The National Bracket

Introduction: The National Bracket

Part 1: Plan, Selection Process, Rules, Seeding

Part 2: Round of 64 (Tourney Days 1, 2)

Part 3: Top 32 & Sweet 16 (Tourney Day 3)

Part 4: Elite 8 & Final Four (Tourney Day 3)

Part 5: The Championship (Tourney Day 4)

Introduction: The National Bracket

The safe thing about top five lists is that you are not forced to isolate the best-there is safety in numbers. You may subconsciously have a hidden favorite in there, but you needn’t push yourself to that point by anointing one winner. In essence, choices are hard.

The National is a band that makes wonderful music: their catalog is so stacked that even a top five list would be difficult. To some, they represent the quintessential 18-35 male band-but they are so much more than even that coveted advertising label. They humbly eschew easy pop because that just is not them. Yet, each successive album has secured a bigger fan base of solid devotees. The majority of these albums are the definition of “growers”-the more you listen, the more you like them.

So what’s the best National song?

My friend Dan and I tried to answer that question (Note: Right away I would like to say that perhaps the most important takeaway from this entire experience is we’ve found a format to answer this. Each person has a different set of ears, keep that in mind). We tried to put to rout all that was not the best from a band that easily is among the best out there today.


A roughly 25 hour process that involved selecting the top 64 songs from the National’s recorded music, seeding those songs into 8 regions, and playing these matches in a tournament-style bracket. The rule of advancing was simple: after both songs were played, there followed a discussion and debate. The two of us eventually offered percentages favoring one song (with occasional help from a less-interested friend in the backseat of a long road trip). If a person was particularly passionate about a matchup and overtime was necessary, we played live versions and possibly had a read-off of the lyrics.

We were determined to answer our question.

This is The National Bracket.


Part 1: Plan, Selection Process, Rules, Seeding

This was not the first bracket Dan & I had thought of-but this was going to be the most complex. When we started to put the idea together in earnest, we were eating pizza at a happy hour in the Washington DC area. Within minutes, napkins had been converted to lists of the different albums and songs which were sure to make it.

While we had plans to go out that night, we ended up spending the next 4 hours at my apartment going through the different albums judging songs on their qualifications for the big dance. We went through each of the different albums, singles, eps-anything ever released by the National that was not a live version. We identified more than 100 songs and figured we needed to isolate 64 of those to confirm to the standard NCAA tournament (no play-in matches). Dan’s idea then became to break the bracket down into 8 regions of 1-8 seeds instead of 4 regions seeded 1-16. His argument was that there was pretty amazing strength in the field: there was no Liberty University in the field.

When populating the field, we had to be discerning (read: negative) towards anything that was on the fence. There were 40-45 songs we knew were going to make it, which meant about 20 spots for 60 songs. Unfortunately, as the National have matured it seems their music has improved. This meant that the albums which fared poorest were the oldest: The National (2001), Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (2003) and the EP, Cherry Tree (2004).

We eventually arrived at our 64 making some hard cuts. Sad Songs was particularly hit: Murder Me Rachael, 90-mile Water Wall, Available (It’s hard not to think of many of these songs having their Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront moments yelling “I could’ve been a contender!”).

Meanwhile, The Virginia EP (2008) faired surprisingly strong for an EP with only seven real songs to offer. The heavyweights-Alligator (2005) and Boxer (2007)-both sent the full rosters and were ready for battle. High Violet (2010), the band’s first widely anticipated release, sent 10 of 11 tracks (Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, despite its utility as a terrific way to end live shows, did not make it) and two b-sides. The most recent release, Trouble Will Find Me (2013), came in with a staunch 11.

Needless to say, getting to this point was not easy. Again, evening plans were ruined but we had our field.

Songs for the Tourney

Songs for the Tourney

The next night, before successfully going out, we came to the part where it got really tough: the seeding. Here we combined a bit of selection bias mixed with randomization.

For example, Dan & I both selected our list of top 8 songs that could be possible #1s. As we overlapped on four of the choices, those became the 4 highest #1 seeds (see green above).

We then used our remaining 4 picks each to populate the top 16. We each chose an additional two (see blue). Following this, we both chose the next 16 strongest songs (see yellow), and were left with the bottom 32. Dan then randomly assigned numbers to the relevant songs and by lottery ball process-or more specifically me drinking a beer and calling out numbers-they were assigned a seed based on their group.

