Ark City is a charming town with some charming people. Apparently it used to rival Wichita as the big town in south central Kansas until the railroad bypassed it and growth stagnated. Still the town serves the hinterlands well and it is a thriving community with a charming historic district in the middle of town and industry that keeps the town alive in something of a symbiotic relationship with it's neighbor to the north, Winfield.

The town is home to some classic buildings from the heyday and some of these are now near and even a part of Cowley College -- home of the tigers. 

Home of the Tigers

Creekstone Farms is here. There's also a donut shop in town where the lines can stretch around the building. Don't know the secret to their success but I will pass along this piece of advice: get the Kansas Volcano.

Creekstone Farms -- where many of the competition briskets come from

When we pulled up to the area where the event was being held we didn't see many teams. Turns out there were 25 teams and they had to do some improvising and scrambling to grab enough judges. So there were several "celebrity" judges and a couple of volunteer table captains. 

Inside the Ag Building

But it all worked out in the end and the most important note on all of this -- most of those 25 teams were gunslingers. Big names on the circuit used to finishing in the money. They said the meat would probably be pretty strong. Almost without exception it was just that.


Each of four tables of judges sampled six in three categories and seven in a fourth. After that the table captains were seated to sample two additional categories: sausage and dessert.

What a great event. Our 12th contest to judge in 4 different states (hoping for 5 at the American Royal Invitational later this year). A round of applause for organizers Ronnie and David Dornhoffer as well as reps Peg and Dave Rogers. This was not a huge event but what it lacked in size it more than made up for in quality of entries and friendliness of everyone involved. These folks have a good reputation among judges on the circuit and its clear why this is the case. It was a pleasure and we hope to be back for this one next year.

Ark City Barber Center -- barbershop or bar? Both? How has this idea not caught on nationwide???

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Smokin' Red Dirt BBQ in Enid

(Enid, OK) -- I guess what sticks in the mind the most about The Smokin' Red Dirt BBQ contest for us is how well run and completely organized it is from a judge’s perspective. We didn’t get to judge this one though.

T-shirt from the Enid cookoff

Karen and Ralph Williams were the reps and they are among our favorites for their ability to keep the wheels greased and the shiny side up. They had the organizer send out a judge’s survey prior to the event so that they’d be able to arrange judges at various tables by experience. It also allowed them to pre-select their Table Captains and those with a CTC designation were picked. That’s what we did.

The judging took place in a pool hall. Indeed it was mighty generous of David to open up The Q Spot for judging as the event transitions to the convention center which is under construction/renovation. He had to turn away business while all this craziness went on but has a certain civic pride that makes him a respected member of the Enid business community.

The Q Spot in Enid -- a/k/a the judges tent

The barbecue looked very good for the most part and the scores reflected that. It started out strong with a couple of pieces of chicken at one table scoring nearly perfect. Got to try the best looking of the ribs at one table and while a bit overcooked it looked beautiful and tasted outstanding. Pork was strong across the board – tried four of the six boxes over by the sample table.

We’re proud to note that burnt ends were plentiful this week. They may not all have been cooked perfectly but even the tough ones were very tasty. Funny to see the volunteers with no clue as to what burnt ends are. We gladly told them that these pieces of meat are basically candy and they should grab strays when they’re going by. Didn’t take them long to catch on.

Something of a carnival atmosphere -- this is a big event and it happened on a beautiful day in this wonderful city.

There was a fifth category this week -- dessert. Since some of the judges took off after the main four some of us table captains had to do double duty and judge that category as well. Sometimes we just have to make sacrifices like that if the whole thing is going to work. Word to the wise -- if you’re going to go to all the trouble of making that Strawberry Cheesecake Shortcake (yes!) then go the extra mile and use pound cake instead of those horrible, dry angel food disks sold four to a pack down at the grocery. Might get you a 7 in texture on an entry that otherwise would have scored a 9.

Hats off to the great City of Enid, the Chamber of Commerce and especially organizer Lynne Benkendorf for an excellent contests. This is an example of how it should be done and there is every reason to believe next year will be outstanding with the new facility complete. Looking forward to that.

Next week -- Arkansas City, KS!


Monday, April 9, 2012

A little perspective please... (sports)

(The Plains) -- Football is a hard and violent game. At its highest levels it is played and coached by people who have been trained -- over the course of a lifetime -- to play by a different set of rules. Further they have come to understand that championships -- the ultimate prize -- are rare and hard to come by; and that they can be more easily obtained by stretching and even breaking those rules in cases where it may go unnoticed or ignored. They know that getting caught occasionally is inevitable but just the price they must pay.

It is we who watch and demand through our support that these people perform at the peak of their abilities who have fostered this system. They are not all bad apples; many are good to the core. But I believe most of us would be startled to learn just how many are not.

Gareth Patterson/Associated Press

With that in mind is our indignation really justifiable when one of these people gets caught breaking one of the rules of larger society? Certainly this different mindset doesn't justify the bad behavior, but can we sincerely claim shock and outrage? Seems unrealistic to me.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

An Open Letter to Contest Organizers

(The Plains) --

Dear Organizer,

First I would like to thank you, on behalf of myself and my fellow judges, for dedicating a significant portion of your life to putting on your event. I've helped do what you are doing and I know it is a lot of work. You are to be commended for your considerable efforts which, most of the time, are undertaken in the name of charity. You are a credit to your community and are owed a debt of gratitude.

