Monday, May 13, 2019

The Tall Tale of Rube Bellweather




The tradition of avoiding pitchers during their throwing of a no-hitter started in the 1890s when a pitcher named Rube Bellweather of the Atlanta Confederates refused to shower while he was doing well. During a lengthy streak of success, Bellweather’s odor began to wear on his team. No one said anything, however, as he continued to pitch well and the team continued to win.

During one game, the odoriferous Bellweather was particularly effective, holding the opposing team without a hit through seven innings. As it was a typical Atlanta day, with the temperature well over 90 degrees and a stifling humidity caressing the air, Bellweather’s body odor was too much to bear for his teammates. When in the dugout they purposefully avoided him, staying to one side or even leaping the barriers and sitting with the fans to watch their teammates at bat.

Unfortunately for Bellweather’s teammates, they had trouble of their own at the plate as the opposing pitcher also held them hitless through eight innings. After a scoreless and hitless ninth, tenth, and then eleventh innings, and a growing gross aroma permeating from Bellweather, his team decided to take matters into their own hands. In the bottom of the twelfth inning, Bellweather’s teammates pulled a defensive mutiny on the pitcher, dropping fly balls, kicking ground balls, and throwing the ball all over the field until three runs scored.

But the bottom of the twelfth brought positive tidings for the hometown nine. After quickly getting two outs, the opposing hurler hit the next two Atlanta hitters and issued a walk to load the bases. Bellweather himself strode to the plate with an odor so raunchy neither the umpire nor the opposing catcher could look in the direction of either the pitcher on the mound or the pitcher at the plate. Fortunately, they needn’t hold their breath nor watch the action for long. Bellweather swung at the first offering and hit the ball far beyond the outfield field fence for a game winning grand slam. In honor of Bellweather’s heroics and his teammates’ poor actions, the tradition of avoiding a pitcher while he is throwing a no-hitter continued.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Detained by Stormtroopers in Clearwater, Florida


I recently acquired Jedi robes. I bought them from an ancient dealer of fine attire in the cyberspace realm of the Amazon. They have served me well. Although not a Jedi, I do consider myself strong with the Force. Due to the cost of the Jedi Academy, I could never afford to be properly trained in the art of the Jedi. And now I am too old to begin my training. But wearing the robes of the Jedi is to me akin to wearing the sports jersey of my favorite team. I am showing my support to the cause.

So it was apropos that I wear my Jedi garb to Star Wars Night at the Clearwater Threshers baseball game. It was a fun night at the ballpark, good food, good people, and a great fireworks show.

Until I was detained. Apparently, Clearwater is under the rule of the Empire and had the 501st Legion patrolling the premises, looking for Jedi. Luckily, they let me go. I may or may not have used an amateur Jedi mind trick on them.

I'm glad I didn't bring the lightsaber I acquired on the moon of Ord Mantell.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Review of Ice Cube's Everythang's Corrupt



I haven't written about music in a while, but a new Ice Cube album is great reason to get back to it.

I grew up on Ice Cube. Without knowing anything about Ice Cube, The Predator was the first CD I ever owned. I asked for it for Christmas 1992 on the strength of the Wicked video. I didn't know anything about Cube's history, NWA, or his political views. For a suburban white kid who owned MC Hammer, Kid'N'Play, and the Fresh Prince, Ice Cube was eye-opening. He was punk, metal, and everything my parents didn't want me to listen to.

(This was when rap surpassed heavy metal as White America's most objected music. Parents went from being  scared of Satan and suicide to objecting to anti-police and pro-Black messaging. The early 90s were an interesting cultural zeitgeist.)

After Cube's Lethal Injection album, I tuned out. I migrated into a rock/post-grunge phase only picking up the occasional Wu-Tang, Def Squad, or Boot Camp Clik album. By the time I got back into hip-hop, Cube was making club songs with the Westside Connection and had gotten into acting. He wasn't the angry political commentator of years before.

With the election of Donald Trump, I predicted political hip-hop would make a resurgence. The anti-Trump movement was too powerful for hip-hop not to capitalize. Sure enough, artists who have rarely been political such as Snoop Dogg have released songs or images bashing President Trump. With that in mind, an Ice Cube comeback was not surprising. It was almost expected.

Ice Cube has an interesting background with Donald Trump, however. Besides citing Trump as a rich stereotype in a song (as most rappers in the '90s did) , Cube was also misquoted as supporting Donald Trump in a 2016 interview. In the interview (see below) Cube says "Trump is what every American aspires to be" but advises that Trump will have a problem relating to poor people.



