Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Democratic Roundup

I did a little roundup of possible GOP VP candidates a few weeks ago. In the spirit of bipartisanism, (and easy articles), here’s a rundown of possible Dem picks.

Senator Hillary Clinton (NY)

Pros: Ran highly competitive presidential campaign, and controls hundreds of delegates in the national convention. She’s also competitive in demographics that Obama struggles with (poor white people who might just be a teensy bit racist). Also, she’d bring Bill Clinton back into the limelight, which would guarantee that SNL will be funny again for at least 4 more years.

Cons: Kinda hard to run on change when you’re bringing the old president back…who has kind of tragically gone from “endearing Democratic party statesman”, to “whiny little baby”. Also, tens of thousands of Democrats voted against her for a reason.

Gov. Bill Richardson (NM)

Pros: Initial winner of the highly coveted Matt Brown Endorsement, Bill is a popular executive of a critical swing state. He has foreign policy experience, energy experience, legislative experience, executive experience, baseball experience, and now, beard-growing experience. He’ll also shatter the glass ceiling for “Hispanic people with very gringo names”, which has been keeping me down for years.

Cons: He’s not a great campaigner. Plus, he’s probably way overqualified for a cushy job like Vice President.

Former Senator John Edwards (North Carolina)

Pros: He’s positive, photogenic, and popular with the base. Edwards would play right into the campaign theme of “changing Washington”, because Edwards and Obama combined would have less Washington experience than one of those Midwestern tourists who stands on the wrong side of the Metro escalator.

Cons: Wasn’t exactly a helpful addition to John Kerry’s ticket. Edwards has done the whole run for president, run for vice president thing. I’m also on the record of threatening to shoot my TV if I hear John talk about his mill-working pappy one more time. We get it John. You couldn’t go to Yale like all the other senators.

Senator Evan Bayh (Indiana)

Pros: He’s a popular, young Midwestern guy that could actually put Indiana in play, which would totally stick it to the Republicans. He was also a staunch Hillary supporter, which may help heal some old wounds. Bayh was also a popular former Gov of Indiana.

Cons: Anybody remember the last time somebody picked a young, photogenic senator from Indiana to be their running mate?

Senator Joe Biden (Delaware)

Pros: Brings experience and strong foreign policy credibility to a ticket that currently lacks both. Biden would also do wonders in helping American children with their geography, by spurring them to look a map to find out just where the hell Delaware is. Biden also emits enough hot hair to completely solve our nation’s energy crisis.

Cons: Biden solving the energy crisis by blabbering does mean that we’re going to have to listen to a lot of Joe Biden. It might not be worth it.

Government Bureaucrat and Amateur Journalist Matt Brown (Ohio)

Pros: Would complete a demographic dream team. Nominating a democratic Mormon could cause tens of other Mormons to break away from decades of tradition and vote democratic as well. Matt also has the credibility to talk about issues that Ohioans really care about…football, highway construction, and more football (were you expecting foreign policy?)

Cons: Amending the constitution to make this happen may be a little more “change” than people are ready for.

Gov Kathleen Sebelius (Kansas)

Pros: Popular leader of a very red state, which shows that she’s bipartisan. She can bring a lot of the demographic positives of Hillary Clinton, without the scary baggage. Also, her dad was a Democratic Gov. of Ohio…so that’s cool.

Cons: Likely can’t deliver Kansas, and she’s old. Hillary-supports might throw an epic temper tantrum if there is a female VP not married to Bill Clinton as well. That will make bad television.

Rock Star Bruce Springsteen (New Jersey)

Pros: Completely negates the biggest fear about Obama…that he somehow isn’t “American”. It doesn’t get more American than Thunder Road and the E St Band! Springsteen’s flavor of “heartland rock” is popular with all generations, and all over the country. Do you want to attract a crowd of 40,000 to a campaign rally in Ohio? Now you can! People will actually watch C-Span and CNN! Plus, what do you think is going to go farther to repair America’s image in the world…some old dude from Virginia, or a Bruce Springsteen European tour?

Cons: There are absolutely no cons with this idea. This is the best idea I’ve ever had.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Homesick on the 4th of July

According to Mapquest, I’m about 2002.4 miles to the Granville Street Fair. Unless Doc Brown shows up with his DeLorean, it looks like its going to be impossible for me to go this year, and I have to admit, it really bums me out.

The 4th of July is, no joke, my favorite holiday. It doesn’t have any of the stress associated with Christmas or Valentines Day, its right in the middle of the summer, so we’re most likely to have nice weather. Most importantly though, we take a day off to celebrate America by having barbecues with friends, listening to live music, and blowing stuff up. What could be better than that?

And growing up, nobody did the 4th of July better than little ol’ Granville. For one week, the major question of the Granvillian teenager, what are we going to do to tonight?, was solved. We are going to go downtown, we are going to hang out with our friends, and we are going to eat fried things. The fair didn’t lose much importance after I moved out of Granville to go to school either, as it allowed me to reconnect with all the people I missed over the school year. Plus, seeing Broadway lit up with the lights of the carnival rides and games looked like a scene straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting…you don’t get any more small-town Americana than that.

There are two events in our celebration that I’m going to miss the most. One is the Firecracker Five. I ran my first race the summer after my senior year in high school. I thought I was in pretty good shape for that first race, but I remember eating quite a bit of humble pie, as I was passed by 11 year olds and 60 year olds alike. Despite my poor showing, I enjoyed the experience, and vowed to run again the next year to do better. No matter how poorly you do, there is still quite a sense of accomplishment after you complete the morning ordeal. I thoroughly enjoyed having the following convocation with my peers that entire day:

Me “So, what did you do this morning?”

Friend “uh, I slept in.”

Me “Oh, that’s nice. I ran a 5 mile race.” (flexes a little)

As long as my friend hadn’t actually competed in a triathlon or cured cancer or something, I could feel smug for day.

In November of 2006, I had a fairly traumatic knee injury. Damage was done to soft tissue in both of my knees, and I walked with a limp for a few months. As I underwent painful physical therapy that winter, I was encouraged to set some kind of performance related goal (I want to not walk like Dr.House by April, for example). My goal was to run in the Firecracker 5 that July, which turned out to be pretty ambitious. It wasn’t easy, but that July, there I was, getting my butt kicked on Pearl St, with two athletic knee braces on. My time wasn’t anything to write home about that year, but I never felt prouder crossing that finish line. Not only is a the race a fun competitive exercise, but to me, its also a symbol of conquering adversity.

The other thing I’m really going to miss (even more than deep fried Oreos), is the live music, both as a performer, and as a fan. One of my first formative memories as a musician came at my first street fair as a Granvillian, when I was in 8th grade. I came to see some of my classmates, who had formed the band “Sons of Liberty”, play one of the early timeslots. Sure, the crowd consisted mostly of middle schoolers and immediate family of the performers, but my classmates were up on a real stage, with real lights, playing (mostly) real rock music! The idea that such an event could be accessible to my peers meant that it could be an attainable goal for me as well.

And it was, and for many of my other fellow young musicians. You’d hope to get your start playing one of the early afternoon slots, and if you were good, or brought in lots of people, you might make the big time, and headline one of the nights. I played in a ton of smaller bands in high school, but making that stage was always the top goal. Licking County kind of has a dearth of legit performing opportunities for young people (actually, make that everybody), which only enhanced the glow of those summer lights.

Last year, I finally got that opportunity with Aces High, and I have to admit, it was everything I had hoped it would be. The lights were bright, and there were people filling every bleacher seat, and then some. Some were folks I had never met before, but many more were old familiar faces, which is a great comfort when you’ve been bounced around as much as I have. We’ve had the opportunity to perform at perhaps some more prestigious events, but personally, I’ve never enjoyed playing anywhere more than in front of my hometown friends at the Granville Street Fair. Plus, last year, Granville music legend John Krumm played with us. How cool is that? I humbly submit it is very cool.

Aces High should be starting their set this year in a few hours, and I find myself roughly 2000 miles away here in Tempe Arizona, where I’ll be attending a different street fair. I’m sure there will be fireworks, and live music, and fried things. Some of those fried things may even taste better than what we have back home….but it won’t be the same.

Enjoy the festival this year everybody, and have a safe and happy 4th of July.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Boom de Yada

My friends, the world can be a dark and tragic place.

