Friday, May 31, 2019

Friday Video: Snow

It seems like almost everyday, there is some news or story that is pretty unbelievable. Things that you can’t imagine are happening. Although there are still seven months remaining this year, I’m not sure that anything will astonish me more than the fact that Snow is part of hit song in 2019.

Let’s go back to 1992 when Canadian rapper Snow had a #1 song, Informer.

At least in my world, this song was everywhere. Snow rapped so fast that you really couldn’t understand what he was saying expect for "a licky boom boom down," which didn’t make any sense but seemed cool. Then, the tide started to turn against Snow, and (at least in my mind) he was done after In Living Color (hi Jim Carrey!) did a sketch making fun of him.

Fast-forward to 2017. The biggest song in the world was Despacito by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee (not to be confused with Derek Jeter) featuring Justin Bieber. Although Daddy Yankee was a huge star in Puerto Rico and had some success on the mainland, Despacito catapulted him to nearly A-level status in the US. Now, Daddy Yankee has a song called Con Calma with Snow, who he seemingly brought out of retirement.

The song certainly had (and is having) success around the world (see below), but Daddy Yankee and Snow themselves didn't get the song massive radio airplay on most English stations. Enter Katy Perry on the remix.

Sadly, Snow did not appear on American Idol in this performance by Daddy Yankee and Perry.

Apparently, according to this fascinating Rolling Stone article, Snow can't enter the US:

Snow also appears in the video for “Con Calma,” but his part had to be filmed separately in Canada. Thanks to his past legal issues, including an assault conviction in 1995, Snow is currently unable to enter the U.S. without a waiver, which would have allowed him to apply for a work visa. “You’re supposed to renew the waiver and he didn’t,” says Farberman. “It’s a technical matter.”

I guess that's why he on American Idol. Anyway, Con Calma is currently in the top 40 in the US, and I wouldn't be surprised if it moves into the top 20 or even top 10 by the end of the summer. Meanwhile, according to Wikipedia, the song reached #1 in Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, and reached the top five in Belgium, Poland, Switzerland, and Slovenia.

Please let me know if you find a story more unbelievable than Snow being part of a top 5 song in Poland and Slovenia in 2019!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

My Brother, The Yinzer

A blog post to make fun of brother? Yes! Over the weekend, my brother attended a wedding and rehearsal dinner in the New York/New Jersey area. (Actually, I’m not exactly sure where it took place, but the key as you’ll soon see, is that this didn’t occur in Western Pennsylvania.) Here is a picture from the dinner:

Once you get passed the fact that I don’t have Photoshop and simply colored in everyone’s faces, you’ll notice that the people pictured are dressed nicely (including the waiter.) Except for that one guy on the end wearing a Steelers polo shirt. That's my brother! Look, I've heard stories about people wearing Steelers jersey to church and other more formal occasions, but an out-of-the-area rehearsal dinner just doesn't seem appropriate.

Since I'm making fun of my brother, I should probably make fun of myself too. In one of my first jobs about a month or two after moving to DC after grad school, I attended a meeting on Capitol Hill only a few days or weeks into that job. For this meeting, I wore a Steelers polo shirt similar to (though nicer than) the one in the picture above. My boss at the time made sure to tell me to wear a tie for the next meeting, though I did get a compliment or two from folks from the Pittsburgh area. I should also mention that I was only 25 or 26 during this time as opposed to 41 like my brother is now. Basically, I didn't know better then but he should know better now!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Garth Brooks' Pittsburgh Outfit

Country music superstar Garth Brooks played at Heinz Field on Saturday night. During the performance, he wore, um, this.

While I commend Brooks on wearing the Pirates jersey, having Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's name and number on the back makes no sense. You know since Ben plays football and not baseball. I understand that Brooks "is in love with Ben Roethlisberger" per his quote in this Post-Gazette article and spent time with the Pirates during spring training. However, combining these two jerseys into one make no sense. Sort of like a blog post combining Celebrities in Pittsburgh Gear and Sean on Fashion.

By the way, I wonder if Jeff King got really excited seeing Brooks wearing his old number, only see Roethlisberger's name on the back.

Photos by Bob Pompeani and Tim Williams. Video courtesy of Garth Brooks.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Fairfax Connector Problems (You Have One Job!)

Look out world! A few years ago, I wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper (based on this blog post). Now, I'm writing the government. Well, the transportation agency, which is part of the government, but it's still the government. The issue is that the buses aren't running. The entire job of the bus system is to pick people up and safely take them to their destination.

