Hitting The Old Dusty Trail

Web MD has gone downhill

Well this little experiment has turned out very well. As such, we’ve moved on from the free wordpress.com servers, to our own servers, and our own, fancy, .org extension. If you find us through twitter, or a feed reader, you’ll likely never see this post. But if you bookmark WaCK, please take a second to update your bookmark, check out the new redesign, and take in all the hard work our friend Cord put in for us. He can help you too.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Friday Morning Music: Local Bands!

Every Friday Morning we kick off your weekend with a series of music videos, loosely gathered around a theme. This week, two local bands that played a great show last weekend, The Method and Lucky Dub!

The Rock & Roll Hotel sits way down towards the end of the H Street corridor. H Street is one of the new up-and-coming areas of DC; a long strip of bars and clubs in a relatively dingy neighborhood. There’s a few great restaurants, like Taylor Gourmet, but also a few guys standing on street corners, slinging dope in broad daylight. It’s an interesting experiment. And the Rock and Roll Hotel is perched at one end, where the strip wanders off into a neighborhood and a gas station, and a long straight shot towards the Capitol.

So that’s where I was last Saturday, to see a friend’s band, and celebrate my birthday with good friends. The headliner was a local band, releasing their first CD. Lucky Dub filled the room with a loud and joyous reggae-funk-ska feel. They filled the stage too; at times there were fourteen people making a glorious chorus, and a mess. Their website describes themselves like this:

As band frontman Gordon Daniels puts it, “Our music is a reflection of the world we want to see, where people from all different walks of life are working together, moving to one beat, and creating a positive sound for all.”

I dug them, even though I knew nothing about them beforehand. Discovering something new and different is the best part of going to a concert, and I got that in spades.

Lucky Dub – Move On

Lucky Dub – I Rise

But the real reason I made the trip all the way across the city was to see my friend Satya’s band play. They’re an eclectic mix of bluesy, jazzy, jam-bandy goodness. I’m not up to describing them objectively, so listen to their own words:

A Washington DC band, The Method combines catchy, danceable tunes with progressive improvisation.

I’ll just add, if you ever get the chance to see them around town, you owe it to yourself to go. In the vids below, Satya is the one with the Sax.

The Method – Ain’t Nothing Wrong With Me

The Method – Either/Or

See? I told you. Go see them. Become a fan. Dance around.

Posted in Friday Morning Music, Videos | Tagged , , , ,

Groupon’s Swearing Off Alcohol (In Some States)

Groupon is getting in trouble with state liquor laws. At least it is with Massachusetts’ Alcohol Beverage Control Board, citing violations of various liquor laws in the state, but mostly regarding discounted drinks. However, Groupon appears to be the only one of its kind under scrutiny, as competitors like KGB Deals continue to promote coupons applicable to food and drink specials.

In some others states, at least, Groupon appears to be somewhat in the clear. In New York, for instance, it appears to be [permissible] to discount drinks as much as 50% – but no more –  while in California, anything is game as long as Groupon never uses the word ‘free’ around an offer where alcohol is involved, according to officials in those states I spoke with Friday. Of course there are 47 other states, approximately one-third of which are similarly strict as Massachusetts around the sale of alcohol. It’s a good bet Groupon will face more booze troubles.

One commenter at Forbes writes, since Groupon’s policy change in response to the purported violations, “How are we going to eat $50 worth of $2 tacos???” Naturally, this leads me to question a few things: If Groupon (and implicitly the bar or restaurant in question) is not allowed to offer coupon discounts, does this apply to discounted restaurant gift certificates from venues like Restaurant.com? Are coupons and gift certificates treated as one in the same legally, or does this differ from state to state? Does it matter if a third-party is offering the discount on a coupon or a gift certificate? I assume that, if you purchase a gift certificate from a restaurant (or even get the restaurant gift card from Costco or a grocery store), it is treated as cash at said restaurant, and is therefore applicable to both food and alcohol. I’d like to know if that’s not the case in some states.

I fail to see a distinction between Groupon’s and Restaurant.com’s wares: both are pre-paid deals. Whether I pay $10 for $25 worth of food and drink at an establishment with a Groupon or pay $10 (sometimes $2 or $3 if you have a promo code) for $25 worth of food or drink at an establishment with a Restaurant.com gift certificate would seem irrelevant. Then perhaps Restaurant.com’s “gift certificate” is a misnomer as it is a discount with restrictions like Groupon. And yet, it appears that you can continue to buy both food and drink with a regular restaurant gift card/certificate. If a restaurant compensates you for a bad experience with a gift certificate, is it in violation if you use the gift certificate for “free” drinks? Is it in violation if it compensates you 100% for said bad experience immediately and your order included alcohol? What about if you win a certain amount off your tab during a restaurant-hosted trivia contest and the like?

