Dauthan’s Unweblog


New look! Few posts!

Bye bye, WordPress

Hi friends.

I haven’t blogged on WordPress since July 13th, it says.  I’m here to tell you that the new norm is that I don’t blog at WordPress.  No hard feelings, WordPress, you’ve been good to me.  I’m over here now, at dauthan.tumblr.com.  Ignore the fact that my most recent post is a blogroll, I’m usually more interesting than that.

So if you haven’t already, add that to your Google Reader or other RSS feed, because at this point I don’t foresee myself using https://dauthan.wordpress.com again.  This has probably been obvious for awhile, but this is a courtesy post (or something).

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Tooting my own Horn a Bit

As you might know, I must complete an internship as part of my degree program at TU and this summer, I’m doing that. Thus, I’m not living at home (I will save the internship story for the next time I decide to blog in some length). That means I have to cook for myself quite a bit.

Now, I’ve always liked cooking, but rarely gotten to do it every day. It’s quite fun. My most recent efforts:

+Chicken breast tenders with broccoli in a balsamic vinegar sauce (this went really well, considering I was flying blind).
+Homemade pizza, with Amanda. Excellent.
+Guacamole. Mom still makes it better than I can.
+Hummus. Caleb definitely makes it better than I can (I’ll be giving it another go soon).

That’s just within the last 8 days or so. Anyway, summer has been good, I’m pretty busy, but I’ve started/resumed some good habits. I miss you all, of course, and hope your summer is going well.

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I think your moral-ethical logic is broken

So Donald Fehr is retiring after this baseball season.  Fehr was the man in charge of the Major League Baseball Player’s Association for a 26 years.  A Mr. Howard Bryant defends Fehr here, singing his praises.

Um…here’s the thing.  Bryant just glosses over one of the biggest issues of Fehr’s reign: his treatment of performance enhancing drugs (heretofore PEDs, aka “steroids”, simplistically).  Bryant basically says he stood tall, and he looked good in front of Congress while Selig didn’t.

One of the main ideas of the column is in this quote:

But if Don Fehr is on your side, you are tremendously better off for it. He does his job, which is to protect the interests of his players; and he has done it exceedingly well at a time of great assault against American unionism in general.

..and maybe, most of the time, that’s true.  However, I think there’s a semantic difference between what Bryant says Fehr is good at and what Fehr’s job calls/called for him to strive for.  Fehr is to work in the best interest of his players, and since sometimes, the best interests of the majority of the players will fly in the face of the best interests of a few of the players.  When possible, Fehr should seek to appease both, but that’s not always possible.  The PED issue is one such scenario: despite Bryant’s argument from relativity that baseball was in the same boat as other pro sports leagues, he isn’t excused from doing the right thing just because it goes beyond the status quo.

What Fehr should have done is protected the interest of the majority (here, probably somewhere between 90-95%) of players by pushing MLB for stringent drug testing.  First, it’s the right thing to do, and second, it would have garnered some goodwill for the union, who is usually viewed as greedy and loathsome when the MLB and MLBPA lock horns (despite the fact that such conflicts usually don’t reveal either side to smell like roses – both teams and players are looking out for themselves, typically, thus both appear greedy.  Exceptions occur when they’re fighting for increased retirement benefits right now, because, especially in football, such benefits are embarassingly slim, but I digress…).

But Fehr did not work for those 90-95%; he “protected” the minority, a minority which in some cases was violating federal laws.  The ripple effect here was that basically every player, and especially those who were successful, was viewed with suspicion.  It’s certainly not what Fehr desired, but it was the predictable outcome of turning a blind eye to PEDs.  Despite all the intelligence Bryant talks up in the article, Fehr turned in a disappointing performance on the issue his era of baseball will largely be remembered for, and that’s unacceptable.

*[note: obviously, some in the newsmedia basically treated PEDs like some sort of national tragedy, but considering that the same people say incredibly dumb things like “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying,” and write books with apparently tons of very, very questionable information and sources, it is incredibly hypocritical and largely driven by page view hunger, misunderstanding the actual issues, inciting debate, etc.  This press, it seems, did not hurt MLB very much, given its ever-increasing popularity, but did hurt the players.  Fehr also might have preempted that had he pushed for PED testing in, say, 2000 or something.]

