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

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.