Monday, December 28, 2009

Kitchen Revolution



Here is a little poem I've been noodling with over the last week. Something random.

Kitchen Revolution

Kitchen spatulas
Attack like tarantulas
Spare only neighborhood treasurers
Their spouses locked in slaughterhouses

Banging for help in the code of Morses
General spoons riding in on horses
Phlebotomists tangle with solutions
Nooses tied around the handles of knives who doth protested

The damnation of dalmatians
While those bitten by Siamese kittens
Could only count the scars.

Pots and pans lay the groundwork
Microwaves keep the frequency
Communications flow easily

Through comparable components used to cooperation
Can openers slice their way past defenses
Soulless toasters dance to the rhythm in sequences

Victory employed coroners
The result of woks whacking their owners

Business was good the day
Mixers, whiskers, and egg beaters turned the tables
And revolted against the eaters.


Note: after finishing this poem, I googled "spatulas". Apparently the Internet is a strange place and I am not the only one inspired by the idea of violent kitchenware. Check out the movie Spatula Madness. It is about a group of spatulas who fight giant wooden spoons. Although not quite the animated version of my poem, it is close enough for me to know "Kitchen Revolution" will never be turned into the next Avatar.

Oh well.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

T'was the Monday after Christmas



T'was the Monday after Christmas, and all through work
No one wanted to be there, but the boss was a jerk.
He told me to be in the office on time and not a minute late,
Or else my employment would meet an horrible fate.

I sat in my cubicle staring at my screen,
While thoughts of Christmas still filled my dreams.
Although I couldn't, I wanted to tell everyone about my new toys,
But I knew the boss would yell if I made a noise.



That poem is a work in progress. Anyway, I hope everyone had a great holiday. I definitely did.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Conforming at the Drive-Thru



Sometimes I surprise myself with my off-the-wall notions and ideas. What surprises me even more, however, is when I read other people whose ideas are similar to mine.

Last week, after buying lunch at a local fast food drive-thru, I wondered if anyone actually gives in to the suggestion of the drive-thru order-taker-person. You know, those people who ask if you would like to try a new value meal or a chicken sandwich or any other deal of the day. How effective do you think their suggestions really are? Personally, I think I am of the habit of turning them down, even if moments later I order exactly what they suggest. Rejecting their sale pitch  is second nature.

Anthropologist Grant McCracken touches on this phenomenon in a post entitled, "Culturematics, Choice, and Identity Construction Now". McCracken states that, "By our choices, consumer, spiritual, political, shall you know us.  It is the way we find, fashion, express and constantly tune selfhood. A good deal of our ideology of selfhood is tied up in the possession of preference and the exercise of choice."

We don't want to accept that someone behind a microphone at a drive-thru might know what we want. We want to come to our own choices independently.

(Interestingly, McCracken makes these comments in response to the business practices of another restaurant. Accordingly to McCracken, there was Japanese cafe that "serves you what the last patron ordered". McCracken analysizes what such randomness does to the idea of choice and identity.)

But what if there was a financial incentive to listen to suggestions? What if you received a significant discount if you said "yes" to the offer of the drive-thru attendant? What if they offered 50% off the meal they suggested? If you only wanted a cup of coffee and they suggested a triple deluxe bacon cheeseburger, of course you might not be interested, but what if your choice was relatively close? Would you sacrifice your choice for theirs?

To make the notion even more interesting, what if the drive-thru attendant asked you if you would like the exact order of the person who drove through prior to you? At what discount would you be willing to conform to the tastes of a total stranger?

Friday, December 18, 2009

An Interview with Jay Busbee from Jan 2008



Like many artists, writers, and creative geniuses, I have tons of unpublished material. I have several binders of ideas, notions, poems, and half-written stories. Every once in a while, I'm going to dust one off and publish it here.

Here is an interview I did with blogger, author, and longtime e-migo Jay Busbee. Jay now writes regularly for Yahoo! at their NASCAR blog, From The Marbles, and their golf blog, Devil Ball Golf.  Before blogging at Yahoo!, he was one of the many sports bloggers plugging away at independent sites throughout the web.

Back in early 2008, I sent Jay a bunch of questions about independent sports blogging, the mainstream media, and the voice of the common fan. He was kind enough to answer, and now, nearly two years later, I've decided to publish his answers. Sorry about that, Jay.

When did you start blogging? Why?

I started throwing some thoughts up on my own personal site around the end of 2004. Nothing special there, just a bit of ranting, reviewing, and pimping whatever I'd published at the moment. I didn't start a sports blog until October 2006, when I launched Sports Gone South. It was the confluence of multiple events, I was at something of a career crossroads, looking for a new angle on sportswriting; I'd just discovered Deadspin; and my agent and I were discussing how I should start raising my profile and creating more of a "brand name" for myself. I'd written the same way I write now on sports blogs for years; I used to do a game-picking column in college that was the same sort of riffing, using sports as a jumping-off point for whatever I felt like ranting about. So, part of starting blogging was for fun, and part was a (theoretically) canny career move. So far, so good; Sports Gone South led to a paying gig writing Right Down Peachtree, Atlanta magazine's Atlanta-only sports blog. (RIP RDP, ed.)

Did you have any goals going into starting a blog, or was it primarily self-serving?

The goals at the beginning were pretty amorphous - get my name out there isn't exactly a coherent business plan, you know? But once I got rolling on it, I started seeing what was possible out there. There's no major sports blog devoted exclusively to Southern sports, so that's what I'm working toward. What I think we're seeing now is more of a niche, narrowcasting sort of approach. Blogs are taking a single mission - a single sport, a single team, a single aspect of the sporting universe - and becoming the established new-media expert on that sector. I think that's going to be the best way to distinguish yourself going for ward; generalists can just get lost in the mix.

How would describe the mainstream media's coverage of sports prior to you starting a blog?

Top-down. Not that it has anything whatsoever to do with my blog, but the mainstream sports media, like the political media, is realizing that fans/readers aren't idiots, and in many cases possess more expertise than the often self-proclaimed "experts". It's not enough to give the scores alone, but if you want to go blathering on about some topic, you'd best be sure you've got something to say. I think the anonymity of the Internet gives bloggers an inherent distaste for the mindless self-promotion of certain media types. It's the logical, though nauseating, outgrowth of New Journalism, where the journalist himself affects (and, in some cases, becomes) the story. The problem is, when the journalist in question isn't particularly interesting, or doesn't have much to say, you're going to see readers clamoring for a return to the story itself - which is what blogs do.

Did MSM sports coverage have any effect on your idea to start a blog?

Indirectly. I think I started it right after one of the massively overhyped Red Sox-Yankees series - it was a regular-season one, not even a playoff - and I, like most of the rest of America west of the Hudson, was saying, "Enough of this crap. It's a good rivalry, but it's not the ONLY rivalry." So my initial blog tagline was, "Really, haven't we heard enough about the Yankees and Red Sox?" The problem with MSM, as with any powerful medium, is that the medium dictates the message. A bloop single in Yankee Stadium gets infused with more drama than a game-winning three-run homer in Tropicana Field. And that's wrong, friends, wrong on so many levels.

What do you think made sports blogging popular?

It's the old "sports bar" motif - when you're at a sports bar, you want to talk, you don't want to sit and listen to someone talk AT you. You want to rant, rave, joke, whine, laugh, the whole range of emotions. Blogs let you do that, and the best of 'em allow readers to find like-minded folks and form a mini-community that assesses sports and life without having to be told THIS IS AN IMPORTANT GAME by some outside entity. Fight the power, man!

Are you surprised at all with the growth of the sports blogging community?

