Moyers speaks with Leo Gerard

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13, 2009 by amson

In light of the economic difficulties across the nation as well as Obama’s pending inauguration, I thought the following video segment to be pertinent and powerful.  Take 25 minutes out of your day and enjoy!

Bill Moyers, one of my favorite journalists, sits down with Leo Gerard– president of the United Steelworkers (USW).  This is a very good interview, with information that I tend to agree with overall.  And to boot, Gerard comes through with one of the most powerful uses of antimetabole/ chiasmus I’ve ever heard!

those people were prepared to bail out the people who had to shower before they went to work, but didn’t give a damn about the people who had to shower after work

Gerard has a great “listenable” quality about him.  Weather it’s due to his cool Canadien accent or his patient and affable demeanor, he is pleasant to listen to and not overly confrontational or condescending.

Hopefully there isn’t too much to chew on here- I know it’s a lot of video watching.

Take care and Peace

AM Son

(the obligatory) Best Of ’08

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 7, 2009 by amson

It’s a little late but still apropos to the flipping of the calendar.  Here’s my “best of” list for 2008- I’ll cover my favorite music, TV, books, podcasts, movies, and games of the past year:

Best Music/ Album/ CD of 2008

For Emma, Forever Ago

For Emma, Forever Ago

This was an easy pick for me, which is unusual because I normally don’t settle on one album very easily.  The irony of this pick is that the album was released in 2007 by an independent label and then re-released in February 2008 “to the masses”.  After several listens I pretty much had decided that it would take an opus from a contender to knock this album from the spot of my favorite of 2008.

And that album is:

For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver

This unknown artist took me completely by surprise last winter.  I had heard several clips of these songs through the All Songs Considered Blog written by Bob Boilen at NPR, but until I downloaded the complete album I could have no idea how this collection of finely crafted songs could impact my musical palette.

To generalize, it’s folk music, but it’s a whole hell of a lot more than that.  There’s a haunting aspect of the songs and their feel.  There’s ephemeral moments that I wish would last forever, and at times the lyrics are sung in such a way and with such harmony with the music that I’m almost moved to tears.  No matter how many times I hear these individual moments or the disc as a whole, it never affects me any less.  Bon Iver runs the gamut of emotions here, from soaring moments of seeming exaltation to clear pain and suffering.

This is a lovely album, a powerful album, and a collection that should be heard by all!

Go see the Metacritic entry for this album.

Runners Up for Album of the Year: (in no special order)

Atmosphere- “When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold

Slug & Ant are back, with another solid hip-hop album- this one about being a father… complete with nursery chimes and electric steel slide guitars!  Yep!

John Mellencamp- “Life, Death, Love, Freedom

Mellencamp is quality.  He’s an honest, emotional, and gifted songwriter and storyteller- definitely one of the greatest rockers of all time, and this album helps that claim.

Conor Oberst- “Conor Oberst

His first album minus the “Bright Eyes” moniker.   This is a great romp- with fun singalongs, terrific melodies, and fun chorus’.

My Morning Jacket- “Evil Urges

The Peanut Butter Pudding Surprise does not work perfectly well, but it doesn’t fall on its face either.  The bearded and long haired boys are back and just as musical and energetic as ever.

Okkervil River- “The Stand Ins

A new artist to me, these literate songsmiths are adept musicians and lyricists.  Great melody, fierce satire, and rocking rock songs!

The Mountain Goats- “Heretic Pride

Another more-than-solid effort from John Darnielle (& Co.) that returns the subtle lyricism and gentle guitars that have made them (him) so good for so long!

Best TV Series of the Year (not necessarily aired in 2008, but I watched it in 2008)

The Wire

The Wire

The Wire (HBO)

This show has left a mark upon me.  It’s tainted how I perceive every other television show I watch- quite frankly, nothing else compares.  It’s sad that this show is over, because it was powerful, deep, well acted, intense, well written, inspiring, thought provoking, and so much more…

I don’t know if there’s ever been a villain TV character that has garnered as much love as Omar Little.  I don’t know how much more polarizing a guy like Jimmy McNulty could ever be- sometimes he was loved, and most of the time he was despised by all of those around him (including the audience).  Detective Lester Freamon was a likable guy, one who I think most viewers respected and rooted for.  Even supporting characters were front and center most of the time- with just as powerful and important roles as the “stars”.  I could go on and on… but with this show, “all the pieces matter”!

