Archive for January, 2009

They Should Make the Monday After the Super Bowl "Presidents Day"

Posted in misc.blurbs on Saturday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

It’s so obvious, I’m glad I thought of it. I need to figure out a way to make money off this idea, but I’d settle for just getting the day off.

Here’s the deal: they have Washington’s Birthday or I guess now they sorta combined him with Lincoln or something and made it “Presidents Day.” Third Monday in February I think it is. And the Super Bowl that used to be played in late January, now increasingly falls out on the first few days of February. Not a huge deal, but that puts a bit further from Martin Luther King Day, and it has become a “February” event in our minds. “January football” now means Playoffs and “if you wanna be playing in February” is now a direct reference to making it to the Super Bowl.

So, you see where I’m going with this right? Presidents Day is kinda pointless anyway, right? It’s just some random Monday off. It’s not like we plan family visits or anything. And it usually isn’t really on Washington’s actual birthday, so why not move it back couple weeks and make it the first Monday in February? Like it matters. Jesus wasn’t born on December 25.

But wait…. that’s not all. I’m not proposing the day after Super Bowl be Presidents Day just for the partying factor and being able to stay up late for the game (hey, a new generation of kids/fans/consumers need to be raised, how can they watch the big game if they got school in the morning?). And it’s not to avoid calling in sick, AKA hungover.

This is actually an economic stimulus package that I implore President Obama, enthusiastic sports fan that he is, to embrace and pursue. Presidents Day is usually filled with ridiculous sales on cars and mattresses (two items that are ALWAYS on sale). They drum up these silly commercials with cartoons of Lincoln and Washington to tell us to shop for stuff. Why? Most of us just do laundry that day and wonder what might be open or closed, since it’s not really a holiday but it is. So no one shops. Wasted holiday.

So, once you move it the day after the Super Bowl, Presidents Day will be right after the day/night famous for not just football, but the fact that 10′s of millions of Americans of all demographics gather around their TV’s to WATCH THE COMMERCIALS. Personally I’m all about the game. But a LOT of people come right out and say they are “excited” for the “commercials.”

What an opportunity! Wouldn’t it be awesome if, the day after the Super Bowl, hordes of Americans were off work and school, and heading out to buy the cars and colas and countless other crappy items they saw advertised the night before!

This makes too much sense. And while it might not happen, I think it’s more likely than the NFL moving the game to Saturday. But, until then, just keep callin in sick.

Stairwell

Posted in photos on Thursday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank


stair
well

Top 10 Best Country Albums Ever

Posted in music, top 10 lists on Wednesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Keep in mind, these are just the ones that I love the best. NOT a list of the Most Important/Influential or what have you. Just my favorites. Some might be considered classic country, folk, alt.country, country-rock… doesn’t matter. I promise these are all great records. In no particular order, but numbered anyway. Ah screw it, I’ll give ya 11:

  1. WhiskeytownStrangers Almanac
  2. Gram ParsonsG.P./Grievous Angel
  3. Neil YoungEverybody Knows This Is Nowhere
  4. Loretta LynnVan Lear Rose
  5. Johnny CashThe Legend of Johnny Cash
  6. Ryan Adams / Cardinals Jacksonville City Nights
  7. Old Crow Medicine ShowBig Iron World
  8. Old 97′s - Too Far To Care
  9. Bob Dylan John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline
  10. Drive-By TruckersDecoration Day
  11. Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead

How I Became a Steelers Fan

Posted in misc.blurbs, sports on Tuesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Y’know, it’s weird. You’re born in a certain geographic area and you are bound to certain sports teams. I guess you’re really not, but it feels like you are. Or you should be. And so it was that I was born in Washington, DC, and raised in nearby suburban Maryland. A Redskins fan.

And yet, here I am, Super Bowl week, with my basement covered in black and gold. Getting geared up cuz Pittsburgh’s goin to the Super Bowl.

How did I get here?

Well, I lived in northern West Virginia for 10 years and that’s Steeler Country. Of course there were plenty of times that I resisted and hated the Steelers, if only because The League forced me to watch them because of where I lived at the time. But I noticed something. They were a tough, resilient bunch. On and off the field. The fans endured and the team pressed on under solid ownership and very few coaching changes.

