Saturday, February 28, 2009

Three 180s

Not long ago, The folks at Sound Opinions, a decently amusing podcast from the only two people left making a living on rock criticism in Chicago, did a show on music they were wrong about. Besides the hilarity involved when anyone references Jesus Jones, it was actually kind of weak, proving that sometimes rock critics have trouble admitting their faults.

In spite of that, I will admit that I pulled almost complete 180s on three artists, Queens of the Stone Age, Aphex Twin and Death in Vegas.

First, Queens of the Stone Age. In 1999 they were picked to headline the Smashing Pumpkins Arising Tour, which wound up being the last shows ever played by the four original members. Coincidentally, Rolling Stone, which I read throughout high school, had a feature on new hard rock bands. They wrote very nice things about QOTSA despite giving them the lowest "rocking" score of the bunch, or whatever metric it is they were using. Because of this, I came in with reasonably high expectations. Their performance wound up being a hot tranny stoner mess. They played mostly in the dark, actual "songs" were few and far between, and nothing in the set struck me as very good.

Flash forward to the release date for Songs for the Deaf. Best Buy, in their wonderful drive to be the leader in loss-leaders, were selling the album for $6.99. Now, although I hadn't listened to the band since the show, except for one spin to the promo 3 song cd handed out afterwards, I had seen that they were getting very nice reviews all around. I figured that a $7 investment would be pretty harmless. Sure enough, it blew my mind, and I've seen them live five times since. Since at this point they're pretty much the only rock band left on the planet, so I'm pretty glad I took a chance that one sunny day at the Rockville Best Buy.

I first saw videos by the two other artists, Aphex Twin and Death in Vegas on the sadly forgotten and shortlived MTV show Twelve Angry Viewers, which was one of the networks last attempts to really show music videos. Both videos were quite offputting, not so much post-modern, as bad art school freakout bullshit.

I came around to Aphex Twin when I heard music from a different album played before another Smashing Pumpkins show, and later learned whose music it was (and another funny little Smashing Pumpkins connections of life). I think I was won over with Death In Vegas by hearing their collaboration with Iggy Pop and reading a number of very positive reviews calling them basically the evil Chemical Brothers.

And since then I have made no other musical miscalculations. Except for The Vines, and The Presets, and that Chris Cornell solo album, and . . .

[Here are the two offending videos . . . if you dare:

Also, perhaps DIV's finest song - Hands Around My Throat (and *shocker!* it's another suggestive video):]

Poseidon. Look at Me!

The Lonely Island troupe have garnished a reputation for themselves as captains of viral video entertainment. First mates since grade school, Andy Samburg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone split off to study film and theater at USCS, NYU, and UCLA. Reconvening in 2001, they formed a crew and have been writing and directing both off and on the internet. Their original claim to fame was a commandeering by Keifer Sutherland a la "Jack Bower" while the troupe was filming an episode of one of their online internet series. Ever since, The Lonely Island has sped ahead full flank, by and large, towards fame and success. Starboard.

Nautical nonsense aside, why we find these videos so funny sails beyond creative goofiness and dives into a satire of common convention. "Dick in a box" wasn't funny just because it featured an R 'n B song with silly lyrics, but because it boiled down the act of holiday gift giving to what it often symbolizes - a sign of sexual commitment to your (possibly several) significant other(s). Even "Jizz in My Pants" turns the table a bit by taking the assertions of male sexual ability found in club/dance music and making the lyrics about men unable to satisfy, well, anyone, but themselves (whether or not that puts a spotlight on reality, you decide). Even "I'm on a Boat" has its own social commentary amidst a delightful fog of general silliness.

Above is their most recent conquest. A hero's tale of fortune - Samburg and his squab are seated at the mess deck when treasure abounds from their very food. Affording them the opportunity to explore the reaches of caucasian prestige, The Lonely Island crew sets their sights to the past-time of wealthy white men - Yachting. T-Pain serves as their bard guide, navigating the way through their mockery of materialism, socioeconomic elitism, masculine conquest, and racial stereotyping through song (and beats). All hands on deck. Comedy Ahoy.

Friday, February 27, 2009

State of These Gentlemen (Part 2)

Please check Part 1 for our mission statement and introductions to our first six Gentlemen.

Here are the remaining six -

Adam Winer - Newly minted Assignment Editor (in training) at NBC4 here in the district, Adam is also a former General Manager of WMUC. He's currently a DJ there as well, establishing his new MUCRakers program to help address local issues in College Park. He continued the long running WMUC tradition of getting fired from the Diamondback, where he was a film critic, and can still be found opining on the world of cinema at his personal blog ireviewfilm. Here at These Gentlemen he's known for his inisightful articles on current events, culture, and getting defensive when people critique the media. His '5 Rich People Most Likely to Pull Off Batman' is our most widely read post yet. Also, half the city has seen him naked.

Damien Nichols - A former president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), Damo is a noted local activist in the areas of drug policy and the environment. Much like Mr. Pratt, there's a high likelihood that one day Damien will be entering the field of public service, though most likely on opposite sides of the ticket. Damo's unique and accerbic writing style is most often applied to the political sphere, where his one of a kind brand of cerebral humor and scathing analysis has provoked some of our liveliest discussions. A self described 'professional smart-ass' with no fear of polarizing his audience, his biggest concern is that if he hasn't left you thinking, he hasn't been trying hard enough.

Scotty Maxwell - The current General Manager of WMUC (are you sensing a lineage yet?), Scotty continues the proud tradition of Gentlemen to hold that post - and currently on his second term, he's done an incredible job so far. His heart is given over to his one true love, and as the host of Leave the Hall: True Metal Radio, he's been dishing out that love weekly for years. Forged in the fire of the world, he is the elder statesman of our group, and we kneel before his words as we would the Viking Prince he oft resembles.

Brittany Graham - Brit is an actress and freelance costume designer whose work can next be seen in the costumes of "Not Such Stuff" with the Venus Theatre Company. In addition to her theatrical work, she's also a web designer and will hopefully be teaming up with Dan in our continual advancements of the site. She's one of our three newest Gentlemen, with a noted interest in art and fashion, and can geek it up with the best of them. Eat your heart out.

Ali Daniels - The next of our three most recent additions, Ali is currently a scenic painter at Baltimore's CenterStage, as well as an actress and freelance sound designer. Don't expect any spelling errors in her posts as Ali is a hardcore grammar fiend - and she won't be afraid to correct you either. Intensely bright and deeply spiritual, Ali has slice of life stories to spare, and promises to further tackle the world of sports - the land I fear to tread.

John Barkmeyer - A modern day renaissance man, John is a triple major in English, Theater, and Psychology at the University of Maryland, as well as a Gemstone scholar; and is following the impressive trend of Gentlemen attending law school in the fall. In addition to his academic credentials John is also a talented actor and playwright. What John may write about remains a mystery at present, but one can assume it will be filled with depth and humor, and avidly consumed as scripture by a small but dedicated following who have created a facebook group hailing him as a god.

And a look at a few of our ongoing series. If you see one of thse in the title, this is what you can expect -

Stuff I Love - Every Tuesday, Dan Strauss profiles something he loves. Past editions include Oasis, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and popcorn. Maybe in the future it'll be you.

One Year in Four Colors - Jason reviews every graphic novel he reads in 2009. Upcoming editions include the second part of Alan Moore: Wild Worlds, The Authority: Under New Management, and Wildcats: Serial Boxes.

(Casa)Nova - Once a week Max Nova answers your questions about love, sex, friendship, parenting, and relationships in all their forms in his unmistakable style. Feel free to post a question on this post, or e-mail me.

A History of Justice - Jason is going through every single member of the venerable Justice League of America and explaining what makes each of these characters so damn cool. Next up - Batman!

Video Games and Myth - Ozkirbas takes a look at the mythological underpinnings in some his favorite video games in order to give a real critical look at what might soon become noted as a modern day art form. Got a suggestion for a game? Post it, baby.

A History of the Electoral College - A font of American political knowledge, David Pratt is going back in time and exploring every election in our country's history - detailing the players and the circumstances by which the losers became footnotes and the winners legends.

Memory Shuffle - Oz takes a look back into that brain of his to take note of the people and memories that oddly stand out, even if there's no clear reason why they should.

And where do we go from here?

Coming soon - the return of The Roundtable, a new idea for discussion posts Max and I have batted around, and the very near future our very first podcast! Now is a great time to be a follower of These Gentlemen, and we welcome you.

We are but Gentlemen, and we are here to entertain you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Francis Warner

There's a lot you can say about Francis Warner. Not a lot of it is very good. She is, by all accounts, the most self-absorbed woman to ever live. No one else I have ever encountered personally has ever been so demanding of others, so ungrateful for what she has, and so convinced that she deserves whatever she wants as Francis Warner. Her life is a testament to selfishness.

Or is it?

Her life has been marked with a single-minded dedication to herself. Not her children, her family, or her multiple husbands. No, she has been wholly concerned with her own wants and desires since at least the mid-60s when she walked out on her children to run away with a book salesman. Her ex-husband had to return that night to take over watching their two children. He eventually relocated them to Florida.

She spent the next two decades with various lovers in New York City. Her daughter moved back to live with her as a teenager, but the situation proved toxic. She ended up returning to Florida and joining the army. Francis alternated jobs at this point between working as a bartender and being a kept woman by a mafia capo.

