Monday, March 18, 2013

Eat Away Your Seasonal Affective Disorder at Pagliacci Pizza

What do most Seattle residents do when faced with a torrential drizzle and three long weeks until first pitch at Safeco? Chase away the sorrow at the bottom of a 12-oz Americano? Hmmm, not a bad choice. But here at Pagliacci, they have an alternative plan of action for curing those seasonal blues.

You guessed it: Pizza!

There’s nothing more comforting when the wind cuts through your Northface jacket than two (three! four!) of your favorite slices. Come on in from the cold and let the hot steaming aroma of a Pagliacci pizza fog up those glasses!

They'll have ya even if you’re soppin’ wet. The Pagliacci staff welcomes you in with a genuine smile. The tables gleam silver, bright, and clean, as the warm wood backsplashes comfort your weary back.

When it’s time to order some pie, what famous Pagliacci combinations will provide the finest antidote to the day’s dour doldrums?

How about we start with the classic Spicy Chicken, covered in glorious, eye-opening Mama Li’l peppers? Bold red and glowing orange, they spew hot fire into your cold, damp world. Plus, the mozzarella and feta combo glistens bright in an olive oil base that tastes as good as it looks. Treat yourself to a brilliant shot of sunshine on this drab day.

The perfect companion for that sun-drenched slice is something with a strong earthy bent. The venerable Verde Primo, perhaps? With its lush green pesto and forest of artichoke hearts, mushrooms, and goat cheese, visions of a spring meadow will dance on your tongue. Oh man, I'm getting hungry just writing this!

We know it’s rough out there. Your jeans are soaked to the kneecap, your umbrella’s turned inside out, and you’re starting to think the sun is merely a myth. But it’s going to be okay. Come find your sliver of light with a tasty Pagliacci slice.

Tell ‘em the Matthew sent ya. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Battling The Middle School Fog of War

Jihad would not stop farting. For ten consecutive minutes at the start of Mrs. Stewart’s 6th grade language arts class, Jihad unleashed a torrent of gas that left the students around him gasping and laughing. Natasha O'Byrne discreetly walked to the back of the room where Jihad sat. “Dude, you need to go to the bathroom.” He erupted with laughter, flashing a sly, knowing smile. Natasha wondered what she’d bargained for. “This age group just might not be for me,” she thought. 

Her job seemed simple enough. One-on-one reading with six students a day over two class periods. One little problem. They don’t want to read and aren’t shy to show it. 

Thrown books. Evolved excuses. Constant bathroom breaks. Stomped feet. Paper tossed about. Broken pens hurled at each other’s heads. Rampant insubordination. On average, two kids a class are thrown out and awarded detention. 

“I couldn’t believe these were 11-year-olds, this was some high school type of behavior from little ones,” Natasha said. “I was afraid this job is just being a babysitter. The kids need more attention from everyone in their lives.” 

She’d come to Seattle Middle School Academy needing 40 hours of in-classroom observation in order to apply for education graduate school. The requirement for the University of Washington, her preference, required the observation take place at a high-needs school. A high-needs school is defined as 40% of enrolled students participate in the free or reduced lunch program. Nestled in the Rainer Valley of South Seattle, Aki Kurose fit the bill. 

No problem, Natasha thought. She’d volunteered with kids before in Chicago, reading at a homeless shelter. She was prepared. 

Oh boy. 

Tatiana slammed her book down on the bench and refused to acknowledge Natasha’s presence. Zhenaya’s gaze drifted off into space, never glancing at her helper. Jermaine screamed at every kid that wandered down the hall. “They shined me on completely like I wasn’t there.” One-on-one sessions morphed into one-on-zero sessions. 

Then there was Nagassa. He’d throw things, picked fights with other students, yelled at Mrs. Stewart throughout class. He was kicked out repeatedly. The school threatened to remove him from the class. “I was scared to work with him,” Natasha said. 

When they finally had their session, Natasha was stunned. Nagassa was a voracious reader. The pages turned like hummingbird’s wings. Getting him out of the classroom environment and showered with personal attention was the key. “Sometimes the most disruptive kids need the most attention,” she said. 

She settled in. The kids warmed up.  

“Some of the tougher kids have asked to work with me, like Tatiana, and that felt really good. You can’t reach all the kids. But 90% of it I loved,” she said. 

This is her last week at the school. Helping the class make a video pitch for the “Change My School” contest – a $1000 prize - is her final project. If they win, Mrs. Stewart promises the class a fleet of Kindles. “Some of the kids get embarrassed by their reading level. They might read more if the other kids can’t see what level book they have. It’ll help a lot,” Natasha said. 

“Oh my god, I’m getting attached, aren’t I?” 

Even with the farts.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Being a Bourbon Snob Wrecks Your Wallet

I accidentally ordered a $25 glass of bourbon. So goes the perils of pretending to be a bourbon snob. But passing on Pappy van Winkle - the current "it" bourbon of note - was not an option unless I planned on giving up my whiskey cred (that's only in my head.) When you come across some Pappy, the decision has been made for you. Order and never shut up about it.

