Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson: Some of My Favorites

Michael Jackson Died

I don't want to get into a big long thing. It just struck me as I was watching coverage of the death of Michael Jackson that I'm old enough to remember the mid 1980s when Michael Jackson was unquestionably the single coolest person on the planet and also the more recent years when he was undeniably the single weirdest person on the planet.

In looking back on his life, I just can't help but feel anything but sad for him. I'm struck that the coverage of his death, along with many of the more recent reports on him, really say nothing about what was clearly a ridiculous amount of psychological, physical, and emotional abuse that was inflicted on him as a child and an adolescent. I'm not trying to excuse him from whatever he may have been accused of, but just look at his behavior even outside of those allegations. He clearly never came to terms with all that abuse, and I'm sure that being the most talented Jackson also meant that he received the most abuse.

In the end, all I really want to say is that I love his music. And now that he's gone and not acting like a...well, there aren't even words, but maybe we can just remember the music.

A blogger turns 31!

A special message for my esteemed colleague here at the world's biggest blog:

Happy birthday, Side Bar! Yay! The big 3-1! You made it! Exclamation points!!!

See you tomorrow night, when we all get hammered at Carmine's. And then on Saturday afternoon when we all get hammered at the Boat Basin. And on and on...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Journal Square Cabbie Fight

Home sweet home!

Fight for Journal Square '09

The Where's Luke? Book Review:
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I need to apologize before I start writing this, because this "review" is going to suck ass. I read this book over a year ago and I should have posted about it back then, but I didn't. But now that I have read Atlas Shrugged and posted about it and its philosophy, I'm reminded of another book that was fairly enlightening, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I'm reminded of this book now because it's also a philosophical treatise in the form of a novel. And just as with Atlas Shrugged, about two thirds of the way through this book, I decided that I was in the midst of a really interesting experience and I should try to hold on to some of the ideas. At the same time, the book I wrote about prior to Atlas Shrugged was On The Road, which is also about a road trip, several road trips actually, and was ultimately a poorly realized philosophical statement. Immediately after I wrote about On The Road I thought about writing abotu Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but I never did. But seeing as how ZAMM really kindof integrates my previous two book review endeavors, this is a good time to write it.

Anyhow, the book is ostensibly about a dude who's on a cross country motorcycle trip with his son. They begin the trip with some friends of the dad's and finish it alone. As far as plot goes, that's the whole story. Interspersed throughout the novel are some in depth analyses of how people view the world and the pros and cons of each. The narrator talks about his travelling companion who refuses to even think about the maintenance of his motorcycle and leaves it to a mechanic which eventually causes trouble for him. The narrator prefers to get to know his motorcycle and listen to its sounds and explore the various connections and such and so he can then make most of the minor repairs that are necessary along the way. This is a thinly veiled analogy to the world at large and what he calls a "romantic" view of life (don't think about maintenance) and a "classical" view of life (get to know your motorcycle). This stuff is pretty interesting and you get an idea of the basic framework of this guy's ideas.

Then about half way through the book he starts to flash back more and more to when he was a professor of rhetoric and he started on a quest for discovering the nature of what he calls "quality". At this point the people they were travelling with have either gotten to where they were going or have gone another way and it's just the son and the narrator. The book becomes much less about the journey and much more about these flashbacks and the idea of quality. There's a lot more stuff that comes out about this guy that you may or may not want to know if you plan on reading the book, so I'll leave it out. Anyway, at this point the guy kindof starts building the framework of a philosophy based on the idea of quality.

To say that this is a philosophy would be wrong. What this guy is doing is looking at all the existing philosophies from a new perspective and overlaying a framework into how to look at the world. I don't have too firm a grasp on it at this point to put into words since I read this so long ago. The main idea, though, is that he builds on this idea of quality while at the same time telling what I understand is an autobiographical story. Autobiographical in the sense that the guy actually did take a motorcycle trip with his son and he was a professor of rhetoric and everything else that happened actually did happen.

What's novel, then, are the machinations of this guy's thought process and his ideas about the way things are. In this respect, this book is eight million times more successful than On The Road. There's deep analysis of things that happen and the guy is interested in the whys and hows, what motivates people, how people react to him, and so forth. This stuff is really interesting.

Anyhow, while I was reading this book, the first couple hundred pages I kindof read through and it was holding my attention and then all of a sudden this book smacks you in the face and you can't put it down. It's broken into four sections and sections III and IV I read about twice as fast as sections I and II because it just got ridiculously interesting as he goes through the ideas of quality, looks at existing eastern and western philosophy, and tells the story of how he came to terms with his search for quality. Even if I had written this post in a timely fashion, I wouldn't really have words to describe the tone of the fourth part of the book other than fascinating.

