Peanut Butter Knife

Monday, July 21, 2008

A History of My Taste in Music Part III

Part III 1991-92

Looking back, its tempting for me to, like many in my generation, pinpoint the time when I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as THE turning point in my musical tastes. Make no mistake, that was huge, but while I didn’t realize it at the time, the signs were pointing to some major upheaval in my listening preferences.

To that point, being the “classic rock kid” was my thing, old people loved me because I somehow validated to them that new music sucked and the best sounds were from their generation. But I already made 2 exceptions for modern bands, R.E.M. and U2, especially the former. I was a big Byrds fan, so reading about Peter Buck and his Richenbacher in Rolling Stone hipped me to them. Towards the end of 8th Grade, Out of Time was released and I bought it the day it came out and played it in near constant Walkman rotation. It wouldn’t yet obliterate what I knew about music, but it made me more aware that there was more to new music than just hair bands and bubblegum pop.

Also around that time, Neil Young’s Ragged Glory became a very pivotal album for me. Although I knew enough about Neil to know that he’d always been an iconoclast, I also knew enough about the music that classic rockers made in the 80s to expect it to be cold, studio slick and not altogether good, no matter how legendary the artist once was. Ragged Glory was different. It was loud, it was filled with mistakes, it sounded like what it was 4 guys in a room playing rock and roll and it was awesome. Young’s tour for the album featured Sonic Youth as an opening act – I unfortunately didn’t go. But I read about their unorthodox guitar tunings and figured if they were good enough for Neil, I may as well check Goo out of the library. I don’t think I was quite ready for what I heard, but I did like “Dirty Boots” and filed the band away under “pretty interesting”.

There were other minor touchstones too: hearing the Velvet Underground while I wrote a report on Andy Warhol for art class, seeing World Party on SNL, hearing Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, a pre-Nevermind article in Rolling Stone on the “Seattle scene” that I thought sounded interesting.

Then there was “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. I was in the car with my mom, I was in 9th Grade. I was listening to WONE and they said they weren’t sure whether they wanted to play this song, but they’d been getting so many requests for it that they figured they had to. Its part of the rock canon now, but seriously, if you were there in 1991 you know what I’m talking about. Hearing this song for the first time was an event. The guitars, they were aggressive, but they were so melodic and tuneful (and I was probably the only 14 year old who heard this and thought the intro sounded a lot like The James Gang’s “Walk Away”). And damn if I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but I could feel it. I doubt music had ever hit me on such a visceral level before. I remember going home and just flipping around to every rock station I could get reception on until I heard it again. I bought the album, I learned it on guitar but mostly what this song did is made me want to hear more.

You see, while I could appreciate the musical qualities of what I’d listened to up to that point; what it lacked for me was a real emotional connection. I was a depressed, misfit 14 year old kid from Cleveland, how was Eric Clapton singing about the dangers of cocaine or Crosby Stills & Nash harmonizing about the free lovin at Woodstock supposed to speak to me? Oh sure, I learned from it and I could appreciate it intellectually, or as entertainment, but it was never going to be mine. And my mom hated Nirvana. She liked just about everything else I played around the house, but this? Was this even music? And who else listened to this? There was a small group of kids that were already into these kind of bands. They seemed alright and not caught up in all the other bullshit of high school. They were into doing their own thing. And hey, wasn’t I already into doing MY own thing all along? This was huge, for the first time in my life I was finding an identity. And most importantly, some of these people were girls.

And then U2 came out with Achtung Baby and it was a totally strange record like little else I’d heard before. Were they alternative too? Clearly I needed a crash course in this “alternative” music. So, I did what any suburban kid with some magazine subscriptions and a spare penny to tape to a postcard would do: I signed up for the Columbia House record club under the “modern rock” genre and got my 12 free introductory tapes. I don’t remember what they all were, but some of them were as follows:

Primal Scream Screamadelica
Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians Perspex Island
They Might Be Giants Flood
The Ocean Blue Cerulean
The La’s
Sonic Youth Dirty
Violent Femmes Why Do Birds Sing?

And in the interest of full disclosure, not all of them were good (though don’t tell 15 year old me that):

Toad the Wet Sprocket Fear
Spin Doctors
The Soup Dragons

It still wasn’t enough. I had to know more. I discovered college radio, I taped 120 Minutes each week. I wrote down the names of anything that even sounded half interesting. I began redoubling my efforts at the library, discovering The Cure, The Smiths, Dinosaur Jr, and The Feelies this way. It may seem strange now, but back then these records were not found at the mall and weren’t written about everywhere, I needed a more reliable source and that’s when I discovered Alternative Press.