Ice Cube wasn't angry at Donald Trump in 2016, although he did later tweet that he would never vote for that "m*therf*cker". So where does the anger at Trump come from? The song "Arrest the President", while good, lacks detail. None of the verses back up Cube's claim that Trump is Russian intelligence.

Where Ice Cube does have legitimacy is his anger towards white supremacists, who he talks about in "Arrest the President" and in "Chase Down the Bully". Cube discusses their hypocrisy and their bullying tactics and meets their aggression with his own.

Other positives on the album are the Parliament tribute "That New Funkadelic", "Everythangs Corrupt", and the final track "Good Cop, Bad Cop", which quotes Ice Cube's verse in NWA's "F*ck the Police".

After the aforementioned songs, the rest of the album misses the mark. After going for the jugular and attacking the President and the enforcers of systematic racism, Ice Cube then attacks drug dealers and users. That angle might have worked in NWA's "Dope Man", when Ice Cube's vision was limited to the streets of Compton, but with a huge platform and a vision from the boardroom, Ice Cube should be attacking the systems that keep people poor and on drugs. Instead of going after pill users, he should be going after doctors prescribing or corporations producing and marketing opiods and other drugs.

Another negative I have with the album is that Ice Cube doesn't dip into the well enough. Although he quotes his "F*ck the Police" verse in "Good Cop, Bad Cop", he would have been well-suited to drop other references to his classic works throughout the album. He would frequently reference his previous albums during his prime, I am not sure why he opted to do so now. This would have made his intro much stronger, where instead of saying he is the Super OG (his new gimmick name), he could have said the N*gga You Love to Hate (his old gimmick name).

Other problems I have with the album include Ice Cube's lack of song direction and lyrical missteps. For example, the song "Fire Water" is particularly a mess. It not about anything and during the journey to nowhere Ice Cube calls Princess Leia a "crazy bitch". Why did Ice Cube think calling a feminist hero a crazy bitch was a good idea? With so many other crazy women to choose from (any on reality TV, for example, or a Kardashian), that was one example of a really bad lyric.

Other bad lyrics include, but are not limited to:
  • "it's not even fair at the state fair" - "Arrest the President"
  • "Nobody serving Cube but maids and waiters" - "Streets Shed Tears"
  • "Yup, the guys call me Samson, I'm dangerous with a Samsung" - "Non Believers"

I hate to say this, but Ice Cube may have needed a co-writer.

Everythangs Corrupt is not Paris's Sonic Jihad, the Coup's Party Music, or anything from Public Enemy or Dead Prez. It also definitely isn't Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly. Socio-political rap has soared since the days of AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted. Early in his career, Ice Cube kicked in doors and continued where he left off with NWA. These days, he seems to have lost his fastball. His best now would be an average track on his first four albums.

Perhaps on his next album, Ice Cube needs to dip further into his past. Releasing a track with Chuck D would be helpful. Having cameos from Paris and Kendrick Lamar would great as well. Not since Mack-10 has Ice Cube brought up new rappers, maybe the time is now.

But then again, when you have your own basketball league bankrolled by the Qataris and you have another Friday movie and another Ride Along movie coming out, maybe you only have energy for one good pitch per album. Maybe you want to save your fastball for other fields.

Of course, I can't hate on Ice Cube for putting his energy into his other passions. The Big 3 and his movies have done very well. He is a multi-media superstar who has transcended music and become an entertainment icon. But can hip-hop take an entertainment icon seriously? Should listeners believe Ice Cube is legitimately angry at the system that has paid him millions?

I do believe Ice Cube still has some anger left in him. He still looks at the world through his perspective. But I believe in his time away from music he has regressed as a socio-political voice in hip-hop. Whereas in years past he could make an album that had meaning from top to bottom, today he is good for a few good songs and a solid tribute to George Clinton.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Excellent Interview with Amy Webb of NYU on Artificial Intelligence



I have been reading a lot about Artificial Intelligence recently. It's coming, there is no doubt about it. But I really enjoyed this interview with Futurist and NYU professor Amy Webb on the coming of AI. Webb has a new book out that I probably should pick up, but in this interview she discusses some very important points on American tech companies and their Chinese competitors.

For lack of a better term, the Chinese are kicking our butts. While US companies are reliant on shareholders and positive quarterly reports, Chinese companies have government funding and a 100 year strategy. That time perception makes a huge difference in how these companies develop and roll out their new technology. US companies force products to market, Chinese companies are part of a bigger plan.

