My football year…

Aside

My football year is over as of 1/15/12. Ok, season not year. Iowa and Cal lost their bowl games, and The Packers have been knocked out of the playoffs. When reality disappoints there’s only one thing left to do: curl up into some nice warm fantasy.

This fantasy involves my two college teams: Iowa, where I grew up and where my parents went, and Cal, where I went. Between the two of them they had 77 players on NFL rosters at the start of the year: Iowa had 44, and Cal had 33. What follows is a Cal/ Iowa super team made up of those 76 players and a couple of players that are leaving school this year. Without further ado … your 2013 Super Bowl champions the Golden Hawkbears-

Offense

Quarterback- Aaron Rodgers, Cal (last year’s Super Bowl MVP, and likely this season’s MVP)

Fullback- Shonn Greene, Iowa (he’s not really a fullback, but he’s big and we’re converting him)

Tailback- Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch, Cal

Wide Receiver- DeSean Jackson, Cal

Wide Receiver- LaVelle Hawkins, Cal

Tight End- Dallas Clark, Iowa (future hall of famer)

Offensive Tackle- Brian Bulaga, Iowa

Offensive Guard- Robert Gallery, Iowa (#2 overall pick)

Center- Alex Mack, Cal

Offensive Guard- Marshall Yanda, Iowa

Offensive Tackle- Riley Reiff, Iowa (projected to be a top ten overall pick in the upcoming draft)

Offense Bench

Quarterback- Ricky Stanzi, Iowa

Tailback- Jahvid Best, Cal

Wide Receivers- Keenan Allen, Cal (still in school) and Marvin McNutt, Iowa (will be playing on Sundays next year)

Tight Ends- Tony Gonzalez, Cal and Tony Moaki, Iowa (there are 8, yes 8, Iowa/Cal TEs in the NFL: 5 Hawks, 3 Golden Bears)

Offensive Line- Eric Steinbach, Iowa and Casey Wiegmann, Iowa (Both are NFL starters, but not on this team)

Defense

Defensive End- Andre Carter, Cal

Defensive End- Adrian Clayborn, Iowa

Defensive Tackle- Tyson Alualau, Cal

Defensive Tackle- Jonathan Babineaux, Iowa

Linebacker- Chad Greenway, Iowa (#3 in the NFL in tackles 2011)

Linebacker- Pat Angerer, Iowa (#4 in the NFL in tackles 2011)

Linebacker- Desmond Bishop, Cal (#13 in the NFL in tackles 2011)

Corner Back- Nnamdi Asomugha, Cal

Corner Back- Amari Spievey, Iowa

Safety- Matt Giordano, Cal

Safety- Charles Godfrey, Iowa

Defense Bench

Line- Matt Roth, Iowa and Brandon Mebane, Cal

Linebackers- AJ Edds, Iowa and Lorenzo Alexander, Cal

Defensive Backs- Bradley Fletcher, Iowa, Thomas DeCoud, Cal, and Bob Sanders, Iowa (if healthy he starts)

Special Teams

Kicker- Nate Kaeding, Iowa (the most accurate kicker in NFL history)

Punter- Jason Baker, Iowa

Returns- DeSean Jackson, Iowa

Oh, and the Coaches…

Iowa guys- Kirk Ferentz, Bob Stoops, Mike Stoops, Bo Pelini, Bill Snyder, Bret Bielema, Chuck Long, Dan McCarney, Jim Leavitt, and Barry Alvarez

Cal guys- Steve Mariucci and Jeff Tedford

What’s not to like? This squad has an above average O-line, three legit running backs, a million tight ends, including two future hall of famers, the best quarterback in football, a deep threat receiver, a big strong receiver, and a receiver that can catch anything he can get a hand on. On D they have a good line, an excellent group of linebackers, and an absurd secondary. All that without counting the guys that aren’t listed. Boy oh boy, they have some depth.

It’s especially impressive that there are 44 Hawkeyes in the NFL. In the last 6 years they have had one top 25 recruiting class according to ESPN, and it was ranked #24. From cast-offs to the NFL, the Golden Hawkbears.