My slightly redacted email is below as is how this impacts you even if you don't take the bus or even live in Northern Virginia.

Dear Fairfax Connector,

I have been a regular rider of Fairfax Connector for over 14 years and have had positive experiences riding the buses during this time. While I understand that you currently have a shortage of bus drivers, the fact that bus routes appear to no longer be in service is completely unacceptable. I ride bus [redacted], and on April 26th, May 8th, and today (May 14th), the bus that generally picks me up at 7:40 going to Vienna did not show. The 8:10 bus on April 26th also did not show. I didn't take the bus on many of the weekdays between April 26th and today, so my guess is that there were no buses on this route during one or more of these days. I'm fortunate in that I have access to a car and can drive to Vienna. It's inconvenient and also costs about $5 a day to park not including the wear and tear on the car, but I generally have this option. I don't know what people on the route who don't have access to cars are doing.

Since this bus route no longer seems to be running, I guess I have no other choice than to drive to Vienna. Please let me know when you hire drivers and decide to run the [redacted] route again.


This story shows a little more about the current driver shortage.

You may think that this story doesn't impact you, but it actually does. I do much of the writing of Sean's Ramblings on the bus, so you're missing out on quality (though this is debatable) blog posts. If you want more Sean's Ramblings, we need the buses to operate on schedule. (Or you can babysit my kids so I have more time to write!)

When (if?) I hear back, I'll provide an update.

Photo from the Fairfax Connector website.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Shocking News About Mr. Knick Knack

There's little that surprises or shocks me while seeing the news anymore. As I mentioned in Thursday's post, mass shootings seem to occur all the time, and many seem like an afterthought in the news coverage now. The President saying or tweeting something outrageous? Oh, it must be Tuesday...or Saturday...or Sunday...or Friday...or Thursday...or Monday...or Wednesday. However, I was truly surprised by this headline.

‘Mr. Knick Knack,’ children’s entertainer, charged with possession of child porn

Having young kids, I feel like I've seen or heard of most, if not all, of the children's entertainers in Northern Virginia. Between festivals (like Celebrate Fairfax) and multiple summer concert series (serieses?), it's a great (and generally free) activity for the kids. Rocknoceros has a massive following. 123 Andres always puts on an energetic show. There's also The Great Zucchini, and Blue Sky Puppet Theater, and The grandsons, jr., and others. Including Mr. Knick Knack, who for years has had a regular gig on Monday mornings from May to October or so at the Reston Town Center. Here's more about Mr. Knick Knack from The Washington Post:

A Northern Virginia children’s entertainer who is known as “Mr. Knick Knack” has been charged with possessing child pornography, and investigators are exploring whether the man had any inappropriate contact with juveniles, Fairfax County police said.

Steven Rossi, 58, of Reston was arrested on April 30 on 10 counts of possessing illicit images of children after authorities received a tip earlier in the month the entertainer had child pornography, police said.

Detectives have not uncovered evidence that Rossi had contact with the children in the images, but they are asking anyone who might have information about inappropriate interactions between Rossi and children to come forward, police said.

Holy crap! We've seen him perform a few times, and it wasn't anything memorable, but it was something to do with the kids, and they seemed to enjoy it. Of course, I think they enjoyed eating Goldfish just as much if not more than the show. I'm still shocked about this.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Living In America

Sadly, this blog post is not about the James Brown song featured in Rocky IV. In the immediacy of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, I wrote a post sharing my sadness and my anger including this:

This is where I'm angry. Mass shootings happen ALL THE TIME. Outside of Pittsburgh, Saturday's shooting at Tree of Life will be likely be out of the news cycle in a few days.

This turned out to be partially true because we continue to see mass shootings regularly, so that becomes the new headline. Now, whenever a place of worship is the target, whether it was an Easter Sunday terrorist attack in Sri Lanka at several locations including three churches, or the shootings at two New Zealand mosques, Tree of Life and/or Pittsburgh gets included in the story. More recently, there was a shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California outside San Diego, where the gunman was allegedly inspired by the New Zealand shooter. Fortunately, "only" one person was killed in the Poway attack.

Let me stop for a second here to mention that I started writing this post before there was a shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch outside Denver in which one student was killed and eight others were injured. There was also a shooting at UNC-Charlotte last week. As an aside, in both of the school shootings, heroic teens sacrificed their lives to save others. It shouldn't be this way. Anyway, the focus of this post is intended to be on violence at religious institutions, though I'll circle back to shootings overall.

