09/10/12

Add/Drop

Look, I only had a handful of reasonable song blogging choices for tonight, right?

Deadly power outages in Cuba; the terrible motorcade accident that killed one of President Obama’s police escorts; or writing a diss track to the members of my fantasy football league. Eat my % Owned Voldemort’s Confetti !

I kept it classy and went fake-football-game smack talk. Maybe the only thing more ridiculous than grown men playing not-football is a song about it.

But my madness has some method. Today’s blong also doubles as a shameless promotional vignette for my favorite fantasy football podcast, “Fantasy Focus,” hosted by Matthew Berry, Nate Ravitz, Stephania Bell, and Podvader, who will hopefully and enthusiastically re-tweet my site, add my song to their bumper and intro music, and make me and this enterprise in endless song blogging world famous. I also gratuitously threw in Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless because they’re actual and recognizable ESPN personalities.

Don’t get me wrong. If my plan works, it hasn’t been a free ride. All of these individuals remain in my ear around the clock. I think I’ve heard every stream or podcast of First Take and Fantasy Focus for nearly as long as they’ve been on. These, in addition to the BS Report, Behind the Bets, every ESPN radio franchise, and all the bloggingheadstv podcasts, are what buoy me through my life’s steeple chase of dish washing, lawn mowing, grocery shopping, bill paying, and child rearing. The other day, I thought my six year old daughter was giving me advice on her top 15 players at RB2, when I realized I just had my earbuds in. Apparently, she just needed toilet paper. (Yes, of course, I got her a roll. Sheesk. Right after Pod finished the Name Game intro. That gets me everytime! You’re so crazy, Podvader!)

Anyway, sorry. So, yeah, dues paid.

I would also like to take this opportunity to formally challenge Eric Hutchinson, whose song is presently the Fantasy Focus anthem, to a fantasy football song battle. A lyricism off. A grammar guerrilla war. A word face punch fight. A real-life fantasy duel.

Drop Eric. Add me.

Don’t front, Eric. You can’t hide behind you’re “great voice” and “real musical ability” and “clever song writing” and “actual instruments” any longer.

This is hip hop. Welcome to the terrordome.

Written and performed by sintax.the.terrific (theipoetlaureate).  Music produced by the one Dave Santos.

Today’s song blog here:

Autodraft Beef

08/9/12

Casinos and Daycares

So I have a friend who has a friend who does sweepstakes as a hobby. I know. Sounds like doing bath salts as a dessert. Or doing your nails as massage. Wait. People actually do that. Anyway, he raked. Like a serious family vacay every year. Hawaii not Dollywood. Sorry, Mom and Dad (they’re D-Wood GOLD VIP.) He had a garage and guest room full of prize. A dozen waffle irons. Four mopeds. A year’s supply of Mop ‘n Glow. Stacked to the ceiling, Ali Baba style. (I’m just guessing about the waffle irons; that would be pretty amazing though.)

So he set aside $30 every month of discretionary household money. Instead of golfing or fishing or a gym membership or coin collecting or LARPing, he would use the $30 to purchase postage for various nationwide and regional promotional giveaways. Apparently there is a publication that provides regular information about sweepstakes and their specifications. Region. Number of prizes. Advertising reach. So if a large number of prizes were being given away in a promotion of limited reach, you had a sense about the probability of winning.

Anyway, a new golf club company was giving away 30 bags of clubs. My friend told me that his friend said that this was pretty much a sweepstakes lead-pipe cinch. Sure enough, all three of us won. 10% of the bags. And, that’s why, to this day, you’ll never catch me driving anything other than a Slotline. “Slotline. Keep your slot right on the line.” ?? I’m not sure they actually have a slogan. And, the fact you’ve never heard of Slotline or that Tiger Woods wouldn’t scratch his backside with a Slotline or that his wife wouldn’t even use a Slotline to bust out a windshield to kill her husband is just a testimony to the good ol’ boy, backward mentality of golf. Unbelievable. Because, I’ve used a Slotline. And, trust me. It will put you into the same woods as your fancy sticks — for half the price.

