Monthly Archives: October 2008

Let Us Now Praise…

 

Editor’s Note: Upon receiving this month’s Esquire magazine, it occurred to me that I had been unconsciously lifting the “Endorsement” tag from this great publication I respect so much. So, while imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, it can also be a harbinger of unoriginality and plagiarism. Therefore, from hence forth, I will be titling all of my endorsements with the tag “Let Us Now Praise…” I know you were all losing sleep over that one. So, on to the praise…

 

Little Bits of World Series Joy:

John Oates’ Rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”: Maybe it was the pre-game buzz of being on the verge of a possible Phillies championship victory. Maybe it was the post-beer buzz of a few stellar IPAs at National Mechanics Bar in Old City. Or maybe it was just the welling up of a general soft spot I’ve had for Daryl Hall’s better half ever since I interviewed him for South Jersey Magazine last summer. (Did you know he breeds Alpacas in Colorado, or that he was a fairly close acquaintance of the good Dr. Hunter S. Thompson?) Regardless, there was an understated quality to Mr. Oates’ “SSB” I found severely likeable. As both an unyielding patriot (hmm…) and amateur student of professional sports, I’ve become quite familiar with this little ditty we call our National Anthem, and in doing so I have realized the most significant sin most crooners commit in singing the song is that they simply overdo it. To be sure, the “Star Spangled Banner” is not an easy tune to render. In fact, I’ve heard many musician friends of mine muse that it is “one of the hardest songs to sing” due to its wide range and awkward phrasing. In short, it’s no “Happy Birthday.” But this doesn’t have to be so problematic if only more would take a cue from Philly’s own J.O. and play it down.

Look, the lyrics don’t require all that much bravado. You’ve already got rockets with red glare, bombs bursting in the flippin’ air, and one hell of a perilous fight. You don’t need a voice competing with that imagery. Moreover, let us not forget the more tender moments of the hymn. A dawn in its earliest light. A twilight in its last moments of gleaming. A flag that is still barely there. Like the overall narrative of our country’s Revolution, “The Star Spangled Banner” is not a call to arms but instead a quiet moment of triumph, a possible hint through the haze and horrors of war that maybe, just maybe, we will prevail after all. It is in this interpretation that we will realize the song’s poetry, and it is in this discovery of our anthem’s inherent humility that we will continue to understand why it is so befitting a nation that should always be mindful of its fragile grip on the righteousness of its foundation. Thank you John.

 

Joe Buck: At first it was a small, innocent comment made by an acquaintance of mine. “Aw man, I hate Joe Buck.” Um…what? Then it was the dude next to me a Brentons, a semi-dirt rocker bar off 206 South in Shamong. “That asshole doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” He was referring, of course, to Joe. The final straw was a chant that spontaneously erupted at National Mechanics in Old City on Monday night somewhere between the first pitch and the first monsoon. “Fuck Joe Buck! Fuck Joe Buck! Fuck Joe Buck!” I think you know to whom they were referring.

Look everyone, stop hating on Joe. What, exactly, is the problem? I know some of you think he wanted the Phils to lose against the Dodgers in the NLCS. I know some of you think he wants us to lose now. And I know some of you think he’s just too polished and expensive-suited to be endearing to the rough-edged, sweat-panted Philadelphia sports fan sensibility. Well, get over it. I don’t really give a toss about these (quite absurd) speculations because guess what? Buck is one hell of a good sportscaster. As the son of Hall of Fame sportscaster Jack Buck, Joe has been covering baseball since 1991 when he was a play-by-play man for the then-Louisville Redbirds, a minor league affiliate of the Cardinals. He’s the thinking man’s caster, a guy who knows that sometimes what isn’t said can be just as powerful as what is. He lets the best moments just happen; and by the way, he could probably run baseball knowledge circles around those daft Philadelphia critics shouting their displeasure down Passyunk Avenue.

At Least It Wasn’t An Earthquake: Sure, it’s a weird World Series. Sure, it sucked to get rained out on Monday night. But guess what, it could have been the ’89 series, wherein play was put on hold for 10 days due to the Loma Prieta earthquake. Now that would really suck.