Filed under: baseball, , ,

on underdogs: a clarification

So I’m not sure I was really that clear in my last post.  You see, I think what I was getting at is that in some situations (for example, the one I used), the ‘underdog’ is only that by virtue of being worse in the games prior to the one in question.

This is different from the NCAA tournament, where some teams are actual underdogs – they have less revenue, smaller gyms, less program prestige, less famous coaches, etc.  They are at a disadvantage given their circumstances; they’re not on a level playing field.  Butler/Gonzaga/George Mason/UW-Milwalkee/etc. are at a distinct and obvious disadvantage against Duke/UNC/Indiana/Kansas/Kentucky/etc.

However, in a professional setting, where there isn’t some uplifting narrative (player/team overcomes serious adversity, ranging from…say, a star’s devastating injury to something more “real life serious”), actual disadvantage (as an example, baseball, where there’s no salary cap*), or legitimate reason to dislike the other team (and no, their own success is not an adequate reason) cheering for ‘the underdog’ is really just ‘cheering for the team that isn’t as good.’  Which probably takes some of the fun out of it, huh?


[*it could be argued that this is actually not a disadvantage, as everyone abides by those no-cap rules, but then you could also say that there’s no cap on athletic department budgets, so there aren’t underdogs in college hoops without the conditions I listed, which seems a slippery slope.]

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on underdogs

The (Mostly) Unrelated Preamble:  Everything is stressful right now, but to what end?  Two tests the past two days, three more by three on Wednesday, not to mention a rough draft; however, I think I’m going to make it.  As of tonight, I have decided that I can afford to take a break for a bit – two of those tests down, it’s gorgeous outside, and the Cubs beat the Cards coming from behind today.  All those things considered along with the fact that I slept for only five hours last night mean I’ve decided I can take time for more than just short form, takes-two-seconds microblogging, whether that be twitter or tumblr.  Pretty great stuff has been happening lately, from realizing a couple friends have similar post-graduation plans to me, to taking to Caleb about said plans, to a couple of friends getting jobs they wanted (albeit jobs that will take those guys pretty far from me =/ ).

Amanda comes back from Ireland soon; visiting her on SB was great, etc.

Anyway, I wanted to write, so I cracked open the notebook with the “Things to blog about:” list, and here’s what’s coming – my take on cultural love affairs with underdogs.

To make a long story short, I don’t really get it.

Take, for example, this year’s Super Bowl.  The vast majority of unbiased fans, it seemed to me, decided to cheer for the Arizona Cardinals.  Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I just wonder why they came to that conclusion.  You see, the Cardinals entered the game as pretty significant underdogs.  They weren’t even supposed to be there in the first place, by most accounts, after they only went 9-7 during the regular season.  The Steelers, on the other hand, had been a great team all year (it’s worth noting about here that I’m a Colts fan, so any bias would probably lend itself to support the Cardinals, if I was operating like a stereotypical Colts fan), going 12-4 during the regular season.

Now, I realize that…
1.  The Steelers are constantly on TV, because they’re good nearly every year, and “familiarity breeds contempt,” as the kids say,
2.  The Steelers’ quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, made a really numskull move once upon a time by recklessly riding and crashing a motorcycle he was forbidden to ride,
3.  The Cardinals have one of the most talented and fun-to-watch players in football, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald,
4.  The Cardinals’ quarterback, Kurt Warner, has been a sort of rags-to-riches everyman since he played for the Rams a decade ago, and
5.  The Cardinals throw the ball a lot and hope it’s enough to win (a style that is prone to creating big plays, thus fun to watch), whereas the Steelers (this year, at least) depended on their defense largely, which is not especially fun to watch for your average football fan (or even serious football fans) because, well, it results in a lot of punts.

Even still, I can’t imagine that a minor fan, someone who watches out of curiousity/attempts at cultural relevance, or your mom, who always picks winners by uniforms (of which the Steelers are much better, I think most can agree) would really process all those things and think, “for those reasons, I want the Cardinals to win.”  No, I think that we culturally favor underdogs, even when, as is the case with this game, the underdog is where they are because they are simply the inferior team.  Thus, by cheering for the underdog, we’re implicitly acknowledging that we don’t actually value one team’s track record of success, and in fact, some begrudge them their success.

Most importantly, what does this say about Americans (all westerners?) culturally?  Maybe it is simply psychologically connecting with the underdog, looking at them and saying, “we can do it too!”  But what about the opposition?  Are they not where/what we all strive to be?  I’ll admit, there are athletic teams I like to see lose, to stay within the realm of my chosen example, but often, this is because my favorite team is a rival to them and can gain an advantage by their failure, not just out of pleasure in watching the mighty fall.