Our loved ones may get sick
and they may die
sometimes our hearts get broken
and then we cry
we see suffering and senseless wars
and wonder why
and we may forget the wonder
thats still right before our eyes


with deep apologies to our friends at the Discovery Channel( , and XKCD ( , might I suggest a hearty rendition of the boom de yada song? I'll start, and I think if you try writing your own, or even just *thinking* about writing your own, you're going to feel better about most things

I love quoting Anchorman
and Van Morrison's voice
I love good root beer
cause milk is a bad choice
I love the whole world
and all its randomness
boom de yada boom de yada
boom de yada boom de yada

I love America
From Alaska to DC
and I love Brazil
cause its the motherland to me
I love the whole world
except for Michigan
boom de yada boom de yada
boom de yada boom de yada

I love all my friends
and I love my family
even though I gotta wonder
sometimes why they put up with me
I love the whole world
even with its suffering
boom de yada boom de yada
boom de yada boom de yada

I don't know about you, but I feel a lot better about everything, even though my left arm is so sunburned right now I'm expecting to mutate into an X-man in the next few hours from all the UV radiation. If you feel so inclined, post your own boom de yada song. Or not.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Learning a new instrument

So, in addition to working stupid hours here in Arizona over these past few weeks, and trying to avoid getting so sunburned I melt like the Nazis after they opened the Ark of the Covenant, I’ve taken on another important project. I’ve been trying to decide on another instrument to learn.

Don’t get me wrong, the drums have been very good to me. I’ve been playing drums for over a decade now, and I’ve loved most every minute of it (not gonna lie…lugging all that gear was kind of a pain in the ass). However, my apartment just isn’t big enough for my kit, and my mom, whose house I had been using for storage, just moved to Wisconsin….so I had to sell my drumset.

So whats next? I’m certainly not prepared to give my rock star dreams and admit that my future is with ties, keyboards and cubicles, and not snappy fedoras, drumsticks and blues joints. After some research and soul searching, I’ve narrowed my choices to three instruments.

The first is the Piano. I actually took piano lessons before I learned the drums, as part of a deal with my mother to allow drums in the house. Of course, that was an awfully long time ago, so I don’t really remember anything useful, other than how to read music. I was kind of hoping that the learning curve wouldn’t be so steep, since I’ve already trained my hands to do two different things at the same time.

What’s really tempting about learning to play the keys, is that it would allow me to fulfill my ultimate musical fantasy. I’d find a way to sneak into the Salt Lake City Tabernacle (where this heee—uuuge organ is)….I’d sit down at the bench, and when everybody is expecting a hymn…I start playing Green Onions. Do you know how awesome that would be???? I think of doing this every time I see conference on TV.

Actually, wait. Now that I think about it, that may not be a good idea. No Mormon who plays the piano is safe from being asked to play every other Sunday. Best to learn another instrument I’m not allowed to play in church .

Another instrument I’ve been seriously considering is the Tenor Sax. I’ve had a crush on saxes for a while now. In fact, in High School, I checked out a Baritone Sax, hoping that I could teach myself a few riffs. Two weeks later, my friends got around to pointing out that I had been playing with the mouthpiece upside down. Clearly, there is a bit of a learning curve there that I wasn’t used to with the drums.

The trouble is, because the Tenor (and Bari) Sax is such an awesome instrument, nobody wants to sell theirs, and I cannot afford a new one. I was all excited about getting one on ebay a few days ago, but some jerk doubled by bid with three seconds left, when I went to go to the bathroom. Unless somebody wants to write a large check to the Matt Brown Musician Fund, it would appear that plan C is the most feasible.

Plan C is the ol’ standby, the electric guitar. Sure, its almost cliché for me to try and learn the guitar in college, but the benefits are undeniable. Guitars are cheap, portable, and versatile. They aren’t impossible to learn, and nearly every musical group needs at least one. Plus, my roommate happens to be quite a good guitar player, and I bet I could convince him to teach me a few things.

However, two positives stick out above all the others. Firstly, guitars use notes. The importance of this cannot be understated. I’ve been playing the drums for a long time, which is all fine and dandy, but they’re atonal. I never developed music theory knowledge, or much of a sense of pitch (which explains why most drummers are awful singers, myself included). Playing a new instrument would hopefully allow me to gain some understanding of how everything fits together, so I could actually write a song or two.

There is also a rumor going around that girls like guitars. Again, drums are wonderful, but drummers don’t exactly have the best reputation. We’re categorized as meatheads, who are about as subtle as a punch in the face. We hide behind our immobile, monstrous instruments near the back of the stage, and pound on stuff atonally for three hours. I mean, can you imagine how ridiculous a drummer serenading somebody would be? Let me help you.

Girl: (opening window) What is that racket?

Me: (on drumset) I wrote you a love cadence!

Baby you’re so wonderful

You make my heart skip just a little

You’re more beautiful than a..

(ratatatatatatat) flam double paradiddle

See? THAT WOULD NEVER WORK. Drums are not romantic. Love Actually is not real life. In real life, the kid would have locked himself in his room, learned the drums, had a sweet solo in that concert at the end, and the chick would run off with the lead singer or something.

Holy crap, did I just make a reference to a chick flick? Dammit, I’m going to lose my Man License again. Quick-…Monster Trucks! Barbecue! Football! Manual Transmission!

Most of what I wrote there was tongue in cheek…but the point is, there is a whole lot of musical ground that’s unexplored for me. If any of you guys hear of any cheap guitars floating around, lemme know. I’ve got notes to learn.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Breakin down the GOP VP race

Well, my academic obligations are finished, my bags are mostly packed, and I have a few days to chill and relax before I head back to Ohio. I haven’t written in a while, and VP madness seems to be in full swing, so let me handicap the Republican VP choices for you (slow day at work again)

John Huntsman Jr, Gov. Utah.
Pros: Young (46), and quite popular Governor. Huntsman would also provide credibility on economic and domestic issues, something McCain had admitted he knows little about
Cons: Like McCain needs help winning Utah. Utah wouldn’t vote Democratic for a Obama/Joseph Smith ticket.

Bobby Jindal, Gov, Louisiana
Pros: 36-year-old wunderkind already has more domestic political experience than most elderly Washington insiders. Also, he’s the only minority (Indian-American) republican in the entire country, so GOP leadership would love to parade him around.
Cons: Jindal has been governor of a crappy state for like, 3 weeks. Also, remember when McCain lost South Carolina in 2000 because voters were convinced he had a black child? In 2008, they’re going to think he’s RUNNING with one.

Tim Pawlenty, Gov, Minnesota
Pros: Also young, hails from politically competitive upper Midwest, might help McCain steal a democratic state
Cons: Who?

Rob Portman, Former Budget Director, former Congressman, Ohio
Pros: Very competent, wide range of domestic and economic policy experience. Well liked by both parties in Ohio, and could deliver critical swing state.
Cons: Spent past 4 years working on selling Bush’s economic policies. He’s so radioactive right now; he has a tail and 4 eyeballs.

Mike Huckabee, Former Gov, Arkansas
Pros: He’s young, popular with Christian conservatives, and he charms the media. Plus, you tend to smile every time to say the word Huckabee. Try it. See? Its crazy.
Cons: Doesn’t believe in Evolution. Lead sneaking theological smears on Mitt Romney. Was in charge of one of the crappiest states in the union for a decade, in which in failed to get any less crappy. He may be charming, but he’s also batshit insane. Do you want Ned Flanders to be one misplaced McCain heartbeat from the launch codes?

Matt Brown, Very Low Level Government Employee, Ohio
Pros: Very young (21). One of the few possibilities with any minority street cred (Brazilian). Could help deliver critical swing state of Ohio. Popular with young voters. Knows how to work the google on the internet machine.
Cons: Constituently prohibited from taking office of Vice President. Foreign Policy experience consists of a trip to Brazil, and a week camping in Canada. Also, not a Republican.

Mitt Romney, Former Gov of Massachusetts.
Pros: Nationwide name recognition. Perfect Hair. Can speak credibly to Republican audiences on the economy. Only has one wife. Filthy Stinkin’ Rich. Maybe everybody forgot about all that Mormon stuff by now.
Cons: I swear, if Mitt is on the ticket, I’m going inactive until November.

Darth Vader - Galaxy Far Far Away
Pros: Very strong on terrorism and crime. Finds “lack of faith disturbing”. Can totally choke somebody on the Senate floor without actually touching them.
Cons: Dick Cheney already said he isn’t interested.

Semi Serious entry coming soon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Fear and Loathing in Washington DC

One of my final academic obligations of this internship is to attend some sort of presentation or speech, and write a paper on it. The University had provided me with several speakers I could have written my paper on, but I procrastinated. Now, with less than three weeks to go, it became apparent that I needed to find something on my own.