Watching Sports In A Bar: Typically, I shun the sports-in-bar experience. The drink are overpriced, the fans potentially obnoxious, and the food cold and mediocre. Nine times out of ten, I’ll take the couch. But I’ve watched every game of this thrilling series in some sort of watering hole, from the opening game at the Manayunk Tavern with my best pal Red Dog to the (potentially final) game tonight at National Mechanics. And I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t have it any other way. When the series is complete, I intend on composing a retrospect here of my total experience (which came to me in a feverish, collage flash of imagery last night as I was falling asleep), so I will save many of the detail until then. The bottom line is this: You will meet more characters and feel more raw energy in watching an important sporting showdown in a bar than you will at Burning Man. I’m hoping to be in the eye of the storm tonight…

Watching Sports At Home: Because there are always a few drunk assholes ready to wreck the experience.

This Guy’s Face:

 

Oh god...please!

Oh god...please!

 

 

I found this on the New York Times’ Web, and I think it speak for itself. Isn’t there a little of him in us all?

GO PHILLIES!!!!

All Hail The Great Leader!

Surely you’ve seen this already. No? Well, if you haven’t, it’s worth a quick watch. Creepy? Um…yeah. Manipulative? Certainly. A little downright frightening? Hell yes. Look, I’m not about to launch into a ridiculous tirade about how Obama is the anti-Christ, or about how, if elected, he’ll use the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to lead the way in his inaugural parade. I’m still not even sure who I’ll be voting for come November 4th. But stuff like this is enough to drive me to write in Darth Vader.

These are children! Not voters, not adults…children! Whoever thought this was an acceptable idea ought to lose whatever leadership role he or she ever had over kids. This is brain-washing propaganda, a thoughtless indoctrination of individuals who have not yet developed the capacity to think critically outside the influence of the adults who fill their limited world view. The more I think about this, the more furious I get. In fact, it’s happening right now. As I type. You can’t see it, but I’m furious!

Oh, and one more thing: Can we all come off this implied, precious, saccharine, Kool-Aid guzzling bullshit that Obama is some sort of spiritual savior of the world! He’s a candidate running for office. Can we please treat him as such, and allow the potential virtues of his leadership abilities to make themselves evident over the course of his Presidency (should he be elected) instead of thrusting as-yet undeserved greatness upon him? We’re acting like a bunch of fucking zombies! So please…snap out of it! Or we’re looking at more videos like the one above.

How Do You Like This Look?

Just playing around with a possible new theme to the site and was wondering what you all thought. Just make a quick click on the poll…

Prostitution: Legalize It

 

Here’s the situation: San Francisco is on the verge of becoming the first U.S. city to decriminalize prostitution. And here’s the question: Why the hell not?

Trolling the Drudge Report tonight, I came across an interesting link to a news story about a ballot initiative, Proposition-K, that will be up for a vote next month in the city of rice and fog. If passed, the measure would forbid local authorities from investigating, arresting, or prosecuting anyone for selling sex. It would not, the article goes on to say, technically legalize prostitution since state law prohibits it, but it would eliminate the power of local law enforcement officials to “go after” prostitutes.

Oh yeah, and one more thing: The measure would likely free up $11 million the police spend each year on arresting prostitutes. Come on everyone, do your best Dr. Evil with me. That’s eleven meellion dollars…a year! Do the math. That’s a lot of bank, folks.

Look, for those of you who know me, an endorsement of this measure will probably not come as a surprise, as I have always been of the mindset that our government (locally and federally) already possesses far too much control over the degree to which we can exercise our inherent, victimless vices. I have long been of the mindset that this control is not only insulting, dangerous, and severely hypocritical, but also a provenly absurd waste of time and resources—and I believe precedent is on my side here. For an example, simply survey the effectiveness of the so-called “war on drugs.”

