Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hip Hop Punks

Emily brought me along to see Nas and Talib Kwali on Tuesday. Now, I'm not a big fan of hip hop, not because I think it stinks, but because it simply doesn't speak to me. Hey, I'm not the audience for Yo Gabba Gabba either, but I'm not really the guy to cast value judgments over its quality.

Now, the show had everything you could want, even ending in a fight that only failed to be a knife fight because the guy dropped his knife.

Though it wasn't my scene, I had a great time, got into the show, and a thought occurred to me as the night rolled along: this show was more punk rock than most punk shows I've been to. While punk has become more and more commercial and punk-by-numbers, it's become infinitely less interesting. It's safe and stale and it's just the same thing over and over again.

And maybe this was the same thing over and over again for hip hop fans. But I doubt it. Not many shows have the live microphone tossed into the crowd so anyone there could rap along. And that's just fun. But it also had a sense of anarchy, of spontaneity, of actually being dangerous... and I find that irresistible.

Monday, August 25, 2008

PC Cometh

I noticed from Osler's blog that PC has started. I would like to give all of the new PC students some words of advice as someone who survived the experience.

But I'm too busy gut laughing since I never, ever, ever have to do that again. So sorry kids, you're on your own.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Captains of Industry or Robber Barons

I’ve just finished reading Meet You In Hell, a biography of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. It’s a great book, and I recommend it to anyone with a passing interest in the history of the Gilded Age.

Most of the book is dedicated to the Battle of Homestead, which is perhaps the bloodiest episode in American labor history. And it’s a great read full of drama, rich characters, and well, a boatload of violence. It’s amazing this sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore. Not because I think labor conditions are so bad, but because we live in a violent culture, yet we don’t have these sort of armed confrontations between labor and capital anymore.

But what fascinated me about the book was the study of its too central protagonists: Frick and Carnegie. Both were ruthless and not more than a little bit greedy. They were also both brilliant and driven men, who really were self-made men.

Carnegie tried to rationalize his darker side away. Everything he did was for the benefit of others, who he claimed to love so much. And then he felt so guilty of the millions he made, that he spent the last years of his life giving his fortune away, the standard of philanthropy which stands today. The Homestead workers probably would rather have gotten a higher wage than get the library, but whatever.

Frick, on the other hand, almost reveled in his dark side. He made no excuses. He was a ruthless man and he didn’t lose any sleep over the dozens of strikers who died by his orders. Which is remarkable in its own way, but in the end, I end up admiring Frick more for his unflinching honesty. He had no illusions that he was a ruthless, greedy man and he would crush anyone who cost him so much as a nickel.

Which is why, nearing death, when Carnegie tried to reconcile with his former partner and now bitter enemy, Frick refused to meet with Carnegie and make things right. He told the messenger:

“I’ll meet Carnegie in hell, where surely we both are going.”

They just don’t make them like that anymore.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I’m an Olympics junkie. I love the whole thing, mainly because, as many of you know, I am the King of Obscure Sports. I’m not a big track and field guy, but once every four years, I can certainly tune in and get caught up in the biggest Sporting Event in the World.

And the reason I love the Olympics can be explained by two people: Usain Bolt and Lolo Jones.

Bolt became the first guy to break the 100 and 200 meter world records in the same Olympics. Take that, Michael Phelps. And his 100 meter run was nothing short of spectacular. Not only did he pull up in the last 20 meters, he ran with one shoe untied, and his prerace meal was Chicken McNuggets.*

*Editor’s note: Not made up. I’m dead serious. He ate McDonald’s before the biggest race of his life. How can you not love this guy?

But the greatness of Bolt’s achievements don’t resonate with me like the failure of Lolo Jones. Jones is the greatest hurdler in the world. She dominates the race and she’s the World Champion. And this was her chance to win a gold medal. And, just two hurdles away from her being introduced for the rest of her life as “Olympic gold medalist Lolo Jones”, she hit the hurdle and stumbled her way to seventh place.