I didn’t live through it, but I lived near the Mike Tomszak and Neil O’Donnell and Bubby Brister and Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddux eras. The Chin. The Bus. Hines Ward. I remember when they lost to San Diego in the AFC Championship in the mid-90s. Sure at the time I probably laughed and mocked them for not making it to the big game. Just as I did when they lost that Super Bowl to the Cowboys on those O’Donnell interceptions. But I wasn’t a Steeler fan then. Not yet.

So after all those years of living nearby, I moved away to Baltimore, only to do so with and then marry a crazy Steeler fan. So the Steelers became my Team-inlaw. We grew close. They drafted Ben Roethlisberger. They somehow won that crazy playoff game against the Colts. The Chin. The Bus. Hines Ward. And that season, during that playoff run, I could feel it. I felt it.

The next season I went to three games, two on the road in my black and gold. We lost all three.

Then we had a son. We decided to raise him a Steeler fan. Even though he’s living in Ravensville, not far from Redskins country. But… and you’ll roll your eyes and think this is just politically correct, but the Washington pro football franchise has a racist nickname and have a turned a culture into a mascot. So all those lamps and hampers and onesies and kids replica jerseys we’re gonna buy for our kid? They wont be supporting the racist Washington football franchise.

One of my best friends is a Cowboys fan. We have some fun Dallas-Washington banter and wagers. Some solid sports-rivalry-style hatred there. But much like me, he’s starting to feel like his team represents everything that he hates about modern professional sports. So since he lives in Baltimore, and was a Colts fan as a little kid, he’s pledging his allegiance to the purple of the Ravens. And much like I accept my Washington football franchise blood, he’s still a Dallas Cowboys fan…

And as the Washington-Dallas games have lost the luster they had in the 70s and 80s, the Steelers-Ravens rivalry has snuck up to become the best and hardest hitting in the league. Right up to this year’s game with a Super Bowl berth on the line.

So this Super Sunday I’ll be cheering in hopes for a 2nd ring since I’ve been a Steeler fan. Tomlin. Big Ben. Hines Ward. So call me a bandwagoneer if you must. But so far Steeler Nation has welcomed me aboard that bandwagon. This is how I became a Steeler fan.

Oh yea, and Troy Polamalu.

The Day the Music Died

Posted in music on Tuesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

CLEAR LAKE, Iowa – It’s been 50 years since a single-engine plane crashed into a snow-covered Iowa field, instantly killing three men whose names would become enshrined in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

The passing decades haven’t diminished fascination with that night on Feb. 2, 1959, when 22-year-old Buddy Holly, 28-year-old J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and 17-year-old Ritchie Valens performed in Clear Lake and then boarded the plane for a planned 300-mile flight that lasted only minutes.

“It was really like the first rock ‘n’ roll landmark; the first death,” said rock historian Jim Dawson, who has written several books about music of that era. “They say these things come in threes. Well, all three happened at the same time.”

Starting Wednesday, thousands of people are expected to gather in the small northern Iowa town where the rock pioneers gave their last performance. They’ll come to the Surf Ballroom for symposiums with the three musicians‘ relatives, sold-out concerts and a ceremony as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame designates the building as its ninth national landmark.

And they’ll discuss why after so many years, so many people still care about what songwriter Don McLean so famously called “the day the music died.”

“It was the locus point for that last performance by these great artists,” said Terry Stewart, president and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. “It warrants being fixed in time.”

Stewart said the deaths still resonate because they occurred at a time when rock ‘n’ roll was going through a transition, of sorts. The sound of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Holly was making way for the British Invasion of the mid-1960s.

“The music was shifting and changing at that point,” he said. “The crash put a punctuation point on the change.”

All three musicians influenced rock and roll in their own way.

Holly’s career was short, but his hiccup-vocal style, guitar play and songwriting talents had tremendous influence on later performers. The Beatles, who formed about the time of the crash, were among his early fans and fashioned their name after Holly’s band, The Crickets. Holly’s hit songs include “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue” and “Maybe Baby.”

Richardson, “The Big Bopper,” is often credited with creating the first music video with his recorded performance of “Chantilly Lace” in 1958, decades before MTV.

And Valens was one of the first musicians to apply a Mexican influence to rock ‘n’ roll. He recorded his huge hit “La Bamba” only months before the accident.

The plane left the airport in nearby Mason City about 1 a.m., headed for Moorhead, Minn., with the musicians looking for a break from a tiring, cold bus trip through the Upper Midwest.

