Sunday, August 26, 2012

One is worse than the other

This is from ten days ago so it is out of the news cycle, but I still want to talk about it. Dan Balz, a Washington Post writer, wrote an article titled "A Most Poisonous Campaign" in which he discusses how mean the campaign has become. His examples: From the Obama side we have the ad that " linked Romney to the cancer death of the wife of Joe Soptic, who lost his job and health insurance when a steel company that Bain Capital took over while Romney was at the firm later went bankrupt, after Romney left Bain." Ouch, accusing a man of being accessory to a death. That is mean!

To show that the Romney campaign is just as cruel, Balz writes: "Mention the Soptic ad to Obama campaign officials and instead of showing remorse or regret, they point to the spot Romney aired that accuses Obama of gutting the work requirement in the welfare reform act that was passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996." Yeah, claiming that your opponent is making an unpopular policy change through executive fiat is so...wait, what? Isn't this the kind of thing that politicians should be whacking each other on? Balz's comparison reminds of Lisa's line from a Simpsons about the Springfield-Shelbyville rivalry: "They built a mini-mall, so we built a bigger mini-mall. They made the world's largest pizza, so we burnt down their city hall."

The major problem with Romney's ad is that the work requirements have been basically gutted through the caseload reduction credit, supplantation of state funds, and other shenanigans. The rhetoric may be on target (which it is), the legality may be dubious (the Administration is claiming they can grant states waivers on work requirements, when the law states the waiver can be granted on whether a state has to submit a plan describing work requirements to HHS; the administration has equated the two; other people disagree), but the actual impact is nothing.

More cruel is Mitt's hatred of PBS from whom (whence? what?) he wants to pull all public funding. Dear Mitt: $444 million is a pittance. Everyone loves PBS (especially independents). The only people who hate PBS are Southern right wingers who hate the Civil War being shown over and over again and rubbing in their face that they lost and that the Cause was nefarious, etc. They are going to vote for you anyway (for good or for ill). Fire the staffer who came up with this brilliant idea to mobilize the base.

The Power

Suede once said "Gimme gimme the power and I'll make them believe."

The voters have given the power to the Maryland General Assembly and they have made me a believer in all those stories I heard in high school about local politics. Party mattereth not. If you were to describe a legislative body that agreed to prostitute itself and give one-third of that money to the pimp so that it could pay for the education of the children of the very people with whom it was engaged in such prostitorial acts and that willing agreed to provide a slice of that revenue to the pimp because another pimp appeared and said "I want you to work for me, prostitute" and you wanted to satisfy the desires of both pimps, I would say, "Those gosh darn Republicans are at it again, exploiting the poor to satisfy the wealthy soulless vice mongers that are casino owners."

But this is Maryland where there are no Republicans save those who are unbelievably similar to that terrible 30 Rock impersonation of an Eastern Republican that was foisted upon us by Roger Sterling. (In 2010, the Republican candidate for Congress in my district wanted each locality to print its own currency.) So, the Democrats, the champions of the people who will tax us and bankrupt us but dang it it's for the poor and the firemen and the policemen and so that's ok (and it might be ok), who have been over the last four years, approving placing slot machines at environs like racetracks...and then casinos at family friendly places like Arundel Mills...and now Las Vegas-esque casinos in the National Harbor and maybe downtown Baltimore, turning the BWI parkway into the most casino-ridden stretch of land outside of Las Vegas. Did I mention that these casinos don't have live dealers? People play poker on ipad-equivalents. Craps are digital dice. (I really don't understand the appeal of a dealer-less casino. Don't you trust playing against the dealer in poker instead of a computer that seems more easily programmed to cheat? Isn't part of the fun of a craps table having a hot woman blow on your hand and saying in a sexy voice "I think snake eyes, mon cher" and then finding someone else when you crap out?)

As with all things, this is for the children. Stripping the money from the middle class and the poor (who are those predominantly affected according to studies, and if you were a high roller, are you going to a place where there are no live dealers?), destroying their families through economic ruin and addiction and then trying to fix the problem through education. Nice.

Even more awesome? Slot machines in American Legions! Because the American Legions are vastly underfunded, we should get gambling money from the veterans so that we can then provide them with more services such as coping with gambling addiction.

