Friday, September 17, 2010


Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.

H.L. Mencken

This coming Sunday is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Never heard of it? That's OK, it's still a pretty underground movement.

Every September 19 for the past 8 years or so people all over the world have made a point of adding an extra "arr" or "shiver me timbers" to their speech.

The celebration grew out of an inside joke among friends John Baur and Mark Summers, and really took off when newspaper humor columnist Dave Barry got involved (you can read the whole story on The Official Website ). Thanks to the Power of the Internet (tm), the fun has spread worldwide and, although I haven't seen official Talk Like a Pirate Day cards from Hallmark, gained some legitimacy.

It's pretty easy to celebrate, all you have to do is make a point of talking like your favorite movie cliche pirate for the day. If you want, you can visit one of the many TLAPD events that have sprung up around the world, including the Pirate Picnic in Highland Park, NJ, where I'll be performing this Sunday.

The point is, it's a fun, goofy thing to do. It doesn't cost anything (except perhaps a little dignity) and it will make you cooler, sexier, taller, richer, smarter and more attractive to the opposite sex, so why not try putting a little Pirate Slang in your speech this Sept. 19.

In fact, for those of you who do celebrate, I'd love to hear what you do for the holiday, and your best "talking like a pirate" stories. If I get some good ones I'll publish them here next week.

Till then, maties, ye be havin yerself a good weekend, and I'll see ye on th' Monday.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Value of a Good Business Card and a Coupon for DD Readers

If you're a cool, creative type like me, you need some cool, creative business cards, right? After all, you're handing your new acquaintance a tangible reminder of yourself, whether it's to promote your blog, your band, your business or just because you thought she/he was cute and want them to friend you on Facebook. You want those little handouts to remind the person of you, not of Stock Design #12.

After all, just about any business is all about networking, and not everyone follows the oh-so-handy practice of carrying a pocket notebook around with them. Besides which, a misheard digit, or a too-sloppy-to-make-out letter on your handwritten email address can spell the difference between getting the job and being forgotten. It's so much simpler to trade cards.

Now, good cards can be pricey, and if you're like me you might have more than one thing to promote. Having a few different designs in high quality stock can run up a substantial printing cost. Personally, I do have a supply of fairly generic cards listing my contact information and music web page which I'll hand out by the dozen and leave next to the tip jar when I play shows. But for times I really want to make in impression, in a business or social sense I keep a small supply of nicer, flashier cards on hand.

I'm currently using the MiniCards from MOO printing as my special calling cards. One of the ways to make a solid, tactile impression is to vary the size and shape of your card from the standard business card, but going bigger or in a weird shape makes it a lot less likely that your tag will spend much time in your new friend's wallet. The MiniCards, on the other hand, are half the size of a regular card, making them supremely pocketable. In addition, you can have your cards printed with varying designs at no extra cost, which makes them a bit more "collectible." Personally, I'm using the "Venn That Tune" set, which shows off my somewhat geeky sense of humor, I think.

If you're freelancing, job hunting or networking, a good card can be a valuable tool. And if you like what you see over at MOO's web site, readers of The Daily DeBlass can get a 10% discount on MOO cards by using the promotional code E9TWHG.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Demagogue vs the Mystagogue

One of the treasures I've picked on the Amazon Kindle is a massive collection of G.K. Chesterton's works. Chesterton is a favorite writer of mine, and had a lot of intelligent things to say on a lot of topics.

One of his essays in "All Things Considered" was titled "Demagogue and Mystagogue" and dealt with the now-entrenched idea that if something is popular, it's probably no good, but if it's completely obscure and unpopular, it must be worthy.

This is a very easy trap to fall in, especially in Geek Culture or any of the assorted counterculture groups that make up a large part of my social circle. It's very easy, being outside of the mainstream, to dismiss anything too mainstream as trash, and praise the weird and outre simple for being weird and outre.

Now, there is a very real value in searching for the hidden treasures of Art and Music, and there will always be some variation in taste, but, as Chesterton so aptly points out, an artist may be great in spite of being unsuccessful, but it's foolish to assume an artist is great because he's unsuccessful.