Not a bit. I think it'll only grow as non-blogger-types start to realize, hey, there's some cool stuff on this here Internet! I'm always amazed at how few people, relatively speaking, actually read sports blogs. I get links from Deadspin or whatever, and it's a couple thousand hits at best. Then I get a link from Sports Illustrated, and it's SEVENTY THOUSAND hits. And even that doesn't encompass the entire fanbase, much of which is content to watch the games alone. Once blogging becomes more of a mainstream medium, not just in sports but in all media, you'll see even more exponential growth.

What is more important to a blogger's success: ease of technology (publishing, voice, etc) or quality of content?

I'd actually add "voice" as a third category to that question. It's not enough to have something good to say, it has to be stated effectively in a blogging format: fast and funny/sharp/witty. But yes, you've got to have a quality presentation - courier font on a white background doesn't cut it anymore. You need the mix of pictures, video, and content to keep the attention of the masses.

In the end, though, I think you have to have quality content to go the farthest. People will call you out if you screw up stats or mischaracterize their team - try talking trash about the Kentucky Wildcats and see what happens, for instance - so you'd better know your stuff.

How important is it to capture the voice of the "common" sports fan?

Not very. Matter of fact, I don't think there is such a thing as the "common" sports fan. Some are interested in stats, others in stories, others in rumors. I don't think there's this amorphous mass of fans out there with one common voice or perspective. As with any creative endeavor, it's essential you tell your own story in your own words. Write what you like, and the money (and readers) will follow. That's an oversimplification, of course; you could write all day long about Mesopotamian kickball if you wanted and you probably still wont get many readers. But if you try to follow trends "hey, let's talk about how the Patriots are like Britney Spears!?" your posts are going to be dead on arrival.

Do you think blogging has changed the presentation of sports coverage by the MSM in the last 5 years? If so, how?

Absolutely. We've knocked athletes off their pedestals, and that's a good thing. Take a look at the way Fox Sports presents games now - you practically want to douse yourself in holy water and bow before the icons of Favre and Jeter. But these guys are idiots just like the rest of us - probably more so than the rest of us. Of course, the end result of this idol-knocking is paparazzi, so maybe that's not a good thing. But I don't think as many people WORSHIP athletes anymore, and that's a good thing.

Could you call sports blogging a "revolution"? If so, has it succeeded? What needs to be done?

Absolutely, it's a revolution. Real-time reaction to events, the elevation of the fan, it's all useful. The problem is that there's still an ingrained distrust of blogging in general - some from MSM journalists who perceive a threat or don't want to deal with the added competition, some from readers who just don't realize the level of talent that's out there in the blogosphere. But what you'll see in coming years is columnists and editors who grew up reading Deadspin and blogs, and don't see it as "the new thing" but as just another element of the sports landscape. Bloggers will get credentials to games, and other fans will realize that blogging isn't just pajama'd freaks in their mom's basements.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Great First Date Ideas



Through my years of trials and tribulations with members of the finer gender, I've become a bit of an expert on first dates. Not so much on second dates, third dates, or even the concept of "dating", but definitely first dates. I average a few a year. Some go well, some not so well, some are best left not discussed.

(In care you are curious, however, here is my worst date: I picked her up in my military uniform after I got off work - she was not impressed as she told me her dad was in the service. Then we went to eat. I ordered a dinner, she ordered a side salad, ate two pieces of lettuce and a carrot slice and then watched me eat. After "dinner", we were supposed to go play putt-putt or something, but she claimed she needed to go home as her friend had an "emergency" and she need to go see her. So I drove her home. The end.)

With all my experience in first dates, I figured I would endow my readers with some wit and wisdom and a couple of creative ideas for your next first date (or, if you are married, the next time you take the Mrs. out).

The Ultimate Cheap Date

Remember in the movie Half Baked, when Dave Chappelle takes Mary Jane out on a date for a few hours and only spends eight bucks (after robbing the homeless guy)? Well, this date is sorta like that, only without pilfering from the down and out. The goal and theme of this date is to make it as romantic, meaningful, and thoughtful as possible while spending as little as possible. Because face it, a woman who demands you take her to Red Lobster so she can order a 20 dollar salad is probably not the type of girl for any reader of this blog, is she?

The first step in the Ultimate Cheap Date is to buy a few cheap candles, placemats, and maybe a table cloth. Trust me, you can get most of this stuff from the Salvation Army or wherever. Then bring your date to Taco Bell or anywhere else with a dollar menu. Or if you want to go really cheap, aim for less than 99 cents - a McDonald's hamburger and cheeseburger or a hard taco at Taco Bell. Then, after you pick the restaurant, set up a table like it is a real high class date. Lay out the table cloth, placemats, and light the candles. It will look sharp, trust me. Then play the date like you are taking her to the most expensive place in town.

The Consensus Date

These days we are all about open source things (programs, designs, etc). We are becoming more and more open to the idea of people we don't know contributing to what we do. Why not bring this concept into dating?

We have all been on dates that don't start so well. You sit there, trying desperately to connect and find something to talk about. You try news, sports, school, jobs, personal history, family, and even the weather, but the conversation is still as flat as 50-year old soda. Whatever you do, nothing works.

Time to open source and let the people decide your fate.

Once you realize the date is going nowhere fast, walk over to the nearest couple and ask them for help. Make it quick, and don't waste their time, but still get them to offer you some advice. People love giving advice, especially relationship advice. After you get that couple's suggestions, go to another table and ask them the same question. Try and get a popular consensus on what to do. Then, after you have a few suggestions or an overwhelming opinion on what to do, go back to your table and see if the people around you are smarter than you are. If anything, you just extended your date by telling your date what you just did. Maybe she will see the humor. What do you have to lose?

Now I can't say I have done either of these ideas. I am just saying that I think they could work. They might even get you a second date.

(Image from ancestry.com.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The First Ever AfroSquad Video

As many of you know, I frequently roll with the Afro-Squad. I am not an original member, by any stretch of the imagination. The Afro-Squad has been fighting The Man since the mid-1990s.

Recently uncovered by Bothan spies deep in the caves of Afghanistan comes the first ever Afro-Squad video. Oddly, there are two versions. The first was posted on SpikeTV by the SnowMan.



The second, on youtube, had the sound removed by The Man.

 

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thinking Thanks and Masticated Mashed Potatoes



Like millions and millions of Americans, I did my giving of thanks Thursday. A lot of people call it rude, but I try to save up all my thanks for Thanksgiving day. I make a concentrated effort not to thank anyone for anything any other day. I try to never say "thanks" or "thank you" or even "gracias". And I definitely don't thank people "very much". I save all these thankings for one day. Then I thank in bulk. It's a lot easier that way. Like going to Costco or Sam's Club.

Anyway, like I was saying, I had the fam all huddled around on this great day of thanking. We had the wee tykes, the elders, the kin folk, and the rest. And we did what everyone else does.

We consumed cranberry sauce, swallowed succatash, gummed gravy, bit biscuits, masticated mashed potatoes, put away pickles, nibbled on noodles, chewed on cheese and mac, polished off pie, devoured dessert, and took in some turkey.

That's why I consider myself just a normal average guy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Visit to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar



A few weeks ago, during my overseas business trip, I had the pleasure of visiting the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. Opened less than a year ago, the museum is not only home to thousands of artifacts, from bowls and jewels to ancient Qur'anic texts, but it is also an architectural marvel, built by the same person who built the Louvre Pyramid in Paris.

Here is a video on the museum aired right before it opened:



To say I was impressed was an understatement. Honestly, I don't get out of the country much at all, so to have seen such a prominent display of culture and history was a treat. So if you are ever in Doha, do take the time to swing by the Museum of Islamic Art. It is well worth the visit. (That reminds me, it is also free admission.)

Is Rap Crap?



I was reading this article on Lil Wayne on CNN today when, against my better judgement, I browsed the comments. I'll admit this was a mistake, as comment sections are usually the sick ignorant underbelly of the Internet (except on this site, of course, where all my commentors are fine, upstanding pillars of community).

