Friday, March 12, 2010

Ray Charles: Generations Blindness to One Man's Insults

If life was like a game of Family Feud and Ray Charles was the topic the answers would likely look like this. 2) Piano 3) Sunglasses 4) Jamie Foxx Bio-Pic 5) Musical pioneer. Number one would likely be cute little old blind man, unless of course everyone in the survey pool was like me, than survey would likely say “antagonizer”. For those of you who have seen the movie Ray, this likely isn’t all that far-fetched as you already knew of Ray’s checkered past such as his Heroin addiction. But for the benefit of those who still view Ray as an innocent old man allow me to explain.

As much as Ray is known for his “banging and swaying” style on the piano today, early on in his career he was known for something entirely different; disrespecting the Church. When I first learned of this shocking de velopment it made sense, perhaps Ray was bitter and saw this as an attack on God for leaving him blind. However I was wrong, as Ray was not born blind but, was rather blinded because of an eye infection from contaminated water that was left untreated. So it is unlikely that Ray had any qualms with God. No, Ray simply loved pushing the envelope.

Ray , unlike modern day trouble makers, who merely spew out offensive SoundBits in order to gain free publicity. Ray was talented and his talent gained him all the attention he wanted, he caused controversy, because he legitimately enjoyed doing so. Even more impressive, Charles didn’t have to just say offensive things, he actually worked them into the structure of his music, thus killing two birds with one stone.
Example 1) “This Little Girl of Mine”: In this piece Ray strips the famous gospel hymn “This Little Light of Mine”. Normally this song tells a story of one who finds faith in God and decides to share this new found faith with the world. Doing so by shining the light of God on them in hopes they too will see the light. Ray however makes it a tale of a man whose found a woman who “loves him even when he’s bad”, calls him up late at night for dates (booty calls) and stops traffic with her scantily clad body.

Example 2) “What’d I Say Part 2”: Although this song isn’t based on any particular hymn, it is once again an example of Ray taking the gospel hymn style and secularizing it. Unlike Ray’s other songs, this song was not preplanned, but rather was born out of Ray’s need to fill the last few minutes of a live set. To do so Ray and The Raelettes improvised using the call and response method often employed by African-American churches. Except, rather than cries of “Praise Jesus” followed by howls of “hallelujah” or “amen”, there was the moans and very sexual groans of Ray and the Raelettes. This isn’t just the opinion of one eccentric write either, on the subject of this song Ray had this to say. “I'm not one to interpret my own songs, but if you can't figure out 'What I Say', then something's wrong. Either that, or you're not accustomed to the sweet sounds of love.” Fans agreed as part 2 was boycotted nationwide, while part 1 was played even on white radio stations (controversy creates cash). Eventually, this became Ray’s first album to go gold (sex sells). Lyrics starts around the 1:35, while the 2:00 features one of the first instances of an artist talking about a women shaking her ass and part 2 starts around 4:30, but feel free to listen to the whole thing, because it’s great.

3) “I’ve Got a Woman”: This song once again utilizes both the beat and lyrics of a famous gospel hymn, this time drawing from “It Must Be Jesus” and “My Jesus is All the World to Me”. The initial hymn was about how Jesus is the center of our lives and how he gives us the strength to do all things. Charles’ version however spoke of a sugar momma, who not only provided Ray with money to do nothing all day, but also provided him with “lovin’” both day and night. Furthermore, mainly will recognize the style as a model for Kayne Weste song “Gold-digger” , which ironically deals with the reverse topic. Although Kayne is often chastised as a scum-bag extraordinaire, in this instance he did the right thing and gave Ray posthumous credit for writing the song (although this may have just been at the urging of his legal team).

Honorable Mention: “Let’s Go Get Stoned”: Deals with Ray’s recent stint in rehab and the lure drugs still possess.
If I haven’t destroyed Ray’s pristine image yet, I leave you with this, according to Jerry Wexler who often worked with Ray, "We didn't know shit about making records, but we were having fun".1 Cheers to Ray and company for their complete lack of professionalism and ability to have fun at the expense of others. If only others would be willing to drop the overly PC (politically correct) attitude our society has developed and live for themselves.