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National Coming Out Day

I was trying to pick a “gay” song for my song a day music blog. It’s National Coming Out Day. My instinct was to pick something like Elton John or Queen, but then I remembered that Grant Hart and Bob Mould, the two principle songwriters and singers of one of my all time favorites, Husker Du, are gay. They were loud and aggressive. Their songs were about being people and dealing with stuff that everybody deals with, not specifically about being gay. Elton John doesn’t write songs about being gay either, but I’m sure nobody was surprised when Elton came out. Grant and Bob aren’t stereotypically gay at all. They’re regular guys that, oh yeah, happen to be gay, which I imagine is the case for most gay men and lesbian women. What’s the big deal about that? Well, wouldn’t it be great if people didn’t give a shit if someone was gay or not? That was Husker Du, they didn’t make a big deal out of it, and neither did anyone else. I understand that a group that is discriminated against needs to make a big deal out of their identity as a group until they are no longer discriminated against, but wouldn’t it be great if we were there already? Husker Du were there already in the 80s.

On Joan Rivers

The Biggest Lie

An earlier more “hardcore” song.

I Apologize

The first “emo” song?

Celebrated Summer

The Pixies and Nirvana?

Books About UFOs

Grant Hart perfect pop.

Rebel Girl- Bikini Kill

There’s a lot of aggressive lesbian rock, riot grrrl, stuff from the late 80s and 90s. I like Bikini Kill the best. The last great real punk band?

You’ve Got Another Think Coming- Judas Priest

Rob Halford, who kicked some serious ass and introduced the leather look to metal, is gay. He stayed in the closet until 1998. Hiding his sexuality could have had a lot to do with the drug abuse and depression he experienced in the 70s and 80s (Grant and Bob were also drug addicts in the 80s), but he cleaned himself up in 1986. Twelve years later he was comfortable enough to come out. As far as I know it hasn’t harmed his personal or professional life.

Songs About Girls

I am really good at having female friends. Not bullshit friends, real friends. Some of my best friends since I’ve lived in Los Angeles have been girls. I have been on dates, had a good relationship, and all that other stuff too in that time period. I know it sounds cheesy and dumb, but sometimes I hear a song and identify it with a person or situation. This is a mix featuring songs that describe the many different kinds of relationships that I have had with girls, or women or whatever, during my LA years.

1) Just My Imagination- The Temptations

This is the saddest and most embarrassing of all possible interpersonal relationships- the imaginary. Obviously, this guy doesn’t even know this girl, and she doesn’t know he exists. When you don’t know somebody you are free to imagine the best. I know that I have seen or barely met some girl and thought- “damn it, why didn’t you ask that girl out. Oh, that’s right, you’re an idiot and a pussy.” Then I hate myself for the rest of the week.

2) Midnight Confessions- The Grassroots

Come on now, admit it, everybody has wished that they had somebody that has already been snagged by some mouth breathing twat that couldn’t carry your jock strap. This isn’t really all that far off from the previous “relationship,” it’s a fantasy. OR, it can have a little toe hold in reality, and then it extra sucks. Oh well, buck up friend, there’s somebody else out there for you. I just know it.

3) All I Really Want to Do- Bob Dylan

I know that Dylan is kind of winking at us in this song, but let’s take it literally. I really really like having female friends, and I’m usually good at it. Sometimes that friendship can get a little murky because after all you are a boy and a girl. Sometimes I just want to say- “Please, I really like you and want to be your friend. That’s it. I don’t want anything else from you, and I don’t want to feel uncomfortable around you. Please, believe me. Let’s be friends and hang out.” Sometimes this works out and sometimes it doesn’t go so well, and then it gets worse.

4) I Just Want to Make Love to You- Muddy Waters (written by Willie Dixon)

This song is the other end of the spectrum of the previous song. Sometimes I don’t want to hang out with a young lady and talk. Sometimes there is someone that I just want to sleep with, and that’s it. I am a nice guy, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I know this isn’t very realistic as anything beyond a one night stand, but I would like to think it is. I mean everyone’s having an okay time, right? No harm done.

5) Reason to Believe- Tim Harden

There are lot’s of good covers of this song. This is the original. I have definitely had this one here in LA, and it was terrible. I feel dumb for letting it happen, and hopefully it was the last time it ever will.

