Friday, January 30, 2009

I thank God for leaders who get it.

Like Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has proposed legislation that would cap the salary of executives working for companies receiving federal bailout money at $400,000. Insanely, McCaskill's proposed legislation is in response to reports that executives have earned $18 BILLION in incentives.

McCaskill's proposal won't work because the establishment are entrenched with the senators who will vote this down, but it means something to know there are people out there willing to call the greed mongers "idiots." They're the reason the economy is where it is.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wolf Like Me

Sometimes a new album refreshes your interest in a great band. That definitely has been the case for me with TV on the Radio and their alum of the year in 2008 Dear Science.

It's been in my regular rotation since it came out last year and only recently did I reach the point where I wanted to set it aside. So I've started listening to Return to Cookie Mountain. Doing so has evoked one thing -- my passionate desire to see TVOTR play live. In honor of that, here is a cool performance the band did on Letterman a few years ago.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Merriweather Post Pavillion

So I spent the better part of this week listening to Animal Colletive's Merriweather Post Pavillion. Animal Collective has been one of my favorite bands for a long time and this is easily my favorite album by them to date.

I highly recommend it for anyone searching for good new music. Word of warning though, if you haven't been exposed to the band. MPP is probably their "pop record" but it's still nothing you could sing along to very easily.

Friday, January 23, 2009

One last English Only post

Since today effectively concludes my formal coverage of the English Only story in Nashville, I decided to commemorate the event by posting the final stories we produced on the matter.

Here is a story on the English Only leader Eric Crafton

A video on voting day for the special election in Nashville

And a blog post, by me for Nashville City about whether the proposal would have passed if it were held on a general election.

I'm mostly done with the story. One neat side effect was being interviewed by BBC radio on the eve of the election. The British couldn't understand the point of voting on an amendment that the Metro government attorneys said was substantively unconstitutional.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

English Only defeated

Most people didn't know which way Nashville voters would fall on Thursday's special election on English Only. The proposal would have made English the official language of Metro government, said no one has a right to services in other languages and offered possible exceptions for health and safety.

In the end, it lost, and you can read my story about it here.

I spent a few minutes this evening with English Only's most famous proponent, Eric Crafton, who has been labeled a lot of nasty things over the last several months. I can't say Mr. Crafton didn't make some mis-steps and I concede there were times he inflamed an already explosive issue. I do feel like he's a kind, intelligent and likable person, and he made for interesting coverage the last seven months.

In a few weeks, I will have been at this job covering Nashville's Metro government for one year. I do love my job and issues like this are the reason why.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America."

President Obama's inaugural address:

Bulls blog

I'm widely known as a die-hard Chicago Bulls fan among my friends. It's been hard to stay a fan of the team since I moved to Nashville in 2002. For starters, they've mostly had losing teams. Secondly, the way the NBA is set up, it's difficult to follow one team. Their games aren't on TV too often and you have to rely on the internet to keep up with the latest news.

It's different in baseball, where my favorite team the Chicago Cubs are regularly on WGN or in the NFL, where it's easy to watch your favorite team since it only plays once a week.

So, besides reading the Chicago Tribune, I've been heavily reliant on an independent blog, Blog-A-Bull, which is a tad too negative for a fan blog.

So, today, I was happy to learn that launched a really cool new pro basketball blog network, included in which is a great Bulls blog By the Horns.

Say what you want about, but they offer a ton of innovative ways for fans to follow their favorite teams from across the country and their newfound use of blogs is really convenient.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

You Can Call Me Al

I am blogging on the precipice of a historic week. On Tuesday, Barack Obama is inaugurated the next president. I'm excited to watch the actual event and eager to hear his address. I'll also be thinking of my little sister, who actually will be attending the inauguration with her boyfriend. The jealous rage that will be coursing through me will be suppressed only by the joy of seeing the changing of the guard.

On Thursday, history will be made in Nashville, too, when we have our special election on the English Only charter amendment proposal. I'm getting the sense it will pass and my final guess is a 7-point margin. It will be interesting to cover if nothing else. Last week the issue received coverage on Fox News, Lou Dobbs' radio show and in the New York Times.

Of trivial interest to me, Animal Collective's new album comes out on Tuesday and the second-to-last season of Lost debuts on Wednesday. So, long story short, there will be plenty going on down here in Nashville.

