Thursday, June 29, 2006

Off Tomorrow...

Taking the day off to do errands ahead of this weekends’ early 4th of July party. I’ll be picking up our keg of Sweetwater 420 (Oh hells yeah!), a couple gallons of Tequila for the frozen margarita machine, in addition to some last minute yard work and pavilion preparation.

This is my favorite holiday by a long shot and the one time during the year in which I actually set out to drink like a soccer fan at the world cup tourney in Germany. I normally feel the pain the next day and predictably vow NEVER to repeat this behavior which normally is adhered to until opening day of Georgia Tech football (Oh hells yeah again!).

So, if I don’t see you Monday, have a happy and safe Independence Day and if you can, give some thought to those currently serving in harms way. Remember, the Declaration of Independence did not in fact secure our freedom, soldiers did.

Transparency: "You can't handle the truth..."

Jeff Jarvis blogs from a media conference up at UMass today. He gives us the scoop on Helen Thomas, long time Whitehouse press corp member and author of "Watchdogs of Democracy? : The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public". He runs down her opening remarks:

...I’m not sure why. She dives right into her screed: “I never felt before that our country is as rudderless, leaderless as it is now.” Follow with litany of privacy fears, “the fear card,” WMDs, and “that groveling, Republican-controlled Congress.”

Well, I suppose it’s an interesting beginning to a journalism conference in the new age when objectivity is dead. We are, indeed, watching its obit.

But it’s also interesting that the woman who has thrown lighter fluid on the embers of her career with opinion and advocacy now also tries to keep others out of her game: “Everyone with a laptop thinks they are a journalist. The problem is that anything goes. There are no basic standards about what’s accurate and the truth…. Bloggers are not necessarily journalists.”

Another journalism icon pissed off about losing her previously unchecked power to editorialize her particular bias. The idea of transparency in reporting is completely lost on this pompous crust. Why don't you retire already and share some tea and crumpets with Dan Rather you old bat!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I Wish I knew What I know Now, When I Was Younger…

There was a time when I thought that making a convincing argument must always begin by getting someone’s attention first, and that the only way to do this was with as much emotion as one could muster. As was often the case, this came in the form of an inflammatory statement or act. Thankfully, I no longer think this way and now believe it to be a failed approach in most instances. Passion is good, but I think you get someone to listen to your case more effectively by making a civil and convincing argument. Those who know me well enough are aware that I still struggle this occasionally (hell, just read this blog), but know that I’m doing my best to make the necessary adjustments.

What brought this on you ask: The topic of a flag burning amendment to our constitution.

The reasons I gather most people burn flags is to state their feelings of obvious displeasure with the American people and/or the American government in a grand gesture of protest, or it's an effort to draw attention to oneself in order to make a point (I guess there is a third: To properly dispose of an old worn American flag). In the case of attempting to make a point as I note above, it’s simply a doomed approach. You may have achieved the goal of getting someone’s attention, but you’ve lost all possibility of anyone listening to your argument, because you’ve made them angry. This is the crux of my position that most protests, such as the one at the UC Santa Cruz campus which I blogged about a couple of months ago, are ineffectual at best, counterproductive to your cause at worst. Yes, they may succeed in publicly stating an individual or groups feelings of displeasure, but they change nobody’s mind. Mostly, they just alienate, polarize, and make people angry.

Burning a flag makes me angry. I think anybody who burns an American flag, especially an American, is doing it for the sole purpose of making people angry. One side of me says that if you make a determined CHOICE to make people angry fine, than you suffer the consequences of such actions. If that means someone lands one right across your jaw, then you will have learned a valuable lesson in cause and effect. But if you stop and think for a moment, the more rational side reveals how ridiculous and counter productive the act of burning a flag is for the idiots who choose to do it. As a matter of fact, I’d say it’s a sure fire way to get people to ignore you, your concerns, or the point you were attempting to make in the short and long term.

Having said that, the idea that our leaders spent any amount of time debating a constitutional amendment to prohibit the burning of a flag is simply ridiculous at best, and a shameful political ploy at worst. I don’t believe our constitution and our nation was in crisis over this issue in anyway that warranted this vote. The fact that it almost passed is even more surprising. In a way, the whole debacle is no different than the act of actually burning a flag itself in that it only appeals to an already convinced base, and further polarizes the left by validating preconceptions.

We are at war. Our best legislative efforts and energy should be spent engaged in matters far more impactful to our nation’s well being than suppressing the ability to offend someone else’s patriotic sensibilities, including my own. The first amendment must be stronger than the idiots who burn flags. To the representatives who took the time to proffer this legislation, I say shame on you. Get back to work on issues of higher priority and ones that actually matter at this point in our history. You’re only proving the worst about yourselves.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

AJC editors = Hypocrisy...

Need proof of Atlanta Journal-Constitution slant, bias, and hypocrisy? Look no further. Last Thursday, award winning asswipe Mike Luckovich submitted, and the AJC ran his worthless cartoon which depicted the U.S. as torturers on par with Al-Qaida (I will not link to it). I know, I know, some narrow minded and misguided folks actually feel this way and it's their right to say and feel anyway they want. Understood. What made this particularly heinous was the fact that the AJC published this cartoon directly above the pictures of Pfc. Thomas Tucker and Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, the two soldiers recently abducted, tortured, and murdered in Iraq by terrorists.

'That's inspired editorial' you say? Well, where was all that inspired editorial when they were refusing to run a copy of the Mohammad cartoon that caused all those riots a few months back? "Respect and sensitivity" my big, fat, and flat pimpled covered ass! Fucking hypocracy pure and simple. No problem making concessions to avoid offending intolerant radical Muslims, but can't find that same restraint whatsoever while denigrating American military men who died walking the line in Iraq, not to mention their families who might have seen that.

