Wednesday, November 26, 2008

an open letter.

Dear President Obama,

It has come to my attention that you'd like to cut the fat. I bring you a question: Should Citi cancel its $400 million sponsorship of the new Mets stadium? The answer is yes, but with a qualifier: As long as AIG cancels its deal with Manchester United first.

A sports marketing analyst said that " was not certain that AIG would maintain their contract with United, though the exposure it gives them and the likely punitive get-out clauses might deter them from pulling out".

Uh, my taxpayer dollars are propping up this company--and paying for a useless deal that won't save the insurance giant.

I also hate Manchester United. You know the Yankees? Yeah. They're worse than them. You know the Vikings and Packers and how much Chicago Bears fans hate those teams? My feeling for Manchester United is a hundred thousand times worse. And, as a West Ham fan, you cannot support Manchester United in any way, shape or form. West Ham are like the Cubs (I know you're a Sox fan, but you're a bigger fan of Chicago in general)--and Manchester United is, well, the Yankees...and the Red Sox. Combined. Let that sit. You're all about spreading the wealth. Take it away from Big Business--like Manchester United. Give it to West Ham. And Arsenal. Arsenal are like the big boy West Ham--you will eventually end up supporting Arsenal anyway.

A concerned citizen,

Joshua Masayoshi Huff

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kanye West: 808s and Heartbreaks

Ok, everybody. Go time. What are we to make of 808s and Heartbreaks? What are we to do with Kanye now?

Let's take stock.

What we have here is an album with a fundamental problem (Auto-Tune), a driving message (heartbreak + urban isolation), and a dubious purpose (fame? wealth? change the game?). Let's see if we can understand these characteristics of the album, and, eventually, render a judgment.

We have to begin with Auto-Tune. We have to. It's a dealbreaker for many music fans. Classic rock fans despise it. Old school hip-hop fans--Roots crew followers--have a similar aversion. But what is it exactly? Jhuff explains it as a studio gadget

Usually used to correct minor mistakes done by pop princess starlets in the studio...

Instead of fixing little flubs, rappers set the correction time in the autotune to 0 (minimum) and boost the frequencies in order to get that effect present in Cher's "Believe."
What is most offsetting about rappers' use of Auto-Tune is that it feels unhuman. It feels over-the-top electronic, and part of the appeal of hip-hop is its genuineness. To some, therefore, Auto-Tune feels like a betrayal of one of hip-hop's basic principles: In the same way that we expect lyricists to write their own lyrics, so do we expect to hear rappers' actual voices, without the help of electronica. Auto-Tune, meet lip-syncing.

But let's face it. The world has gotten over electronica's influence in hip-hop. The fact that we know who T-Pain is is evidence enough, but you have only to look at Kanye's hit Stronger to see that electronica is at home in hip-hop.

So, sorry everyone. It's time to embrace Auto-Tune.

But what about Kanye's use of Auto-Tune on this album? I think it's over the top. I think it's abusive, much in the way that architects and artists sometimes abuse a new medium when it's first discovered.

Still, we have to be realistic about how Kanye uses it. He makes beautiful harmonies (Street Lights), catchy riffs (Coldest Winter), and passionate exclamations (See You In My Nightmares). And those aren't even the best songs on the album! Honestly, who can say that Love Lockdown wasn't in their head at some point recently? You're lying. You're lying, and you liked it.

See, once you get over the Auto-Tune, everything else falls into place.

This is Kanye's best album as far as lyrics goes, and it's no suprise--considering he doesn't rap on it. Critics have always called Kanye's style more like spoken word than rapping, they've always said his rhymes were lacking. That's fine.

From the very first song, you know that Kanye is bringing it here. You hear, "When I grab your neck/ I touch your soul" on Say You Will, and you lean forward. He's got your attention. You hear "I know my destination/ but I'm just not there" on Streetlights, and you nod your head in understanding. You hear "I did some things/ but that's the old me" on Heartless, and you begin to appreciate what Kanye's getting after.

The lyrics are truly touching, and that's just weird to say about a rap album. Love Lockdown, for example, contains notions of love and relationships that EVERY SINGLE HUMAN in the world can relate to. "I'm not loving you/ the way I wanted to" is a stunning line whose power only increases with its repetition. It is worthy of any poetry anthology. Seriously.

And it's not only about love. It's about fame and Kanye's struggle to maintain himself within a blinding milieu of fandom, media, and all the responsibility fame holds: "It's amazing/ I'm the reason/ everybody fired up this evening/ I'm exhausted/ barely breathing/ holding on to what I believe in."

So once again, Kanye takes us into his personal thoughts. That's why I'm on a first name basis with the man. That's why you can be, too. He lets us in. He exposes himself with ballsy vulnerability. I don't know if it has to do with his mother's death or the break up with his long time beau, but Kanye pours out his emotions on this album. I don't care how much of a gangster or a baller you think you are, you react to that kind of outpouring. It's human, just like heartbreak is.