Far from the glossy mall-punk rag that its become, AP in those days was probably most akin to Magnet now in terms of coverage and placement on the mainstream radar, maybe even a little more on the edge than that even (would a band like Kitchens of Distinction merit cover placement on any magazine today?). And they were based in Cleveland, how cool is that? Here I read about bands that were even more obscure than what was on 120 Minutes. You couldn’t find their records in stores, at least not the ones in North Olmsted, Ohio. I had to find out what this was all about.

A History of My Taste in Music Part II

Part II 1988-91

During our move I unpacked my mom’s records and decided that both Willy & The Poorboys and Cosmo’s Factory looked interesting enough to play, everything else was Broadway showtunes or easy listening. Fogerty, et al looked downright dangerous in comparison. I loved it right off the bat. It was so much more raw than anything I’d been hearing on 80s top 40 radio. It was also around this time that we got a computer with a 2400 baud modem. In those days, there were basically 2 things you could do with a modem. Sign up for Prodigy and call up the Cuyahoga County Public Library to reserve books and music (yes, I know about newsgroups and BBSs, but I wouldn’t discover those for a few more years). In a way, I was an early adopter to internet music. I could read about a band and look them up in the library’s catalog from home and have the records sent to my local branch. Then when I got them I could tape them for free. Seems primitive now in retrospect, but this was a new thing circa 1989. Since I now loved CCR and since I figured out that they qualified as “classic rock”, I started listening to the classic rock station in town and reading rock history books in order to fuel my late night library catalog searches. My Paves style flowchart would look something like this:

6th Grade: CCR, Eagles, Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Steve Winwood, Steve Miller Band

7th Grade: Jackson Browne, Crosby Stills & Nash, Allman Brothers, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Lou Reed, The Byrds, John Mayall, Bob Seger, James Gang

8th Grade: The Beatles (so late in the game, I know), Bob Dylan (same), Grateful Dead, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pink Floyd, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Robert Johnson, R.E.M.

It’s here that I have to stop and make a confession. While some of the above bands I still love and others not so much, I have no embarrassment about any of it. Even my week of staying home “sick” from school in 7th Grade and watching TNN and getting into Foster & Lloyd, The Kentucky Headhunters and Alabama is not embarrassing and I see it as a crucial side trip in my musical history – even if I disowned it quickly (though Foster & Lloyd were actually pretty good). But there is one anomaly that I really can’t seem to figure out. Sometime in 7th Grade and continuing through most of 8th grade I became a huge fan of Jimmy Buffett. I had all the albums, I made my mom take me to one of his concerts, I read his short story collection, I wore my Jimmy Buffett t-shirts all the time. To this day, I have no idea what got into me and what made me do this, or how it fits in to the way I listen to music now, but I think it might go a long way towards explaining why my backlash against classic rock was so strong in my early high school years. Despite still enjoying songs from every artist listed above, I have no residual Buffett nostalgia, I can’t stand the guy’s fans or his music. Weird.

But far from being just a list of bands I was into at different times in my life, its important to mention at least a little of what else was going on. As mentioned, I was in a new school that was 3 times bigger than the one I grew up in, the kids were louder, the girls had big hair and the boys were more interested in beating people up than talking about baseball cards, funny movies and pop music. They all listened either to metal (probably why I still never got into it today) or the insipid late 80s teen pop that was booming at the time. A loner by nature, I made little attempt at fitting in and so I guess its pretty fitting that I let myself dive so deeply into music. Around this time, I also started feeling more estranged from my parents and they from each other. Fights were common and nothing from that era seems happy now. On a lighter note, I started taking guitar lessons. I wasn’t a very disciplined player and never practiced enough to be good, but I learned the basic chords which I know to this day and a lot about song structure. Also, being perhaps the only 13 year old in Cleveland’s west suburbs that knew more about Neil Young than New Kids on the Block, I was always a curious oddity in record stores, at my parent’s friend’s parties, radio station contests (I won Clapton’s Crossroads box set from WONE for knowing who Ginger Baker was), etc. All the old folks wanted to talk to me and were tickled pink that I could reel off the entire Joe Walsh solo discography or tell them about the recording sessions for Tusk. So I basically felt like I was 13-going-on-40 during these years. Only adding to my already burgeoning sense of weirdness.