You wonder why nobody trusts what you write? Take notice. Your readers and advertisers are. There will be more open letters from your advertisers to follow I’m sure. Thanks to RBM of Atlanta for honoring these two fallen soldiers and their families and saying what needed to be said (published as a full page ajacent to today's op/ed page):

To Our Clients:

We are sorry!

While we strongly affirm the right to free speech, the June 22, 2006 Mike Luckovich cartoon depicting the U.S. as torturers on par with Al Qaida was very offensive to us. Moreover, to publish this cartoon directly above the pictures of the two brave men who gave their lives, willingly and were tortured and mutilated in service to their country (and each of us) is unacceptable.

RBM Of Atlanta and it's employees represent a broad range of political, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. We often see things differently - just like any family, group, or community. But one thing we all are is American. And we are proud of it. Together we stand - to do anything within our power to support our country. We count - with great pride - a large number of employees who are veterans, and some who currently serve in the military.

RBM of Atlanta has been a long-time advertiser in the Atlanta Journal - Constitution. We have signed an agreement, which we intend to honor, to advertise with them in the future. However, this event has changed the way we view our relationship. For now, we have chosen to spend our ad dollars to let you know that we do not agree with the editorial cartoonist of the Atlanta Journal - Constitution and that we are proud of our country along with the men and women who serve us all.

In closing, we wish to extend our heartfelt sympathy to the families of Thomas Tucker and Kristian Menchaca. RBM of Atlanta and our country owe you a deep debt of gratitude for your sacrifice.

RBM of Atlanta
7640 Roswell Road
Atlanta, GA 30350

UPDATE: My rant recalled for me a well written article by staunch liberal blogger Jason Chervokas at Trickster! back in February. It's a good read, and other than his most excellent taste in all things music, a rare instance where Jason and I agree on matters political.

Also, Micheal Yon is embroiled in a copyright infringement battle with the publishers of "Shock" magazine over their unauthorized use of one of his famed battlefield photos, the photo of the soldier cradling a dead Iraq child following an IED attack. Apparently the magazine, in addition to using it without permission, uses it to show the American military in a negative light (the publisher HFM is a French company). In Yon's latest post on the matter I found this reminder of the American MSM exercising their right to SELECTIVELY not offend.

We deserve better from our FREE press, plain and simple. They should be objective, and/or transparent with their bias.

If you don't own this album or don't go out and buy it right away you're dumb Part II...

It's been awhile since I did one of these but, it's one of those "It has to move me" kind of things I guess. So, here's one I feel qualifies for "If you don't own this album or don't go out and buy it right away you're dumb..." Fred over at A VC sang praises of this new release not too long ago, and I picked it up and have been checking it out for about a month. I cannot stop listening to it. I've always had mad respect for Mark Knopfler, but never really dove into the deep end with him for no reason I can really point to. Well, I'm a changed man. Mark an Emmylou tear it up on this new release like life long partners. The guys guitar tones are lethal. He's a great slide player and an obvious aficionado of American music in the Rolling Stones sense.

I think Hue or Jackson said it best: Emmylou is the sexiest old lady around. Blended voices as thick as oak trees. Drum sounds that I can only wish to ever come close to creating myself, all over these great songs. Favorites, “I Dug Up a Diamond” and “Right Now”.

I never thought I'd nominate a new release for this, but if you don't own this album or don't go out and buy it right away, well, you're dumb.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ever Worked For A Tough Boss?

If you think you have, you may want to reconsider your experience once you see/read what Keith Richards and Taylor Hackford had to put up with when together they attempted to honor Rock & Roll godfather Chuck Berry back in 1986 on his 60th birthday. Keith's devotion to Chuck and his work runs way deep and he endures way more shit than any other human would possibly put up with to get the chance to make the concerts happen. Nobody can blame Chuck for taking the measures he employs to ensure he gets paid considering that he's probably been ripped off his entire life, but his penchant for being a raging asshole is well known and most of the time his behavior is completely unwarranted as the movie accurately depicts. Naturally, the epic train wreck preparations for the shows make for a great documentary and the resulting performances are unbelievable, not only for the fact that they sound so good, but for the amazing fact that they happened at all.

Needless to say, my copy of "Hail, Hail Rock and Roll" has already been pre-ordered from

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

In The Great Gray Ghost That I Call Home...

"Fear not the crusted warblers, yet fear the mad cheese grater, for he shall slaw the features from your face"

- On the rear cover jacket of "Tooth, Fang, and Claw" -

Oh Hells Yeah!

I blasted out an e-mail to as many of my old skate friends as I had addresses for alerting them to my recent historical docu-post on West Point skate ramps and have recieved a couple of e-mail responses in return. A good friend to Oregonians who still choose to wear their hair long says he still skates, and the most illinest, mad rippinest, West Point Skateboard Gang members ever to bomb Stony Lonesome Mountain at 2:00 in the morning are still tearing it up out on the left coast. In addition to being a streetluge dynasty and world phenom's of the sport, The Roger's Bros. are now dabbling in making a few skates for the masses.

My wife's going to kill me, but I've got to have one!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Attention All IDM Readers: You Are Invited To a Party!!!

The 9th Annual Alva's/Yoda Jacket's 4th of July Party will be held on Saturday July 1st. Many readers can attest to the fact that this is quite a fiesta in which a multitude of family and friends bring themselves and their kids to run around largely unsupervised while their parents scarf down most excellent frozen margaritas from the machine we lease, drink unlimited quantity of top shelf beer from a keg, and then watch very drunk grown men shoot off an extremely dangerous fireworks display (dangerous for them, not you).

This year we will also have live music provided by Jay Memory.

We have some space for out of towners if you don’t mind surfing couches (you’re more than welcome to sleep in the yard, but the Homeowner’s Association asks that you get up after the sunburn has reddened one half of your face).