At one point she begged her parents to take her back in. They let her come live with them in their small apartment, at which point she immediately stole money from them and used it to elope and move to Chicago.

Her husband died and she moved back to New York. At this time, her daughter returned from overseas and began living in Arizona. Francis invited herself to come live with her.

In 1986 she was living with her daughter and decided that her grandson, at the time three years old, was more than old enough to read and write. So she decided to teach him how. Within a few days he was going through childrens books in minutes. Within a few weeks he was writing his own stories.

The family moved again, and Francis did not go with them. She returned to New York and remarried. She began publishing a newsletter called the Mountain Climber for people who suffered from panic attacks like she did. It was circulated in 35 states and Canada.

While in her late 50s, Francis moved from Brooklyn, New York to California with her fourth husband. Having lived her entire life in either New York City or Chicago (where she lived with her second husband), she never had any need to drive. The longer she lived out west, the more she realized it was a necessity. So, at the tender age of 65, she began taking driving lessons, and on her third attempt she successfully passed the test.

It was also during this time that Francis beat cancer for the first time. She had been a smoker for nearly 40 years. She refused to quit.

Her long-estranged son briefly re-estabished ties with her, as he also lived in California. After several meetings, he once again withdrew himself from her life. Time with her was simply too insufferable to justify putting forth the effort.

By 2001 she had decided to move to New York, where her daughter was living. She found a small apartment in a retirement community and moved in. Her husband wanted her to stay in California, but she refused. They separated, and he died of a brain tumor a year later.

She purchased an obnoxious little dog that she insisted was wonderful. While taking it for a walk, she became tangled in the leash and fell, breaking her hip and most of her leg. Her mobility became extremely limited. At this time, her cancer came back with a vengeance. At the end of 2003, she was living in a hospice house. The tenants of the house are people who have only 90 days to live. 120 days later she was asked to leave, as she was not dying.

She took up residence in a nursing home. Originally, she had a roommate. After one day together, Francis was given a single, as it was clear she could not coexist with others. She began making increasing demands of her daughter. She wanted an allowance of $120 a month. She wanted to be taken out every week. She needed money to buy clothes and decorations for her room. Everything she demanded had to be performed exactly as she requested or she would grow bitter and spiteful. The members of her family increasingly pulled away from her.

Despite everything, her daughter remained with her. Francis was her mother, she explained, and she was dying. There was a measure of karma and her own peace-of-mind that needed to be taken care of.

Francis Warner was born in 1933. Her maiden name was Vogel, born to Murray Vogel and Beatrice Vogel, whom was affectionately called "Grandma Tootsie." She married Stan Willner, a World War II veteran 10 years her senior, and had two children. They were named Michael Adam and Marci Eve. Warner was the name of her fourth and final husband, Ron.

Marci Eve Willner went on to marry Vladimir James Pratt and have two children. A son also named Vladimir, and another named David.

Francis Warner is my grandmother. She died yesterday after a long and excruciating battle with cancer. She would have been 76 this Sunday.

Her life was a study of highs and lows. She was capable just as much of overwhelming love and generosity as she was blinding greed. For every act of theft or fraud she was guilty of (a common theme in my family) there was a corresponding story of kindness. When my mother was a child, Grandma Fran took in a black girl whom had been abused and let her stay until she could get on her feet. For every story about how selfish and vile she was, my grandmother has another story about times she had publically embarassed herself, which she lovingly retold to let others laugh. Her stories, all of varying degrees of verifiability, were nonetheless told with unparalleled humor. She could tell a story like no one else.

She was in love with Hispanic and African American culture (and men). Living to see the inauguration meant a tremendous deal for her. It was the last goal she set for herself. My mother knew the time was coming when she stopped talking about the future.

And perhaps the dark parts of her life are not without merit. Maybe, just maybe, we should all take a day, or an hour, or a moment, out of our lives to ask "what do I want? What can other people do for me? What would make ME happy?" I think my grandma would like that.

I know she wouldn't want me talking about her like this, but primarily because she's not around to enjoy the attention. But she's the one who taught me how to read and write, and I can't think of any better way to commemorate her life, for good or ill, than to honor the gift she gave me and write. She had a love of literature and words that belied her limited education. And she loved me. For all the bitter complaining she did, she loved all of us, and spoke of her family at every opportunity to others. To our faces, she only told us all we did wrong, but hey, she was a Jewish mother.

Goodbye, Grandma Fran. I love you, and I miss you. As my father said, "now she knows what all of us wonder about."

To which I replied "Not yet, first Grandma Tootsie has to get done yelling at her."

Francis Warner
March 1st, 1933 - February 25th, 2009

Tie Commandments

Neckties are an important part of a gentleman's wardrobe. If you are a sharp, well kempt, self-respecting man, you should at least have a couple ties hanging in your closet. Even if your line of work doesn't necessitate the use of a necktie, own at least a few simple ties. Here are some basic tips for those of you out there who may be unfamiliar with how to find a good tie. Keep in mind, though, that these are very general rules; ultimately your own personal style is up to you.

I. Size Matters
Oh it does indeed! The width of the tie at it's widest point should be between the width of your palm by itself and the width of your palm with your thumb on the side. It's not much of a window, but there are a lot of ties out there.

II. Shade Also Matters
With a business suit, your tie should be lighter than your suit but darker than your shirt. In a casual outfit, try to keep your tie and slacks at about the same level.

III. I'm Seeing A Pattern Here
The pattern of your tie is more important than it's color. I recommend micro-patterns or small icon pattern ties, like the one President Obama wore to his inauguration. If you're going to get a diagonally lined tie, make sure that it goes from the side of your dominant hand downward towards the opposite side. It will look better when you're writing something on paper (the lines will run parallel with your arm.)

IV. Color
Look at the T-Shirts you own. Those are colors you've already picked that you're comfortable with. I wouldn't stray too far from them.

V. Where Does A Stained Tie Belong?
Not around your neck, that's for sure. It's almost impossible to clean a tie. Even when you think you've cleaned a tie, the reflective properties will be permanently effected. If you see a stain on your tie, take your tie off right then and there, and toss it.

VI. Who Can Get Away With Draping A Tie Around Their Neck Untied?
Sonny Corleone, and no one else.

VII. GQ Says I Should Wear A Tie Bar
Yea, well, GQ also says don't wear socks this year. Okay, I tried a tie bar for a little while. It certainly gave me a unique uniform look. Then two of my coworkers started wearing tie bars, and suddenly it wasn't so special anymore.

VIII. How To Tie A Tie
Half-Windsor with a dimple, every time.

IX. How Much Should I Throw Down?
Designer ties start at $50. You can get a good tie without the label between $20 and $30. But if you really want to go for the high quality, go name brand. Polo and Dior make good stuff.

X. Don't Keep It Too Simple
Single color no-pattern ties are not to be worn unless you're wearing them with a tuxedo. And don't wear a black tie to a funeral, that's a bit much.

Everything is Amazing Right Now...

...and nobody is happy. I just came across this video on a friend's facebook feed (thanks Scott!) and had to post it asap. Consider it an unofficial Part II to my Sesame Street GOP post earlier today.

The underlying point in my Sesame Street metaphor was not entirely about how lost the republicans are, and it wasn't really alluding at all to how the democrats are basically saving our ass right now. Why? Because political parties are not based on specific ideologies, sticking with one party is intellectually equivalent to being rabidly loyal to a sports team. Fact is, the republicans won't be lost forever, and the democrats are bound to start acting like jackasses again at some point. It just happens that the democrats are collectively more on the right wavelength with the people for this moment in history, frankly at a time when they couldn't ALL suck and still expect to keep their jobs.

Maybe Obama's biggest bailout was to the American political system.

Tragically, the underlying game of politics is still omnipresent, and it's still a load of bullshit. 99% of most* career politicians' jobs is to argue about money and rules, and try to gain leverage over the other guy. Outside in the real world their rules can only limit us because they are always one step behind our understanding of the world, and their turf battles will only cause collateral damage because they are often fought with tanks and bombs. But things are changing, fast.

Which gets me to the point of this post: Louis CK on Conan O'Brien.


*there are exceptions to EVERY single rule that ever was and ever will be, deal with it.

Friends Like These

In what I hope to make an on-going series, this is the first installment of Friends Like These. In this, I will post unedited and raw the transcripts of conversations between myself and either of my two best friends. Depending on which one it is, they will be addressed as "K" or "B." All three of us have very different philosophies from one another, and I honestly believe some of talks worth recording for posterity.

With this, I hope to not only let the reader gain some insight into issues they may not otherwise consider, but also hold up a mirror and let people hopefully see in us all the greatness a conversation with friends has to offer. The tangents, the asides, the insults and arguments, and everything else that comes with simply hanging out to shoot the breeze with your buddies.


Today on Friends Like These, David and B discuss: The Arts

Me(23:36:14): Magic Johnson is doing commercials for Rent-a-Center.
Me(23:36:29): Why would Magic Johnson need to do commercials? He's crazy rich.

B (23:36:55): It's probably just AIDS-cure cash. Direct injections of cash can't come cheap.

Me (23:37:08): True. Maybe that's what he gets in exchange.
Me (23:37:51): Though Magic is on the cutting edge of HIV research, he's probably able to take it in pill form.

B (23:38:00): That's true enough.

Me (23:44:58): Scrubs is so funny.