6) Please, Please, Please- James Brown

This is the worst one, obviously. AND it can lead to all kinds of mistakes in situations represented in the other songs- crossing the line with a friend and ruining a friendship, questionable hook-up decisions, or irrational crushes.

7) You’ve Got a Friend in Me- Randy Newman

The Toy Story trilogy is one of my all-time favorites. It’s genius. I also like Randy Newman, and that includes this song. I love having friends that I really like and can feel relaxed around. Having girls as friends is extra great because they will talk about stuff that guys are either hesitant to talk about, or are just dumb about.

8) She’s Got Everything- The Kinks

Oh man, it’s rare, but it’s wonderful. Sometimes it all works out people, I mean until it doesn’t. Then the Kinks carriage turns into a James Brown pumpkin, or you get married.

Let’s Brutally Murder the Death Penalty and Leave it for Dead

“An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind.” Mohandas Gandhi

I know, I would normally be pretty skeptical about anything that starts with a Gandhi quote, but it’s a good one, and it’s apropos. In the past few weeks there has been a lot of talk about the death penalty. It was cheered during a Republican presidential debate, and as this is being written there is fierce last minute effort being made for clemency in the case of Troy Davis. (http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/cases/usa-troy-davis) The death penalty has always seemed to me to be one of those things that people in the future will look back on and say, “I can’t believe they actually did that.” It always felt strange to me that the integration battles in the south were being fought while my parents were in school. I hope my kids will think it’s odd that I grew up and lived with the death penalty.

I grew up in a state that does not have the death penalty (http://filipspagnoli.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/death-penalty-map-united-states.png), and I’m proud of that. Iowa is one of the safest states in America. “Iowa is safe because it doesn’t have the death penalty” is the kind of anecdotal statement that gets thrown around in debates, but confuses correlation with causation. I personally find the death penalty disgusting and immoral, but I would prefer to condemn it with rational argument. Outside of nonsense assertions I have never heard a real and compelling argument for the death penalty. Let’s examine some of the more common arguments for the death penalty.

What follows is a list of common pro death penalty arguments from http://www.balancedpolitics.org/death_penalty.htm

  1. The death penalty gives closure to the victim’s families who have suffered so much.
  2. It creates another form of crime deterrent.
  3. Justice is better served.
  4. Our justice system shows more sympathy for criminals than it does victims.
  5. It provides a deterrent for prisoners already serving a life sentence.
  6. DNA testing and other methods of modern crime scene science can now effectively eliminate almost all uncertainty as to a person’s guilt or innocence.
  7. Prisoner parole or escapes can give criminals another chance to kill.
  8. It contributes to the problem of overpopulation in the prison system.
  9. It gives prosecutors another bargaining chip in the plea bargain process, which is essential in cutting costs in an overcrowded court system.

Numbers 1, 3 and 4 are all not rational arguments. Numbers 2 and 5 are versions of the same argument. The qualifier “effectively” in number 6 eliminates it a serious argument.

“It’s a deterrent”

One of the logical arguments for the death penalty is that it provides a harsh punishment that will keep potential criminals from committing crimes that would demand it’s use. If you think about it this seems to make sense. If you think about it a bit more you start to question the logic. Is someone that is going to kill someone else really considering the consequences of that action. Probably not, but who knows? Further more does it make sense that state approved killing legitimizes killing as a way to solve problems or exact justice? Murderers probably don’t think about that, at least consciously, just as much as they don’t think about the consequences of murder. The fact is that the relationship between the death penalty and violent crime rates is nearly impossible to prove one way or the other. Most of the evidence suggests that the death penalty is not a deterrent, and for my money if you are going to execute someone you better have some very solid evidence that it is helping to deter future violent crime.

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/facts-about-deterrence-and-death-penalty

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cassy-stubbs/the-death-penalty-deterre_b_52622.html

http://www.law.columbia.edu/law_school/communications/reports/summer06/capitalpunish

The death penalty provides a deterrent to violent criminals already in prison.