And finally, the kicker. There has been a big fight in the General Assembly about passing the latest gambling law that will put the Las Vegas casino in the National Harbor (and possibly elsewhere). Who is against this? Oh, the current casino owners who think that they will lose revenue because of the competition, because their current casinos are just acres and acres of slot machines and ipad games. So, naturally, the General Assembly decided to give the current casino owners tens of millions of dollars to make up for the lost revenue. We are subsidizing the crappy casinos when the state has been furloughing workers. Governor O'Malley has been providing excellent leadership in this area by declaring he is "sick of the issue" meaning that he is sick that it hasn't passed faster. (And on a personal note, I am incredibly bothered to see that the majority whip is a guy whose kids were on my kid's soccer team.)

Voters can vote against this in November. Last chance to save the state from becoming Sam's Town East. And when the voters approve of the casinos, I will hear a knock at my door. I will open it and find Brandon Flowers on the porch. He will toss me a poker chip and say, "Ain't nobody tell you? The house will always win."

(Links to WaPo stories on this here and here and here and here.)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Head and the Heart concert

One running generality of my concertgoing experience in DC is that the audiences are generally tepid and flat, more interested in texting to their friends that they are at a concert than they are in getting into the music. So, while the perfomances are often ace, there is not much from the audience to feed off of. In some cases, it's because no one knows the music very well (British Sea Power, Camera Obscura). In the National's case, I have no idea. Everyone seemed to know their stuff, but they only really got into it on Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.

Last night's Head and the Heart concert...good heavens, it was like a Dashboard Confessional concert circa 2005. All stereotypes of the "DC crowd" have been shattered. The 9:30 club was packed to the gills, and when Head and the Heart came out, huge cheers, from the opening notes, people began grooving, and then, shockingly, the entire audience sang loudly along to every song on the album. For the three new songs, everyone shut up and listened intently.  

And it's understandable why. THATH killed. Incredibly, the vocals and harmonies were more impressive than on the album. The energy level was off the charts. I'm pretty sure that grown men cried during Josh McBride, one of the new songs. (Not me, obviously. I have no tear ducts.) Speaking of the new songs, I'm thinking of the last time that I have liked every new song that I've heard from a band and I'm coming up empty meaning that THATH are on a Cal Ripken kind of run at history.

Although the entire concert was a highlight, I would have to say that Lost in My Mind, Rivers and Roads, and Josh McBride were the highlights of the highlights. And THATH seemed pretty gracious about the outpouring of love for them. Charity, in particular, seemed like she was overwhelmed and seemed on the verge of crying. That just added to the greatness of the concert.

I'm going to tentatively say that it was the best concert I've seen in DC. BSP may have matched the energy, but the crowd at THATH pushed it over the top.

And here's a video of Josh McBride in it's awesomeness from somewhere in Austin, TX

Friday, September 23, 2011

A conversation you never want to have

Me: *observing bandage and gauze on your arm* Oh, what happened to you? Cut yourself?

You: No, I had a mole removed...

Me: *in mind* oh gosh, they are one of those mole people. I bet they are covered with moles I can't see. I bet they have one that looks like a stovetop hat on their back. Who talks about their moles? *out loud* uh, did that hurt?

You: Well, not the first time. They had to cut out more the second time.

Me: *in mind* sweet mercy, the second time? How big was it? And I thought I knew this person! *out loud* oh

You: yeah, it was fast growing. Not cancerous. Just fast growing. They dont know biologically why it was growing so fast. But not cancerous. The doctor compared it to the kind of moles old Russian women have that cover one side of their face.

Me: *in mind* I think I'm going to throw up. I'm never touching this person. Who talks about their moles? I've never had a conversation about moles! What am I supposed to say? *out loud* God speed.

You: You should get your moles checked. That one looks weird.

Now reverse You and Me and you can see why my conversations with people this week have been a little...brief.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Countdowns, boils, and enemas...YIKES!

Why does it keep being a stinking payroll tax cut? Of all the taxes to cut, don't freaking cut payroll taxes! Them's what pay the Social Security and the Medicare and the Unemployment Insurance and the like. You know, the budgetary ticking time bombs. Every time you do that, it's like when an inept hero attempts to dismantle a bomb, but accidentally accelerates the countdown. 