Watching the underdog win when they are the underdog simply by dint of size, or media notoriety, or geographic snobbery, or randomly overlooked and cheering is understandable to me.  Same with wanting to see a giant, crushing opponents with sheer girth, fall (especially if they were always haughty to begin with).  But when it’s all a fabrication, and “cheering for the underdog” is really just “cheering for the team with less talent, poorer coaching, and less of a track record of success” over the team that has proven its worth all year, I think we need to reexamine our priorities.  Ask why.  Why are they the underdog?  Why do I hope they win?  Is that reasonable?  Personally, in the given example, I feel it’s a bit of a relief that the team that had been better all year proved it was better during the last game of the season.


[sorry if this is incoherent.  i feel it’s applicable outside of the traditional realm of “underdog/favorite” (sports), and thus worth contemplating, at the very least because it says something about what we value.]

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If you’re not getting your fix enough, point your browser over to the tumblelogit’s updated nigh daily. Format-wise, it’s different from this, but probably a bit more fun.

I usually only speak up strongly and loudly about something when I have an opinion, or when I just have questions.  In the former case, I would do well to speak softly and kindly better than I currently do.

It’s not that I am unwilling to admit that I’m wrong in such cases (though I have been told I come off that way).  It’s that I wouldn’t even speak so boldly unless I had an opinion, and I’m placing the burden of proof on any opposed.  But I probably ought to be more tactful, especially when it’s with folks who could be classified “elders.”

Better to figure this out now than later, I suppose.

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One, two, one two three four

It seems to me that unequivocally claiming that the music of yesteryear, whichever decade that means to you, is a sort of chronological snobbery.

I do not mean to say indisputably that music is getting better, or worse, or that it’s best decade was that ____’s.  I just mean that it seems very, very hard to prove; nigh impossible.

I recognize that time has brought the loudness race, which hurts Bob Dylan’s ears, or whatever, and is actually something interesting or troubling.

However, let me point out that the passing of time has allowed more and more people to record and thus release music, for several reasons…

1.  The world population has grown significantly as our ability to stay healthy has improved.  Thus, even if the same percentage of the population has made music over time, there is more music being made now than ever before.
2.  As we grow more and more wealthy, especially in developed countries, fewer people are involved in agriculture and manufacturing, and more people are involved in service.  I would guess this to also include the arts, thus music, thus there is even more music being made than the truth of point number one would lead us to believe.
3.  Modern technology in recording and creating music (i.e. multi-track recording, software, etc.) makes it even easier for people to make and record music.
4.  The internet has been something that has seriously injured the traditional structure of the music industry.  It’s also allowed for bands like, for example, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Panic at the Disco, two very different bands with very different audiences, to find an audience they might not have otherwise.  This encourages more people to make music in their basement or bedroom or whatever, and release it through MySpace or their outlet of choice.

While much of what constitutes traditional pop and rock sonic territory has been explored, that does not mean new music can’t flow from these structures.  Some is released within such structures; others subvert it; others reinvent it; others harken to a time before it.

All this to say that even if there is a significantly lower percentage of good music being released today, and even if the modern media structure is not designed to market good music and/or art to the masses, it doesn’t mean there are fewer great songs or great albums being made today.

I might add in closing that I am in no way trying to say that today’s music is better than ever – that’s probably not the case, just given the sheer amount of time passed.  It’s also very hard to prove that it’s true or not.  I, like many from my generation, have favorite musicians and bands and songs and so on from all over the map of the past half century, just as a starting point.

Filed under: college, media, Music, Recommendations

Folded 8.5 x 11

I’m sure that everyone potentially reading this has heard “Paper Planes”, whether they know that’s the name of the song or not.  If you’re unsure what it is, you might know it as “that one M.I.A. song” or “the song with the gunshots and the cash register noise in the chorus”.

I have, for a long time, been fed up with people who quote this chorus like it’s some mindlessly violent gangsta rap song.  The song’s been out since August 2007, but gained popularity last summer when it was featured in the trailer for some movie that seemed to celebrate drugs and also seemed too mindless and stupid to warrant mentioning here.  I would point to this as when the song jumped from relative obscurity to ubiquitous.  It’s also when it started to be heard out of it’s original context.