What shocked me in the comments was the people who claimed "rap isn't music"? Are we really still having these kind of discussions? 30 years after rock entered the mainstream, did we question whether it was music? What about jazz? Gospel? Blues? Even heavy metal gets more respect by the close-minded than hip-hop.

As much as I should disregard the incoherent babblings of ignorant CNN commentor, I do think that his or her opinion is far from unordinary. Here is a question: how many white middle class over-30 friends do you know who admit hip-hop is their favorite type of music? How many of them won't admit it for fear that they might get the "that's not white people music" look? How many of them fold like the dude in Office Space and claim they like radio-friendly alternative rock or country?

What do you think? Are we at a point yet in America where it is socially acceptable for middle class or even upper class white folks to be legitimate rap fans? Or are those people still seen as "wannabes" and "posers"?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stopping Driving While Old




Did you know old people are the 5th greatest cause of death on the roads?

Did you know the average old person drives 64% slower than the average driver?

Did you know old people are 51% less likely to pass a tractor driven by a chipmunk?

Like it or not, old people are a nuisance and should be categorically eliminated from our roadways.

Of course, I have a plan. I call it the "15 Year Plan". It's simple.

On their 69th birthday every driver has to take a driving test and renew their license.

On their 74th birthday (5 years later), they have to take another one.

On their 78th birthday (4 years later), drivers have to take a third test.

On their 81st birthday (3 years later), yet another test.

(Do you see the pattern yet?)

On their 83rd birthday (2 years later), drivers have to take another test.

Then on their 84th birthday and every birthday from there on, until they turn in their license, drivers must take yet another drivers test.

I think this could work. It might be a hassle for the department of motor vehicles. But they are trading their hard work for the common good.

Do you think this could work?

(By the way, those stats at the top might not be true.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cause of Death: Knocked Out By the Hero



Much to the chagrin of many people, I think too much. It happens all the time. Almost unconsciously. For some strange reason, whenever anything happens I can't just relax and let it go without having an opinion or attempting to fit whatever it is in my personal schema.

This includes movies. Even those that come with a disclaimer that "plot is sacrificed for the sake of explosions, porn, or kick-ass kung fu". Yup, even those I do too much thinking about.

Needless to say, an odd thought entered my cerebellum this weekend as I watched Star Wars: Episode III.

Did the Empire have a Casualty Notification process? How did they convey the news of the deaths of Imperial Officers and troops to the family they came from?

(I know most Stormtroopers were clones, at least through the Clone Wars Era. They didn't really have families, unless the Empire sent all the notices to Boba Fett, as he was their only next of kin. But the officers and other staff members had to have families. I don't think they were clones.)

I can't fathom the scope of the job of the Imperial Casualty Notification Office. Especially after the destruction of each of the Death Stars.

Here is how I think an Imperial death notice written after the Death Star explosion may have read:
"Dear Sir or Maam, 
Perhaps you heard, the Galactic Empire recent suffered a grave loss at the hands of rebel scum. Your son, (insert officer's name), was killed when these rogues destroyed our bastion of security, the Death Star. He, along with 31,622,963 fellow Imperial military members, lost their lives in the service our beloved Emperor.
In these sad times, be assured your loss is our loss. Your son was a valued member of our armed forces and the Emperor and Lord Vader have vowed to find and punish those responsible for his death. They will join us or be destroyed. 
Sincerely,
Galactic Empire Secretary of War/Defense"
(By the way, on the subject of remembering those who perished in the Death Star explosion, check out this hilarious College Humor.com video of Stormtroopers reminiscing.)

Of course, the idea of death notices should not be limited to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. What about the scores of other goons, henchmen, minions, and lackeys who were beaten, pummeled, or generally defeated at the hands of heroes? Who informed their loved ones? Did they have loved ones?

Take for example this scene from Bruce Lee's classic Enter The Dragon.



Bruce Lee knocked out 49 thugs in this 4 minute clip. Some just received a kick to the head, while others were flipped through glass, tossed into water, mauled by prisoners, or had their necks broken. It is, without a doubt, a cornucopia of kung-fu casualty creation.

But again I wonder, were the loved ones of these baddies informed of their unfortunate demise? Whose responsibility was it to write the families of these men and let them know their son, brother, husband, lover wouldn't be home for any more Thanksgivings, Christmases, or any other holidays? For whatever reason, I imagine a stereotypical middle-aged woman in a secretary role slaving over a typewriter filling out form after form after form and then getting them signed and put in the mail as soon as possible. I wonder what she would put as the cause of death. Knocked out by hero?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jordi 3:16 says ummm.....



There was an interesting post on Deadspin.com the other day. It linked to a Forbes piece written by Monte Burke on the once-passe-but-now-reemerging phenomenon of holding up Biblical scripture signs at sporting events.

A while back, I was watching a DVD of the 1986 NLCS playoffs (Mets versus Astros) and I thought about the same thing. During that game, it was impossible to miss a John 3:16 sign in stands. I think there were roughly 3,412 of them, give or take 3,400. I was even thinking about writing a post over at ye olden site about that very phenomenon.  I had the title and everything. I was going to call it "Where have you gone John 3:16?". Amazing, I know. It rolls off the tongue.

What I didn't have, however, was anything more than the notion that you don't see those signs anymore. In his article, Burke did what I wanted to do, chronicle the rise and fall (and now reemergence) of John 3:16. He found the man who started the trend (a certified nutbar named Rollen Stewart - check out this video on just how loopy he was), then he wrote about how the signs disappeared for years, but have slowly returned thanks to Tim Tebow's fame and faith.

(Before I go any further, a word of warning: please do not associate me with Rollen Stewart just because he also had afro wig and was a charismatic fan who wore glasses and liked to do the thumbs-up sign. His afro was rainbow colored, ok?)

My one complaint about Burke's article was that it failed to mention a sharp turn in the life of 3:16 quoting. Soon after Rollen Stewart disappeared from the limelight and was subsequently locked in the clink for three life terms, an emerging pro wrestler named Stone Cold Steve Austin created his own version of 3:16 and used it as one of his main catch phrases on his way to wrestling immortality.

The timeline then goes a little something like this:
  • Rollen Stewart uses John 3:16 from 1980 to 1992

  • Stone Cold Steve Austin uses Austin 3:16 from 1996 to approximately 2004

  • Tim Tebow is sparking a John 3:16 revival in 2009
As you can see, it usually takes about four years after a 3:16 fad faded for it to reemerge. The way I see it, Tim Tebow can't play forever. I'll give him until 2020, tops. And that's if he makes the NFL (which I think he will) and has at least a solid career (to be determined).

So therefore, in 2025 or maybe late 2024 I have to be ready. Ready to pounce with a new 3:16 theme. A "Jordi 3:16". Or maybe an "Afro 3:16". Or maybe "The Man 3:16". Then there has to be a phrase that goes with it.

What do you guys think? What phrase should I use? And if I make the signs will you carry them around town in 2025?

We're talkin' global.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Metalocalypse and My Top Cartoons of the Last Few Years



In the last year, I've grown into a bit of a cartoon fan. I've been watching more and more animation than I ever have. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because the subject matter is usually less serious than anything else on television. Maybe it's because cartoons are where slapstick humor has gone. Maybe it is the creative vibe. Or maybe it is because cartoons are short and my attention span is slowly dwindling.

Whatever the reason, I have bought a bunch of cartoon DVD box sets lately. Probably my best purchase was the Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 5. Absolutely classic Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the rest of the gang. And the bonus features tell a lot about the stories behind the cartoons. I never paid much attention to the directors, artists, and musical score writers before. Now I am a much more astute cartoon watcher.