(What is most amazing is that Kanye tells us what it is on this album, and this time, he does so without chauvinism, cussing, or homophobia. You could play this entire album for your little cousins. They might ask questions, but at least they won't be going around repeating lines about smacking bi*ches and doing drugs.)

Good art comes down to two things: (1) A specific use of medium, technique, and style; and (2) the conveyance of a universal human sentiment. Kanye has both of these things on the album. So yes, this is legitimately good art.

But the biggest issue this album poses is simply, What the hell? What is going on? Why push it?

  1. Money. Kanye saw that Auto-Tune and the honest, anti-gangster shtick of Lupe Fiasco and Indie groups is what's hot right now, so he decided to capitalize on combining the two styles, much in the way he combined a number of styles on Graduation, or the way he brought old-school soul into hip-hop earlier in his career.
  2. The self-driven desire to change the game. We have heard for years about Kanye's wish to be famous, to conquer the game, to dominate the world. What better way to do so than practically invent a new genre of music (he calls it "Heartbreak") and try to change pop culture forever?
  3. Art. If you check out Kanye's blog, you'll notice that most of the posts are references to contemporary art and style. Kanye is obviously passionate about art in general, and he considers himself a part of it. By making this album, he is pushing the artform of hip-hop, okay, but he's also pushing the entire cultural notion of pop art. Please see Lichtenstein, Roy, and Warhol, Andy.
  4. Bam. He's trying to change pop music. Not for money or fame or art, but to push the world forward.
I don't LOOOOOVE this album. It's not the best album I've ever heard. But the Mona Lisa isn't my favorite painting, either, and I certainly won't sit here and deny the impact it's had on art.

I don't know if this album is as big of a deal as myself and others are making it. Maybe it will go down in history as a big album, but no bigger than Illmatic or Blueprint or Ready to Die.

I do know, though, that if enough people get to hear this album, really hear it--I mean, listen to it enough to get over the Auto-Tune and dig the lyrics and have the melodies infect their daily routines--then we may very well see a gradual shift in pop culture towards the autobiographical, emotional, and personal.

November, 2008. The month that saw Obama win the presidency, the global financial system collapse, and Kanye West release an album that changed the way we listen to pop music forever.

Friday, November 21, 2008

friday video premiere

Every Friday, we're highlighting a specific video (or two, or three) for your end of week enjoyment.

Next week Tuesday brings Kanye West's newest release "808s and Heartbreaks". While we at the Collective are at loggerheads over Kanye's new direction, we all agree on the fact that 'Ye really brought us into appreciating rap, hip hop and other general goodness. "The College Dropout" was the first rap album I purchased (though I was given Jay-Z's "Life and Times of S. Carter Vol. 2" in sixth grade), and it really made me get into music outside of rock.

We also touched on Kanye's last release, "Graduation", here and here. Kanye also talked about the "808s" here and compared it to how you can't judge a grandmother's love. Wow.

The albums first single, "Love Lockdown" had crowds and critics confused when Yeezy first performed it at the MTV VMAs this year, and for good reason--it featured no rapping and instead had Kanye heavily using Autotune, usually used to correct minor mistakes done by pop princess starlets in the studio (and a favorite of Lil Wayne and T-Pain--watch this T-Pain video, the song is immense). Instead of fixing little flubs, rappers set the correction time in the autotune to 0 (minimum) and boost the frequencies in order to get that effect present in Cher's "Believe" (to which my friends in sixth grade and I responded "What, is she old that they replaced her with a robot?").

The second single from the album, "Heartless" is even more sparse and almost reminds me of Hawaiian style "Island Music". The video itself features rotoscope, used in the film "A Scanner Darkly" and "Waking Life", as well as in these creepy Charles Schwab ads.

My personal picks for best tracks on the album?


The Vegas glitz is on full here--electric symphony, great synth lines...and, surprisingly, no discerningly obvious bass line.


I'm sorry, but I can't hear this song and not tear up. Yeah, it borders on Coldplay mope, but it's so touching because of how it seems to just open up to loneliness, alienation and despair--something incredibly rare in mainstream rap/hip hop.

And, lastly, the Herbie Hancock produced "Robocop"


And, if Kanye isn't your style, surely Slick Rick is?

And, Sto did a great job last week with the Tribe entry, but he left out my personal favorite (though the "Scenario" video is by their best)

Which was the precursor to this song, one of my fondest memories from childhood.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Gmail Themes!

Apparently my roommate Zach and I were two of a random bunch of Gmail users who get to try out the new themes setting on Gmail. Here's some screen shots:



And "Graffiti":

Cool, huh? There's also some straight up color themes and other weird ones like "Ninja," "Bus Stop," and "Beach."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Video Premiere: Q-Tip Edition

Every Friday, we're highlighting a specific video (or two, or three) for your end of week enjoyment.

