Saturday, February 21, 2009

Checking out Buridan's Ass

"You can get with this or you can get with that / you can get with this, or can get with that / you can get with this, because this is were it's at"

- Black Sheep, The Choice is Yours

But what if you didn't know where "it" is at? What if you can't make up your mind? What if you spent so much time thinking about which choice to make that both choices eventually passed you by?

You have now entered the realm of Buridan's Ass.

Buridan's Ass is one of those intellectual, sociological, philosophical dilemmas that originated from way back in antiquity. According to the almighty Wiki, "Aristotle mentions an example of a man who remains unmoved because he is as hungry as he is thirsty and is positioned exactly between food and drink". These days, French philosopher Jean Buridan is best associated with the theory, and a donkey has replaced Aristotle's human example. In the most extreme case, the theory posts that a donkey will die due to its inability to decide between two equal piles of hay.

Personally, I can't even begin to count how many times I have fallen into Buridan's Ass.

Three in the morning and I have the late night munchies, do I eat or sleep? Sleep or eat? If I eat, I'll be tired but might not be able to go to sleep. But could I sleep on an empty stomach?

Then, of course, there are the times at the grocery store when I am thirsty but feel the first inclination of a number 2 coming on, do I buy beer or toilet paper? If I buy the toilet tissue, I'll be even more thirsty after I take care of business. But in the time it takes to sip that sweet brew I could have a very embarrassing accident.

But the absolute worst of the Buridan's Ass incidents are those that affect my love life. There are those few times when I make eye contact with not one, but two beautiful women at a bar, club, or other social scene. Quickly, my mind goes into overdrive. Which one do I talk to? If I pick one then the other is out of my life forever. What if I pick the wrong one? What if the one I pick is a psycho hose beast? But can I tell which one is normal? Can I possibly determine which one will I click with the best?

I'll admit, my typical response to ponder for few minutes, drink another beer or two, flip a coin, say my eenie-meenie-minee-moes, and then finally ask the bartender his or her opinion. Usually that's when the bartender asks me if I am talking about the girls who just started talking to the guy who just bought them both a drink.

Yup, that's when I know I am an ass.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Why Disney is the key to economic recovery

The stock market is down nearly 50% since 2007. Hundreds of thousands of people are out of work. Doom and gloom have permeated every crevice of our national psyche.

We need something to pick us up.

We need a symbol.

We need the mouse.

As we all know, Mickey Mouse made his not-so-grand arrival in 1928 in the cartoon Steamboat Willie. Before Mickey's first birthday, America spiraled in the Great Depression. Disney, the mouse, and the economy have been linked ever since.

In the 1950s and 1960s, growth was abound in America and the Disney Empire was riding the wave to prosperity. People were happy, jobs were plentiful, and the Mickey Mouse Show was a staple. Life in America was good and Disney was one of the most trusted and successful names in the nation.

At the height of this boon, the Disney Corporation opened Disneyland, a place where people could live the fantasy and hang out with Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and the gang. Disney World followed in the 1970s, and other parks were opened throughout the 1980s and 90s. Eventually, the Disney parks would grow to become part and parcel of the American Dream. They would become an American Mecca, a place all families had to make a pilgrimage to at least once.

It's time to bring those days back. It's time for Disney to again a play a central role in American culture. Although the media environment is much more competitive, our dire circumstances require that Disney again sit at the top of the multi-media magic kingdom.

The Perpetual Princess Principle

One of the most effective aspects of the Disney Corporation has been their ability to manipulate the minds of young children, especially young girls. Young girls are taught through the Disney Princess model that the finer things in life, the royal lifestyle, are all that matters. They are taught that the days they dress like Cinderella and other princesses, their high school prom and their wedding day, are among the most important days of their lives. Before, between, and after these dates, as the girls develop into women, they are instilled with the ideal that life must still be a princess fantasy. They have to attract Prince Charming, that tall, dark, and handsome mate. They must have a modern-day horse-drawn chariot, that high-end sports car or gigantic SUV. They have to live in a magic castle, a huge home in the most luxurious part of town.

Yet no matter how materialistic or shallow this princess ideal might be, it is essential to the American economy that Disney keep following this business model. As a matter of fact, it should be promoted and endorsed, perhaps with the help of government assistance or of celebrities and debutantes such as Paris Hilton or other notorious "party girls". With any hope, a new generation of young princesses influenced by Disney will become shallow teenagers and then materialistic women. Hopefully, they will buy, buy, buy. They will shop, charge purchases on credit, and exercise the best in American gluttony.