So as it turns out, my friend’s friend was a pastor. Playing games of chance. The shame. “The Devil’s Ruse.” “Hell’s Gambit.” “The Card Shuffle Souffle.” “Roulette’s Underpants.” “The Snake Oil Milkshake.” “The Ol’ Getcha.” (I made all of those up.)

So in the civilizing process there are, over time, certain behaviors that are necessary to circumscribe. Not because they are inherently all bad themselves, but because they associate other lesser desired conduct and reduce, overall, civility. The “broken windows” criminological theory relies on this idea to explain the correlation between the disrepair of buildings and crime. Broken windows and general urban disorder have a tendency to signal to individuals that crime and anti-social behavior is permissible in that area. Simple building maintenance can transform the entire psychological view of the community.

A similar phenomenon happens in my bedroom. The more empty Diet Mountain Dew cans on my desk the more likely I am to disrobe right in the middle of the room.

In a related sense, cultural signals like tattoos or gambling or body piercing have been taboo, in large part, because they were associated with certain rebellious or immoral conduct or people and not because those aesthetic trappings or activities were so terribly horrible in themselves.

At some point, however, we become sufficiently entrenched in the habits of civility that we can revisit certain taboos without risk of resurrecting the associated and undesireable other conduct — like steer ropin’!

I can’t say it any better than Steve Pinker summarizes in his new book, that I can’t seem to stop quoting, Better Angels of our Nature:

The cliche about Generation X . . . was that they were media-savvy, ironic, postmodern. They could adopt poses, try on styles, and immerse themselves in seedy cultural genres without taking any of them too seriously. . . . the journalist David Brooks observed that many members of the middle class have become “bourgeois bohemians” who affect the look of people at the fringes of society while living a thoroughly conventional lifestyle.

And, this is true, right? It’s just as likely that your friend’s mom will have a tribal butterfly tattoo or nose ring today as the crook or harlot or whomever society might have historically associated with those items. And, that mom has a professional career, PTA membership, and a sustainability compost pile. (Wait is that a smoldering pile upon which we compost all things sustainable??!)

My wife swears that if she ever got one, she would go full tattoo sleeve on both arms. This is the same woman that is uncomfortable with light forehead perspiration at like a CiCi’s Pizza or, I don’t know, a gymnasium.

So when New Jersey thumbs its nose at federal gambling laws and the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (“PASPA”), by passing its own legislation to legalize sports betting in its state, any outcry against the decision rings sort of parochial and schoolmarmish.

The NJ legislation has some legal obstacles. The kind of monopoly or dissimilar treatment to operate in sports gambling given, by PASPA, to Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon but not other states, has precedent in commerce clause jurisprudence. At the same time some of the policy arguments, rooted in these sort of dying social norms discussed above, for disallowing states to adopt sports betting across the board, are losing their efficacy. Especially in light of the mounting hypocrisy of sports leagues who knowingly benefit in all kinds of direct and indirect ways from it but would now resist, by filing a lawsuit, its expansion to other states, like NJ.

Gambling used to be the thing of gunslingers and gangsters and guys smoking cubans. But, there is legal sports betting in Las Vegas. They talk about game lines on ESPN (they host a “Behind the Bets” podcast for heaven’s sake). Your sister plays fantasy football and participates in a March Madness pool. Sports betting is no longer a marginalized activity of organized criminals (although, ironically, its very criminality allows such people to still flourish at it).

At this point, it’s simply another form of acceptable entertainment and leisure. We waste dollars on unserious, ephemeral things all the time. A movie. A sporting event. A vacation to Disney World. Computer technology. And, trust me, we can become addicted to it all. Gambling isn’t some vice unto its own in that regard (that’s not to say that games of chance cannot sometimes prey disproportionately on the poor but so can all variety of bad money management invited by such socio-economic circumstances).

The day is coming. Sports gambling will be legalized. Heavily regulated. Appropriately scrutinized. But, legal.

High rolling pastors and tattoo sleeved wives everywhere essentially guarantee it.

P.S. RG3, Bolt, & Howard???!!