Next up is high school, and while my tastes changed drastically and seemingly overnight, the seeds were all planted here and the shift more gradual than I remember now that I think about it. But that will have to wait for Part III: The Alternative Era.

A History of My Taste in Music Part I

A few months ago, I started posting these lengthy rambling pieces about how my taste in music has evolved over the years on a certain message board I frequent. I stopped at roughly 1992 and I am now going to re-post the first 3 installments here in an effort to encourage myself to finish writing the rest of the series. Enjoy.

Part I, Birth-Elementary School.

Unlike alot of you here, I did not have musically inclined siblings (or any siblings for that matter) and my parents were not overly into music either. Actually, my dad was quite a music lover in his own way, but not at all hip and not at all a record collector, so I didn't really get too much of it passed down from him. All my musical discoveries pretty much through high school were my own. Preschool, really up through about 1st grade, my pop music memories are of a small handful of my mom's records that I would play on my Fisher Price record player: a James Taylor 45 for the song "Handy Man", a 45 for the funk-soul novelty hit "Chick A Boom" by Daddy Dewdrop, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and an LP collection of 50s hits performed by some anonymous hacks called "At The Hop". Plus whatever was on the radio in the car or around the house. Also probably by 1st or 2nd grade I was watching Nickelodeon alot and they had their video show "Nick Rocks" this is probably where I first heard Hall & Oates "Out of Touch", as well as stuff from Thriller. I asked for the Hall & Oates album for either Christmas or my birthday and got it and played it incessantly. Soon after I got a tape player and proceded to buy either with allowance money or from begging my mom, Hall & Oates' H2O and Rock N Soul Part I. I was pretty hooked on music by this time and started listening to top 40 radio (this would probably have been WRQC at the time). Though oddly, the stuff I gravitated towards the most tended to be on the more adult-side of top 40. This was mid/late 80s so that meant Huey Lewis, Bruce Hornsby & The Range, John Cougar Mellencamp, Crowded House, Squeeze, Wang Chung, Billy Joel, Robert Palmer, U2 etc etc mixed in with some of the wimpier hair metal (Def Leppard, Bon Jovi) and pop (Rick Astley, Whitney Houston). At some point I had tapes of all of those artists. As an only child, I mostly just stayed at home and found ways to entertain myself. One of those ways was by listening to Casey Kasem every Sunday Morning and making up my own lists of my favorite songs each week. I called it "Mike's Top 10" and at one point I had them all collected for the years I did this (mainly 1986-87) and stapled together. Not sure whatever happened to these gems. Probably lost in the fire at my parent's house a few years ago.

In 1988, I was in Middle School and we moved to a new suburb...This is the point where pop music turned from something to entertain myself with to an all out obsession. But that will have to wait for Part II.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I Give Up.

When I first read this, I assumed it was just a joke since I don't watch cable "news" outlets. Turns out it is oh, so real:

On Hardball, while remarking on Sen. Barack Obama's reported request for orange juice after being offered coffee at an Indiana diner, David Shuster asserted: "It's just one of those sort of weird things. You know, when the owner of the diner says, 'Here, have some coffee,' you say, 'Yes, thank you,' and, 'Oh, can I also please have some orange juice, in addition to this?' You don't just say, 'No, I'll take orange juice,'..."

It turns out that I am completely unqualified to run for President. No, not just because I'm a militant agnostic ("I don't know, and neither do you!"). Not just because I'm short, even by Dennis Kucinich standards. Not even just because I didn't finish college. After the events of the last few weeks, according to the chattering classes in the fourth estate, I'm unqualified to run for President because I don't drink coffee and my bowling scores are lucky if they break 100.

I've lost interest in the Presidential race. Barack Obama isn't perfect but he's the best candidate to get this close to the nomination in my lifetime (if only because this guy was also a victim of media assassination far before he got to Obama's level). Gas prices are going to be triple what they were 8 years ago, the economy is nearing a crisis point we haven't seen since about 1929, we're in a pointless war that no one seems to want to end, it's 2008 and people are still antagonistic towards evolution, not to mention global warming science. I don't need to ennummerate every problem in this country, I think you get the point.