As everyone with access to a TV or movie theater can tell you that prison is a dangerous place. Is it possible that the threat of the death penalty could deter prisoner murder? f the case for the death penalty as a deterrent in the outside world is shaky, why would it be less so in prisons? It wouldn’t. This is the same argument. Also, why do people who think we are too lenient with violent offenders care about the safety of those offenders in prison? I

The death penalty ensures that murders and violent criminals will never kill again.

That is very true. Unless you’re Freddy Krueger you are probably not going to kill once you are dead. If you are in prison for life you are almost as unlikely to kill someone again. It’s possible that you might kill another prisoner, or escape and kill again. The fact is that in our legal system it takes a long time to execute someone. It should because if you are going to execute someone you should be very very sure they are guilty. During the time that person is imprisoned they are just as capable of escaping or killing a fellow prisoner. I’m writing this quickly and don’t have the time to research properly, but we are dealing with very small numbers here and there isn’t a lot of data out there. I’m sure that there are cases of convicted murders murdering in prison or escaping prison and killing again in the outside world. Aren’t these problems with our prison system? I haven’t seen any evidence that suggests that the death penalty would have prevented murders in prison or murders committed by escaped convicts.

A related argument is that the death penalty decreases the prison population. Again, with the legal steps required to execute someone the numbers are so small when compared to the total prison population that they are almost totally insignificant. If you want to address the problem of overcrowding in prisons you probably want to question the imprisonment rates for non-violent criminals.

It gives prosecutors an important tool to convince capital defendants to plead guilty, or testify against a fellow defendant.

This makes more sense than any of the other arguments. Although unlikely, potential problems with this argument are that it could lead to poor information and/or false confessions that come under enormous pressure. The fact is that the threat of death does not lead to more guilty pleas.

http://aler.oxfordjournals.org/content/8/1/116.abstract

The death penalty threat can, and does, lead to more plea bargains. This can ease the burden on the justice system, but does it outweigh the burden of the death penalty cases that do go to trial? The death penalty is much more expensive than life in prison, and it requires much more of the courts. The problem with using the death penalty as a threat is that it can’t be an empty threat. You have to execute people, and that is expensive and time consuming. If you aren’t going to get anymore guilty convictions by using the death penalty as a threat and the net effect on the justice system in negligible or negative then why bother using it at all?

People that are pro abortion and anti death penalty are hypocrites. (This isn’t really a “rational” argument for the death penalty, it’s more of an argument against the logic of anti death penalty people)

First of all I think there are few people that are “pro abortion.” Secondly, a potential life is not a life. I am not pro abortion, but I am against making it illegal because the reality of the situation is that when abortion is illegal some people that are actually living make bad choices that lead to real problems and even deaths. If a fetus, or potential life, is a “life” then where do we stop. Will it be illegal for men with strong sperm to masturbate? What about birth control? Should that be illegal too? It does rob of us potential lives. Isn’t the bigger hypocrisy to be “pro life” and “pro death penalty?” If you are concerned with lowering crime rates and easing the stress on our justice system then you should want to keep abortion legal because there is a real causal relationship between abortion and crime rates. The horrible and harsh truth is that abortion keeps unwanted kids that are likely to become criminals from ever being born.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legalized_abortion_and_crime_effect

That’s it. Those are the rational arguments for the death penalty. What we are left with are the irrational reasons- the punishment should fit the crime, it makes the victim’s family feel better and get closure, and we are too easy on criminals. These kind of arguments are exactly why we have a justice system to begin with. This is the kind of passionate thinking that lead to violence on our streets. If we kill for revenge or “justice” doesn’t that make us just as bad as a murderer that murdered for those same reasons? We take justice out of the hands of family members and friends, and put it into the hands of strangers so that we can avoid street style justice.