I'll just end with this. After it was written this book was turned down by 121 publishers before finally being published. The woman who finally decided to publish it wrote a note to her boss (I'm paraphrasing, but I'm prtty close) that said, "I don't know how much it will sell, but this is quite probably a work of genius. I think we have to publish it." I agree with that.

Flip you. Flip you for real.

This is cool.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The New York Times Where's Luke? Book Review: Atlas Shrugged

First of all, I apologize for not having posted much recently. I've been in the midst of a genuinely enlightening experience and, as such, I pushed off all non-essential activities in order to complete it. The enlightening experience in this case happens to be the reading of this book, Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. Now, you may be asking, if you know about Ayn Rand and her accompanying philosophy, "Since you have read 'Atlas Shrugged' and you say it was an enlightening experience, you have now become an objectivist, haven't you?" The answer is no. I would hope that one wouldn't make such a decision based on reading only one book. And a novel at that. But anyway, let me backtrack a minute in order for us all to be on the same page (pun war, anyone?).

I'm not going to tell you the story of this book, but the main premise is that all the people of ability in America go on strike. America is turning slowly into a socialist state and everything kinda sucks. That's basically the whole plot anyway, except it's clearly a lot more intricate in order to make up an 1100 page book. The plot of the book acts as a backdrop for Ayn Rand to espouse her philosophy, which is known as objectivism. As a whole, objectivism makes up an entire philisophy complete with ideas on the nature of existence, human nature, how people should conduct themselves and so on. As the book unfolds, the philosophy unfolds, until it finally reaches a climax in which the philosophy is spilled out in a metaphoric orgasm of rhetoric.

In reading this book, I was struck by two things. First, I have never read a book which has set out to accomplish something in particular and has accomplished it so clearly and without doubt. The basic premise, the philosophy, and the plot of the novel all mesh in together seamlessly. The introduction of her ideas and the logical arguments leading up to them just fall like dominoes as she makes each progressive point. It's astounding to see the whole thing come together and to see the direct line of logic that flows from page 1 to page 1100.

The second thing that struck me was how closely Ayn Rand's philosophy matched with my own personal philosophy. I don't believe I've ever really heard anything I would consider to be a personal philosophy put into words, and it really consolidated my ideas about the way things are. I wouldn't say there is a one to one correlation between the two, and I'm not particularly interested in the entire philosophy at this point, but I'm intrigued to read more about it.

In summary, this book is amazing. If you have a couple of free months. I would suggest you read it.

PS - After this period of inactivity, it's clear that my personal guarantee is not in any danger of being violated.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mets Haiku III

It's early, but I think it's time. Again.

losing all the time
pop-ups, blown saves, fifteen-zip;
does Omar hate me?

Reyes smiles, Carlos laughs;
what's one game, to these rich men?
poop wins more than this.
Not the Orioles!
en serio, Francisco?
puking in my mouth

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hey Ma! The derned tv's broked again!

Some Americans who still get their television signal over the air through an antenna (analog) faced, or will face, a rude awakening when they try to tune in to Hee Haw today.

Ugh. This episode is always on.

The federally-mandated switch from analog to digital television signals, delayed once from February to June, is taking place today. The idea is that digital signals are stronger, producing a richer, sharper signal. But the real drive behind the move is that it frees up the analog channels for the FCC to auction off to telecoms and other new media providers.

The only reason I mention this is because I was reading on the Internet today, and watching on cable this morning how surprising it is to find out that some people were caught off guard by the switch. Apparently, the people who have regular Internet access and 436 cable channels are surprised that the people who still get their TV signal over the air were not apprised of the pending change. I know, I know, it was advertised on those same analog channels, and in the newspapers, and discussed on the radio, etc., etc. But still. Is anyone really so stunned that Cletus the slack-jawed yokel who lives in a trailer in Tennessee and gets three channels was not totally prepared for this? I'm not.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Just this once . . .

I am not going to post pictures of mini bar up here with any regularity. I think it would be prudent to keep him insulated as much as possible from things like this, this and this, at least until he is a little older. But this photo seemed like an appropriate exception (at least until Mrs. Side Bar makes me take it down).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dear Stupid People of America,

If you have lost something, and you would like to convey that idea to someone in the present tense, then the word you are looking for is lose. The word you are not looking for, but appear to have found anyhow, is loose.

If something is loose, it's certainly possible that you will lose it at some point, but what I'm more concerned about is not the fact that you might lose your thing, but rather that you seem to have a loose grasp on the English language.


ps - can we please understand that the word definitely does not have an A in it?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Awesome Music Week Day: DMB - Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King

Yes. Yes. Yes.


Yesterday, the Dave Matthews Band released their latest studio album, Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King. The release was a bit anti-climactic, because as Dave himself joked at a New York City concert on Monday night, the album had pretty much been leaked entirely through web clips and snippets on YouTube and iTunes.