If you like good television, watch this show!!  I’m not a fan of crime dramas and I don’t watch much actual TV, but this show hooked me from the start.  So sad that it has to be over…

Runners Up for Best TV Series of the year (in no particular order)

Totally Rad Show– (free downoad from Revision 3 or on iTunes) It’s 3 totally rad dudes who review movies, videogames, tv, and comics.  Hilarious, intelligent, informative, and well produced!  If not for The Wire, this could very well have won the top spot- despite the fact that it’s not a “true TV show”!

Fareed Zakaria GPS– a new show on CNN (also available in podcast form) that involves host Fareed Zakaria interviewing politicians both foreign and domestic.  He includes roundtable discussions that reflect a worldly view of politics and global affairs.  I like Mr. Zakaria, he’s a tremendous scholar and more than adequate interviewer.

Firefly– can’t believe I missed this show a few years back.  It’s “sci-fi meets western”.  It’s almost perfect- with great dialogue, cool sci-fi effects and great atmosphere.  There are well done and well reasoned action scenes, great characters, and an interesting and easy to follow storyline.

Best Book of 2008

The Post American World

The Post American World

(I have a confession to make- as far as book reading went, it was a slow year for me in 2008.  I only read 3 full books.  I think I spent a lot of time paying attention and reading about the election, the economic crisis, preparing myself to say good riddance to GW, and also played more video games this fall than usual…)

The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria

By no means am I an expert on foreign relations, foreign economic policy, globalization, emerging national powers, or history.  But I will state this- Fareed Zakaria is brilliant!  In this amazing book, he lays out the foundation for what this planet will look and feel like once American domination in world affairs plateaus or recedes.  His anecdotes and explanations are surprisingly tangible, informative, interesting, and powerful.  He knows his stuff- that’s for damn sure.  And he knows how to convey this new way of thinking in a digestible manner.  I know one thing, America better get itself together or China, India, Brazil, and others are more than ready to take our place as preeminent world power. (Note: Zakaria makes this list twice, the only person/ thing that can claim such status this year!!)

Runners Up for Best Book of 2008

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

Weather you’re for or against Obama, this is a worthy and insightful look into him as a person as well as a politician.  (Read my review from late 2008)

Moyers On Democracy by Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers is one of my favorite and most respected political/ social commentators.  His book is a collection of speeches and addresses he’s given over the years- and while it is very good, it can tend to be a bit repetitive.  Very good!

Hot, Flat, & Crowded by Thomas Friedman (I haven’t read this yet, but Friedman is one of my favorite authors and columnists, so I’d be surprised if this book were to disappoint me.)

Best Podcast(s) of 2008 (No clear Winner for’08)

I listen to many  podcasts each week, and the simplest way to judge my favorites seems to be to select those which I “skip” the least.  In other words, some days I find myself not necessarily wanting to listen to a particular show.  I’ve listed those from my listening routine that I skip the least…

Slate’s Political Gabfest– Emily Bazelon, John Dickeson, and David Plotz do a terrific job of summarizing the previous weeks political news.  There’s always good insight, intelligent humor, great discussion and argument, and even lighthearted “cocktail chatter”!

NPR’s All Songs Considered– I love NPR.  Bob Boilen is a great music commentator.  They play great new music.  What more is there to like!?

Xbox Live’s Major Nelson Radio– Larry Hyrb (gamertag: Major Nelson) works for Microsoft on the Xbox Live team.  He shares weekly updates and information about Xbox games and news.  Perfect!

NPR’s It’s All Politics– Ken Rudin and Ron Elving talk about the week’s political news.  It’s humorous, short, and well informed.  Must not miss!

FORA.tv Audio Program of the Week– Fora.tv is a great sight to watch seminars, speeches, panel discussions and other educational events from such institutions as The Brookings Institution, Hoover Institution, and C-SPAN.  I’m always pleasantly surprised by what I can learn here…

On The Media– A program from radio station WNYC that offers great news and information from the world of media- such as reports on how media affects society, how it is consumed and delivered, as well as discussions of past, present, and future media relations and anecdotes.  Oh, “and edited by Brooke…”

Best Movie of 2008

(Another disclaimer: I don’t watch a lot of movies.  I didn’t watch many in 2008 that were actually released in 2008.  Because of this, I’m going to list two movies- neither was necessarily released in 2008.  Sorry.)