Two European Regions

Two European Regions – Top Half

For example, Cardinal Song was going to end up as a 3 or 4 since it was chosen by one of us in the second tier (not top 16, not bottom 32). When I said the number 7, the number Dan had randomly assigned to it between 1-16, we put in the appropriate slot. It ended up as a 4 in one region playing the number five seed Heavenfaced, which drew quite well as one of the bottom 32.

Two European Regions - Bottom Half

Two European Regions – Bottom Half

Eventually, we completed the bracket. The matchups-arguably the most exciting prospect of the tournament-were completely random. Enticed by a lot of first rounders and regions, the countdown was on. You see, it just so happened that Dan, myself, and our completely disinterested friend Nell were driving to Florida and back for New Years: the perfect opportunity to play it out.

Two USA Regions - Top Half

Two USA Regions – Top Half

A few final notes:

Rules: Higher seed goes second, that’s a rule and a second play advantage. Also, the tie-breaking is explained more in-depth when it first appears, but know that it involves live versions and if necessary consulting the lyrics.

Two USA Regions - Bottom Half

Two USA Regions – Bottom Half

Finally, a note on the regions. We decided to have a European bracket and a USA bracket for places where Dan & I had lived, traveled to, or had connections to the National. One bro-moment is that we caught a Lumineers’ concert in Minnesota and listened to Trouble Will Find Me on the road trip back there. The fact that that bracket had two Trouble songs, or the fact that England got a two seed in the London bracket, well that’s just how things work. It was time to play it out.

The Bracket...(laminated)

The Bracket…(laminated)

Part 2: Round 1

The seeding was set-time to start the road trip and get the matchups blaring. In the order they played out (once more, lower seed first), it began!

Opole: 8 Brainy versus 1 Fake Empire

Brainy is a good song that a lot of fans love. There is no denying that it’s a really good song. In fact, it got a very bad draw as an 8. Yet, that’s the luck of the draw. What is worse for the song, and what matters in this type of tournament, is that Brainy completely lacks a personal connection for the judging panel. I mean, I feel I’ve heard Brainy 20 times, yet every time I hear it about 2 minutes in I look to see what song it is. Meanwhile, the preeminent favorite Fake Empire starts up. The horns hit at 2:35 and we can call that Fake Empire’s finishing move, Mortal Combat style. Fake Empire advances.

Baltimore/DC:  8 American Mary versus 1 Slow Show.

American Mary is the name of the National’s website. That’s a plus, and the song is no slouch. That said, this is no real contest. Line upon line of golden genius comes out in Slow Show. It’s hard to see this song losing, and it may get the winning blue ribbon placed on its head.

Dan & I...getting ready for the debates/a whole lotta National

Dan & I…getting ready for the debates/a whole lotta National

London: 8 Tall Saint versus 1 Mr. November

Some really good lines in Tall Saint make us wonder where this song came from and why they haven’t played it more at shows e.g. “Heard a woman say stay down, champion, stay down!” It represents The Virginia EP so well-underrated and a bit unknown. Yes, this song is no devil and the fact is, it just got a really bad draw.  Mr. November starts up and it seems like an elevated version of Tall Saint. It’s an angry #1 seed for a reason. Unlike a lot of the National’s songs, this is a clear pump-me-up that keeps rising with lyrics unabashed to confront and inspire your hidden ambitions. The English are waiting in the second round for Mr. November.

Minnesota: 8 Humiliation versus 1 All The Wine

Humiliation is a sneaky eight seed, yet it is not as strong as some of the other Trouble tracks that have made the big dance. This is another example of a song that has no real attachment, and therefore is a bit weak in the legs for advancing. The fact that we were thinking this as it plays was not a good sign, but what really killed it were the first few chords of All the Wine. The one seed just humiliated Humiliation and reaffirmed itself as the song you listen to when you are on top of the world. With a wingspan unbelievable, All the Wine for the win.

Martvili: 8 Racing like a Pro versus 1 About Today

Slight disagreement as I come in thinking that Racing like a Pro is a vastly underrated eight that can do some damage. It’s got a great refrain and some pretty substantive lyrics. Yet, About Today is one that hits home for Dan and this one advances as a better song-at least today.

