August 26, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 10:43 AM

TESTED & TRUE (profanity alert):

From O-lineman to frontman : Ex-Pats practice squad player Brian Barthelmes plays on with his band, Tallahassee (Scott Barboza, 8/17/12, ESPNBoston.com)

From early on, even in his high school days at Kenston High School in Bainbridge, Ohio, where he played football under his father, Lee, Barthelmes never felt like a football player. He was a standout basketball player, but in Ohio, linemen are linemen and he didn't have much say in the matter. Football was his ticket to a Division I scholarship, and he considered it foolish to turn that down.

By the time he was let go by the Patriots for the final time during training camp in August 2007, Barthelmes' mind was all but made up -- he was leaving the game for good.

All it took to crystallize the truth were some terse, poignant words delivered by Bill Belichick.

"I'd been cut other times, but that time was different," Barthelmes, 29, said of his exit meeting with Belichick and Scott Pioli. "It was more serious. The other times, it was always along the lines of 'We're cutting you because of numbers' or 'We'll have you back in a couple weeks.' This time it felt very final.

"[Belichick] told me that I needed to figure out what I really wanted to do."

That's when Brian Barthelmes became a musician.

At Virginia, Barthelmes had a peek into his future when he started plucking on banjos and learning guitar chords in his free time. Then, it was just a hobby. He went on to be a four-year letter-winner for the Cavaliers before landing a rookie free-agent contract with the Patriots.

Through a series of signings and releases by the Patriots, he was living in Plainville, Mass., in 2006. His apartment was spartan; he slept on an air mattress on the living room floor. He turned the bedroom into a soundproof room filled with his instruments and an 8-track recorder -- a private studio of sorts. Without any formal instruction, he began writing songs and recording them.

It was in this humble surrounding where Barthelmes began to settle into his skin. He had always been more court jester than jock or prom king, but he never got around to starting to live like it.

In 2007, not long after he was released for the last time, Barthelmes was introduced to Scott Thompson while out with a friend one night in Providence. He talked to Thompson, then a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, about music and mentioned that he'd been working some solo material. Thompson, a guitarist, was busy with school but invited Barthelmes to come over to play early one morning.

"I can't believe he actually did it," said Thompson before a recent Tallahassee show in Allston. "I could tell he was really serious about it from that point." [...]


In Barthelmes' time with the Patriots, back when there were two-a-days, before the current CBA limited practice time in training camp, there was a lot more downtime during camp. Players looked for ways to keep themselves occupied in between meetings, practices and workouts. Some players dutifully would use the time to bury their nose in the playbook or watch film. Or they'd turn their attention to non-football hobbies, such as playing video games or cards, or brush up on reading. Sleeping rooms filled with mattresses were also common.

Of course, Barthelmes' favorite pastime was playing the guitar. Sometime during the 2006 season, he began giving "lessons" to his teammates on the offensive line. Matt Light and Dan Koppen were among the first to be captivated by the six-string.

Eventually, players on the other side of the ball joined in, including Tedy Bruschi and the late Junior Seau. "I actually purchased a guitar from my local music store and began to learn," said Bruschi, who is also an accomplished saxophonist. "The season came and my interest faded, but Junior continued to play and he loved his guitar and ukulele."

Barthelmes has fond memories of Seau and recalled the process of teaching him how to play. Because Seau's catcher's mitt-like hands were so big and his fingers so thick, Barthelmes took the novel approach of first teaching Seau on a 12-string with its octave strings removed. It allowed Seau more room to work with on the fretboard.

"I remember this one day, I was walking by a room and Junior was laid out on a bed, he told me to come in and sit down and start playing for him," Barthelmes said. "So there I am, playing a future Hall of Famer to sleep and I'm thinking, 'This is just crazy.'"

While Barthelmes' turn to music wasn't immediate, his teammates could clearly see where his passion was.

"[He was] someone that knew where his future path led," Bruschi said. "Music was obviously it."





Posted by orrinj at 10:11 AM

LET'S JUST SAY THAT THE BROTHERS JUDD RELATIONSHIP WITH NEIL ARMSTRONG...:

...was complicated....
Posted by orrinj at 9:25 AM

MORE MANUFACTURING, FEWER JOBS:

I Made the Robot Do It (Thomas L. Friedman, 8/25/12, NY Times)

Rethink's goal is simple: that its cheap, easy-to-use, safe robot will be to industrial robots what the personal computer was to the mainframe computer, or the iPhone was to the traditional phone. That is, it will bring robots to the small business and even home and enable people to write apps for them the way they do with PCs and iPhones -- to make your robot conduct an orchestra, clean the house or, most important, do multiple tasks for small manufacturers, who could not afford big traditional robots, thus speeding innovation and enabling more manufacturing in America.

We have a redistribution question, not an employment crisis.