To express how I'm feeling with so much about to go down, I posted a video below. My favorite music blog, Out the Other, had a cover of Paul Simon's You Can Call Me Al. The cover is by Jens Lekman and here is a live version courtesy of YouTube.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

English Only

So, I probably don't have the right to weigh in on Nashville's upcoming English Only referendum. I will say this: regardless of how the vote goes, I hope Metro finds ways to offer citizens more English as Second Language classes.

I don't see any way Metro leaders can avoid this. If the amendment passes, then the people will have said they want government to help people to learn English. Wouldn't more ESL classes do this? If it fails, then the so-called progressive leaders need to follow through on the values they have given lip service to during the opposition process. If you want to be a warm, welcoming city, then give our immigrant community more ESL options.

Unfortunately for me, the next week dictates that English Only may very well be the only thing on my mind, so I had to get that off my chest. After that, I will get back to my regularly scheduled business of covering Metro government, which for all its flaws, has bypassed the Tennessee state legislature by default this week.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The right to laugh

For two months, Tennessee Democrats have had to sit quietly while state conservatives laid their plans to push forward Old Confederacy issues like abortion, gun laws and gay marriage. Nevermind that it's a well-established fact the rest of the country is progressing forward, while Dixie remains caught in some sort of hill-jacked time machine. The Republican party had become a regional party after the 2008 election, where Barack Obama won every region of the country besides the Old Confederacy.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the state I call home, Tennessee, where for the first time since Reconstruction, the GOP earned full control of the state legislature. Because victors earn the spoilers, most Democrats I know in Nashville agreed it was time to regroup and think up new ideas, to connect with voters statewide the way the party did nationally -- focus on the economy, job creation, health care, etc.

Listening to the Bubbas trump their plans to put machine guns in every living room, to proudly continue discrimination against our GLBT brothers and sisters and to steadfastly deny women their constitutional right to privacy... well that was not an easy task.

That's why the historic events at the state capital today, where Republicans celebrated their majority by managing to not elect one of their own Speaker of the House, well it was downright funny if nothing else. That's not to say Kent Williams is an ideal speaker for Democrats, he's already talked about bringing up the same sort of pointless social issues that don't even begin to touch on the real problems facing Tennesseans.

But watching Republicans bungle this and spew their hateful outrage, no matter how justifiable it is on some levels, I laughed. See, today demonstrated the problem with this outdated conservative ideology. By their proud admission, conservatives believe in less governance. On its face, that's a fair enough point of view. But in reality, that viewpoint has morphed into abject hatred for government. And when you hate government, you probably won't be good at actually, you know, governing. Republicans these days seem better at throwing legislative grenades in a room and watching them explode than at pushing their key legislation through. It's the same story in Washington as it is here in Nashville. Anyone who voted for Republicans hoping to see guns, gays and abortion legislation pushed through in the next two years, probably has little faith in the party's ability to follow through on its promises. Today, they couldn't even count to 50.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Two-for videos

Since today turned into a Lazy Sunday of watching football, cooking chili and napping, here is a video in honor of such days:


So the next two weeks have so much going on, I don't know how I'll handle it. For starters, my oldest friend Landon is coming to Nashville to visit. You've also got the inauguration for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The English Only referendum will take place Jan. 22 here in Nashville. Lost comes back on in just under two weeks, which obviously has me ridiculously excited and talking "island" with my fellow Lost fanatics. And, to top it all off, the new Animal Collective album Merriweather Post Pavilion comes out Jan. 20.

To commemorate a fun, busy few weeks, I decided to share my favorite AC video -- Fireworks.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Snuggie

Is there a weirder product with a weirder infomercial than the Snuggie? Need something that's one part fleece hoodie and one part blanket? Try wearing a hoodie and throwing on a blanket. I've never been sitting on the couch, reading a good book, and thought, 'This blanket just isn't cutting it. I need a hoodie on concurrently.'

No matter how uncomfortable it was, I would never want a Snuggie, because the product resembles too closely the uniform a cult member would wear.

I'd have to say my favorite part of this incredibly awkward commercial is when the woman gets ridiculously inconvenienced about having to reach for the remote and her blanket comes flailing off.

How unsettling would it be if you popped over to see a friend and they came to the door wearing their maroon Snuggie with the hood up. Anyhow, the commercial is below.

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls

There was a point early this NBA season when the Boston Celtics were playing so well that websites constructed these comparison charts that compared them to the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.

I grew up a diehard Bulls fan. During the team's second NBA championship in 1993, I literally had to leave the room when John Paxson hit the game-winning shot in Game 6 of the Finals against the Phoenix Suns. Whenever the Bulls played, it was an event for me and I talked incessantly about the team with my best friends.