The Visitor

The Visitor

The Visitor– a good story about 3 strangers who live together and become friends despite the fact that 2 of them have a secret… (I’m not interested in spoiling)  It’s a story filled with emotion and uplifting feelings.

Outsourced

Outsourced

Outsourced- a story about a telephone product salesman who finds that his job has been outsourced.  He is sent to India to train his replacements and finds more than he expected in this foreign land.  I loved this movie- it seemed to be an accurate representation of the situation and India in general.  A very warm film with many appealing qualities.

Best Video Game of 2008

Fable II

Fable II

Fable II– a fun adventure/ RPG game that has you assume the role of a small boy in search of the evil that killed his sister.  Your actions matter- the way you communicate and interact with people and the world all have an affect on the way the game plays out.  In the end, to be good or to be evil isn’t the only question however…  it’s more about how to achieve your goals while balancing that good/ evil perception.  Fun, deep, and engrossing, there wasn’t another game in 2008 that engulfed me quite like Fable II.  It’s not perfect- I wish there was a more in depth communication method with fellow citizens and your family, and I wish the story didn’t feel so short.  In the end however, the positives outweigh the negatives by a long shot here.

Runners Up for Best Video Game of 2008

Call of Duty: World at War– this game could have won the award, but the story mode just wasn’t as engrossing as I would have liked.  The very strong multiplayer has kept this game in my tray for a long while now.

Little Big Planet– if I told you that in 2008 a platform game a la Mario or Zelda would make my list for best games of the year, you’d probably think I was in some sort of time warp.  Well, there’s no time warp, but yes a “platformer” made this list.  Little Big Planet is revolutionary, it’s going to change the gaming landscape in so many ways…  believe it!  And Sack Boy is so damn cute!

Grand Theft Auto IV– probably the most highly anticipated game in a long time, and it did a fairly good job of living up to the hype.  At the end of the day however, I just get sick of the stupid driving, chasing, and racing missions.  Isn’t there any other way to unfurl the story…?  You listening Rockstar?

Dead Space– a newcomer to the games lineup, this was a great surprise for many gamers in ’08.  Survival Horror isn’t quite my thing, so it loses points there, but it’s a very well executed game that tells a very compelling story.

MLB ’08: The Show– there isn’t a sports game that compares to the MLB: The Show series.  It’s got realistic simulation down almost flawlessly, and does so many things that stand out.  If it weren’t for the fact that my interest for sports games ebbs and flows with the relevant season, this game may have taken top honors.

So there ya have it- my favorites of ’08!

Let me know if you agree or disagree, or if you want to have a conversation about it all.

Thanks for reading…

Peace

AM Son

Need More Snow!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 7, 2009 by amson
My feet

My feet on some actual packed snow

Em and I went snowshoeing last Sunday for the first time in ’09, and I gotta say…

WE NEED MORE SNOW!!

Caught Em turning around!

Caught Em turning around!

It was a nice time, but there were too many bare spots and areas where twigs, leaves, and other debris were coming through the thin layer of snow.

I hear there’s a storm on its way for Saturday…  lets hope so!

Seeya

AM Son

Ever heard of a broom?!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on December 23, 2008 by amson
Snowing in the parking lot!

Snowing in the parking lot!

I’m going to vent for the next several lines/ paragraphs.

The first major winter storm of the season hit the Northeast this past weekend.  Very good news indeed as I love winter, snow, and cold weather!  Apparently this news isn’t as well received for many people all over the area…

Why do I state such a random piece of conjecture?  Driving around for merely an hour today proved that people are either lazy, ignorant, lazy, unsafe, lazy, ignorant, unsafe…  you get the point.  What I’m getting at is this:

Why don’t people completely clean the snow off of their cars/ trucks?  I don’t get it- I saw dozens of cars moving along the roadways today as I was driving to/ from work, several of which were completely cleared off and many (too many) that were only partially cleared off.

I saw some cars that had only the windshield and back window cleared, some cars with a foot of snow on the roof, some cars with only the windshield and drivers side window cleared, and yes- even some cars with only a “peep hole” carved out on the windshield.  Yes, you read all of those words correctly.  Why is it that people can’t be bothered to completely clear off their cars?