I am discussing cartoons because tonight I finally finished another one of my better buys: Season 2 of the Adult Swim cartoon series Metalocalpyse (I finished Season 1 a few weeks ago).  For those who aren't hip to Metalocalpyse, it is the story of Dethklok, the world's greatest, most prolific death metal band. Think Spinal Tap meets He-Man meets Star Wars meets a grown-up version of Beavis and Butt-head. Absolutely hilarious.

(Apparently Season 3 just started a few weeks ago as well. This is good. However, I don't have DVR capability and I am absolutely terrible at timing my life around non-sports TV shows. I'll just wait until the box set comes out.)

By the way, Dethklok is also a great example of a cross-media venture. Not only are they the main characters in the Metalocalypse cartoon, but they are also a real band who are on tour right now. Of course, the faces are different, but the music performed on the show is the same. And that is a great way to keep the core fans interested. Kinda like the Monkees meets the Gorillaz, only cooler. Check out a recent interview with creator Brandon Small where he talks about this exact premise.

Anyway, having finished the Metalocalypse box sets, I started thinking about what I would classify as my favorite cartoon series. For someone born in the 70's, this was a tough question. I grew up on Scooby Doo, the USA Cartoon Express, the aforementioned He-Man, G.I. Joe, Transformers, and of course the classic Looney Tunes and Disney serials from previous generations. So I narrowed the question down to the last few years.

(I can do that. It was my question, asked to me. I could put whatever qualifier I wanted on it. Maybe someday I will expand the parameters, but not now.)

So, in no particular order:
  • The Boondocks

  • Metalocalypse

  • Afro Samurai

  • Phineus and Ferb
I know you are asking, "Phineus and Ferb, really?". Yeah, really. Those kids are hilarious. I can't watch cartoons full of action and adventure and death and destruction all the time, you know.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Would Selling Stock in the Seminoles Limit Booster Influence?

(Originally posted on ScalpEm.com)

Last Thursday, Darren Rovell of CNBC and several other news outlets reported that the Boise State University Athletic Department was going to start selling stock certificates to raise money for the athletic department.  According to Rovell, "athletic director Gene Bleymaier announced the formation of a non-profit organization (Boise State Broncos Inc.) that is seeking fans to invest in future Boise State athletic projects."

Rovell reports that fans will pay $100 a share to receive "a stock certificate as well as voting power at board meetings, where it is decided how the money will be used." Not included in the purchase are rights any bowl game money, a share of concessions from game day, any dividends or appreciation."

Basically, a share in Boise State Broncos, Inc. is a vote on the dissemination of athletic department funds.

Personally, I like this idea. Although it is not without its dilemmas. First of all, what if a rich alumnus of Boise St.'s main rival bought all the shares? Second, could the shareholders choose to keep all of the money in the athletic department and withhold it from the rest of the university? What if they reinvested the money in the football program and let the other sports to wither from lack of funding?

Once these issues get fixed, I would like to see Florida State follow the lead of Boise St. I think selling stock in the Noles would eliminate some of the sway of the Seminole Boosters. However well meaning they may proclaim themselves as being, I have never trusted the booster program. Especially after what they did during the Jeff Bowden fiasco. I don't think any one group should be able to hold a public institution's financial backing hostage pending a decision by those employed by the institution. Especially if it is based on the actions of personnel on an athletic playing field.

Although I would like to see all booster programs eliminated and donations to the university given to the highest office and then vetted down to the departments by need, not by whim, I don't think that will happen anytime soon. In the meantime we might as well use stock issuing as a way to formalize the influence and benefits of the giving process. Perhaps making the Boosters official stock holders would make their influence more "official" and lift the veil on any dope deals, secret negotiations, and payoffs that might involve university employees. Not that boosters should have a say in those decisions anyway.

I guess in the real world money really does talk.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Eulogy for the Eliminated: The Serious Tip



Dearly Beloved,

Today we lay to rest this blog. Three years is a long time to write for one web site. Especially one as varied, unpredictable, and as one reader put it "mixed bag" as this one. And so it is with a heavy heart and just a wee bit of melancholy that I am closing down The Serious Tip and moving to JordiScrubbings.com.

What exactly was The Serious Tip, anyway? Originally, this blog was going to be called "The Not So Serious Tip" - sort of a tribute to the old HBO show "Not Necessarily the News". But I figured the name was a little long and I didn't have a clue what I was going to write. I just had a name.

(For a lack of a prequel, consider this the start of my blogging history. I think I already told the story about how I read Jenn Sterger's blog and thought to myself, if she can do it, so can I. So I am not going to re-tell that part.)

So after I decided on The Serious Tip, I started writing. After a brief introduction, I actually began this blog as a humorous commentary on headlines and news events. That lasted all of one blog post. Then I started writing about sports. As a matter of fact, only four posts out of 36 during the rest of 2006 were on non-sports subjects. Writing about sports came easy, it was well-rewarded (many of my early posts were linked to on Deadspin and The Big Lead), and I always wanted to write sports commentary.

Throughout 2007 and 2008 I made a bit of a reputation for myself as a sports blogger. I cameo'ed on nearly a dozen other sites - from the small (If I Ran ...) to the successful and influential (Deadspin). I also made regular appearances at YaySportsNBA, ScalpEm.com, Pomp Culture, and Thunder Matt's Saloon. I met quite a few fellow sports bloggers, from the always verbose MC Bias to Cork Gaines of RaysIndex. I talked possibly freelance gigs and books with Jay Busbee and the possibility of interviewing the top of the NBA with Mike Tillery. I emailed back and forth with Will Leitch, Henry Abbott, Andrew Carter of the Orlando Sentinel, and countless others. I was part of the sports blog community.

Then 2009 happened.

If you haven't noticed, I have blogged less and less about sports this year. I don't know if my disinterest was because of the disintegration of the sports blog community or just a coincidence. I may be wrong, but it seemed that when Will Leitch left Deadspin and the new powers that be stopped reaching out to the little blogs, linking to their stories, and giving them a little shine, the air quickly left the sports blogging community. Gone were the links, the comments, and the love. Many sports bloggers around the country began scrambling to fill full time gigs at any half-brained website. Some made it to AOL, ESPN, Yahoo!, and the like, but most just faded into Mike Tyson's Bolivia. I was one of those.

But it wasn't only because the community was falling apart. I stopped writing about sports because I was getting bored. I am not a beat reporter, and I never have been. I am not an expert on economics, behavioral science, or race relations, and I am definitely not a statistician or medical expert. I had no angle to keep me in it. I was just a fan who got most of his sports from the very blogging community he was contributing to. I grew tired of looking for some niche, some angle, or some interesting perspective. Sometimes there was none. Other times I just didn't want to write, and that is the worst thing a writer can say. I didn't want to write.

Fortunately, right as my interest level fell to an all-time low, my company sent me on an overseas trip. That gave me time to think and play off the sudden drop in posts with the excuse that "I didn't have time" or "Sorry, I didn't have an internet connection". Both of which, if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, are not true in the least.

So for the last few weeks I've pulled out an old standby, the Eulogy for the Eliminated series. What was a fun and creative series last year, thinking up witty eulogies for eliminated baseball teams, became a drag on a site that became a burden. Or a burden on a site that became a drag. Either way, I was going through the motions.

And that brings us to today. Three years, two months, 555 posts, and probably close to a million (maybe?) words later, and we have finally reached the end of the tip. But all is of course not lost. I'll still be writing, still blogging, and still creating, just over at my new site, JordiScrubbings.com. You can expect the same amount of irreverence, the same half-witted dry humor, the same attempts at satire, and the same random discussions on my varied tastes.

For my long term fans, however, I should warn you. I do intend on making two minor changes to my writing. My first goal is to make JordiScrubbings.com a bit more Tampa-centric. That means stories about my explorations and discoveries throughout the city I call home. My second change is I intend to write a bit more about me. I've always wanted to write about me more. To write about the people, places, and things in my life without reservation. Who knows, I might even slip in a post about my dating life, or lack there of. But don't bet on it.