The culmination of my years as a Bulls fan came in 1995, when the they accomplished the greatest season in NBA history. They went 72-10 and won their fifth championship.

I hold that team in such high regard that it's understandably annoying to see "experts" compare every top team to the 96 Bulls. That conversation reached a fever pitch this season when the Celtics started 22-2. Well now the Celtics are 28-8 and unless they manage to 44-1 over the rest of the season will come nowhere close to the Bulls.

I don't want to turn into an obnoxious Dolphins fan who celebrates every time the last undefeated team loses in the NFL. But considering the soft spot in my heart I'll always have for the Bulls, it's still gratifying to see over-hyped teams like the Celtics fall.

That said, I'd rather my basketball focus was on the Bulls winning and not on rooting for other teams to lose. It won't happen this season, but with Derrick Rose in charge I firmly believe the Bulls will be contending sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The movie quote game [blog]

After carrying around a notebook for three days, I finally reached my goal of having 10 random movie quotes pop into my head. I explain them all below and, again, encourage other movie quote fans to revel in their nerdery with me and try this. It was pretty fun, although I insist these quotes say nothing about me as a person.

No. 1
The movie: Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The quote: "Larry Bird doesn't do as much ballhandling in a night as you do in an hour."
The situation: I was covering a Metro Council meeting and had the unfortunate experience of seeing one of Nashville's legislators adjust himself on the chamber floor.

No. 2
The movie: Boogie Nights
The quote: "Can I kiss you? Please? Can I kiss you on the mouth? Please let me."
The situation: Me in the company of a sightly young lady recently.

No. 3
The movie: Gran Torino
The quote: "Shut up, pussy. Those guys don't wanna be your bro and I don't blame 'em."
The situation: Seeing Freddy sign onto Facebook and remembering how hilarious we both thought that Clint Eastwood line was.

No. 4
The movie: Tommy Boy
The quote: "I was checking the inline specs on the rotary girder.... I'm retarded."
The situation: When Pillbox popped into my room without knocking and, catching me unawares, asked what I was doing.

No. 5
The movie: Reservoir Dogs
The quote: "I dug Madonna. But then she got into that 'Poppa Don't Preach' phase, and I tuned out."
The situation: Listening to a radio talk show host make fun of Alex Rodriguez for his weird relationship with Madonna.

No. 6
The movie: Black Sheep
The quote: "Yeah, I did. And I'm going to be rich, because I'm the only man who knows where you can find white mud."
The situation: Me walking Brandon's fat ass puppy on a muddy rainy day.

No. 7
The movie: Blue Chips
The quote: "Tony was my guy, Freddy! He was my guy!"
The situation: Reading an email from my friend Landon, who loved that quote from that movie.

No. 8
The movie: National Lampoons Vacation
The quote: "Excuse me, Holmes, can you tell me which way to the interstate?" -- "Fuck your motha."
The situation: Driving through a non-touristy neighborhood in Nashville and seeing several vagrants loitering outside a gas station, drinking something out of big brown paper bags.

No. 9
The movie: High Fidelity
The quote: "Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"
The situation: Listening to the outstanding, if not a tad mellowing, new Elbow album.

No. 10
The movie: Almost Famous
The quote: "Women will always be a problem for us. Most of the great art in the world is about that very same problem. Good-looking people don't have any spine. Their art never lasts. They get the girls, but we're smarter."
The situation: Me receiving a pep talk that was eerily similar to this outstanding Lester Bangs quote.

That is all for now!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama

My very wise Dad has tried to instill in me the importance of regular meditation. The purpose, he says, is not to simply reflect on your own life. On the other hand, the value of meditation is intrinsic. To truly clear your head of any self-centered thought, to be at peace, away from the unrelenting and understandable sources of stress that consume our daily lives.

Tonight I sat down to meditate with the same standard "problems" that everyone I know deals with every day -- relationship issues, financial issues, career issues, faith issues. Eventually my mind cleared and, just as my Dad taught me, I felt an unexplained sense of positivity come over me.

It was on the heels of that moment that my mind turned rather inexplicably to Nov. 4, 2008 and President-elect Barack Obama. Sometimes national elections are so draining and so ugly that just weeks, if not days, later we all file them away so as to rid ourselves of the dirty feeling that politics gives the typical person. Even if your candidate wins an election, you often say, 'Man, I'm glad that election is over.'