B (23:45:24): Yes. Yes it is.
B (23:45:57): I had an idea for a TV series that would be like Cops meets Scrubs. It was really funny. I wrote a pilot and another episode. I thought it had a good mix of fantasy, reality, heavy plots and hilarity.

Me (23:46:20): "Hey, your shoelace is untied."
"Oh, thanks man. My uncle's whole family was killed by an untied lace. They were all running down the steps on Christmas, they tripped, and a madman hacked them to pieces."

B (23:47:14): That must be new, I haven't heard that one before.

Me (23:47:26): It's from season 7.

B (23:47:33): Is that the latest season?

Me (23:47:38): Nah, they're on 8.
Me (23:47:55): Haven't seen much of either season.

B (23:47:56): I only watch the syndicated episodes on Comedy Central, I almost never watch primetime TV.

Me (23:48:01): But I've seen all of 1-6.

B (23:48:59): Yeah, me, too

Me (23:57:21): So I've been thinking up a new post for my campaign blog.
Me (23:57:44): There was a big flap about money for the arts being included in the stimulus package, and it was eventually all taken out.
Me (23:57:58): Because the criticism was that the arts don't generate income or new jobs.
Me (23:58:19): Now, anyone working in the arts will tell you that we're always the ones who get screwed over in cases like this.
Me (23:59:33): So I've been thinking; what if we have one day set aside each year where the arts pay for themselves?
Me (00:00:00): My idea is a National Music holiday, to occur on the summer solstice (the longest day of the year) each year.

B (00:00:05): "Why would I save a world I no longer have any stake in...?"

Me (00:00:24): EXACTLY. And that's a great example, too.
Me (00:00:26): On many levels.
Me (00:00:30): For one, no art, no Watchmen.
Me (00:01:05): But in reality Dr. Manhattan had the miracle he was looking for in every living person, he was just so accustomed to it he forgot it was a miracle.
Me (00:01:18): Just like a great play, or song, or painting.
Me (00:01:41): So on the music holiday, we'd put together concerts in every major city across America.
Me (00:02:05): Major artists would be invited to volunteer their time to put on a show.
Me (00:02:20): They would not be paid, nor would their be a fee for admission.
Me (00:02:47): Smaller towns and venues would participate as well, with local artists being able to sign up to perform on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Me (00:03:08): Now, food and merchandise would still be sold, and direct donations taken.
Me (00:03:20): And all the profits from those sales would go directly to the National Endowment for the Arts.
Me (00:04:07): If it ends up being as profitable as I estimate it would be, we would even be able to end federal funding for the arts and free up the grants for other things.
Me (00:04:16): Because the holiday would set the budget for the rest of the year.

B (00:04:42): My disagreement is and always will be that the arts are a luxury and they don't deserve government funding, period.
B (00:04:46): And I say this as an artist.
B (00:05:24): It's a luxury. If anything, they should be GIVING money back. Actors, writers, ESPECIALLY musicians who make all this money, they should be taxed well over what the average rich person is.
B (00:05:53): If you can't make a living as an artist, too damned bad. I've never made a red cent off of one piece of art that I've come up with and I know most of my shit is better than a lot of what's out there.

Me (00:06:18): Uh huh.

B (00:06:19): I work my ass off, risking my life might I add, for a PITTANCE, but people who literally just throw paint on a canvas can drive Porsches?
B (00:06:23): There's no justice in that.
B (00:06:39): And I don't think a government holiday is a good answer to that problem.
B (00:06:49): But you're not really asking my opinion are you?

Me (00:07:01): Well

B (00:07:05): Don't get me wrong, do what you want.
B (00:07:19): But if you bring me these ideas, I'm going to tell you what I think.

Me (00:07:33): your opinion seems to be "the system is grossly unfair so I'd rather see everybody else suffer like me rather than let others get ahead."
Me (00:07:57): I worry sometimes that my ambitions are that of a super villain, but then we talk.
Me (00:08:39): By the way
Me (00:08:51): I work primarily at a theater.
Me (00:08:57): This next month I'm not getting any hours.
Me (00:09:02): And it's likely I'll soon lose my job.
Me (00:09:19): Because the theater relies completely on donations and grants to stay open, and it's just not getting enough.
Me (00:09:24): So since I was the last person hired, I'm the first to go.
Me (00:09:39): I have no investment in the art itself. I just sell tickets.
Me (00:09:47): But because there's not enough money to be had, I'm out of a job.

B (00:10:25): Meanwhile, broadway theaters and the like support themselves off of ticket sales.

Me (00:10:38): There is no "and the like."
Me (00:10:47): There's Broadway, and then there's the rest of the nation.
Me (00:11:05): Broadway is the only for-profit theater in the country.
Me (00:11:11): The rest are non-profit.
Me (00:11:23): Because they can't survive without the grants they get from being non-profit.

B (00:12:05): Do you know that a couple years ago the bus drivers in Honolulu argued that they deserved to be paid more than cops because they work in a for-profit field and said that cops don't deserve more money simply because what we do doesn't generate revenue?

Me (00:12:52): Does this have anything to do with the previous argument or did I just remind you of that incident?
Me (00:13:12): Because that's really shitty.

B (00:13:17): A little of both. I'm trying to make a point.

Me (00:13:18): And wait a second.
Me (00:13:25): Don't cops generate revenue with tickets?

B (00:13:36): brb

Me (00:13:46): I mean, besides the part where they serve and protect the citizens, including bus drivers.

B (00:17:19): Depends on the city. In Honolulu, all the citation revenue gets eaten up with the operating costs of PROCESSING them. In places where there's an actual profit, it gets used to fund other programs NEVER the Department itself (which actually DOES make a little bit of sense becuase it would be a conflict of interests, in a way, if we made money off of how many tickets we write, you know?)

Me (00:17:42): I can understand that.
Me (00:18:40): The point I was making is that I have nothing to do with the arts anymore.
Me (00:18:53): My boss doesn't either, he has a degree in business.

B (00:19:00): But the point I'm making is this, you're asking me to agree that we should be giving government money, which COULD be used to buy things like matchgrade ammo or, better yet, BODY ARMOR that MIGHT actually stop some of the rounds that the scumbags are loading into their guns, to a theater, just because they can't support themselves on their own. I don't deny that it's a shitty situation, but, art SHOULD pay for itself. Many, many art-based businesses do.

Me (00:19:14): But I work in a place that's dependent on federal funding.

B (00:19:16): Things that have no way of making their own revenue, like police departments, deserve the money more.

Me (00:19:18): B -
Me (00:19:24): you may have missed some of what I wrote.
Me (00:19:33): Re;
Me (00:19:43): the part where I say "if it's as profitable as I estimate it could be

B (00:20:12): Oh, right, I do see that now.

Me (00:20:15): we could free up the grant money were going to give them for other things instead."

B (00:20:21): Okay, I missed part of that, so yes, that'd be a good idea.

Me (00:20:33): I AM asking the arts to pay for themselves.
Me (00:20:40): I'm just not going to be a dick about it like Congress usually is.

B (00:20:43): But I fail to see how this would work without sinking some money into it in the first place. That's the only thing you'll have to sell me on.
B (00:20:52): But yes, that's actually a pretty bright idea.

Me (00:21:00): Well, the artists who perform would be there voluntarily.
Me (00:21:12): And the venues they perform in would be asked to donate their space and equipment.

B (00:21:22): I like my idea of taxing entertainers at a significant amount higher.
B (00:21:55): Like, for example, if a businessman makes a million dollars, he gets taxed about 50%. If an entertainer makes a ticket, you should take about 75% of it.

Me (00:21:58): The trade off would be that more money goes to the arts, so if they can sacrifice one day out of the year, they have greater potential for increased revenue to follow.
Me (00:22:24): That doesn't make any sense.
Me (00:22:28): And I'll tell you why.

B (00:23:21): I'm listening, but i have to get ready for work in about 10 minutes.

Me (00:23:31): If a businessman makes a million dollars, he likely has a strong business model and his million dollars is the start of a larger income to follow. He may, over the course of his life, make many many millions of dollars. His children could continue on the legacy of making millions of dollars.
Me (00:23:47): When an entertainer makes a lot of money, like a comedian or a musician or a football player, there's no business model there.
Me (00:24:06): Their success is entirely dependant on their health, the demands of the public, and their ability to keep performing.
Me (00:24:12): They have no assurance of more money to come.
Me (00:24:27): It's just not fair to take more from them.

B (00:25:31): I disagree. It's not my problem that they don't have a guaranteed income. I have a guaranteed income (and it takes an act of Congress to fire me) but I can barely make ends meet. If they want a more stable income, they can get a real job.

Me (00:25:53): A lot of them do have real jobs.

B (00:25:56): Moreover, they really contribute nothing to society. It's a luxury. Yes, I enjoy entertainment and the arts as much as they next person, but I in no way shape or form think they deserve as much money as they get.

Me (00:26:04): Spend a week in L.A.
Me (00:26:08): Well, don't.
Me (00:26:12): It's a terrible place.
Me (00:26:15): But I'll make the point anyway.
Me (00:26:32): It's packed to the brim with people trying to make it in the arts. Looking for a break.
Me (00:26:45): And in the meantime, they support themselves any way they know how or can learn.
Me (00:26:54): You're asking to make it even harder for them to accomplish something.
Me (00:27:04): Because you think dreams are a luxury.