And finally, I’m disappointed with the Internet’s offering of state liquor laws compilations. There’s Wikipedia’s reference, but it seems incomplete on restrictions. I suppose I was expecting a ranking with up-to-date descriptions, because I’m not entirely clear what each state comprehensively allows or restricts in 2011. Perhaps a project to pursue later, unless y’all have a better reference.

Posted in Food and Drink, Law, Out and About | Tagged , , , ,

Failure In Music And Pictures

My examination of ‘failure’ continues over at Rooted In Prosperity. I’d say this is less an examination, and more of a series of impressions; how failure manifests positive results.

I’ve spent a lot of time here thinking about failure, and how it’s the great contradiction of our age. We absolutely need it, and yet, no one wants to be associated with it.  We strive to avoid it at almost all costs, but without it, we wouldn’t have anything like the prosperity or opportunity we enjoy.

Hayek and Mises both argued that the inherent limits on knowledge meant that central planning was doomed; in recent years scholars like Will Wilkinson and Micheal Devitt have expanded this thesis to argue that there is no a priori. I’m not sure I buy their claims in full, but I think the suppositions are broadly correct. On the one hand we have failure as a constant force, a deadening weight forever bound up with action and production. On the other hand, we can easily observe the mind-boggling achievements of the last two hundred years, arguably capped by the early aught’s.  Progress, growth, and advancing freedom have been constant features, despite the sickly shadow of persistent failure.

I doubt that’s an accident, and why I began my discussion of MBM principles with a rambling examination of the phenomenon of failure. Before we start a project, we ask “what does success look like”; similarly failure comes in myriad forms. MBM gives us a useful framework for evaluating failure, and ways to consider which particular lesson the failure is teaching us. So in the spirit of Andy and Jeff examining commercials, let’s look at a movie that prominently, and poignantly, discusses failure.

You might have missed (500) Days of Summer when it came out in 2009. Twee romantic comedies might not be your thing. Not really mine either. But the movie has one spectacular scene, where the (misguided and often unlikeable) protagonist, Tom, goes to a party hoping to reunite with his former lover, Summer. The scene is a wonderfully shot, carefully plotted contrast of expectations and reality, and the moment I saw it I thought “that would be a perfect illustration of mbm on the individual level”. I’m not writing that because it makes this post work; Sometimes, liberty-lovers nerd out that unredeemingly hard. Sigh. Anyway, here’s the scene. (Safe for work, unless you object to kissing).

That’s failure on both a personal and epic scale.

For those that haven’t seen the movie, this scene starts Tom’s long process of coming to grips with reality, of embracing failure, and of turning the often ugly and sad detritus of his life into a constructive, rewarding beginnings of a real life. Tom eventually realizes that he didn’t understand Summer, and didn’t understand himself. Coming to grips with those twin truths is rewarding and difficult and beautiful, but filled with pain. Failure is a necessary step on the road between where we are, and where we are going. It’s the human condition to not fully understand, except in retrospect, where either of those positions truly lay. For us that might mean a job well done, or a raise well earned. For Tom, it means a date with Minka Kelly. Some guys have all the luck.

Posted in Movies, Philosophy, Videos | Tagged , ,

House of … What Is This? Punte? Really? Ok.

THE BOYS (AND AMBER) ARE BACK. After a long, bizarre hiatus, we’re back with another House of Punte. Josh says:

Amber reads the news. Jonah Keri discusses his book and where to find the best bagel in Canada. Dan Levy explains why he’s quitting his own show. Aaron takes the helm in the trivia segment and quizzes Josh on his new hometown. Shakey reads poetry. Phil does an Old-Timey Newsreel. It’s long and hard, but yeah, we’re back.

Runs 90 minutes.

Feels good to get back out there. Listen here.

Posted in Humor, Sports | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Basil Mojito Sounds Springtastic

This year Spring is taking her sweet time getting her act together. There have been one or two nice days when she showed us a little ankle, but mostly it’s been baggy sweaters and no makeup. Metaphorically speaking. But when she finally breaks out of her funk, I found a drink that will help you bust out your own. Presenting: the Basil Mojito.