Not only should we expect more from ourselves than we expect from murderers, but there are many good and rational AND irrational reasons for doing away with the death penalty. Here is an “anti” list from the same site that provided the “pro” list-

  1. Financial costs to taxpayers of capital punishment is several times that of keeping someone in prison for life.
  2. It is barbaric and violates the “cruel and unusual” clause in the Bill of Rights.
  3. The endless appeals and required additional procedures clog our court system.
  4. We as a society have to move away from the “eye for an eye” revenge mentality if civilization is to advance.
  5. It sends the wrong message: why kill people who kill people to show killing is wrong.
  6. Life in prison is a worse punishment and a more effective deterrent.
  7. Other countries (especially in Europe) would have a more favorable image of America.
  8. Some jury members are reluctant to convict if it means putting someone to death.
  9. The prisoner’s family must suffer from seeing their loved one put to death by the state, as well as going through the emotionally-draining appeals process.
  10. The possibility exists that innocent men and women may be put to death.
  11. Mentally ill patients may be put to death.
  12. It creates sympathy for the monstrous perpetrators of the crimes.
  13. It often draws top talent laywers who will work for little or no cost due to the publicity of the case and their personal beliefs against the morality of the death penalty, increasing the chances a technicality or a manipulated jury will release a guilt person.
  14. It is useless in that it doesn’t bring the victim back to life.

We have put innocent people to death, it’s unlikely that the death penalty is any kind of deterrent in any situation, it almost certainly does more harm than good to our legal system, and it’s significantly more expensive. The death penalty doesn’t make sense and it’s morally disgusting. We should be better than this. If we can’t be better then that’s why we have the courts, to mitigate our revenge/blood lust. As Americans we should hold ourself to the highest standard, not just pretend to.

God is in the Details

“God is in the details,” is probably the second most famous Ludwig Mies van der Rohe quote after “Less is more.” Both of those quotes are about architecture, Mies was one of the great modern architects, a master at making something simple, beautiful. The proportions and details in his buildings make them gorgeous when compared to the hundreds of clumsy imitations that they inspired.

http://www.google.com/search?q=seagram+building&hl=en&prmd=ivnsb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=4jZMTo27JujTiALEm9WFAQ&ved=0CCkQsAQ&biw=1079&bih=684

The Seagram Building in New York is an excellent example. There are a number of buildings in New York, and any other city with sky scrapers, that look a bit like The Seagram. When you look, whether quickly or for a long time, you notice how light and delicate the building looks compared to many of its neighbors. This effect comes from the way the building meets the ground, the proportion of the windows, the small exterior I-beams that serve no structural purpose, but provide a small detail that breaks down the scale of th building and keeps the building from looking like a monolith.

Both quotes are also often generally true as well. God is in the details in life, and media, and art. There have been a few works of art that really capture the details of everyday life, the subtly beautiful things, the real magic of life. Surprisingly, television has become excellent at finding god in the details. Shows like The Office (the original BBC version), Freaks and Geeks (NBC), and Louie (FX) have successfully captured the funny and tragic (and funny/tragic) little moments of life, but in my opinion no show has painted the joys and tragedies of day to day life as well Friday Night Lights.

There are plenty of big dramatic moments in Friday Night Lights. (There is even an absurd storyline in the second season that almost ruins the show) It isn’t those big moments that make FNL so special, it’s the small routine moments that live around the drama. Heather Havrilesky described this aspect of the show in her The New York Times Magazine article comparing Friday Night Lights to Glee-

“The real message of “Friday Night Lights” is a message about the joy of little things: the awkward thrills of a first kiss; the strange blessing of an unexpected rainstorm on a lonely walk home from a rough football practice; the startling surge of nostalgia incited by the illumination of football-stadium lights just as the autumn sun is setting; the rush of gratitude, in an otherwise mundane moment, that comes from realizing that this (admittedly flawed) human being that you’re squabbling with intends to have your back for the rest of your life. If “Glee” is about expressing yourself, believing in yourself and loving yourself all the way to a moment of pure adrenaline-fueled glory, then “Friday Night Lights” is about breathing in and appreciating the small, somewhat-imperfect moments that make up an average life.

It’s not hard to see why “Glee” would be more popular right now, but its moment, like the moment of glory it celebrates, feels likely to come and go. Recognizing the impermanence of such moments, “Friday Night Lights” embraces the rough edges, the fumbling, the understated beauty and uncertainty of the everyday. It’s rare for a TV show to acknowledge that happiness is a fragile, transient thing. Although the tenure of “Friday Night Lights” may have proved just as fleeting, its exquisite snapshots of ordinary life won’t fade from our memories so quickly.”