My immediate reaction was that I was seeing many older people who “can’t” get to their entire vehicle for whatever myriad of reasons.  Even if this was the case, I still can’t understand why someone who isn’t able to adequately prepare their vehicle for the driving process should even be driving- period.  Age or physical limitations is not an allowable excuse.

So my next guess was that I was seeing “young’ns” out and about on Christmas break or shopping sprees…  I figured that the “kids these days” phenomenon was taking hold of my mind and shifting my disposition to that of an old crotchety geezer.  My assumption was that young people often times don’t have the discipline, responsibility, or foresight to “do the right thing”.  Again, not that it absolves them of preparation, but it’s what I thought to myself as I navigated the drifting snow upon the roads.  But alas, this demographic was also not the preponderance of individuals on the road.

What I’m getting to (yes, my blanket stereotypes and generalizations are integral to an effective rant, full of vitriol and ridiculous assertions, haha) is that there was not one certain “type” of person out there “offending” this seemingly commonly sensible (a.k.a common sense) action.  I saw all types of people driving around in all sorts of cars of varying conditions- some more egregious than others.  I saw laborers (donned in Carhartt gear) in trucks with a spyhole for a windshield, I saw granny’s with pristinely cleared cars, I saw teenagers with flickering ice and snow flying from their rooftops, and I saw middle aged businessmen speeding down the pavement with wipers waving rapidly due to the blustering snow from their hoods.  I saw it all.

I just don’t get it.  Why can’t people be bothered?  I know it’s a huge inconvenience and tragedy to head out to the car 10 minutes before you plan to leave and laboriously clear and scrape all the snow and ice from your gas guzzling SUV or tidy and cute sports car.  It’s a demanding task, I know.  I know.

Not only is it just pure ignorance and laziness to not clear your car off, but it’s also not safe- and in some places illegal.  It takes an extra 5 or 10 minutes out of a day to properly clear your car, and it could save hassle in the long term, not to mention possibly saving an accident.  It seems like it’d be common sense to clean off the entire car before driving, but apparently that’s too much to ask of some people.

So what do I think the reasons excuses are for why people choose (yes choose) not to clear their cars?  I think the foremost excuse would be that some people are simple lazy.  They want to get in their car and go, no questions asked.  I also think that some people are simply ignorant and lacking common sense- they don’t have the proper foresight to adequately prepare themselves.  There’s also the “I couldn’t get it all” excuse- for which comes my retort of, “yes you could, you just chose not to” or, “ever hear of a broom”.  I do think it’s a choice by the driver/ operator to clear or not clear their cars, and if it becomes difficult or troublesome to get certain areas on the vehicle then one can always reach for the ubiquitous and ever present house broom!  Albeit a fairly crude method, a broom will make quick work of snow clearing…  it works- remember, form follows function!

I just don’t think there’s any legitimate answer for not having cleared off the car- period.  (I’ll temper my aggression for “pregnant wife”, “heart attack”, etc), but honestly what could be so important (maybe the new 50 Cent disc or the sweet suede boots you just got) that preparation gets ignored.  Am I wrong?

My personal feelings about winter and snow and clearing the vehicle differ from those of most people.  I enjoy winter and all that comes with it, provided that I’m prepared.  Clearing off my truck is oftentimes fun and rewarding because I get to experience winter with my own hands- breathing the crisp clean air and feeling the cold on my face and the crunch of snow under my feet.  I’ll admit it, I enjoy winter, and I enjoy clearing my truck.  But most of all, I like being prepared.  I can’t quite understand why I value preparation more than many other people do.

End rant.

Disclaimer:

Assuredly I came off pompous and condescending in the above rant.  My apologies if I purport to be perfect and omniscient.  I am not.  I only wish to point out that which irks me, that is all.

I also do not use the terms “your” and “you” as direct accusations, but merely as an indirect object of a verb.  Or as some may say, pointing the finger away from myself.  Haha.


Peace

AM Son

Book Review: “The Audacity of Hope”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 6, 2008 by amson

At times I had to remind myself that this was Obama’s book and these were Obama’s words, and not the thoughts and words from an historian or philosopher. Or maybe Obama should just be added to the list of such people…

I don’t think it’s difficult- after reading this excellent book- to realize Obama’s capacity to be visionary, pragmatic, bi-partisan, bold, and forthright in his assessment and action on a whole host of important issues facing our country (and the world for that matter). I surely don’t doubt his love and passion for our great country.