Obama's most ardent supporters are probably eagerly anticipating his inauguration. Some reports say millions of Americans will descend on Washington DC for the event. But I am not going to wait for a CNN news prompt to remind me of the power of Obama's accomplishment. I always gravitated to his message and respected his political perspective because of his humble upbringing, his single-parent, grandmother-supported childhood. For me, Obama's election was all about being able to tell the bitter, doubting establishment that it is OK to hope for something better, to believe government can change the direction of this country.

When I was done remembering how historic and compelling and draining and, in the end, gratifying, the 2008 presidential election was, I found my way back to this video:

Monday, January 5, 2009

A movie quote game

So while living my daily blur of a life today, I somehow found time to come up with a new game to play. By myself.

Here is how the game works: I am going to write down the first 10 random movie quotes that come to my head over the next several days. I'm not going to sit in a chair and try to think of 10 movie quotes, that will only lead to me repeating Gran Torino lines over and over again.

Instead, when a certain situation strikes a chord and reminds me of a movie quote, I'm going to make a mental note. Then I'm going to do a blog post explaining the situation and why the quote came to my mind. I encourage my friends who also love movie quotes like Landon and Freddy V. to also try this.

Here is one example:

The quote: "Can I kiss you? Please? Can I kiss you on the mouth? Please let me."
-- Scotty in Boogie Nights.
The situation which made the quote come to mind: Me in the company of a sightly young lady recently.

Anyhow, I'm curious to where this takes me. Cheers!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Video of the week -- The Smoking Popes

There is no greater function of YouTube than finding old music videos. This one happens to be a favorite of mine, straight from the mid-90s. The video itself is wildly average and most YouTube users could probably come up with something better in an hour or two. But I love the Smoking Popes and this song brings back fond memories. Enjoy and I hope everyone has a great week!

Crazy White Boys

Just before the holidays, I wrote a story about the strong work of the Nashville Metro Police Gang Unit, who operate with just 15 cops and take down hundreds of criminals.

The Gang Unit closed out 2008 by busting a homemade-ecstasy-selling street gang called Crazy White Boys. The gang is not a white supremacist group and in fact had some members of other ethnicities. You can see the mug shots of three of the busted Crazy White Boys, along with two of their girlfriends, right here.

Crazy White Boys were selling drugs, according to the detective I interviewed, to help finance their music careers. The gang was tied to Nashville-based rapper Haystak, who has gotten some national attention. Haystak's myspace page informs us that he's from "Blastville, Tennessee."

So, after having written the story I did a little more research and discovered that the gang leader, who goes by the street name Swap Shop Joe, also had a fledgling music career. The detective in the story told me Swap Shop Joe sang back-up for Haystak on occasion. Falling in line with every respected aspiring hip hop artist, Swap Shop Joe has his own YouTube channel.

You can look at his performance videos and other Crazy White Boy-ness here.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cal Ripken, Jr.

About four years ago, I had the profound privilege to meet one of my sports idols, Cal Ripken, Jr. What's more, I got to interview him and write a story about his charity work with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, which gives athletics opportunities to at-risk inner-city youths. That day, one of my best friends Jason Bennett, tagged along when I went to the local YMCA to cover the story.

Jason, a professional sleuth, went behind my back and managed to get Cal to sign a couple of baseballs, one of which he gave to me.

My autographed Cal Ripken, Jr. baseball is a prized possession in a very personal way. I could never get as much money selling it on eBay to make up for what it commemorates -- meeting a person who I always admired so much. I keep the ball on my dresser and every once in a while I look at it and remember how neat that day was.

All of that was a meandering way to say that for three days this week the ball was missing. One of my friends is in town with his labradoodle puppy (Lyndon), who teams up with his brother labradoodle puppy (Ruffy) to raise utter hell in my apartment. One night while a group of us were out to dinner, the puppies broke down the baby gate that had kept them trapped in the kitchen. They made their way past my dog, an ornery six-year-old pitbull, and into my room. That's where Lyndon, presumably, jumped up, knocked over the jar containing the Ripken baseball and chewed on some of my personal items.

The ball was missing for three days, until today, which was the quad-annual cleaning day. While cleaning behind the toilet, which is always a special prize for me anyway, I found the ball resting in a quarter-inch of filth I wouldn't wish on anyone's ex-girlfriend. The signature itself, already quite faded, was in OK shape, and the ball was still in one piece. It all ended in one big sigh of relief, after three days of anxiety and sneaking away to take my nervousness out on the puppies with beatdowns.

OK, that is all for now, Happy New Year!!!!