Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Put out your butts

And so the ban begins...DC is one giant step closer to instituting a smoking ban in all of its bars and restaraunts. As a pretty regular patron of DC drinking establishments, I'm certainly not going to miss the pile of smokey laundry I have to do at the end of every weekend. Now maybe that has something to do with the fact that I have sworn off of casual/social smoking (which means I lit up every time I had a pint in my hand) or maybe I think it will lead to better overall health. Either way on an individual level I won't miss the public smoking.

However as a person of libertarianish tendencies I find it ridiculous that the government should be interfering in the way that privately-owned businesses choose to operate. If bar owners wish to ban smoking in their establishments, so be it. And those that wish to permit smoking should be equally entitled. What I don't understand is where this legislation is getting its momentum from. Markets work. If there is a substantial public demand for smoke-free establishments businesses will respond. But I don't think that is the case here. The DC government is legislating this for a reason which they have not fully explained. I wonder what's up.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Shut the hell up

Here's an amusing headline from RollingStone.com - "Pink Gets Political"

Who the hell cares? I love music but I could care less what artists (and no, Ms. Pink is not an artist!) have to say regarding politics and economics. Many of them live in a bubble of ideals without pragmatism and are only capable of spouting off about things they see as bad without any understanding as to where these problems come free, what is really at the root of these issues, and how best to address them. Instead they preach ingnorantly from their hollow pulpits and tell the world how it should be feeling.

I'm tempted to go into a very long screed about the virtues of free markets and globalization but I'll only end up misrepresnting these topics and sounding like an idiot in the end. So I will instead leave you with this open statement to Bono, the Coldplay guy, Pink, Bruce Springsteen, Kanye and anyone else who is egomaniacal enough to think that they are a voice for the masses:

Shut the fuck up and make a record. The public does not need your blurry idiotically causal interpretations of the things that real people face in the real world each day. There are journalists, writers, academics, aid workers, government officials, social advocates, concerned citizens, and more who deal with society's problems in a very real, dedicated, and involved manner every single day. It cheapens their efforts when detached and ridiculously wealthy solopsists who earn millions sucking at the teet of some of the world's largest corporations purport to be the spokespersons for citizenry in need.

Whew. Having now gotten my morning "hate" out of my system, I will rather hypocritically leave you with the words of one of my favorite artists (who on occasion is guilty of the very thing against which I am railing):

Some are dying for a cause, but that don't make it yours.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Must Read

Kofi Annan writes in the WaPo today regarding his concerns for the current state of affairs in the Darfur region of Sudan. Why certain capable forces in the "First World" sit idley by, I will not understand.

The US (read: George W. Bush) acted almost unilaterally in its invasion of Iraq on shakey moral grounds and even shakier/shadier political ones. At a time when our foreign policy is allegedly rooted in the notion of American Moral Superiority, why not finally act with scruples and moral intent to do something to stop the Khartoum-orchestrated atrocities in western Sudan? The alternative is a repeat of Madeline Albright and Bill Clinton's complacent feigning of ignorance during the runup to the Rwandan Genocide.

I'll take option A.

Sage Advice

There's a kid in one of my grad classes who I think is one of those undergraduate over-achievers. It's fairly obvious since just about everyone else in the class is a career-type who works full-time and then takes classes at night. This guy is probably some uber-dork who loved his undergrad DSP course and couldn't wait to learn more. Whatever.

Anyway, the kid sort of reminds me of myself (in appearance) when I was in college except he's even sloppier and schlubbier than I was. The bad clothes (style-irrelevant and oversized to cover excess pounds), the week-old facial hair growth, and an inability to even look a woman in the eye are all there and frighteningly familiar to me. I feel like I should say something to the guy so that he can avoid the utterly sexless existence I lead in college. Don't get me wrong I had a blast in school but it was mostly confined to drinking with my friends, playing a lot of music, and drunkenly eating Gumby's pizza in various academic buildings at 2am (that was our idea of being adventurous). Women were something I saw in passing or who had sex with my friends. They regrettably were not a part of my everyday college experience.

Somehow I'd like to shake this kid by the collar and tell him to snap out of it or else he's gonna piss away the longest most expensive party he never truly attended. I'm not saying he should change his whole lifestyle but at least take advantage of a few opportunities. I had a lot of ground to make up when I graduated those many years ago. Maybe I can spare this kid a little wasted effort.