Another great point Webb makes is the importance of diverse education, especially for those who major in technology. Throughout the interview, she weaves the importance of knowing technology, economics, and politics.

I thought this was a great paragraph, especially considering my emphasis on being a "hybrid analyst":
Universities must create space in their programs for hybrid degrees. They should incentivize CS students to study comparative literature, world religions, microeconomics, cultural anthropology and similar courses in other departments. They should champion dual degree programs in computer science and international relations, theology, political science, philosophy, public health, education and the like.

Check out the rest of this really good interview:

Why AI is a threat to democracy—and what we can do to stop it - MIT Technology Review, 2/26/2019

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Excellent interview with fellow FSView Alumni Khuong Phan



Years ago, I wrote for the FSView and Florida Flambeau, the unofficial newspaper of Florida State University. Writing for the FSView was an awesome experience as it got me really into writing for purpose and introduced me to great people, both in the community and in the FSView office.

One of the people I had the pleasure of working with was Khuong Phan. Khuong was one of my editors and was a great person to work for. While I explored the outsider communities, Khuong often wrote about his family or his fraternity - and not the stereotypical frat dude way. He wrote in a very humanistic style that made you relate and grow with him.

After graduating, Khuong went on to write for local newspapers and then moved to New York City and Los Angeles to do public relations for the food industry. He has made a great career of writing about food, chefs, and restaurants. Recently, he was interviewed for the website CulinaryAgents.com. It is a great interview that provides insight into Khuong's life and career lessons.

Of his many answers, this was my favorite:
Don’t simply chase money or title. I promise you that if you do something well enough for a long enough time, both of those things will come your way. Instead aim for the opportunities that will provide you the strongest connections, access to the people you admire and the experiences you find most fulfilling. These things really pay off in a major way down the line. Your career is a long arc, so play the long game.

This answer is so good and so Khuong.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Thoughts on the AR-15

The AR-15 is perhaps the most polarizing weapon in a very polar gun-control debate. It has been the weapon of choice for several mass murderers in the United States over several years. According to Wikipedia, it was used in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the 2015 San Bernardino attack, the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting, and the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. As well, the Pulse Nightclub shooting was conducted with a weapon very similar to the AR-15.

The weapon is popular - both with collectors and those with bad intentions. According to experts cited by the New York Times (it would be nice if they put a name to at least one expert, by the way), "there are easily several million in the nation’s rifle racks and gun safes".

But is it really needed? Do we really need millions of rifles in the hands of private gun owners across America?

According to gun websites, we do. Here are screenshots from a late 2017 article on the TheTruthAboutGuns.com.

Picture 1:



 

Picture 2:



The rest of the top 10 were 8 pistols and a shotgun. While there is no arguing the presence of a firearm can help home defense if used by someone who knows what they are doing, and there is no arguing that the "intimidation factor of a pump action shotgun can’t be overstated" as the article says (shlack-lack), why is an AR-15 on this list?

According to the article, "If your home or your property is unfortunate enough to be targeted by multiple intruders" it is best to have an AR-15 handy. Does this happen often enough that the rifle has to be number 2 on the list? Are there groups of robbers and home invaders breaking into houses throughout America?

Also in the description, "In a multiple bad guy situation, an AR-15 will help even the odds by giving you the advantage of distance, velocity, and ammunition capacity". Are gun owners defending their homes or guarding the front lines at the Battle of the Bulge? If the average size of an American home is 2,600 square feet (792.5 meters) with walls, do gun owners really need a weapon with a maximum effective range of 400 meters to 1 mile (1,609 meters), depending on the configuration and ammunition?

According to a 2013 article entitled, "Gun Control Myth: The AR-15 is Not Actually a Hunting Rifle" by Matt MacBradaigh,
In reality, AR-15's make excellent hunting rifles and are normally used for that purpose. They are configurable via a separate upper and lower part that make it possible for the user to configure the rifle for various types of bullet cartridges. Depending on what game is being hunted, and what bullet the rifle is configured to fire, virtually all AR-15 rifles are useful for hunting.

Can a weapon be good for home defense and hunting? Or is there another reason for the weapon's popularity? Could the answer be in the home defense ranking article?

Look again at the first picture. Notice the ads? Both ads are for accessories for an AR rifle. There are many parts gun owners can add to the AR-15 "platform" that increases distance or power. Smaller weapons such as pistols don't have as many parts to add on as larger rifle platforms. Selling these parts are big business. The companies that sell the parts rely on the sale of the platform and their ads to continue their revenue.

