Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Was There...

...for this:

ICHIRO!
(Click on it, seriously. It'll take 20 seconds)

Maybe the best in-person sports watching experience I've ever had. Thanks to James, Alex, Travis, and Brad for helping make it one of the best times of my life. Thanks to Dave Neihaus for being the voice of my childhood and reminding me that he still has it in him.

I won tickets to that game on a radio trivia show and got more than I could have ever expected. Also, before crossing home plate, Ichiro stopped and did the "suck it" gesture.

REALLY. (watch the whole thing, but start paying close attention at the 00:34 mark.)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

WHAT??

Remember THIS?

Look what happened earlier today:



Good grief. Is there anything this man cannot do now?

Monday, July 27, 2009

30 Days & 30 Nights At Sea

I am fortunate to call Corbin Watkins my friend.

For those of you who have heard his last album, "The Space/Time Continuum," I don't need to wax adoringly; but for those who are unfamiliar with Corbin's music, I can say honestly that you are missing out.

While "Space/Time" was a project of expansive craftsmanship (just check out the booklet inside the CD for an example of his creativity), the journey that Corbin has just completed is simply awe-inspiring. It's called "30 Days & 30 Nights At Sea," and it showcases not only Corbin's unique take on the world around him, but the single-minded dedication to a project that great artists have.

Corbin wrote and recorded 30 songs in 30 days, his music tracking the adventures of a sailor on the open ocean. That's right -- 30 songs, 30 days. Along the way, he tapped some of Bellingham's brightest artists like John Furtado, Dana Little, Jeremiah Austin (of the Love Lights), and John Van Deusen to help him tell his stroy. the result is remarkable.

I encourage all of you to check out the "30 Days" album here, and you can click on each track to not only hear the day's recording, but to see the video of the recording that Corbin made.

ENJOY.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Death Of Auto-Tune

Jay-Z has finally created the song that puts words to the thoughts I've had about mainstream rap music for years.



Let me explain: his new single D.O.A (Death Of Auto-Tune) is the long-awaited call to revival that hip-hop has been thirsting for. For the last few years, anyone trying to listen to hip-hop on the radio or at a house party or in the club has had to endure endless strings of songs by T-Pain, Rihanna, Akon, and a million one-hit wonders who sing with warped voices over a dope beat and a catchy hook.

It's impossible to tell if they have any talent because the auto-tune that their voices are on manipulates them into that addictive, near-mechanical quasi-whine that gets everybody to sing along before they even realize they're doing it. It was fun at first, but then everyone realized that it was just much easier to have a hit with an auto-tuned song than with real, hard-hitting skills.

It's not just the poppy Teen Beat artists that use it either. Besides goons like Chris Brown, Ray-J, and Jeremih -- whose fun but ultimately inconsequential songs dominate the airwaves -- legitimate MCs like T.I., Lil Wayne, and Wyclef Jean have all fallen prey to this trend.

Auto-tune is to the current music scene what the synthesizer was to the 80's, only not as iconic or productive. It has softened the mics of the MCs and the minds of the audience. Jay-Z attacks the the current downward trend, trying to single-handedly cause hip-hop to regress back to the mean, where live MCs like Mos Def and Talib Kweli can get their propers instead of being pushed to the fringe by "Birthday Sex" and "Buy U A Drank."

Maybe it takes an artist like Jay-Z to make this song. For years, talented but non-mainstream rappers like Atmosphere, Brother Ali, and Pharoahe Monche have bemoaned the pop-ification of hip-hop, but none of them is Jigga. Perhaps only HOVA himself can turn the downward slide of the genre.

Jay-Z is an empire unto himself; "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man" he says in one of his verses. He is widely considered as the greatest rapper of the post-Tupac/Biggie era and has used his talent to build a colossal fortune through various businesses and investments. And he did it all without selling out. He's mainstream without trying, the perfect storm of talent, aura, charisma, and marketability.

Jay-Z comes with a loaded lyrical bazooka on this track and backs it with real live, stone-cold, smoky-as-a-jazz-club band music that drives his point home. It's a Big-Tent call back to the hip-hop gospel and here's hoping that the revival is real.



"I'm hungry for knowledge. The whole thing is to learn every day, to get brighter and brighter. That's what this world is about. You look at someone like Gandhi, and he glowed. Martin Luther King glowed. Muhammad Ali glows. I think that's from being bright all the time, and trying to be brighter."
-- Jay-Z

Monday, July 13, 2009

Baseball Perfection Incarnate?