Wisconsin: 8 Friend of Mine versus 1 Apartment Story

This is a bit of a reverse of the last matchup. I’ve got a strong connection to the delightfully escape-away-together-at-home lyrics of Apartment Story. This amazing song goes further as it also just walks the tightrope of trouble below it, always on the edge. Yet, Friend of Mine has a weird na-na-na and gets as close as I can remember to the National doing a 60s attempt at pop. Interesting jam, but Apartment Story advances.

Krakow: 8 Little Faith versus 1 Conversation 16

Nice little string break in Little Faith gives one faith in this High Violet number. Good song, however it’s going against a stronger Violet contemporary. Conversation 16 is amazing lyrically-after all everything means everything in this song. Dan mentions that one of the best National experiences he has ever had in concert was when they were playing Conversation 16 and it seals the deal: this confident liar advances.

Minnesota: 8 Anyone’s Ghost versus 1 Mistaken for Strangers

This to me was always the weakest number one and I was curious how it would fair in the first round. Obviously some may think that Anyone’s Ghost could do it, but the bridge in the song doesn’t do as much for the judging panel and in reality, it probably fits as an 8. Meanwhile, Mistaken shows up strong, showered and blue-blazered. Strangers in the second round.

Opole: 7 Cold Girl Fever versus 2 Green Gloves

Cold Girl Fever seems to have this cool 70s feel at times with interesting lyrics and is a definite older National sound. That being said, Green Gloves hits you with its opening. The strings mix with a soothing voice that could be used for a Tylenol ad, or as a substitute for Tylenol even. I am certain I do not know what the two seed is about at all. It is one of those songs that I am really okay if I never know, or can even guess at the meaning. I don’t want to spoil it. Put on your Green Gloves for the next round.

Baltimore/DC: 7 Gospel versus 2 Lucky You

Perhaps the best early matchup is this strong appearance by Gospel which tells a sweet, warm holiday story. The song is so warm it makes me want to go back to Christmas morning and enjoy time with my family, while listening to it. Meanwhile, Lucky You is a bizzaro Gospel in terms of meaning with similar sound. The fact is though that it is just a bit more mature lyrically. Whereas Gospel is all warm, Lucky You incorporates this dash of regret that makes the National the band they are. Unfortunately for the optimists, after a lengthy discussion Lucky You advances.

London: 7 Fashion Coat versus 2 England

Another amazing 7-2 matchup as Fashion Coat absolutely killed it. Listening to this old gem makes us want to walk through London wearing Joseph the Technicolor’s dream coat. Personally, I gig out at “read the foreign news to understand my nation” line. Such a strong fast paced seven that ends well…And then England-and this is coming from a fan-starts worryingly slow for a 2. It started so slow I was thinking that being in a car and moving was a huge disadvantage for songs like England. But, as the song slowly builds upon its wide foundation, it is able to put an ocean and a river between itself and its competition. With the energizing conclusion, England advances into the second round of the London bracket.

Buffalo: 7 You’ve Done it Again Virginia versus 2 Pink Rabbits

So, by this point we became well aware how evenly matched the 7 – 2 pairings actually were. The horns and piano combination of You’ve Done It Again Virginia is wonderful. The song got amazing karma by the fact that as we were listening to it, without saying anything for a moment, Dan and I both noticed a gigantic “Virginia Beach” sign on the side of the road. Needless to say, in this state you can reinvent yourself as a winner and even the song made us all think that we were just ice in a glass. Yet, then comes the slow moving Pink Rabbits. This two seed’s great advantage was going second and slowing down the competition to the extent that you almost forgot what you heard before it. Pink Rabbits adds in great lyrics and though they may not love a storm, these rabbits do love lightning and struck Virginia by advancing to the next round.

Martvili: 7 Wake Up Your Saints versus 2 Daughters of the SoHo Riots

Our first overtime was bound to happen at one point. To refresh, the overtime was something that was a little undefined but was going to involve at least 1) listening to live versions of the songs and if necessary 2) a dramatic reading of the lyrics with no music in the background.

The interesting part was that we didn’t expect it here: again 7 versus 2s were not supposed to be going full-tilt. Yet, the musical arrangement by Wake Up Your Saints really got us going with its embedded energy in a comparable way to Fashion Coat. Meanwhile, Daughters comes out sort of flat, but has such amazing lyrics.