B (00:27:24): No, I'm saying they deserve to do the EXACT same thing as they are doing. They need to get real jobs and support themselves and make money off of art IF they can.
B (00:27:34): And I'm talking about basing the extra tax off of their income.
B (00:27:54): A struggling artist who clears 50 stacks off of moving a few paintings or books or whatever, that's okay.
B (00:28:20): A pop star that doesn't write her own songs or music clearing 10 tickets in record sales? I think she owes the government seven of those ten.

Me (00:28:44): Well that's a completely different argument.
Me (00:28:53): The record company is going to take 8 of them first, or more.
Me (00:29:04): So we should be going after what they get from their tours.

B (00:29:06): Right, but I'm talking about what they take home.
B (00:29:14): The government needs to get gangsta about they paper.

Me (00:29:16): But even then

B (00:29:28): They need to be up in there like, "yeah, motherfuckers, its a jack move, you know what the fuck this is, now run that shit."

Me (00:29:33): that's money that people chose to pay them.

B (00:29:42): Right, and I don't see anything wrong with that.

Me (00:29:48): I really do.

B (00:29:56): Like I said, I blow PLENTY of money on movies, music, whatever the case.

Me (00:30:01): I don't think it's right to tell someone, even that mega-phony pop star
Me (00:30:16): "people like you a lot, so you owe us a ton of the money that they gave you."
Me (00:30:40): This isn't someone who runs a corporation and decided "hey, $60 mil sounds like a nice number for a bonus, that's what I'm taking home."

B (00:30:46): Is that any better than, "You almost died protecting the public. Now let me have a quarter of your paycheck."

Me (00:31:04): The money they have is the money that people willingly shelled out to see them.

B (00:31:16): I've almost been killed three times, just in my time as a policeman. I've never gotten a bonus, nothing.

Me (00:31:58): Hey, my brother just had to have knee replacement surgery because of his injuries. He's expected back on base on Monday.
Me (00:32:29): I'm not arguing with you about the way we treat our civil servants.
Me (00:32:42): I just think you're misdirecting the sense of injustice.

B (00:32:42): Yeah, and he makes about twice what I make. Not to mention that I couldn't get into the military because I don't have enough education to pull a trigger.
B (00:32:58): Anyway, I need to get showered. To be continued?

Me (00:33:06): Sounds good.
Me (00:33:14): Peace.

B (00:33:22): Deuces.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What Kind of Sesame Street Operation Are They Running At The GOP, Anyway?

(Bobby Jindal and Michael Steele feverishly rebuilding the party)

Dunno who's been paying attention lately, but the Republicans are seriously grasping at straws. First you've got my homeboy, Maryland Native(?) Michael Steele, who was recently elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee... AND he's black (how novel!). He recently promised an "Off the hook" campaign to win the hearts and minds of young voters in "urban hip hop settings." Clearly, this guy has his finger on the pulse of America. I just wish I could have been there when he told a room full of rich old white guys that the future of their beloved party is in poor brown kids.

Next you've got Guy Smi... I mean Bobby "That's not my real name but I'll do anything to sound more American" Jindal. He is definitely the rising star of the Republican party and he's already being floated as their presidential contender in 2012. Unfortunately, the party squandered another opportunity to bolster his national appeal when they put him center stage to respond to Obama's address to Congress last night. Jindal's critique was unclear and misdirected. He tried to blame democrats for the last 8 years of reckless (war) spending even though the republicans were totally in charge for 6 of those years, claims to reject a bunch of bailout money even though he's actually accepting 98% of it, then gave an inaccurate critique of the bailout package.

There may very well be a bunch of BS in the bailout, which is why I'm left wondering why he decided to talk shit about non-existent funding for a maglev rail line from Las Vegas to Disneyland. To be clear, there ARE billions of dollars in the recovery package for high speed rail, but none of it is specifically earmarked for a line to run from the most sinful place on the planet to Las Vegas. He also took issue with a couple hundred million dollars for "volcano monitoring." Um, Bobby, one of our states IS a volcano. What's worse, his delivery came off to most of us like we were his second grade class.

So yeah. Republicans STILL out of touch. No big surprise there. Here's my recommendation: ditch Guy Smiley and Mr. Lucky. They aren't resonating with America. If you want fiscal responsibility, recruit Oscar the Grouch, that guy has been living on nothing since I was a kid! And he's ALWAYS so pessimistic. No doubt he'd make a great republican. Next, if you want the urban hip-hop scene you gotta get the Count. That dude is a pimp AND a bloodsucker. Conservative fa show!

That's all I got for now (since I'm supposedly working). But just in case the RNC takes me up on my advice to go after the Count, allow me to leave you all with proof he's a quintessential republican/ammo for the democrats to ruin him:

P.S. I am NOT a democrat. I am a human being and I have a brain. Both parties suck in general, but damn are the Republicans screwin' the pooch right now. Considering the recent sex scandals, you may take that literally.

Memory Shuffle #2 - Mandy

As time moves forward, recollection of past events breeds hazy, swirly memories. Like old VHS tapes, warped with bad tracking, trying vainly to compete with continuous, streaming high definition. Sometimes, we only remember basic concepts or a general summary of events built from our own unique perspectives. Do not worry - this is normal - we have not actually forgotten anything. Our childhoods are not lost to the devouring dark. They just lack pertinence. Relevancy. Buried underneath layers of fresh associations connected to the daily digest of new material. Important material. Sometimes all it takes is an old song, a familiar taste or smell, for the veil to part and for everything to come rushing back. What is interesting is when a memory does not conform to the model, when a memory of something or someone is crystal clear without any current relevancy. So, when I say that I should not remember Mandy, it is not because I disliked her - it is because I have not talked to her in over four years and I do not understand why my memory of her is clearer than everything else (well, ok... maybe not everything else. But, the rest I at least understand).

In fact, I rather liked Mandy. "Fond of", in retrospect, might be a more accurate turn of phrase. I was never romantically interested in her, but that is not to say she was not attractive, intelligent, or animated. Certainly animated, but kind of plain at the same time. I imagine most people would have passed her by, but then again I think that was mostly because she was new and particularly quiet around people she did not know. She matriculated at the beginning  of my senior year of high school, so I imagine she was not quite on the radar, as well. And, she sat at our lunch table. Randomly, actually. The only thing I cannot quite remember is when exactly she showed up. I do remember, however, that she sat next to me for three months before I remembered her name. That was not so much her fault - your narrator is just horrible with names.

Mandy was all about two things: horseback riding and sex. She used to joke that taking guys' virginities was a favorite hobby of hers and she was pretty open about her sexual experiences. Our table frequented a lot of sex talk, a lot of it joking around, and, of course, she and her boyfriend (Justin, a tall boy who I was friendly with) would talk about their sex lives. It was a lot like a "The Lovers" skit, except not nearly as creepy, more to the point, and featured a lot less PDA (so, really it was not like the skit at all). Sometimes the sex talk got to be a little much, but ultimately it was a pretty funny, surreal experience. And that was part of what was cool about Mandy - she tried to maintain a sense of ownership over her sexuality as opposed to being ruled by societal standards marked by the phrase "slut". Other people may have called her that, I am not really sure. We never did.

Another thing that was clear about Mandy was that her home-life was not so great. Her parents were interesting characters, I think. I do remember that their landlord lived with them. I also remember that their landlord was an asshole. I recall that conversation pretty distinctly. I think he used to try things, definitely said a few things, that would effectively exclude him from Honorary Gentlemen status. A less-than-stellar human being. And Mandy found solace in her horses. She would be outside at times when I drove by, as her house was on the route I used to get to the main highway. Her horse did not have a large amount of room to run, but it seemed to work for them and it looked like she legitimately enjoyed her time in the field. These would be small glimpses into a world I would not have seen otherwise.

A good memory I have featuring Mandy was a trip we made to a concert after I graduated. We got into a truck with Justin and drove out to the "Projekt Revolution Tour." Given, these days I would not be caught dead at another one, but at that time I was pretty stoked and got to see a nice set of bands I had never seen before. I saw Snoop Dogg there - that in itself was an experience. I remember we got our pictures taken for a memento necklace made to look like a press-pass for a magazine. Sadly, I think I lost it awhile ago. It was a good picture, baring the fact that I was obviously very ill (be careful of what you eat in 3rd world countries), and it showed us all just having a really good time. It was one of the first big-venue concerts I attended. And I was, and still am, grateful.

A talked to Mandy a few times after that, ran into Justin and her at a homecoming game during Freshman Year fall. But, after a while we kept in contact less and less (as is the trend). I think our conversations were limited, at that point, to me drunk-IMing her and pestering her. She, rightfully, got fed up with it. Unfortunately, I have not talked to her since. I found out a little bit ago that she married. I stumbled onto a status update of hers on Facebook, saying something to the effect of, "My husband's got the sweetest ass in the world," with her voice ringing out clear as day. I laughed out loud, of course. It makes me happy to see that she is, at least by Facebook standards, doing well for herself.  Who knows? Maybe we will bump into each other a few years down the road and catch up. I trust that her life will be doing just fine then, too.

Duke: The Most Hated Team in College Basketball

I have a theory. That theory is that Duke is the most hated team in all of college basketball. They may in fact be the most hated team in all of college sports. Dare I say, they may be the most hated team in all of sports.

My theory makes assumptions, of course, and my facts are what one might call 'things I made up but sound pretty accurate.' Yet, I think I'm right. I usually do.