"The first thing that a pitcher has to understand is that Albert is better than you." --Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer

We only get to see a few transformative sports figures come along in our lifetimes. Only a handful that are so surpassing in talent that you wonder how one person can break away from even the elite tier in such a substantive fashion.

You know the names: Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong, Ken Griffey Jr, Jerry Rice.
All of these players stand out from the crowd, all of them are household names. You don't need to know much about any of their sports or teams to recognize that those players are greatness personified.

But there's one man going right now that is so much better than everyone else in the world at his sport, that he belongs in that echelon. His name is Albert Pujols and he is quietly putting together one of the best careers in the history of baseball.

His strengths: All of the strengths. Yep, all of them.
His weaknesses: None.

Seriously. The traditional stats (HRs, RBIs, Batting Average) are eye-popping. His sabermetric stats are explosive. His fielding numbers lap the field. His ability to get on base and hit everything hard means that he is as likely to hit a home run as he is to strike out. That's lunacy!



ESPN recently profiled Pujols from the four main aspects of baseball: hitting, fielding, defense, and the approach pitchers take to him. It is a specatcular read and gives perspective to just how lucky we are to be sharing the planet Earth with the quasi-deity that is Albert Pujols.

ENJOY! (Click for the ESPN article)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ferrets Mean Business

You probably all know that a group of Fish is called a 'School.' And that a group of Geese is called a 'Flock.' 'Pride' of Lions, 'Herd' of Cattle, etc. But did you know that a group of Ferrets is called a 'Business?'

Here are some other favorites:
*A Congregation of Alligators
*An Obstinancy of Buffalo
*A Sleuth of Bears
*A Crash of Rhinoceroses
*A Peep of Chickens
*A Revolution of Dizzos
*A Clowder of Cats
*A Murder of Crows
*A Cackle of Hyenas
*A Lounge of Lizards
*A Wreck of Seabirds
*A Prickle of Porcupines

-The more you know.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Doin' It Real Big (This One's For My Gator Boys)

The NBA Draft is tomorrow, and in honor of the occasion, I'd like to pay tribute former Chicago Bulls 1st Round draftee, Joakim Noah.




Ok, ok. Maybe we can chalk that ridiculousness up to the exuberance of having just won the National Championship. Surely he settled down afterward and, on the day when he was to become a paid professional, did his best to show his new employers that he was a responsible, mature young man ready to dedicate himself to the team.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's Stuff Like This...

... that keeps me going as a sports fan. Holy cow. This is why Ken Griffey Jr gets an entire wall to himself in my room. I don't even care how that sounds.

He didn't start the game last night, but he was called on to pinch-hit in the 8th inning with one on and the Mariners down by 2.

The TV Broadcast

Video from fan behind home plate

Awesome.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Torture or Cookies?

I read an article in TIME Magazine that I found very interesting. The piece dealt with the sensitive and relevant issue of torture. Much has been made about the United States' position on the interrogation of suspects at Guantanamo Bay-- whether the methods are within Geneva Convention regulations, or, perhaps more pertinent, whether those regulations apply to prisoners captured in the "War on Terror."

The Bush Administration has received loads of praise and criticism for its harsh interpretation of what is and isn't torture. At the crux of the issue is the practice of waterboarding -- a panic-inducing drowning-simulation that the Bush Administration has OK'd.

When I think of military interrogation, images of torture immediately come to mind. It's probably a result of watching too many movies, but whatever the cause, the association is strong. This article, however, explores non-coercive interrogation tactics and attempts to get a read on their efficiency.

I remember reading an interview a couple years back with an old man who was a US military interrogator during World War II. He said that physical abuse and threats were rarely effective on their prisoners, but that they received lots of valuable information from some high-ranking captives simply by playing chess and ping-pong with them.

The idea that non-coercive (and often congenial) methods of interrogation are just as, if not more effective in attaining information as torture is a counter-intuitive one. Maybe that's because plates of sugar-free cookies (see TIME article) don't make for as exciting episodes of "24."

This does not mean that this is a closed issue. Strong arguments can be made in favor of extreme interrogation methods, among them the "ticking time-bomb" scenario, in which information needs to be procured to prevent immediate catastrophe. It is then, that many believe information should be gathered by any means necessary.

I understand both sides of the issue. On one hand, it is important to abide by international law when handling prisoners. On the other hand, national security is of the utmost military importance.