Ingredients:

    2 oz white rum
    1/2 c fresh basil leaves
    1 oz fresh lime juice
    3 Tbs simple syrup
    Club soda
    Crushed Ice


Directions:

Muddle the basil leaves, lime, and simple syrup until the basil is thoroughly bruised but not pulverized. Pour in the rum.

Fill the glass most of the way with crushed ice. (If you don’t have a “crushed ice” option on your refrigerator, wrap ice cubes in a towel and hammer them with a kitchen mallet.) Pour in the club soda to the top of the glass. Garnish with a lime wedge or basil leaf. Enjoy!

Sounds pretty tasty. It’d probably go really well with a Margherita and some sunshine.

Posted in Food and Drink | Tagged , , , ,

Nobody Is In The Metro: Auto-Tuned

In the two-plus years I’ve lived here, I’ve gotten into an empty Metro car exactly twice. Both times I sat down, slouched until I was comfortable, and read a book. Not exactly living the high life, but it was much more comfortable than, say, the usual morning commute.

But thanks to UnsuckDcMetro, I can now revel in the vicarious joy of one who fully embraces the novelty of an empty Metro car, one who LIVES, DAMMIT.

Posted in Humor, Videos | Tagged , ,

Free Think Media Is Awesome

Our friends at Free Think Media recently made that awesome video with Paul Ryan, and got a write-up over at Fast Company about the video. Titled “GOP’s Paul Ryan Goes Hollywood to Sell Federal Budget” the article features great nuggets from filmmakers, and all around great guys, Dan Hayes and Clay Broga:

The filmmakers, Dan Hayes and Clay Broga, of Washington, D.C.-based Free Think Media, say the video, which was shot in the Capitol on Sunday using DSLRs, took its inspiration from a BBC documentary by Swedish public health professor–and stats nerd–Hans Rosling. “The Joy of Stats” uses the same kind of drawing-charts-out-of-thin-air technique to make complicated bits of data accessible.

“When people are talking about budgets, the audience has a tendency to doze off,” Hayes tells Fast Company. “We wanted to make the visuals compelling.”

“Most people are not going to read his ‘Path to Prosperity’ [the 72-page Republican budget proposal], and they’re certainly not going to dive into Excel spreadsheets of data,” Hayes says. “They want a comprehensive summary of what he’s arguing, and why, and what the stakes are.”

And YouTube, he says, combined with some imaginative filmmaking, provides just that.

Last week I bitched about activist groups that were purposefully churning out dumb and ideologically driven pundits. The beauty of freedom, as embodied her by the internet, is that there are also folks like Clay and Dan who recognize the promise of new media, and its power to circumvent and circumscribe that kind of idiot circus.

For more from Dan and Clay check out their Youtube Channel. For lucid commentary and criticism on Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity”, check out these reactions from scholars at Mercatus, and Matt Welch at Reason.

Posted in Economics, Government | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Chuck Klosterman’s 23 Questions – Part IV

Chuck Klosterman is the author of numerous books and essays on pop culture. In his bestselling Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs; A Low Culture Manifesto, he had an interlude piece titled “23 Questions I Ask Everybody I Meet In Order To Decide If I Can Really Love Them”. I’ll be answering those questions in a series of posts. Feel free to chip in your thoughts or answers. See also: Parts III, and III.

10. This is the opening line of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City: “You are not the kind of guy who would be in a place like this at this time of the morning.” Think about that line in the context of the novel (assuming you’ve read it). Now go to your CD collection and find Heart’s Little Queen album (assuming you own it). Listen to the opening riff to “Barracuda.”

Which of these two introductions is a higher form of art?

I haven’t read the novel, unfortunately. Without the context, I don’t really have an answer. Heart’s opening riff is the best part of the song; the imagery is simplistic, the lyrics are wooden, and the singing is frankly shrill. Even the awesome guitar line is repetitive and eventually boring. However the plot description of the novel seems to allude to the same structural flaws. The second person address would seem to wear thin quickly. Do any fans of the book have thoughts?

11. You are watching a movie in a crowded theater. Though the plot is mediocre, you find yourself dazzled by the special effects. But with twenty minutes left in the film, you are struck with an undeniable feeling of doom: You are suddenly certain your mother has just died. There is no logical reason for this to be true, but you are certain of it. You are overtaken with the irrational metaphysical sense that–somewhere–your mom has just perished. But this is only an intuitive, amorphous feeling; there is no evidence for this, and your mother has not been ill.