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 AM

GENESIS 2:24:

Gospel Music is "ramshackle" side project by Black Kids bassist (Heather Lovejoy, October 21, 2011, Florida Times-Union)

The name Gospel Music, Holmes said, reflects his growing up as a First Baptist Church member in an unwavering Christian household. The album's cover and name are from a religious tract he handed out to peers and the general public.

Instead of dabbling in deep thoughts or religion, though, the album's jaunty, stripped-down tunes serve as a merry-go-round for Holmes' deadpan baritone as he muses about romantic relationships. He calls it "ramshackle" music.

His spiritual beliefs started to change about 10 years ago when he found out that there are 400,000 species of beetles, he said. For some reason, that knowledge combined with travel experiences triggered a profound shift in his thinking.

"I'm more of a scientific persuasion than religious," he said. "I'm very interested in evolution."

But the band and album names are not intended to be a mockery, he said.

"[The church] is a part of who I was and who I am. I don't think you can grow up that way without it having an indelible impression," he explained.

About 80 percent of the album is autobiographical, he said. His droll and conversational lyrics are what stand out most.

Album Review: Gospel Music - How to Get to Heaven from Jacksonville, FL (PAUL DE REVERE, OCTOBER 31ST, 2011, Consequence of Sound)

Don't let the band name fool you. You've never heard gospel music this brief. Or this secular. Okay, to be completely accurate, Gospel Music's How to Get to Heaven from Jacksonville, FL isn't gospel at all. It touches on love, heartbreak, and social awkwardness. So, it's post-punk, actually. And it's not half bad. And it's super-duper cute.

If this twee trope is starting to seem familiar, that's because Gospel Music is Black Kids bassist Owen Holmes' new project. Remember "I Don't Wanna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You"? It's like that, but it's not. First, it's more lo-fi, sounding free of the weighty slab of hype dropped on that other band, circa 2007. But The Cure worship is still there (And how could it not be?).

MP3 At 3PM: Gospel Music (Magnet, November 10, 2011)




Posted by orrinj at 8:29 AM

NO ONE LOSES OTHER THAN THE ALAWITES, RUSSIA AND CHINA:

As the violence intensifies in Syria, there can be only one winner - the Kurds (PATRICK COCKBURN,  26 AUGUST 2012, Independent)

The arguments of the regime in Baghdad were so evidently self-serving as to largely discredit them. During the great Shia and Kurdish uprisings of 1991 in the wake of defeat in the Gulf war, Saddam was able to consolidate the Sunni core of his regime in the capital by persuading the Sunni that they faced massacre by the rebels. Likewise, in Syria today, Bashar al-Assad has sought with some success to persuade the Alawites, Christians and other minorities that they face oppression, if not slaughter, at the hands of Sunni insurgents.

When I was in Damascus earlier this summer, one insurgent sympathiser insisted to me that "this is still essentially a struggle of the people against the government". When I talked of sectarian divisions to a Christian from Hama, whose family members had cumulatively spent 60 years in prison under the Baath, he insisted with obvious sincerity that communal antagonisms in Syria "are much less significant than the outside world imagines".

His words made my heart sink a little. I hope the Christian from Hama is right, but I started as a journalist in Belfast in 1972-75 at the height of sectarian warfare in Northern Ireland. I had many good-hearted friends who would tell me with complete conviction that they did not have a sectarian bone in their body. But, as the conversation progressed, it would emerge that they had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the sectarian geography of Belfast and they would no more knowingly intrude into the territory of the community to which they did not belong than they would walk off the edge of a cliff.

A degree of self-deception about the extent of their own divisions is common to most cities and countries where different communities live side by side. The blindness is normally greatest on the part of the dominant community, for obvious egocentric motives. Today Bahrain is probably the country in the world most divided by sectarian differences between Sunni and Shia. The Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty has established what amounts to an apartheid state in which its minority community monopolises power. But in Bahrain I found it impossible to discover any Sunni who would admit to this even in the most private conversation.

How far do these precedents apply to Syria after a year and a half of escalating conflict?

The Ireland comparison is precise.  Young people don't even know what the Troubles were.  The quicker the Middle East devolves into its constituent parts the better.  It's what would have happened after WWI had Wilson not sold them out.

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 AM

THE BIG DISAPPEARANCE WILL BE DEFINED-BENEFIT SOCIAL SECURITY

Why traditional pension plans are disappearing (Susan Hoffman, 8/26/12, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Meanwhile, as younger employees were demanding cash-type benefits - such as the 401(k) - the regulatory burden of the traditional pension plan kept growing. Waves of bankruptcies led to a growing PBGC deficit, resulting in higher funding obligations and higher PBGC premiums (soon to be at least $50 per head - $50,000 per year for a modest plan of 1,000 participants). Investors' focus on post-retirement promises kept growing. And statutory limits on pension benefits for highly compensated executives were repeatedly lowered, forcing them into non-qualified plans for the bulk of their post-retirement compensation, and leaving them less interested in the future of the tax-qualified pension plans covering the lower-paid workforce.