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by Sundance.

Today’s song blog here:

Sharps and Squares

07/23/12

The Rise

My deepest, deepest condolences to all of the victims, their friends and families.

This is a fairly unprofitable story to attempt to cover in song. Something about the victims, themselves, turns pretty quickly into unintended sap and what Andrew Sullivan calls, hathos. Something thematic or narrative threatens to be too dark and insensitive.

Still, between the Colorado shootings and the continuing demise of Penn State, this musical capsule of time would be incomplete without some vignette.

I’m pretty compelled by these sorts of incidents. And, I hope it’s not all morbid curiousity, though surely some percentage is. I realize it’s a higher calling to remember the victims instead of memorializing the predators. But, this razor thin line between James Holmes, son, friend, sibling, accomplished student, and James Holmes, the apparently lost, psychotic, maniacal movie mass murderer, is ceaselessly important to me. Same with Sandusky. His sins, and those of the individuals that would have concealed them, have now forced Penn State to take down the statute of what was the winningest coach in Division 1 Football history and the NCAA to levy sanctions of such unprecedented scale as to essentially destroy the program. Not to mention the real human tragedy — the countless child victims. You can’t help but renew questions about the nature of who we are fundamentally as people, something of divine imagination or base animal evolution.

The spiritual mystic, St. John of the Cross, wrote of the “Dark Night of the Soul,” the difficult separation from this world as we move toward closer union with God. That notion has been expanded in Christian parlance to describe any sort of severe crisis of faith. Even Mother Teresa confessed her own deep, deep darkness.

I think the incidents in Colorado and Happy Valley induce a collective dark night. Tired theological apologetics about the opportunity for true love and goodness coming only at the concomitant risk of true hate and evil ring sort of unpersuasively abstract when nearly 60 people are senselessly gunned down by a stranger playing dress up and comic villain. And, no matter how much you’d like to think Holmes is some creature apart, easily condemned, there is Joker in us all.

I’ve tried to remember where I was going with this. But, I don’t really have a closing sentiment or pithy summarizing turn. I’m just really, really sorry.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by pumpkinFoot.

Today’s song blog here:

Dark Night

07/6/12

The Last White Point Guard

Since 1985, this is what I came up with:

Mark Price
John Stockton
Scott Skiles
Jason Williams
Steve Nash

Five white guys, roughly of North American descent, who were regular fixtures, over any meaningful span of time, as starting point guards in the NBA. Hinrich has run point. Dragic has too (although a Euro). Steve Blake plays real and quality minutes. But, like guys that ran a team — this is it. And, I’m not including 2-guard/hybrid types. Think Danny Ainge. Five Starting white point guards, give or take, over the last 30 years. American, European, Viking, Chitwood, or otherwise.

Steve Nash was traded to the Lakers two days ago. And, it hit me. This might be it. Nash might be the last starting white point guard in the league for the foreseeable future.

I’m admittedly using some shorthand, here, by saying “white.” It’s a sloppy phrase. But, come on. You know the guys, I’m talking about? [Does the upside down, O-K hand-goggles.]

I’m sure no one thought at Bird’s retirement that he would be the last white, American-born superstar. Tom Chambers would deliver. Or Big Country. Kevin Love is at least respectably in the conversation. But, Bird retired and then the long silence.

Aaron Craft is nice at Ohio State. I saw him play in person at the Final Four. He has all the typical white point guard attributes plus he has deceptive ability to guard the ball, the common deficiency and critique of white guards at the highest levels. Maybe he’ll get a shot.

But, this might be the end of the road for decades.

I’ve admitted that I “want” to see more successful white point guards if for no other reason than, regardless of how unrealistically slight the probability, my son would have at least some evidence that it’s possible. (In the words of one of the most famously white guys, “So what you’re saying is . . . there’s still a chance!”)

But, otherwise, I really don’t care the race of my athletes as a fan. I mean, I might care a little. But, mostly I just want them to be able to dunk over cars and do ball fakes that wrap around the back, sit on the opposite hip, and then circumnavigate the waist for the last second dish. You know. Stuff that only half-black/half-alien people can do. (You cannot tell me that Rondo’s mom isn’t one quarter E.T. As in whatever kind of alien E.T. was.)