During a down economy, everyone saves, even the princesses. Reality impedes their dreams and they are forced to live within their means. We have to change this mindset if our economy is to get back on its feet. We need to push the Princess Principle. We need more princess-based movies. We need to advocate the materialistic lifestyle. We need our women to hit the malls, the high-end stores, and the boutiques. We need mass consumption.

We need Disney.

The Disappointment of the Apostles

Sometimes even the best laid plans go to hell. Of course, when this happens in our personal lives no one cares, but sometimes unexpected disappointment slaps the face of the famous. That's when people notice. That's when they ask "what if?".

What if Babe Ruth was never sold to the Red Sox?
What if Andrew Wood never overdosed on heroin?
What if Elwood Blues had never been locked up?
What if Jimmy Chitwood had continued his holdout?

After thinking about these situations and many others that affected groups (be they in music, sports, or anything else), I decided to rank them in order of disappointment. My criteria was easy: what effect did the big decision have on the future success of the group? If the big decision hardly had an effect on the overall success of the group, the "Disappointment Factor" was low. If, on the other hand, the group or the remaining individuals in the group were not able to recover, the "Disappointment Factor" was high.

So in a nutshell, Disappointment occurs when a person or group of people see their chance of success vanish with one swift stroke. That stroke can come from anywhere, be it trade/retirement of franchise player in their prime, the death of someone, etc.

Discounting any time a team ended up making the playoffs or achieving success without a player (Bill Simmons' famous "Ewing Theory") and avoiding those transactions that eventually netted replacements (i.e trades for prospects or draft picks that had a chance of working out), and also discounting college situations (sports stars graduating, leaving early), here are my top eleven Disappointments.

11) The crew of the Man Show when Carrolla and Kimmel left - The Man Show sank like a lead balloon with the guy from Fear Factor and that other guy. Hopefully the crew had their resumes in order when Carrolla and Kimmel left.

10) Garfunkel after Paul Simon left - I'll admit, I don't know much about Simon and Garfunkel, but I know more about Paul Simon than I do about Garfunkel. Someone had solo ability, the other, not so much.

9) The remaining members of Sublime after Brad Nowell died (including college cover bands who make their living covering Sublime's 3 album catalog) - Sublime's one and only major studio release went crazy platinum right after the death of Brad Nowell. And like that, the other two guys' chances for success went up in smoke.

8) Sonny Bono after Cher left - Granted, he was mayor of Palm Springs and made news when he was mercilessly murdered by an arbor assassin, but I don't think Sonny's career amounted to much after Cher went solo.

7) The Orlando Magic after Shaq left for Los Angeles - After making the Finals a few year earlier, the Magic were left with a hogpodge of marginal players and the inconsistent Penny Hardaway. It took the franchise nearly 10 years and the drafting of Dwight Howard to recover from Shaq's abandonment.

6) Krist Novelselic after Kurt Kobain died - Although he is blogging or something like that somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, Novelselic has to wonder "what if" every time he see a new Pearl Jam album, or sees Scott Weiland in a new band, or hears Chris Cornell working with Timbaland. Would Nirvana still have a place in the musical landscape?

5) The Lions after Barry Sanders retired - Surprised the franchise so much, they are still without hope.

4) The NY Mets franchise in 1977 after management traded Tom Seaver in his prime for a gaggle of marginal major leaguers and no prospects - In one of the worst trades of the last 35 years, the Mets traded their franchise pitcher for a bag of trinkets. Granted other teams have since traded aces for a palette of spare parts, but there is usually one shining token among the handful of coins. Met fans looked at the trade as an absolute failure and were forced to wait until Dwight Gooden's arrival to have any semblance of hope.

(By the way, has anyone ever taken a look at the expectations of the name "Dwight"? Gooden and Howard both carried sports franchises as did Evans for the Red Sox, Eisenhower led the Allied in WWII and then became President. If you are going to name your kid Dwight, be sure they know they have a lot to live up to.)

3) DJ Jazzy Jeff after Will Smith went into acting - Has anyone heard anything from DJ Jazzy Jeff since Will Smith stopped being the Fresh Prince? Maybe he is back in Philly spinning house parties. Meanwhile, his lyrical mealticket is one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood. Ever think Jeff calls to see if they can get the band back together?

2b) Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding after Jimi broke up the Experience - Speaking of disappointments, the Experience were nothing before Jimi and quickly faded to Mike Tyson's Bolvia when Jimi broke up the band. Although Mitchell played drums with Jimi later, it was only for a short time before Jimi choked on his own vomit.

2a) The rest of The Doors after Jim Morrison died - On a related note, where are Ray Manzerek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore these days? My guess is they are probably still milking the four years they played with Jim Morrison. Perhaps fans will eventually realize who the talent really was and that these guys really aren't saying anything new.