Anyway, if you have enjoyed reading, perusing, or even belittling The Serious Tip over the last three years, I hope you follow me over to JordiScrubbings.com.

In closing, before I say good-bye to this not-so-serious-yet-appropriately-named website, I would like to say thank you. Thank you to all the bloggers and writers who gave me advice and encouragement. Thank you to all the commentors - you folks made my day with your snide comments, put-downs, and occasional words of encouragement. And thank you, most of all, to the you, the reader. Although I would have still written without you, you made it worth while. Knowing that I averaged roughly 150 of you a day and that over the course of three-plus years over 250,000 of you from all over the world visited the site makes me quite proud.

And now, without further adieu, I present to you JordiScrubbings.com: The Website. May you forever read and enjoy. And for The Serious Tip, may you, dear web site, Rest in Peace.

I'm out.



(Image created on request by Brian Spaeth of Brian23.com and the new web movie Who Shot Mamba?.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Measuring the true worth of a pro wrestler


By now it should come to no surprise that I am a bit of a pro wrestling fan. I'm not sure how it happened, but it did. I go to shows, hang out with other wrestling fans, and even have gotten to know some of the performers and a little about the business. I am by no means saying I am the second coming of Vince McMahon (who I have a growing respect for by the way), I am just saying I think I might know a bit more than the average fan who occasionally watches Monday Night Raw.

With this new found (or newly acknowledged) fandom in mind, I've started to put my deeply analytical and often out-of-the-box mind at work thinking about pro wrestling. Sort of in the same way sabermetric folks think about baseball or a growing number of people are thinking about basketball. Since I've always been amazed by the way the "stathead" fanbase flips and bounces the numbers, I wondered if someone could take the same magnifying glass to pro wrestling. That is, to dig into pro wrestling and see if there are any patterns, trends, or coincidences worth noting.

Ah, I can hear it now, "Baseball is real. Wrestling is fake. You can't compare them or think about them the same way. That's not only ridiculous, it is a waste of time. Why am I reading this?"

Well, if you are still with me, thank you. Because I am about to do the impossible, at least I think it is, I am going to introduce statistical analysis to the untamed wilderness of professional wrestling.

Here is a little college entrance exam analogy for you:

Wins is to Baseball like _____ is to Pro Wrestling

I am going to go with "Money". The quest for money is the lifeblood of pro wrestling like the quest for wins is to other sports. Not that money isn't in some way related to baseball and basketball, but financial gain is only a positive byproduct of the team's daily results. In pro wrestling however, the results of the contest not matter. It is an athletic show, similar to Circus De Soleil. But Circus De Soleil is not promoted like a sport like pro wrestling is. Therefore, I am combining the results of Circus De Soleil with the analysis of sports - accurately maintaining the standard of "sports entertainment".

Ok, now that I have (somewhat) established that money is the goal of a pro wrestling event, then what is it about pro wrestling that brings in money? My answer to that is "entertainment". Any pro wrestling promotion can make money the first time, but to be successful an organization has to entertain. That is, it has to provide a level of excitement to the fan base over that of competing venues of similar costs. That's cost-benefit and simple economics 101.

So where does the burden of entertainment in pro wrestling lay? Who is primarily responsible for ensuring the fans reach a level of entertainment that will best lead to a return visit? The answer to this question, to the chagrin of self-promoting owners, is with the wrestlers. They are the meat and potatoes of pro wrestling. They are as important as touching first base is to scoring in baseball. Without touching first, you cannot score. And without wrestlers, you cannot have a pro wrestling show.

(Note: some promoters and other in-ring personalities do have some entertainment value. But the majority of the burden of entertaining is on the wrestlers.)

If entertainment equals money, how do you measure entertainment? The best way I can figure to measure entertainment is through response. Unlike watching chess, watching pro wrestling should be an activity unto itself. Fans should cheer or boo or clap or root for their favorite. Wrestlers use these reactions to judge whether they are "getting over", i.e. their act is being bought by the crowd. So therefore, the best way to measure if the fans are entertained is the same way we should judge if a wrestler is "over" - by the amount of noise a crowd creates. To date, no promoter, at least that I know of, measures crowd engagement or crowd noise.

Using a generic noise level scale, the average conversation is at 60 decibels (dB). A loud crowd is somewhere between 100 dB and 120 dB (the equivalent to a riding lawn mower). So the average crowd noise should be somewhere just below that, say 90 dB. Of course, there might be a slight difference in the dB level of booing, as most people can't quite boo at the volume they can cheer. With this standard in mind, any wrestler that can't reach 90 dB could be referred to as Jabroni level (JL). Anything above 90 dBs could be called Value Above Jabroni (VAJ).

(Below JL would be the cursed BBL, or bathroom break level. If a wrestler can't crack BBL then they probably need to go back to training because they are not connecting with the crowd.)


So how could a wrestler get a crowd from Jabroni Level to above-Jabroni level? In my opinion, the first thing a wrestler can do to attach him or herself to the fans is have a catchy name. Like police dogs, most wrestlers go with short names, with most being at least two to four syllables (see "Hulk Hogan", "William Regal", etc). Either that or they have a memorable nickname, such as "The Butcher" or "The Dragon". The bottom line is that the name needs a good Chantability Factor (CF). If fans can chant it, they can make it heard.

As the name infers, CF is the ability of a name to be chanted. "Rocky" for example, has a great CF. Two syllables, rhythmic, and begins with hard consonants. You could even add two syllables in the chant and go with a "Let's go, Rocky." See, no more than four. On the other hand, Engelbert Humperdinck has a CF of zero. You can't do anything with a name like that.

Admittedly CF is a bit vague, but my next group of stats is precisely measurable. Again, the key is decibel level.

In wrestling, the antagonist character is called a "heel". The heel attracts the boos, the jeers, and negative feelings. His negative actions are what draw heat, or response. Some heels are better at drawing heat than others. Promoters obviously want the heel able to draw the most heat in the prominent matches. If an average heel musters a 90 dB response (Heat rating, or HR), then a good heel should, on average, draw more heat. Simply put, he or she draws Heat Over Average Heel (HOAH).

If a heel doesn't draw have a high enough heat rating, he or she might be paired with a manager. The difference between the heel's average heat rating and his heat rating with the manager could be called simply Manager Assisted Heat (MAH). A good heel manager should be able to draw heat to any wrestler, no matter how high or low the wrestler's initial heat rating. Of course, if a heel has a high enough heat rating, he or she wouldn't need a manager to begin with.

During the match, performers try to keep the crowd involved, whether cheering or booing. A good match will have a high Crowd Momentum (CM), meaning the crowd is well into the match and vocalizing their enthusiasm. This is easily measurable by the duration of a certain dB level during the match. The main event should probably have the highest CM of the show.

Wrestlers don't want the CM to be too high, however, or else the fans will have reached their peak prior to the climax of the match. During most matches, the climax occurs during one of the wrestlers' "end move" or "finisher". A finisher should rank high on the Crowd Popping End Move Scale (CPEM Scale), measurable by the difference between the crowd's dB level prior to, during, and after the move. A headlock, for example, would likely have a low CPEM score, as it is doubtful the crowd response would be that different. A chokeslam, on the other hand, has more suspense and drama to it, hence a probable higher CPEM score.

I'll admit, I seriously doubt promoters will start measuring dB levels and other measurements of crowd enjoyment anytime soon. (Although here is a dB meter for only a few hundred bucks.) If pro wrestling is one thing, it's traditional.

Then again, who would have though baseball, the most traditionalist of all sports, would lead the way with statistical analysis? Maybe, once again, I am just ahead of my time.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

ESPN listens to reason: No more "Sorority Row" ads during FSU games



I want to drop a quick post before today's game to congratulate FSU for taking a stand against something I was shocked to see a few weeks ago. I'm not sure how many people remember, but during the FSU-Miami game ESPN broadcast several ads for the new horror movie "Sorority Row", a film about a murderer who targets a college sorority.

