What we can learn from Lt. Dan Choi

Lt. Dan Choi

Scouring the internet for stories, I came across the story of Lt. Dan Choi, a Westpoint graduate and Iraq veteran with expertise in the Arabic. In the following video, Choi details how he became an unlikely activist against the “Don’t ask, Dont tell” policy of the military. Choi comes across as a mixture of simpleton and genius. He describes how at 27 he had his first experience of “love” and his desire to tell everyone he knew, but how the “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy required him to change the name of his lover from masculine to feminine. Eventually, things came to a head, and he had no choice but to tell the truth to friends and loved ones. With this simple act, he was now an activist and dissenter, a role which he embraces as naturally and unthinkingly as he embraced the love that he found. To us common folk, the story is one of courage.

Country Music is Evolving into Hip Hop: Four Case Studies

Tyler Hubbard (left) and Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line

This year will be considered a turning point in this history of music. It will be seen as the year in which country music evolved to the point in which it was indistinguishable from hip hop. Of course, there have been precursors in the past, in which the influence of hip hop upon country was displayed by country artists. (See, for example, Trace Atkins’ 2009 “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” imitating the message of Sir Mix-a-lot’s already well known “Baby Got Back.”) There have also been–often cringeworthy–attempts at collaboration, such as Brad Paisley feat. LL Cool J’s “Accidental Racist.” But this year has brought a sea change, a “profound and notable transformation,” in which country artists are no longer merely “influenced” by hip hop music, but shamelessly imitate and pander after the “urban” style. This article features four contemporary case studies.

Case 1: “Yeah” by Joe Nichols
According to Bob Kingsley’s Country Top 40 website, this song is currently number one on the country charts. Notice the backward hat and the semi-erect cordless microphone at the beginning of the video.

Compare to: “Yeah” by Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris. Although the song is considered to be Usher’s, Lil Jon is the true star of this song, and should have every right to trademark the word “Yeah.”

Case 2: “The Boys Round Here” by Blake Sheldon
Notice how the black actors in the video are dressed as if it were still 1989.

Compare to: “Boyz in Da Hood” by Eazy-E.

Case 3: “Beachin” by Jake Owen
This song sparked a controversy on youtube about whether it should be considered a country song, at all, or should be classified as something else. The only thing that seems to distinguish it from contemporary hip hop: the (lack of) quality and technicality vis-a-vis lyrical skill.

Compare to: This video of a cat on a Roomba.

Case 4: “This is How We Roll” by Florida Georgia Line
This video is clearly the pièce de résistance. Notice the agressive hand gesturing while the country artists are “not rapping.” Pay attention to the near crotch grab at 0:35. Hubbard is almost teasing us with it, but he realizes on some level that if he were to go through with it, he would be crossing a line that should not be crossed. Instead, his hand rests limply beside his crotch. It is clearly not a crotch grab, but it is suggestive of one. The placement of his hand seems to say: “if the cameras weren’t here, I would grab my crotch.”

Compare to: “Picture me Rollin” by Tupac Shakur.

March Madness History and Preview: Gonzaga vs. Arizona in the Round of 32

mark few

Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few

We are all familiar with the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight, the Final Four, but there’s no nickname for the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament. Considering what these players and teams have accomplished, there really should be. The perplexity is made worse considering that the round of 32 is technically the third round, with the first round consisting of the two play-in games. Because of that, there is ambiguity when speaking about the tournament. When you talk about the second round, are you talking about the round of 32 or the round of 64? I was discussing this conundrum years ago with a friend who I will call  Brian (because that’s his name), and he came up with it: the Thirsty Thirty-Two.

In this article, I will give a recap of a historical game Gonzaga played against Arizona in the round of the Thirsty in 2003. Following that, I will give a preview of the upcoming Gonzaga vs. Arizona game. Continue reading

Six free things you can do to improve the world and feel more connected

almond1) Almond Milk

I’ll start with an easy one. If you’ve never had almond milk, you should try it just for the hell of it. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Unlike soy milk, which tastes like milk with cardboard, almond milk is actually good. Switching to almond milk is good for you because, despite a very strong milk lobby, drinking cow’s milk is actually bad for you. The main argument made by milk propagandists is that it provides your body with calcium. What actually happens when you drink cow’s milk is that your body goes into acidosis in response to the milk. When this occurs, your body attempts to even out your pH by draining calcium from your bones. Hence, the countries that drink the most milk have the most cases of osteoporosis and hip fractures. Drinking almond milk is good for the environment for the simple reason that there is no cow involved.

We don’t need to expend energy growing plants to feed the cow to drink its milk. When accumulated, the loss of energy in terms of fossil fuels is huge, and so is the environmental impact. Instead, we grow the almonds and drink the milk.

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Emily Mendell’s Devastatingly Beautiful Article on Being 45

hands

Last night, stricken by a case of insomnia, I came across an article that I would have to say is the best I have read so far this year. The article was in the Huffington Post: Emily Mendell’s “This is 45: The Eye of Life’s Storm.” It is hard to say why it is so good, but it is clear that other people are able to recognize its quality, as well. The post, which is simply a 45 year old woman’s take on what it means to be 45, had been up for one day and had garnered over 11,000 likes, 400 comments, and 1,300 shares. Continue reading

Is it ever OK to pay someone $1 an hour?

factory-workers

In a recent New York Times column, Princeton economics professor Uwe E. Reinhardt bucks generally accepted market theory to argue against the all-volunteer army in the U.S.

The argument he addresses goes like this: Spreading military service across all societal strata (a draft) would place some of our most valuable economic assets (our brain surgeons, our bankers, our politicians) in harm’s way while denying those who could most benefit from a military paycheck (our poor, our patriots) from receiving this pathway to economic mobility. Continue reading