I've never been a huge fan of Q-Tip. Well, let me rephrase that. I never knew how big a fan I was of Q-Tip all these years. Think about all the bangers he's had a direct role in putting out. Ok, don't think, I'll put them up. Here's a few of my favorite Q-Tip songs. (And check out his brand new album, Renaissance, out earlier this week.)

Q-Tip has to have one of the most distinctive voices in all of hip-hop. It's sort of nasal, sort of melodic. It stands out. Without further ado...

"Galvanize" with the Chemical Brothers.

"Vivrant Thing"

What a sweet hat he's got in "Buddy" with De La Soul. This video cracks me up.

Then there's like every Tribe Called Quest song, but let's just do one:

"Scenario" (with one of the best Busta verses evurrr)

Also receiving votes: "Ill Vibe" w/Busta Rhymes, "Enuff" w/DJ Shadow and Lateef the Truth Speaker, "One Love" w/Nas.

Happy Friday!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Will.I.Am Loves Obama A Lot

More from Obama's number one hip-hop sycophant:

Remember the first Yes We Can video? Wayyy back in, like, 2007? We wrote then about Obama's idealism versus Hillary's brutal rhetoric. Crazy that it's all behind us now. Absolutely crazy.

Short Story by Yours Truly

Poets Make Poor Travelers

Scrambling to get his mind working on anything, for he was deep in the throes of a writer’s block that was more firewall than mere impediment, the poet defied the flight attendants and turned on his cell phone at thirty thousand feet. He knew there is no panacea for writer’s block more effective than sex: It is the most indulgent and stimulating thing to do, the most indulgent and stimulating thing to think about (especially on a plane), so it is often the easiest thing to write about. The poet got outright sexy in this despondent hour. His kids would never imagine such explicit text messages existed between spouses over fifty, but click, click, and the poet was looking through some twenty x-rated messages that would make the kids’ abstinence education obsolete.

The last romp of text sex was the previous Tuesday, as the poet sat downing whiskeys in a sports bar near Seattle. He had flown out to give readings at the English departments of a couple colleges and high schools, and found the bar on his way back to the hotel one night. He needed the drink. The poet—oh aficionado of miscellany—despised the idea that his room was a precise replica of the one next door, he avoided the hotel as much as possible. And giving readings while facing writer’s block is as depressing a gig a poet could take. There he stood, behind lectern or microphone, faced with the depraved extravagance of being able to choose between poems! Oh no. You see, the true horror of writer’s block is the subtle suggestion that God could remove your voice—and thus your livelihood, thus your sanity—at any moment. The poet was certain that the oeuvre from which he read were getting closer to forgotten ancient uselessness with every passing moment of futility. Then, as if the readings didn’t tempt fate enough, the poet had to face the audience’s uncomfortably personal questions, the professors’ elbow rubbing, those two enthusiastic students who wait until 11 pm to shake his hand—it all made the bar a welcome sight. Being the thorough man that he is, there was no vacillating when the bartender told him about the one-dollar-big-game beer special. He didn’t know who was playing what sport for which championship, and he didn’t care. Seven dollars bought his scotch straight.

Since he was on the west coast, the time difference meant his wife was just getting ready for bed out east. He imagined her adorable habit, taking a book to read in the bathroom as she brushed her teeth and prepared for bed, as if even those two minutes were somehow less meaningful without continuing her education. The poet equated complete happiness with the toothpaste marks on his first book.

He wanted to call her, to speak to her, to hear her say that she was happy he had gone to read because he had real supporters out there and everything was going to be alright. But he knew that as soon as he heard her voice, coming from the plush down comforter of their bed at home, he would be depressed.

So, after ordering another scotch, he sent the first text message. It was a sweet, “hi. thinking of u.”

She replied immediately, as if she had been waiting for it. “hey you too. miss you.”

Sitting solitary in the corner of the bar, the poet texted away. He was pleased to forego his writer’s block for a moment, and the conversation, along with the poet’s erection, progressed.


Now he was trapped in the window seat of a Boeing 737 on a late Friday afternoon, and the poet was dying to return home and see his family. The pressure of day after day without writing anything felt like being nibbled to death by a school of fish. He had a pain in his side. The next day would mark a full three months without a single stanza, and his agent was starting to increase the intensity of her gut wrenchingly passive-aggressive emails. “Where’s the piece you promised NPR?”