(Maybe accelerating the countdown is good. The sooner Social Security and Medicare go bust, the sooner they get fixed, and the more likely it happens before I retire. Maybe this is the greatest political gamble of all time! President Obama is bringing the crisis to a head sooner so that the baby boomers have to face it head on, because we know that they don't give a flying deuce about their children. It's the political equivalent of putting a hot coke bottle over a boil so that it draws the core to the surface and then...blam! It breaks the skin and pings at the end of the coke bottle. My grandpa told me that story. He also told me about his mother administering enemas to him. I don't think he was more animated than when he told the enema story. He also taught me never to hire a man who wears overalls or a man who smokes a pipe; the former is lazy and the latter is a dreamer.)

Every time these blasted budget discussions come up and the answer inevitably is to increase spending and reduce taxes (everyone wins!), I get gloomier and start yelling things like "Down with the mortgage interest deduction!" You tea partiers want more than 47 percent of people to pay federal taxes? You Democrats want to increase revenues? Then revoke the mortgage interest deduction. That nails the middle class, deincentivizes reckless home buying, and doesn't really hit the poor too bad. (Poor home owners are typically the elderly who own their homes outright.) It's just as absurd as farm subsidies and whatnot. (I can easily say this because I do not own a house. Get me a house and I'll tell the politicians to grind the face of the poor before eliminating my entitlement to mortgage interest deductions. And I'll make sure to say it in all caps, and then end my comment with "IT'S IN THE CONSTITUTION, SHEEPLE!") 

Execute the buck

Scene: Last night, 10:30, watching Seinfeld to laugh away the BYU loss
Christina: Why did you get mad during the BYU game?
Me: *after some thoughtful soul searching and some meandering explanations* I think it comes down to the frustration of watching the team being on the cusp, but then having the coaches tone everything down. They basically told the team with 1:47 left in the first half that they weren't playing to win, but were playing to hold on to their fragile 13-3 lead. The play calling became increasingly conservative on both offense and defense. Runs up the middle every first down with DiLuigi. No misdirection. No screens, no variation. Pass plays were all short routes. Defense in the second half rarely rushed more than four or stacked the box when the running QB was in. No attempt to blitz and rattle the confidence of the backup Texas QBs. And, what's more frustrating, is that the coaches will blame the players by saying that they didn't "execute" the gameplan. 

Scene: The next day.
Deseret News. Dick Harmon "analyzing" the game. Article title: What BYU Had Here Was a Failure to Execute.

Quoting from the beginning:
Play calls? Need to execute.Cougar breakdowns on critical Texas drives? Need to execute.
An offense that struggles to score touchdowns? Need to execute.
It was a talking parrot convention.
"It was failure to execute at critical times," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
"We didn't execute like we're capable," said quarterback Jake Heaps.
"It was just not doing small things that cost us execution," said senior offensive tackle Matt Reynolds.
"We didn't execute," said Spencer Hadley.
"If we executed like we are capable, we would have won," said safety Travis Uale.

Am I surprised that Harmon chooses this angle and runs with it, without questioning the coaches? Of course not! Harmon is a suck-up who doesn't want to ruffle the feathers of BYU coaches so that he gets invited to go golfing with them, or go to their booster events, etc. He's not going to go after Doman or Mendenhall for failing to make any meaningful change in the second half to kill Texas's momentum.

At least there was one staff writer at the Deseret News who had the guts to challenge the coaches. I'm not sure who Dan Rasmussen is, but I imagine he gets paid a pittance of what Dick Harmon makes for hanging out with the coaches on the golf course. He wrote:

"BYU’s offense looked fairly decent throughout the first half under new offensive coordinator Brandon Doman, but the Cougars got extraordinarily conservative in the second half. Doman didn’t open up the offense at all after halftime until it was too late. In the second half, Heaps didn’t throw one ball down the field once until he chucked an interception on a desperation long ball to Ross Apo. All in all, it was a poor performance from BYU’s new coordinator."

One of the reasons I like watching college football is the fallibility of the players: because they are young, even the best ones are going to make crippling mental and physical mistakes that bring a sense of chaos to the field.  So, after a loss, it's not much fun to sit there and yell at the players on your favorite team because, of course, someone at some point is going to blow something. But I don't have as much of a problem of pointing out that the self-proclaimed molders of men are letting their boys take the fall instead of protecting them. That doesn't seem right at all. And that is why I am mad.