This is what the hall of fame track and field legend, Michael Johnson said, just this week:

I always believed that I became an athlete through my own determination, but it’s impossible to think that being descended from slaves hasn’t left an imprint through the generations. Difficult as it was to hear, slavery has benefited descendants like me – I believe there is a superior athletic gene in us.

I think it’s proven to be enormously dangerous and ignoramously betraying to speculate too specifically as to how they got to this point — slavery, original genome, opportunity, cultural emphasis, hard work. Even Johnson sort of falls prey to the more seductive but ultimately unprofitable question, “why?” And, I mean unprofitable because history has taught us that there’s little public benefit to be derived from doing so, not because the question isn’t worth asking.

As with any complex query, the solution is most certainly a stew of reasons. Some genetic, some sociological, some cultural, some having to do with opportunity and commitment and dumb luck.

There will always be some financial incentive to associate white players. Maybe even to play them in particular roles. Jimmer Fredette might be a function of this sort of calculation/perception, although we’re a long way away from seeing whether there’s a real place for him in the league at guard, shooting or point.

But, this is a real moment. Nash might be cold-blooded history. When he hangs it up in a few years, a page might be permanently turned.

So let’s raise our Pabst and throw on some Foreigner and give one last cheers to the shaggy and mustachioed, crew-cutted and short-shortsed, on-top-of-the-ball dribbling white guys who did it so well, for so long.

We’ll have our moments, still. But, hat tip to the professionals. The brothers that run magical game.

Performed by the ipoetlaureate. Music produced by dj clutch.

Today’s song blog here:

On Top

11/7/11

Allegedly,

Wow. This was nearly a new record. I sat down at my computer at 8:09 pm without a topic for today’s blong. Finished recording at 9:25 pm. My previous best had been High Alert Pt. 1, which I completed in roughly an hour, prior to trick-or-treating and then jumping on a plane. Today’s song was a little more involved and, for that, it felt a more impressive feat. I’m not sure that the writing and recording were not completed in comparable time. Some conceptualizing presaged that, of course. Regardless, either song will be hard to top in terms of efficiency. Like DiMaggio’s 56.

Anyway, even by America’s lurid and distractible standards, there are presently swirling a startling number of salacious allegations in the news. Justin Bieber. Herman Cain. Michael Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray. And, the most heinous, those levied by Hillary Adams and those against Jerry Sandusky, former assistant football coach at Penn State. The feeling I can never escape is the sort of collective guilt we all share in these terrible incidents. Although particular individuals bear the charge of any specific set of allegations against them, and rightfully so, there is this sense that all of humanity is indicted. Please don’t mistake the whimsy and snide in today’s song for some sort of flippancy or disdain for the accusser or their allegations. Quite the opposite. But, there is a kind of loopiness to it all to hear so much terrible accusation made at once, allegedly.

“Allegedly” is a quintessentially American word. It’s the last remnant of a disguise we use to publicly maintain our value that all are innocent until proven otherwise while privately assuming everybody’s guilt.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by pumpkinFoot.

Today’s song blog here:

It Was You

10/19/11

BREAKING NEWS: An Occupy Wall Street EXCLUSIVE

The ipoet laureate has been given exclusive access to the previously mysterious demands of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

The OWS community has asked that the demands be read rhythmically to the following pumpkinFoot musical accompaniment. Weird, I know.