Yet our televised and print media, the places that for better or worse, most undecided Americans will turn to form their impressions of our presidential candidates, have decided (with a great deal of aiding and abetting from the Clinton and McCain camps) that the things that matter most to our country right now are these:

1. Can we trust a guy who doesn't bowl very well with the keys to the White House bowling alley?

2. Someone who chooses (healthier) orange juice over coffee certainly is out of touch with the concerns of working Americans.

3. How dare Barack Obama tell working class voters that they feel bitter for having lost their jobs and security after 20 years of Bush/Clinton economic policies! Only we in the media, with our Ivy League degrees, should be allowed to decide how the working class should feel!

Never before have Jon Stewart's remarks on Crossfire been more apt. They're not just hurting America, they're killing it dead and beating the corpse to a pulp. People are lulled into submission by the shiny graphics and gladiator-like presentation of these networks. This country will get what it deserves in November. The sorry thing is that the rest of us have to live with the consequences.

Friday, April 11, 2008

List of States I've Been To (In order of the approx. amount of time I've spent there)

1. Ohio
2. Illinois
3. Wisconsin
4. Michigan
5. New York
6. Pennsylvania
7. New Jersey
8. Iowa
9. Indiana
10. Massachusetts
11. Kentucky
12. Vermont
13. Connecticut
14. Minnesota
15. Rhode Island

I've also been to North Carolina, South Carolina and the states between Ohio and those places, but I was less than 6 years old at the time and don't remember how long we stayed. So, I guess you could put those states probably somewhere between Iowa and Indiana.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ohio Primary, Some Observations

I don't want to wade too deeply into the divisiveness of yesterday's results. Needless to say, I'm disappointed in how things turned out.

I do want to comment though on one strain of thought I've seen bubbling in the media this week: The idea that SNL's pro-Hillary sketches the past few weeks played a part in her comeback. And while any effect it may have actually had is probably being overblown, what troubles me is from the standpoint of a comedy fan who has watched SNL since I was old enough to stay up that late, anything that gives Lorne Michaels the impression that his woefully unfunny show has any continuing relevance is a bad thing. I sat through last week's episode for the Wilco performance, yet I let out one guffaw the entire night. In the final sketch, Ellen Page made a joke about going to a Melissa Etheridge concert where Suze Orman had a booth to educate people on "gay mortgages". Yeah, that was the funniest thing I heard.

"Weekend Update" has become a tedious bore of poorly read one-liners. I might not like the guy's politics these days, but in the 80s at least Dennis Miller brought a much needed sense of irreverence to the proceedings. "The Daily Show", "The Colbert Report" and The Onion have been running circles around SNL in terms of political satire for nearly a decade now (well, Colbert for only 3 years, but the fact that TDS has itself already started to become eclipsed is even more of an indictment of SNL).

I realize the traditional media press corps doesn't quite get Colbert, and they are disdainful of Stewart for so effectively pointing out their asshattery, but please do comedy a favor and don't give SNL any more credence than it deserves. That show needs to be put out of its misery, or at least taken over by someone who actually understands how to do smart, yet gut busting comedy.

Then again, maybe I'm just as much a part of the problem. I'll DVR next week's ep to see Vampire Weekend.

As a post-script, I'd like to single out Tina Fey, who is a genuinely funny woman and as a one time head writer kept the SNL franchise from heading entirely over the cliff for much of the early part of this decade. "30 Rock" is a great show, but if you've paid close attention to the political aspects of the show, there's been a strong anti-Obama (and somewhat anti-Dem) agenda set forth. In one episode, Liz Lemon tells Jason Sudekis' character that "she'll tell everyone she's voting for Obama, but when she gets in the voting booth she'll pull the lever for McCain". In another episode an entire b-plot revolved around one of the characters referring to Obama as "Osama".

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My History With Food

I'm not sure if I've become a full fledged foodie yet, but I'll be damned if I'm not going to get there sooner rather than later. But if you ask anyone whose known me awhile and this development might come as some surprise.

For instance. I eat sushi any chance I can get now, but just 5 years ago, I wouldn't touch seafood raw or cooked with a 10 foot pole. I claimed I was "allergic" to it. Granted, this fear of seafood had some basis in reality. When I was just a wee lad of the age of about 8 or 9 whenever my mom would serve fish, I'd throw up. For the longest time, the smell of fish would make nauseous and any suggestion that I even try something from the sea was quickly rebuked.