1) The apostles after Jesus died - Could there be a bigger disappointment? Imagine you are part of the most famous entourage in the ancient world. Everyone knows you are one of the 12 coolest people on the planet. You have your haters, but you also have your fans. People come from miles to see you and your crew. Then some ancient dickweed crucifies the leader of your posse. What do you do? Sure, you could write a few books like the guys in The Doors, but then what? You are not getting a religion or a national holiday named after you. People won't kill themselves in your name. You might as well go back to fishing, sheep herding, or whatever it was your were doing before you met Jesus. And if anyone asks if you were one of the disciples of Christ, just say "No", lest your mind wonder "what if?".

Am I missing anything? Is there anything else that should make the list?

Monday, February 16, 2009

How the Economy Will Affect Blogs and the Sports Blogosphere

A little while ago, MC Bias of Moderately Cerebral Bias asked several bloggers, both full-time and independent, for their opinions on how the economy will affect the sports blogosphere. Whereas MCBias posted the many bloggers' answers on his site, I asked him if I could run my answers here.

(By the way, take a couple of minutes and read his post. He did a really good job.)

Surprisingly, many of the bloggers quoted by MC Bias actually believed sports blogs and blogging in general will sustain their success, if not increase their popularity, during the down economy. I got the impression their answers even caught MC Bias by surprise.

Maybe I have been reading too much John Robb and his ideas of systems disruption, decentralized platforms, and self-organizing futures, but I don’t share the views of the bloggers interviewed by MC Bias. Here is how I think the economy will affect the blogosphere.

1) More blogging: Yes, I think there will be more blogging as a result of the economic recession. As paid writing gigs dry up both in the press and in free-lancing, more writers will flock to the Internet as a way to keep their skills sharp and their voices heard. I think we will see much bigger names starting to blog as well as other writers with editorial aspirations.

(Note: This has already been the case, as Jay Mariotti, formerly a well-known Chicago sports writer, has joined the AOL Sports blogging team.)

2) Less readers and less commentors: Here me and Brian from AwfulAnnouncing take opposing views. Whereas he claims people will still read blogs at work or, if not working, will visit blog sites as they look for jobs online, I disagree. Due to job insecurity, less people will read blogs, comment on blogs, or will be able to find other blogs they might enjoy. The effort of interaction and discovery will drop as those who might have surfed the Internet for half their day begin to make a conscious effort to work harder and keep their jobs.

3) Less major ads: Jon Pyle of Pyle of List and I also have different views, here on the subject of online advertising. Whereas Pyle believes people will spend more time on the Internet and hence the increased hits will “translate to advertising money for blogs”, I think otherwise. My belief is that we will start to see fewer major ads on blogs and other web sites not run by corporations. Companies are not going to be able to see acceptable returns for their investment on smaller sites. Major traffic and mainstream sites will continue to see all sorts of ad revenue, but smaller sites will be forced to settle for Google Ads or other cheap forms of ad placement.

4) Fewer big-time gigs: One of the points that surprised MC Bias the most was that “all the contract bloggers I spoke to thought that there might either be more work for contract bloggers, or more blogs starting during the recession.”

My opinion is that as advertisers spend less on ads, major web sites will have to react to the limited projected income by cutting staff. My fear is that the powers that be at major sites and companies will resort to their more instinctive, conservative, ideological ways and cut web savvy personnel. This of course will mean will fewer opportunities for bloggers to make the next step to paid gigs, especially with organizations such as Yahoo!, ESPN, etc.

5) No more Will Leitchs: As major companies struggle to get their own priorities in order, they won't have time to extend a voice to the little guy. No longer will sites like Deadspin be able to establish a “movement” of frustrated fans. The voice of the fan will be background white noise once again. I also think we can forget about publishers taking chances on writers they never heard of, even if they do have an Internet cult following. Whether or not they will take chances on the more creative voices (the creative geniuses at Free Darko for example) has yet to be determined. But the average smart-alec blogger is going to be kept on the 'net, at least for now.

6) More consolidation: The overall result of bloggers putting more time into work, less time into blogging, and fewer dollars to be made is that bloggers will start to see an increased importance in working together. The average blogger won't have the time or the desire to publish everyday, especially when he or she is not seeing any return for investment outside of the occasional and overrated link on major sites such as Deadspin or The Big Lead. So I think more and more bloggers will start banding together and putting out sites that publish often with little time investment.

7) More to complain about: If a bad economy provides us anything, it's fodder for complaints. And complaining is one of the things bloggers do best. Look for gloom, doom, and frustration to permeate posts throughout the blogosphere.