Would you immediately exit the theater, or would you finish watching the movie?

The only movie I've ever walked out of.

I would finish watching the movie, for several reasons. First, if the intuition is that my mother has died, there is nothing I would be able to do about it. My mother isn’t Schroedinger’s Cat; she is either alive or dead, and the state of her existence doesn’t hinge on my tardiness. Second, I would prefer to be wrong, and at worst, delay terrible news. Third, this kind of intuition, if correct, would be so far outside of my normal frame of reference that I would appreciate time to digest and reflect on it, separate from the emotional chaos and personal turmoil of grief. Reacting immediately would seem to impair such distance or remove. Finally, there’s something about stories that compels me to finish them, to get to the ending. Stories are important, because they are the mechanism we use to shape our lives. We tell ourselves stories all the time, and we learn about other people through the stories they tell of themselves. Somehow understanding stories, both as a form and in their particulars, is important. If my mother died while I was watching a movie, it’s unlikely I’d ever see it again; I tried to watch Eternal Sunshine after a particularly bad break up and have still never made it more than ten minutes deep. Given that the posited movie is ‘dazzling’, and this is likely my only opportunity to finish it, I’d do so.

12. You meet a wizard in downtown Chicago. The wizard tells you he can make you more attractive if you pay him money. When you ask how this process works, the wizard points to a random person on the street. You look at this random stranger. The wizard says, “I will now make them a dollar more attractive.” He waves his magic wand. Ostensibly, this person does not change at all; as far as you can tell, nothing is different. But–somehow–this person is suddenly a little more appealing. The tangible difference is invisible to the naked eye, but you can’t deny that this person is vaguely sexier. This wizard has a weird rule, though–you can only pay him once. You can’t keep giving him money until you’re satisfied. You can only pay him one lump sum up front.

How much cash do you give the wizard?

Like question ten, this is hard to answer without reference to the particular subjective material at issue. So let’s mix up the question’s premise a little bit. Instead of thinking in dollar terms, let’s think about opportunity costs.

It’s easy to look at oneself in the mirror and think “I wish this were different, these soft parts gone, and my stomach were flatter”. What’s standing between oneself and the desired self is nothing but energy, time, and effort. The only thing stopping us from putting in that time and energy is, well, everything. Reading and television and video games and drinks with friends and the joy of indulgent food and the entertainment of a baseball game and the solitude of writing and the birthday cake at the office. Our time is finite, and our energy spent in so many little niggling ways, taken and stolen and freely given every moment of every day. Doing any one thing means choosing to do only that thing, and nothing else. So workouts sometimes (or often) get put aside or half-assed. So what I’d pay the wizard would be equal to the extra hours I should be sweating, the time I wish I had to myself, without sacrificing anything, everything, else.

(Ed – Not to get all inside-baseball here, but as anyone who’s ever read Terry Pratchett or played RPG’s knows, magic has side-effects, and unintended consequences. There’s also the issue of willpower. If I pay more, will I be able to eat shitty foods and still be attractive? Is this a one-time boost, or a continuous effect? God, what a nerd. Please forget you ever read this final note.)

Posted in Psychology, Writing | Tagged , , , ,

The Morality Of Boardgames and … YOU GUYS LOOK AT THIS DOG!

Salman Rushdie (ed – I think it’s pronounced salmon) wrote that board games have an implicit morality, and Snakes and Ladders has deep lessons for children:

All games have morals; and the game of Snakes and Ladders captures, as no other activity can hope to do, the eternal truth that for every ladder you hope to climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner, and for every snake a ladder will compensate. But it’s more than that; no mere carrot-and-stick affair; because implicit in the game is unchanging twoness of things, the duality of up against down, good against evil; the solid rationality of ladders balances the occult sinuosities of the serpent; in the opposition of staircase and cobra we can see, metaphorically, all conceivable oppositions, Alpha against Omega, father against mother.

The karmic implications of the snake and the ladder give one pause, contemplating the game board as a moral Möbius strip of fate versus achievement. Which leads inevitably to the fundamental truth of … JUMPING JEHOSHAPHAT, GUYS! LOOK AS THIS DOG!

Posted in Videos, Writing | Tagged , ,