The parts companies want to sell more parts, so they buy more ad space for parts on gun websites. Those sites see where the ad revenue is coming from and promote the applicable weapon in an effort to increase the sale of weapon and then tell the advertiser that the ads on their sites are working. Then the website can increase the cost of advertising on their site.

All the website needs is text to pitch a need to gun owners that fits the narrative to support the website's ad selling business.

Like most internet business, selling AR-15s is a shell game based on ads and marketing. Seeing through propaganda is important if societies want to have rational debates about the safety and practicality of purchasable products.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

The History of Hey Joe



Over at Financial Times, writer Ian Gittins wrote an awesome history of the classic rock song "Hey Joe". Made famous by Jimi Hendrix, "Hey Joe" was actually sung by a few bands prior to Jimi making it his own.

After Jimi, a few more bands tried to rock "Hey Joe", but they paled in comparison to Jimi's version.

Check out the history of "Hey Joe" here:

Hey Joe — a song with murky origins gave rise to one of the great cover versions

And another great history of the song by Noel Murray at AV/Music:

“Hey Joe” didn’t start or end with Jimi Hendrix - 7/14/2015

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Month 9 in Qatar - To New Beginnings




Dear All,

My apologies for being a few days late on this letter. It has been a very busy week. It has been the week I returned to the US after 9 months living in Doha, Qatar.

Before I summarize my adventure, here are the high points of my final month abroad:

It rained. A lot. A few weeks before I left, Doha had its biggest thunderstorm in years. Unfortunately, with rain rare in Qatar, drainage is minimal or non-existent in the buildings or roads.

Although for Florida, the rain would not be a big deal, for Qatar, the rain made a mess. Roads were completely impassable; debris from construction sites floated into intersections; and parking garages were flooded. The rain even made its way into my apartment, causing puddles in my living room and bedroom.

A few days after the great flood, I visited the Mall of Qatar. As I’ve mentioned before, Qatar is huge on mall culture. Their malls are cultural gathering centers and celebrations of commercialism. Bigger than many airports, the Mall of Qatar is the biggest mall of them all. It is extravagant. During my visit, I ate at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant because nothing screams local Qatari culture more than a Texas-themed chain restaurant.

The next weekend, I finally did sightseeing at The Pearl, Qatar’s giant man-made residential islands. Very little at The Pearl is genuinely Qatari. The buildings are made to look like European architecture to attract European residents. But the prices at The Pearl are so high only senior level personnel or the Qataris themselves can afford to live there. But the architecture and development is very impressive. Not my type of neighborhood, but impressive nonetheless. And the food is delicious.

During my final weeks, I met three international professional basketball players. They were American, new to Qatar, and preparing to play in the Qatari National Basketball League. While probably not good enough to play in the NBA, they were still fulfilling their dreams of playing professional basketball and seeing the world one basketball season at a time. How cool is that?

Concluding my final days in Qatar, I saw another symphony performance, this time at the Islamic Museum of Art. The museum oversees the city skyline, so as you can see in the link below, I was able to get some more great pictures.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/grFU2O0ku7jsJwOt2 

Then it was off to the airport for my return home. It was a long flight, but I watched several in-flight movies and was even able to get some sleep.

It is weird for me to say I headed “home” as I made Qatar my home for 9 months. But Florida is home, even if I don’t have my own place to rest my head at the moment. I am working on that.

Overall, this was an experience I will not soon forget. I did a lot in 9 months. I saw the sights (over 500 pictures!), ate awesome food, made great friends, and met many amazing people. Living overseas was something I had always wanted to do and I embraced the experience. Given the right opportunity, I would definitely do it again. But for now, I’m back. Time to see family and friends, find another job and another place to live, and enjoy the holidays.

Again, many thanks to everyone who followed along. Thanks for reading, replying, and staying in touch.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Awesome article about being a working comic

Several years ago, I tried my hand at stand-up comedy. I enjoyed it a lot, however life's instability got in the way. I had to go to Afghanistan, did a horrible set there, and have only been on stage a few times since.

I miss doing comedy. Although I don't necessarily miss performing - which I was my weakest part - I miss the creative process. I miss the challenge of writing humor.

Hopefully one day, when I get settled again somewhere, I will pull out the comedy books, throw away the Jersey Shore jokes, and get back on stage.