As much as the poet loved the traveling (and the money) that readings and conferences allowed him, there was nothing he wanted more than quiet days with the newspaper, tea, a bike ride, and writing. But he was wrenched. Pulling out his empty notebook, his brand new empty notebook—he thought that buying a nice new one might kindle something—he shifted his legs away from the dozing middle seat’s counterparts. He tried to get comfortable, but the airplane air conditioning made him feel nauseas. He moved his ankles around in circles, seeking circulation. They only cracked, stiffened, and ached. Likewise with his neck and wrists. The seat belt wouldn’t loosen and it pinned him against the chair. His side was killing him. If only he could stretch out for a second. If only the person in front would sit up. If only the guy in the middle seat would wake up long enough to let him out.

The poet glanced at the clouds beneath him. He thought of his wife, of their comforter. He was still hours away. In the reflection of the window, he saw the lines on his forehead, the wrinkles in his blazer’s collar. He took a deep breath—and coughed out the synthetic airline air. If only he could open the window!

What could he do? Airports are usually as stimulating a locale for him as any. He loved how each city’s central airport had its particular quirks; how he inferred the city’s personality from the luggage, conversation, and demeanor of the passengers; how he was never bored. How could he be? There are too many people to see in airports, too many peculiar circumstances. It was eavesdropping heaven. Plus, if he didn’t feel like eavesdropping, he could go to a bar. If he didn’t feel like drinking, he could peruse one of the bookstores. And if he was terribly delayed, he listened to the comedy routines of George Carlin (“I’m not getting on the airplane, I’m getting in the airplane”), Bill Cosby (“Hope the plane don’t crash!”), or others’. What could stir a poet’s creative sauce more?

Yet that Friday, it seemed, was black Friday for the poet. Just as he made it through the security line—oh that bastion of dread—he bumped into a short, fat woman yelling his name and pushing her boarding pass and a Sharpie into his chest.

“William Starlukas!” she screamed. “ William Starlukas!”

The poet couldn’t even smile. He looked down at her.

“Can I have your autograph?!”

The security line stopped moving. Passengers craned their neck to see Angelina Jolie or George Clooney, and then turned inquisitively to other passengers in line. They murmured. Who is that guy? The TSA staff (that “crack squad of savvy motivated personnel,” in Jerry Seinfeld’s words), mechanically moved the x-ray conveyor belts even though the people weren’t moving. Shoes, laptops, jackets, and bags fell against each other at the end of the tables. The entire space was abuzz. Who is that guy?

The poet cringed, signed the autograph and moved quickly, head down, towards the men’s room. Behind him the woman continued: That was William Starlukas! He had written her favorite poem, “How Men Fall In Love.”

In the bathroom, the poet cowered into one of the stalls. How unlucky. He was almost never recognized, especially this far from of his hometown, and he just hated it when any chance at eavesdropping was ruined by a stranger’s happenstance recollection of that ridiculously cheesy photo on the back sleeve of his books.

A man came into the bathroom, evidently with his son. The poet spied through his stall door. “I don’t know who he was, Jay,” the man said. “And I don’t care how famous he is. It took us thirty minutes to get through security. How egotistical do you have to be to sign autographs right in front of security?”

He’s right, the poet thought. I should have moved to the side. How did she even recognize me? I still have brown hair in that bio photo.

The poet hated himself.


Fuck. This. Stupid. Shitty. Notebook.

The poet spilled tomato juice and ice on it. Why did he even ask for tomato juice? He hated tomato juice. Writing was no longer fun. It was excruciating. He couldn’t take it. As if the poet’s confidence isn’t shaky enough, these unexplained paroxysms of writer’s block were like heart attacks or strokes to the poet. Who could calculate the irreparable brain damage of the stress? How many episodes could he survive before full-blown insanity? Near rock bottom, where he was now, he couldn’t teach, he couldn’t exercise. He could hardly muster the energy to have sex. The tomato juice dripped into his lap. It was shockingly cold.

Squirming in his seat so he could sop up some tomato juice with the airsickness bag, the poet finally reached a breaking point. He decided that all he wanted was a title. Just one poem’s title. Then, maybe, one line in relation to the title. It seemed easy. For the title, he could modify something his wife had written. He took out his phone and reviewed the dirty texts underneath the food tray.

For once, the poet was happy the man in the middle seat was sleeping. He shifted the airsickness bag to accommodate his erection. Pablo Neruda, Anias Nin, even E. E. Cummings would feel some conscious before publishing or reading aloud what the poet was looking at—such was the lewdness of their contents.

“i want you in me,” his wife had written.

“i want you on me,” the poet had replied.

The poet took his pen, like a convalesced car accident victim taking the wheel, and wrote these two lines on the top of the page. He paged through other messages. “take me in your hand.” “your tongue keeps me awake.”

And before he even realized it, the poet was writing. He was writing about various parts of the body. The female body. Not the pubis or the breasts, the poet was not so crude, but elbows, the forehead, the smell. The poet got poetic, and the brand new notebook was no longer brand new. Lines of inky tomato juice, ruining his notebook, now spelled triumph.