This led us to go into a live version-off, listening to these different versions of Wake Up  & Daughters.

The live versions proved indecisive largely because Daughters was able to hold on with the 2nd play advantage-we needed to have a lyric off.

Simply put, Daughters of the SoHo Riots rocks lyrically. Going second (again, big advantage) these hit the chords of a melodramatic spot that just wants to be avoided, but can’t be denied victory. I don’t have any questions, I don’t think it’s gonna rain, you were right about the end, but it didn’t make a difference. In a nail biter, Daughters advance.

Wisconsin: 7 Ada versus 2 Bloodbuzz Ohio

We were a bit emotionally drained by the last matchup. Yet, we were pretty satisfied by the strong runs of sevens and didn’t think there was going to be much more energy. And then, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes of 7s that had all come so close, gorgeous Ada starts playing. Personally, this song has been a grower itself as I feel like I first only listened to it about 7-8 months ago (not true, but it hit me around that time). Since then, it’s been coming on a lot since then and staying in my head. In a sense, this song is the National to a lot of people as it started as a bit of a glimmer with known potential that became such a solid beauty.

But Bloodbuzz? Bloodbuzz is the song trying to capture an amazing feeling: who needs an alcohol-fueled buzz when you’ve got family or friends. It is arguably the most recognized National song, and arguably the best thing about Ohio.

What’s funny is that these songs have notable parallels: lyrically there is the repetition of reason to reason in Ada and money to the money in Bloodbuzz. Also, both are great driving songs that build as they go on. However, Bloodbuzz is a distinct song on High Violet, yet Ada is…well it is such a complete Boxer song.

For the shocker, we didn’t even need an overtime. After Bloodbuzz ended, we looked at each other for a few moments with grins on our faces and decided that it was over. DOWN GOES BLOODBUZZ. ADA HAS ADVANCED OVER A 2. LONG LIVE THE CINDERELLA STORY.

Krakow: 7 Looking for Astronauts versus 2 Terrible Love

Looking for Astronauts is no Ada. It is a seven seed, and deserves to be a seven seed. Meanwhile, Terrible Love…well yeah, Terrible Love just crushed this.

Minnesota: 7 Cherry Tree versus 2 Graceless

Cherry has a nice pickup in it, but a little bit like Looking for Astronauts, it never stood a chance. Graceless may be best the song off of Trouble and has such an awesome intro that it’s got a good RPI factor (RPI being measured on how quickly Dan & I were able to dismiss another song after listening to the second song play. For example, “Wow, Slow Show’s RPI is great since it eliminated x only 8 seconds in). Graceless gets one moving, pumped, and we all want to know what the hell kind of science there is walking through windows. Either way, there is a science for that song advancing to the next round.

Opole: 6 Exile Vilify versus 3 I Need My Girl

Our first 6 – 3 was an interesting matchup in this Polish region. Here, Exile Vilify (a hidden track from High Violet) snuck in as a nice slow song with a bit of ambiguous meaning to us the listeners. It was hard to judge, but certainly had a nice melancholy sound and beauty. Meanwhile, one of the attention-grabbers from Trouble is Need My Girl. This is such a raw, emotional song-yet it remains a simple song lyrically. It does something without really trying. And on top of that, the brothers in this song excel playing guitar with such complexity and their harmonizing off of one another. Exile is a good song, but we both agreed that we Need My Girl in the next round.

Baltimore/DC: 6 Demons versus 3 City Middle

So Dan is a fan of Demons. He gets into it and appreciates the flavor of the lyrics. It definitely has something, and I even like the “When I walk into a room, I do not light it up, Fuck” line. But, the thing is-and here again is where the personal attachments are key, City Middle came on and spawned so many positive memories. This was the beginning of a randomization period as well (that is, I would just throw on a random matchup and not tell Dan what was playing next) and without knowing the favorites were up next, each song coming on sounded extra fresh. City Middle came on and it had a huge feeling behind it, like both it and the band wanted to prove something. City Middle advanced.