So what changed? How did I go from the classic picky eater raised on fast food and potato chips -- the kid whose aunt threatened to call a social worker on my mom due to my "lean" physique -- to the burgeoning 30-something gourmet who will try anything once and who might accurately have the term "stocky" applied to him? Who lives to discover new restaurants and flavors heretofore unknown?

Some possible answers:

1. The Indie Factor. Yeah, I'm a bit of a recovering music snob. Somewhere along the way though, it mattered less to me to always be the first to discover a band or a genre. I still love music and collect vinyl, but my identity is not defined solely by what I listen to. But where is that seeking spirit supposed to land? Maybe instead of always having to find something new to listen to (and I went through it all: an electronic phase, an experimental phase, a jazz phase, a country phase, a world music phase -- sometimes concurrently) I've transferred that desire within me to food. Having been so isolated, culinarily speaking, all my life each new national cuisine I discover feels more new, the tastes so vibrant. Another indie band? Heard it all before, it can be good, it can be comforting to listen to, but can it really expand my ways of thinking at this point? Taste is also, I think, a more immediate thrill than sound.

2. The Vicarious World Traveller. If there's one thing I've always wanted to do and never have, its to make travel a priority in my life. For whatever reason: money, job, illness, etc I never seem to make it anywhere. OK, I did go to England on a semi-business trip in 2001, but that turned out to be a disasterous experience that I'd rather not relive in this public forum. Yet I'm always glued to travel shows like Globe Trekker and No Reservations. Always longing to be the kind of person who can pack up and wander around SE Asia by myself for a few weeks. At this point, probably not going to happen. But when I eat Vietnamese food, or (good) Mexican food, or sushi... I can have some of that cultural experience, at least in a second hand sort of way.

3. The Incrementalist. Perhaps I've been more adventurous than I give myself credit for. I can only respond to what I get exposed to and given my semi-sheltered, suburban existence to age 22, that exposure was quite limited. But there were signs. I discovered Pad Thai in college, but at the time Cleveland only had 3 or 4 Thai restaurants. Shortly after moving to Chicago, I even contemplated writing a zine with my friend (hi Katie!) that did nothing but review the Pad Thai in Chicago's literally hundreds of Thai places. Of course now, Pad Thai is usually the last thing I'll order in a Thai restaurant. It wasn't long before I was exploring the Indian restaurants along Devon Avenue, the Mexican places of Pilsen, or a great Middle Eastern restaurant in Evanston called Olive Mountain. I even accompanied friends out for sushi. I was too chickenshit to order any fish, but man did it look good, it was only a matter of time. When I moved back to Ohio, I had loads of time on my hands and access to the Food Network, so soon not only was I trying things in restaurants, but I was learning what went in to making things what ingredients were responsible for what flavors, etc (This was before all the semi-homemade 15 minute garbage infiltrated the network). Then came reading books on chefs and cooking, particularly the work of Michael Ruhlman. Now I'm discovering, not just food as world travel, but the pleasures of more high end cuisine.

I suppose there is probably truth in all 3 reasons, and probably other reasons as well. But I'm hoping the next stage in my food evolution will take place in part on this blog. Hopefully I can keep up with writing this time, because I've missed doing it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Why I am Endorsing Barack Obama in the Ohio Primary

So nobody is probably reading this thing anymore and thats fine, but I had a brief conversation this morning with Ms. 54 and she asked why I had gone from being ambivalent on the Dem candidates to an Obama supporter. Here's my detailed explanation why:

To be honest, the fact that I didn't hop on board the Obama train from day one says alot about some of the weaknesses in his campaign. He's a politician I've followed and admired long before he hit the national spotlight, so I should have been a natural supporter. However, his campaign floundered through much of last year, and to be honest I was waiting, hoping for Al Gore to jump in the race. Ultimately, I understand why Gore bowed out, but he was the only potential candidate that would have made me much more passionately engaged in this election. I liked Chris Dodd, but he never gained traction. John Edwards was great with his populist message, but I could never fully trust him, because he seemed a recent convert to progressive causes.