Luckily for me, I hit paydirt yesterday, when I discovered that Congressional Quarterly (a news website that I compulsively check while at work) was hosting a forum on American’s Infrastructure Wednesday morning, which is when I *didn’t* have to be at work. It seemed perfect on a number of levels:
-It was held at Union Station, which happens to be right next door to both my office, and our classroom-
The keynote speaker was Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), who has taken over John McCain’s spot as The Democrat’s Favorite Republican, and featured a few other politicos that I had heard of-
It looked like it was going to be about some nitty gritty policy issues that actually interest me.

Sometimes, people ask me why I don’t have a girlfriend. You just read that I was kind of excited to go to a forum on congressional funding for highways and sewer systems. I’m pretty sure that’s a big part of the reason.

So I get up extra early on my day off, throw on my best suit, and head down the Metro towards the Union Station, for breakfast and mingling. I’ve had to do this “mingling” business a few times since I’ve been here in DC, and I have to admit, I don’t like it. I have 30 min of forced awkward conversations with people in industries that have nothing to do with me, in hope that one will take such a liking to me that they’ll give me a job. It is like a sick, professional version of speed dating. I swear, last time we did this, my fellow interns were ogling over Rob Portman’s business card like it was the phone number of the hottest girl in a bar.

Oh well. Free breakfast right? Can’t be all bad.

I sneak into a chair in the back, sandwiched between a puffy faced man from the Department of Transportation, and an AFL-CIO rep whose hair was so slicked back; he could have been Pat Rielly’s stunt double. Outside of a few, poor bottom-of-the-food-chain congressional aides, I was by far the only guy there under 40. This seems to happen to me all the time.

The Senator was the first to speak, after showing up a few min late, surrounded by posse of overachieving legislative assistants. He rambles on for around 40 minutes, speaking in big, broad themes and avoiding specific policy points like most of us avoid sexually transmitted diseases. He paused twice to make a terrible joke, which the audience felt obligated to laugh at, and then was whisked away to do more important senator things. I was disappointed, but I don’t think he’s one of the Senators famous for oratory masterpieces. He’s a war hero.

After Hagel leaves, the 8 person panel discussion begins. Did any of you guys ever play Simcity2000? Remember the transportation advisor? He used to whine and whine, and if you lowered his budget even one tiny percent, he’d flip out and start blowing up your roads. Do you know who I’m talking about? Please say yes.

Ok. Well, imagine a panel of 7 of these guys, speaking to a crowd of about 200. The way the discussion was framed, the government was being awfully stupid to fund things like our military, education, justice department, etc etc, when sewer systems were in disrepair. If we don’t build more roads, dams, bridges, etc, CHINA WILL AND WE WILL LOSE TO COMMUNSITS. I was unaware that the “highway gap” was actually more important than the “Missile Gap”.

There was one poor, lonely dissenter on the panel. He was part of the American Taxpayers Union, which usually has a pretty knee jerk reaction against any form of government spending or taxation. Normally, groups like this to do not garner sympathy from me; but in this case, I had to make an exception. Here are some sample conversations.
Panelist 1 (Society for people who build highways)- I think we should spend 500 Billion next year on new highways and road related projects

Panelist 2 (Society for people who do things with dams)-that’s just as well, but we also need 100 Billion for dam related projects.

Lonely Dissenter- uh, do we even have that much money to spend? We’re in a war and a recession too….

Everybody else- Seriously. Do you want China to win?

Moderator- How can we pay for all these needed improvements?

Panelist 3 – I think we need to hike up the Gas tax by at least 20 cents. At least.

Panelist 4- I don’t think that’s nearly enough. We should increase it by 30 cents, and then add a quarter tax on bottled water!

Lonely Dissenter-Have you guys not watched CNN in the last two weeks? Working class people are getting screwed on gas prices. Do you think we’re going to vote for even higher gas prices?


Passionate Lobbyist for Construction Industry holding a bat-Lets wait for him outside.

Actually, this gas tax stuff got me thinking. The entire tenor of the discussion focused on educating voters on infrastructure issues, which later deteriorated into barely a codeword for “Voters are stupid, how do we get them to support our stuff?”. Panelists often tried to outdo each other with “lolz voters r dumb” stories. This was a room filled with wealthy think tank fellows, lobbyists, elected officials, and consultants. Some of these guys commute 80 miles round trip to work each day…a hike in the gasoline tax wasn’t going to affect them. It would affect folks back home in Newark, like a lot of the policies that these folks in the beltway cook up.

I’m not saying that the gas tax is bad, or that our nation doesn’t need drastic reinvestments. In fact, me and my roommates have ranted a lot about Hillary Clinton and her gas tax pandering (often with some profanity sprinkled in)….but I can’t shake the feeling that a lot of folks involved in the policy making process and discussion could use a little humility. Maybe not everybody understands the ins and outs of the air traffic control system, or how highways are constructed, but that doesn’t give an excuse to lampoon them, or worse, use political tricks to take advantage of them…just like we don’t want our mechanic to take advantage of us.

Ugh. Too much thinking at 8 AM on my day off

Friday, May 9, 2008

The future of Sports Journalism?

I saw a neat segment on Bob Costas’s sports show on HBO a few days ago. Costas was discussing how sports blogs were changing the way sports journalism worked. The reporters on the program, experienced professionals with credentials, and degrees from prestigious universities, lamented how the tone in the sports world had become more crass, profane, angry, and confrontational, and how the next generation of readers wasn’t going to appreciate their craft.

Bloggers on the program felt that newspaper columnists were just worried about the new influx of competition, and that one didn’t need to have a degree from Northwestern to write “the Indians should have pulled Carmona in the 8th”.

Athletes on the program worried that the now 24/7 news coverage of mundane activities make it impossible for them to function (an adult can’t go out and have a beverage without it appearing on the next day).

Clearly, these issues are not restricted to just sports journalism, but the way we cover the news in general. Is the proliferation of blogs a good thing for sports journalism (or journalism in general)? Can the interests of the traditional media and that of the blogsosphere be reconciled? Can we filter the crap? Lets find out.

Is it inevitable that blogs and newspapers have an adversarial relationship? I’m something of a rarity, in that I’m a 21 year old who loves to read newspapers. One of the absolute highlights of living in Washington DC for me would be getting my Washington Post every weekday, sitting down with my tiny breakfast, and reading some of the best sportswriters (like my man Michael Wilbon), Washington beat writers, and columnists. Even when I’m back home, I make an effort to read the Columbus Dispatch or Newark Advocate when I can, even if they may pale in comparison to the mighty Post. Something about having the paper in my hand, instead of on my tiny monitor…

Most of my peers don’t do that. They get their news from the internet, like, or CNN, or the DrudgeReport, or any of the thousands of other small blogs, or what have you. Internet news is quicker and cheaper, and plays right into our short attention spans. We don’t have time for painstaking analysis or flowery prose. I need the facts, and maybe a clever one liner now, so I can get back to my super busy day. When it comes to spitting out information quickly, and to a large number of people, the internet is the best option.

That may be well and good, but what about the quality? Many point out (correctly, in my mind), that internet blog writers have no credentials, no editors, and little to any accountability. If people are unable to ascertain my identity, tracking me down for a libel suit would be expensive and difficult. Many writers take advantage of this, and dedicate their websites to content that might shock even the hardest radio shock jock. Perhaps most importantly though….a lot of blogs, be they sports, political, teenage livejournals…they’re just awful. They wouldn’t get a C from any self-respecting teacher at Granville High School.

Does this matter? I don’t have any formal press credentials, although I’ve taken journalism classes in college, and I’ve had my work published before. Because of this, I can’t get in to anybody’s locker room, or press box, or campaign bus. But does this mean that I can’t contribute? Certainly I don’t need courtside seats to see that Delonte West might be missing a defensive assignment, or that a particular political strategy may not be working.

Plus, there may be something to be said for having that freedom. I don’t have to be objective, or pretend that I’m not a part of the story. I’m a big Cleveland Cavaliers fan, and if I’m going to write about professional basketball, I’m going to write from that perspective. When I blog, I have the freedom to insert my own personal feelings, experiences and emotions into a story, something that flies against everything you were taught in print journalism 101. Does this mean that if a newspaper gave me a press pass and 10 bucks, and asked me to cover a football game, or a council meeting, that I wouldn’t do it? Of course not, I’d go in a heartbeat....I’m just saying that you can provide quality information without that. If you want to see what I mean, check out, and compare it with the Newark Advocate sports coverage. I think you might find some useful info at LCS too (although in the interests of full disclosure, I admit that I do contribute to that site).