Jones crumbled to the track and just cried. She’s 27, and track is not exactly a sport that is forgiving on an athlete as they age. She may not even qualify for the next Olympics, and if she does, she likely won’t be the favorite she was this time around. This was, essentially, her whole career in one race. And it went up in smoke. And she knew it.

Bolt is great. He’s a lot of fun. I’ll remember him when I think back as one of the all-time great Olympians. But, to be honest, I’ll treasure Lolo Jones more. Sometimes failure is just as noble as victory. I will never run as fast as Usain bolt, but I can relate to Lolo Jones. She came so close to her dream, only to have it snatched away. And for that, she is my favorite Olympian in these Games.

Monday, August 18, 2008

LSU Football and Memories

Cross posted on And The Valley Shook!, an LSU blog on which I am a contributor

I have an LSU class ring which I don’t ever wear. I’m not much one for jewelry, but I always put it on for my birthday, which is in a few hours. It used to my dad’s class ring, and he gave it to me for my birthday back when I was a student at LSU. The ring even came with a convenient story, as the ring was sold to my dad my none other than NFL Hall of Famer, LSU great, and well, the greatest fullback of all time, Jim Taylor.

Apparently, my dad and Taylor were casual friends since they played all sorts of sports against one another in high school. According to my mom, Taylor also had a college job selling class rings, and he sold my dad his. So I always called it my Jim Taylor ring.

It’s easy to get caught up in the big business of college football and get lost in it. The coaches are mercenary. The players are only in it for themselves. The boosters are corrupt. Recruiting is sort of creepy. Television has ruined everything. Pick your complaint.

But it’s also a game that passed on through family bonds. I grew up in Maryland, which meant I didn’t grow up going to games in Death Valley. In fact, college football barely made a dent in the sports landscape when I was a kid. But my parents were LSU fans, and they would go to almost any length to catch a game. We didn’t have a cable, so we were always going over to some neighbor who had ESPN so we could catch the occasional Saturday night game. But back then, most games weren’t on TV. So my dad would fiddle with the dials on the old Panasonic radio, trying to catch the broadcast on an AM band that managed to crackle through from Louisiana. Sometimes this meant crawling on to the roof to listen to a game. We’d huddle around the tiny radio on a cold November night, trying to catch the action through waves of static.

I still have the radio. I don’t ever use it, as every LSU game is now on TV on one of the million cable channels out there. There’s no need for me to crawl onto my roof to try and catch a clear channel signal. Hell, I don’t even know if clear channels exist anymore. But I can’t bring myself to throw it out.

I remember those games and the sound of my dad’s voice cheering on the Tigers. I remember him teaching me to sing “Hey! Fightin’ Tigers!” I remember him teaching me about all of those past greats. I remember him describing Pregame, though I wouldn’t ever see it until I finally came to LSU as a student myself. By then, the torch of fanaticism had passed. I remember it all like it was yesterday.

Ten years ago, LSU hadn’t won a national title since 1958. They hadn’t won an SEC title since 1986. And of the last ten years, seven of them had been losing seasons. It was the nadir of LSU football. The next ten years, of course, have been maybe the ten most successful years in the program’s history. My dad would have enjoyed that. But he missed out on it because he died ten years ago. We buried him on my birthday. Of all things he missed out on, I doubt LSU football ranks really high. Then again, some of my fondest memories involving him also involve the Tigers. If I close my eyes, I’m still on that roof, listening to that radio, clutching that hot cocoa for its warmth. Listening to the game. Listening to those cheers.

Since it’s my birthday, I’m wearing my class ring. But it’s not a Jim Taylor ring. It’s an Oran R. Baker ring.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Olympic Objectivity

Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals as NBC set an Olympic record for Most times Camera Cut to An Athlete’s Mom. We get it. Mom’s proud of her son, the Olympic champion. In other news, the water in the pool is wet.

OK, I have legitimately enjoyed Phelps’ dominance, and him staking a claim for Greatest Olympian Ever*. But that has not been the reason to watch the Olympics. No, the real reason has been to catch a glimpse of the barely intelligible rantings of Bela Karolyi.