Just about every expert following this race can tell you that there are very few substantive differences in Clinton's and Obama's platforms. Its true in his public appearances, Obama has been vague at times and skirts specifics, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have detailed, fleshed out proposals on nearly everything and they are all available on his website. Running a public campaign that doesn't delve into too many details is a campaign strategy, and one that Gov. Strickland (a big time Clinton backer incidentally) used very successfully in 2006. Unfortunate as it may be, many voters decide these things on gut feelings and style. John Kerry was a brilliant man who has worked his whole life for the public good, yet in 2004 he was scorned for being too much of a policy wonk, for not making that gut connection with a lot of voters and it cost him.

Neither candidate has an ideal healthcare plan, though I will say that Hillary's is better by a nose. Both health care plans are far and away better than the frankly, quite frightening "free market" based health plans of the Republicans. What disturbs me about Hillary on this issue is that she went from being a vocal advocate of the kind of single payer health plan that we need, to taking more money from insurance and pharmaceutical companies than any candidate in the race from either party.

Elsewhere, Obama has a very progressive platform on the future of the internet and a strong stance in favor of net neutrality. The Clinton camp hasn't really talked much about this issue, but Bill Clinton was responsible for the onerous Communications Act of 1996, which has done more to harm the state of free and independent media in this country than anything in our history.

I like Obama's recent calls for community service among young people. Its sad that we have come to the point where these things need to be instruments of policy, but it can only be a good outcome.

I suppose the biggest area of disagreement I have with Hillary is over the war. Quite simply, this issue more than any other is what made me engage so deeply in politics. I believed that the war was wrong from the start and it has ruined our country's reputation in the world and I'm not even sure that its able to be repaired in the span of one administration. Thousands of American lives have been lost in Iraq and exponentially more innocent Iraqi lives. Barack Obama had the sense of judgement to oppose the war from the start, and did so at a time when he could have paid a steep political price. Hillary voted to authorize the war and even now won't call it a mistake, which at least John Edwards had the courage to do.

Now that we're over there, there are no easy answers and both candidates have flawed, but similar plans for withdrawal. But at least they're both thinking about withdrawal, as opposed to John McCain's pledge to stay in Iraq for 100 years. However, I don't want a president that is going to continue to view our relationship with the rest of the world through a militaristic or imperialist lens. I also think that we need a president with credibility on this issue if we're ever going to begin to change the perception in the world of America, the bully; America, the tyrant.

Both candidates have been deficient in areas that mean the most to me, notably climate change, infrastructure and science. But I have faith in both of them to be better in these areas than we have seen in many years. I just wish they'd both be more bold in their proposals.

On Politics:

The moment that really started tipping me more decidedly in Obama's direction, was when we started to see many of Hillary's surrogates and then later Bill "The First Black President" Clinton himself trot out race-baiting, fear mongering attacks on Obama. And for as many warm, fuzzy memories we may have now of the 90s; it recalled the darker side of Clintonism. These are exactly the same type of tactics that we recoil from in disgust when George Bush and Karl Rove use them. Honestly, I'm tired of this type of divide and conquer politics. I've grown weary from it and have over the last few years began to tune out the messages of both parties. Its made our government small minded and bitterly divided. Barack wants to move past that and judging by the diverse coalition that he's cobbled together, he can.

Obama is not a saint in this regard either. His embrace of anti-gay bigot Donnie McClurkin at rallies in 2007 and later his personal (and flat out wrong) attacks on NYT columnist Paul Krugman were both leading factors in my not wanting to support him for some time. However, he's moved away from this kind of thing recently and has reclaimed some of the high ground that he held after the 2004 convention speech.

The campaigns each reflect such strikingly different structures. Obama represents an activist bottom-up approach to campaigning. He raises money from hundreds of thousands of small donors, and only 3% of his donors have given him the max amount. Meanwhile Hillary has begun to struggle financially because she relies on wealthy donors who have all maxed out in their giving, which is why I find it odd that she is claiming the mantle of the candidate who is fighting for working class interests, if you see who is financing her campaign the opposite appears to be true. In the bottom up approach, Obama talks in "we" not "I", every one of his supporters has a stake in his campaign. That just appeals to me more. And to further that, this has always been his message from day one, going back to his days as a community organizer in Chicago. Its in his nature to bring people together to solve problems.

