Posted by mike in Friends,Internet,Music,Work at 10:25 pm on October 31, 2006

When I was 15, my family moved to Naperville. A year later, a family moved into the house a few down from ours, and we found out that they had a son, Brant, who was about my age and was going to be on the drumline (which I was also a part of). I met him shortly after they moved in, and we more or less immediately became friends. That was about 12 years ago now, and Brant and I don’t see each other as often (he now has two children keeping him very busy), but we keep in touch and stay caught up as much as possible.

The first thing I learned about Brant was that he was an incredibly talented drummer. Early in our friendship he was proud to show off videos and demo tapes from the band he’d been a part of back in the St. Louis area, where his family had moved from. I’ve always supported him in his various musical endeavors, from high school on. These days, he’s in a band called Veritae, based out of the Chicago area.

A little over a year ago, Brant contacted me about helping him set up a Web site for his band, and I happily agreed to help in any way I could. What I soon found out, though, was that this was not to be a “normal” Web-design endeavor. As part of the deal his band had made with their producer, they got Web hosting along with their studio time. This wasn’t just Web hosting, though; it included a Flash-based site creation tool called Habitat that I would be using to create their site.

It’s worth noting at this point that generally when I make a Web site, I do it using one tool, and one tool only: vi. So a completely Flash-based graphical tool that designs a Flash-based Website for you is about as much of a polar opposite from my preferred style as you can get. This causes, unsurprisingly, quite a bit of frustration on my part. I’m sure some people find the idea of this Habitat tool to be a great idea; even I can admit that it’s novel. I’m certainly not alone, however, in my criticisms of Flash.

It’s been an interesting experience, then, trying to keep the band happy with the site, while at the same time loathing myself for using something and creating something that I consider to be a great example of everything that is wrong with the Internet. It loads slowly, uses way more bandwidth than necessary, is completely inaccessible, and requires a browser plug-in in order to view any of the content on the site. The one thing the Habitat guys deserve credit for is making a Flash-based site that is bookmarkable. However, this was at the cost of additional load times when you traverse between sections, so even that can’t be viewed as a total positive.

I have to remind myself, though, that this is the music industry, and flash (with a lower-case ‘f’) and style can make all the difference in the world when trying to catch people’s attention. This is the same industry that uses MySpace as of late as its primary means of independent publicity.

After several months of inactivity, there was a crash with the band’s site, and I’ve spent some time yesterday and today recreating it. I’m not happy with it, and still have several gripes, but feel it my duty nonetheless to advertise Veritae’s Web page and drive any traffic I can to their site.

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Posted by mike in Family,Sports at 2:43 pm on October 27, 2006

I was at a presentation at work today, and my dad called. Not wanting to walk out on the presentation (which was scheduled to last for another 20 minutes or so), I chose to defer to voicemail. As the presentation was letting out, he called again. As I answered the phone, I returned to my office to see that he’d tried calling me there too. I’m thinking something serious has happened. Turns out he was just really excited.

He was in the car, on his way to St. Louis to attend game 5 tonight. He had another ticket, and wanted to offer it to me. Before I go into my reasons, I’ll say up front that I turned him down. And this, I hope, will offer an insight into how deep is my hatred (and that of Cubs fans in general) for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Given that after last night’s debacle, the Cardinals are now up 3 games to 1, consider the possible outcomes:

  1. The Cardinals win the World Series. This is pretty much the most devastating thing in all of sports, save for perhaps the Green Bay Packers winning the Super Bowl. There is no way I want to be present for this event, especially if it takes place in St. Louis. The only thing I hate more than the Cardinals is their fanbase, and seeing them celebrate a championship, in person, in St. Louis, would probably result in some jail time, one way or another.
  2. The Tigers win tonight, thus sending the Series back to Detroit. This is, obviously, what I’m rooting for. If this were to happen, I’ll be sad that I wasn’t present with my dad when he got to see his team win a World Series game.
  3. The game gets rained out, and I’m stuck in St. Louis for the evening, without having even seen a game. Then I further have to decide if I want to stay in St. Louis for another day, to have another shot at seeing the game tomorrow night. Then I’ve blown an entire weekend in St. Louis, a city where they think that Budweiser is a good beer.

Basically I am banking on the supposition that this will not be the only time in my life I am offered the chance to attend a game in the World Series. I’m sure my dad will enjoy it, though, and I hope the Tigers win. I really hope the Tigers win.

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Posted by mike in Religion,Sports at 10:07 pm on October 26, 2006

Tonight is game 4 of the 2006 World Series. I have two major interests in this year’s Series:

  • As a Cubs fan, there is no baseball team I hate more than the Cardinals.
  • Having grown up in Grand Rapids, I have always been somewhat of a Tigers fan, although I’ve always preferred National League ball, and grew up watching the Cubs at least as much as the Tigers. Also, my Dad and extended family (most of which still lives in western Michigan) are Tigers fans, so I’ll be happy for them if their team wins.

Not that I wouldn’t be watching anyway, but having something to root for (or, more importantly, to root against, in the case of the Cardinals) is nice. The downside to being interested in and closely watching the World Series is that you have to put up with the Fox Sports broadcast. In this case, that means dealing with play-by-play commentary from life-long Cardinals fan and son of a former Cardinals play-by-play announcer Joe Buck, and color commentary from former Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver. I doubt anybody has ever accused Fox of being unbiased.

The thing, though, that annoys me the most about watching post-season baseball is the forced and contrived nationalism during the 7th-inning stretch. Since shortly after September 11th, 2001, we are “treated” to God Bless America during the stretch of regular-season games on Sundays, and all post-season games. The connection being made is obvious enough: baseball is our national pastime, and thus a part of what defines us as Americans; somehow it is even a part of our national religion. And of course that last part is where the annoyance lies: not only are we expected to get teary-eyed and patriotic, we are also assumed to be religious, and to furthermore tie our patriotism and religion together in a way that can only be appropriately captured by a cheesy Irving Berlin song.

I’m sure that at least part of my annoyance in this ritual stems from the fact that Wrigley seems to be the only park that still sticks with singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the stretch, as Harry did for so many years. Fans of other teams probably don’t feel as slighted as I do when they are denied that tradition. Moreover, though, the phoneyness of it all is what really gets to me: the falsetto in which “God Bless America” is inevitably delivered; the faux reverence with which it is introduced by Buck; the cliched shots of crowd members with their hats off and their hands across their hearts and their somber faces looking off to the American flag above the scoreboard. It’s as if everybody is in on the act, and nobody’s mentioning how insincere it all is.

At least Joe Buck isn’t able to come up with a way to give Tony La Russa all of the credit.

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Posted by mike in News at 8:41 pm on October 26, 2006

I am considering this my first official blog post (the LiveJournal I’ve twice forgotten about for 2-year periods doesn’t really count), so welcome. I haven’t really decided exactly the direction I’d like to take with this, so I guess we’ll just see how it goes.

I welcome feedback, and will be interested to see who actually reads what I write.

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