There’s never been a bad one of these and they always generate fine memories for all who attend, so if you’ve got no plans and are looking for something adventurous, consider attending this event. As always, no video taping is allowed in order to protect the privacy of all those who wind up drunk and naked. Final note: I get dibs on reenacting the “I am a golden God!” scene from ‘Almost Famous’ this year. George is forbidden from ever doing this stunt again since he missed the blow up wading pool last time.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Tales of an Outlaw Skateboarder Vol I, Or "You mean up this ramp?"

Ed note: The following story is true and the facts are accurate to the best of my knowledge. NO names have been changed to protect the innocent since nobody I knew back then ever remotely fit that description.

While reading Jackson's blog this past week, a commenter using an alias let it be known through the use of cryptic clues that he grew up with us at West Point, and had known some of the same folks I hung out with. He asked a couple of specific questions regarding the skateboard ramp in the background of my profile photo and alluded to another that myself and my gang of skate rats built. Jackson recommended that perhaps it was time for a post on the subject, and I couldn't agree more if for no other reason than to coax our mystery blog commenter out of anonymity.

If you’ve seen either of the Dogtown movies: “Dogtown and Z Boys” (most excellent documentary), or the drama enhanced “Lords Of Dogtown” (as the Outback Steakhouse dude says, "not as good...") you know that skateboarding’s first big quantum leap occurred when the street skaters of Venice and Santa Monica discovered a practical use for all the swimming pools left empty due to the severe drought Southern California was grappling with in the late seventies. This gave birth to the art of vertical skating and all it’s popular offshoots so common place nowadays (snowboarding halfpipe being at the top the list). Street skating was cool and any teenage male growing up in 1976 could certainly find plenty enough mischief by doing that, but vertical skating took real balls. The consequence factor went up ten fold when one went from doing kick flips in the street to sailing up the 12’ vertical concrete wall of an empty swimming pool. Naturally, once me and my gang saw pictures of guys skating pools it was a foregone conclusion that we had to have us some of that!

The problem we confronted was that unlike drought laden Southern California, where I was living in the spring of 1977 (Newport News, Virginia), there weren’t an abundance of available empty backyard pools to do this activity in, and neither was this the case at West Point NY where I, along with my family, would be moving to in a few short months. Back in Virginia after school let out for the summer, my skating friends and I put together a poorly constructed two transition ramp and began shredding it. It was by far the most fun we’d ever had in our lives up to that point at least, and I was genuinely sad to leave it behind when my Dad packed my brother and I into the car for the long drive and our new life in NY. Oh, what was in store for me I had not a clue…

On my second day as a New Yorker, while at the local swimming facility, I met West Point’s lone resident skateboarder at the time. His name was Chris Lagasse and by the time we headed home for supper, me and my new found friend had plotted an after dark plywood stealing raid for that same evening. As planned, my new friend showed up at the predetermined rendezvous point, but he had some new intel to divulge: on his way home for dinner, he had met a couple of guys who, that same day, had moved in down the road. The Rogers brothers, John and Dave, had skated on a team over in Europe and had just begun skating ramps before their family had to pack it up and move (for those unfamiliar, this is the life of a career service family). The Roger’s Bros. were definitely interested in helping the ramp cause. We met them over at their house and after introductions and helping their older brother set up his killer stereo, we spun the first side of "Aerosmth “Rocks”, and then set out for the historical post cemetery, the final resting place for many of our nations finest, to commandeer our needed building materials. This began a long legacy of night time dark ops style missions in search of materials for skateboard ramps. It’s worthy of note that this inaugural mission to the cemetery was also the first time we were detained by the Military Police (they let us go with the plywood intact after hearing our hastily put together bullshit story. That would be the LAST time they did that). This first ramp went in against the side of the hill where our house shared the parking lot with the Catholic Chapel. It was a crude two transition job much like the one I left behind in VA, but it was a little bigger and better built thanks to the improved quality of pilfered material. It was also closer to true vertical at its peak.
The West Point winter took its toll on that ramp and by the time the spring of 78’rolled around, we had a chance to study some pictures of what other swimming pool deficient skaters were doing to satisfy their jones for anything vertical. We carefully analyzed each and every photo in Skateboarder Magazine throughout the entire winter (nothing cured the winter doldrums like coming home from school and finding your issue of Skateboarder Magazine in the mailbox). The typical solution was a quarter pipe to vertical 10’-12’ tall ramp. This required a higher level of engineering and more complex bill of materials than either of the first models we’d built.

By the time our second summer was upon us in NY, we’d all become proficient at sneaking out of our houses in the wee hours and it was almost a nightly thing. The time was spent either taking these gorgeous downhill speed runs on West Points’ mountainous Hudson Valley terrain, and/or swimming under the stars at Delafield Pond. We took a night or two off from the usual routine to scout and abscond with our needed material from any of the academies bazillion construction sites. We were so familiar with every rock and tree on post by then that it was like taking candy from a baby. It’s funny, my folks rarely asked where all the lumber came from and accepted the lamest of responses whenever they did. Maybe they just didn’t want to know. We’d even use the yellow saw horses that the MP’s would use to close roads and redirect traffic for these ramps with the words “Military Police: Do Not Cross” stenciled across them ("...Oh, these are the ones they didn’t want and were getting rid of anyway. They said we could have them…”)

The plywood surface for this next project would come thanks to Matt Beall and the use of his VW van. Matt wasn’t a skater, but some in our group were his soccer teammates and somehow convinced him that loading up his parents van with stolen plywood in the middle of the night from the roofing jobsite at the cadet Field House was something he wanted to do (If I never told you Matt and if you’re out there, thanks dude!).