My theory begins by suggesting that a team becomes most hated when a team is involved in a bitter, famous rivalry. Rivalries make people pick sides, and it polarizes fans, even fans with no affiliation to either team.

In college basketball, it is the indisputed truth that the UNC-Duke rivarly is the creme of the crop. In fact, when websites go to poll fans about the top rivalries in the sport of college basketball, they somtimes pose in advance "besides UNC/Duke" right into the question. Other rivalries include Kentucky/Louisville, Cincinnati/Xavier, Kansas/Missouri, and Indiana/Purdue. Often rounding out the top 5 college basketball rivalries besides UNC/Duke, is UMD/Duke. What other team is hated so much by TWO state schools?? None.

The second element is that they have players nobody likes, not anywhere. JJ Redick, Steve Wojciechowski, Greg Paulus, Christian Laettner and Danny Ferry. Really, this team was built to be hated.

Lastly, the final element is the coach, and Coach K has just got to be the most hated coach in all of college basketball. And the fans! Those "Cameron crazies." How could I have forgotten about those abnoxious fans!?! And their biggest fan, announcer Dick Vitale!!! aaaghgdshjdfs!!!

This is all timely because TONIGHT the Terps play Duke in College Park. Now back in January, the Terps lost to Duke an astounding 85-44. So tonight, I will watch with low expectations.

And I fear the very worst - I always do. Perhaps I don't share Jason Heat's rarely paralleled paranoia towards flying planes and black holes, but when it comes to the University of Maryland Men's Basketball team, I basically prepare for collapse.

Why? Because I have another theory. That theory is that we suck.

Why do we suck? My theory is that Gary Williams sucks. In the four years that I attended the University of Maryland, this Terps team failed to make it to the NCAA tournament 3 out of those 4 years. That's embarrassing.
Another theory as to why we suck is that it's because of the players Gary Williams recruited. Yeah, they suck. We haven't had a single First Team All-ACC player (a really good player) since 2002 when Juan Dixon ruled the school. That's 7 years and running of not having a top ACC player. The last time Maryland went this long without an All-ACC player was the 1960's. Yeah, the 1960's.

But by far my favorite part about the Williams sucking routine is that, sometimes, we don't suck. Sometimes we're frustratingly good. Frustrating, because it only happens every once in a while, just enough to tease. In fact, if there's anything I expect more than a big loss, it's a big loss after a big win.

This season, things are no different.

On Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009, the Terrapins lost to the #3 ranked University of North Carolina Tar Heels 108-91. No one did this loss justice quite like our friends at The Only Schmucks Trying to Get In - click there to read one of my all-time favorite posts by them.

On Saturday, February 21st, 2009, the Terrapins beat the #3 ranked University of North Carolina Tar Heels in overtime 88-85.

There was a time once when this would have given me great hope. That the Terps might once again make the big tourney. Hope that the Terps will fulfill their potential. Hope that Gary Williams can once again do much with very little. But alas, I am hardened, I am jaded, I am learned, and I now know better.

So when the Terps play Duke tonight on ESPN, I know all of America will be rooting for the Terps. A win with all eyes on Maryland would ideally draw future college players to play for Gary Williams. A win tonight would all but guarantee the Terps get to go back to the NCAA Tournament.

But if you're interested in a Maryland win this week against Duke, I recommend you watch the Women's Basketball team play the Lady Blue Devils on Sunday.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

(Casa)Nova #1

[Disclaimer: I am a feminist, humanist and humorist. Make of that what you will.]

I figure I will start with the first 2 1/2 questions, and we'll go from there, hopefully I will answer most of the questions posed, but who knows.

Ozkirbas asks - Dear Casanova: "When, if ever, is it appropriate to chastise parents for their unruly children? How is it done appropriately? And, can you provide a representative sample?"

I think that there is far to little public chastising in general. There are too many times to count now when someone's headphones are so loud on the metro that I can hear what song is playing or, even better, the person is playing a song out loud on their cellphone. I dream of confronting these people, and if you see my obituary in the near future, you will know why.

When confronting a parent there are a few things to take into account. What is the environment? Would I let my child do that? Is there an element of danger involved?

For example, two kids are running around a park playing tag and one slams into your leg. In this case you're in a park it's a sunny day, let it go.

If you're ridding on the metro during rush hour and there's a kid swinging back and forth on the poles like their monkey bars, then it's time to step in. It's easiest to just say flat out to the parent "Excuse me, that's dangerous." If the parent disagrees then you should call Child Protective Services, which you should already have on speed dial for just such an occasion.

Brittany asks - "Is there a universal rule for what is inappropriate public behavior for couples or is it just that I get uncomfortable easily?"

When you're single, PDA is like being surrounded by a bunch of Republican Red Sox fans. When you're in a relationship, though, it's generally not as big of a deal. But here's an easy rule of thumb, which should keep things classy. Don't do anything in public you wouldn't do in front of your parents. And by public I mean out on the street, waiting for the metro, sitting in a movie theater etc. If you want to fuck in a public restroom . . . that's your call.

For the sake of argument you should also assume that your parents are not Southern, or alcoholics, or Mormons, or Red Sox fans. Basically assume your parents aren't fuck-ups. Under that rubric, most parents would find some mild kissing or hand-holding all-right. Most parents would be creeped out by their kids groping each other under their clothes.

Brittany also asks - "What is your take on the oh-so prevalent myspace/facebook couples kissing picture? How do you think it reflects our society? DO you think it reflects our society?"

This response will seem amusing given one of the pictures used by one of our blog followers. I personally chose to define myself as myself at all times, and even if I was married with kids, would go to the same lengths I go to now to ensure that I am a recognizable individual.

That said, everyone has their thing. Some people build their life around their baby, some people want to completely and endlessly share every part of their life with a spouse. And more in general, some people will be "The NASCAR Guy" or "The libertarian Guy" (note: there are no female Libertarians) or "The Music Woman."

I think it's a pain that some people become part of a duprass but they way people define themselves it's essentially a part of their existence. It would be like saying "I really like you, but I'm tired of your kidney." The girlfriend has become like this guy's kidney, and the conversely the boyfriend has become the girl's small intestines.

[Special Addendum: Here's a one link response to this questions:
Meg asks - "Dear Casanova: Is there a polite way to approach the parents of an overextended, over-involved, and exhausted child about cutting back their kid's extracurricular activities? I am fairly close with the parents, somewhat closer with the child. The child has expressed a desire to pare down his activities, but fears his parents' disapproval. I hate to meddle, especially inappropriately, but I hate to see this kid so upset and worn out."
Check Out this Link:]

Stuff I Love-Fifth Edition


I can't really watch a movie without popcorn. Really. To the point where, I will go out to dinner before the movie, or even just have dinner at home, whatever, point is, I will eat a FULL ASS meal before the movie and STILL buy a large popcorn. More often than not, that means I also have to get some kind of drink to go with it (although I've gotten smarter lately and started sneaking drinks in). This economy has really hit me and my $6 large popcorn $7 large drink hard.

Believe me when I say that I can tear through a large popcorn like no one's business. Forget the headache I get from the salt, I have yet to really regret scarfing down enough popcorn to choke China over the course of a two hour film. It's been worth it every time.

I like microwave popcorn too, I really do. In fact, we didn't have a microwave in my house until I was in high school (my mom was afraid the radiation would kill us all, maybe rightfully so?) so every time I went to a friend's house with a microwave, making popcorn was a pretty big deal for me. But now that I do have a microwave, and frequently make popcorn in my own home, I can firmly say, it just ain't the same. Even those "movie theater butter" popcorns, just forget it. They're gross. It's the airpopping, you see, it gives it a lighter taste, it's crunchier, and you don't ever end up with just a bag full of kernels (I hate that!).

Oh, and if you're one of those people who uses the flavored salts, you know, like the cheese flavoring, or garlic powder, that kind of junk they have at theaters now (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE), you should be sent to an island and cut off from humanity forever. You are ruining a simple, classic, delight. You wouldn't dump more paint on the Mona Lisa to make it "prettier" would you? No. You wouldn't add five more characters to Citizen Kane because they "wear great clothes" would you? You wouldn't add five more guitar solos to "Stairway to Heaven" to make it rock harder, would you? Well, maybe you would. Maybe you would.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Call for Questions - (Casa)Nova and Ask the Rabbi

Looking for questions to be submitted for two different features!

- The first is a brand new weekly relationship advice column to be answered by our very own Max (Casa)Nova. Any questions pertaining to relationships, sex, love, intimacy, parenting and the like are all fair game and every week Max will answer one or two in his inimitatable style. Feel free to post your questions here or e-mail them with the subject 'CasaNova.'

- Second - I recently discovered that my friend and coworker Justin is also an ordained Orthodox Rabbi. He's agreed to field any questions our readers may have regarding Judaism, the orthodox perspective on any current social or political issues, and the like. Feel free to post your questions in the comments section or send them here with the subject 'Rabbi.'

Tomorrow I'll be finishing The State of These Gentlemen, and over the course of the week you can look forward to the second part of my review of Alan Moore: Wild Worlds, as well as the first posts from Ali, John, and Scotty.

How A Little Golden Naked Man Makes Me Cry

Watching the Oscars somehow takes the sting out of sewing until 3am to finish the costumes you designed for a show that opens in a matter of days.

Except for the fact that the costume drama ALWAYS wins Best Costumes and that is extremely unsettling to only me. Max Nova might have similar ill will toward the fact that the musical almost always wins Best Score.