Looking at cold-hard numbers, Obama at this juncture seems to have an advantage over McCain. One of McCain's top advisers and a former Bush strategist has even said he'll quit if Obama is the nominee since he's not interested in running against someone who actually has a positive message. There's a bit more of a dice roll with Obama, but I'm comfortable with it because he has never run from any of his flaws. Rather, he talks about them openly and diffuses the issues with ease. What worries me with Hillary is that she's down in the polls for the general election now, and there isn't a person in America that hasn't formed an opinion of her, many of them negative. Its hard to see how she turns that around.


There is no question that no matter who is nominated, we are going to make history with our nominee this year. I'm proud to be part of the party that is going to break down those walls no matter how its decided. However, in a few areas, Obama gets slight edges here as well.

His youth is appealing. We've seen how the baby boomer generation has led this country over the past 20 years and much of it isn't pretty. I think its time the page was turned on that chapter. While Hillary being a woman is a definite positive in her campaign, that fact that Obama's background is bi-racial and international is also a positive and one that I think brings up some interesting possibilities. He comes from a humble background with roots in far flung places like Kansas, Hawaii, Kenya and Chicago. He's uniquely positioned to understand rural, urban, and suburban issues, immigrants and natives. He's supported in the south by primarily African American voters, but his biggest victories have been in nearly all white areas like Minnesota, Idaho and Maine. Quite simply, he has the potential to be a map-changer, a generational leader and we don't get too many of those coming along that often.

So, there's my case for Obama. I've said before, we're lucky this year to have two candidates who are bright, good on the issues, and have the chance to make history and a positive change in this country. I'll be happy to support either as the nominee, but for now, I feel more strongly that Barack Obama will make the stronger case for change.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Predictions

I realize I've been MIA for much of the season and so, probably no one will be reading this. For posterity's sake however, here are my predictions for tomorrow:


Strickland 58
Blackwell 39
Others 3


Brown 53
DeWine 47


Dann 51
Montgomery 49


Brunner 53
Hartman 46
Others 1


Sykes 52
Taylor 48


Cordray 60
O'Brien 40
--I know a lot of others are predicting that this will be closer. Still, I think a lot of moderate Republicans are going to be looking to punish their own party for purging Bradley (who might have won this) in favor of an unfunded wingnut with little concept of what the state treasurer does.

Other local races: Sutton blows out Foltin 58-42, LaTourette beats Katz 56-44; Brian Williams beats Cousineau but narrowly, 51-49; Coughlin beats Hanna narrowly as well 52-48 (this will be the saddest result locally). Issue 6 wins 52-48. Downstate; Kilroy, Space, Wulsin and Cranley all win though the last two will be very very close).

Nationally, I see Casey, Whitehouse (in a nailbiter), and Tester (again, razor thin) all winning. I won't make any predictions about VA, but that might be the most dramatic national race to follow tomorrow night.


Lieberman: 48
Lamont: 43
Schlesinger: 9

If Webb wins in VA, that makes Lieberman something akin to a king, a very unpleasant thought indeed.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What happened to baseball? ...Or, Am I Becoming a White Sox Fan?

Though I'm not usually pegged as being a particularly rabid sports fan, those that know me will surely recognize that baseball is up there with music, food and politics as a particular passion of mine. This year though, I was just never able to muster much enthusiasm.

I was raised to be an Indians fan, and since about 1982 when I was old enough to understand what those guys with the hats were doing with the balls and the bats, I've followed the progress of the Tribe game by game; on radio, on TV and in the papers (and later on the internet). It was a unique thrill to wake up in the morning and pore over box scores, memorize statistics and ponder various trade rumors and possibilities. I cut my teeth as a Tribe fan in the 80s when there wasn't much reason for excitement about the team. Players like Pat Tabler, Scott Bailes, Felix Fermin, and Brook Jacoby were among my early favorites. I watched what few "stars" we had getting traded away and go on to greater glory in bigger cities that I'd never seen. Yet every year, hope springs eternal and I'd be gobbling up the sports pages as rabidly as ever. Of course, the 90s were the payoff for me. I might not have suffered as long as most Indians fans, but I'd taken a few lumps to be sure. By now, I was old enough to grasp the finer points of the game. The strategy, a good defensive play, a pitcher's duel, or just the relaxing feel that watching/listening to the game has every spring and summer.