London: 6 The Geese of Beverly Road versus 3 Perfect Song

Interesting matchup for sure. Geese has an amazing ending lyrically as Matt Beringer is just appealing to be served the sky with a big slice of lemon. And of course, it’s a musically solid number-so solid that Dan nailed it when he compared this to a Fake Empire 2.0 (Note: Geese, off of Alligator and less polished, doesn’t comprise the exact harmony and completeness of the later Boxer’s Empire. But for the sake of a cool comparison, it’s called Fake Empire 2.0). Meanwhile, Perfect Song is uncut original good old National. Raw beginning, hit on the importance of music and the past…and yet, Geese advances. Upset city with a big slice of lemon.

Buffalo: 6 Guest Room versus 3 Start a War

Guest Room is one of those Boxer tracks that may get overlooked until you realize how amazing it is. A beautiful melodic song, it is themed well and fits right into the place you want it to in your ears. Unfortunately, it got a bad draw by going against the track that literally sits one spot before it on Boxer: Start A War. This isn’t even a prize fight because Start A War does what a song is supposed to do-it’s the National finding their stride. It owns an idea of pushing something away while advancing a warning. It has got a melody that, if you mess with it, could start a war. It’s a staircase song-it rises and gets you somewhere. It’s a warning that you don’t mess with a three seed or you are going to Start A War. It advances.

Martvili: 6 This is the Last Time versus 3 Secret Meeting

A talented six versus an amazing guitar riffing three. This was destined for extra time. Lyrically, This is the Last Time has a lot going on. It also has a lot of rhythm and hidden arrangements jump up and out of nowhere with unexpected instruments. Meanwhile, Secret Meeting’s first 90 seconds are simplistically good. What songs should be if they don’t seek layers but just want to go after it. So we went to the live versions for both (a radio studio version of This is the Last Time & a live concert for Secret Meeting) and though Secret Meeting is the classic opener from Alligator, the disjointed lyrics add to the depth of This is the Last Time. Another 6 advances.

Wisconsin: 6 Blank Slate versus 3 I Should Live In Salt

Blank Slate has a good beat and grabs your attention. It is a definite “move the toes and knees”-type tune. Maybe not as good as some other songs that were already eliminated, but it’s opening performance puts it in contention. Dan at this point was really interested with what was coming up next because of this solid performance and our mutual feeling that the Virginia EP kept getting so close, but no cigar…then Trouble’s opening track starts with an amazing RPI (again, how quickly a song eliminates another). I Should Live in Salt simply is a hard 3: a great song that perfectly fits its seed. No other way around it-it advances.

Krakow: 6 Without Permission versus 3 Baby We’ll Be Fine

Another 6 from The Virginia EP starts off with promise, yet like the 5 before it is destined to fail despite its sweet story. The reason is that Baby We’ll Be Fine is perhaps one of the top 7-8 National songs lyrically. I’m so sorry for everything, including to the Virgina EP, but Baby We’ll Be Fine in the next round.

Minnesota: 6 Trophy Wife versus 3 Sea of Love

Trophy Wife is a catchy beat from earlier times. It’s got a certainly intriguing meaning, and it seems to do well capturing Sad Songs 4 Dirty Lovers. Unfortunately, it was going against a strong entry from Trouble, Sea of Love. This too is a catchy beat that builds gracefully and ends with aggressive energy. Sea of Love advances.

Opole:  5 Wasp Nest versus 4 Squalor Victoria

This was getting to the end of the first eight hours in the car and, frankly, neither of the two songs really jumped out for the win. That said, Wasp Nest is a beautiful song, but Squalor Victoria had home field second play and was more up-tempo. I know some National fans shocked to hear it, but down goes Wasp Nest in the first round.

Baltimore/DC: 5 Afraid of Everyone versus 4 Slipped

Interesting 4 versus 5 as it pitted two middle of the road songs from the National’s last two albums. The thing about Afraid of Everyone is that it has a great ending. In fact, it finishes so well that it stands far above the 3-4-5 lineup from High Violet of Anyone’s Ghost, Little Faith and itself. Meanwhile, Slipped is a dreary good song from Trouble that slipped in between Graceless and I Need My Girl. Slipped slips, Afraid of Everyone advances despite its paranoia in the last win of the first day of the tournament.