To me, this means that smaller, nimbler, internet-based news sources, and larger, more conventional news sources, ideally, should work in concert with one another. I think the best blogs bring in both their own individual analysis, and the best of other sources. My absolute favorite sports blog is Henry Abbot’s TrueHoop, which you can read on In addition to writing his own stories, Abbot links to what sportswriters across the county are saying about basketball issues. Its great for the fan (like me), because I get a whole lot of different perspectives on issues, and I can get a chance to read stories that I might miss if I only read national sources. It’s great for the writers, because they get a chance to expand their audience. Popular political/news blogs, like the Drudge Report, and Tegan Goddard’s PoliticalWire, follow the same format.

Some newspapers are starting to incorporate blogs as well. The Newark Advocate (my hometown paper) has recently set up a function to allow readers to write blog entries, hosted on the newspaper website. Maybe this sort of thing can help papers without a lot of resources to greatly expand their news coverage. Maybe it can help launch writing of quality readers. Maybe it’s a waste of bandwidth. Who knows, but it’s an experiment that I approve of.

So hopefully the future of media isn’t all doom and gloom. Everybody knows, there is a ton of crap on the internet…but its also a meritocracy. The best (or funniest) writing usually finds itself an audience, and the worst stuff is doomed to hide in a tiny niche, or disappear, just like regular newspapers. Hopefully, all kinds of writers can see that there is a partnership between the two media formats will give us the best coverage, and the best information.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Downtown's Greatest Hits

Published in Our Town News, April, 2007

Why I'll watch (and root) for the Yankees this year.

Like a great many American sons, it was my dad who taught me the game of baseball. I don't mean taught in the sense of say, explaining the infield fly rule to me, (he had no idea what that was) but in explaining the intangibles of baseball. Dad was the one who taught me about guys like Kirby Puckett and Donnie Baseball, and why everybody loved them. He taught me why everybody hated Albert Belle (I discovered this myself later in life, as I approached him for an autograph, and was greeted by the international driver’s salute). It was through him that I discovered the glory of cheap seats at minor league baseball games on those lazy summer nights. The romanticized baseball, the ones that sportswriters embellish a little every spring, was the one my dad taught to me, not the game rocked by steroid scandals and labor disputes.

Like every great story, baseball clearly had its heroes (like Donnie) and its villains (like Belle). Imagine my surprise when I discovered that my dad loved the worst, greatest sporting villain of all time, the New York Yankees. I felt like I found an "I Love Bin Laden" shirt in his closet or something. Sure, I was aware that my dad used to live in NYC, met my mom there, fell in love with the city blah blah blah…couldn't he have liked the Mets or something?

I tried everything with him. I appealed to his political sensibilities (Dad, the Yankees are the nastiest big business in sports, hopelessly driving up wages for small market teams, ruining baseball. Do you want to root for the Halliburton of sports? Would you wear an Enron baseball cap?). I tried attacking the players (Dad, Johnny Damon was a homeless bum 4 months ago, and now you want him to bat leadoff?). I even tried to bring mom into it (mom told me she likes the Indians best), even if I had to lie a little bit there. Nothing. That man was unshakable in his convictions, no matter how wrong they were.

Of course, this made watching baseball with him actually pretty fun, with me pulling hard for the hometown Cleveland Indians (and later, my second hometown team, the Washington Nationals), and my dad rooting for a team that basically included Darth Vader and Pol Pot in its bullpen. How lucky we were, that our biggest fights and disagreements weren't over substantive parenting rules, but over 2nd basemen.

Sadly, my dad passed away in September of 2006. In addition to losing my father and a wonderful friend, the Brown family baseball rivalry died as well.

So, Licking County is down a Yankees fan this season. Now that the Clippers have switched back to the light side of the force (Nationals), we suddenly have a dearth of central Ohio yankee-dom. This season, and this season only, I will fill that gap.

I will root for the Yankees, or as much as I can without making my skin crawl. I will be seen in public this summer with a Yankees baseball cap on. I might even play drums in one. I will not change the channel in disgust when the Indian’s bullpen gives up a 3 run shot in the 9th inning to Jeter. Somebody has got to do it…without an evil villain, what fun will watching baseball be?

Friday, April 25, 2008

My DC Blues Bar Blues

So, a few months ago, I had to make a tough choice. Instead of working full time over the summer, I took a few summer classes and a cushy part time job, and devoted as much energy as possible to Aces High, my blues band. We traveled all over the state and Michigan, having a great time, and made only a tiny, microscopic amount of money.

So for me, it was like that one scene in The Matrix, where Neo is getting interrogated by Agent Smith for the first time.

Miiiiiister Brown….it seems that you’ve been leading two lives. By day, you’re a mild mannered college student/very low level government bureaucrat that types papers and staples things for slightly higher up government bureaucrats. By night, you throw on a suit and sunglasses and go play drums in smokey blues clubs, and go by Downtown. Only one of these men…..has a future.

So I panicked, and hedged my bets. I wasn’t going to quit making music, but I knew I really only had time to go for broke on one of those things, and I picked the straight job. It all kind of came to a head last week, when I sold my old drumset to one of my former students. I knew it was the responsible choice, but you all know I’m a showman at heart. I missed gigging.

So I was more than excited to learn that there was an open blues jam right here in DC! I would have a chance to relive my rock star dreams on *some other guy’s kit*, if only for a night. I found out the date and time, and was counting down all week. I didn’t know anything about this bar other than its location, so I tried to come prepared. I grabbed my own sticks, harmonica, all the ones I could find in my sock drawer, and threw on my *blues bar best*. Blue shirt, black tie, jacket, and shades. My age is still a handicap when it comes to blues-cred, so I hoped maybe I could look the part a little to get some back.

I quickly discovered that this was not going to be the case. I the only guy there wearing anything that even resembled a tie. The bar was already fairly full when I walked in and plunked down on a barstool, and defiantly was full of your typical blues bar demographics. It was almost entirely male, where everybody either looked like they just walked off the set of Two and a Half Men, or a boxcar. Plus, I was the youngest person there by at least 15 years…but that’s par for the course for blues bars. I think a big reason we were so successful as a band in Columbus was because a group of 19 year olds playing blues music is still a bit of a novelty to some people.

The house band was still warming up when I walked in, so I plunked down at the bar and ordered a coke (I still prefer root beer, but there is no promise that a bar is going to have anything besides coke that doesn’t contain booze). The barkeep hands me a plastic cup with the ol’ brown bubbly, and I go for my wallet. He says “that’ll be three bucks”Three bucks? For a coke???? I wonder how much it would have cost for a beer!! I was hoping to get at least two drinks in, but there is no way to justify spending half a weeks metro fare on something I can get back home for two dirty quarters. I give the barkeep a look that says “you gotta be freakin kidding me”, but hand him three bills. Then he goes “wait, I forgot. With tax, that’s 3.30”I should have packed in then.

When you’re paying 3.30 for a plastic cup of coke, you should know it isn’t going to be your night.

But I wanted to play drums, the band was starting, and the night was young, so I gamely stuck around past my first bad omen. I made a beeline to the musician sign up sheet, to make sure I was the first one…in big, bold print. “downtown” Matt Brown. Drums/Harmonica. There. Then, I struck up a conversation with my neighbors at the stools next to me, which made me feel terribly grown up. I had gone from sneaking into places like this, trying to get a gig, and hoping that nobody would wise up to the fact that I was underage and chuck me out, to making friends at the bar. I’m 21. I Belong.

The house band began their set, and I have to admit, I was not impressed. I’ve seen a lot of local bands…some amazing and mesmerizing, and some that made me envy the dead. These guys weren’t that bad, but I couldn’t help but think, If this is whats good enough for a regular gig in DC, I’m quitting my job tomorrow. The guy next to me leaned over and said “Hey man, isn’t it great how this amazing musicians come in here to play in DC? This guitarist is the best guy I’ve ever heard!” I figured it would be rude to say "Really? My old bandmate at the University of Cincinnati is 19, and he could eat this guy’s lunch", but that would be rude, and besides, blues music isn’t supposed to be a competition, it’s a brotherhood, and we’re here to support each other. I agreed.

The set was supposed to end at 9:00, and by 9:45, I was starting to get antsy. I couldn’t afford to be here all night, since the metro closed early on weekdays, and I had a friend from AU come all the way out here to see me play….but the house band never left the stage. Every so often, they would call up one of their older friends to sing a song or two, or play. They ranged from very talented, to gaaaadawful. Me and my newfound friends at the bar cringed a little bit.

By 11:00, I was getting a little upset, although that’s partly because Tony was texting me Cavs updates, and now my fightin’ Lebrons were down by 20. The house band and friends took a quick break, and I walked up the stage. If I couldn’t stake a claim to the kit, I at least wanted to know what was going on.