Friday Night Lights’ magic comes from its style as much as its content. The acting style and camera work brings the viewer into the world in a way that makes it possible to notice and appreciate the details. It is VERY real. The Friday Night Lights cameras find the looks that characters share that say more than words ever could. The characters say as little as possible. There are no long chatty scenes, and the characters find ways to talk around things. The cameras watch from behind something or someone, or they are looking through something into the scene. When an character’s back is to a window their face isn’t lit. The houses aren’t too clean, but they aren’t too dirty, they are lived in by people. The camera might tilt down to see the Coach Taylor’s hands gesture as he gives a player advice. There are moments when you can see that a character doesn’t know what to do. They make silent decisions.

What is particularly compelling about the details of everyday life? For one thing it makes a TV show, or movie, or whatever, feel more real. I think another reason is that those details are the things that we remember the most, but don’t document, and are the most likely to die with us. They are the real treasured moments of life, but we treat them like junk. I don’t remember anything the funeral of my friend and nieghbor who died of leukemia when we were 12. I do remember that I beat him at Clue one of the last times I saw him. I remember making up a story the night that he died about us signaling each other with flashlights when after our parents made us go to bed. I forget my first kiss, but I remember an awkward first kiss with an ex because I fell in love with her later, but also because it was pitch black and I couldn’t see her at all. This is what was great about Friday Night Lights, and one of the things that is great about life.

A recent movie that did an excellent job of capturing “the details” was “Tree of Life”, by Terrence Malick. The Malick style is similar to the style of Friday Night Lights. It doesn’t show you something, it puts you there. The middle part of the film follows the young lives of three boys and their parents. They play in the yard, they swim, they eat dinner, they take bubble baths, they fight, they shine flashlights through their sheets, they grow up. There are dramatic moments, but little of that drama is expressed explicitly in dialogue. I saw Tree of Life twice in the theater. I went alone the first time, and with a friend the second, which was good because I cried the first time.

Tree of Life tells us explicitly that it is about the battle between “the two ways through this world” nature- hard, factual, and uncaring, and grace- human, emotional, and loving. A lot of the reviews of Tree of Life discussed the way the film compared the small and insignificant trials and dramas of regular life with massiveness of the universe. The universe- ancient, infinite, uncaring. The people- fragile and insignificant, sending prayers to a god that isn’t there. What are we compared to the universe? Nothing. Our concerns are nothing in “the grand scheme of things.” But significance and meaning are human concepts. There is no meaning in the universe, we make it. Nothing really has intrinsic value, we create value. A falling tree doesn’t make a sound if there is no one there to hear it, and broccolli isn’t green when the refridgerator door closes. We percieve these things. Sound and green happen in our minds. How fortunate are we to get to feel and live and experience? The odds against it are so great. Think of all the billions of years that led up to now. To me this is what Tree of Life is about. The little moments that brothers and families share. The things that shape us. The things nobody else knows. The things that we take to our grave because they never seemed that important, and what it feels like when the other person that remembers is gone. It’s about how lucky we are to get the chance to feel pleasure and be crushed by pain. It’s the battle between grace and nature that yeilds the magic of human experience. It’s us trying to carve grace out of the hard realities of physical life.

God is in the details. God is in accepting nature and struggling for grace. God is in the things that are the hardest and easiest to forget. God is in the ethereal, the most difficult moments to portray and capture. Friday Night Lights and Tree of Life are great because they do capture those moments. I know it sounds hyperbolic, but they find god.

 

Richard Dawkins was talking about his own death he said the following- “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born…. Certainly those unborn ghosts include poets greater than Keats, and scientests greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people …so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of those stupifying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”

Dawkins again- “The word ‘mundane’ has come to mean ‘boring’ and ‘dull’, and it really shouldn’t – it should mean the opposite. Because it comes from the latin mundus, meaning ‘the world’. And the world is anything but dull: The world is wonderful. There’s real poetry in the real world. Science is the poetry of reality.”

Charles Darwin, from the last paragraph of Origin of the Species- “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

 

London’s Burning

I have a number of friends in London. I’m sure they’re all okay, but scared. This is a London mix. All London bands/ artists. A lot of these songs are aggressive, but that’s not meant to be a show of support for the rioters. I am not a fan of riots, and I have been worried about my London friends for the past few days. Stay safe over there, especially Sara and her little one.