London: 5 Val Jester versus 4 Abel

Day 2 started off with us driving in a light rain, and the right song seemed to be Val Jester. It’s slow mover slotted in at #8 on Alligator. It is definitely on the somber side, and probably a soft five seed. Dan was again in the randomization phase: that is he didn’t know which matchups were up so he didn’t know what this five seed was up against. Then, right as the drizzle was already starting to lighten up and our coffee started to kick in, and we started moving faster, we hit the four seed. A little track also from Alligator that gets the people moving and won the match about seven seconds in with a great RPI, Abel shoots energy into your ears with such reckless abandon that I am going to compare it to someone’s first time on heroin. As we are driving we hear the line about water on the bridge. For all intensive purposes Dan & I hold our hands through this: he hits the accelerator knowing that Abel is going places. Day 2 was on.

Buffalo: 5 Santa Clara versus 4 Lemonworld

The energy from the last match continued into a really exciting 4-5 with the last remaining solid Virginia EP track, Santa Clara. This song has an amazing first 35 seconds, lyrically and instrumentally. It dies a little bit in its repetition, but it remains solid and then at the end, just when you think you’ve got a feeling for it, it picks up in some kind of weird National 7th inning stretch. Meanwhile, personally I had to throw my hat in for Lemonworld which has so many great lines: this High Violet song makes me want to meet a girl willing to throw flowers in my mouth while I’m on a table because for some unexplainable reason that may be the greatest image I’ve ever pictured. Furthermore, I can’t date a girl without thinking about wondering about the importance of the relationship she has with her sister now. That’s Lemonworld. Yet, Santa Clara was good enough to force an OT. Here, we ran into the problem that it was hard to find a live version. But, we did here and due to Lemonworld’s adaptability and different sound on its live version, it advanced. Great matchup.

Wisconsin: 5 Heavenfaced versus 4 Cardinal Song

Heavenfaced is an okay five seed from a really pretty amazing album, Trouble Will Find Me. Something lacks in the song though, and I’m not sure what. It’s sweet and all, but something is lacking. Meanwhile, Cardinal Song is an early complex National song. Off of Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers, it starts off uber-slow and with a list of direct instructions about love that seem like a depressing mix of Tyler Durden from Fight Club and Al Pacino from Scent of a Woman. The true strength of the song is the instrumental bridge which leads to basically a separate song hidden at the end. The simple fact is that what makes this second song so great is that it’s about 4 minutes and 30 seconds into Cardinal Song, and that’s why it advances in a rather weak matchup.

Martvili: 5 Sorrow versus 4 Lit Up

Okay, so great lyrics on Sorrow if you want to face heartache. Also, this song has an amazing connection because of the 6 hour version the band decided to perform at the New York Museum of Modern Art-major cool points. Unfortunately, Lit Up has that Abel-feel with really incredible pump-up levels. It is probably an underrated 4 and its RPI topped out as Sorrow was eliminated about 26 seconds into Lit Up.

Krakow: 5 All Dolled-up In Straps versus 4 Don’t Swallow the Cap

Something about Matt Berninger’s voice in the verses in All Dolled-up from Cherry Tree is so dark and deep that it shouldn’t be allowed near children or schools. And yet, when the light refrain mixes in you love this sneaky good five seed. The song also has an amazing ability to display a description in your mind; it really is a powerful song on a few levels. Yet, Don’t Swallow the Cap has such a great rhythm, and Dan & I both see a beautiful bright white heaven hanging over us as this song gets going. Here, the four seed had the advantage of home field play and ended up taking it down.

Minnesota: 5 Runaway versus 4 Karen

I knew the final matchup of round one was going to be a complex one. Runaway has never done much for me personally, but I wanted to hear Dan out and he described it this way: the slow horns in the back do not overshadow the song but move it. Moreover, there is sense that there is a heartbeat going along with the song as it works to its close-powerful stuff. Meanwhile, as I defended Karen I found that I was defending a few great lines and the musical arrangement. This debate went on for several minutes, reading of lyrics, live versions (Runaway and Karen), and the solicitation of Nell in the back who voted slightly for Runaway. Eventually, Runaway advanced for two reasons: it was easily more appreciated by National fans and there was indeed something unique about the song itself.

After the first round...