This multi-billion dollar effort on the part of the United States government has not yielded any quantitative decrease in the use of drugs in this country and has only served to continually drive up the financial and criminal consequences of an inevitable black market and the criminal activity it inspires. It has overflown our prisons with unnecessary inmates, ruined the lives of those who need help (not jail) and wasted our tax dollars in the process. And why? Because the pale, ignorant, ghostly bastards and bitches who roam the halls of Congress like moaning spectres of intolerance are beholden to the monstrous masters of the money that flows in and out of their fusty campaign offices like endless blood down a drain. There are no principles at the core of these efforts to wage witless wars on our so-called depravities. There are no convictions at the center of these ineffective laws that seek to limit what we, as free individuals, can and cannot do at our leisure. If there were, the NFL’s chief sponsors would not be beer companies. If there were, pharmaceutical companies would not be bombarding our prime-time television hours with myriad chemical solutions to spiritual problems. If there were, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.

But I digress.

Look, the philosophy of just and righteous law is based on the necessity to govern a society in as much as that society wishes to legislate and live within the basic tenants of universal morality, and the first (and probably only) tenant worth considering in this regard is how our individual behaviors affect others not voluntarily associated with the choices we make. Speed limits exist because the roadways are public spaces filled with individuals who should not be forced to inherit the potential dangers of others driving recklessly. Murder is illegal because no one has the right to take another individual’s life without his or her consent. Rape, theft, drunk driving, witch hunting—all of these actions are illegal because each of them involves the victimization of an innocent individual. Drug use, prostitution, euthanasia—these, most certainly, do not.

To be sure, I am not in favor of the decriminalization of prostitution because I endorse the practice itself (no more than I am in favor of the decriminalization of certain drugs because I partake in them). My support of measures like Proposition-K is grounded in a belief that a society is not fundamentally harmed or devalued because of individuals who choose to engage in behaviors that, while potentially not in line with my own standards of character, have no direct impact on the course of my life. In other words, if my next door neighbor is visited by a different prostitute every night for the rest of his life, that action does not affect my life in any measurable way.

Now, I can already hear the rebuttals: But Nick, prostitution leads to a dangerous and damaging lifestyle for countless women every single day, and the legalization of the practice would only further encourage that spiral of desperation and damage! And to that, I ask a very simple question: Has the historic illegality of prostitution lead to its demise? The answer is no. They don’t call it “the world’s oldest profession” for nothing. And if we are resigned to the inevitability of its continuance (and really, I don’t see how we can’t be), shouldn’t we strive for a system that “legitimizes” and regulates this potentially dangerous profession in order to make it as safe as possible? Since there will always be women (and heck, I suppose men as well) that choose to earn their living through the sale of sex, is it not morally imperative to provide them with the protection they deserve?

And to the point that legalization inevitably encourages previously illegal behavior, I ask  another question to those of you who have never sought out a lady (or gentleman) of the night: Is that because it’s been illegal? I am willing to guess the majority of you would answer “no.” Speaking from my own experience, the reason I have never been with a prostitute has absolutely nothing to do with its illegality. I’m 27 and have lived in a major city several times throughout my life. If ever I wanted to purchase sex, I certainly could have. Without trouble. But I didn’t. Not because it was illegal. Not because I feared getting caught. But because I did not think it was right to do so. This is the standard of character and personal integrity toward which we should be striving as a society, and no amount of legislation will ever be able to bring that about. I have heard it said many times that the true test of a man’s character is what he will do when he knows no one is looking. Note that the government’s watchful eye plays no part in the truth of that axiom.

It is a dangerous and slippery slope down which we slide when we endorse legislation based not on the potential victimization of a behavior but instead on the relativistic and shifty ethical concerns of a few in power. Prostitution is as victimless in its execution as the publication of a particularly incendiary novel or piece of journalism. It is as wholly harmless to a society as a work of disagreeable art. Would we not shudder at the thought of our government prohibiting these expressions? Why then do we not shudder at its odious assumption of moral authority when it comes to matters of individual sexual choice?

Here’s to hoping Proposition-K passes next month, as it will make this country a safer and more humane place to live.

The Palin Parody Paradox

Well, it seems the uber-meta phenomenon of Sarah Palin showing up on Saturday Night Live just won’t go away…and this time it has taken an even more peculiar turn.