You see, the song is a satire on all the things those listening without critical (see definition 3) ears think that the song is actually about.  It is, as its Wikipedia page says, a satire on immigrant stereotypes.  It’s not about violence, or any of the other things that an uncritical or decontextualized listen might indicate.

Why context is necessary (or, making a long story very short):  M.I.A., the song’s artist, was born to Sri Lankan parents in London, and six months later, moved back to Sri Lanka.  Her dad was a politcal militant, she was a refugee, etc. (if you want the whole story, google it/it’s at Wikipedia).  It’s safe to say that M.I.A. has probably faced her share of immigrant stereotypes in her life.  That is what this song is about.

Singing just the chorus without knowing the context and meaning of a song can be dangerous, embarassing, or make you look silly.  This is probably the best example of that.

Now, I might point out that M.I.A. is not innocent in this song’s transformation from sly satire to just another catchy hip-hop song with a quirky vocalist and a catchy hook.  After all, it’s been licensed for two movies, one the comedy mentioned earlier, one the Oscar winner for Best Picture this year.  Having seen neither film, I cannot comment specifically on it’s placement, but I have it on good authority that the song’s context in [EDIT: one of (check the comments) the films does not align with it’s original intent.  It’s also been remixed a bunch of times, apparently – that’s intentional recontextualization.  Perhaps most egregiously, it’s been sampled and used on “Swagga Like Us”, by four of the biggest names in rap right now.  The only time I’ve heard that was during the Grammys a few weeks ago, but it is a drastic recontextualization:  as far as I can tell, it takes one line (“No one on the corner has swagga like us”) from “Paper Planes” and makes it the hook for five minutes of chest pounding braggadocio from rich men.

I’m not usually one to accuse artists of selling out – everyone has to make a buck, and most everyone has to work for someone to keep food on the table – but M.I.A. has sold out “Paper Planes”, and the result is a lot of obnoxious sing-song rapping from people who don’t understand the song’s original intent.

If she’s okay with that, too bad – good satire is hard to pull off, and she might’ve just ruined her own.  I’ll just keep saying, “you don’t know what that song means, do you?” twice a day.

Filed under: college, friends, Music, ,

Minor Discouragement

I was just talking with one of my friends – a Bible major, who feels called to international missions – about a non-denominational missions organization that I’ve applied to for a summer job (note: they actually describe themselves as “multi-denominational” but it amounts to the same thing: they’re unaffiliated with any one church or denomination.  In our conversation, we used the term non-denominational, so I’ll use it here).
He said, “Wait, how can they be non-denominational?  I mean, how can they have NO affiliation?”
I explained that they focus on service work, etc.  He eventually conceded – “Yeah, I see that.  I just don’t understand how any long term missions organization can be unaffiliated with a denomination.”

The more I think about this conversation, the more disappointing it is.  To overgeneralize, the American church has gotten too tied up in doctrinal differences to the point that my friend cannot envision a missions organization that does not bind itself to one specific doctrine.  I understand the need for laying out doctrinal beliefs, but I also believe that there are a lot of gray areas where pretending we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we’re right seems foolish (frequency/style of communion, type of baptism, etc.).

This is not to say that I have no beliefs in those areas, only to say that when you study historic Christianity, you begin to understand the origin of such practices.  For example, sprinkle baptism became popular in areas where water was less abundant, and it would have been a poor use of resources to bathe for baptism.  Learning that enlightened me, and while most American churches have no lack of water, I now understand its origin.  You also learn that church fathers did not necessarily see eye to eye, but they would still respect and worship with one another.

What about the creeds, Nicene and Apostles‘?

Another way to think about it:  Martin Luther did not leave the Catholic church in order to start Lutheranism, he left because the church authorities would not step in to stop injustices by church members even where blatant; even where they took advantage of the uneducated and less fortunate.

I appreciate the freedom that Protestantism allows.  I understand the need for denominations and doctrinal statements and beliefs.  What saddens me is the fact that my friend cannot imagine a world without denominational distinctions, or a Christian organization that is united by a “purpose to provide life-changing, Christ-centered youth mission opportunities” and not a series of doctrinal beliefs, despite the fact that he (like me) attends a school with a similar focus on unity.

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I started a tumblelog.

I realize this seems like more of the same, but it’s not. I want to try to use the tumblr to make one short post each day, and keep this site up for more long form thoughts.

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