I know, in my heart of hearts, that it's a ridiculous, self indulgent fare in which a bunch of people who love themselves get dressed up and congratulate themselves (and each other) on a job well done. But I don't care. I want to be a part of that so badly that it hurts. It aches like an amputated limb. A ghost of something I don't have, still somehow twisting the pain receptors in my brain until I want to cry. Until I DO cry.

And there are moments of somber recognition, like watching the Ledger family, a tiny group of very definitely non-histrionic, non-self indulgent artists, standing before all of Hollywood in the wake of their very real tragedy. Not ours, theirs.

And there's the fact that often the only recognition artists get is that which they bestow upon themselves. You can fight me on that, and I don't mind. No one knows what an art director is, or that someone designed and implemented the scars and color of the pirates' teeth in that blockbuster. So if they want to get dressed up and parade around congratulating themselves at the end of a hard year, an especially hard one this year, then I say go for it.

And I want my invitation.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

State of These Gentlemen

Awhile ago, I had a radio show called The Identity Crisis on WMUC, my college radio station. That show was an important part of my college career and went through a number of permutations. At times it was a really good show and some great radio, and at other times it was just okay. At it's best, the show had a very simple premise - each week I'd have a new co-host in the studio with me and we'd take turn playing songs and exchanging banter. That way every week there would be a musical base (my sensibilities) as well as something new. Along the way a number of people become regular co-hosts or contributors, each with their own segments. I started to become less interested in making mixes and finding new music, and started to really jones on talking more without ever making the full on commitment to go that route (talking for two straight hours, being funny, and not letting a room full of people go totally awry is pretty hard - and the planning to do it well is time consuming). At a certain point the idea for what I wanted to do with the show changed, my interests and priorities shifted, and radio stopped being the best medium for what I was at the time half-heartedly trying to attempt.

In many ways this site is a continual pursuit and realization of what I wanted that show to become before I burned out. I have smart, funny, insightful friends whose words and opinions I want to read and share on a daily basis. This site is my attempt to create a forum where they, and I, can grow and develop. These are high quality writers who continually challenge, entertain, and inspire me. People with thoughts, ideas, interests, and values that may sometimes differ from mine but are always articulate, valid, and often very amusing. There is an art and discipline to writing - and almost an arrogance to sit and state that what I have to say is worthy of being read and heard by anyone else. But without people willing to take on that challenge and that burden, we as a society would be bereft of the ideas that can only come from the act of sharing and collaboration. The people on this site are writers - their words are absolutely worth being both read and heard - on topics as fundamentally important as race, gender, sexuality, and politics - to the esoteric. We're attempting to establish a community of writers out to share ideas and we're all hoping you'll be a part of it too. Each of these posts is a piece into and of themselves - but they're also the starting point for a longer conversation we hope to have. Some of those conversations will be more insular than others (any time I mention the word 'multiverse' I'm sure half our audience enters a catatonic state) but when you see one that interests you please join in.

There's a responsibility that takes place in writing as well, and it's one that we embrace even as the internet sometimes absolves people of it - standing behind your words. Each Gentleman is going by his or her name or nickname - but never anonymously. When we have something to say we're willing to attach ourselves to it, or else it doesn't belong here. I'm hoping that when people comment they'll embrace that as well. The internet offers untold connectivity and exposure - but at the same time seems to breed a sense of invulnerability and cruelty - anonymous posts that attack or defile because there never has to be a sense of ownership. We've never experienced that here and I hope we never do - mainly because we really want to hear your honest thoughts and responses. Agree or disagree, slightly or vehemently, we're totally open - and we want a community where everyone realizes, embraces, and stands behind the power of their words.

It's no surprise to me now, seeing where the show was headed, that so many of the contributors here were active parts of the IDC as well. And those that weren't are getting in on the ground floor of something we all really care about. It's truly an honor to write in the company of Gentlemen such as these. All of which leads me to proudly welcome our newest and last Gentlemen for awhile - John Barkmeyer, Brittany Graham, and Ali Daniels. I'm really excited about what each of them bring to the table, and I think we're all going to benefit from their input. With these additions our roster is now set at 12 and for now that's where we're going to stay.

If you're interested on becoming one of These Gentlemen in the future, this is the best way to do it - write. Comment consistently, express an interest, and write Guest Gentlemen posts that you can send to me here. If a slot opens up that's going to be one of the biggest ways we'll determine who gets it. Get involved and please stay involved. It's way more fun for all of us when you do.

One of the most important aspects of the site is the name - These Gentlemen. I'm sure it's different for everyone, but coming soon I'll be writing a follow up post about exactly what that name means to me, and what constitutes the making of a Gentleman - in both society and as it pertains to this site.

We never really did this before so now please - meet These Gentlemen. Brief words on who they are, where they come from, and (while there are NO limitations on content) a general idea of what they write about.

Jason Heat - The unofficial ringleader and Editor in Chief, Jason is a freelance writer, actor, and director in the DC area and the founder of These Gentlemen. An avid lover and practitioner of theatre, his prime interest in the art is as a storyteller, a passion he carries over into his writing here. He's probably most known for putting 9 people onstage naked and actually making it work in an artistic and non-gratuitous fashion (he likes to hope) this past summer with his original play The Naked Party. Chances are his posts are going to be slice of life stories or deep ruminations into people wearing capes, and he is a hopeful idealist - which may explain why his explanation of how Superman is cool boils down to 'He's not a nice guy, he's the nicest guy.'

David Pratt - David truly intends to one day serve this country as an elected official and is on the way to making that dream a reality. Having just completed his LSATS, he intends to start law school in the fall with a focus on constitutional law. His passion for public service is only matched by his dedication to his family and his obsession with MMORPGs (okay, just one, but boy he loves it). Extremely well read in American political history, David is currently undertaking a multi-post series on the history of the electoral college, and has a lot to say about the current political climate as well.

Steve Bragale - In rough economic times, Steve has functions as an inside eye into the recession given his job as Teller Manager at a retail bank. He's been following stocks and economics since he was 7 years old, and he's These Gentlemen's go to guy for all thing related to the economy - especially important now. Steve is no one note writer though - an avid fan of video games, poker, and online games of skill and chance - Steve's gentle and poetic look at day to day life in the nation's capital has produced some of my favorite work on the site so far.

Max Nova - A former Music Director and General Manager of WMUC, Max Nova has both listened to and reviewed more CDs than the average person knows exists - which has in no way diminished his passion or love for music, it's only developed and refined an already sharp sonic pallet. He's an intellectual in the best sense of the word - well read, well listened, and well spoken - and at times he's also our very own curmudgeon. His dry wit and crusty exterior shouldn't fool you though - Max is consistently making this planet a better place than when he found it with his extensive volunteering and tireless work ethic. He's known on the site for his insights into music, art, and culture - just don't call during a soccer game.

John Ozkirbas - John is a first year law student at the University of Baltimore, with a degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice. One day he's going to be making our streets safe as a crusading DA, but John has always been trying to help people in tough times - especially as a peer counselor with Student Advocates for Education about Rape. He's Turkish (he would have told you if I hadn't), addicted to or in love with coffee, and has more continuing series than any other Gent so far - most notably Video Games and Myth which seems him analyzing the metaphorical structures underlying one of the most overlooked modern artistic mediums.

Daniel Strauss - An aspiring actor/improvisor in the Chicago area, Dan is also the funniest person I know. That's a high pressure title to lay on someone, but he's never once failed to meet the challenge. In addition to his theatrical performance work, having trained at both the Second City and IO, he's also a heck of a songwriter and a filmmaker to boot. In addition to being one of These Gentlemen, you can find Dan at his personal site, or performing with his improv team Computer. There's a lot of stuff Dan loves, but one thing he hates is Brett Ratner.

I'll have profiles on our six remaining Gentlemen tomorrow!

One Year in Four Colors - Alan Moore: Wild Worlds (Part 1)

So I've decided to write a review or analysis of every Graphic Novel I read in 2009. I'd try for every comic, but none of us have that kind of time.
*Spoiler Warning* should be considered general practice.

Alan Moore: Wild Worlds

Writer: Alan Moore
Artists: Various
Publisher: DC/Wildstorm

Writing these reviews has actually changed how I buy and read comics. When I went into the store the other day, I thought about what book would flow nicely from my last review, in addition to being something I wanted to read. A few things called out to me from the shelves, but in the end I went with this - a collection of stories Alan Moore wrote for the Wildstorm Universe during the late '90s, not including his run on WildC.A.T.S. (which I should hopefully pick up soon). In my review of Captain Atom: Armageddon I got a chance to touch a little bit on the mechanics of the Wildstorm Universe and what makes it different from the DCU proper. In addition, Alan Moore even came up given that Atom was the inspiration for the popular character Dr. Manhattan in Moore's seminal work Watchmen. Now that Wildstorm is officially considered a part of the DC Multiverse as of Infinite Crisis and 52 I feel that as unofficial walking DC encyclopedia I need to shore up on my Wildstorm knowledge and bring it up to speed, and what better way to start than a collection of work written by quite possibly the most celebrated writer in all of modern comics?

Alan Moore is one of the few comics creators that could possibly considered a household name (alongside Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, and Frank Miller). Starting off working in the British independents he had a famous run on Captain Britain for Marvel UK with collaborator Alan Davis before being picked up by DC, where he'd truly become known as a legend - first with his groundbreaking run on Swamp Thing (which helped completely redefine the character, introduced John Constantine, and directly led to the creation of the adult oriented Vertigo imprint), an assortment of high quality and high profile DCU work (Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow and The Killing Joke), and of course Watchmen.

