Monday, November 24, 2008

We Is All One

From cheezburger...

If cheezburger has done nothing else, they've at least helped hipster duffesses feel ok about photos of cute kittens. They've mastered a cynical reclamation of kitsch.

Ca Va?

"W" is for "whatchit!" Continuing our 2008 Summer Olympics recap, check out "W" in Beijing!

Those long flights are rough. I once turned 4 pirouettes before landing in some dude's lap in a Paris metro train. Cami just rolled her eyes. "Ca va?" he asked. "Ca va," I replied.

Cool Uniform, Sleek Look

Great look from Angela Marino of New Zealand (left), at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Nice.

Eight Rough Years

This is what it'll do to 'ya.

I'm not sure what Oedipal dramas this guy has been living through, but they've sure taken their toll.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Special Guest Columnist: Kyle McTavish

Today, Blogrizzard is pleased to present the analysis of Kyle McTavish, a 37-year old, twice-divorced wood floor refinisher from Kissimmee, FL. Kyle is a self-made businessman employing 3 part-time workers. He enjoys Toby Keith concerts, the movies of Matthew McConaughey, FOX News, and playing games on his Wii. Not surprisingly, he has strong views about the much-debated bailout for Detroit, now being discussed in Washington.

Nothing fires me up more than government interventions. This auto bailout has really got me worked up.

To the unions out there. You've had it too good for too long. High on the hog. Paid vacation. Benefits. Dental. Eye. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps to make something of myself. Nobody guaranteed me a $30 an hour job. Everything I've got I worked for. Maybe now you guys will learn about an honest day's work like I have. Ha!

To the widows of dead auto employees who will loose their health benefits if the auto companies go bankrupt. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. There are no guarantees in life. If your husband would have built his own business like I did, you wouldn't be asking for handouts. Nobody helped me. I built my business from the ground up. Put myself through tech school. Everybody in this country has got to work, and that includes widows. No handouts from the government. No liberalism.

Liberals have made this great nation weak because of socialism. Before you know it we'll be like Sweden. Everybody wants a handout. "Give me a handout, I'm displaced." Detroit wants a handout. Widows want a handout. The blacks want a handout. The gays want a handout. NOBODY gave me a handout. I pay my child support. I pulled my own self up by my own bootstraps. When I get old, I won't ask nobody for a handout. I'll take care of myself.

So, to the auto workers. Get yourself some training, get a new job, and stop asking for handouts. There are no free lunch's in life! Get with the program, morans. No more political correctness. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, just like I did. Thats what Americas about. If you don't like it, I have some advise, move to Sweden and get some handouts.

Let Them Fly Coach

When the heads of the "Big" Three automakers went to Washington to plead for a bailout, each flew in a private jet. Congress members noted the dissonance:

"It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo," observed Gary Ackerman, D- of New York. Ouch!

Personal story: last summer, Cami and I got up at the crack of dawn to make a flight to Houston. While we waited at our gate, I noticed an important face seated across from us. It was Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy.

At the time, McClendon was personally worth well over $1.5 billion. Though his company was flying high, here he was, schlepping his way to Houston with the unwashed masses. When we boarded the plane, I noticed he was seated in coach.

Though I'm not a fan of McClendon, I was impressed by this gesture. His activities directly impact thousands of lives, from NBA players, to Wall Street financiers, to ballet dancers, to scores of average Americans. He could have easily flown on a chartered company jet, yet here he was, sitting in a cramped seat like the rest of us. The symbolism was powerful.

Sadly, the "Big" Three CEOs aren't about to suffer such discomfort. They're important men, with important jobs, and luxury travel is a perk of their state in life, even as their companies bleed dollars.

How much more effective would their appearance have been if each had driven to Washington in their own cars? They could have had press photographers follow their progress from Detroit to Washington, across the battered rust belt, with choreographed stops at threatened manufacturing facilities to rally their workers.

Nah, that would have been oh-so declassé.

We'll Be Seein' 'Ya, Mike Mussina

As a natural-born Orioles fan, I must take a moment to reflect upon the career of Mike Mussina, who announced his retirement today, at age 39.

His success was a result of excellent control, speed, and a cerebral approach to the game. A Stanford economics grad, Mussina was featured in the crossword puzzle documentary, "Wordplay."