1) The Clash- White Riot

This entire mix could be Clash songs about riots. This song is about white kids finding something worth rioting about. It was written on the heals of the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival Riots.

2) The Damned- Smash It Up

This is a particularly vicious version of this song by the Damned.

3) The Sex Pistols- Anarchy in the UK

London and the UK were a mess in the 70s. The 2010s are kind of 70s like, it doesn’t look good out there.

4) The Yardbirds- Stroll On

Swingin’ London. I love this movie and song. The ass kicking 1966 version of The Yardbirds featuring Jimmy Page AND Jeff Beck. Jeff Beck is the one that destroys the gear and throws the guitar neck into the crowd of bored hipsters.

5) The Rolling Stones- Gimmie Shelter

The Stones playing the song that was the title of the documentary about their Altimont show/ disaster that a lot of people think was the symbolic “end of the 60s.”

6) The Who- My Generation

“My friends call me Kieth, you can call me John.” The Who on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour doing a performance that was literally too explosive. Kieth Moon overdid it and damaged camera equipment, Pete Townsends hearing and hair, and blew shrapnel into his own arm.

7) The Eyes- I’m Rowed Out

The Eyes have it, I’ll tell you that much! (hey-yo) I love The Eyes, but they kind of fell through the cracks.

8) The Pretty Things- Come See Me

The Who if they never made it big.

9) Led Zeppelin- Communication Breakdown

Shockingly loud and fast for 1969. Look at those kids in the front head banging!

10) Nurse With Wound- Bottom Feeder

Disturbing…

11) Basement Jaxx- Where’s Your Head At

12) Sway- Up Your Speed

13) Dizzee Rascal- You Can’t Tell Me Nuffin’

14) The Streets- Has it Come to This

15) The Jam- In the City

Tony Wilson!

16) Sham 69- Borstal Breakout

17) X-Ray- Oh Bondage, Up Yours

18) The Clash- London Calling

19) The Clash- London’s Burning

20) The Kinks- Waterloo Sunset

This is one of my favorite songs. It’s the first song I think of when I think of London. Feels like a good way to end this.

 

Indecision Time

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
“Freewill,” Rush

“If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”
George Costanza

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Bertrand Russell

Let’s agree that the following things are true, even though they might not be (featuring two 92 St Y bits from Radiolab, a good This American Life-ish science themed radio show)

1- The universe is infinite, and there is a very large, but not infinite, number of ways that the matter in the universe can be combined. The difference between the unimaginably gigantic number of ways the matter can be combined and infinity is… infinity.

In an a episode of Radiolab one of the hosts of the show, Robert Krulwich, interviews Brian Greene, a Columbia University math and physics professor, about the idea of an infinite universe. Professor Greene asserts that if the universe is really infinite and there are a finite number of ways the particles in that infinite universe can be combined, then there must be an infinite number of Robert Krulwichs and Brian Greenes having the same discussion at the exact same time in the exact same circumstances. Every possible combination must be represented an infinite number of times in an infinite universe. Infinity is an incredibly difficult concept to grasp, and Robert Krulwich is incredulous, on behalf of the layperson audience. I have no idea if this is really happening out there in the universe, nobody does, but it’s interesting, and it makes some sense to me.

http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2008/aug/12/the-multi-universes/

So, what about all the other versions of me that are slightly different? What about that version of me that made some different decisions? What about that version of me that didn’t walk away from architecture a year after college? Is he married? Does he have a kid? The idea that each decision can lead to an alternate life, and reality, is pretty common in science fiction. I don’t know how much of that is science and how much is fiction. If Professor Greene is right, and every possible version of everything is out there then even if we aren’t actively creating alternate versions of ourselves, like in the movies, those realities would exist anyway.

2- Our conscious decisions aren’t really as conscious as we think.

What if we aren’t really in control of the decisions we make? We are finding out that people don’t really have freewill, or at least not in the way that we usually think of freewill. Past experiences and patterns dictate what choice we will make in a given situation. Each decision affects the next. There have been a lot of experiments done and books written about why we make the decisions we do. In Malcom Gladwell’s book “Blink” he argues that our split second decisions may be better than our considered decisions. In the clip below Gladwell talks to Robert Krulwich of radiolab about decision making.