Another guy got their first though, and started to warm up. I asked him if he was the drummer for the next set. He gave me a dirty look, and said “uh…yeah. Why?”“Well, I was the first guy who signed up, and I have to leave at 11:30, and I wondering if I might be able to just play a song or two?”
The man looked like I just asked to sleep with his wife.
“Kid, that signup sheet don’t mean shit. The band runs it, and if they decide to call you up, then you get to play.”Well, this struck me as awfully stupid. I just moved here, how would “the band” know to call me up? This was advertised as a public blues jam. “Ain’t my problem kid.”

Well, forget this. I said thanks, told Kaitlyn I wouldn’t be playing tonight after all, and left the place, kinda dejected.That’s kind of how things work when you step up to a bigger city. When I first started playing in Columbus (or heck, doing anything professionally in Columbus), people didn’t care that you might have been a bigshot in tiny Granville…you had to prove yourself first. Eventually, musically and professionally, we all did. Its that same deal here. Oh, you played for the biggest blues guys in Ohio? Well, that and 3.30 will give you a plastic cup of Coke my friend…now sit down.

That’s okay I guess. I wouldn’t have come down here if I didn’t think I had what it took to stick around.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Unplugging from the presidential race

Its not often that I type this, but 50 Cent was right. This election is getting boring. In fact, I’m about ready to delete CQ from my bookmarks, skip over CNN, and buy the Washington Post only for the metro and sports sections.

This probably comes a surprise to many of you. Is it because I don’t really care who wins? Nope. I’m invested in an awful lot of issues (morally, personally, and financially), and care quite a bit about who wins. From a professional standpoint, I also think its important, because this race is changing the way we think about national campaigns. Plus, our generation has never been this empowered in a presidential election since 18 year olds got the right to vote.

So why am I thinking about unplugging myself? Because we aren’t talking about any of those things!

The media coverage of this election so far has been completely nauseating. Faced with month long gaps in-between primaries, 24 hour media outlets have been forced to create controversies over flag pins, comments from pastors (ignoring that whole bit in the constitution prohibiting religious tests...), and bowling skills. Nope, not making this up, CNN’s Political Ticker used space to discuss whether Obama’s inability to bowl shows that he’s “out of touch in the heartland”.

Hunter S.Thompson had described covering the 1992 presidential election as “better than sex”. This is *not* better than sex. It’s not even better than, I dunno, “first awkward-as-hell kiss when both parties still have braces”.

The idea of ‘being an elitist” as some sort of negative campaign issue isn’t new...Republicans have been using it the last 20 year or so. Its come to a head in this cycle with the now famous Obama “bitter’ remarks, where he had the audacity of pointing out that people in the rust belt were bitter about their economic situation, and were at risk of clinging to things like anti-immigrant and anti-globalization sentiments.

The media, not to mention Clinton and McCain, went nuts. How dare Obama call small town rust belters bitter? This just goes to show our he isn’t in touch with “American Values” Pundits went out of their way to talk about the remarks, and how this would surely alienate Obama from voters, because everybody would be so offended. Hillary ran off to find the grungiest bar she could find, and threw back some shots, just to show how “in touch” she was. This, my friends, is the real reason a Mormon can’t be president.

Look. Anybody who has ever lived in the Rust Belt knows that while Obama didn’t exactly express his idea in the most elegant manner, he didn’t lie. People in the rust belt are pissed. Their towns are falling apart, their schools suck, meth labs are exploding everywhere, and the smart, educated, motivated people are moving away. How we can fix the Rust Belt is a very important issue, and one we ought to be discussing this election season (I have a few ideas), but first, we need to stop playing the blame game, or taking shots at anybody who calls attention to the problem. The people who are really out of touch here are media officials and pollsters, who think that rust belters are so stupid that we’ll ignore anybody who points out what we already know.

And whats so bad about being elite anyways? I want my president to be smart, experienced in positions of responsibility, and be a quality administrator. I might love the guys I go camping and bowling with back home, but that doesn’t mean I want them deciding if we go to war with somebody.

But even having this discussion seems stupid, when there are many huge issues. We’re in a war (sort of), and we need to decide the direction we’re going to go in that war. We have a gazillion dollar, boondoggle powder keg in Iraq. We have the industrial Midwest turning into a decayed husk. We have deteriorating infrastructure, inefficient health care, and skyrocketing costs of food, fuel, and education. There is no shortage of important things to talk about. The fact that we discuss religious preference, flippant comments that are the equivalents of verbal typos and flag pins instead of these just makes me frustrated, and saps my desire to continue to be involved in this process.

So from now on, I’m thinking I’m switching to the NBA when a Clinton ad shows up. Wake me up in July.

Monday, April 14, 2008

My Morning Commute

This is a placeholder before I write a serious entry.

6:37 AM- The woman next door decides that right now would be a great time to wake up her 2 year old, and play the “Baby Einstein” video to practice shapes and colors. Wouldn’t be a big deal if our walls weren’t paper thin, and the baby screamed at the top of his lungs every time the video mentions the color “yellow”. For all intents and purposes, I’m done sleeping.

7:21 AM-Finally drag my butt out of bed. The shower is in use, so I lumber into the kitchen.

7:23 AM- I don’t know how many times I open our fridge, hoping that the breakfast fairy had come and filled with delicious food. Half a loaf of bread, some condiments, milk, a few pieces of sushi, my roommate’s beer, and my contribution to the apartment beverage collection, a 12 pack of Mountain Lightning, the Safeway knockoff of Mountain Dew. I write “Buy real food” on my “things to do list, make some oatmeal, and plop down to watch the morning news.

7:24- Don’t care about Metro DC news. Switching to Sportscenter.

7:25-Hey, the Indians won!

7:34-Shower opens up. Shower, change, and get ready for work. I discover that my electric razor is out of battery power, and I’m not sure if I packed the charging chord. Hope the boss likes goatees.

8:01- say goodbye to still unconscious roommate, head out the door.

8:03-Our apartment lobby is always interesting in the mornings. The performers for the Kennedy Center often stay here. They come from all over the world, so often; our lobby looks like the entire UN delegation, which is cool. They’re all huddled up by the door, waiting for a cab to take them to the Kennedy Center. I wonder if I should tell them its 2 blocks away. Naaah, they’re rock stars.

8:06- Car with Diplomat plates runs a red light, almost runs me over. This is the 3rd time this has happened this week. If I get hit by one of these guys, I hope it’s a smaller, less powerful country, so we can have an international incident. I can see the Post headline now: US TO NEPAL: INTERN MURDER WILL NOT GO UNPUNISHED.

8:08-Arive at Foggy Bottom Metro stop. My Smartcard needs more money, so I need to start praying that there isn’t a gaggle of tourists surrounding the one working machine.

8:09 SUCSESS! Smartcard machine is empty. Time to catch my train, since I think I can hear it now.

8:10- Stampeded by hordes of other interns, rushing to get on *this train* like it was the last one out of hell. Geez, did they forget these things come every 2 min?

8:12-Train shows up, doors open, and its absolutely packed. Somedays, I get lucky enough to grab a seat, so I can play Bejeweled on my cell phone the whole trip. Today, I cram myself into a mass of people. I think my face is smashed against somebody’s shoulder.

8:15-Did somebody just grab my ass?

8:20-Time to transfer at Metro Center. My train has emptied out a little bit, but there is always a horde of people at Metro Center trying to get on. I try to sneak out of the train, but am run over my a mom wielding a hummer-esque stroller, on her way to the Smithsonian. This has got to stop. Crazy Metro patrons are a bigger problem in DC than gun crime in SE.

8:24-I start thinking. One of the things I really liked about my commute into downtown Columbus was the fact that I got to see the city as I rolled in to work. I passed by the Short North and its art galleries and restaurants I couldn’t afford, and then those gave way to our banks and skyscrapers. Getting off and walking a few blocks downtown gave me a quiet affirmation each morning that I was on the right track. I’m missing all of that, because I’m underground.

8:25- Ooh, somebody left their newspaper! Introspection ends.

8:33-Get off at Union Station, head up the massive escalator to freedom. Wait, no...not freedom. Just daylight.

8:40-Show intern badge to stern- looking security guards, who are all standing at very rapt attention. One of these days, I want to tell MEN PARADE REST and see if they move. Not today. Don’t want to press my luck today

8:44: Back to my cave, for another fun filled day of interning. Whew.

Serious article coming in 2 days.