During spring training last March, rumors swirled that Mussina wouldn't make the Yankees starting rotation. Well, not only did he make the starting rotation, he went on to post a stellar season, winning 20 games. With his retirement, he becomes the first pitcher to quit on the heels of a 20-win season since the great Sandy Koufax, in 1966.

In retrospect, one could say his hitting nemesis was Sandy Alomar, Jr. In 1997, Alomar, Jr.'s one-out single in the 9th inning broke up Mussina's bid for a perfect game. Almost one year later, Alomar, Jr. sent a line drive directly into Mussina's face, breaking his nose. Blood spewed from his face. The stadium fell deathly silent. The scene was chillingly reminiscent of the tragic liner that effectively ended the career of Herb Score (who died last week). Score never recovered his toughness on the mound; Mussina did.

Is he a Hall of Fame candidate? Definitely. Will he be inducted? It's possible, but somewhat doubtful. Mussina never won the Cy Young award, and never had the defining moments that so many H.O.F. pitchers had. Had he stuck around to win 300 games (he's just 30 shy), he'd be a lock. Mussina, however, wanted to go out on top. With a final act like his '08 season, he certainly did.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fascinating Fact

When he begins his term, Mark Begich will be the only U.S. Senator without a college degree.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Merry KKK-ristmas From The American Family Association!

Proclaim your Christian faith this holiday season with a lovely simulated burning cross! Suggested donation: $81.85.

Apparently the American Family Association doesn't realize that this symbol has been used by the Ku Klux Klan for decades to terrorize Black and Jewish families uppity enough to be alive and live in houses with front yards. Otherwise, they'd never allow their organization to even appear to be indifferent to this ugly side of American history.

By the way, the A.F.A. (founded by Joyce DeWitt-hater Donald Wildmon) is based in Tupelo, Mississippi. Support family values, y'all!

Top 5 Phil Spector-Produced Songs

Phil Spector is a creep. He has a gun fetish. He has a Napoleon complex. He's cruel and vindictive. His father killed himself when Phil was nine. At 17, Phil wrote a song about it: "To Know Him Is To Love Him."

He's probably a murderer. He's also a genius, and a towering figure in American popular music.

Without Phil Spector, there'd be no "Pet Sounds," no "Sgt. Pepper." The whole notion that rock and roll could be more than juvenile "race music" — that it could be serious music, with artful production and string sections and complex layering — started with him. I've studied his life and his work, and here are the five songs that best explain his influence:

5. "He's A Rebel" - The Crystals
Did you know this was written by Gene Pitney? Though credited to The Crystals, it was actually performed by Darlene Love and studio backup singers. I've always loved the fast drum roll intro, the tinkly piano phrases, and the beefy saxophone. The vocal modulations are sophisticated. This song is a little spare by Spector standards – there's no string section, but it's one of his best, and a highwater mark for the Girl Group sound.

4. "Spanish Harlem" - Ben E. King
Bobby Kennedy called this his favorite song. And why not? Listen how the percussion unfolds. Listen how the orchestral strings lead straight into jazzy sax solo. The repeating marimba hook line is memorable without ever becoming annoying. And Ben E. King sings with wonderful restraint. Exotic, poignant, and completely urban.

3. "Be My Baby" - The Ronettes
I hate that I can't place this song at #1 – it's truly one of the greatest rock songs in the canon. Hal Blaine's drumming absolutely drives the song forward, and Ronnie Spector sings with an irresistible, desperate yearning that elevates puppy love to a Shakespearian sonnet. It's got that fabled Wall of Sound – strings, guitar, dense percussion – all mixed in mono to sound great on AM radio.

2. "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" - The Righteous Brothers
Phil Spector once characterized his productions as "mini symphonies for the kids." This 1965 hit epitomizes his ambitions. By now, Spector was cocky enough to produce this song as a slow, complex arrangement, at 3:45, a good bit longer than most AM pop songs (Spector famously mislabeled the length of the song "3:05" so radio program directors wouldn't reject it).