(If you think this post sucked, it's because my imagination failed to execute the plan properly. The topic and the outline was brilliant.)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

My Thoughts About the National Concert at Merriweather or I Need a Bootleg

There is no greater disconnect between a band's recordings and their live performance than that of the National. An overstatement? I think not. The National recordings would not be effective in a pre-game locker room to pump up the boys, nor would they something you turn on when driving down a lonesome highway at 2:00 AM to fend off sleep. Naturally, I expected a somewhat sedate concert, more along the lines of a symphony than a BSP cacophony.

I (and I think the rest of the crowd) was taken aback by the fierceness of the concert. The guitars squalled, the bass hammered, the lead singer screamed, it was a legit rock concert. I'm pretty sure the crowd was not expecting this because there were only about four guys on the front row who were acting like it was a rock concert. You could have imported a bunch of MXPX fans and they would have had a great time. After the concert, I went home and turned on Squalor Victoria thinking, "How did I miss that awesome double guitar attack at the end of the song when I was listening to it?" Turns out that the double guitar attack does not exist on the recording. If there ever was a justification for an official live album, this is it. 

This enters the National into the "My perception of the band is permanently altered because of how great they are live" pantheon with My Morning Jacket and Wilco. I think the National is now sitting at the top of that list.

Individual notes from the concert:

Matt's voice was perfect. On-key, never missed a note, and they had the mix perfect so that his voice really stood out. Incredible. Even when he was drunk off his can.

The National were way less serious than I expected. Joking around, acting like they actually like each other, Matt even made fun of the lyrics of Sorrow after they finished performing saying: "If you think about it, those lyrics are pretty funny" then sang a couple of lines and laughed. They even shook hands with the four guys at the front who were jumping and singing the whole time, meaning that they actually noticed the audience. I have been front row for a few bands and no one ever recognizes "Hey, you guys must be huge fans, let's shake hands."

The finale was an acoustic singalong of Vandelyle Crybaby Geeks which might be the coolest singalong I've been a part of. (Better than U2, Pride, 2001, SLC? Hard to say. This was more than just the whole audience singing "Oh oh oh oh oh oh" This was the whole audience singing every lyric with Matt stumbling around drunk.) (Christina recorded the video.)

Bloodbuzz killed because, well, it's Bloodbuzz.

I really need a bootleg of this show. If anyone happens to stumble across one, please let me know.

Monday, August 22, 2011

An Incident on the Boise River

Setting: The Boise River. The heart of Boise.

Doug: *reading sign* "There is nothing scary about this river. You float on it. It's about 3 feet deep. A suckling child could navigate this waterway." OK kids, despite never operating a blow-up raft with three small children, everyone put on your lifejackets and hop on in! I am exuding misplaced confidence in my abilities right now.

Kids: Hooray! Let's float on this placid river and eat goldfish and never worry about a thing.

(ten minutes later, raft is stuck sideways on a rock in the river)

Kids: We're stuck forever! We're all going to die in the raft!
Doug: How the devil did I get our raft stuck on a rock in the placid Boise River?? (gets out of boat and pushes raft off rock, but is suddenly wary about the river)

(an hour and a half later)

Kids: What happened to the rest of the family? Why are we paddling constantly when they were just floating?
Doug: (grim-faced) I don't trust the river. Beneath the river beats a heart of darkness.
Kids: Look, another raft!

(The raft comes upon another raft of three twentysomething women floating and occasionally paddling. They are drifting to the right side of the river.)

Doug: Stick to the middle Dave. Stick to the middle.

BOOM!! The other raft drifts into the foliage on the right side, hits a protruding tree, and wraps itself around the tree. Two women are tossed into the river and start drifting away. The other is stuck on the tree. There is screaming to "MOVE TO THE BANK!" Debris from the raft is floating in the river.

Doug: Let's go help them! (starts paddling, spins the raft in circles, makes no progress back towards crash). Uh, let's at least save their paddle and sandals that are floating in the current next to our boat.
Doug: They'll be all right. *in brain* Uh oh, how in the world am going to pull three kids out of the drink when I inevitably wreck this thing?

After another 30 minutes of nervous-paddling and various encouragements from the kids to "not hit the trees on the side of the river so as not to kill ourselves," we successfully beach the raft at the exit point.

Moral of the story: When you are doing something for the first time, everything seems dramatic.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I whitewater rafted the mighty Peyette north of Boise. First time doing so. Also first time leaping from a rock outcropping into a river. It was awesome.