When the Tribe began rebuilding in 2002 I was on board with that as well. Though it sucked to lose guys like Bartolo Colon and Roberto Alomar, I knew the farm system had been depleted and felt like the prospects we were getting in return showed a great deal of promise. The rebuilding also coincided with my moving home to NE Ohio. I suppose on a symbolic level, I felt as though the Tribe's rebirth was mirroring my own attempts to get a fresh start and redefine who I was and what I was capable of being. I continued to follow the Indians as intently as ever through those brutal seasons of 2002-2004, I started keeping up with minor league players as well and attended Captains and Aeros contests. In 2005, it appeared as though the plan was coming to fruition with the Tribe staying in contention until the last day against an historic White Sox team.

Last October, I found myself in the hospital with an undiagnosed and completely baffling liver problem. In the end, this turned out to be the result of gall bladder disease and I was able to have surgery and have been in good health ever since. But for those first few months before being diagnosed, I didn't know what to think, it was the scariest time of my life. My first night in the hospital was the same night as Game 4 of the World Series and as I lay in the hospital bed with my roommate hacking and wheezing next to me, I found myself rooting hard for the White Sox to win it all.

During my nearly 4 years in Chicago, I'd felt a certain sympathy for the White Sox. Their fans were die hard baseball fans, yet the local media always gave significantly more coverage to the Cubs, even in 2000 when the Sox won the central. Wrigley may be a temple for the game, but so many people who pack the bleachers there are more content to drink beer and pay little mind to the glorious game unfolding around them. I don't mean this as a swipe at all Cubs fans (in fact the only MLB hat I own and wear is a Cubs hat), as a Tribe fan, I certainly admire their tenacity and dedication and have known many who are just as passionate and knowlegable about the game as anyone. Yet Sox fans had suffered just as much as their north side brethren with little of the "lovable losers" embrace that the Cubs enjoyed.

I was thrilled by the Sox watching the '05 Series. They were built around fantastic starting pitching and an offensive lineup of hard nosed rejects from other organizations. Their GM, at one time the only minority GM in the game, had been ridiculed mercilessly for his offseason moves and seeing his vision vindicated amidst so much criticism was a story that anyone can respect. I loved seeing the coverage of people all over the much maligned south side celebrating the Sox victory and I wished I was there in the city, feeling the excitement that must have been charging through the streets, even up to my old northwest side neighborhood (Irving Park/Pulaski area). Really, I wished I could be anywhere than some cold tiny room at Akron City Hospital. If the Sox could win the World Series, then certainly I could survive whatever this was affecting me.

At the time, I didn't question my loyalties. After all, the Tribe wasn't playing, so its not as though I was rooting against them. Besides, the White Sox had been suffering since 1919, longer than the Indians and with the way the Tribe looked in '05, '06 would be their year for sure, right? Then came the terrible offseason moves. Not even making a competitive offer on Bob Howry, trading away Coco Crisp and Brandon Phillips, and signing non-entities like Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson. While everyone else in NE Ohio was ecstatic about the Tribe's possibilities for this season, I had a sinking feeling that we were taking a big step back. This wasn't the AL Central of old anymore, we were now in the division with the world champs for the first time ever. As the season got underway, I began to notice that watching this year's Tribe play, whether they won or lost, was a joyless experience. The players didn't seem to have the same spark or personality of old, the manager talked in meaningless corporate double speak and the front office seemed ever content to rest on their laurels. I stopped watching the games, I looked at the box scores in the paper still, but not every day and not with the intent of memorizing the player's stats or the teams W-L record. Not even the late season additions of talented rookies like Jeremy Sowers, Ryan Garko and Shin Soo Choo really did much to rekindle my interest in the game.

Now the season is over and I'm left wondering. What happened to my love of this game? Is the increased corpratization, skyrocketing salaries and steroid scandals finally taking its toll on me? Was watching the 2006 Tribe really just that boring and monotonous that it sucked the life out of a lifetime fan such as myself? Or, did my (albeit temporary) defection to the White Sox last autumn shatter over 20 years of loyalty to the Indians? I've followed the Indians longer than I've followed anything else in my life. Certainly I've rooted for other teams before when the Tribe wasn't involved in a game or playoff series, but the 2005 World Series added a very personal dimension to watching those games that made it more than just watching a game. After the heartbreak of the '97 Indians, the '05 White Sox delivered for me at a crucial moment. But in the end, what does that say about me and my ability to stay loyal to the things that matter? On a grander scale, what does it say about my own attachment to place and to home and the aforementioned attempts at self-rediscovery?

Tough questions to be sure, and I may be over analyzing. After all, it is only a game.