I guess my opinion is based on principle rather than circumstance. I believe that holding terrorism suspects indefinitely, without trial, is unconstitutional, regardless of whether or not we're at war. I also believe that if the United States signed the Geneva Conventions, then we ought to observe our agreement at all times (this goes for 'outsourcing' prisoners to countries where torture is legal).

This has always been a difficult opinion for me to hold, as it's difficult to make a case that the ends don't justify the means when thousands of lives could be on the line. It seems, however, that based on the experiences of some of our country's most successful interrogators, it may not be an either/or proposition.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Welcome Back, Junior

As swirling rumors regarding Ken Griffey Jr.'s return to the Seattle Mariners accelerated into a full-blown media tempest this week, many of you have called, texted, or Facebooked me to get my thoughts on the situation. I am grateful for the interest and proud to know that my love for "The Kid" is renowned enough to generate some interest from my friends.

For those of you who are unsure of what I'm referring to, here is a quick recap:
Ken Griffey Jr, the single biggest reason that Seattle sports ever gained national respectability, has spent the last nine seasons playing for the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox. As recently as a week ago, it seemed certain that Griffey would resign with the Mariners for the upcoming season. Then, the day of his supposed signing, the Atlanta Braves announced that they were moments away from signing Griffey themselves. The last three days have been filled with conflicting reports about Junior's next team.
Until, finally: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/baseball/400612_griffey20.html (!)

Now that Seattle's greatest athlete has returned, let me share my thoughts on the situation with you.

*First of all, the kid in me is ecstatic. I have literally fallen asleep to thoughts of Griffey playing as a Seattle Mariner again. My childhood memories are dotted with flashbacks to Griffey's sweet left-handed home run swing -- the one with the follow-through that lifted your heart like a Whitman poem, of Griffey scaling outfield walls to make highlight-reel catches, of his marquee-bright smile, and of the excited buzz that every M's fan felt when he strutted up to bat.

*As a baseball fan, however, the reaches of my childhood wonderment has its limitations. The Ken Griffey Jr that signed a one-year contract with my favorite team is not the same one that signed with them as the #1 overall draft pick as an 18-year old. Griffey is 39 now, 20+ years into his career, and baseball years are like dog years, making Griffey the hardball equivalent of a 140-year-old Golden Retriever.
If you're expecting to see Number 24 running around making diving catches and hitting 50 home runs, you'll be grievously disappointed. Once considered the premier outfielder in baseball, age and injuries have relegated Junior to a far-below-average defensive player -- one whose presence in a Major League outfield would be an actual detriment to his team's success.
Griffey's offensive abilities have not trailed off to the same extent. His swing looks as fluid as ever, but the bat-speed that used to separate him from mortals has diminished. He still maintains the potential to hit a fastball out of the yard on occasion, but an overall examination of his numbers leave him as an average Major League hitter.
This can be broken down further, so bear with me. When batting against right-handed pitchers, Griffey is still a very dangerous hitter. His offensive output, if we take him at his word to have fully recovered from his most recent knee injury, can be well above average if he only bats against right-handers. His ability to hit left-handers, however, has receded into the realm of atrocity. If he bats against left-handed pitchers this year, he will damage the Mariners' chances to win.
This means that in order for Griffey to help the Mariners win games, he will have to platoon as designated hitter that only plays when the Mariners are going against RH pitchers.

*Finally, there's the redemptive/conciliatory angle to this story. Griffey is like that first girlfriend you ever had -- the one that everyone loved as much as you, but that only you got to call your own. You'd never felt anything like this, couldn't imagine that it could get any better and yet, it did. Life with her just kept getting awesomer as you witnessed her grow into a beautiful, talented, compassionate woman. You just knew you were going to spend the rest of your life with her, grow old and raise a family, get a house and fill it with memories.
That's when Griffey left the Mariners to play for Cincinnati, his hometown team. All of a sudden, the girl of your dreams had run into an old flame and you realize that you weren't her first love. You had worries that she would leave you for someone else, but you had always brushed them off as irrational. After all she had been for you, and you for her, she would never actually leave you. Then she starts to answer phone calls from her ex, begins name-dropping him in conversations. Pretty soon, the writing is on the wall: her ex still has her heart and she sees a better life with him than with you.
You begin arguing with her, pleading with her to come back, giving her lavish gifts. It's no use. She leaves you alone, trying to pick up the pieces. Now your food doesn't taste quite as good, the sun isn't quite as bright, and the girls that you try to replace her with lose 90 games a year.
You fell in love again a few times, shared some great memories, but the highs just weren't as high with the other girls and you both knew it. You spend the next 9 years trudging through your days, the memories of the love of your life dimming with each passing night.
All of a sudden, one day, when things seem their darkest, you see her at a coffee shop, alone. She's aged a bit, doesn't look quite the way you remember her -- until she smiles. Then it all comes flooding back. She's still got that "it factor" that drew you to her in the first place. You begin talking, one thing leads to another, you play all the games and then finally you decide to get back together.