Fuck it. Let him figure it out for himself.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Back to School

Today is the first day of classes for the spring semester. I'm trying to reconcile the fact that a good chunks of my weekends are shot between now and May. Not that I'm complaining. Right now, cutting out of work early to go to class beats the hell out of being stuck in the office for the rest of the day.

In general I'm excited for a new semester because I think the courses will be challenging and potentially rewarding in terms of work in the future. But I sometimes wonder if my desire to learn this material has more to do with how difficult it is rather than a deep genuine interest. There is a part of me that wants to do well just so I can say that "I know all there is to know about statistical communication theory. Would you like me to design a satellite uplink for you?"

If you can't be the smartest person in the room you can still be the most knowledeable or well-read. Then you can dazzle 'em with bullshit and come off like the King of the Mountain. I go to school because it makes me feel like a Man. How weak is that...

Friday, January 20, 2006

"Roid Sally, roid"

Wilson Pickett died yesterday. It's a shame because I wish more so-called R&B/Soul singers today actually wrote and performed like the legends of the past. I might come off sounding much older (and more crotchety) than my sub-30 years but back in the day R&B actually had some substance to it. Heavy back beats, great bass grooves, and hooks. Man there were hooks. It seems as if nowadays any caterwauling over synthesized drum beats counts as R&B. Too bad.

But the wildest thing about that WaPo article is that it says that Wilson Pickett had been living in Ashburn, VA. Impossible. There's now way that weird little Levittown had that much soul.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It goes on and on and on and on...

A very good day indeed. One of my favorite band's of all time, Built to Spill, has finally announced a release date for a new album. It's been five years since Ancient Melodies of the Future was released and I thought that they might never release another album again. Fortunately they have toured a bit in the years between keeping us barely alive and waiting for the next album from one of the greatest indie rock bands ever!

BTS is streaming a track from the new album, You In Reverse, on their MySpace page. Clocking in at almost 8 minutes (!) the new track called "Goin' Against Your Mind" recalls much of the material from Perfect From Now On. The stretching guitar interplay and dynamic shifts are all in place. I'm liking what I hear so far but I do hope that Doug retains some of the concise "hookiness" from other albums past. That was the one thing I always thought was seriously lacking from AMotF.

On a side note, I have a friend who contends that Perfect From Now On is the greatest BTS album. Sorry guy, Keep Like A Secret is where it's at. And you know this, MAN!!

A Righteous Power Struggle

A nice example of the Catholic Church's power over its congregations, this article in today's WaPo brings to light a question that I haven't seen discussed publicly in a while. "Who's church is it?"

Whether or not the allegations being made by parishoners at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Anacostia are indeed true, the overall argument being made by the priests at the church are fact. Church's are administered as "benevolent dictatorships" with their authority being handed down from God to the Vatican and so on down the line. No matter how much parishoners may dislike the way things are run in their particular church, those decisions are not up to them. Catholics are to do as they are told.

Yet again, one of the many reasons I left the faith a long time ago. It will be interesting to see if this "revolt" by parishoners gathers any steam. If the congregation decides to leave the Catholic Church (highly unlikely) there will be a very real property dispute between the local descendants of the church's founders and the Washington Diocese who claim ownership of the land and structure.

Monday, January 16, 2006


My company does not "observe" Martin Luther King Day which means I am in the office today. Not that I'm bitching since I get a lot of paid time off anyway and I don't think it's any kind of slight since we also don't have the day off for President's Day, Veteran's Day, Columbus Day, and so on.

In Virginia MLK Day has a colorful (come on, you know there's no pun intended) history since for the longest time it used to be Lee-Jackson-King Day. Yes, as in Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson. I guess the state legislature had a difficult time reconciling its Confederate history but I am told that Lee-Jackson Day began in the state shortly after the Civil War. Prior to MLK being declared a federal holiday (on the same day as that of Lee-Jackson in the Old Dominion) in the 80's, Virginia observed the Reverend's birthday on New Year's Day. The state legislature decided to get in line with the federal holiday calendar but didn't want to dispense with Lee-Jackson Day so for several years we were treatd to an ironically incongrous holiday known as Lee-Jackson-King Day in which we celebrated the birthdays of one Civil Rights leader and two Confederate generals. Wacky stuff.

But anyway the ship was righted and now Dr. King has a holiday all to himself in Virginia just like the rest of the nation (except Arizona?). Enjoy your holiday.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The songs in my head

I've had Kanye West's latest album, Late Registration, spinning in my car for the last couple of days. I picked it up when it came out, thought it was great, and then stopped listening to it for a while. For some reason I had the urge to dig it out again and it has been running nearly non-stop.