But as he began writing about the back of the knee—the sexiest part of the body, to him—the poet got too absorbed. He was hypnotized by the moment. Unwittingly, he put his phone on the tray table. He started giggling, his shoulders throwing the blazer up and down. He was lost in the numbing ecstasy of creative construction, filling pages and pages of the notebook at a stenographer’s pace. When a flight attendant walked by, the poet came to and scrambled to hide his phone. He failed. He only made his guilt more obvious.

The flight attendant turned to him with the customary cold, ultra-polite smile and curtly requested the poet turn off his phone.

“It was off,” said the poet. “I was just taking it out of my pocket for one second.”

The flight attendant asked him again, clinically courteous, to turn off his phone. After all, it could interfere with the cockpit’s communications and was a serious danger to the safety of the plane.

“It was off the whole time!” cried the poet, as embarrassment and anger joined the other emotions coursing through his body.

Now the flight attendant addressed him loudly, loud enough to wake up the passenger in the middle seat, and he jolted up in his seat. Soon most of the rows behind and in front of the poet were twisting in their chairs to see the commotion. The poet thought he saw the plane’s armed marshal approaching him. Oh God. He would be mistaken for a shoe bomber, or worse.

In his haste to prove his innocence, the poet decided to take drastic action. “Here,” he said. “Look for yourself—it’s the main screen. I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”

He was too emotional. He wasn’t thinking clearly. Instead of exiting his text messages and returning to the main screen, the poet accidentally accessed a text that contained a photo of his wife in the nude. Posing. It was their new thing. Camera phones should be used for something useful, right? The flight attendant’s face told the poet he was in trouble. It was the first facial expression the attendant had made that didn’t seem previously trained for—something between surprise, irrepressible laughter, professional solemnity, and embarrassment.

The poet sunk back into his chair. Cruelly, the flight attendant decided to lecture the poet about the use of phones on airplanes. It was almost crueler than showing the rest of the plane the naked photo of the poet’s wife, though, because the sermon dragged on for nearly ten minutes. Loudly. None of the adjacent rows could avoid hearing. The poet sensed a collective rolling of the eyes—he felt like the most annoying wailing infant, inducing the snobbiest whispers.

Finally, he had enough. What had he done wrong?

The poet rose to his feet and interrupted the flight attendant. “Excuse me,” he said. “But I really haven’t done anything wrong. There’s nothing dangerous about my phone—I was just getting some information out of it.” (The flight attendant cleared his throat.) “For that matter, there is nothing dangerous I even could do with that thing! It has no service, it can’t be used to call or receive calls.”

But as he spoke, the flight attendant’s hand wriggled and lit up. The phone was ringing. Worse, it was blasting the polyphonic rhythm of a song the poet’s daughter had downloaded behind his back. She thought this was a hilarious prank.

“I wanna make love in this club,” it rang.

The flight attendant, composed as always, retained his poise and looked down at the phone.
“Your wife is calling,” said the flight attendant. “Should I take a message?”

The poet snatched the phone back and fell into his chair. He saw the notebook, the incredibly emboldening sight of original artistic creation.

“Fuck off,” the poet said, turning off his phone and uncapping his pen. “Go and fuck off.”

Friday, November 7, 2008

friday video premiere pt. 2

Every Friday, we're highlighting a specific video (or two, or three) for your end of week enjoyment.

I can't let bsto have all the celebratory Barack fun by himself...although those literal videos are insanely funny--even my non-Mystery Science Theater 3000 loving girlfriend loved the Tears for Fears video

Young Jeezy featuring Nas "My President is Black"

Because there isn't a more swagtastic line than "My President is black/my lambo's blue". Period. This song makes me want to run out in the streets and do infinity fist pumps.

Friday Video Premiere

Every Friday, we're highlighting a specific video (or two, or three) for your end of week enjoyment.

Wow. It's been a while since we've done of these. Apologies.

Anyhow, it would be far too predictable to put up a video about Obama, and we're anything but predictable. So here's a couple of videos that reached me earlier this week. They're part of this "movement" called literal art.

Here's Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" being deconstructed:

And here's A-Ha's "Take On Me":

Funny, right? And also sort of catchy, you have to admit.

This ArtsJournal piece has a couple more videos and a thorough description of the meaning of literal art. I think, truthfully, it need not be seen as some kind of profound phenomenon. Rather, it's a solid idea well carried out. The result: we pay more attention to the kinds of decisions that music video directors make (something we at JJ never get too much of, anyway):

The "literal videomakers," notably DustoMcNeato and KeithFK, narrow the yawning chasm of images-vs.-song lyrics-vs.-celebrity persona by simply inserting their own lyrics, which flatly reiterate or question whatever is happening onscreen...