Monday, April 7, 2008

A most terrifying question

Two quick housekeeping notes before I get going. First, thank you all for wishing me a happy 21st birthday. I’ll have to re-celebrate when I get back in town though :)

Second, apparently facebook has this RSS feed feature, which allows me to directly import whatever I post on my blog to notes automatically. If you were wondering why your newsfeed said “Matt Brown has added 45 new notes” sometime last week, thats why. I’m still playing around with these new features and trying to work out all the bugs. Hopefully, the blog will have pictures up soon.

Now, my original intention was to do this write up of the two big events that have happened in the last week or so...seeing my friend Tony’s Gospel concert, and my 21st birthday. I even had a cool title for it: God, Love and Beer. However, I was having trouble getting some of the timing, and then the laptop I was borrowing ate it.

But thats okay, because finding something else to write about wasn’t hard. A conversation topic has been reoccurring with me and my friends here over the last few days. If you’re an upperclassman in college, I imagine you’ve had it a few times lately as well. It causes worry, anxiety, and is perhaps the second scariest question to somebody of our age (first being “Do you love me?”)

What are we going to do with our lives?

Seriously! In a year or two, we complete our undergraduate education, and most of us have only a vague idea about what the next step in our lives should be. Do we go to law school? Graduate school? Start Working? Holy crap, some of my friends are getting married!!! I can barely hang up curtains and some of my peers are getting married. This terrifies me.

So what am I going to do? Thats a great question. I know that I’m not done going to school, because with only a BA in political science from a state university, I’m looking at being an intern for the rest of my life (which would be pretty short...if I had to intern for another 6 years, you’d be talking me off the top of a building). I know I want to go into policy at some level, because I want to fix some of the glaring problems we have in our society (I think Ralph Waldo Emerson said To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived --this is to have succeeded. I try to take that to heart)).

But there isn’t a major for “domestic political problems fixing”. What should I actually *do*??

I could do try to become a college professor. The idea of actually wearing one of those tweed jackets with the elbow pads, along with perhaps a bubble pipe, to work every day is pretty exciting to me (actually, I dont need a PhD to do that!). I also love researching, writing, and deciding the academic future of students by pretty arbitrary means.

However, I see one *major* drawback of a life in academia, that I feel like other people often neglect to mention. It isn’t the terrible pay, or the soul-crushing pressure to publish papers. For me, it’s the idea that you could spend your entire life becoming an expert on something, and end up working at a satellite campus of North Dakota State University. You try to surround yourself in culture and books, and you end up in East Jesus Idaho. I don’t know if that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

I could also be a lobbyist. In fact, I’m pretty sure I would actually be really good at this sort of thing. However, being good at that sort of thing also typically means you go to Hell, which I don’t think is worth it.

I could be a member of Congress! I couldn’t. Thats like saying I could play point guard in the NBA.

I could be a lawyer, which is sort of the direction I’m leaning right now, after I do Teach for America, because it seems like the safest bet. 75% of the people who are doing policy type work around here are lawyers. The problem, I think, would be finding a way to use my profession to serve other people (being a corporate tax lawyer sounds boring, although I would make gobs of moolah), while still being able to make enough money to not have to eat ramen 3 times a week.

Have you guys figured how what you’re doing yet? How did that process work? Do you have an idea I missed?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

DC Adventures Part II

So, that last one was kind of fun, and I figured I’d do another. Maybe there is something in the air here that has re-activated the writing gene that was inactive in Columbus (perhaps something in the…Blogosphere? Thank you. I’m here for 2 months. Tip your bartender).

I’m sitting here at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, right in front of the reflecting pool, a fitting place for some reflecting I think, especially since the water is way too grungy to display any actual reflecting properties.

I’ve remembered another big difference between Ohio and DC: People here don’t smile nearly as much. Back home, I smile a lot…I smile when I run, when I drum, to strangers, etc, and people often smile back, or at least don’t recoil in fear. I get the impression that when I do that here, people suspect I’m some sort of creeper, which is sad.

People take themselves far too seriously.I’ve actually made an active effort to smile more over the past year, and I can honestly say that I’m happier because of it. Smiling forces you to momentarily step outside your own ipod-fueled bubble, and acknowledge other people, and it also keeps you from taking everything too seriously…it keeps you grounded and humbled. I can only really think of two objects where are exceptions to my new “smile and be happy” policy.

a) People who stand on the wrong side of the Metro escalators. Now that they have the “metro voice guy” telling you where to stand, ignorance is no longer an acceptable excuse. This can send normal people into delirious rages.

b) People who are wearing Georgetown University stuff. Sorry. I have to assume you’re a prick.

Speaking of which, I don’t think I’m going to write very much about my job, which is of course, the biggest reason that I’m here. I’m an Intern people…there are hundreds of thousands of people just like me, proudly displaying their Hill badges like some kind of Sneech from a Doctor Suess book, dressed like they’re off to some College Republicans meeting. I don’t even work for a sexy government department. People will Hill badges sometimes wear them to bars around here, hoping that some naïve out of towner will be impressed. Nobody *ever* goes “I just met this cute boy, and then I found out he works for the Federal Judicial Center! I just had to have sex with him then”. Nope. It’s never happened.

I’ve worked for several government entities now in my life, and I don’t have the desire to name drop and puff out my chest like I used to. I enjoy my work, I like being here, but lets not sugarcoat what I’m doing. I’m interning. We all know what that means.

Finally, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time around the monuments, this being my first week, and a lot of the other fellows in my group haven’t seen them before. I don’t mind, I really like the national mall area, even though I’ve seen it several times already.

But then I got to thinking. A lot of our nation’s treasures are gifts from other countries! The Statue of Liberty is from France. DC’s cherry blossoms are from Japan. We have some random golden statues from Italy. I’m sure there are more that I’ve missed, and they’re all awesome.Have we done this for anybody? Is there a statue somewhere in the world that has from our friends, the United States under it? (I’m not trying to be snarky…if we have, I’d like to know). More importantly though, why aren’t people still doing this? Why are we not writing checks for new monuments to try and get our world status back? Why not go “Hey, sorry about that whole Iraq stuff Europe…can we make it up to you by giving you something marble and shiny?”

Seriously, everybody loves monuments. They make a great backdrop here, tourists come from all over the world to ogle at them, and at night, they can make a serviceable cheap date (just avoid the war-themed ones. Nothing is a bigger buzzkill than the Vietnam wall). Maybe our next president ought to look at bringing some new ones to the world.

Until later my friends. I’ve got a whole notebook full of notes for new entries.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Adventures in DC, Volume I

Well, I've been down here for a few days, and I thought I'd let ya'll know whats going on.

First, as some of you know, I decided to celebrate my return to the city I love by getting very very sick right off the bat. I spent my first night here throwing up, and then followed that up by puking in a stairway during my first group orientation meeting. I am *awesome* at making first impressions! However, I think I'm okay now.

Its kinda weird to come back after 2 years. At first, I was beyond excited...I wanted to just hug everybody I saw on the metro, and I'm sure I creeped a few people out with me grinning everywhere I went. I'm not a creeper...I'm just happy to be back.

Of course, so much has changed. I don't have too many friends that I still talk to at American, and I'm a very different person than I was during my freshman year of I'm sure just about everybody else is. I know that I'm not going to be able to come back where I left off, and I'm okay with that.

I think its pretty obvious that I've over-romanticized Washington DC as some kinda of wonderland, where Federal bureaucrats are giving out free hugs and Pell Grants, and where the Potomac is really made of Root Beer. I not only fell in love with this city when I was here, but with all of the things that happened at that time of my life that could have happened anywhere. I became independent for the first time in DC, fell in love for the first time, tried so many other exciting life experiences...and to be honest, all of this could have happened just as easily in Akron or Toledo.

Which isn't to say that this opportunity won't be something special. I've already met some cool people, and I've got a lot of fun and exciting things coming up soon, not to mention a job which should be very professionally rewarding....but perhaps spending my first few hours hugging a toilet reminded me that everything here isn't perfect...which is something I needed to remember.

Keep in real in O-H-I-O (or wherever you are)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I'm declaring for the NBA Draft

So, I haven’t written in a while. It isn’t that I’ve had a dearth of material, I have manuscripts in various states of completion from everything about Eliot Spitzer, to the Cleveland Cavaliers megatrade a few weeks ago. However, my quarter was winding down, and with finals coming up, and me getting ready to move to Washington DC for a few months, I just haven’t had time to get this finished up…my days are pretty much school, work, gym, study, sleep.

And then it hit me. I don’t have to do this anymore. I have another option. America, I plan on forgoing my senior season here at Ohio State, and declare for the NBA Draft.