Today is that day. I'm so happy to have Griffey back in my life, and though I still feel a little jilted about the way he left Seattle in 2000, the positive associations I have with Griffey far outweigh the negative. Griffey in a Mariners uniform just seems right. Like it never should have stopped happening.
I know that he won't be the MVP that he once was, but I don't need him to be. All I need from him is that big smile and his best efforts.
Seattle loves you, Ken Griffey Jr, and if you'll just love us again, I think we can be very happy together. The Mariners probably won't win very many games this year, but your presence on the team has the potential to turn an otherwise dreary summer into one filled with excitement, joy, and maybe just one game-winning home run.

Welcome back!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hello, My Name Is Matthew McConaughey, What's Yours?

The other night, Lindsay* told me that if I ever became a famous actor, the person whose life/career my own life/career would most resemble was Matthew McConaughey.

I laughed really hard when she said that because I immediately thought of the time police were called to McConaughey's house because of a noise complaint and walked in on him smoking weed and playing the bongo drums completely naked.



I don't really like the comparison (I'd try for more of a Denzel Washington or George Clooney path) but it does still make me laugh.

So, faithful readers, I pose the question to you: which famous actor/actress would your life/career most resemble if you became a famous actor yourself? Discuss.

*For those of you wondering, I told Lindsay that her life/career would most resemble Kate Winslett.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Peek Behind The Curtain (The Dizard of Oz)

*I posted this on Facebook after I got tagged by my friend Nicole in a similar note.*

Nicole Raden tagged me in one of those "Write Things About Yourself And Then Tag Other People" chain-Facebook-note-letters. I'm playing by the rules, which explicitly state that I must list 25 things about myself that other people might not know. As you all probably know, I HATE talking about myself, but for the sake of regulations, here goes:

1.) I intentionally alter the level of my hat-bill to the left because I think it looks cooler.

2.) It is important to me to try and be as knowledgeable as possible about everything I'll want to talk about.

3.) Because of Thing #2 above, I'll usually read between 6 and 15 articles a day on things that interest me.

4.) I kept a legion of stuffed animals until I was 11 and had King-of-the-Mountain battles with them on my knees late at night.

5.) I still pick my nose.

6.) I really wish I could grow shag-length hair without 4 months of horrible in-between phases.

7.) I also wish my hair was naturally curly enough to have cornrows.

8.) My obsession with sports runs far deeper than any of you realize.

9.) When I'm doing something, I'll often stage a contest between my right and left hands to see which can do it better.

10.) I always cheer for the left hand because it's the underdog.

11.) If I capitalize one letter or word in a piece of writing, I feel obliged to remain consistent and capitalize everything that supposed to be capitalized. If not, I really enjoy the freedom of non-shift-key typing.

12.) I only type with my index fingers.

13.) When I space out, I imagine myself scoring touchdowns in games of pickup football.

14.) There are a small handful of songs that I've listened to more than 10 times in a row. Among them: "One More Time" by Daft Punk, "Pass Me Over" by Anthony Hamilton, "Sideways" by Citizen Cope, "Slow Dancing In A Burning Room" by John Mayer, and "Worlds Apart" by Jars of Clay.

15.) I love my signature.

16.) I think expressions like "awkward" and "I miss your face" are annoying, as is excessive squealing when people see someone that they've seen sometime in the previous 6 months.

17.) Sometimes, when I listen to girls having a conversation, I imagine a group of guys saying the exact same things.

18.) I think political correctness is far more of a good thing than it is a bad thing.

19.) I drink 3 full cups of black coffee almost everyday. And a small glass of whiskey.

20.) I value independence in people very highly.

21.) One of the main reasons I read the entire Bible was so I could say that I had. I learned a lot of awesome stuff along the way.

22.) I really like wearing things on my wrists and ankles.

23.) I believe that the closer people are to nakedness, regardless of their sex, body type, or upbringing, the better off they are. Nudey is beauty.

24.) When I die, I hope the world remembers me.

25.) I love the friendships I have that can go weeks without communication and pick up without having skipped a beat or either person feeling jilted.