This approach repeatedly calls attention to (and calls into question) the video's image choices, making them appear laughably random. Or it subverts any greater, intended import they might have by flatly describing the images and thus "grounding" or re-contextualizing them in a more self-consciously 'down-to-earth' manner,while actually presenting a wise-ass commentary on them.

It is sweet that you can buy a pipe wrench t-shirt.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

'Sup Readers

Yoooooo JJ readers. A couple new things about the blog:

We now offer email and more optimized rss subscriptions. Subscribe on the bottom of the right side panel. You've also probably noticed the increased ad presence of late. Hope it's not too distracting. Remember, jhuff and I do not endorse aimless consumerism--unless it involves really, really nice kicks or soccer shirts.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Palin Fall Out

The things I find interesting here:

  • Remember how strongly Fox News and conservatives in McCain's camp and elsewhere got behind Palin and dismissed all criticism of her as sexist? Now they're picking up the same attacks that the liberal establishment whipped out months ago.
  • If what this report says is true (Fox News...take it with a grain or two), it 100% proves McCain simply lacked the leadership ability necessary to run the country. Joe Biden isn't exactly an easy guy to handle--he falls in line about as easily as Chad Ocho Cinco--but the Obama people held him in check because Obama has that kind of leadership.
  • The fact that despite these "foibles" the conservative establishment is still excited to see Palin again in 2012 just blows your mind: Here's a group of people who have championed an ideology based on making sound, safe decisions for our country, now standing behind a politician who probably couldn't understand 1/4 of an Economist issue. Either they're that obsessed with Evangelicalism, intelligent design, and Pro-Life, or we're looking at a massive shift in the convervative ideology.


Gertrude Baines, the daughter of slaves, is 114 years old.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Last one, I promise. Kanye's "Celebration."

(For now.)

UPDATE 6:44 PM: I just realized how inappropriate this song is, considering it's about celebrating a childbirth and we're talking about politics. Politics? Not, not a childbirth. Man, we're talking about politics. Politics.

Whatever. It's still a good song, and makes you feel nice inside.

Unless you hate babies.

Obama + Sports = Love?

Thanks to Evan for pointing out this article about Barack Obama's potential impact on sports. The choice excerpts:

A review of his campaign statements and position papers as well as interviews with his friends and former colleagues at the University of Chicago indicate that an Obama administration is likely to:

• produce major tax increases for team owners and players;

• slow sales of professional teams;

• increase the powers of player unions;

• more vigorously enforce the requirements of Title IX;

• and begin to resolve the serious clashes between sports cable networks such as the NFL Network and the Big 10 Network and cable providers such as Comcast.

Obama's views on other critical sports issues, including performance-enhancing drugs and stricter controls on the powers and the finances of the NCAA, are unknown.

Experts agree that Obama's support for Chicago's 2016 Olympics bid will be critical and that his presence in Copenhagen could easily win the Olympics for Chicago. Former British prime minister Tony Blair's charismatic presentations were said to have led the IOC to pass over Paris, which seemed to have the leading bid after New York City's attempt to get the Games collapsed, and give the 2012 Olympics to London...

Japanese Olympic officials already have expressed their concern that Obama could turn the tide in favor of Chicago when the IOC votes in October.

"Mr. Obama is popular and good at speeches, so things could get tough for Japan," said Tomiaki Fukuda, a senior Japanese Olympic Committee board member...

Part of the Obama prescription for the economy could hurt both owners and players. Throughout his campaign, Obama promised that he would increase taxes on individuals who earn more than $250,000 per year. That would take money out of the pockets of wealthy team owners and well-paid players. The Major League Baseball minimum salary, for example, will be $400,000 next year.

"It will be an increase that they will notice," Sanderson observes.

A Moment Of Silence

Every up has its down. We need to take a second to lament the passing of California's Proposition 8 (and other similar measures across the country). Some places, like Massachusetts, refused to vote on the measure because YOU CAN'T FREAKING VOTE ON FUNDAMENTAL CIVIL LIBERTIES THAT'S WHY THEY'RE FUNDA-EFFING-MENTAL.

Evidently this country is still light years away from the promise of its founders. The fact that one of the nation's most ideological states just passed an amendment denying marriage, and thus a FUNDAMENTAL CIVIL LIBERTY, to a large group of citizens is appalling, reprehensible, and saddening.

Obama may have taken a few large steps forward, but this represents a massive step back.


Celebratory song #2!!!!

(Thanks, Joe.)


Check out the front pages of all the newspapers in the country.


The celebratory song!!


These were taken between midnight at 2:30 am at the White House.


(More tomorrow. I'm pooped.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yay Voting

Wow. Who knew those snarky brilliant music writers over at Pitchfork had a soul?

Rock on!