The problem is, I finally found some Pappy at this swank Cap Hill bar with no whiskey menu. No menu = no prices.  My girlfriend and I were out for a celebratory drink, so I was willing to shake things up a bit. Passing on what I call "The Bourbon Yeti" was not going to happen.

When I say "The Bourbon Yeti," I mean it. This is some serious small batch booze that's become incredibly hard to find. Only 7,000 cases are produced a year. For the entire country. That is ridiculous.

Every liquor store I wander into, every bar I frequent I take a peek for Pappy. I'm embarrassed to ask the bartenders. Why? Because I don't want to come of as a poseur, a whiskey tourist desperate to appropriate myself into the new manly-chic world of sophisticated bourbon consumption. Besides, they are probably tired of disappointing everyone seeking the Pappy thrill.

So I saw those three bottles of Pappy, all lined up and screaming my name. Three choices - 12-year, 20-year, and 23-year. Surely based on my ramblings so far you can guess which I chose. Can't go with the cheapest, I'll give away my un-sophistication.  I have no idea what the prices are, so going for the 23-year seems a bit risky. 20-year is the safe bet. Nothing like picking out your drink with the same method I use to decide which drive through car-wash level to get. Yeesh.

This is where my advanced-palette fakery does me in. I really have no clue what makes a good drink. I just knock it back and let the smoothness tell the story. Talk to a real bourbon connoisseur and they'll start droning on about oak barrels, hints of boysenberry, and the type of dirt outside the bottling plant.

I taste none of the fancy frou-frou-ness. My little secret. Maybe I want that one day, but for now I'm flying blind. Bourbon works for me because it's smooth, a bit spicy, and the color is spectacular. No advanced palette secrets here.

But I want experience The Pappy in all it's brown glory. Maker's Mark has done me well, but it is time to advance to a new state of booze consciousness  And since I didn't know it was $25 for a single ounce while I was drinking it, I can claim my conclusions were sound.

It was an exceptional five sips.

And based on my limited ways of quantifying a quality drink, the smoothest and richest (pun-intended) bourbon I've ever tasted.  Now I'm desperate to find a bottle. Just a quick stop at the bank for a nice low-interest loan to ease the pain.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Converting a Footballer to a Futboler

The crowd is a low rumbling tremor for 90 straight minutes. The electricity is palpable. The 40,000 in attendance could power the lights throughout the stadium on pure natural energy alone. The singing refuses to stop; song and splendor carries out into the night.

I am now a soccer man.

Our if you prefer, a futbol fanatic. And all it took was one Seattle Sounders game.

Each sport has their strong and weak points. American football was perfected for television, gifted with the natural rhythms of pizza and beer consumption with baked in bathroom breaks. But being at the stadium kills any momentum. Too much down time.

Baseball is a lazy, sun-drenched affair. It's a slow, methodical game. Paying attention is not required - a day spend in the sun is a good day regardless of the quality of baseball. The more you delve into it's intricacies the more the game gives back.

Basketball is crack on a court. Blink and you might miss an incredible feat - the pinnacle of human athletic ability played out in less than a second. It can be a beautifully frustrating experience.

Back to soccer. I've been following off-and-on since World Cup 2010. Checking scores online, watching recommend highlight goals from Twitter friends. TV soccer is okay, but trying to follow all the action on such a large field can be tough.

Smash cut to last Saturday night. A good friend recruits me as the fourth man to attend the first Sounders game of the new MLS season. Oh my god.

It's like 40,000 people share a heartbeat for 90 minutes. In other sports you wait around for things to happen. In soccer there's a buzz running underneath the action at all times. It ebbs and flows like a ocean wave. You can feel a goal coming before it even happens.

The home team has possession, and the energy spikes.

Clean pass to the wing. Rumble rumbleeeeee. Back tap pass to the centerback. SHOOOOSH. He clears it to the corner as the striker streaks down the right side. OOOOOHHSHSHSHSHSHIT.

Striker gets off a shot! It hits the post! The ball is live in front of the goal!


The defense clears the ball.


I'm spent. A full 15 seconds of the hair not only standing up on the back of my neck, but trying to make an escape from my body. Nothing else in sport like it.

A soccer fan is born.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Please Buy Music

Illegal downloads are still a problem, but now the artists and label are dealing with an even bigger one: the increasing power of Spotify. The Verge revealed this week that Spotify - the largest streaming service in the world - is pushing labels to lower fees in a bid to become more profitable. And the industry has no choice but to play ball. 

Years ago when Napster flood college dorms in the late-90's, I was seemingly the only vocal person I knew against the idea of file sharing. This was not surprising. Who doesn't want access to every single Zeppelin album at the click of a mouse? Friends came back from their first years away at school with cases bursting with burned cd's. All illegally downloaded, but musicians are rich and famous so it doesn't hurt anyone, right? 