As many older alumni can attest, a movie about killing sorority girls hits a little too close to home. For those who don't remember, please google "Ted Bundy Chi Omega".

Personally, when I first saw the ad, I immediately hit the twitter expressing my opposition:

"A movie about killing sorority girls during an FSU game. Programmers apparently never heard of Ted Bundy."

Apparently I wasn't the only person bothered by this. ESPN Ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer wrote that he received at least one email regarding the classless ad.

"When a sales opportunity presents itself, it's incumbent upon ESPN to consider particular circumstances that could give some viewers added concerns about potentially tasteless advertising. Such a case arose in the Sept. 7 Florida State-Miami telecast."

I guess at some point the FSU Athletic Department expressed concern and contacted ESPN on behalf of the entire FSU community. The result, according to FSU's Rob Parker on Seminoles.com, is that ESPN is pulling the ads.

"Three cheers for ESPN which responded to a letter from your Director of Athletics who asked the network to consider not airing advertisements for the horror film Sorority Row during Florida State games in particular and all college events in general.  The network understood FSU's sensitivity after the Chi Omega murders on this campus and agreed with the suggestion to pull the ads."

I know Hollywood is going to make horror movies exploiting our fears. It happens. That's why Psycho and Jaws, etc are so effective. But marketing them to the victims continuously during a sporting event was a little over the top. No matter how long ago something happened, people have to be sensitive to the scars of an atrocity.

Good to see ESPN doing the right thing.

Freakonomics is now questioning Steroids of the Mind



Quick post, as I am working on something more extensive:

I read an interesting post on the New York Times Freakonomics Blog today. In a post entitled "Are Ritalin-Taking Students Cheaters?", the Freakonomics folks link to an article on an Australian site that discusses the scientific work of an Australian researcher who claims concentration drugs could become a problem for academia.

Sound familiar?

Back in July 2007, I posted a letter I wrote to the Florida State University newspaper in 2005. That letter, entitled "Ban Steroids of the Mind", addressed this exact problem, of course in my own hyperbolic and over-exaggerated way of looking at it.

According to Vince Cakic, author of the study "Smart drugs for cognitive enhancement: ethical and pragmatic considerations in the era of cosmetic neurology",

"Reports in the popular press suggest that smart drugs or "nootropics" such as methylphenidate, modafinil and piracetam are increasingly being used by the healthy to augment cognitive ability. Although current nootropics offer only modest improvements in cognitive performance, it appears likely that more effective compounds will be developed in the future and that their off-label use will increase. One sphere in which the use of these drugs may be commonplace is by healthy students within academia. This article reviews the ethical and pragmatic implications of nootropic use in academia by drawing parallels with issues relevant to the drugs in sport debate. It is often argued that performance-enhancing drugs should be prohibited because they create an uneven playing field. However, this appears dubious given that "unfair" advantages are already ubiquitous and generally tolerated by society. There are concerns that widespread use will indirectly coerce non-users also to employ nootropics in order to remain competitive."

Compare that to what I wrote in 2005 and repeated in 2007:

"Similar to growth enhancement products, mental enhancers promote an unfair advantage and distort the academic "playing field". Whereas neither physical nor mental supplements provide magical results without at least a level of skill or subject understanding, the similarities between these products are quite eerie."


It's about time other smart people caught on to what I've been talking about. Once again, I am ahead of the power curve. Maybe one day I'll have a forum like Freakonomics.

Are Ritalin-Taking Students Cheaters? - Freakonomics, October 2, 2009

'Academic doping' set to rise: expert - abc.net.au, October 1, 2009

Smart drugs for cognitive enhancement: ethical and pragmatic considerations in the era of cosmetic neurology - Cakic, Vince, Journal of Medical Ethics 2009;35:611-615; doi:10.1136/jme.2009.030882.

"Ban Steroids of the Mind" - The Serious Tip, July 2007

Friday, September 18, 2009

Why Joe Mauer Should Not Be 2009 AL MVP



As another baseball season comes to a close, tis the season for the rumblings and grumblings of media folks and bloggers telling us which player should win what award.

Vote for Pujols for NL MVP! He is the second coming of (insert legendary player).

Vote for (Grienke, Sabathia, Verlander, etc, etc.) for AL Cy Young!

Vote for Coghlan for NL Rookie of the Year! He plays for the Marlins! Yes, they are still a team!

Perhaps the most discussed awards race so far is for the American League MVP. There is no dispute several players are having great years. Players such as Mark Teixiera, Kendry Morales, Carl Crawford, and Miguel Cabrera.

Despite the great years by these players, most columns have focused on one of two players, either the Yankees' Derek Jeter or the Twins' Joe Mauer.

Mauer has the support of numerous writers, bloggers, statisticians, and analysis web sites. He is leading in most offensive categories, from traditional stats like batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage, to advanced SABRmetric measurements such as Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), OPS+, Win Shares, etc, etc, etc. He is also playing Gold Glove caliber defense at perhaps the toughest position in baseball: catcher.

Jeter has his own supporters in the baseball media, including writers, columnists, reporters, and other die-hard fans. Although Jeter's on-the-field numbers maybe not be as good as Mauer's, Jeter-backers advocate Jeter's intangibles, such as leadership, presence, and clutchiness. They even bring up the fact that he now holds the all-time record for hits by a Yankee.

From reading what has been written so far, you would think the battle is Mauer's stats versus Jeter's reputation and body of work. It is of course impossible to make this comparison. There is no way to match performance data with intangibles. None.

So far, the Mauer-backers have taken the lead in matching up the two candidates. They point out that Mauer beats Jeter in every category, bar none. It is their conclusion that because Mauer has better numbers, he should be MVP.

In response, the Jeter-backers call the Mauer-backers "nerds" and "stat geeks".

End of conversation, right?

As Lee Corso would say, not so fast, my friend.

Where the Jeter-backers fail is that they don't level the playing field. They sit back and get destroyed by conceding that Mauer is having a better season. They never attempt to hold Mauer up to the standards they hold Jeter to. This is their Achilles Heel. They don't bring up the fact that while Jeter has led the pristine life of a living Yankee legend seemingly since birth, Mauer didn't become the man he is until after he put on a Twins uniform.

The bottom line is that Joe Mauer can't be trusted.

Before his professional baseball debut, Joe Mauer did something so heinous, so outrageous, and so destructive, it should be forever held against him during the consideration of any and all awards.

Joe Mauer turned his back on Bobby Bowden and the Florida State Seminoles.

Following his senior year in high school, Joe Mauer was the most highly recruited quarterback in the nation. According to reports, he won three national football player of the year awards, and had the poise and potential to be among the greatest ever.

One writer claimed, "it is possible that in 50 years people will sit around and talk about those who were football’s finest; they will speak of Sayers and Payton and Unitas and Montana and Marino, but they may very well save a sentence for someone else, and that someone might be Joe Mauer."

At the time, Florida State was the premier football program in the nation. They had come off three straight national championship appearances and were chock full of future NFL players. And they had Joe Mauer.

Mauer's verbal agreement that he would be wearing garnet and gold after high school made Florida State the number one recruiting class of 2001. Mauer was to fit in behind Chris Rix and compete with Adrian McPherson for future field general of the Seminoles. With hindsight being what it is, there was probably little doubt Mauer would have even taken the job from Rix before Rix's graduation. With Mauer, the Florida State dynasty was set to continue.

Then Mauer "turned down (his) football scholarship from Florida State University to enter the Major League Baseball Draft". Despite a verbal commitment, Mauer was off to play baseball. According to Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star, Bobby Bowden remained so enamored by Mauer's potential he claimed he would "keep a scholarship open for Mauer 12 years after he was done with baseball".