The ten foot tall quarter pipe we built as a result of all this hard work was magnificent. The run up to it was down grade so getting speed was easy and it allowed us the opportunity to focus on developing and setting up moves instead of pumping the ground for speed. I remember a few local publications coming up to shoot pictures of us ripping that ramp, but can find none of the resulting photos anywhere. I also don’t remember when that ramp came down or recall for what reason.

I do remember the details of next one though. We had befriended a couple of guys in the housing area across the reservoir from the football stadium by the fall of our second year at West Point and it was decided that it was time to build another ¼ pipe. The location we decided on was a lightly traveled road that ran along the back of Lusk Reservoir and happens to be one of the worlds most beautiful and picturesque backdrops. This location was ideal for three reasons: it provided a close location to steal lumber from (the stadium was under construction yet again), it provided the most excellent wooded groves for sneaking off and smoking cigarettes and other things, and it also had a good hill to run down to so we again didn’t have to worry about pumping for speed much like it’s predecessor.

Unfortunately, the stadium lumber raid netted us only the two by four materials we required and we had to come up with another location and plan to jack the six sheets of exterior grade 5/8’’ plywood required to complete the job. On my way home from my dishwashing job one night, I was delighted to discover a road work project that was underway on Wilson Road. The post engineers were replacing all the manholes along the length of the entire street. It was a long ways down the hill from the tentative location of the new ramp, but was off the beaten path a little bit providing very favorable conditions to ply our well honed lumber thieving tactics. It would definitely be a haul to get the plywood up to our ramp location, but they were using brand new sheets of 5/8” exterior grade and after conferring with my esteemed colleagues we quickly determined that it would be well worth the extra effort. Hell, if the Druids hauled all those boulders over those long distances to Stonehenge, carrying six sheets of plywood a mile or so up a hill wouldn’t be all that bad, right?

On the night of the operation, my friends hooked up with me after work and we set about on our mission. We made our way to an unlit spot off into the woods close to the Wilson Road jobsite where we passed around a joint, and plotted the final details of the caper together. The plan was to break up into two man teams. Each team would approach a sheet of plywood laying on the ground, one person in front, one in back, toss their skateboard on top of said plywood, pick it up, and as quickly and quietly as possible, make their way into the woods and up the hill.

All was going according to plan and I was feeling confident as ever as I bent over to grab the backend of one of the many sheets of plywood laying in the street. Once my partner signaled he was ready to go, we picked the sheet up, I took my first steps forward and WOOOSH! The next thing I remember, I was laying on my back in cold mud roughly 15 feet down a manhole with a blurry view of my friends’ heads peering down at me from above. At this point, I heard one of the guys say, “He’s dead, let’s get out of here!”, to which one of my more level headed compadre’s replied as he began lowering himself down the hole, “He’s not dead you idiot, help me get him outta here”. I have no recollection of getting home, or how I got to the hospital, but after a few days of shaking off the concussion I received from hitting my head on the back of the iron manhole, not to mention biting the shit out of my tongue as my chin hit the plywood on the way down, I was extremely relieved to find out that the guys had completed the mission that evening despite my mishap. The resulting ramp was more magnificent than the last and we had a lot of fun shredding it. It’s this ramp that we all caught our first air on (a maneuver in which the skater and skateboard leave the ramp and turn around in mid air). It was also the first ramp to attract a steady stream of spectators, some of which were of the female persuasion, and a big hit for the tailgating crowd at the opening Army football game that season as well.

One day during that same fall, my brother and I came home from school and was informed by our mother, who bore this look on her face as if someone had died, that our ramp had been hauled to the dump and burned by the Military Police. Apparently, some desk Sergeant, without consulting with his commander, had taken this action base on a single complaint from some nanny officer’s wife who rang the station up the prior day to complain about hooligans hanging around her house skateboarding and terrorizing HER neighborhood. The Post Provost Marshall who had been out of town at the time found out about this serious(?) error in judgment by one of his men and in fear of the potential major retribution campaign he assumed would follow shortly as a result of this mistake(?) wanted to call my folks and offer a plan to smooth it over (imagine THEM being afraid of US, it just doesn’t get any better than this!). Before my brother and I could utter a single word, she told us that the Provost Marshall had directed the Army Corp of Engineers to build us a replacement ramp ASAP and put it right back where the original was. Here I thought we were about to face the music for stealing lumber, and now I’m hearing this story of contrition from our arch nemesis, AND we’re going to get a new ramp built out of it!

An awesome ramp it was too. We all took the ride with the newly completed ramp on the back of a flatbed truck upon it’s completion from the carpenters shop located down on the banks of the mighty Hudson River. As the tractor trailer made it’s way through the housing area, I was hoping in all my glee that the harpy who had called in that original complaint was looking out her window as we drove by. The Army Corp guys dropped our ramp on the spot we designated and left us with the instructions that the monstrosity had to be painted (green of course), but other than the skate punk spray paint graffiti we applied, the green paint they left for us got tossed in the woods. We were quite the popular attraction that football season and we drank up all the attention thrown our way, not to mention the free beers compliments of the most impressed tailgaters.

The winter that followed, boredom, and some asshole who drove his car onto it spelled the death of that ramp and we were again left with no vertical surface to skate. During the snowy months though, our collective and insatiable need for vertical drove an attempt at an off season solution. Again, we “procured” lumber in the usual manner and build a small half pipe in our empty garage up by the chapel. Much to our dismay, it was a disappointing and failed project on many levels. The garage was WAY too cold to skate in during the winter, it was insufficiently lit, and it never dried out enough to skate not even once.