Overall, I thought it was interesting that I disagreed with the opinions of so many "big name" bloggers. For their sake, I hope they're right and that I am wrong, and that money will magically appear for anyone who wants to write online. But I don't think that will happen. At least not anytime soon.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The AfroSquad in Super Bowl City: Part 3

(If you haven't already, make sure you've read Part 1 and Part 2.)

When we last left our hero, he was wandering out of the Bow Wow Wonderland after receiving valuable insight from the illustrious High Chief. Our hero takes the High Chief's words to heart and goes back to the Afro Lair, knowing he will need help in the battle for his city.

Setting: The Afro Lair. The Afro Lair is party central, highlighted by afro-wearing eccentrics. There are frequent funky musical performances, video arcades, and a high-end bar where the locals gather to swap LPs of George Clinton and Bootsy Collins.

Scene 1: Our hero meets with Mama 'Fro, the Snowman, and the rest of the Afro-Squad. He tells them about the plight of the city and the High Chief's first piece of lyrical advice. Mama 'Fro instructs the Snowman to join our hero on his journey. Before they go, she gives them a month's supply of Pudding Snack Packs and the Motts.

Scene 2: After eating all the Motts and the Pudding Snack Packs, the Afro-Squad meet the Smooth Savant of the Teleprompter. The Smooth Savant tells the Afro-Squad that in order to save the city, they have to rescue the 'Fro Child, who is being held captive by the Killer Cardinal. Our hero recalls the second lyric of advice given by the High Chief. The Smooth Savant also tells the Afro-Squad that the only way to kill the Killer Cardinal is to destroy it as they would a Highlander.

Setting: The Castle of the Killer Cardinal. The Killer Cardinal is a very social animal and is hanging out in his lounge.

Scene 3: The Afro-Squad sneak into Killer Cardinal's Lounge. Our hero ambushes the Killer Cardinal while the Killer Cardinal is socializing with its human cohorts. Lacking a sword, our hero decides to bite the head off of the bird a la Ozzy Osbourne, nullifying the Killer Cardinal's ability to counterattack.

Meanwhile, the Snowman rescues the 'Fro Child.

Setting: The City.

Scene 4: The Afro-Squad celebrate their victory. They call the mayor to announce their accomplishment and begin to set up a parade in their own honor.

Setting: The Afro Lair.

Scene 5: The party is interrupted by the Wise Word Wizard. The Wise Word Wizard tells the Afro-Squad that their work is not done and the city is still in danger. The Killer Cardinal's mother has kidnapped the Underwater Singing Princess and is threatening to destroy the city. Our hero remembers the final lyric of the High Chief. The Wise Word Wizard instructs the Afro-Squad on how to confront the ever-dangerous Mother of the Killer Cardinal.

Setting: A boat in the river outside of the city. The boat is on course to the Mother of the Killer Cardinal's Headquarters and Gaming Resort, one of the top casinos on the eastern seaboard.

Scene 6: Our hero meets a band of jolly travelers on the boat. The travelers recognize our hero and ask him for his autograph. Our hero tries to tell them about the princess, but they are too busy reveling in their revelry. Meanwhile, the Snowman is below deck indulging in spirits and Nestle Quik.

Setting: A dock connected to the Mother of the Killer Cardinal's Headquarters and Gaming Resort.

Scene 7: Alerted to their presence by super high-powered binoculars, the Mother of the Killer Cardinal dispatches The Man to capture the Afro-Squad. Although our hero escapes, the Snowman is not as lucky and is captured.

Scene 8: After eluding The Man, our hero engages in an epic life and death battle with the Mother of the Killer Cardinal. Instinctively, the Mother uses her Cardinal Fighting Style, highlighted by its vicious pecking attacks. Our hero, also trained in the avian attack arts, uses the Eagle Fighting Style. In an grueling duel, our hero is victorious.

Setting: Deep in bowels of the Mother of the Killer Cardinal's Headquarters and Gaming Resort. The Snowman has been taken to Cell Block 1138, in a cell adjacent to the Underwater Singing Princess. The cells are the same as those in an Indonesian blue collar prison.

Scene 9: Our hero frees the Underwater Singing Princess and the Snowman. Before they leave, the Underwater Singing Princess tells a joke because she likes jokes.

"What do you call someone puts prisoners to death but then quickly leaves?"

"An Exit-cutioner."

The Afro-Squad and the Underwater Singing Princess laugh.

Setting: The City.

Scene 10: Our hero has finally saved the city. The tourist invasion is gone, the 'Fro Child is safe, and the Princess has gone back to singing songs underwater. All is right in the world. Until next time.

The End