Would Derek Jeter dare break a verbal agreement of that magnitude? Although Jeter received a scholarship to play baseball in Michigan, there is no evidence he let the Wolverine program hang out to dry. Jeter is a class act and a gentleman. Had someone with Jeter's character and the skills of Mauer committed to FSU, there is little doubt he would have been a Seminole. He would have followed his word.

It is for that reason that I can not possibly endorse Joe Mauer for AL MVP. Mauer may have the statistical advantage, he may be the greatest player in the American League, and he may even be seven feet tall and shoot fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse. But after what he did to Florida State University, Joe Mauer does not have the moral composition to be a most valuable player.

(This post was of course written by an FSU alumnus.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

How to Talk To Girls on Twitter



E-migo Brian Spaeth is doing a virtual tour promoting his new movie and other ventures. You know what that means: Guest Post!

HOW TO TALK TO GIRLS ON TWITTER

I've known Jordi for several years now, and pretty much at every turn I screw him over in some way - one time I had him write on my old website for like 4 months (more like 18 months, ed.), and then I deleted all his posts later.

What's wrong with me.

Anyway, I know he's been getting active in social networking and social media and social internetting and being social online and also Twitter. As such - and because I am a self-perceived expert in these areas - I've decided to give Jordi something for his website blog.

Here is - as clearly as I can state them - the best ways to meet - and not meet - girls on Twitter. I didn't create all of these, but I've certainly perfected them.

1) Don't swear. Look at it this way - there are many girls who are offended by swearing, but very few who are offended by not swearing. Swearing was impressive when you were 12.

2)
Be action-packed in your picture. There's a reason I have a picture that's action-packed looking. It's so girls think I'm always on an exciting adventure while I do my important Twitter typing.

3) Never, ever talk about how raw Green Lantern is in your profile. Stuff like this maybe only works for me.

4) Legalities aside, if you're over 24 or so, don't follow 18-year olds. For real - the 25-year olds find it off-setting, and like...just don't do it. 19-year olds are fine.

NOTE: In an odd bit of counter-point, I just looked, and 75% of the people I follow are 18-year old girls.

5)
Along those same lines, is it "18-year olds" or "18 year-olds". Hyphen placement perplexes me, especially since my personal abandonment of the question mark. Oh - don't mess with grammar at all, or imply you lack education. Girls hate this.

6) Don't do sexual innuendo in public. Like any males who follow you are just gonna think it's weird, and any females who respond to it are just giggling at you with their friends. They're not giggling with you.

NOTE: SERIOUSLY, DON'T DO THIS. NO JOKES HERE.

7) Don't talk about how you hate dogs. This only works for me. In cases where this is done and it's not me, it's unsettling for females.

8) Don't be arrogant and self-absorbed. This is another that only I seem able to pull off.

9) You shouldn't Tweet about how you're going to the gym, unless you're doing it with fake bad grammar with an implication of an aversion to dogs, and also to meet 18-year old girls.

10) Be yourself. Also, if you search for "Grey's Anatomy", that's where all the good-looking girls are. Also "Gossip Girl", but that's only for 18-year olds, and you know you shouldn't be talking to them on Twitter anyway.

Which of these do you think are real and which are not. Also, do you think Jordi should delete this post one day -

Brian Spaeth is the writer and star of Who Shot Mamba?, a Broadband Motion Picture debuting October 13th on Koldcast.tv. You can see the first teaser-trailer on the website, and the second exclusively at the Facebook Page. Brian has also published two novels, and writes regularly at his own blog.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Happy 3rd Birthday to The Serious Tip



Today is The Serious Tip's 3rd birthday. Three years. In Internet years, that's a long time to be blogging. Here in the online world, where a week of popularity gets you a million hits and a cup of coffee, I've been around for an eon. I've seen 'em come and seen them go. I've seen people turn their blogging habit into a living and others who have walked away and moved to other pastures.

The Serious Tip started during the Great Sports Blog Emergence of 2006, when sports-related blogs were popping out of the wazoo. Back then I would definitely call myself a "sports blog". I wrote about the Mets, Knicks, and Noles nearly every post. As the days, months, and years went on, I wrote less about sports, although I have written a lot about the Rays. Even with the success of the local teams on my mind, I have drifted further and further from the sports label. Now, I wouldn't even call myself a sports blogger. I am more of a "whatever I feel like" blogger.

If I would have to venture a guess as to why The Serious Tip is drifting, I would say that I am getting bored. I still love writing. I love knowing that someone is reading what I write. I love telling stories. I love delving into views and aspects that most people don't think of. Most of all, I love creating. But unfortunately I am not sure if I am attaining those goals here currently at The Serious Tip.

Don't get me wrong, I am not planning on abandoning my group of very loyal readers. Some of you have been here since day one. For that I am definitely appreciative. Don't worry, whatever happens I fully want this site to be part of my personal expansion and development. I have put too much work in to walk away from The Serious Tip. But if you see a few changes around here, please be patient and embrace them. After three years, it is time for The Serious Tip and my writing career to grow up.

Thanks for three great years and here's to many more. Happy SeriousTipMas.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Adventures in computer buying and the art of patience



Like the able grasshopper of ancient Samurai-era Japan, getting myself back online took skill, determination, persistance, and plenty of patience. Fortunately, it didn't involve the use of any swords. Almost, but not quite.

My ancient computer went kaput ten days ago. A stupid virus took out my windows registry. It was a sad moment as my machine had been with me for six years, through thick and thin, grad school, over 500 blog posts, and one or two excusions into the deepest, darkest dungeons of cyberspace.

(Not that one of those excursions caused me to download the virus. Nope. No way. Not at all.)

Unfortunately, as there is no cash for clunkers program for computers, I had to scrounge up a few hundred thousand pennies for buying a new machine. Something I had not planned for following my sojourn to Memphis only a month ago. Not helping matters was the fact that some slimy scoundrel stole some money from me via a fraudulent transaction in Surprise, Arizona.

(Yes, I caught a computer virus and was a victim of bank fraud in the same week. How very 21st century of me.)

After laboriously counting the nickels, dimes, and a few quarters I did have and cancelling all my cards, I went to Best Buy to check out their wares and find a laptop. Although not intending to buy, I brought the Blackberry and reviewed every single laptop they had. At first I wasn't too impressed, both with the selection and the service. I'm not a big salesperson person, and I hate when I see several salesfolks lead customers to the same item. It makes it seem like they are pushing something they are trying to get rid of.

Frustrated, I left computer-less.

The next day I went back, once again ready to buy at Best Buy. This time I brought my checkbook, since of course my cards were no good. After once again going through the options, I settled on an HP. I strolled on up to the cashier, wrote the check, and lo and behold, my check was no good. Apparently, my check fit the profile of a fraudulent check. I think that's irony.

I left without a computer for the second day.

On day three, I was intent on buying a new computer, problems be damned. As Puffy sang, can't nothing hold me down. For the third time, I went to Best Buy around 1pm. Unfortunately, they were sold out of my machine. By this time, I didn't care if I had to drive to Miami to get this computer, no deity was going to stop me from buying the computer I wanted.

After asking where I can buy the computer of my dreams, I had to drive nearly 30 minutes to the next closest Best Buy. Supposedly, they had eight of my computer left. Of course, when I got there, they had only two. Two of my dream machines, with one little catch: they were both already tinkered with by the Geek Squad and would cost an additional 70 bucks. At this point, I didn't care.

I walked out with my computer, finally happy.

Then I discovered it didn't come with an AC adapter.

Ugh.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Journey to Memphis and the Crossroads: Part 6: Falling down on my knees



I promise this the last post about my vacation, especially considering I have been back home for three weeks. (I am really milking this, aren't I? To be perfectly honest, I've been really busy with some personal issues and this is ideal filler, given you guys are actually reading it.)