When the spring finally arrived, we decided to pull the halfpipe out of the garage and move it parallel to the side of our house. This took some serious effort since it was built beyond the size of the garage opening, but we managed to make it happen nonetheless. It was a very tight ½ pipe, perhaps 13’ in diameter. For those familiar, you know this is a very hard pipe to skate, certainly difficult to learn the basics on. Didn’t matter, it took no time to get good at it and we were again impressing passersby with our acrobatics, this time church attendees coming and going to mass and no serious objections from my parents or the priests from the church for that matter. I guess my folks were happy to have us within sight, although all the extra curricular activities were still going on as usual. They even somehow managed to ignore the constant whooshing sound of the ramp and the blaring rock and roll music that was a constant backdrop. They didn’t ask my friends to stop while we ate dinner even after John Rogers skateboard came crashing through the window as we ate one time. We cut our teeth on that little halfpipe and it took us to a new level of skating. Yet, it’s meager diameter was extremely limiting. We had to now set our sights on something major, something more like what the guys in Skateboarder Magazine were skating. This would be the projects of all projects. It would require material thievery on a scale not previously imagined. Some thought it was almost too big. We also knew that the halfpipe we wanted to build would not be one that West Point was going to just let us plop down anywhere without a battle. We spent a lot of our smoking time talking about possible locations and material pilfering plans. What and where was it going to be? I don’t know if it was attempt to coop us, or simply legitimize our plight, but our parents began simultaneously coaxing us to petition West Point’s Youth Activities Division to provide us with a facility to skate. You have to understand that skateboarding was all but illegal by now after many regular trips to the Military Police station by all of us. Our parents put together some kind of informal proposal and submitted it to the powers that be on our behalf. The “powers” couldn’t bring themselves to reward us hooligans for all of our misdeeds, nor did they want to endorse or otherwise spend money on such a non-cadet type activity, but they did concede to allowing us to build a ½ pipe ramp using our own funds adjacent to a playground located in one of the more popular housing areas.

That’s all we wanted and needed. We took a chance and broke with all our previous outlaw conventions and determined that with a contribution of just $20 a piece from each of us, we could build a 10’ tall, full 20’ in diameter state of the art halfpipe. Once the funds were collected my wonderfully understanding, if not a bit naïve, mother drove our family station wagon piled with a bunch of longhaired miscreants up to Newburgh’s Myron’s Lumber and we loaded that thing up until the leaf springs sagged so low we almost didn’t make it back over the mountain (Thanks Mom, after that token deed all my friends thought you were cool. At least cooler than their moms). We put together the project over the course of a week and the result was a sight to see.

It was conveniently located close to the perimeter woods which were more than sufficient to camouflage our extra curricular activities, but visible enough to attract a goodly amount of spectators. At first, the “civilians” were afraid to come close to take a look. This was due to our well established and notorious reputations, but in time it was normal to see a handful of parents and kids standing around watching us skate this ramp with our Aerosmith and Ted Nugent blaring from boom boxes. This halfpipe was constructed in the spring, so we had unfettered use of it all summer. MANY girls came to hang with us here and for a longtime it was THE place to be. This also happens to be the ramp featured in the background of my blogger profile.

Alas, like most all good things, they don’t last and we all grow up. I can’t tell you when I stopped skating that ramp or when I stopped skateboarding period. Thinking back on it, I’d say a change of focus to music (I started singing in a band), fellow skate friends moving away, too much partying, girls, or a combination of all of them put skating further and further down my priority list as time wore on. I can say with absolute certainty that there is no way anyone had more fun than I did when I was an out of control teenager and have the residual scars and guilt to prove it. West Point, in its own hyper conservative and strangely paternalistic way, was a perfect place to grow up despite the oil and vinegar existence we lived as outlaw skateboarders amongst the pinnacle of institutional military indoctrination. There had been nobody like us before we all arrived with our families back in the summer of 1977, and I’d say without a doubt in my mind that there’s been nobody like us there since. All someone has to do is mention skateboarding and ramps and a smile will instantly appear across my face.

The Other "Tony Alva"

UPDATE: I completely forgot that Mike Blackburn, an OG Skateboard Gang member, had given me a copy of a local newspaper that printed a picture of us. This photographer came up and took pictures of us shredding the hell out of the Chapel 1/4 pipe for the enite day. I remember going down to the publishing office and looking at a hundred photos from the shoot. The guy got some great shots as a result of his efforts. I seem to remember him being concerned about the fact that we weren't wearing any safety gear and that his editor may not let him use some of the cooler shots as a result. We were deflated when they went to press with this lame photo:

Also, by request, here's a link to the Flickr page with the above photos along with attributes. Please forward to me any corrections that I need to make.

The Truth Between Cats and Dogs...

What does one do after graduating from the United States Naval Academy? See the answer here.

"Manny", Heh.

Now, if we can just figure out how to beat these guys in football all will be right with the world...

Sorry the posts have been light. Lot's going on in life and work. I've also been working on a lengthy piece that Jackson and a commenter on his blog inspired. I'm sure it'll bore most of you to death, but I'm having fun writing it. Wow, I'll bet Mrs. Pullium, my high school english teacher, just mysteriously got the same look on her face that Scatman Cruthers' Dick Hallorann character had when Danny was "shining" his horrible visions to him from the Overlook Hotel.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Respecting The Darvocets...

The family attended the Taiwanese Hemp Farmer’s thirty something birthday party cookout this weekend over at his place and fun was had by all. I always think back to when I was Katie’s age when my folks would attend these functions with all five of us in tow and how much fun it was to hang out with a ton of other kids relatively unsupervised while our parents, never too far away, drank beer and talked about adult things. This meant we got to stay up way past our bed time. In the immortal words of Hue B. Mooksuki and Whitney Houston, “Oh hells yeah!”

During the latter part of the evening, the discussion drifted towards a favorite topic mashed out regularly on my blog and blogroll fairly frequently: the ethics of downloading and digital music. This ended up being an inspiring, if not spirited two front debate, certainly one worth having in my mind. I’ve noticed the last couple of get togethers, a couple of the fellows I golf and pal around with have been bating me on the subject by bragging about their music thievery. When the subject came up Saturday evening, it was time to talk about it.

