31 May 2011

Please Don't Treat Me Like An Idiot If You Don't Know Yourself

I'm not going to get into the details here. But I would like to vent this out in a very generalized fashion.

The following is a heavily edited conversation I've had in the past month:
Person: "Hey, did you hear about Story A? I heard/read/saw it this morning and can't believe it. How could such a thing be allowed?"

Me: "I heard/read/saw that as well but I also heard/read/saw other stories that said Story A might not be true."

Person: "Of course it's true. The story cited a person with knowledge of the situation."

Me: "Okay. Well, I don't really care about it."

Person: "Well, you obviously cared enough to heard/read/seen more about this than I have."
Look, I don't mind being treated like an idiot most of the time. I'd prefer that people think I'm disengaged from most serious topics. I've done the "big topic" arguments with people before. They were exhausting and I get no joy out of them.

But let's get something clear. If you come at me with something and I counter with additional information that you didn't previously have, don't discount me because I don't fit your narrative. Most people who know me know that I am fair. Even if I don't like something/someone, I will still get all the information I can about a story before I jump to a conclusion*.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the brightest bulb on the tree. I don't have a college degree. I don't read a lot of books. I'm not terribly inquisitive. But I know what I know and I know what I don't know.

And I know that I'm not naïve. If I hear/read/see something that could remotely be borderline controversial, I make sure to get more information about it. I don't stop at one report and say that it is true. Odds are that it isn't.

I also know that I will not speak blindly about any topic with which I am not familiar. I will only comment on things about which I've chosen to educate myself. If I pick a position opposite yours, it is usually not because I'm trying to be difficult or play devil's advocate (although some cases I do). Usually, I am pointing out that, maybe perhaps, you have not devoted enough time to your statement.

* This isn't always the case. I have been known on rare occasions to jump to a conclusion without all the information. Chalk it up to Sporadic Momentary Intellectual Laziness Syndrome.

27 May 2011

Music Video Friday: Everybody Have Fun Tonight By Wang Chung

It's the eve of Memorial Day Weekend 2011! Everybody Wang Chung tonight! (Could you tell me what a Wang Chung is?*)

*One of my most favorite throwaway lines in a song ever!

What Exactly Builds A Fan Base?

In anticipation of the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis decided the team needed a complete rebuild. Six years later, looking at the first post-lockout team's roster and this past year's team roster you will notice four common threads: Ovechkin, Green, Bradley, and Laich. All four started that 2005 season for the team and continue to be foundational players today.

The same year that the NHL was experiencing its CBA battle, MLB finally decided what it was going to do with the long decaying team ... they shipped it to the Capital Of The Free World. Now, quickly, name one person who started the year in 2005 who is still on the team.

Liván Hernández? I'll give you partial credit here. While he did come over with the Expos in 2005, he did stints with four other teams beginning in 2006 before being brought back to the Nationals late last season.

Ryan Zimmerman? I'll again give you partial credit. He was called up in September of that year but didn't play his first full year until the following year. He is currently on the IR list, but he is still the most recognizable player and the cornerstone of the team.

So let's recap. Washington Capitals on the team since 2005 = 4 players. Washington Nationals on the team since 2005 = 2 partial credits.

(You'll notice that I've not included the Washington Redskins. They always have and probably always will have a large, solid fan base; so there's nothing to build. You'll also notice that I haven't included the Washington Wizards. This year, under new owner Ted Leonsis (yes, the very same Ted), they have begun their own rebuild. It will be a few years before we start seeing fruit from that seed. Also excluded is D.C. United. While soccer may never be huge, per se, the team has a very loud and very loyal base.)

The point I'm getting to ... or trying to get to ... is that people attach to players and, in turn, to teams. And that bond gets solidified when the team, with those players, start winning. Just think of the Washington Wizards during part of this same time period. They made the playoffs for four seasons in a row. If it weren't for the injuries, nonsense, and dismantling of the team during the mid-Aughts, the team would probably still be perennial playoff contenders and command a huge fan base. But the winning stopped, the players were traded off, and new unfamiliar faces were brought in. And attendance dropped from its 18,372 average in 2007 to 16,791 average this past season.

So how, exactly, do the Lerners expect to build a solid fan base for the Nationals when their roster sees such large turnovers?