Going back to my October post, I was critical of President Trump for saying "If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him." At the time, I wrote:

Four highly trained police officers were wounded when facing the shooter. There was certainly plenty of security in Las Vegas when over 50 people were killed at a concert. Why is it assumed that an armed guard would be successful in stopping someone with multiple guns including an automatic weapon in a surprise attack? Plus, why would we want to live in a country where we need armed guards at places of worship?

However, the reality is that it seems like we do. My synagogue recently conducted a campaign to fund security initiatives. This is a portion of this campaign announcement:

Since the tragedy in Pittsburgh, our team has been working hard to ensure that our building is as safe and secure as possible.

We intend to immediately begin implementing the recommendations in the security assessment report to include items such as: improved exterior lighting, locks on the inside of all the classroom doors, concrete bollards/planters near the entrance, improved security cameras, security go bags, an emergency alert system, and police security during high use hours, among other things.

Because these items were not anticipated, and not included in our budget, we are calling on the entire community to help us make this a reality. The security and peace of mind that our members and children are safe, cannot wait.

Obviously, this is not cheap. The synagogue and the number of members that belong to the synagogue aren't small, but we're not a very big community either. (Tree of Life in Pittsburgh in the 1980s was probably triple the size of my current synagogue.) In addition, police are now regularly at the synagogue, and I'm not sure who pays for this though I suspect the synagogue pays a portion as well as the taxpayers. It seems like there must be a better use of their time, but I'm grateful that they are there, and again, this is where we are, and it's necessary because of people like this.

I expect that additional security will be a bigger part of the budget in perpetuity for places of worship, particularly synagogues and mosques. The money isn't going to education or cultural events or even food (all events are better with food!), and someone (basically, members of the community) are going to have to pay for this. This isn't just limited to places of worship. This is at schools, malls, and many of other public places. I'd love to know how much the country is spending on security compared to education, infrastructure, or health care. (After I drafted this post, but before it got published, I saw this article in Washington Jewish Week about security and increasing attacks against Jewish people and institutions.)

The common denominator in all of the US shootings mentioned above are guns. (I'm sure some people will also say mental illness though it seems like "hate" is more prevalent than mental illness in at least some of these attacks. Besides, as I sort of just mentioned, we as a country continue to put less money towards health care which could help those with mental illnesses. This could be an entirely separate blog post.) We saw that New Zealand passed laws to ban military-style weapons after the attack there. While there will be lawsuits and court cases for years, I applaud Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and the city council for trying to do something.

Like my October post, I don't have a conclusion or a nice way to summarize my thoughts. I just want my kids to be safe at school and at synagogue and not have to participate in or worry about active shooter drills. I also just want people to pray and not have to think about their safety.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Ariana and Me

In November 2018, Ariana Grande released the song Thank U, Next. The song was Grande’s first number one single on the US Billboard Hot 100 and topped the charts in 12 countries. Basically, this was a massive hit. The reason I bring up this up today is because of the song’s first line:

Thought I'd end up with Sean / But he wasn't a match.

I’ve received constant requests from media and paparazzi to comment on this sentence, but I have refused since I feel like my relationship with Ariana should remain private. That changes today.

After Grande’s performance at Coachella which included a guest appearance by Justin Bieber, many people criticized Toronto Maple Leafs’ biggest fan (but not fan favorite) since he appeared to be lip-syncing.

From Vulture:

Grande swept in and came to Bieber’s defense in a series of now-deleted tweets, saying, “People are so lost. One day everybody that works at all them blogs will realize how unfulfilled they are and purposeless what they’re doing is and hopefully shift their focus elsewhere. That’s gonna be a beautiful ass day for them! I can’t wait for them to feel lit inside.”

This is really a shot at me. I’m not sure why Grande brings this up now. I’ve respected her privacy and wish her nothing but the best. Going back to Thank U, Next, it’s true that we weren’t a match. We were (and still are) in different stages of our lives. She was immature when we were together, and she didn't like that I preferred to stay home and avoid the spotlight. Grande also knows that I'm passionate about my writing, so I'm disappointed that she feels that my writing of Sean's Ramblings is unfulfilling and purposeless. I feel lit inside as it is (though perhaps that's heartburn).

In case you're wondering, I'm not going to comment on my relationship with Ariana any further. I've probably said enough already, and again, I wish Ariana nothing but happiness and success.

You're Welcome, Previous!

Photo of Grande at Coachella by Getty / Kevin Mazur.