The mystagogy trap is so tantalizing for a couple reasons: first, there's the thrill of exclusivity. If you're one of the select few who appreciate Band X, you, in a sense own the band. You don't have to share it with the masses. Secondly, the simple fact is that claiming "you just don't get it" when one's beloved creation is disparaged by viewers is waaay easier than taking the criticism and trying harder next time.

Yes, it's true that a lot of what's out there in popular culture is faddish dreck, and will fade into well-deserved obscurity soon enough. However, there has always been "great" work that has met public acclaim and at the same time had staying power. The best of popular entertainment reaches the masses not by flattering their egos and preying on trendy consumerist impulses, but by touching on the universal, and appealing to the better parts of our souls (for a contemporary example, go watch a couple Pixar movies).

At the same time, there are less popular options that are valuable. Tom Waits is an acquired taste, but he's got musical value. So, weird can be good. But, and here's the important thing, because I like Tom Waits and my friend does not, I am NOT a better/smarter/sexier (well, maybe) person than he is. I just have a different taste.

Because when you use your alienation, however slight, from the rest to say "well I'm better than them," not only are you being a petty little twerp, but you're also taking the easy way out and denying yourself the chance to better yourself.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jobs I Should Have: Professional Bicycle Racer

Somebody should sponsor me to be a professional bicycle racer. Seriously.
And no, it's not because I'm exceptionally fast on a bike, quite the opposite.

See, bicycle racers don't get paid by the hour, so riding faster isn't getting a better value. Bicycle racers get paid to promote products, that's why they have those names all over their Jerseys and stickers on their bikes. It's like NASCAR, but quieter and sweatier.

But the thing is, if you've ever been roadside at a bicycle race, you'll know, the really good riders go whizzing by so fast you can't read a darn thing on their jerseys. It's a waste of sponsor dollars. On the other hand, if they hired a guy like me to ride for them, I'd go grinding by so slowly the fans could read every single logo on my jersey, on my bike, and probably even see what brand tires I have.

Also, a typical pro cyclist's rib cage is usually slightly smaller than that of a Thanksgiving turkey. Maybe having a lighter upper body makes them more aerodynamic and gives them less to haul uphill in the Pyrenees, but there's not a lot of ad space, right?

My shoulders, on the other hand, would fit a billboard in comparison. A lot more bang for your buck is what I'm saying.

So if anyone out there is looking for a great deal in a sponsored rider, you know where to find me.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Texans Fight Intolerance

I was somewhat amused by this story from Amarillo, TX about a proposed Qu'ran-burning in a city park.

After the Florida book-burning was derailed, a group called Repent Amarillo took up the torches and pitchforks to burn the Islamic holy book on 9/11.

The group, Repent Amarillo, is run by David Grisham (not to be confused with either John Grisham, who has better things to do, or with David Grisman, who is awesome)and "aims to deter promiscuity, homosexuality and non-Christian worship practices through confrontation and prayer."

The demonstration attracted a crowd of about 200 protesters from both sides of the issue, among them 23-year-old Jacob Isom, who snagged the lighter-fluid-soaked book from Grisham's hands, told him "Dude, you have no Qu'ran," and took off. Someone else stole his lighter,and a bunch of folks put their hands on the barbecue grill that he planned to use as his Qu'ran Qu'reamatorium.

These folks set out to fight intolerance in their neighborhood and , Isom in particular, got it right. The way to fight religious extremism is not with religious extremism (see "Two Wrongs: Do They Make a Right?"), and religious persecution of any group is fundamentally un-American, and pretty un-Christian (see: "Love Thy Neighbor: It's Not Just a Suggestion").

The way to fight intolerance sometimes involves cutting loose with righteous indignation and calling down lightning from the heavens and calling out the 101st Airborne, but sometimes it doesn't. If local government had sicced the police on this guy, they would justifiably stand accused of suppressing his First Amendment rights. It would have been wrong. But if locals decided to make themselves a nuisance and make fun of him, that's pretty much acceptable practice for counter-protesting.

Sometimes, like I said, the way to fight intolerance is cutting loose the righteous wrath, other times, though, it's better to point and laugh.

Good job, Amarillo.