Soon after Watchmen, Moore had a pretty epic falling out with DC over a number of issues including royalties and creator rights - and especially that DC has kept Watchmen in print continually so that the rights will never revert back to him and artist Dave Gibbons (Watchmen was created before collected editions became the industry standard, and may very well have been the game changer). His hatred towards DC is so pronounced he has demanded his name be taken off every movie based on his DC properties - Constantine, V for Vendetta, and now Watchmen.

After DC, Moore began doing work on a number of the second tier companies' super heroes. He had a notable run on Supreme where he basically told all of his untold Superman stories with that character instead. He also began a long relationship with Wildstorm, one that only recently ended. He first started with a run on the flagship WildC.A.T.S. where he did what he does best - completely turned the original premise on it's head and made WildC.A.T.S. a contemporary and relevant title. It was around this time that Moore wrote the stories collected in Wild Worlds. Later Wildstorm created an imprint entirely for him, called America's Best Comics, where every title was an Alan Moore original. When Wildstorm was sold to DC it nearly caused the ABC line to collapse because of Moore's absolute refusal to work for DC comics in any capacity. The rumor is that Jim Lee, owner and executive editor of Wildstorm, personally visited Moore in England after the sale to reassure him that DC proper would have absolutely no editorial control over his work, and erected a series of corporate firewalls that made it so that Moore actually received his checks from Lee's personal account. This arrangement lasted for awhile, producing notable work like Promethea, Top Ten, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen until DC did in fact make content restrictions on two separate ABC titles. That combined with Moore's dissasatisfaction at the promotion of the V for Vendetta movie using his name led to him officially severing his last remaining ties with DC Comics and leaving the ABC line which was for all intents and purposes, him.

That said, how are the stories in this volume?
Pretty meh overall, actually. Lets go through them -

Spawn/WildC.A.T.S: Devil's Day
Art - Scott Clark

First off, it is INCREDIBLY weird to see Spawn both on the cover and in the story of a book published by DC comics. These are stories originally printed when Wildstorm was part of Image and not DC, and in those early days there was (and still is) a loose universe amongst all the different Image super-heroes, so Spawn and the Cats teaming up isn't that weird on it's own. But I'm totally unclear on how DC wrangled the publishing rights to reprint this without having to co-brand with Image. That sort of thing is usually a dealbreaker.

Spawn is one of those characters I've pretty much stayed away from ever since my dad bought me issue 2 when I was a little kid and the entire issue was pretty much The Violator ripping people's hearts out of their bodies and it scared the shit out of me. That really was the entire issue - that and this chunky, scruffy clown who looked like a pedophile. But I figure if anyone can make me be interested in Spawn it would be Alan Moore.

Sadly, more than any other story in the book, this one is kind of a mess. The art is nowhere near up to the standard we have in the the industry today as far as storytelling goes. There are a lot of pretty pictures and big poses but major plot points have to be narrated explicitly in a way that almost seems condescending because there's almost no sense that these things are actually happening in the way described. The perspective is also way off, making the reading experience jarring and sometimes unpleasant. For a comic to really work on all levels the art and words have to work in unison to tell the story - when they're out of sync (and not for intended effect) the whole lanuage of comics, this delicate balance of iconagraphy in two forms becomes muddy.

The story sets up a theme that runs through most of the work in this collection - that of outside forces with god-like abilities manipulating others from afar. In this case, a group of mystics who have grown beyond existence itself seek amusement by sending an amulet back through time, creating a time loop where Spawn goes evil and takes over the world (or at least Manhattan). When the surviving WildC.A.T.S. of the future come back to kill Spawn in the past they end up bringing him into the future with them - thus setting in motion the very consequences they sought to prevent.

This is basic super-hero fare, and it never goes beyond that. There are also a number of what feel like extremely manufactured personality conflicts, especially between Grifter and Spartan over control of battle tactics. It's never explained why they're arguing, neither is really established as being right or better, and there's really no sense of closure when it's resolved even though it's supposed to feel like a 'moment'. This may be because most of the dialogue and character work is spouted off in such expository factor that there never feels like any sort of build or depth. Also, the book was written in 1996 - so one of the characters from the future talks entirely with a very computer oriented slang that was supposed to feel cutting edge but is already horribly outdated and so gets very annoying, very quickly. Some of the 'twists' are so heavily foreshadowed that when they come it's almost more surprising that the characters themselves didn't figure it out on their own.

The highlight of the story for me was seeing Grunge and Burnout from Gen13 (another Wildstorm title and favorite from adolescence) as traitors in the future, especially with Grunge now being an evil accountant named 'Suit' - cause what else would be the idealogical antithesis of a character created to capitalise on the '90s grunge movement?
Also, like I said, I haven't read much Spawn - but he sounded a lot like a really whiny Spider-Man in this issue and that is not the impression I ever got from Spawn's voice before.

Overall, not a great start to the collection - I'll be back later with the rest.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Court Summons Are a Dish Best Served AWESOME

Studying law, you're gonna come across a few cases that make you step out and say "Holy shit, really?" For instance, the "slip-on-banana-peel" motif? There's an entire barrage of tort case-law centering around people who slip on banana peels in public places and try to sue whatever respective train station/grocery store where the slip-and-fall happened . These cases are appropriately called "The Banana Peel Cases" and serve to suss out how much responsibility business owners have to keep their establishments clean and safe. In Civil Procedure, you don't usually get the same level of hilarity. Well, until you get to Civil Process Serving.

Allow me to introduce Harry Grossman:

Grossman was, to quote my text book, "the champion process server of his day. He [was] an instrument of justice and his profession [was] a corner stone of  civil law, but not many of the people he serve[d] appreciate[d] that" (See Thomson and West's Civil Procedure). Cursed by hundreds of defendants, beaten down, thrown off porches and down stairs, slapped, kicked, punched, and then mauled by a seven-member family - Grossman was the go to guy when certain defendants required a little ingenuity to serve. 

When an elderly shut in refuses to answer the door for anyone, Grossman is there to fake the fire that'll make her come out screaming. In one particular case, Grossman spent an entire day rolling papers into balls and throwing them into salad bowls so that, when a resistant defendant would come onto her porch to peel potatoes the next day, he'd be able to make a subpoena into her bowl in one shot. He was the man private detective agencies hired when their own shenanigans couldn't get the work done. He practically invented "flower misdirection" - buying flowers as a distraction for one lady, whose response was, typically, "Oh! Are these flowers really for me!?" and, as she reached for them, he pulled them away only to hand her a subpoena, while simply stating, "No. But, this is." By the way, she didn't get to keep the flowers - he sold them back to the florist. One of my favorites, Grossman calls up a defendant (William Fox, owner of the Fox Film Corporation), convinces him that they've made an imaginary, multi-million dollar "theater deal," and, when he shows up to serve, he chastises the man in his own office. "Fox started up from his desk indignantly, but Grossman's indignation expressed itself first. 'You, a multi-millionare!' Grossman shouted. 'Is it decent, is it nice, for a multi-millionaire who can be sued for fifteen million dollars to hide from me? Why don't you take the papers like a man?' This so flabbergasted Fox that he sank back in his chair, and Grossman went through the corporation's offices unimpeded and served papers on [William] Sheehan, two vice-presidents, the secretary, and the treasurer." Grossman's unique ability to become far more indignant than anyone he served frequently saved him from physical harm. Particularly, when Grossman barged his way into a sculptor's home to deliver a subpoena, the sculptor stopped working on his nearly completed nude and began to say, "You [expletive] you [expletive] you ought to be-" when Grossman cut him off by yelling, "How about you!? Should you maybe be ashamed of yourself!? You and your naked women!" and then left the man speechless and with nothing, but his subpoena for tissues. Holy shit.

Apparently, Grossman had a reputation for being an "androit private detective" before he was even eighteen. And, when he was finally of age to serve papers, it seemed like his perfect job. I have no clue if Harry Grossman is still alive, as his hay day centered around 1935, but damn if he is would I like to shake his hand. Pineapple Express made this concept cool and chuckle worthy. Harry Grossman was the man who single-handedly made it legendary.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

History of the Electoral College, Part 1: 1788-1800

Ever wonder exactly how it came to be that a President assumed office? The oft-implied method is that the man who receives the most votes becomes leader of the free world. However, this is partially inaccurate. In a very real way, your vote does not actually matter in a Presidential election.

The reason being that in this country we have a system known as the Electoral College. Every state receives a number of electors based on population. Every few years this number is redistributed to ensure the states with the highest population retain the most representation. Now, these electors are real people. They are, once given their position, completely entitled to vote for the person of their choice. While it is true that if they vote against the wishes of the voters in their state, they can be fined or even removed from their position and replaced. It is not unheard of, however, for an elector to do so anyway.

So, in this series, we shall take a look, one installment at a time, at exactly what was happening at the time of each Presidential election, and how the electors voted our leaders into office. I will offer no commentary or personal thought, only list the candidates, by what margin they won, and who their opponents were. And in those historical quirks where the electors don't quite all line up, perhaps provide some insight as to why they voted the way they did.

In this first installment, we will examine the first stage of the Electoral College, from its inception through 1800. During this phase, electors each cast two votes, and the person with the most votes at the end became President.