They could be starting to get it. The farm system is getting solid and their minor league stars are starting to come up to the big league. Ryan Zimmerman was the first of the home-grown players and we're seeing more added each year. Ownership needs to stay on this course its finally laid. It needs to pay to keep its in-house staff and it needs to pay to add necessary "mercenary" pieces. This team lost a lot of goodwill and eager want-to-be-fans with the missteps taken from 2005 to 2009 (myself included).

I'd love to be a diehard Nationals fan. But, guys, you have to give me familiar faces to root for and reasons why I should care. Right now, it's pretty difficult to do that.

20 May 2011

In Memoriam: Randy Poffo

You may not recognize the name, but I guarantee you will instantly recognize the face of one of professional wrestling's most electrifying personalities and product spokesperson extraordinaire.

That life, that voice, that manic energy was suddenly extinguished this morning.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Savage was driving his Jeep Wrangler when he veered across a concrete median, through oncoming traffic, and "collided head-on with a tree." He was transported to Largo Medical Center, where he died. Savage's wife of one year, Lynn, was a passenger but sustained only minor injuries, according to TMZ.

Savage's brother, Lanny Poffo told TMZ that the wrestler suffered a heart attack while he was driving and then lost control of the vehicle.
I don't normally write obituaries for celebrities. But Macho Man was a powerful image of my childhood and early adolescence. I remember watching one of the greatest wrestling heroes turned villains on Saturday afternoons. I remember trying to emulate that "Ooooooh yeaaaahhh" of his (and failing miserably). I know a good number of people think that wrestling is silly. Quite frankly, I do too. I also know it's entertainment. And Randy Savage was always excellent at keeping me entertained.

I just hopes he doesn't lay the Diving Elbow Drop on anyone who catches a parting glance of Miss Elizabeth in the afterlife.

Music Video Friday: Rapture Remix

In case you totally missed the news this week, tomorrow is expected to be a very big day. People all around the world will be spending tonight like it's 1999, each in his/her own way. A mixtape is a bit cliché but I'm going to do it anyway. You're going to find some standards here but I hope to add a tune or two that, perhaps, hadn't crossed your mind. So without further adieu or comment I give you my Rapture Remix!

  1. R.E.M - It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

  2. Blonde - Rapture

  3. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bad Mood Rising

  4. Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around

  5. AC/DC - Highway To Hell

  6. Prince - 7

  7. Rockapella - Shambala

  8. Genesis - Supper's Ready: Part VI & VII: Apocalypse In 9/8 & As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet)

  9. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - The Rising

  10. Biola University Chorale - In Dat Great Gettin' Up Mornin'

  11. And lastly, for those of the unlucky ones left behind who might need someone to hang out with:

  12. The Beatles - You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)

13 May 2011

Music Video Friday: Ode To A Butterfly By Nickel Creek

I was first tuned in to Nickel Creek by one of my best friends when I visited him in Maine for a week. The styles of music they play and the artists they've covered, both live and in studio, varies a good deal. It's difficult to pigeon-hole them in a specific musical genre, though I suppose "Progressive Bluegrass" is as good as any.

Initially, I balked at the band. Yes, my best friend played me "Smoothie Song" and, yes, it's a very good instrumental piece. But I was still rebelling against the music of my father. See, every Sunday morning as we kids would be getting ready for Sunday School, my parents would blast Stained Glass Bluegrass from the living room stereo system. For two hours every Sunday morning we woke up, brushed our teeth, put on our clothes, combed our hair, and ate our breakfast to bluegrass music.

When I started becoming my own man, I wanted to move as far away from how I grew up as possible (without killing my parents with stress). I pushed bluegrass music to the most nethermost regions of my brain and life.

It's only been in the past five years or so that I've begun to embrace some of those things that I grew up with, even to include bluegrass music.

Before you even think anything, my bluegrass library is teeny-weeny. Like, almost non-existent. But I do have Nickel Creek's three albums. They've all gotten extensive play, and I cannot find fault in any of them.

One of the biggest gems is the first song on their first album. It's completely instrumental, so you're going to be robbed of their rich vocals. But the mastery these three had on their instruments at such a young age would have made Bill Monroe blush with pride, I'm sure.

So here, for you, is Nickel Creek performing "Ode To A Butterfly" live on Austin City Limits in 2001.

09 May 2011

Remember That Year The Reds Won The World Series?

Ah, good times!

(I have to make a note here right at the start: I spent all morning debating whether I should post this. It's going to be hard to rant about this while keeping it vague enough not to cause professional waves, for one. And I don't really want to offend the source of the rant, for two. But this dug around in my brain in a most unpleasant way and I have to put it out here.)