A lot of you are probably laughing at this idea right now. I don’t actually play for Ohio State (or Ohio State-Newark for that matter). I haven’t averaged 14 points a game since Church rec league. I’m not even 6 foot. None of that matters, for there are still tons of reasons for an NBA team to take a chance on ol’ Downtown. Here is what I can bring to the table. I’m targeting this to my hometown Cleveland Cavs, but really, the same principles apply.

1) Despite having little formal basketball training, I can guarantee that I will shoot above 55% on free throws. Cleveland, that means I’m better than Ben Wallace.

2) Some might worry about my size. I’m about 5-11, and weigh around 167 pounds. I think, given access to NBA-caliber trainers, nutritionists, and gym equipment, I could get that up to about 180 by next season, at least. Sure, that’s pretty small…but big enough to take a charge from Allen Iverson or Chris Paul….or Eric Snow.

3) You won’t have to worry about me taking bad shot after bad shot. Look, I’m not Larry Hughes. I won’t even shoot if Lebron tells me not to.

4) Basically, I’m good for hustle, running the floor, rebounding, taking charges…basically, I’m a smaller version of Anderson Varejao, even down to being Brazilian. However, I am also *way* better looking than him, so that’ll help a little bit with the merch department. Seriously, Anderson is trying his best to break the stereotype that Brazilians are all good looking…who wants to be the guy wearing his jersey?

5) Think of the total cost of ownership here. I am not demanding 2.4 million to play 60 games and get hurt. Sign me for the league minimum. Sign me for less than that, I don’t care. You want me to spend 3 weeks in Idaho playing for the D-league? Awesome. I’ll be the happiest camper on the team. I’ll even fold towels and do laundry, so you can cut back on expenses.

6) I’d be great in the locker room, and for the community. I can teach players how to talk with the media intelligently about a number of topics. I can tutor the ones who are going back to school. I won’t bicker and fight about money. I’m a Mormon, so you’ll never pick up the paper and find out that I squeezed out 4 shots outside a nightclub at 3 AM. If you’re looking for somebody to read to little kids, or do community service, I’m your guy.

7) Seriously, this would be like, the best thing ever for your karma. You know that movie where the Eagles let a bartender be on the team, and he turned out to be pretty good? Wouldn’t you want that to be your basketball team? Chris Wallace is drooling right now, he wants to sign me to a 3 year deal for 25 million.

Make this happen. I’m leaving these finals and study guides in the dust. I’m going to be Lebron’s sidekick.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Campus Security Revisted

After the terrible tragedy recently at Northern Illinois last week, beefing up campus security has been a hot issue in the news media, and on college campuses. Events like these often become the staging ground for political debates on gun control. Gun control groups (and basically all of the European media) claim that catastrophes are the reason that we Americans need to get tough on handguns, while the Ron Paul crowd says that what we need are more guns. Does it have to be all or nothing?

Of course not, as usual, pundits and politicians are missing the big picture here, and college students are the ones who suffer. If you're really interested in how we can improve campus security, listen up.

First, lets not do anything rash. These events are still very rare. A college student is much more likely to be gunned down in his crappy off campus student housing complex than he is in his Biology lecture. The former is actually something that I think is a real problem (and not just because I happen to live in a crappy student housing complex....okay, it is), but has a different solution. Despite the fact that another "Virgina Tech" is rare, we should be as prepared as we can to make sure it doesn't happen again, and if it does, how we can minimize its impact.

Passing out handguns like candy in classrooms sounds like a dangerous idea to me, and I don't typically have a problem with handguns. Concealed carry permits are typically not available to students under 21 (which would be most of your lecture hall attending population), and lowering that age would be irresponsible. College students are not known for being the most responsible (hell, or sober!) demographic, and having them all packing heat seems at the very least, pretty rash. Plus, in that split second when the bad guy pulls out his piece, if 6 other guys are pulling out guns, its going to be pretty hard to determine who the real shooter is, leading to more accidental deaths.

If students don't feel safe off campus, and the law allows for it, they should be able to get a firearm to protect themselves, as allowed in the 2nd amendment. Keep the heat out of math though.

So what do we do? Totally securing a massive state university appears to be pretty impossible. Several universities are implementing a text-message alert system if a situation arises. All students who sign up for the program would get a text telling them what to do, and where to *not* go. Setting this up appears to be pretty inexpensive, and gets the message out to the most people in the shortest amount of time. Sounds like a good idea to me.

But the most important issue here, to me, is how we deal with the mentally ill. The problem isn't people have guns, (or don't have guns), but rather, very crazy people are untreated...and have guns. While University systems can't be expected to fix the problem of treating the mentally ill (which is a flaw in our medical system), they are able to take a more proactive role. I think that universities should add counseling services to their medical centers and insurance plans, and students who appear to be "at risk" (like the Va Tech Shooter clearly was), should be placed into some sort of treatment program. Both American and George Washington made this a priority when I was in the area, and helped a few "at risk" students.

These attacks are a symptom of us ignoring the plight of the mentally ill in America. We don't cover their treatment plans on insurance, we brush aside their disorders as being "moody", or simply try to throw pills at them...and we stupidly continue to allow them to purchase firearms. To be honest, if we had addressed these problems a little more seriously, I believe my dad would still alive. I hope that we don't let these wake up calls be used for political points in the gun control debate, and actually seek to make some meaningful changes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Its just too cold

So, I'm aware that all sorts of big political developments are going on right now. There are Primaries going on tonight, Vice President speculations are in full force, all sorts of neat state issues are poppin up in Ohio...and I can't concentrate long enough to write about them.

People. Its just too damn cold.

With the exception of brief sojourns in Washington DC and Sacramento California, I've lived my entire life in the Columbus Ohio area. I should be used the cold by happens every winter, without fail, and sometimes comes a little early in whats supposed to be the fall, or lingers well into this mythical "springtime". But this year, it seems like its hit with a greater vengeance than ever before.

Its mind-numbing cold. Its ball bustingly cold. Heck, I didn't just sleep with a space heater last night, I flat out spooned with one. I'm surprised i don't have second degree burns on my face. I've been turning the hot water up so much in the shower, my doctor might think I tried to have sex with a volcano.

Is this a global warming article? A message sounding the alarm of the effects of climate change? Nope...not really. Its just about my ability to handle the weather.

I think the problem is, I can't actually get warm. I live in crappy student housing near Ohio State, where our windows are more porous than the US/Mexican border. Half of my classrooms are in old buildings with poor heating systems as well. The warmest I get all day is on the COTA bus ride downtown to work. No wonder I've been sick for two weeks.

I used to like the snow...I used to like to go sledding, take walks in it, maybe hope for that snow day. As I grow up...I hate it. I hate driving it in. I hate walking a mile and a half through it to get to class. I hate that it makes my pants wet all day. Booo cold.

I hope to make this a weekly thing now. Real political news coming later this week, or when I can feel my fingers enough to type again.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Yes we can

My friends, Super Tuesday is upon us, and its quite possible that we'll know who our presidential candidates are by Wednesday. I have been following this race with great interest. I must admit, I was very excited to see some barriers being broken...we saw our first legitimatize Latino candidate, and our first real Mormon Candidate (although, sadly, he turned out to be a douchebag. Still exciting symbolically for me). These two men, along with Hillary, are certainly important for historic reasons, and for symbolic representation for a lot of Americas, but I think they're being overshadowed, and rightfully so, by something much bigger.

Our cynicism is being broken down. In 2008, we might not have to hold our noses, and vote for the lesser of two evils. For the first time in recent political history, we're being dared to actually believe in somebody, and much more importantly, to believe in something.

Remember the last time you had your heart totally broken? You probably felt pretty vulnerable didn't want to trust, to love, to be tied to something right away, because you just couldn't handle being burned like that again. I feel like we've had that relationship with our government. We may have become apathetic, unplugged, disinterested...or worse, we keep up with it, but we've become so jaded, we can't change. I believe Obama is our antidote for our ailment.

I'm a political guy. I know a lot of politicians, and I support a lot of politicians....but none like Obama. I loved Bill Richardson because I loved his resume. I love Harry Reid because he showed thats its okay to be a Mormon, and a Liberal. I love lots of other guys you haven't heard of for nerdy, policy-wonkish reasons. Obama is different...he's become an inspiration of a whole movement. He isn't just an efficient, smart cog in the system, he could actually change that system.

Our nation is on the wrong track. We're stuck in a stupid, expensive war in Iraq. Our international standing, and our ability to project soft power is at its weakest point in recent memory. We're locked in a bitter immigration argument, that is fueled more by fears of a changing culture and barely concealable racism than by policy concerns. Our friends don't have health insurance, or they can't afford college. We're in trouble.