1. "River Deep, Mountain High" - Ike & Tina Turner
George Harrison called this "a perfect record from start to finish." Sting claims he lost his virginity while this song played in the background. Phil Spector considers this his best work, but American audiences weren't so sure: upon release, the record was a flop. Maybe it was just too much. The lyrics are Freudian. Tina Turner sings like a woman possessed. The studio musicians also sound possessed, desperately trying to keep up with the intensity. To us whities, it sounds like black gospel church service descending into some sort of mysterious African voodoo ceremony. But what voodoo! This song reeks of dangerous love, the kind of love Tina felt for Ike (even as he was beating her), and the kind of love that drove Phil Spector to madness. Yes, this is a pop song, but listen a bit deeper and you'll realize that it's so much more.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

They Shoulda Listened to Peter Schiff!

Here's a collection of clips worth watching. Peter Schiff was bang on several years ago, while Fox blowhards like Ben Stein were dead wrong.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Careers, Color and Congruence

This illustration makes an exceptional graphic statement (apologies to the artist, I couldn't find a credit).

This reminds me of a personal experience. About six years ago, while working for a large advertising agency, I submitted a billboard design for a nationally-known health insurance company. The billboard featured a simple headline, along with a stock photograph of a doctor, who happened to be a black man.

A few hours later, the account executive asked to meet with me. He said the client liked the design, but had requested one simple revision: change the doctor from a black man to a white man. In our state, the client explained, people just weren't ready to accept the image of a black man as a medical doctor. I smiled to myself. My own personal physician is a black man.

It's encouraging to realize that, six years later, the majority of voters of the United States are willing to elect an African-American as our President.

(In retrospect, though, the client was right. In our state, every single county was won by McCain.)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Which Is More Horrifying?

(a) That Sarah Palin reportedly didn't understand that Africa is a continent, not a country,
(b) That 56 million Americans voted to install her a heartbeat away from the Presidency?

Power Shift

Last night, one candidate gave a concession speech, and one gave a victory speech. Some observations:

John McCain: His speech proved him a truly decent man. McCain challenged his supporters to not only to congratulate Obama, but to strive to work with him. Unfortunately, his supporters booed and hissed at McCain's expressions of magnanimity. How could any McCain supporter feel more disappointment than McCain himself? Though Sarah Palin was at his side, he kept the pitbull muzzled. Still, the applause she enjoyed promised we haven't heard the last of her yet.

Barack Obama: He never gloated, and kept his emotions in check. When Joe Biden took the stage, grinning from ear to ear, Obama barely cracked a smile. His music wasn't celebratory, it was almost elegiac. Obama instinctively understood that white America wasn't ready for a big, black celebration from him, complete with confetti and Aretha Franklin. This instinct, coupled with his measured, analytical intelligence, bodes well for his presidency.

Michael Crichton

The death of Michael Crichton was surprising. I don't think the general public even knew he was sick. Apparently, he was diagnosed with cancer some time ago, and kept the news private. We still don't have many details.

Though I wasn't a fan of his style of airport fiction, his influence on popular culture was immense. His stories were always informed by a scientific curiosity (he was a medical doctor, though he never practiced) and an abiding sense of wonder. Working in the tradition of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jules Verne, his stories were tailor-made for big movie screens.

I only read one of his books, "Travels." It was an autobiography of his medical school years and subsequent transition into full-time fiction writing. He detailed his adventures around the world: New Guinea, Mexico, Malaysia and many other exotic locales.

In one chapter, he writes about a trip to Africa, where he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. The writing was so lucid and gripping that I decided that I, too would make the journey to Africa to attempt to conquer the famous summit.

I read and re-read his account, and then began planning for my own trip. In 1998, I flew to Africa by myself, where I joined a group of trekkers attempting to make the summit. Five days later, I stood on the snowy roof of Africa, 19,340 feet above the savanna. It was the adventure of a lifetime.

It's truly an extraordinary writer who inspires us to attempt something we'd never before imagined. Though he died young (yes, 66 is young), he lived a full and rich life, and I thank him for inspiring me to live mine with a bit more curiosity.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vintage Googie

A fine example of googie sign architecture on the Interstate 40, in Midwest City, Oklahoma.

Why do we hipster-duffus art director types love googie signs so much?

Well, for me, they represent the essence of what we do for a living. We take a bland project assignment ("make a sign for my bowling alley") and try to elevate it to a clever, unique piece of commercial art. The best examples of googie go a step beyond, elevating utilitarian signs into a kind of screaming, consumerist sculpture.