The discussion started with perhaps the single worst justification I have ever heard for illegally downloading music: ”I’ve been buying albums and CD’s for years that only have one good song on them and the music industry owes me. I’ll download until I feel fully compensated…”, or something to this effect. The reparations excuse. There were many other equally sorry excuses that we’re all familiar with also but that one was a new one in my book. A couple of things are worthy of note before we dive in: First, with the exception of the owner of the above excuse(s), I was greatly relieved to discover that most everybody else agreed that pier to pier downloading of music without paying for it was wrong and they don’t do it personally, and neither do they allow their kids to do it. The other thing would not surprise anyone, and that is that those who freely admit to stealing music can very much afford to either pay for individual downloads or subscribe to Rhapsody, Yahoo Music, etc… and have access to virtually limitless catalogs of music for a paltry $12.00 per month. There’s really not much more I, or anybody else can add that hasn’t been discussed already on this blog and many others other than to say that I’d rather not hear about anyone’s escapades related to their music thievery and by now you know what my position is on the subject and how serious of a thing it is for me. If you have something to add to the discussion I’m cool with it and would love to talk, but excuses will fall on deaf ears.

The other front of the discussion I had was much more promising and educational. Hemp Farmer’s wife had many questions and posits that in retrospect revealed for me what many folks find mysterious and confounding about the musicians side of this debate.

I started by running down the position from the artists perspective by paraphrasing and quoting my esteemed colleague and friend Chrispy who I think stated it best in his previous comments on the subject (reprinted with his tacit permission):

"Flea's (read: artists) essential point was that he wants you to hear the music the way it was intended. This is completely legitimate, and I'm tired of people forgetting that, for the vast majority of musicians (and recording engineers) this career is not about money. It's about creating. Unfortunately, a lot of people have no understanding of this because they aren't creative, they are pure consumers. Now they can add nothing and take everything."

And this:

"Consumers are so caught up in having it "their way" that they've forgotten that they have no "right" to this music and no "right" to receive it the way they want. Until not long ago, the only music you could hear was performed live. If you couldn't play or go see someone play, tough. We've become so spoiled, so lazy, so quickly, that we forget that, for some of us, music (and sound) are sacred. It's not just another commodity or way to get rich. It's of an importance far deeper than someone like Bob can comprehend."

While counted amongst those who steadfastly reject stealing music off the internet, Hemp Farmer’s wife was miffed and remained unconvinced of the sincerity of recording artists and musicians seemingly anti capitalist position as did others participating in the discussion.

I used The Darvocets as a prime example of artists who exercise their right to control the method in which their music is listened to. For those unfamiliar with The Davocets, they recorded and pressed only vinyl copies of their latest release “Authentic Music From Another Planet". They could have easily pressed many more copies of this album to CD and thus perhaps made significantly more money than a vinyl only run. “But that’s silly, don’t they want more people to hear their music and buy their art?” A good question. The answer is yes, they would like people to hear their music, but what they want more is for people to listen to it the way in which THEY intended and are more than willing to forego the additional revenue they'd otherwise receive using a different medium. “That’s nuts!” was the reply I got, “it’s always about money…”.

Like Chrispy states, she cannot grasp that it’s not about the money for most in the business of music. If it was, nobody would be doing it since less than a sliver playing music for a living actually make anything close to “Rock Star” bucks. It was on this point that while replaying the discussion in my mind later that night and the next day it dawned on me why Hemp Farmer’s wife and many others can’t grasp the pain artists and musicians feel on this subject: Most folks, casual listeners of music, don’t KNOW or otherwise hangout with any musicians/artists and this is certainly the case here. Most in our little group are tech professionals, graduates of tech schools, and/or work in finance, law etc… They’re musical tastes are fairly mainstream and their listening habits are best described as casual. They’re exposure to the creative population of the world has been somewhat limited. I think this is why many have little grasp of how deeply devoted most artists are to their work. I remain convinced that if they got to know more artists, they’d understand better that the world of music goes far beyond the pimps, hoes, and posers of the pop music world who create music for the sole purpose of making money. With the exception of one other guy, I am the only “musician” in the bunch (a bad one at that) and we rarely talk about music when in company with this group of friends.

Perhaps an analogy would help make it clearer for them. Most in our group would have mad props and respect for a guy who, instead of going on to a civilian life and career, chose to play 20 years of minor league baseball knowing that he’d have zero chance of making it to the big show. Simply put, someone who is playing the game for his love of it. There are many ball players doing just that and they certainly get my utmost respect not to mention the countless thousands of kids not on scholarship playing sports at colleges not contending for national championships and TV exposure.

For as many in the pop music industry who make compromises to sell more copies of their records, there are legions of musicians and artists who would rather die than do that. Mike Doughty mentions how embarrassed and stupid Yani Lane of Warrant feels about his career in a recent post. Mike points out in VH1’s documentary “Heavy” to a snipet where Yani’s “talking about how he wrote "Cherry Pie" in one night, because his record company demanded a single; he hates it, spoke bitterly of promotional pie-eating contests and how the wretched tune would be his legacy, and actually wept on camera.” Yani made a poor career decision that he gets little sympathy from anyone on. However, on another level I can completely understand his emotional outburst at having compromised himself so much as a musician/artist and with that I genuinely feel bad for him.

Most make music for themselves and the pure pleasure of doing it. They would welcome the idea of their art taking off and making them a fortune and most can also grasp the fact that more than likely it won’t. Still, they dedicate their lives to it regardless of the life long financial challenges this reality presents. Most would just be satisfied to simply make a living of it and not have to work a day job.