Much will be made of the fact that one of the founding members of the band, Leroi Moore, died in August while the band was still working on Big Whiskey. I don't know if the album is good because they re-focused their efforts after Moore died, or because it inspired the band to write better, or play better, or if his death has absolutely nothing to do with the album (though it's probably not the last one, because starting with the title of the album, to the cover artwork, to at least three or four of the songs, the album is rife with references and tributes to Moore - whose nickname was "Groo Grux.")

But I do know the album is good.

The previous stuido release from Dave Matthews Band was Stand Up in 2005 which followd Busted Stuff in 2002. Neither comes close (Stand Up was widely considered a disappointment). In fact, Big Whiskey hearkens back to 2001's Everyday (my favorite), and in a few places even compares with the band's breakout 1996 offering, Crash (which, despite its popularity with screaming drunk girls everywhere, remains an incredible album).

Big Whiskey is probably not going to be remembered for radically changing the band's direction, and it's a little too cliche to say that with this album they "got back to their roots." But what is best about the album is that it is a solid offering from a great band; true to their sound but not a total rehash of previous work. Given whispers that the band might be finished (Dave himself admitted to writing a letter to his bandmates claiming that he was done last year), it is incredibly exciting for fans that they can still put out an album of this quality.

The album opens with Grux, a minute-long solo by the late Moore, reminding listeners of the segue from #41 to Say Goodbye on Crash. Up tempo pieces like Funny The Way It Is, Why I Am, and Spaceman are probably the highlights of the album, and will be easily recognizable to fans for the sound and their lyrics, with Matthews ruminating on the happy and sad elements of every day life (funny the way it is/not right or wrong/somebody's heart is broken/it becomes your favorite song). But there are softer, sadder and more reflective tracks as well, including Lying in the Hands of God, My Baby Blue, and You and Me, showing the band's fidelity to their acoustic sound (which, by the way, leaves my dumbfounded at critics who say this album is "too plugged in"; there is no way anyone who listened to the entire record could write that).

Is this the best album DMB has ever recorded? No, almost certainly not. Under the Table and Crash were so great when they came out, and Everyday brought together the best things about the band, so it is impossible to put Big Whiskey at the top of the list. But with the release of Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King did the Dave Matthews Band prove that they can still turn out great studio recordings that offer a fresh but familiar sound?


Yes. Yes. Yes.

To the judges:

Would Chuck like it?: Good god yes.
Would Open Bar like it?: Not sure he'd admit it, but I think yeah, he will acknowledge that this is a good album.
Would LJT like it?: Come on.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My New Favorite Web Site

Ok, the Awkward Family Photos site is just pure brilliance. People submit, as you would guess, strange photos of people. There really are no words. Just check it out.

Here's my favorite photo from the site so far:

I mean, the mullet, the Bugle Boy shirt, what appears to be zebra print zubaz underneath his jeans. And clearly the story here is that there was a fight that broke out betwixt this gie, his jeans, and the flag. The gie clearly came out victorious over both of his opponents thanks to his trusty sword. And let's not lose the irony of the fact that the guy appears to be wearing British Knight sneakers.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Government Motors

Get it? GM? Government Motors? Hi-larious.

Even though it has been national news for most of the day, it is still surprising to me how little is being made of today's bankruptcy filing by GM. And not just because I am a bankruptcy lawyer and this is the kind of thing that I see every day. But because one of the most recognizable and iconic corporations in American history, a bedrock of American capitalism for the last 100 years, now needs permission from a bankruptcy judge to take a whiz (well, maybe not, but they do need court authority to pay wages, take out a loan or sell the company - all of which they are doing).

Lots will be written about the rise and fall of GM by people who know a lot more about it than me and who care a lot more about it than me, but two things stand out in my mind.

1). Elections have consequences. John McCain never, and I mean never, would have let this go down the way it has gone down. I am not passing judgment here - time will tell if active government intervention in the auto industry saved it, screwed it, or neither. I just think this is perhaps one of the most stark differences between what an Obama administration looks like and what a McCain administration would have looked like. I am not sure what a President McCain would have done, maybe smaller scale investment, or an orderly liquidation, but nothing of this scope requiring this level of governmental participation. I am not calling the guy a socialist (and, for my part, letting GM fail would have been a mistake, just as it was a mistake to let Lehman go down), but he is certainly an activist.

2). The world has changed. (No shit). Returning somewhat to my original observation, a GM bankruptcy filing would have been unthinkable 20, 10, 5 and probably even 2 years ago. The company had its problems (and frequently kicked the can down the road rather than addressing them), but was one of a handful of distinctly "American" companies (like GE) that were considered "bankruptcy-proof." That Lehman Brothers, Chrysler and GM could all succumb to bankruptcy within less than 12 months of each other is staggering, and would have been laughable even in the beginning of 2008.