*The Unofficial Rankings:
1. Carl Lewis – gold medals in four consecutive Olympics
2. Jesse Owens – made Hitler look dumber than usual
3. Bjorn Daehlie – cross country skier with 8 golds, 12 total medals, and his name is Bjorn.
4. Ray Ewry – 10 events, 10 golds. Suck on that. And his Olympic record for standing broad jump still stands, maybe because the event was discontinued in 1930.
5. Larissa Latynina – 18 medals, 9 of them gold. The Soviets could do some gymnastics

Anyway, some people have criticized Bela for, how shall we put this, openly rooting for the US team. It’s not so much commentary as some crazy guy cheering. He’s like an out of control Little League parent, only on the Olympic level.

What’s great about this is that it exposes the central lie in all sports broadcasting and most news broadcasting: the myth of objectivity. OF COURSE the NBC announcers are rooting for the Americans. We’re American and our rooting interest is in our fellow countrymen. Why else would they show us the US men’s solo all-around in gymnastics when they never even cracked the top 10? Any semblance of objectivity would have cut the Americans so fast it would make your head spin. But NBC stuck with them, not because they are evil or bad, but because, get this, Americans like watching Americans.

OK, I did watch the Italy-Netherlands water polo match this morning, but I’m a freak. Most people don’t care.

It’s the same with local sports. That old adage “There’s no cheering in the press box” is simply ridiculous. The only reason the Dallas Morning News reporter is in the box is to cover the Cowboys. And get this, he’s a fan of the Cowboys and wants them to do well. Why pretend that he’s not? It’s silly. And it means it’s all based on a lie. If a guy can’t even be honest enough to say he’s a Cowboys fan, why should I trust him at all?

News reporting is the same thing. We know the reporters have their own opinion. We know some of them prefer one candidate over another. And for a reporter to come out and claim they are 100% objective is insulting to all of our intelligence. Of course they have bias. Everyone has bias. But the way to deal with this bias is not to pretend it doesn’t exist, but to admit it and confront it.

There’s a reason FOX News is popular. It’s because they are so ridiculously biased and so refreshingly honest about it, that it seems much more honest. I think they take the model too far and allow themselves to simply mouth talking points, but nobody’s perfect. Being honest about your bias doesn’t mean you also have to give up critical thinking.

The news media wonders why we don’t trust them. It’s hard to trust someone whose entire business model is based on a lie. And not even a good one.

So you go, Bela. Root your ass off. Who would have thought it? You’re the most honest guy on TV.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Slight Return

Apparently, I have a fanbase. Not much of one, but enough people have been checking this space and getting irritate by the sheer lack of updates. Because no one can bring the funny like law school funny.

So, after an extended vacation in which I droned on for a long time about the Tour de France on another blog And LSU for yet another blog (that’s right, my dork powers are slowly spreading across the interwebs, eventually I’ll be showing up doing guest columns on music blogs on why your favorite band sucks), I am back. I’m doing some housecleaning around here, cleaning out cobwebs, and I’m certainly disinfecting some of blogger which has gone unused for awhile. The mold in here is sort of scary.

Which begs the question: why no updates? Does Poseur think he’s too good for you? Has he been too busy? Has he found other interests? And why is he referring to himself in third person? Doesn’t he realize he sounds like a pompous ass at best and an absolute moron at worst when he does that?*

*The answers: I’ve been trying to adjust to working life. No. Yes. No, unless tennis counts. Because it’s Poseur’s blog and Poseur makes his own rules. Absolutely.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to watch an obscene amount of Olympic coverage. Did you know you could watch team handball online? And that the brackets for table tennis are absolutely incomprehensible? Or that judo’s scoring system is almost impossible to explain? Yeah. Me neither. Of course I wouldn’t watch obscure sports on the internet. What kind of no-life loser do you think I am?

Oh. Right. Nevermind then. Ooo! Fencing! Gotta go.