It wasn’t until hours later that the demolished plane was found, crumpled against a wire fence. Investigators believe the pilot, who also died, became confused amid the dark, snowy conditions and rammed the plane into the ground.

The crash set off a wave of mourning among their passionate, mostly young fans across the country. Then 12 years later the crash was immortalized as “the day the music died” in McLean’s 1971 song, “American Pie.”

-By MARCO SANTANA, Associated Press Writer

Starting to Clean Up the Mess

Posted in first 100 days, politics on Tuesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Some more good news a few days in to the Obama Administration. As promised and expected, Obama moved fast on changing the direction of our energy and environmental policies. From Reuters news service:

Obama takes steps to reverse Bush climate policies

By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama began reversing the climate policies of the Bush administration on Monday, clearing the way for the government to allow states to set stricter limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars.
The president told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider California’s request, denied under President George W. Bush, that would allow it to impose stricter limits on vehicle carbon dioxide emissions, blamed for contributing to global warming.
As many as 18 other states have indicated they may follow California’s lead, putting tailpipe emissions standards that are tougher than federal requirements into effect.
“The federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Obama said at the White House, taking a stab at his predecessor’s policies.
California has shown bold and bipartisan leadership through its effort to 21st century standards. And over a dozen states have followed its lead.”
The president also directed the Department of Transportation to move forward with setting vehicle fuel efficiency standards for 2011 by March, giving automakers an 18 month period to impose them.
He also instructed the U.S. government in general to become more energy efficient.
“The days of Washington dragging its heels are over. My administration will not deny facts. We will be guided by them,” he said.
Obama laid out broad principles that he said his administration would follow. It was time for the United States to lead on climate change, he said, and reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
“It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependence on foreign oil,” he said, adding previous administrations had made similar goals.
“We need more than the same old empty promises. We need to show that this time it will be different,” he said.

JAYDIOHEAD

Posted in music on Saturday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank
It’s exactly what you think it might be: JayZ mixed and mashed up with Radiohead. Some tunes are really cool and some are just ok. Overall it’s definitely pretty cool if you like either or both of these artists. And it’s free to stream and/or downlowd from Jaydiohead.com.

Produced by: Minty Fresh Beats (www.myspace.com/mintyfreshmusic)

Track list:

1 – Wrong Prayer
2 – 99 Anthems
3 – No Karma
4 – Lucifer’s Jigsaw
5 – Optimistic Moment
6 – Dirt Off Your Android
7 – Dreaming Up
8 – Change Order
9 – Fall In Step
10 – Ignorant Swan

Breaking News: Pen Still Mightier Than Sword

Posted in first 100 days, politics on Friday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Some great news already. I know some of this might only be symbolic, but it’s just so refreshing after the last 8 years. From today’s Washington Post:

President Obama yesterday eliminated the most controversial tools employed by his predecessor against terrorism suspects. With the stroke of his pen, he effectively declared an end to the “war on terror,” as President George W. Bush had defined it, signaling to the world that the reach of the U.S. government in battling its enemies will not be limitless.

While Obama says he has no plans to diminish counterterrorism operations abroad, the notion that a president can circumvent long-standing U.S. laws simply by declaring war was halted by executive order in the Oval Office.

Key components of the secret structure developed under Bush are being swept away: The military’s Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility, where the rights of habeas corpus and due process had been denied detainees, will close, and the CIA is now prohibited from maintaining its own overseas prisons. And in a broad swipe at the Bush administration’s lawyers, Obama nullified every legal order and opinion on interrogations issued by any lawyer in the executive branch after Sept. 11, 2001.

It was a swift and sudden end to an era that was slowly drawing to a close anyway, as public sentiment grew against perceived abuses of government power.

Day One, er Two?

Posted in first 100 days, politics on Thursday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

When they say “the First 100 Days,” does Inauguration count as the first day? Do weekends count or is it “The First 100 Business Days”??

Either way, I cant promise a post every day, but I’ll try to keep track of what PRESIDENT OBAMA does for a little while.

From various wire reports:

In his inaugural address Tuesday, Barack Obama identified “a sapping of confidence across our land” as one of many worrisome symptoms of American crisis. On Wednesday he moved remarkably quickly to restore national confidence in a dizzying day of action on symbols and substance, all of it pretty much pitch-perfect.