The List:

Bad Guy

10/16/11

Sleepless in Seattle

Today’s post betrays the depth of my neuroses for this site and its content. At about 11:30 p.m. Friday night, I came across this story (the link was posted on a board I visit; I wasn’t perusing Fox News dot com video’s of Kelly’s Court). Three and a half hours later, after having fallen into an interwebs Youtube death spiral of Real Life Super Heroes (RLSH), which included such places as here and here and here and here and here, I had recorded a Super Hero Anthem for the hero who was the focus of the Fox News video above, Phoenix Jones; Facebook friended him AND his wife, Purple Reign, of course; and started a SECOND Super Hero anthem. Apparently, having gone an entire year of rap news blogging without having written even a single Super Hero anthem, I felt like I owed you all two, I suppose. (There hadn’t really been any complaints as far as I know though. Ugggh, what was I thinking? I’m getting the sleepless shakes just thinking about it.) So at 3:00 a.m., needing to wake at 7:00 a.m. for my boy’s football game and for my daughters’ YMCA soccer game at 11:00 a.m., I was literally trying to fist punch my own face for my stupidity and abject exhaustion. Why was I awake? This was not normal. And, worse, my first draft of an anthem was borderline unlistenable.

But, maybe that’s why the RLSH characters stopped me so cold; I relate to their existential and breathtakingly absurd passion. (Wait, I think that’s either ironic or an oxymoron to claim to be able to relate to someone else’s existential experience.) I suppose what I mean to say is that I understand desperation for something no one else can admire or even hardly acknowledge.

That’s why the advent and proliferation of the modern documentary strikes such a chord with me. The best documentaries tend to be defined by a common element — an individual or group sold out to an idea or activity to the point of the unflappably absurd. (There are currently numerous on the phenomenon of the real life super heroes and other related sub genres.)

After reading of Phoenix Jones’ Arrest I suppose I was struck with the same sense of half pity, half derision others have been. It’s a fairly easy response. But, then I saw a man gripped by just a more pronounced manifestation of what we all crave: the chance to be something super.


Photo: JOE DYER / SEATTLEPI.COM

We have modern heroes. First responders at 9/11. Nurses at New Orleans hospitals during Katrina. Our military abroad and at home. Moms and Dads.

But, for most of us, it feels like we’re just living another life. In another city. In another crowd. On another day. At another job. Or another lost job. We’re less than what we hoped as kids to be and can’t seem to recalibrate the dream to something more realistic now. In the words of fake Joaquin Phoenix, “What’s your f$#%ing bit??!” (Did you know he is the brother of River Phoenix?? Who knew?) What have you risked for greatness? Don’t laugh at someone else’s spectacular failure, when you’re just playing it safe. At least for a moment, if only in humiliation, they were spectacular.

So, I wanted to put that sentiment in song and write him something to ride into battle to. Plus, Phoenix Jones has a two-toned high top fade straight out of my junior year in highschool. Wears a bullet-proof, black and gold armored suit, sometimes accessorized with Fedora and cape. Fights MMA. Carries pepper spray. And, is from Seattle, the home of my current favorite emcee, Macklemore. And, he just seems like an all around nice dude. I had to write him a Rain City Superhero Movement Anthem. Had to. Of course, there was other important and more “real” news in the world. The free trade agreement and the franchising of Occupy Wall Street to cities across the globe. But, sometimes the most real thing we can be is something absurd. A friend recently reminded me that sincerity is the death of art.

So here it is, the World Premiere. It’s all for you. God bless Phoenix Jones.

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by pumpkinFoot (heeeeeee’s baaack).

Super: The Rain City Anthem

10/8/11

Give and Take

Steve Jobs passed this week. I don’t need to fill you in on his story. He’s an accepted technological genius of our time. Apple’s products have changed the way we live our lives. I’m not an Apple or Jobs worshiper but our family has nearly the entire product line, in various specs, and has been Apple exclusive for some time. It is hard to overstate the difference in the execution of my daily living pre and post iphone and macbook and ipod, for both the better and the worse. Certainly other brands have designed similar or superior devices but Apple always seems to be the first to market and the one most sensitive to subtleties of style and self awareness. They are of course now the corporate conglomerate that in some ways they always spurned.

For me personally, I have this weird dream of simplicity that couldn’t be any more incongruent with the way I actually live. And, the convenience of the Apple lifestyle invites all these simultaneously efficient and distracting incidents of modern living.

A lesser publicized story is that of Occupy Wall Street a, maybe grass roots/maybe contrived, Financial District sit in by protestors, of Lord knows what demographic, decrying the excesses and abuse of Wall Street and its Government regulators and enablers. In addition to my glorification of simplicity, I also have this romantic idea that I’d like to be brave in protest standing against the many injustices of our western lifestyle, government and personal.