The New Republic founding editor Walter Lippmann once said, "Democracy is much too important to be left to public opinion." That is because public opinion is easily swayed and the process is easily corrupted.

Politics readily comes to mind.

So does American Idol.

Yes, it is very important that the public be engaged in social activities. It is also important to, at the same time, maintain the integrity of said social activity.

I am a strong proponent of fairness. In my life, in my dealings, I do my best to treat people fairly ... everyone on level ground. I detest an uneven playing field. Cheaters irritate the bejeezus out of me. (People who drive in the right-turn lane only to jump into the left-straight lane just to get a few cars ahead would be a great example.)

Okay, Diarist, where are you going with this?

You may or may not know that I host a weekly karaoke show in the District. Occasionally, the establishment will have a singing contest that occurs on karaoke night. When I am asked (or volunteered) to run these contests, which includes coming up with the rules to which the contest will adhere, I make them as fair as I can possibly make them while ensuring that the public will be engaged as well. It's quite a difficult balance, but I think I have (mostly) succeeded at striking that balance.

Now imagine how I must feel when I receive word that someone plans on rigging one of my competitions. Let me tell you, I do not feel well about this.

There are two things that make strong competitors what they are. First, they want to win the ultimate prize, whatever that prize may be. Second, they know without doubt that they can win without any outside help.

If you are not the least bit interested in winning the prize, please do not waste our time by competing. You're simply taking up space and oxygen that someone else actually wants. If you have any doubt that you can win this thing fairly, please do not waste our time by competing. Odds are you won't win anyway.

Look, competitions are what they are and rules are what they are. I'm not so naïve as to think that people don't school the system. I know it happens. I write my rules in a way that you can bring your friends to help ensure that you make the cut. The intentions do not in any way, shape, or form include bringing your friends to rig the whole enchilada.

I do build in fail-safes to counter-balance cheating, but they are very limited and will only be used if I have no other choice. Trust and believe ... I will use my fail-safes if forced. But I'd honestly prefer not to have to go that route. I'd honestly prefer that everyone compete fairly. Which means it's all on you.

Have you got it in you?

06 May 2011

Music Video Friday: Horny Like A Dandy Mashed By Loo And Placido

I love mashups. The best ones work so seamlessly that you'd swear this is how they were meant to be written - all of these different artists writing the same song separately without even knowing it ... the disparate sums of an incomplete whole. That is until the right visionary, the one person (or persons) who could hear what the others could not, comes along and puts the correct pieces together to complete the song that was begging to be made.

I first saw this at Town Danceboutique. Well, I technically heard it first. That driving guitar riff. I thought, "They're playing The Dandy Warhols? Odd choice of music." Then I heard Hot 'n' Juicy's vocals ring in. I turned my head to one of the many large projector screens and witnessed this beautiful creation.

Here, the farthest thing from Frankenstein's Monster, is the song that The Dandy Warhols and Mousse T didn't know that they were separately writing together, as completed by Loo & Placido.

02 May 2011

O.B.L. Is D.O.A.

Osama bin Laden is dead.

But you already knew that. (Unless, of course, you live in a fortified bunker with no telephone or internet.)

When the word came from President Obama last night, it was a surprise to the entire world. I guess the bulk of us figured the President as more of a "search and seize" type of person. You know, bring him back alive so we can try him in our civilian court system. Instead, President Obama gave a group of men I'd never want to piss off the "seek and destroy" order. And they did just that efficiently and effectively. According to reports, there was only one civilian casualty ... and that was only because one of those brave terrorists used a woman as a human shield.

The last thing bin Laden saw was the front end of a bullet. Now he's buried in an unmarked grave.

Obviously there is a ton of written material on the Internet on this subject. So I won't expound upon it. I will, however, share a few thoughts:
  • Osama bin Laden is dead. You don't need to see the pictures nor the video as proof. Let it go and get on with your life.
  • If you think this was done as a political stunt to raise the President's flailing poll numbers, you are a cynic of the worst order.
  • If you think this event will have any bearing on the 2012 election, you're wrong. And if you disagree with me, you're also an idiot.
  • While this is a great day for America, it is not the end of The War On Terror. For every dead Osama bin Laden, there are 50 more waiting in the wings to rise and take his place.

Take this moment. It is yours. Do whatever you feel is proper to celebrate justice and/or to mourn again those we've lost because of this dead animal. But remember, our task is not finished. We are still the target of freedom-hating people everywhere.

God bless America.