Monday, November 3, 2008

go time.

bsto put it perfectly in his post below this one.

if you're in california, yes on 1a (high speed transit rail from socal to the bay), no on 4 (parental consent for girls under 18 getting abortions) and no on 8 (you already know, but a "yes" vote means you stand for inequality and injustice).


it's time for a change.

what better place than here, what better time than now?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Barack Obama for President

Imagine this country as a 2005 Honda Accord, if you can. It has some issues and you have to take it to a repair shop. You have a choice of two shops.

On the one hand, you can take it to the dealership. The warranty is done, but you figure you should go with the people who built the car, even though it’s already defective. The dealership has been around Honda Accords for decades. They offer you a price you know would be impossible to follow through on. And then, they warn you about this new kooky repair shop down the street. They say that shop is new and doesn’t know what it’s doing.

On the other hand, someone tells you about a brand new shop you’ve never heard of. The owner just finished an apprenticeship and graduated from an elite engineering school before that. You go talk to the owner. S/he says they're going to fix your car up with all this amazing stuff that will make it more efficient, safer, and better for the environment. Then s/he goes on and on, talking about this new technology that will fundamentally change how we fix cars for the foreseeable future. The owner of this shop wants to install a new technology in the car that will help the project. S/he asks for your trust, but the price is lower than the dealership’s because the shop is supported by bigwig investors.

If this were me, I’d choose the new shop and its technology to fix my car. Knowing that it was Honda who messed up the car in the first place, I wouldn’t trust them to work on it again. Also, as a member of a generation that is completely comfortable with trying out new ideas (especially those supported by influential investors), I would not only be OK with volunteering my car, I would want to be a part of this shop’s mission to change the auto industry for the better.

If you can’t figure out which repair shop represents John McCain or Barack Obama, then go read the political section of every major news outlet right this second. If you follow me, then let’s go.

I’ve been chewing my fingernails for hours. I’m down to the cuticles now. My fingers look like I stuck them down a garbage disposal and ran the thing for a few minutes.

But I can’t help it. It’s how anxious I feel about the election tomorrow.

I’ve heard journalists and others talk about how covering politics is just like covering sports. And that following the two is often similar. I can dig. But there’s a major difference between sports and the election tomorrow.

No matter how passionate you are about sports, no matter what big game you are anticipating, no matter how much sports have viscerally impacted the lives of humans across the globe, the election tomorrow will have a larger impact.

Because, you understand, the election tomorrow has life and death implications. It is not about something so fickle as pride, or so weightless as honor. The lives of human beings across this country and the world over will be drastically affected in ways a sporting event simply could not touch.

Here’s what’s at stake in the election tomorrow:


The definitive opportunity to nominate Supreme Court justices that will either stack up the conservatives and place the Court in prime position to overturn Roe v Wade, establish firmer gun laws, and limit marriage to select citizens; or to nominate justices that will balance the Court, retain Americans' fundamental liberties, and allow the healthy discourse that’s not only helpful but necessary on the nation’s highest court.

The continuation or abondonment of trickle down economic principles that erased Clinton’s $127 billion surplus, created a $455 billion deficit, and set the pieces in motion for what has become the biggest economic crisis in this country not called the Great Depression. Ugh.

Advisers that run it

As much as we all love the people that have worked behind the scenes to consolidate the Bush administration’s power via illegal memos and hiring practices, brutal partisan high handedness, and a comprehensive spying program that history will judge most harshly upon, I’m ready to try another hand. It’s scary and downright pathetic that McCain has run his campaign by trying to steal the mantle of change that Obama promulgated in the primaries, and has used that mantle while relying on the same advisers that smeared the living crap out of him in 2000 and helped craft the policies that he purports to change in the next four years. Wow.

The foreign policy of the Bush advisers has turned American into a cussword across the globe. We are loathed and that is nothing short of embarrassing for a country whose entire basis relies on acting as a shining light for others to follow.

Shining light we are not, my friends.

I also think that, while it is impossible to argue against McCain’s foreign policy acumen (he did beat Obama to the punch on the right call with Georgia), McCain is wrong to give the Iraq War a blank check. Experts and generals have agreed that the true war on terror is in Afghanistan. Obama’s foreign policy experience is seriously limited, but by surrounding himself with people like Joe Biden and other expert advisers, he removes any doubt or fear of growing pains—indeed, he was right on with his call to shift focus to Afghanistan.


The best gauge of leadership is the way a candidate runs his/her own campaign. From the Obama campaign, we’ve witnessed an unprecedented fundraising and activist movement that has incorporated millions and millions of Americans who were previously uninvolved and uninterested in participating in politics. He has done so through a campaign that has been unified and on point since the moment he entered the race. His nomination of one of the most experienced and knowledgeable senators alive in Joe Biden as Vice-President shows that Obama has real, solid judgment. Running against Hillary Clinton and then McCain has only made the well-run nature of Obama’s campaign that much more evident, and truthfully, I don’t see why Obama wouldn’t apply this same leadership to the White House.