Okay. That's it for the back-slapping -- at least in this post. Soap box time. I'm going to compare some of you with others and it won't always be favorably. Hopefully it will  be constructive, though. Perhaps you can take something away from it and, where it is warranted, improve on any areas where you may be anemic in your efforts -- primarily toward your (prospective) judges.

This is not news to any of us but it bears repeating: There are three sets of people you absolutely need  to have present in order to pull of your contest. There are the cooks and the judges. Then there are, of course, the reps. Need them to keep the former two categories in line and the trains running on time.

It is a given that you are taking good care of the reps -- there aren't all that many out there and they hold the keys to it all. Apropos of that same notion, we know you had better  be taking care of the cooks. They pay to enter which means they are not just a contest component but a revenue source. If they ain't happy -- you ain't happy.

Sometimes organizers feel like the proverbial plate-spinners
So, what about the judges? How are you treating them? Not just the ones you've brought on to judge the contest but the CBJ's who have reached out asking if you have place at the table for them. The ones volunteering to drive sometimes hundreds of miles to help your event become successful. Those people. What about them?

Some organizers are fully cognizant that the judges are the key third component to the contest system. Others...not so much. Again, I understand how much you have on your plate but I would urge you not to lose sight of the importance of the judges in the formula for a successful event. Allow me to offer some words of advice from the perspective of a judge.

When submitting your event to the KCBS office for posting on the Society website and listing in the BullSheet, please include a link to either the webpage on which judges may register (preferred) or the email address of the judging coordinator. All too often the email address posted is not for the person handling the judges and as a result the email is forwarded around until it falls through the cracks or just ignored outright.

If you are going to register judges via email, please make sure that you acknowledge receipt of the initial contact in a timely fashion and then give the judges you've selected some indication that they will be serving that weekend. Likewise inform those who would be alternates or those you won't need of their status. This allows them to seek out another contest if they should wish to do so.

Of course the best way to do it is to allow judges to register via the web on a "first come, first served" basis -- be confirmed then and there -- and then contact them individually or via mass email (careful of spam filters) as the event nears and then again just prior to the contest with information and a contact in case something has come up and they need to advise you they won't be there and to seek and alternate.

It is a common problem -- far too common -- the organizer who waits until the week of the event to send out the email informing judges what time the meeting will be and where to park. Here's the thing -- if you wait until the week of your event to contact us (actually happened to us twice  in 2011) -- there's a good chance we won't be there. We've already either made plans to travel to another contest or will be with the family. We've already made the assumption you didn't want us.

You know  this guy -- don't be this guy.
Communication with your judges is so important. Some organizers are great at this. They respond immediately, give an idea of whether we will be needed, confirm it when they do know and then get in touch at least a couple weeks before the event to get a head count (allows for contacting of alternates) and to offer maps, times and other key information.

I have time to write this out because there is a contest I wanted to judge this weekend but will not be (I won't call anyone out by name here but the initials are The Stillwater Elks Blazeathon in Stillwater, Oklahoma). I am fully cognizant that it is solely up to the organizer who shall judge and and who shall not. I respect this and I know there are no guarantees. I also know I contacted the organizer of this event six months ago -- the week it was posted on the KCBS site -- to ask for a spot at the table. I know I attempted to follow up several other times. Only last week did I finally hear back and then only after my email was forwarded to different people four times  -- telling me they had all the judges they need. The event clearly has a professionally designed website -- why no judges registration page? Seems like it would make it easier not just for prospective judges but also for the organizer.

So here I sit, getting ready to hit a local BBQ stand and review their meat, and wondering what's the deal, folks? Did I contact you too early? Not early enough? Is there some sweet spot in the middle I should aim for? I truly don't understand why you don't want me there. I bathe and groom myself regularly. I'm a CTC and am willing to do that. Even more than that though, I wonder why you refused to -- or were at least unable to email sooner to tell me my services would not be needed and that I might want to find another show.

I do understand from talking with other judges (and make no mistake friends and neighbors -- we have plenty time to talk and we use it) that contests and their organizers quickly gain reputations. Reputations that stick like burned sauce on a tin grate. A common topic of conversation in the tent before and after the meeting is which are the well-organized shows that value the judges and which are just too much of a hassle, too disorganized, too unresponsive or just downright too unfriendly. There's generally a consensus in these discussions and the fact of the matter is that once that reputation has been earned it is difficult to shake. What do the judges say about you? Are they saying what you want them to say?

In the end I think perhaps you, the organizer, might bear this in mind as you go about the business of organizing. If you get that bad reputation there could come a day when the judges stop asking to judge. And without judges you no longer have a contest.

None of this is meant to be construed as hateful or to offend anyone. As I wrote earlier the intent is to offer constructive advice and those reps making the effort should hold their heads high and be proud. If this is not  you -- please don't take offense if you read this and see yourself. Just communicate. Because this piece is not to minimalize what you do or to make you feel bad. It is...

Respectfully submitted,

Hey, readers. I notice that there are a lot of you having a look at this page -- and if it's a topic that interests you perhaps you have an opinion. C'mon -- tell us what you think! Are we off base and out of line or are we spot on? There are no wrong answers. Thanks! ~R.