Anyway, after visiting Memphis I drove an hour and a half down Highway 61 to legendary Clarksdale, Mississippi, birthplace of the blues and the place where Robert Johnson supposedly made his deal with the Devil. Unfortunately, modern times have changed the landscape of Highway 61, as it is now several miles east of its original route. The real legendary crossroads is now the intersection of Hwy 49 and Hwy 161, which, as I was surprised to learn, is a rather busy intersection. I'm not sure how ol' Robert Johnson could have negotiated with the Devil without being seen; it's definitely not at all like the crossroads in the Ralph Macchio movie.

(By the way, there is an amazing BBQ joint called Abe's at the crossroads. According to the Abe's menu, it is very possible Robert Johnson might just have been munching on some BBQ when the Devil arrived. Being that Johnson made his deal in the early to mid-1930's and Abe's has been there since the 20's, their claim might be true. Although, to be perfectly honest, I don't know why the Devil would concern himself with something as useless as a soul when there is tasty BBQ in the area. The Devil works in mysterious ways, I guess.)

While in Clarksdale, I caught all the high point tourist places: the Delta Blues Museum, the Ground Zero Blues Club, Red's Juke Joint, and I even stayed at the world famous Riverside Inn. All of these are highly recommended not only for blues fans, but for anyone who wants to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city life and go to a place more simple, a place more quiet, and a place where you can kick back, grab some BBQ and a sweet tea, and listen to some good ol' American music the way it's supposed to be played: with heart, with feeling, and from the soul.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Journey to Memphis and the Crossroads Part 5: The Semi-Conclusion



A few weeks ago I began chronicling my vacation to downtown Memphis and the Mississippi Delta. Unfortunately, due to my own laziness, I never finished the project. If you remember, I got through Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 and left with the command for you to "Tune in tomorrow as I discuss my trip to Sun Studio, the Stax Museum, and Graceland, home of the King."

Sorry about that. I hope you weren't expecting too much.

Well, the "tomorrow" I mentioned is now upon you. Sort of. Instead of typing a lengthy 500-or-more word review, I'm only going to say that Graceland is overrated but quirky, the Sun Studio is one of the most important cultural landmarks in America, and the Stax Museum is amazingly underrated. I was most impressed by the Stax Museum, awed by the Sun Studio, and comically amused by the decadence of Elvis's crib.

By the way, did you know Elvis is dead? They actually say so at Graceland. All this time I thought he was hanging out with Michael Jackson in a diner outside of Artesia, New Mexico. I don't know what to believe anymore.

Coming soon ... a review of my visit to Clarksdale, Mississippi, the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Fest, and the locally produced blues documentary "M For Mississippi".


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rapper Paul Wall versus The Man



Last week, blogger Rafi Kam of the blog Oh Word wrote an awesome piece on rapper Ice Cube's classic hit "It Was a Good Day". To summarize, Rafi Kam said that although most people now take the song out of context, Ice Cube's classic isn't "really about some kick-ass day. The day singled out was remarkable because for once none of the usual bullshit associated with the terror of life in the hood reared its ugly head. No hassle from carjackers or police, no one killed, the narrator can’t believe he didn’t even have to shoot at somebody."

In other words, for one day in his life, Ice Cube didn't have to put up with The Man.

Saturday night, another hip-hop star, Texas rapper Paul Wall, battled The Man in a more modern forum, the online world of Twitter. Once again, Ice Cube's lyrics played a central role.

Below is the actual exchange between Paul Wall (aka @paulwallbaby) and The Man (aka @TheManInc) that occurred approximately 2AM, Aug 23rd, 2009.

@paulwallbaby: Dodgers won, Astros won, i landed in iraq safely.... today was a good day

@TheManInc: @paulwallbaby I mess up your good day and I don't roll right past you. I look in your direction as you run the intersection.

@paulwallbaby: @TheManInc no barkin from the dog. no smog

@TheManInc: @paulwallbaby I break up your fly dreams and flash the high beams. I look for the murder n close before 2AM so u can't get the fat burger.

@paulwallbaby:
@TheManInc i gotta go cause i got me a drop top

@TheManInc:
@paulwallbaby I stop you from going on the court and causing trouble and I especially prevent you from getting a triple double.

@paulwallbaby: @TheManInc what about getting a beep from kim

@TheManInc: @paulwallbaby I swoop in n get girls when u try to hook it up for l8r n I don't let u pick up girls u've been trying 2 get w since 12th grd

After this illustrious battle of wits and one-liners, Paul Wall decided to follow The Man's twitter feed to monitor any further broadcasts by The Man. Smart move.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Journey to Memphis and the Crossroads Part 4: Panhandlers, Gibson Guitars, Watching the Rays, and the Best BBQ Ribs



Wow, it seems like I have doing this series for almost as long as I was on vacation. So to speed up the process, I am just taking selective tweets and elaborating on them and their meaning.

By the way, if for whatever reason you haven't read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3, follow the links.

a guy on the street asked me for 23 cents today. i think he was a big lebron fan. #vacation #whimsy 9:29 PM Aug 3rd

dear #memphis if i go off on the next panhandler, its your fault. you have a problem in your city. 9:47 PM Aug 4th

These tweets, although a day apart, definitely go together. If there were two negatives in Memphis it was the mosquitoes (worse than in Florida), and the beggars. By Day 2 I realized wearing my Rays made me an obvious tourist. So did going to the ATM, carrying souvenirs, wearing a blues-related t-shirt, or generally being on Beale St. It is one thing to be asked for a dollar once in a while, but the Memphis homeless do nothing short of harass people. I know the economy is rough, but my kindness has limits.

Greetings once again from #memphis. @ gibson #guitar factory. why no cameras allowed? 1:02 PM Aug 4th

Question not asked @ #gibson #guitar factory: where do they make air guitars? 1:47 PM Aug 4th

Being that Memphis is one of America's music capitals, it only makes sense that someone build instruments there. And there is no missing the Gibson Guitar plant. Although they don't really make clear how to buy a ticket, the plant is definitely worth checking out. Did you know a majority of the time it takes to make a guitar is spent on painting and lacquering? And that when a mistake is made the Gibson Guitar people don't fret?



Just ate @ rendezvous in #memphis. damn good ribs. 9:42 PM Aug 4th

No trip to Memphis is complete without a visit to Rendezvous for some ribs, so said several people when I told them of my pending trip. With so many recommendations, I had to check it out. It did not disappoint. Fantastic. And to boot I sat next to two locals who told me about the city, the landmarks, and suggested several things for me to do while in town. Did I mention Rendezvous was around the corner from my hotel? Great times, indeed.

thanks #rays tweeters. on vacation, following the game thru you guys. 10:25 PM Aug 4th

come on #rays tweeters give me good news. i'm on beale st and i dont want the blues. 11:40 PM Aug 4th

if i am drunk before the #rays win, we have a problem. i started drinkin in 8th inning. #rays 11:53 PM Aug 4th

oops not trying to jinx, i meant whenb #rays end. stupid beer tweeting there. 11:58 PM Aug 4th

yay #rays i'll tip a shiner bock for ya. thanks #rays tweeters! 12:14 AM Aug 5th

My use of Twitter while in Memphis wasn't just commenting and pushing opinions. Through Twitter I was able to follow along as the Rays took on the rival Boston Red Sox. Rays fans such as @RaysIndex, @m_weber, and @draysbay provided plenty of real-time updates throughout what would eventually become a 13 inning marathon. Although I could have sought game updates on ESPN.com or some other sports site, reading along on Twitter made the experience much more authentic. Like fellow Rays fans were right there alongside me.

Tune in tomorrow as I discuss my trip to Sun Records, the Stax Museum, and Graceland, home of the King.