By noon on his first day in office, Obama had called the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to talk about next steps for peace; asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to halt Guantánamo trials and circulated a draft executive order to close the prison within the year; and attended a prayer service that included the first-ever sermon by a woman minister and the prayers of a Muslim imam.

In the afternoon he signed two executive orders and three presidential memoranda, tightening ethics rules for his staff, strengthening the Freedom of Information Act and giving the public greater access to presidential records. “Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency,” he said as he signed the documents. Then he watched Vice President Joe Biden swear in his senior staff, and stayed to shake hands or embrace every one of them. After that he met with senior economic advisors and top military staff to discuss plans for the economy and Iraq; later, he hosted an open house for the American people, a new symbol of his commitment to access and transparency.

Obama signs order to close Guantanamo in a year

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama began overhauling U.S. treatment of terror suspects Thursday, signing orders to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, shut down secret overseas CIA prisons, review military war crimes trials and ban the harshest interrogation methods.

With his action, Obama started changing how the United States prosecutes and questions al-Qaida, Taliban or other foreign fighters who pose a threat to Americans — and overhauling America’s image abroad, battered by accusations of the use of torture and the indefinite detention of suspects at the Guantanamo prison in Cuba.

“The message that we are sending the world is that the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism and we are going to do so vigilantly and we are going to do so effectively and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals,” the president said.

The centerpiece order would close the much-maligned Guantanamo facility within a year, a complicated process with many unanswered questions that was nonetheless a key campaign promise of Obama’s. The administration already has suspended trials for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo for 120 days pending a review of the military tribunals.

In the other actions, Obama:

_Created a task force to recommend policies on handling terror suspects who are detained in the future. Specifically, the group would look at where those detainees should be housed since Guantanamo is closing.

_Required all U.S. personnel to follow the U.S. Army Field Manual while interrogating detainees. The manual explicitly prohibits threats, coercion, physical abuse and waterboarding, a technique that creates the sensation of drowning and has been termed a form of torture. However, a Capitol Hill aide says that the administration also is planning a study of more aggressive interrogation methods that could be added to the Army manual — which would create a significant loophole to Obama’s action Thursday.

“We believe that the Army Field Manual reflects the best judgment of our military, that we can abide by a rule that says we don’t torture, but that we can still effectively obtain the intelligence that we need,” Obama said. He said his action reflects an understanding that “we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard.”

A task force will study whether other interrogation guidelines — beyond what’s spelled out in the Army manual — are necessary for intelligence professionals in dealing with terror suspects.

But an Obama administration official said that provision should not be considered a loophole that will allow controversial “enhanced interrogation techniques” to be re-introduced. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the administration’s thinking.

The order also orders the CIA to close all its existing detention facilities abroad for terror suspects — and prohibits those prisons from being used in the future. The agency has used those secret “black site” prisons around the world to question terror suspects.

_Directed the Justice Department to review the case of Qatar native Ali al-Marri, who is the only enemy combatant currently being held on U.S. soil. The directive will ask the high court for a stay in al-Marri’s appeals case while the review is ongoing. The government says al-Marri is an al-Qaida sleeper agent.

An estimated 245 men are being held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, most of whom have been detained for years without being charged with a crime. Among the sticky issues the Obama administration has to resolve are where to put those detainees — whether back in their home countries or at other federal detention centers — and how to prosecute some of them for war crimes.

“We intend to win this fight. We’re going to win it on our terms,” Obama said as he signed three executive orders and a presidential directive.

The administration official said Obama’s government will not transfer detainees to countries that will mistreat them, including their own home country.

In his first Oval Office signing ceremony, Obama was surrounded by retired senior military leaders. He described them as outstanding Americans who have defended the country — and its ideals.

It’s Got Great Flourish

Posted in first 100 days, misc.blurbs, politics on Tuesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

At 1:04pm eastern time, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer tells us that Barack Obama has extraordinairy penmanship. David Gergen concurs.

Cheney In a Wheelchair

Posted in first 100 days, politics on Tuesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

So Dick Cheney is in a wheelchair allegedly cuz he twisted his back “moving boxes” in his new house. And First Lady Michelle Obama looks like she’s wearing green rubber gloves. It’s so wierd to see the Bushes and Obamas standing there together sorta joking a bit as they wait to approach the helicopter that will take them back to Texas.