There is nothing at all wrong with being a casual listener or fan of pop music. At the same time, I think it’s important to respect the artists right to own their art. At a minimum, respect them enough not to steal it, but also to respect their right to expose you to it (or not) in the way that they determine even if it’s to their financial detriment. Also understand that artists in turn respect the consumer’s right to not buy their art.

Ultimately, I’m glad we had the discussion Saturday night and hope nobody was put off by it in anyway. It was not an attempt to seize higher moral ground on my part. While I don’t make my living playing or recording music, it is nevertheless a HUGE part of who I am. For nothing else, a bunch of people now know what I’m most passionate about (other than my wife and my kid). There are many other aspiring artists and artist wannabe’s like me out there. Take the time to get to know them. You’ll be glad you did. If you do, I am certain you will discover a commitment, dedication, and passion you have never seen before, and you’ll find them just as worthy of respect as the guy slogging out a career in minor league ball for nothing other than the love of the game.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Music Business 101 Vol. II...

Another in the series by Peter Case over at his blog. This one focuses on his second solo record and my personal favorite "The Man With The Blue, Post-Modern, Fragmented, Neo Traditionalist Guitar", or commonly refered to by us P.C. fans as the much easier to utter, "Blue Guitar" record. The Plimsouls were a Geffen act and Pete's first two solo efforts ended up there by virtue of owing them two more on that contract. In this installment, Pete struggles to deal with the big time mogul run label while being an intimate and introspective artist, the classic clash of good and evil some would say. "Blue Guitar" was produced by T-Bone as was Pete's first solo record (his self titled first album alternates as my favorite of all time).

I would actually show up to a protest march demanding dickweed David Geffen give Pete back the first two records, that's how much I love these albums. To have them out of print is simply fucking criminal.

Pete seems to be an ultra guenuine guy and blogging suits him very well.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Operation 19th Hole: Mission Accomplished!!!

On the great news of yesterday I'm happy to report a VERY successful call to arms with Operation 19th Hole. We collected well over 300 assorted golf clubs, many bags, and countless balls. The generosity far exceeded any of my expectations!

Topping the list of thanks is Paul Tomasulo and Jeff Mullin at Edwin Watts Golf’s Pleasant Hill Road store. I asked Paul if there was anything he could do for the cause and their response was simply overwhelming. I barely had room in the jeep for everything they donated. They didn’t just load me up with a bunch of junk, most of the clubs were brand new. Thanks again guys, the troops will genuinely appreciate it.

Matthew Montgomery at Northwood Country Club is another who stepped up in a big way. Matthew happened to see my flier laying on the counter in the pro shop and having a buddy who just returned from the Middle East, he wanted to do his part. He asked the course manager if they could purge their enormous collection of demo clubs for the cause and, again the jeep was filled to the top.

Eagle Air Freight donated the shipment and Golfsmith, Yoda Jacket, my Dad, and many others need to be thanked as well. A special thanks to my employee, Sgt. (ret.) Angelo Harris, for his help unloading and packing this stuff for me this morning.

There is more to come that’s for sure. I will continue to solicit donations for this cause and would like to plan another create worth of gear for later this summer. If you have any gear you’re willing to part with please let me know. I’d be glad to come pick it up.

All Praise To Allah!!!

What TERRIFIC news!!! There may be a lot more to do to secure the nation of Iraq, but today the job just got easier. Congratulations to our troops and the Iraqi security forces on this significant kill. Got a couple of his fellow henchmen as an added bonus!!!

FYI... A must read for anyone interested in getting an accurate assessment of the Iraqi theater.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Jerry Ghinelli and Total Media...

A couple of years ago when I first purchased my Tascam MS-16 sixteen track analog tape machine, I hit the internet in search for a source of one inch analog tape. Today, this is WAY harder than it was back then since Quantegy, the country’s last manufacturer of analog tape, went out of business two years ago. I can’t remember how I came across Total Media, but I am damn glad I did. If I hadn’t, I would have missed owner Gerry Ghinelli’s most excellent technology and media history lessons that accompanied his opt in e-mail marketing campaign. I have forwarded more than a few of these to many of you out there and hope you took the time to read them and enjoyed them as much as I did.

Gerry’s essays were always thought provoking and well researched. Gerry worked for Maxell during a period of unique prosperity and changing technology. His observations, perspectives, and experiences are not just ones from someone who worked on the inside, but from someone who genuinely loves and appreciates technology and audio production. I’m sure the initial motive for writing them was for the purpose of selling media to customers, but if you read any of the brilliantly written essays, you will quickly determine like I have that they were really written for the pure love of talking about and sharing experiences with like minded fanatics of all things audio. After reading them these last couple of years, I could definitely imagine Gerry hanging out at Smoke & Mirrors in the wee hours after the sessions over, when the playbacks get spun without interference of production tweaking and we all talk of our shared obsession as we drink the last couple of beers and eat the last of the Israeli pickles. We all know we’re complete freaks of nature in this respect, but there’s no escaping our addiction to it.

It’s with this and with heavy heart that I read in his latest post this morning that this will be his last e-mail in the campaign. Perhaps the money invested in this marketing approach didn’t produce the ROI that he was expecting for his business, but I’ll surely miss saving his e-mail to read when I could savor it at a later time.

If you get a chance, go over and check out the "Tips & Trivia" archives here. While you're there, check out his products and prices. This guy will ALWAYS go the extra mile for you. If you don’t learn something after reading just one of his posts, well, you’re simply dumb.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Capitalist Sins: "It's Just Doing Business..."

I haven’t been to Jeff Jarvis’s Buzz Machine in a while so when I popped over to do a little catch up, I caught his post referencing one of Fred’s at A VC that I either missed or had bounce off my thick skull. The discussion is another one of Fred’s most excellent business ethics and morality plays that he’ll address every once in a while that I enjoy reading.