Can Obama wave a magic wand, and make all those things go away? No, at least, not all at once. They're big problems, and they're going to take sacrifice, hard work, and time, and most of all, real leadership. That leadership must come from everywhere...from our cities, from our families, and from us. It must also come from our president, and I believe that Obama is that man.

Can we do it? Can we have a real dialog about immigration, that not only fixes our boarders, but doesn't destroy our American brotherhood? Can we find a solution for Iraq? Can we restore our nation to its rightful place, and build a better world for our parents, ourselves, and our children?

Yes we can, or as my family might say, Si nos podemos.

We're grown ups now. Lets not lose our historic opportunity to change the world.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Hail to the Prophet

Last night marked the end of an era, very similar to the passing of Pope John Paul a few years ago. Gordon B. Hinckley, president and prophet of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints (or, your friendly neighborhood Mormons), passed away last night. He was 97.

For those who might be unfamiliar with this life of this man, I suggest you take a few moments, and check out the Salt Lake City Tribune, which is running a series of great columns on the event. I’ll try not to waste much digital ink on being overly redundant.

President Hinckley was a truly unique individual, even amongst high level church leaders. People from all communities, LDS and otherwise, were drawn to his wit, his energy, and his selfless dedication to service.

What is the Hinckley legacy? The largest, I think, is the massive construction temples that occurred under his watch. LDS Temples, are sacred buildings were specific ordinances, such as eternal marriage, or baptism for the dead, occur. Before the Hinckley presidency, there were 30 or so temples worldwide (so, if you happen to be a Mormon in Europe, you’ve got quite a commute to get to one). Now, there are over 110, with more being built. Most notable to me, was the construction of the Columbus Ohio Temple, which happened right as I turned 12. Previously, my family had to book it to Washington DC. This program has helped make temple worship more accessible for members across the world.

The other lasting legacy is that of service. During this time, the church started a wildly successful program called the Perpetual Education Fund, which allows returned missionaries in developing countries to attend university. Here’s hoping that perhaps the program is extended some day to folks in North America (ahem. Over here guys.). The church has also continued its tradition of well executed welfare programs, with its timely assistance during Hurricane Katrina, and during the Asian typhoon. I do not think it is unreasonable to state that we were more effective than FEMA.

I loved listening to President Hinckley talk…wait, scratch that, I loved President Hinckley, and I don’t say that about every church leader. While I believe in their authority, some leaders, like say, President Kimball, or Bruce R. McConkie, have a somewhat hardline, or prickly public persona. Hinckley was inclusive, optimistic, and loving, and I will miss him very much.

There were no tears last night. The man lived to be 97 years old, and was still working like a dog, and to be honest, the poor guy deserves his rest. The world is certainly poorer today for having lost him, but the hereafter must be overjoyed. Maybe my old man found him.

Rest in Peace, and thanks for everything.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mini Update: Downtown's Cool Links

Okay, sorry for the delays. I've been real busy finishing up some internship application paperwork, so I can skip town in two months and work in Washington DC for a while.

I'm working on two fairly long entries, but in the meantime, here are some real cool links that'll keep you busy!

Much digital ink has been spilled over how this election is over the heart and soul of the Republican Primary. This article , from CQ, explains how its also for the soul of the Democrats. Neat read.

Forget sports betting, how about Political Futures betting? This has a much better prediction rate than the pundits (myself included), so go see how your guy's stock is doing.

Its about time...the Video Game Industry finally has its own PAC, with lobbyists and everything.

From the Badass Blues Musicians department...Stevie Ray playin a little Superstition.

Speaking of great youtube videos, check out this drum solo by ?uestlove. (this cat has got to be one of the best drummers today).

As a big Cleveland Cavs fan, I got a huge laugh out of this website:

And finally, a news release about the SA Spurs' latest signing (wait...don't bears maul bitches?)

Stay tuned, big entries are comin'

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Great College Rundown

So after dropping that heavy post yesterday (with a very low jokes-serious stuff ratio), I wanted to try something a little more lighthearted, yet still relevant.

Folks here at OSU have been asking me how I like the place, or how it compares to the other schools I've attended. I've spent time at a private, east coast, ivory tower university (American), a sprawling state school (THE Ohio State University), and a crappy community college/regional campus (THE Ohio State Newark!). Which one is better? I think thats a complicated question, and one that warrens a long post. Ladies and Gentlemen, let me break it down for you.


American: AU is located in Tenleytown, a neighborhood in scenic NW Washington DC, full of diplomats, state department officials, embassies, quaint ethnic rester aunts, and gay yuppies.

Ohio State: tOSU's sprawling, picturesque campus is located just north of downtown Columbus. Its full of OSU apparel stores, ticket scalpers, greasy fast food, smoke shops, and dumpsters with Who is Ron Paul? spray painted on them. Also, the surrounding neighborhoods aren't exactly wonderful.

OSUN-Located on the west side of Newark Ohio, the gateway to Appalachia! The five building campus is surrounded by fewer fast food places, and the burnt out husk of industrial America.

Advantage:American, and it isn't even close. I like Columbus and everything, but I used to be within egging distance of Karl Rove's place.

Size (population)

American: 5,000 and change undergraduates. Small enough that you'll usually see somebody you know when you hike to class, large enough to hide when you do something embarrassing at a party.

Ohio State: Main campus has over 50,000 undergrads, making it one of the largest campuses in the country. Over 30 students have my exact name. Thats depressing.

OSU-N: has around 5,000 students use the campus (which shares its buildings with COTC, a 2-year tech school). Since its a commuter campus, you see the same 30 people every day.

Advantage: American. There are great advantages to attending a university many times the size of your own home town (ever wanted to learn Zulu? Try underwater hockey? OSU is for you!). These are usually negated when your last name is Brown, and you're trying to schedule your classes.

Physical Facilities

American: For all the money you're spending, you really don't get a lot. Dorm rooms are pretty spartan, and there aren't enough of them, causing shortages every year. there is also a total lack of places on campus work out or play sports. I spent a lot of time searching NW DC for grassy fields to play soccer, since American doesn't have a single one. On the plus side, the chairs in our class rooms are super comfy.

Ohio State: The nice thing about having a school larger than some state capitols is that we get nice stuff. For example, the Taj Mahal of student gyms, the RPAC. I'm finding something new every week I go here.

OSUN-pretty crappy, but thats expected. I went to their gym once to work, and saw the machines were held together by duct tape and broken dreams.

Advantage: OSU. Having a Ping-Pong center > leather chairs.


American: Has one of the highest regarded political science and international relations colleges in the country. It gets more selective every year (average SAT is well above 1300), and has a student body of academically motivated students (well, most of them anyways). It also has a pretty good business and law school.

Ohio State: Leads the country in many types of research, but that has little to do with undergraduates. Campus remains pretty much open-enrollment (meaning if you graduate high school, and spend some time at a regional campus, you can go to OSU). Most of the campus appears to be more motivated by the chance at getting discount football tickets than school.

OSUN- Is this some kind of sick joke?

Advantage: American. Although, I do wish people had heard of the damn place. Sample conversation in Ohio..

Person: So, where did you transfer from?

Me: American!



Person: Never heard of them. Do they have a football team?

Me: I took out 10 grand in loans for this?


American: Ivy League Attitude without the Ivy League athletic tradition. No football, baseball or lacrosse teams (The irony of American University not having America's pastime has been lost on the administration). Our field hockey team however, could kick your ass.

Ohio State: One of the premier athletic universities in the country, no matter what Pat Forde says. Perhaps you've heard of our football team?

OSUN- over 75% of its men's basketball team was ruled academically ineligible. That was the sports story of the year.

Advantage: I'm tempted to give it to OSUN, since I could actually be playing college basketball for them, but I gotta go with OSU.

Hot Girl factor (this is really important)

American: school is over 60% female, and maybe a third of our male population is gay. By virtue of being a dude, you're going to get a full 2 points higher on the 1-10 scale than you would somewhere else, thanks to the numbers. Add in the fact that there are thousands of cute girls, and its a great situation.

So naturally, I stayed with my high school girlfriend the entire time I was there.

Ohio State: With a school this size, and with lax admissions standards, there will be tens of thousands of cute girls. However, thanks to our sucky weather, they have to wear winter coats and burkas for 2/3 of the year.

OSUN- Great, if 45 year old smokers are your thing.

Advantage: American Girls are probably more dateable as a whole, but Ohio State girls are better looking (although there are notable exceptions to both rules)

Most likely thing to be overhead....

American: Did you see the debate last night

Ohio State “Did you see the game last night?

OSUN- So yeah, I only got probation.

Over all, no matter where I am, I can agree that its better than OSUN.