They’re smiling… Barack looks like a kid who cant wait for his parents to leave on vacation or something. W looks like he’s finally un-clinched his asshole. And as the helicopter leaves, the Obamas and Bidens noticibly sigh with a shoulder shrug like “phew, they’re finally gone.”

He Just Gives Good Speeches

Posted in first 100 days, politics on Tuesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

That’s right. And the world is listening, and now we have a brilliant new POSITVE message. Words do matter.

“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.”

It was a grand and subtle send-off to George W. Bush. It was like ding dong the witch is dead and we really do want to start fresh.

Musical Interlude

Posted in first 100 days, misc.blurbs, music, politics on Tuesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

My 13-month-old son is taking a nap. I’ll show him this later when he’s old enough to understand. But when we were watching the motorcades and introductions he would clap and then bounce to the marching-band music.

I remember when I was a kid, if Itzak Perlman was playing his violin it must be a pretty big important event. I was told and felt like I always knew that he is Jewish, and has some physical handicap. And that he was the greatest violinist in the world. It was a subtle “you can be anything in this world” feeling I guess.

Let Freedom Ring

Posted in first 100 days, politics on Tuesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Aretha Franklin is wailing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, surrounded by the VIP Elite of all branches of government past and present… along with a sea of humanity filling the streets of Washington… and millions around the world on TV.

Wow.

And in a minute I will watch a black man be sworn in as the President of The United States.
Here we go…. the future is now.

Fleet Foxes

Posted in music on Wednesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

If you’re interested in checking out some great new music… I recommend the Fleet Foxes self-titled album. Folky harmony vocals. Almost a Mamas’n’Papas-meets-CSNY vibe, which is strange coming from a group of 20-somethings from Seattle.

On my first few listens, I wasn’t quite feeling it. Too mellow or something. But it’s a real grower, and several listens later, I love it. Just a really beautiful, timeless album.

If you want to check out their live sound (pretty similar to the album, especially on this great-sounding soundboard recording), check out this recent show.

As always (if possible), don’t the Fleet Foxes great self-titled CD at BestBuy, Target or on Amazon. Support your local independent record store (while it still exists) and buy from them.

Redistribution of Wealth: Demented and Sad, But Socialism

Posted in politics on Wednesday, 2009 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

While most of us start 2009 hoping to hold on to our jobs, houses, and 401k’s and still afford groceries and credit card bills….. the outgoing White House occupant has been busy pissing away large amounts of our money in broad daylight. And not just in the form of wasteful corporate welfare, aka Wall Street bailouts. From various wire reports this week:

BAGHDAD — The United States inaugurated its largest embassy ever in the heart of the Green Zone on Monday, officially opening the fortress-like compound that was built as a testament to America ‘s commitment to Iraq .

Addressing an inauguration ceremony under tight security, Ambassador Ryan Crocker said the $700 million embassy was testimony to America ‘s long-term friendship with Iraq , where about 146,000 U.S. troops are deployed.

For nearly six years, the grandiose and gaudy palace, with its gold-plated bathroom fixtures and enormous chandeliers, served as both headquarters for occupying forces and the hub for the Green Zone _ the walled-off swath of central Baghdad that was formally turned over to the Iraqi government on New Year’s Day.

OK, so somehow we can afford to spend $700 MILLION on a “grandiose and gaudy palace” as our embassy, complete with gold-plated bathroom fixtures, and yet in late 2007 George W. Bush vetoed a bill that would have helped provide health care for 4 million American children. He said the Democrats were “irresponsible” and that the program was too costly. And yet it would have been funded by an increased cigarette tax.

From the AP in October 2007:

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program is a joint state-federal effort that subsidizes health coverage for 6.6 million people, mostly children, from families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford their own private coverage.

The Democrats who control Congress, with significant support from Republicans, passed the legislation to allow an additional 4 million children into the program. It would be funded by raising the federal cigarette tax by 61 cents to $1 per pack.

Of the over 43 million people nationwide who lack health insurance, over 6 million are under 18 years old. That’s over 9 percent of all children.

In other money matters, according to recent analysis by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard’s Linda Bilmes put out by the American Friends Service Committee, the war in Iraq costs $500,000 per minute. This study found that this $720 million a day could buy homes for 6,500 families or health care for 423,529 children.

Naa… that would be socialism.

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