The two stories, Jobs’ death and Occupy Wall Street, stir so much of the same tensions in me. I have these competing desires to simultaneously worship the progress of our society and burn it down. I’m sure I’m not alone. I don’t have the wisdom or the time to postulate an answer. But, I suspect that living life is finding some middle ground. Not as a cop out or compromise but because in every generation humanity has been called upon to find virtue in its advancement. Our portable technology is not evil. Our digital lives are not evil. But, they are susceptible, just like the buggy and the plow, to distraction or to misuse or to self-aggrandizment or to laziness.

I guess I’m just trying to learn a little bit better about how to give and take.

May God bless the Jobs family in this time of grief and sadness.

Performed by ipoet. Music sequenced by the ipoet from Yael Naïm’s “New Soul.”

Forbidden Fruit

08/22/11

Falling Down

It’s worth remembering that the advanced and relatively civilized condition of our present society is the product of men who believed this:

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. . . . [W]hen a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

Declaration of Independence (emphasis added).

They had a strong understanding that governments could grow illegitimate and that modification to them, even by violent means, might in certain cases be inescapable. So, when we view civil disobedience through only the lens of crime or thuggery we forget our politically philosophical roots. At the same time, there is certainly some “revolution” that amounts to no more than just that — crime.

Whatever box London may be, I cannot say. Our most violent protest has always seemed to exist at the corners of preexisting marginalization and present atrocity. In other words, some government or law enforcement injustice sparks the dry kindling of more longstanding oppression. In some ways the riots in London fit this bill and in others it does not.

Wealth inequality is indisputably a widening delta. Whether reactionaries to the death of Mark Duggen are responding to these broader injustices, on conscious or subconcious levels, is hard to measure. But, Europe is not the only house built of dry timber. For all the profits of our National Football League, there are larger and more struggling groups of people than ever before right here at home.

And, you say you want a revolution . . .

Performed by ipoet. Music produced by Sundance.

Today’s song blog here:

London Bridge Is

P.S. This is my 100th post!

07/8/11

12 Angry Men

My apologies to Nancy Grace. This ain’t her fault.

I didn’t watch a minute of the Casey Anthony trial. Literally, not one. I know the sparest about it. This song blog is not some considered opinion on its outcome. It appears reasonably perceived as wrong.

But, it seems a collective sin that we so consistently relish the sensational and scream for guilt. I don’t know if we fall into fury for the actual loss of the victim’s justice or for some blood thirst. It’s not like we fear Casey Anthony on the streets. And, our 24-hour news cycle of tabloid television doesn’t help. Nancy’s name seems ironic. I mourn for Caylee. But, she’s all good. If there is a God, she’s all good. My greatest lament is for those among us who, in the name of vindication, seem to have no goal but revenge.

The Courts are a violent place. By its nature, the criminal verdict does violence. Oft justified, but violence nonetheless. It rips liberty, and at times, life, from people and families. It is serious business. We should neither hope for it unnecessarily or celebrate it like some birthday party or lottery win.

I’ve never been able to relate to the post-verdict jubilance of a victim’s family. Then again, I’ve never been victimized. But, I suspect that I couldn’t muster much joy. And, maybe theirs is feigned or forced or some sort of mask. I think, mostly, I would despair.

At the same time, knowing how precarious and prone to error our judicial process can be, I could never be confident of any outrage over a failed prosecution. American justice is built on the notion that it is a fundamentally lesser wrong to allow the guilty to walk than the innocent be detained. In suspiscious outcomes like the Casey Anthony trial, we can take solice in two things: (a) punishment could never have redeemed the victim and (b) we have averted the worse hell of a wrongful conviction. That is not to say, “Let them all go.” But, let us not cry with such arrogance, like we know.

Let us be about grace. It is what we would want for ourselves.

Performed by the ipoet. Music produced by dj clutch.

Today’s song blog here:

Nancy Ain't Grace