Sure, googie was tacky. It was far from subtle. But as it disappears from the American landscape, it reminds us how life changed after the interstate highway sytem was built. Though rusty and sun-bleached, googie signage symbolizes our post-war pre-eminence. It's a time that, in retrospect, sadly marks the pinnacle of the American Empire.

It also makes us hope that just maybe, in the far-off future, a few hipster-duffusses might look at the pop culture trash we created, and reckon that it wasn't half bad, after all.

Big Time College Football – Up Close & Personal!

OK, kids, get this: The Grizz spent his Saturday afternoon on the field watching the nation's ninth-ranked college football team play an unimpressive squad from Iowa State. How did I get to watch from the field? That's a secret! Actually, I was an officially-credentialed press photographer, representing Blogrizzard, of course.

It's a once-in-a-lifetime privilege to watch big-time college football from the sidelines. Down here, you've got the same vantage point as the coach, the referees, and the players. You hear the quarterback screaming his count. You hear the offensive line grunting as their helmets slam together. The sensory overload is incredible. How can the team even concentrate?

During the action, it's extremely difficult to follow the ball. With so many guys moving in deceptive patterns, how a defense can react in time to stop the ballhandler? What are the coaches watching? How can they possibly see everything on the field? (They can't. That's why they watch video after the game.)

Enjoy the pix from a very American Saturday in the heart of football country...

Let's peek behind the scenes at a big time college football game. This is my establishing shot.

The great wide receiver Dez Bryant looks my way after a fantastic touchdown reception. I was literally 10 feet away!

Ever the rebel, Cami wears brown instead of orange. She sat in the 7th row with her Mom, while I hung on the sidelines with her Dad.

Dez Bryant times another TD reception. He's put lots of great cornerbacks to shame this season...

Mike (Cami's Dad, and my press pass benefactor) discusses the no-huddle offense with a photographer.

The crowd reaction says it all...

When you're standing on the sidelines, you've got to keep your eye on the action. This play finished extremely close to The Grizz. Interestingly, some tackles are relatively silent, while others sound like a gunshot was fired. If you're a referee on the field, and you hear a horrific sound during a tackle, you can't help but start to reach for your penalty flag... it's human nature.

As Iowa State takes the field, lucky #13 glares at Lil' Grizz and his point-and-shoot handi-cam.

These contraptions are basically giant plastic ears. ESPN dudes wear these during the game to collect live audio to feed to your teevee screen at home.

The Iowa State cheerleaders pose for a pre-game picture. I noticed these gals seemed tan-free (as opposed to the OSU cheerleaders). Maybe their coach enforces a no-tanning bed policy...

The OSU cheerleaders whip up the crowd.

Mike shares a word with OSU men's basketball coach Travis Ford. Though I'm not a tall guy, I was surprised at how short he was. C'mon, he played college hoops for Kentucky!

This brings me to another observation: in the "real" world, your physical size doesn't really matter. But on the sidelines of a major college football game, I found myself constantly noticing the size of the athletes, and comparing myself to them, as if to size up my chances were I dramatically asked to step onto the field. It was strange...

The "losers" cheer from their front row seats. When you're watching the game from the sidelines, even the most expensive stadium seats seem lame (see, I've already developed an elitist attitude).

All you have to do is break the plane of the end zone, and it's a touchdown!

These dudes drink themselves a lot of Gatorade.

The cheerleaders are also fantastic athletes. The women are typically very short and squat, with bodies like gymnasts, not fashion models. They wear an extraordinary amount of make-up, so much so that, if you saw them in real life you'd think, "wow, that poor girl looks like a clown."

Pre-game stretching rituals.

I think the guy in the khakis is the offensive coordinator. Here, he leads his linemen in some pre-game scrimmaging.

The players bench smells like the boy's locker room at Deep Creek Junior High School in 1981. Perhaps the heat was a factor: temperature at game time was 80 degrees. On the field, it's a bit hotter.

These aren't the acrobatic cheerleader girls, they're the flashier, more up-town pep squad, or something like that. I've forgotten the name of their enterprise.

It's truly an incredible rush standing so close to the home team as they take the field!