Winner: George Washington
Electoral Votes: 69 out of 138

Runners Up:
John Adams - 34
John Jay - 9
Robert Harrison - 6
John Rutledge - 6
John Hancock - 4
George Clinton - 3
Samuel Huntington - 2
James Armstrong - 1
Edward Telfair - 1
Benjamin Lincoln - 1

Our first Presidential election was won unanimously by General George Washington, the Father of our nation. Washington, for his part, neither sought nor coveted the office, and did no campaigning of his own. As the 12 amendment regarding elections had yet to be ratified, John Adams, as the runner-up, became Vice President. As Washington carried the majority of electors in every state, he is considered to have won unanimously.

There's little to no mystery surrounding this one. George Washington was the most recognizable figure of the time. Not only did the American people want him to be leader, but practically everyone in Congress did as well. Who were the others on the ticket, and why did people vote for them?

John Adams, of course, was the controversial statesman from Massachusetts and one of the most influential of the Founding Fathers. This would be far from his last appearance on the national stage.

Samuel Huntington, many are unaware, had already served one year as President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, and also President of the Continental Congress.

John Jay served as President of the Continental Congress and co-authored the Federalist Papers. During the Revolution, he was the ambassador to Spain and France. Following the election, he became the country's first Chief Justice.

John Hancock, besides having excellent penmanship, was the first governor of Massachusetts and one of the wealthiest men in the country. He also served as President of the Second Continental Congress.

Robert Harrison was Washington's military secretary during the war, as well as a prominent Maryland judge.

John Rutledge was another judge. Under a constitution drafted in 1776, he was also the former President of South Carolina, and later governor.

George Clinton was a prominent soldier in George Washington's army, and vocal opponent of the U.S. Constitution until the Bill of Rights was added. He was also the first governor of New York.

Benjamin Lincoln was a Continental Army officer, holding the rank of Major General. It was Lincoln who formally oversaw the British surrender at Yorktown. From 1781 to 1783 he served as the first Secretary of War, a post later renamed Secretary of Defense. He also helped end Shay's Rebellion.

Edward Telfair was a member of the Continental Congress from 1778-1782 and worked to treat with the Cherokee nation. He was also governor of Georgia, and was the recipient of one electoral vote from that state.

James Armstrong was a major in Washington's army and member of the Georgia state assembly.

During this election, New York's electoral votes were not cast. Also, two votes from Maryland and two votes from Virginia were left out as well.


Winner: George Washington
Electoral Votes: 132 out of 264

Runners Up:
John Adams - 77
George Clinton - 50
Thomas Jefferson - 4
Aaron Burr - 1

Like the first election, George Washington was hands down the winner. In a contest with 5 contestants he won 100% of the electoral college. Washington's incredible popularity as a leader granted him another unanimous win - keep in mind electors were all allowed to vote twice. As the runner-up, John Adams remained Vice President, despite the fact that he had run against Washington twice now.

This was the first election to feature Political parties. Washington had become President in part out of the hope of preventing the rise of political parties, but was unable to do so. Alexander Hamilton now presided over the Federalists, who would be the foundation for the modern-day Democratic party. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson headed up the Democratic-Republicans, who favored smaller government and states rights.

John Adams was now a one-term Vice President of the United States, and received a good number of electoral votes. As the Federalists grew in influence, his support also increased, leading to his victory in the election of 1796.

Aaron Burr had just won a seat on the New York Senate from Philip Schulyer, and had previously served as both a New York state assemblyman and the New York Attorney General.

George Clinton was the Republican choice for Vice President - no one on the ticket was actually supposed to beat George Washington - as the party considered John Adams approach to the office "monarchial." Following the election he continued on as governor of New York until 1795.

Thomas Jefferson was, of course, another founding father. He drafted the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and at this time was head of the Democratic Republicans. He had previously served as governor of Virginia.

Notable in this election is that electors in Virginia were not allowed to vote for both Washington and Jefferson, as both were from Virginia. After his second term, George Washington refused a third, opening the way for the two-party system that has been in place ever since.


Winner: John Adams
Electoral Votes: 71 out of 276

Runners Up:
Thomas Jefferson - 68
Thomas Pinckney - 59
Aaron Burr - 30
Samuel Adams - 15
Oliver Ellsworth - 11
George Clinton - 7
John Jay - 5
James Iredell - 3
George Washington - 2
John Henry - 2
Samuel Johnston - 2
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney - 1

John Adams was never a very popular politician. His strength was the respect he commanded as an orator, legislator, and as one of the Founding Fathers. He was a man who thrived very much on the opinion of his work rather than his character. In the election of 1796, the first honestly contested election, Adams Federalist party campaigned heavily for their man, and he managed a narrow victory over opponent Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson was greatly respected and well-liked in political circles and as a candidate. The Federalists had presented a ticket fronting Adams as President and the next-most popular Federalist, Thomas Pinckney, as Vice President. However, the Federalists own plans to ensure Adams received more electoral votes than Pinckney backfired, resulting in Jefferson becoming second-in-command.

Thomas Pinckney was the governor of South Carolina when the Constitution was ratified there, and the year before the election had drawn up a treaty with Spain. He was a popular figure at home due to his foreign affairs experience, and his military service during the Revolutionary War.

Aaron Burr was at this time the Senator of New York. He did not do well in this election, but would return to become a part of history in 1800.

Samuel Adams was the cousin of John Adams and one of the primary moving forces behind the Revolutionary War. He organized colonists against British forces and helped unite like-minded patriots in repulsing the Intolerable Acts. He was also a key figure behind the Boston Tea Party. He had served as a Senator of Massachusetts, and also lieutenant-governor and governor of that state. His family brewery is still in business today. I'm serious, that's really his brewery.

George Clinton's political career was strained at this point, and he held no public office as he had not run for re-election in 1795.

Oliver Ellsworth was a prominent revolutionary and lawyer. He had also been one of the primary drafters of the original Constitution, and was the man who suggested the name "United States" be used in perpetuity. During the election he was Senator of Connecticut, and eventually Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was noteworthy for favoring private bargaining over public debate, and never established himself as a powerful orator.

James Iredell was a Supreme Court Justice, and leader of the Federalists in North Carolina.

John Jay was at this time the governor of New York, and a leading voice in the fight against slavery.

Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was the cousin of Thomas Pinckney, and a prominent legislator in South Carolina. He had served as both a state legislator and as a member of the Senate. Pinckney had also been a brigadier general during the Revolutionary War.

Samuel Johnston had been elected President of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation in 1781, but declined the position. Prior to this election he served as both governor of North Carolina from 1787-1789, and also Senator of that state until 1793.

John Henry was one of the first two Senators of Maryland. Following the election he would resign from the Senate to become governor of that state.

This election was the first to feature heavy campaigning on both sides of the poltical fence. The Federalists accused the Democratic Republicans of being involved with the violent Revolutions occuring in France. In turn, the Republicans equated the Federalists to aristocrats and monarchists. This venomous back-and-forth would set the tone for future elections to this day. Also, there is no mistake on the list - George Washington received two electoral votes despite the fact that he was not running, and his name did not appear on any ticket. Remember, electors are allowed to vote for whomever they choose.


Winner: Thomas Jefferson
Electoral Votes: 73 out of 276

Runners up:
Aaron Burr - 73
John Adams - 65
Charles Cotesworth Pinckney - 64
John Jay - 1

A hotly contested election, 1800 saw the first tie in the history of the Presidential election. Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson received the same number of electoral votes, despite it being generally understood that Burr was the Vice Presidential candidate. As a result, the decision of who would be President went to the largely Federalist House of Representatives. Jefferson failed to win a majority vote as only a lone Federalist voice - that of Alexander Hamilton - spoke out in his favor. Finally, on the 36th ballot, it was decided Jefferson would become President and Burr would serve as Vice President. John Adams became the first President not to gain re-election.
We have gone over all of the candidates in this election already, so we are free to concentrate on the election itself. Jefferson was by far the more popular statesman and politician than John Adams, and had just concluded a term as Vice President. The House of Representatives was controlled largely by Federalists who were at the time lame ducks, concluding terms in office and members of a party that would soon be defunct. As such, they had no qualms about hotly contesting the election of Thomas Jefferson, their prime political nemesis.

The election itself took an even worse turn than that of 1796. The slander and personal attacks grew even more vitriolic, with Federalists spreading rumors that Democratic Republicans murdered their enemies, burned down churches, and, based on their preference for France over Britain, would destroy the country if elected (France was, keep in mind, in the midst of a bloody Revolution of its own). Democratic Republicans attacked the passing of the Alien and Sedition Act under Adams as un-American, and viewed their support of Great Britain as evidence that they supported monarchy and anti-republican values.

The key factor in this election was the influence of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton had hoped the presidency of John Adams would be even greater than that of Washington. However, upon his realization that Adams was far more independant a leader than he had thought, Hamilton now threw the weight of the party behind Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. The split in focus between Hamiltonian Federalists supporting Pinckney and those who remained loyal to Adams opened the way for Democratic Republicans to get Jefferson elected. It was Hamilton himself who stood up in the House and declared he would rather seat Jefferson, a man of opposite principle, than Burr, a man with none.

The words of the Secretary of the Treasury came back to haunt him in 1804 ,when Aaron Burr fatally wounded him during a duel. His death led to the eventual collapse of the entire Federalist party.