We make decisions all the time without really thinking, and we might not really consciously control the big decisions we make either. In Dan Airely’s TED lecture, link below, he argues that we aren’t always making “conscious” decisions. He tells us that how the question is asked and how options are presented to us have an immense influence on our eventual decision. The decision may already be made for us. Our decisions are also fairly easily manipulated, even seemingly insignificant outside stimulus. This is called priming- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priming_(psychology).

http://www.radiolab.org/2008/nov/17/is-free-will-really-free/

3- The more options we have the less likely it is that we will be happy with the option we choose.

Today we, especially those of us that come from a privileged background, have a huge number options from which to choose. Any decision isn’t just a decision for the option we choose, but also a decision against every other option. When we make a decision we are often aware of the opportunity cost of not choosing the other options. Below is yet another radiolab clip about choice, featuring the lovely and talented Oliver Sacks.

http://www.radiolab.org/2008/nov/17/how-much-is-too-much/

When I look at #1 and #2 together my first question is- how could both of these things be true? Is it possible for there to be a version of me out there in the universe that is almost the same except that he made a different decision at a crucial point? Would the other me that made the decision to stick it out with architecture even be interested in architecture in the first place? If that other version of me made that different decision then how similar where we really? What little things early in my life led to the important choices that I made later in life?

Like almost everyone, or everyone that isn’t an idiot, I am not totally happy with my life. I understand that life just is that way, and you don’t, and probably shouldn’t, have everything work out. I’m painfully aware of the problem of choice discussed in #3. There will always be doubt. There are things I think I would change, but I don’t know if really would. Sometimes I think I regret something, but then the more I think about it the less I regret my decision. I could be making more money, have a more settled life, and/or have a lot of the things I still would like to have in the future, but would I really erase all the other experiences, people, and things that have made me the person that I am right now? I don’t think so. My alternate versions probably wouldn’t either.

What about in the future? As an over-thinker, I worry that I am consistently picking the “wrong” option. The second quote at the top of the page is from the Seinfeld season 5 episode, “The Opposite.” George has the quoted epiphany early on in the episode. For the rest of the episode he does the opposite of what he would normally do, and instead of everything going wrong, everything in his life starts going right. Is that possible? If you aren’t really in control of the decisions you make can you consciously decide to over-ride yourself? Could you change the future that your past is setting in front of you? Should I be making more snap decisions and fewer calculated ones? Can I construct a new version of myself by consciously making a few uncharacteristic decisions?

In “The Opposite” George decides to go up and talk to a woman that he normally wouldn’t. In that situation, like regular George, I would talk myself into not talking to her. Then I would regret not talking to her for the rest of the day, or week, or my life. I am a very anxious person, and as a result I tend to make the non-decision or avoid certain things and situations.

I am a very self critical, and other person critical, person. I am not one of those people that is constantly churning out product that they think is “amazing.” In my experience people that are really confident in what they do are usually really confident because they just don’t realize how much their stuff sucks. I am more on the other end of the spectrum. I find reasons to not do things, or put things out there into the world. I am way too aware of how much my stuff sucks. That’s why I decided recently that I am going to do the opposite sometimes. I don’t know if it’s possible, but I’m going to give it a shot. This blog is part of that shot. It probably isn’t that big of a deal to most people, but “publishing” anything that someone might think is dumb is a big deal for me. It’s a small risk. It’s an early step and a small step, but it’s an example of doing the opposite by actually doing something rather than not.

Maybe it will be the first step to a version of myself that would make another version of me, somewhere out there in the universe, jealous. Maybe I’ll meet the mother of my future children this week. Maybe I’ll have a great idea, or do something or make a decision that will change my life for the better and forever. Maybe this conscious decision will effect the quick unconscious and big “conscious” decisions of my future. I would say “there’s only one way to find out…,” but there isn’t one way to find out. There are no ways to find out. You just have to do it and hope it was for the best.

“Freewill,” Rush

“Let’s Forget About the Past,” The Zeppers

“Indecision Time,” Husker Du

“Ask,” The Smiths

“Waiting Room,” Fugazi

“Freedom of Choice,” Devo