On the other hand we have an ancient politician who has run a hodge-podge campaign that his advocates call scrappy but which anyone with common sense would call a mess. His nomination of the inexperienced Sarah Palin for Vice-President was so drastically irresponsible that traditionally conservative newspapers like the L.A. Times and the Chicago Tribune (who has never, never, never endorsed a democrat before) hinged their endorsements for Obama on McCain’s aloofness. Moreover, the McCain campaign has switched their central message about 38 times during this campaign, and has stooped to attacks on Obama that are so ineffective you could see Obama almost start laughing during the debates. (For example, since when did it become a bad thing to go to Harvard Law and become a constitutional law scholar before practicing politics? Seriously?)


Obama’s focus on energy and education seals my support for him. I have heard nothing from McCain about education. Obama’s energy plan is audacious but I think represents the kind of bold propositional optimism this country has been lacking—unless you think running around trying to find and then kill terrorists is inspirational.

McCain’s old age and health is a serious issue to me. In 2008, the thought of electing a president not comfortable with sending an email is incomprehensible (don't tell me it's because Vietnamese "torturers prohibited McCain's use of a keyboard"--if you can survive the grueling campaign schedule, you can type an email on a friggin wireless keyboard). The McCain family, moreover, has a history of heart problems, and the thought of Palin taking over this country is just chilling.

There you have it. It’s hard to imagine this country as a better place in four years with McCain/Palin at the helm. It’s really hard. With Obama, you have a large number of unknowns, it’s true, but you also have a man who has proven to be inspirational, intelligent, and ready to lead this country back to its former glory.


This week's BCS standings are out, and I think it's a joke

1. Alabama
2. Texas Tech
3. Penn State
4. Texas
5. Florida
6. Oklahoma
7. USC
8. Utah
9. Oklahoma State
10. Boise State

I have no problem with the top three. They are undefeated. I take issue with the teams ahead of USC, though. They all lost more recently than USC did. People go on about how the Pac 10 is a terrible conference, but the fact of the matter is that USC's schedule is the 29th toughest in the country...and it's tougher than Texas Tech's, Alabama's and Penn State's, who all find themselves ahead of USC. Again, I can stomach this because these teams are undefeated, but if one of them falls, they need to fall way beyond USC.

USC has shut out three teams in four weeks. I haven't seen any other team do that. Yeah, they were lousy teams (Arizona State 0-27 USC, USC 69-0Washington St., Washington 0-56 USC) --but no other team has done that in conference this year. If a team is that great, they'll shut out teams the way USC is doing. It just hasn't been done.

However, here are the problems:

USC has a tougher strength of schedule than Oklahoma. As you can see, Oklahoma finds itself ahead of USC in the BCS standings.

The Big 10 is terrible. Terrible. I'm not going to talk about how Ohio State gifted the win to Penn State, but really, it all comes down to being a beauty contest. The Big 10 is regarded as better than the Pac 10 this year because of its history. The Pac 10 is absolutely lousy too--but so is the Pac 10. Last year, Hawaii went undefeated and got railed on for not playing anybody. The difference is that a team can go destroy teams in a mediocre big time conference (the Big 10 this year), go undefeated, and go to the National Championship Game. What a joke. If we're going to say undefeated teams are inherently better than no loss teams (which is basically what the BCS poll says), then undefeated teams in mid-major conferences are just as important as undefeated teams in major conferences (down year or not).

It's not like the National Championship Game pits the two best teams against each other anyway. Ohio State the last two years? Are you kidding me? They got dismantled twice. Not to be a homer, but we all know that USC would have played LSU a lot better last year. And, beyond USC, even Georgia was more deserving to play in the NCG than Ohio State.

I mean, the BCS is so broken that I don't even care if two teams from the same conference play each other for the NC, because it simply does not have the best teams play each other.

There's obviously a much easier way to do it--have teams play conference games+2 out of conference games. Most conferences are broken up into divisions anyway. You keep them as they are, and each of the major divisions send their representative to the national playoff tree. Power conferences don't need to disband, because they get the winners of mid-major leagues in the first round (we keep the BCS around for seeding teams in the playoff system)

The BCS bowls become the quarterfinal games, and we rotate them for the semifinal and championship games every year.

This system keeps conferences intact, keeps classic rivalry games (USC v Notre Dame, etc) and gives us a playoff system. Every conference has an equal conference to win, but to the delight of the power conferences, they are just a bit more equal than the mid-majors.

The obvious problem is only eight guaranteed games--only four home games. However, it gets rid of meaningless games (USC v Washington State) and makes every game that much more important.


Alright, I'm done. We have our pre-election blowout tomorrow.