This weekend, Sarah Palin herself (her actual, non-ironic, non-Tina Fey-ized self) showed up on the sketch comedy program, once as the show’s opener and again for a particularly bizarre spot on “Weekend Update.” In the first, we find Palin actually witnessing Fey mid-impression, watching a fake press conference with Lorne Michaels backstage. In and of itself, the moment gets a chuckle, but what brings it home is the sudden appearance of Alec Bladwin, who mistakes the actual Palin for Fey’s fake Palin. Baldwin then proceeds to tell Michaels that he finds it unconscionable that he would allow Fey to continue impersonating a woman who “is against everything we stand for.” Michaels allows Baldwin to continue his tirade against Palin before finally setting the actor straight, at which point Baldwin faux-stumbles over himself before adding, “You know, I must say…you are much hotter in person. I can’t believe they would let her [Fey] play you.” He then takes her arm and leads her on a tour of the studio, eventually ending up at the set for the fake press conference. Check it out here:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “The Palin Paradox“, posted with vodpod

 

The second skit is where things get surreal. As the last sketch for “Weekend Update,” Amy Poehler launches into a Sarah Palin rap, the details of which I will not spoil for you in type. You must simply watch it. But when you do, ask yourself the question I am asking myself right now: Is this a moment where we are laughing with Palin or at her? And, more importantly, does Palin even know the answer to this question?

Vodpod videos no longer available.more about “The Palin Paradox”, posted with vodpod

“It’s Always Sunny”, I Love You More Than Words

Just a little tidbit of something pretty awesome from the “Sunny” gang to start your day…

The Endorsement: Lady Chatterley On The Radio

 

Tonight I bring you the beauty of contemporary juxtaposition, a dual endorsement that marries perfectly the old and the new. First, the old…

“Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically…”

I recently finished reading “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D.H. Lawrence and cannot let another moment go by without encouraging anyone who has not yet read this novel to do so. Immediately. Written by Lawrence in 1928, the book was not published in Britain until 1960 due to the swirling controversy surrounding both the language and themes expressed in its pages. The plot is simple enough: An aristocratic, intellectual (Constantine Chatterley) finds herself in a passionless (loveless?) marriage several years after her husband returns from World War I paralyzed from the waist down. In her quiet quest for wholeness, Lady Chatterley becomes involved with one of her wealthy husband’s groundskeepers and spends the rest of the novel wrestling with the principles of devotion to her husband as weighed against the pull of organic, uninhibited passion.

As I read it, I continually had to remind myself that this novel was written in 1928 and not last year, not only because it so liberally tosses about words like “fuck,” “orgasm,” “ass”, and (oh, shudder!) “cunt”, but also because its sociopolitical themes are so incredibly contemporary. It’s unfortunate so much discussion surrounding this book concerns its more salacious moments (and believe, there are plenty), because on the whole, the novel is about so much more. It is one of the most humanistic stories I have ever read because the primary question it asks over and again is this: What makes us whole? In it you will find contemplations on sex disguised as love and love disguised as sex; socialism vs. capitalism; property and wealth as religion; the virtues and damnations of solitude; and so much more.

I picked up my copy for 50 cents at a local used book sale, and while you may be tempted to think the fusty nature of its cover makes it hopelessly dated, fear not. You are in for quite a radical treat.

And now, the new…

If you have not yet picked up a copy of TV on the Radio’s newest release “Dear Science,” do so. Now. When I first started hearing about this band four years ago, I was admittedly cynical about its supposed brilliance. The ceaseless, ubiquitous implication that everyone should be listening to these guys started feeling like a mother wagging her finger because her son will not eat his peas. I almost didn’t want to like them in spite of their acclaim, but once I realized this was an absurd feeling to have I opened myself up to their influence and have not looked back since.

“Dear Science” is one of the most solid and enjoyable records I have come across in the last year. This band blends emotive lyrics and melodies with crunchy, post-industrial electronic soundscapes so seamless as to make it sublime. Have a listen for yourself and tell me what you think. If you’re looking for a soundtrack to the age in which we live, “Dear Science” is a great place to start.

\”Halfway Home\” by TV on the Radio

[audio http://wpcom.files.wordpress.com/2007/01/mattmullenweg-interview.mp3]