The result of all of these demographic, financial, and regulatory pressures was unsurprising: There was no downside to freezing the pension plan and replacing it with a 401(k) plan. There was, however, plenty of upside.

The change was good for investors and for executives. It simplified personnel administration, reduced administrative costs, and made recruiting new employees easier.

Is that good? Some say yes, some say no, but it's clear to me that the executives making these decisions are not the greedy, insensitive, overpaid bad guys portrayed in the popular press. In every case, in my experience, the decisions were painful, thoughtfully considered, and deemed to be essential to the ongoing health of the enterprise and better for the majority of employees.

More companies are now moving to automatic enrollment in their 401(k) plans, and to automatic escalation of contribution amounts, which has been an effective approach to increasing employee savings. Employees no longer stay with the same employer for their entire careers, and in a mobile-workforce environment, the traditional pension plan benefits very few. The 401(k) plan, with all its faults, has the advantage of benefiting many.

Those whose benefits are reduced because their pension plans terminated in bankruptcy at least have their guaranteed benefits. Before ERISA, they would have had nothing. Those who often change jobs are able to take their 401(k) account with them, so it is there when they need cash - unlike a traditional pension plan, which would provide little for a short-term worker. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM

NOTHING COSTS MORE THAN IT USED TO:

China Confronts Mounting Piles of Unsold Goods (KEITH BRADSHER, 8/25/12, NY Times)

The severity of China's inventory overhang has been carefully masked by the blocking or adjusting of economic data by the Chinese government -- all part of an effort to prop up confidence in the economy among business managers and investors.

But the main nongovernment survey of manufacturers in China showed on Thursday that inventories of finished goods rose much faster in August than in any month since the survey began in April 2004. The previous record for rising inventories, according to the HSBC/Markit survey, had been set in June. May and July also showed increases.

"Across the manufacturing industries we look at, people were expecting more sales over the summer, and it just didn't happen," said Anne Stevenson-Yang, the research director for J Capital Research, an economic analysis firm in Hong Kong. With inventories extremely high and factories now cutting production, she added, "Things are kind of crawling to a halt."



Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM

NOTHING COSTS MORE THAN IT USED TO:

China Confronts Mounting Piles of Unsold Goods (KEITH BRADSHER, 8/25/12, NY Times)

The severity of China's inventory overhang has been carefully masked by the blocking or adjusting of economic data by the Chinese government -- all part of an effort to prop up confidence in the economy among business managers and investors.

But the main nongovernment survey of manufacturers in China showed on Thursday that inventories of finished goods rose much faster in August than in any month since the survey began in April 2004. The previous record for rising inventories, according to the HSBC/Markit survey, had been set in June. May and July also showed increases.

"Across the manufacturing industries we look at, people were expecting more sales over the summer, and it just didn't happen," said Anne Stevenson-Yang, the research director for J Capital Research, an economic analysis firm in Hong Kong. With inventories extremely high and factories now cutting production, she added, "Things are kind of crawling to a halt."



Posted by orrinj at 6:41 AM

MAN FELL, CHRIST DESPAIRED, GOD FORGIVES:

The gospel in seven words (David Heim, 8/24/12, Christian Century)

In his autobiography Brother to a Dragonfly, Will Campbell recalls how his friend P. D. East had badgered him for a succinct definition of Christianity. East did not want a long or fancy explanation. "I'm not too bright," he told Campbell. "Keep it simple. In ten words or less, what's the Christian message?"

Campbell obliged his friend: "We're all bastards but God loves us anyway," he said. To which East replied, "If you want to try again, you have two words left."

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 AM

THE MAN WHO MADE MR. GORSKY'S DAY:

What Neil Armstrong Really Taught the World (Daniel Stone, Aug 26, 2012, Daily Beast)

I requested interviews twice with Armstrong in what turned out to be the final years of his life. Both times I was politely told he simply wasn't interested. He never wanted to be used as a simple quote in a story about space policy or to let a magazine use his image to boost readership. Asked regularly about his feelings when taking that first step, Armstrong would routinely fall back on the same sentiment. "I was certainly aware that this was the culmination of the work of 300,000 to 400,000 people over a decade."

Ever the skilled pilot, he kept us guessing. Three months ago, Armstrong granted a lengthy sit-down to--who else?--the Certified Practicing Accountants of Australia, a professional trade group. Armstrong spent several hours explaining every detail of his fabled moon landing, which was close to ending in out-of-gas disaster. It was an interview that CNN or NBC would have killed for, and he explained that he simply wanted to tell his story in detail without exploiting it. Graphic designers helped create no-frills visuals to show the moments before Armstrong's lunar touchdown. The footage now, of course, is a relic.

In an era of instant glory and relentless promotion, it's hard to imagine someone like Armstrong existing now. Plenty of people deserve public accolades, but few if any turn them down, trading in the guarantee of fame and immense fortune for privacy and the chance to simply keep doing the work they enjoy.