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Sources: 1

New York Soda Tax Claims to Sweeten Up Life

For the past few weeks everyone in the tri-state area has heard about the impending New York City soda tax, however few if any know much about it. Surely you have heard the government claim that this is a direct assault on childhood obesity. That the low cost of soda in comparison to healthier yet more expensive 100% juice alternatives, leads the poor to be disproportionally overweight, a strong juxtaposition to the times of King Louis VI when it was the poor who wore bare bones not rich celebrities. While these claims make sense to some, to those who critically think you will see a plethora of holes in this logic. As a one time cashier at a food store I will admit that some unhealthy meals such as high fat tv diners are certainly more affordable than the more expensive meals which include requirements from all 5 food groups.

However, to say that raising the price of soda will in any tangible way decrease soda intake, is a fallacy. Personally at my local grocery store, one can acquire a 3 Liter Store Brand Soda for $1.19 while a 2 liter Pepsi will set you back $1.50 and a and an even smaller 20 oz Pepsi from the mini fridge would be $1.49 (meaning $.01 an ounce for store brand $.02 ounce for Pepsi and a whooping $.07 an ounce for a cold Pepsi). Despite this extravagant markup none of the customers I have been unfortunate enough to checkout seem to mind and continually pick the name brand over cheaper alternatives, some going as far as to but back actual necessities in order to keep the soda when the bill is too high.

To quote Larry David on a recent episode of Marriage Ref, "These people are moronic,I don't want to help them." This isn't just how I feel, it is the feeling of the government too, albeit in a more roundabout way. So why is the government getting involved if they don't really care? Some might say that the government has a deal with companies who make products such as Juicy Juice, others still might claim the government is planning some world wide beauty pageant and is preparing by getting all Americans to look their best. While certainly anything (bad) is possible when the government is involved, these outcomes are highly unlikely. What is likely however is a preemptive strike, the government preparing for a future involving a public health care option. And for the first time in a long time the government is actually seeking to be efficient and reduce costs, and is doing so by trying to create a healthier America. Less obesity means less costs for the government, a healthy and happy life for all Americans was never once contemplated. It's a shame that, that a country that once sought to purge the world of fascism, has turned to it itself.

When the Romans began down this road of government intervention in every aspect of society, they allowed people their "bread and circuses" to pacify the public. Although this was wrong it at least should some compassion and some acknowledgment that the government was overstepping their bounds, and owed the people something for doing so. America, on the other hand has been slowly stripping the average American of their individual rights since the days of FDR. But unlike the Roman's the U.S.A doesn't even have the common decency to allow us our bread (taken by this new soda tax) or our circuses (slowly dismantled by the FCC).

Always the optimist, I can see some positive in this oppressive new tax. 1) an expanded black market for soda will spur individual creativity, and most likely lead to sodas that not only ignore current regulations regarding sugar content and calories, but also expand upon the current list of flavors. Perhaps well see some new innovative flavors spring up in your friends basement, cotton candy, ice cream or even alcohol based sodas. 2) Open up an underground foreign soda market. Like one this would reintroduce Americans to some flavors we have become out of touch with, such as the coffee based Coke Blak. 3) Failure. The most alluring of all the possibilities is failure. As said before a black market will arise, the poor will grow poorer and the fat fatter as they continue to consume soda, stores will refuse to collect the tax, and just as was the case with alcoholic prohibition more soda will be consumed than every before.

If you live in an area effected by this tax, or even if you don't, I urge you to write, call, and otherwise bombard you local representatives with emails. Protest the tax, suggest alternatives, send this article, and tell them that if they feel like regulating anything they should start by regulating themselves.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Edwards/Keselowski Crashes and their Applications in the Real World

NASCAR is the most popular sport in America, and is watched by millions of people (in the South and Midwest). Every August, NASCAR travels to the Brickyard (Indianpolis Motor Speedway) for the Brickyard 400, where they pack an estimated 250,000 fans into the bleachers, and approximately 150,000 fans in the pit (area inside the track). And that's just Indianapolis. Daytona, Talledega, and others draw almost as many fans, and even higher tv ratings. If you've watched any NASCAR lately, you're probably wonder just what the rules are? Crashes happen all the time, and we're told that many of them actually occur on purpose. Whether or not this is against the rules remains unclear. Just a couple days ago, Carl Edwards overturned Brad Keseloski during a Sprint Cup race in Atlanta. The footage of the horrific accident can be seen here:

But this was not the first time these two have collided. In fact, this accident was merely payback for a past accident, in which Keselowski uplifted Edwards down the final stretch in Talledega. Footage of this crash can be seen here (fast foreward to :55):

Payback in NASCAR? This sounds highly dangerous to me. What if one of these men had died? Would that be considered manslaughter? Granted, someone could never die in NASCAR because the cars (many of which are made by Toyota) are so safe, right? Imagine if similar rules could be applied to every day driving? Say, for instance, you're driving to work, and a guy in front of you absolutely refuses to do the speed limit. You're trying to be on time, and he's taking his sweet time. What in the world is more frustrating? So what do you do? You drive up behind him and fish tail him into a barricade. When the police ask why such an accident occured, you merely explain that this was payback, which would count as a perfectly viable excuse, and your day would continue as planned.