I approached this book in the summer of 2008 with calculated caution- I was an Obama supporter, but wanted to put his thoughts and politics through their paces- so that I may discover not only his true stance on the country’s direction, but also probe my own thoughts and premonitions on just how I felt about him as I headed into the voting booth. He seemed to be treading closer and closer twards the “no mans land” of politics- which is to say that as the election loomed closer he would steer his rhetoric and statements back towards the safer and less argumentative middle ground. I felt as though this was hurting his chance of being elected, and more specifically hurting the chances that I would vote for the man. So, I started the book in early August with the guarded intention to cast my ballot in Obama’s direction… but with the intention to make his book the final decisive factor in the process.

I took several weeks around the election off from reading the book; on one had I didn’t want my visceral reaction from what I was reading to influence my vote- seeing as this book was written a few years prior to current days- and on the other hand I was sort of experiencing Obama/ political burnout. I needed a break, and also wanted the natural and exciting flow of the approaching election to help influence my decision. In short, I wanted to measure what I had read from Obama against what I was hearing, seeing, and feeling from his final campaign push.

I’ll relent and guard against retelling my election story…

Talk is cheap, even for someone as stable and well spoken as Obama. That is why I had my skepticism about his words at times. It seems though, that he’s provided enough sound insight and examples- both private and public- to make the case more and more that he “gets it”. I like his tone, and his ability to seemingly reach across any divide to offer help or to act with empathy.

The fact that Obama is a former Constitutional law professor makes me feel confident that he not only understands the laws of our nation well, but also has the presence of mind to respect those laws and constraints no matter the situation. He doesn’t seem like he’ll start bending every amendment or tacking on a signing statement to every piece of legislation like the Bush administration has made so commonplace. His discussion of the Constitution made me feel safe and secure.

“There are stories you miss, I thought to myself, when you fly on a private jet.” This quote is the last line from Chapter 5- and it perfectly represents that Obama understands the ease with which politicians can become disconnected from their constituents. But it also seemingly underscores his ability to realize that phenomenon and make the necessary adjustments to alleviate the circumstances. (read: not fly on a private jet 100% of the time.)

Overall, I’ll say this:
Obama’s world view, his appreciation for history, his understanding of right and wrong, and his seeming willingness to be questioned and always be pragmatic… are inspiring. He proved those qualities in this book. Weather it be his thoughts on local politics, foreign issues with North Korea and Iran, race issues all across the country, family ties and structure, our Constitution, or the role that faith does and should play in our politics, he’s proven to me that he has the capacity to lead in a hopeful and straightforward manner. I’m a believer now…

This was a good book- once which I highly recommend. The whole way through I felt like I was having a warm and personal conversation with Obama… perhaps a “fireside chat”!

Go read the book!

Peace

AM Son

A Few Links

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2008 by amson

Here’s a few good reads I’ve come across lately.  Although they are of opposite ends of the spectrum, I think they’re both very well written and do a great job at conveying a soild idea.

Confessions of a 52 Year Old Gamer

– here’s an extremely compelling account of a 52 year old guy’s passion for video games.  I feel very similarly, and presume that when I’m 52 I will have much of the same view.

Serious People

– a great argument for why Obama’s starting out on the right foot in his cabinet and advisor selections.  Too many people are quickly and ignorantly harping on him for some of the selections.  Well, this article explains the objective reasons for some of Obama’s picks.

I’ll be back with more later.

Peace

AM Son

President-Elect

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 5, 2008 by amson

Congratulations to Barack Obama, who yesterday was elected to be the 44th President of the United States of America!

Lets put aside politics and partisanship for a moment… and regardless of political party or doctrine, there’s got to be a sense of immense satisfaction in every American citizen today.  Without hesitation, I can say it’s an historic day in America.  We should all stand tall and proud, because history will forever show that it was on November 4th, 2008 an African American was elected to the highest office of our great nation… and to be frank, this man will lift our nation from that of world power to that of preeminence!

Congratulations Sir, your campaign and this event have moved me to the purest of joy and pride!

Thank you, and best of luck Mr. Obama.

Peace

AM Son