You can get the detailed run down of the issue over at BuzzMachine and A VC, but the gist of the discussion surrounds the ethics of Yahoo! bowing to Chinese censorship nannies in order to launch access there. A Yahoo executive was asked at a conference whether his company would have chosen to do business with Hitler and Germany during pre-war times. Fred says he should have pulled a P. Diddy and shut the studio down and gone home. Jeff says he damn well better have had to answer the question (perhaps asking the question without evoking Hitler’s name would have been a more cordial way of discussing the topic I think).

My response is as follows:

Both David G. and Jarvis are right. Jeff's position cannot be denied. Semel needs to, and should feel obligated to answer the question. Why? Because their product is communication and information, not farm equipment. Their product's use, if used in it's American fitness for purpose could land a Chinese citizen in jail. I think sweeping China's civil rights atrocities under the rug of capitalism is wrong (yes, jailing someone for looking something up on the internet is an atrocity).

I think David G., Derek, etc... provide good responses to the question, but here's the hypocrisy catch. Haliburton/Brown & Root have shareholders too. I really fail to understand the heaps of shit slung their way from liberal capitalists. Is there a CEO reading this blog that wouldn’t take a call from the Whitehouse for lucrative work? Just asking.

In the end, giving the Chinese a sip from the cup of freely shared information will do more to inspire Chinese dissidents to demand more freedoms than putting a sanction in place as David G. accurately states. We’ve got third graders here in America hacking into the most secure networks of the world. I can only imagine that once the Chinese have Google and Yahoo!, they’ll find away to get access to uncensored information and are probably doing it right now.

There are some very thought provoking comments (mine excluded) from folks all over the world on Fred’s and Jeff's blog so give it a click and weigh in if you feel up to it.

P.S. I love how one guy equates the Chinese ability to download pirated movies and music without paying for it as "China being more liberal than the U.S." Another thief makes excuses...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Song Lists, Mother's in Law, and Vinyl...

Ol' Pete Townshend actually responded to Tom Watson's blog post regarding "We Won't Get Fooled Again" being named #1 amongst the NR's top 50 conservative songs of all time. Tom is a fellow fan of all things that rock, but I kinda get the feeling that he dances around Pete's support of the Iraq invasion which is out of character for him, but what the hell, freakin' Pete Townshend responded to his blog post and that's way cool! Fred at A VC Thinks so too.

This weekend, I decided to move my turntable out of the studio and hooked it up to the stereo in the downstairs family/studio live room. With that, Mrs. Alva and I pulled out ALL our vinyl and alphabetized it. Turns out that between the two of us, we've got a pretty large collection! My brother took quite a few of the decent LP's that I went searching for when him and I went our separate ways for college, but many gems remain. It was funny to discover how many records I have that were borrowed and never returned (Fred et al, a lesson in historical music sharing). I'm sure quite a few of mine are in others collections. Jackson, you might want to flip through them and see if I owe you any.

Friday night was supposed to be a Dad's night out and we all headed down for the GT vs. somebody else baseball game. Unfortunately, it decided to rain and I reluctantly went along with the gang over to the Pink Pony where the 2006 Miss Nude Contest was going on this weekend. It's been a long time since I've been in one of these establishments (sans my recent trip to the Clermont Lounge with an unnamed out of town guest, but that's an entirely different type of establishment altogether). Bottom line: not a lot has changed. Funniest moment: Opening up the program and discovering a contestant named Claudia Monet (sorry, no photo).

My mom in law arrived this weekend too. It's great to see her and I'm always reminded of how lucky I am to have in laws that I love. She's here to attend Katie's big ballet recital debut this evening. Katie's mother is frantic and I'm doing my best to keep everybody from vexing their anticipation on Katie and get her all nervous. It's going to be a riot. I'm sure to be blubbering like the proud papa I am. I'll have pictures and you all will have to endure a post about it in the next couple of days.

Plimsouls are playing Smith's Olde Bar here in Atlanta Sunday June 18th. Anybody want to go with me?

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Great Dying: As If We Don't Have Enough To Worry About...

I never grew out of my fascination with dinosaurs, and my liberal arts education reignited this love after taking a couple of related electives thus bestowing upon me the esteemed degree of Doctorate of arm chair physics, astronomy, & cosmology, Which means that I studied all the observations, but avoided learning any of the math associated with it, and I mean NONE of the math. I have infected my daughter with this bug as well, and she has a couple of books about our solar system and Earth’s development she absolutely loves. She regularly asks me to tell her the story of our planet’s creation. It sounds something like this: “Daddy, first dust and rocks circled the sun, right...? And then the volcanos came, right...? And then the asteroid slammed into the earth and tore off the moon, right…? And then another comet killed all the dinosaurs right...? And then monkeys turned into people right...?” She’s so smart!

In the last two decades or so, the conventional wisdom surrounding the demise of the dinosaurs has undergone a serious paradigm shift which has asteroid/comet impact leaded the race as cause for the mass extinction 65 million yers ago. Given the evidence, and on Akum’s principle alone, this seems to be a pretty good bet to me.

But the dino kill off was not the first by any stretch. The largest kill off happened 250 million years ago and is commonly referred to as the "Great Dying" (how this didn’t become the title of a Heavy Metal song I’ll never know). Something happened 250 million years ago, that started the demise of 90% of all life on our big blue marble here, 90%!!! Al Gore has his thoughts on this, and many theories have been proffered, but it looks like that pesky asteroid/comet thing is responsible for it too.

The universe and our solar system were different places back then than they are now. Things have settled down in the astronomical sense, but I’ll bet back then Fred and Barney saw a lot of strange shit flying across the sky on a regular basis. I’m glad I wasn’t born then.