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Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’

In my lifetime I have been blessed with the opportunity to know or at least to be exposed to various people that have a magic in them that necessitate a portion of my devotion – my heroes.  Among them are people like my father, who taught me the meaning of selflessness, hard work, and patience, my grandfather, who taught me what it truly means to be a servant of God, Sgt Grumbles, who has impacted the way I relate to God, myself, others and to art more than any other single person, and people that I don’t know personally – people like Bob Dylan, John Gardner and Elliott Smith.  Among those people at the top of my list of heroes, Daniel Smith stands out as the most inspiring and influential.

Daniel Smith is truly a unique character.  It’s difficult to be indifferent toward him, that is to say he is a polarizing person.  There’s a quality to his personality and the way he expresses himself that will either turn you on or turn you off, but will never leave you indifferent.  The process and product of his imagination are not something I can easily express in one post.  In 2006 a documentary was released, “Danielson, a Family Movie (or, Make a Joyful Noise Here)” documenting the progress of Daniel Smith’s artistic expression since the  founding of the “Danielson Famile,” a band literally consisting of Daniel and his siblings.  Daniel was an art student at Rutgers and his professors insisted that the visual and performing arts were to be kept in their respective galleries and conservatories.  Daniel wouldn’t have it, and since 1994 he hasn’t had it.  He’s continued to press forward even after fifteen years of mediocre (at best) success.  The sincerity and devotion with which he creates is what captures me most.

I could go on and on about Daniel and the opportunities I’ve had to meet him/see him perform, but I’d rather introduce you to the man.  And if you’ve already been introduced you ought to watch anyway.  This video, which was posted on the Danielson site yesterday, is a great summation of much of what Daniel Smith stands for.  Take a look:

WV Project Series 2009: Danielson from Weathervane Music on Vimeo.

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Ever since baseball swam across the Atlantic Ocean and grew legs to walk upon the Hoboken shore it has been a fiery All-American Pastime.  If you don’t like love baseball you are either a Communist or you’re not a true [red, white, and] blue American.  Or you weren’t an athletic child.

Little League baseball has been the scourge and triumph of young boys for seventy years.  I remember my first years as they were divided into four major categories: tee-ball, farm, minors, majors.  Those years were not good to me.  I would’ve rather read a book or built something out of LEGO.  I was afraid of the ball and of human interactions, both of which are key elements of baseball.  Only to add to the torment, at some point I gained weight and achieved the status of “husky.”  But, fortunately for me, upon my entrance into high school I grew six inches almost instantly and—for the first time in my life—demonstrated athletic prowess.  Sure soccer (otherwise known as football) is extremely fun, but baseball was and is my true athletic passion, which is attributed to the unique challenges it presents to a player, for instance: you need a sprint and a mind, a glove and a bat, an arm and an eye.

Even throughout my awkward years I still loved the concept of baseball.  I certainly had my aversions: “cups,” practicing, fastballs near my face, striking out, sitting the bench, etc.—but I also had my passions:  cleats, sunflower seeds, getting on base, making a great catch, the Detroit Tigers, going to watch a professional game, guessing what was going to happen next, etc.  But with my well-rounded appreciation and disdain for the sport nothing could have never prepared me for what the Major League sport seems to have become.

In the golden years an alcoholic could be a magnificent baseball player and even though everyone knew his vice was the bottle, his glory was the bat.  Maybe the fall of this idealism of Major League Baseball came with the Information Age.  Soon everyone knew that the Straw used the straw for other things, beat his wife, and the list goes on.  How could a fan love to watch someone with such moral failings play the All-American Pastime?  But the slugfest of 1998 would soon bring back the spirit of the game, at least until performance-enhancing drugs became a hot topic.

That’s where baseball is today, tarnished by unethical behavior of which performance-enhancing drugs are the crowning glory.  There are massive amounts of illegal drugs administered to willing athletes and recently professional baseball has been front-page news.  Who would’ve thought the highest paid baseball player in history would get caught up in this mess?  He did, as well as the player with the most career home runs in history.  And even the virtuous alliance of brotherhood can get a man mixed up in this heartbreaking moral defeat.

Some people have passionate hatred for baseball.  They might suggest that we adopt basketball, American football, hockey, anything over this boring and morally tarnished money pit called Major League Baseball.  But the sport cannot be to blame for the poor decisions of some players.  And this bad judgment is all that we can fault players for.  If baseball fans have a problem with the size of players’ paychecks then we can turn off the televised game and not buy the baseball cap or the season tickets.  Fans can make baseball players demigods and when we learn that they are not so perfect it is devastating.

In the end there is something profoundly redemptive about baseball, something honorable and magical that I cannot fully explain (watch Field of Dreams).  And if our remembrances of Joltin’ Joe and Derek Jeter remain free from steroid use the sport will always remain alive—even if you detest the Yankees as I do.

UPDATE:  Thanks to The Onion,

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