I was the square. My argument was simple: if people get something for free, eventually it will devalue the product's worth. Recording music would morph into a risky business model with no real financial upside. The cost and time it takes to produce a quality recording is high, and music being a subjective artform gives no real indication is that product is going to sell. Take away even the possibility of selling and the recording aspect of the music business becomes a sideshow, a marketing tool for touring and selling t-shirts instead of the way an artist earns a living.

Spotify might be a better alternative to rampant illegal downloading, but it still cause the industry major problems. The devaluing of the product continues, but without the social and moral implications of illegally acquired goods. Everybody wins! A premium user pays $10 a month for unlimited access on any device.


That's less that one album on iTunes, and two bucks less that a physical cd. A great deal for the music lover. The problem is the value has now been placed on the service, rather than the art. Why would anyone buy album on iTunes at $9.99 when Spotify gifts them everything for the same price? And in order for the company to make money in a fledgeling sector, squeezing the artist is the faster way.

Anytime there is a seismic shift in the way consumers purchase content, things take a while to shake out. This NY Times article from last month predicts that when the services mature and a higher percentage of users are exclusively streaming, revue for all parties - including artists - will rise. That is a rosy outlook for a industry in a tough decline.

I'm just afraid the damage has already been done.

A couple more great articles to read about the changing industry:

Pitchfork: "Making Cents

Vulture  - "Grizzly Bear Members Are Indie-Rock Royalty, But What Does That Buy Them in 2012?"

Everything on this site:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Twitter's Corporate Relevancy Hacked Off

The ideal of a new communication platform is that it democratizes thought through access for all. Revolutions sparked and stroked by everyone having an equal footing to express themselves. The Internet and specifically social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter started with the promise ideas can spread organically, based on merit. The content will rise to the top; anyone with a internet connection and something to say will be heard.

Corporate marketing machines think this idea is cute. Nothing a gaggle of MBA'd soul-suckers enjoy more than finding something people enjoy and branding it. Monetize monetize MONETIZE! A fun and quick way to say something profoundly dumb in 140 characters - or organize a revolt on your government if that's your thing - gets sapped and sucked dry by Bounty paper towels and Fancy fucking Feast ads popping up in your Twitter feed. So much for democratization when our eyeballs can be bought anywhere and everywhere they gaze.

Until this week of course, when some enterprising internet geniuses decided to have a little fun at the expense of Burger King and Jeep and demonstrate how little control those behemoths have on these new communication frontiers. Both corporate Twitter accounts were hacked and defaced with competitor's logos and nonsensical, vulgar ramblings. All because some unpaid and overworked intern probably chose 1-2-3-4-5 as the password.

It was a glorious and welcomed blow to the validity of corporations posing as people on social platforms. They can use their muscle and money to buy more views, but it only takes a single person with a keyboard to muck it all up. Let the revolution commence.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Macklemore Soled Out

I loathe the label “sold out." Such an ugly, loaded term, ambiguous in meaning and impossible to shed once accepted as a narrative truth. And as a big Metallica fan – a band that’s been shackled with that label more than anyone – I've always seen it as my duty to defend those branded with those scarlet letters of "S" and "O." And when I first got wind that independent Seattle recording artist Macklemore might have cashed in his cred already, I was ready to get down to defending.

But in this instance I see no way around it. Macklemore has sold out.

Exhibit A:


That was Macklemore’s music video for the track “Wing$” off his debut LP The Heist. A powerful message of anti-consumerism: It's not the shoes, kids. Try the genetic lottery, but thanks for the $300. My parents wouldn't buy me Nikes because I was pigeon-toed and I’d wear out the soles faster. Only off-brand kicks from Payless for me. Not cool. How would I get my wings and fly?

The only pair of Nikes I ever wore I borrowed from a friend during summer of 8th grade. It was the height of my basketball fever, every day I'd race down to the eight-foot rims at the local elementary school right after watching playoff NBA games. Reggie Miller! Patrick Ewing! Spike Lee! It's the NBA on NBC! We got into a huge fight on the court one day and I was so pissed off I ripped them of my feet and walked home in my socks. I knew then of the bad ju-ju of the sweet nectar of  illicit Nikes shoes.

So to say I identify with Macklemore’s point here is an understatement. And I love the narrative! Independent artist fights commercialism of the sport he loves. For the kids even!

On to exhibit B:


I’m trying to follow the logic here. An anti-basketball shoe culture song - a pretty big downer of a jam as well - used to promote the NBA's All-Star Weekend, which is a 72-hour commercial for the league's business interests? Did a TNT exec bark at an intern: “Get me a song about fucking shoes and do it NOW." What happens when new fans stumble on to the original track?

The message of “Wing$” has been flipped, chopped and screwed. Now the shoes an object of desire without consequence once again. How much money did Macklemore need to neuter his message that much? Hope it was enough to buy him at least a couple of pairs of the new Lebron X.