This scenario, however, does have its problems. For one, the chances of the slow driver actually living through this in a standard vehicle might not be so great, especially if I struck him going upwards of 190 miles an hour (which is how fast Keselowski and Edwards were driving). Obviously, the need for new vehicles is a must. If all cars were as safe as the current stock cars used in NASCAR races, we would have nothing to worry about. Crashes happen in NASCAR, it's part of the game. But crashes happen in real life, too, and they happen all the time. They cause traffic, they cause rubbernecking, and can even cause death. It's part of being on the road. When you are behind the wheel on the highway or on a local road, you assume the risks.

So my question is this: why not enhance these driving risks, but do so in safer vehicles that are used in modern NASCAR races? There are some potentially terrific outcomes that can follow from this. For one, if people know they could be overturned at any minute by some lunatic, chances are they will become safer, faster drivers. Maybe those ladies on their way to PetSmart in their massive SUVs talking on their cell phones with their bratty kids and family dog in the back seat will pay more attention to their surroundings. All they'd need to do was look at the lists of racecar drivers who have died on the track, which if I were to post all the names, there would not be enough room on this entire blog to fit them all. Of the well known American tracks, in short, there have been 56 deaths at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and 24 deaths at the Daytona International Speedway. That's just two racetracks. One crash in France at the famed Le Mans speedway saw the death of driver Pierre Levegh. But Pierre didn't die alone. He took with him approximately 80 spectators as well. I wonder if somebody was getting their payback on him? NASCAR doesn't need new rules, the current roadways in America need new rules, and for it, our overall driving experience will be a better one.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

NBA Plans Backfire

Normally these days, when you hear the words backfire and NBA in the same sentence, you would think that Gilbert Arenas had some sort of gun malfunction as a result of a bad game of checkers. However, I use the term in a way far less painful to all the Agent Zero fans out there and far more enjoyable to all the Mavericks (aka the New Wizards) fans out there. If you've been keeping up with the Birdman's latest articles you should be able to figure out that I am referring to NBA Commissioner David Stern's latest conspiracy. To reiterate briefly, late this February Stern attempted to exact revenge on Dallas Maverick's owner Mark Cuban for some unflattering comments Cuban had made regarding NBA officials. As Mark is a multimillionaire, Stern's usual tactic of excessive fining (something he is slowly refining as per instructions be mentor and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell) didn't work. Thus Stern was forced to resort t more subversive tactics, which came in the form of banning the chewing of plastic straws; a Caron Butler mainstay. Stern's logic (something he rarely uses) was that by forcing Butler to change his in game routine, he could throw him off rhythm thus preventing the Mavericks from what could be their 10th straight playoff appearance.

Fortunately Stern has failed. Here we are 11 games into Caron Butler's Mavericks run, 5 with straws, 6 without, and things are looking good. It would seem that all the energy Caron had previosuly exerted in chewing straws has been converted to raw playing talent. First off Caron went 4-1 in his first 5 games with the Mavericks but has jumped up to 6-0 once straw chewing was banned (and 7-0 once they thrash the Nets). Butler has also been able to up his average minutes per game from 36 to 37 a clear sign of increased stamina. But he didn't do this just by playing longer, no he's also playing more efficiently. With Straws on the Mavericks, Butler averaged 14.4 points per game, 37% shooting, 16.66% on 3's 74% on free throws, 1.4 steals a game, while straw-less he shoots 19 points per game, 52% shooting, 37.% on 3's, 80% on free throws, and 2.16 steals a game, all the while assists, blocks and rebound decreased only slightly. While some may say this is simply Caron adjusting to a new team and a new style to play,I saw this karma slapping David Stern and his bitter,greedy, vengeful ways right in the face. Let this be a warning to Roger Goodell and Bud Selig, just like their apprentice, if they try to play politics in their respective sports they're gonna get burned.

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