In the meantime, I still enjoy reading about comedy. And recently I found an article that caught my eye and peaked my interest. Written by road comic Chad Zumock, Tales From a Road Comic is a list of tips and tricks to survive in an underpaid industry of 557 billion participants.

Zumock gives some great advice, and I don't want to be hack and steal his thunder. The link is in the above paragraph and if you are interested, you should give it a click.

If you don't want to, I will list the four most important points. Consider this the cliffnotes.

  1. Always follow up

  2. Send weekly avails

  3. Never get too comfortable

  4. Handling down time


Number 4 could also be called "Stay active". Which I thought described the section better.

The best advice Zumock gave was "Stay organized and focused", which I think is great advice for any endeavor.

All of Zumock's advice is also applicable for a job hunt, and being an unrepresented comic basically is a 24/7/365 job hunt. It is a hustle. You have to hustle.

Maybe that is the cause of my dilemma. When I started comedy I had a stable job. In the last few years, however, my career has taken me across the world, back to school, bouncing in and out of hotels, and floating through spare bedrooms. Finding a steady job has been my hustle. I don't have time for another hustle right now. And besides, the stress of finding a new job kills my creative process. It is tough to write funny when I know I should be on LinkedIn or a job hunting website.

Maybe I should say screw the 9-5 and push my chips to the middle of the table and take a chance at being a road comic. I've already got the hustle down.

 

CYqHhv_WcAACg4Z.jpg large

Saturday, September 29, 2018

What I learned downloading my Facebook information



Facebook is a super social net.

Facebook is a super irresponsible social net. And every so often it is a good idea to check what the biggest social media company in the world has on you.

Downloading your Facebook information is easy. You get all the facts you have inputted into Facebook since you opened the account. What you don't see is the mega-web of connections your presence has. But you can get a small scope by exploring your footprint and then realizing Facebook has data on everything you have interacted with as well as your facial information.

A few things about my Facebook activity:
  • I have been on Facebook since May 2009.

  • My birth year on Facebook is 1905.

  • I have been slowly removing old posts off Facebook since 2012.

  • I don't post many pictures.

  • I have had 400-500 friends for at least the last 5 years.

  • I had Facebook on my phone from 2010-2012. I have not had Facebook on my phone since. I log on via laptop and log off, just as I would an email platform such as gmail.

  • I have an Instagram account that is not linked to my Facebook account. I use two different names, two different email addresses, and Instagram is only my phone.
So here is what I learned by downloading all my Facebook information on Sept 29, 2018:
  • I posted pics on a few pages I don't follow anymore. A good time to delete those. No need for my face to be in places where I don't visit.

  • It is weird to see I requested to be friends with someone in 2014 who I have no idea who they are in 2018.

  • Facebook claims I have interacted with 10 ads in the last 2 months - all on Instagram. However, when I click Facebook's ad preferences webpage, no interactions are shown. Sneaky Facebook. Very sneaky. How are they linking the accounts? My guess is facial recognition.

  • Advertisers running ads on Facebook that have my email address are 99% US automotive dealerships. Hundreds of them. Surely my email went into a marketing network somewhere. Not sure how they received my email address, but that is interesting.

  • Facebook thinks I have clicked on a lot of ads. I never click ads.

  • Facebook thinks I am into Parenting and Children. Probably because of my age and the social status of my friend connections.

  • I hadn't cleared my Search bar since 2016. I might want to do that more frequently.

  • I have removed 247 friends off my friends list since 2009. My high year for removing "friends" was 2011, when I removed 53 people from my friends list.

  • Doesn't the fact that Facebook can tell me who I removed from my friends list in 2010 mean they still consider us a connection? Just because I am not "connected" in view, doesn't mean the database doesn't still see the relationship.

  • Although my friends list says 451, Facebook says I have added 435 friends.

  • These lists do not include people who have removed me from their friends list. Those people do not show on the added nor the removed list.
I made this chart from my friend list data.

Friends chart


I was actually quite surprised to see 2016 so high. From the data and looking at the names I removed, this was probably not due to politics at all. It seems I cleaned out my friends list early in 2016 and removed people I didn't interact with.

My goal is to eventually clear all but a year's worth of posts off Facebook. I'd like to keep the posts, but maybe copy them on to my blog, or maybe into a pdf file, and maybe even print them out into a diary type book. It will be a long effort, but I think it would be worth it. As a writer, it is inevitable that I will continue to create and interact, but with privacy concerns at all-time high, my words are better off with me than with Facebook.