I don't particularly care for hip-hop and it's even rarer that I buy a hip-hop album (the only other one's I own being Fear of a Black Planet, 3 Feet High and Rising, Quality Control, and that first (only?) Blackalicious album which is a bit over-hyped...and at some point I will be picking up Bizarre Ride 2 the Pharcyde because that shit should be mandatory) but godammit this album is good. The stand-out track "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" has been running through my head constantly for almost a week now.

I love the fact that there are two versions of that track on the album. The first version, sequentially, is the "remix" featuring a guest spot by Jay-Z. It's a pretty powerful observation of the quest for money and jewelry on the streets of America and the real impact of those base desires on the lives of the people subjugated by the diamond industry. Powerful stuff.

The other version is a witty self-absorbed ego strut hollaring about street cred, business success, and whatever other bling-bling nonsense could be crammed into the song. Same title, same beats, same hook, and an entirely different tone. I think it's pretty clever (and bold) to intentionally place such a blatant and almost hypocritical dichotomy on one's own album.

I'm impressed Mr. West.

Friday, January 06, 2006


I love flying into National Airport. Cruising above the Potomac and looking out at the Washington Monument, tracing the reflecting pool up to the Capitol building, picking out the square roof of the Lincoln memorial as it stands at the end of the Memorial Bridge and Route 50 running over the water and into Virginia; this reminds me of why I'm happy to make the DC area my home. But it only has so much to do with the physical landmarks.

When flying into National it means that I am coming home and usually from someplace very different than where I live. For better or worse, everything about this region is who I am. The cynicism, the impatience, the rush to get nowhere, the hating...it all feels right to me. The laid back friendliness of the West Coast and the detached down-hominess of the Midwest are just a little off-putting. I like being able to to communicate in sarcasm and movie quotes and actually have random people understand whatever the hell it is I'm talking about.

I know this is rambling and pointless but I'm just happy to be back home.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


I am currently visiting with my grandparents in Illinois who have moved in to a "retirement village" in the last year. It's a nice enough place and they have a comfortable 2-bedroom apartment but everything is so damn SMALL. When I walked into the main building I noticed that there is support railing bolted to the length of the wall in the hallways but they only come up to my thighs. I walked inside their apartment and plopped down on the love seat since they got rid of the couch. Much of the afternoon was spent watching football with my legs dangling over the end of the arm.

Bedtime is interesting as I am sleeping in a twin bed that's just big enough for me to get my legs and torso onto. My arms and feet have to be content dangling over the back and sides of the world's smallest bed. However the best part has to be the bathroom where the shower head is at about navel-level on me. It works great for washing my ass but anything other than that requires some interesting contortions which are pretty dangerous when attempted on wet porcelain.

In case you were wondering, no I am not some giant Lurch. I'm tall (6'3") but certainly not of a size that doesn't fit into most standard accomodations. I guess all old people are really small.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006


It's the first post of 2006 so I thought I'd share my New Year's resolutions. I typically make them every year and follow through on them to varying degrees. I don't think there is too much groundbreaking material here:

Stop smoking. Everyone does this one. Now I wouldn't label myself a "smoker-smoker" but I casually smoke a lot when drinking with friends. Several people can attest to how many cartons I've bummed off of them over the years. I've said I was going to stop doing this for the last couple of years but for some reason it really feels like it this time. I don't know why I haven't done this in the past seeing as I don't have nic-fits or anything like that. I think I'm just a sucker for the romanticized image of smoking cigarettes over drinks and conversation in some dark dingey bar. Anyway, an end to that.

Hate less. Most everyone I know considers me to be a "hater" and it is a deserved reputation. I do this because it is a part of my cynical persona but I need to begin keeping much of my Hater Rhetoric to myself. I'm not saying there won't be occasions when the hater in me rears it's ugly head; otherwise I wouldn't be "me" anymore. But I will be less indiscriminate about it.

Become a better guitar player. I've been playing for so long now that I really have settled into a natural equilibrium. I haven't gotten any better (or worse) in a long time and I've grown far too content about that. It's time to start challenging myself again and play with some earnest instead of pointlessly fiddling as my mind wanders.

Give the ladies a chance. No more first-date edicts about how this one isn't going to work out because of A, B, C, and D. The slow play is the right play and it will do me a lot of good to stop making up my mind so quickly. (This in some ways ties in with hating less).

Have a good softball season. 'Nuff said.

So those are my goals and aspirations for 2006. Not unattainable but still respectable enough to feel like I've accomplished something come year's end.