After the first round…

Part 3: Round of 32 and Sweet 16


Opole: 3 I Need My Girl versus 1 Fake Empire

This was a very strange situation. Dan and I both really like I Need My Girl. As we sat, listening to the song, we enjoyed it. We knew that Fake Empire was right around the corner. When Fake Empire came on, I realized the brilliance of the song in a new way: it can own the weather. We were driving in the sun the day before when we heard it, and now we were driving as it was cloudy and overcast from the earlier rain. When the piano started, the surroundings somehow became part of the song. You can’t match the perfection of the percussion as it picks up. Fake Empire advances.

Baltimore/DC: 5 Afraid of Everyone versus 2 Lucky You

A more even matchup was next as Afraid of Everyone remained the escalating song that could swallow another song’s soul soul soul. Yet, Lucky You has such a killer ending and is a very visual song that puts you right there-you just feel lucky listening to it. Interestingly enough, Dan wanted a live showdown which led to a great live rendition of Afraid of Everyone on Letterman-and Letterman’s praise. Next, a stripped down version of Lucky You was performed on the Daytrotter session. I lobbied hard for the two seed with its bleeding sarcasm, and Nell in the back also came in support of it. Unlucky for Afraid, Lucky You advances.

Krakow: 3 Baby We’ll Be Fine versus 1 Conversation 16

Interesting matchup of lyrically-strong songs. It seemed the three in this one always maintained its B+/A- level. In other words, it’s a song that set out to be solidly good but never experimented to become something more. Meanwhile, Conversations 16 has the memories for the judges (a live show in Buffalo will always be in Dan’s brains), and it is such a confident liar lyrically that it could have just fooled us into thinking it was better than Baby. Perhaps it was the second play, but in any case Conversation 16 advances to the sweet 16.

Buffalo: 3 Start A War versus 1 All the Wine

Start A War is a great song. Unfortunately, it is not All the Wine. All The Wine has a ridiculously high RPI. Within seconds of starting the #1 seed, we were apologizing to Start A War saying that we were so sorry but the motorcade will have to go around this time. In fact, as a bit of external events weighing in on the decision/providing insight, Start a War actually played as we were sitting in a traffic jam for a while. We  were stuck and feeling trapped. Meanwhile, by the grace of karma, cars got out of the way and the roads opened up just as the Wine started pouring. We blared All the Wine because we were in a state after sitting and not moving: what better song to hear than the one meant for being champions and owning the moment. All the Wine to the sweet 16.

London: 6 The Geese of Beverly Road versus 1 Mr. November

A bit similar to the Buffalo and Opole matchups, it was so unfortunate that such a heavyweight was going up against such a positive song. As a six seed, Geese showed a lot of gumption and scrap. Once more, they almost got away with it, and they were totally geniuses. Unfortunately, whenever you think you can fuck with Mr. November, you are going to be fresh out of that big slice of lemon you so richly want. In his best clothes, and into the next round, goes Mr. November.

Wisconsin: 3 I Should Live in Salt versus 1 Apartment Story

Good matchup here-and to be honest most from this point there weren’t going to be slouches. As we started discussing Salt, we said how we both had heard Matt Berninger’s explanation of the song on NPR and how it was largely about the relationship with his brother. This lead Dan & I to talk about how taking away the mystery of the song, and knowing exactly what it’s about, can lose the mystique that makes a song great. In other words, if you know what is behind the curtain and perfectly understand something, where’s the magic? And that is why Apartment Story advanced. It is a song I strongly argued that I understood-the comfort of two people happily dancing together on a wire above something chaotic and toxic below (metaphorically of course). Yet, I could be entirely wrong. But believing in my understanding and my interpretation, along with that amazing melody, makes that Story so damn good.

Martvili: 6 This is the Last Time versus 1 About Today

This is the Last Time was a really good song from the first round. A sneaky six that deserved to advance and has a sort of Cardinal Song thing going on-a hidden song made of different lyrics and instruments at the end. Yet, Dan launched into About Today and the emotionally heavy reasons how it can floor people. I bought it, and in addition, this song has a really good beat. Again, About Today advances.

Minnesota: 3 Sea of Love versus 1 Mistaken for Strangers

What’s cool about Sea of Love is that right in the middle of the song, you hear the words Trouble Will Find Me. How cool for a band to hide the name of an album in a random lyric from a song that’s not even the main single! The National are awesome, keep this in mind. Anyway, this song remains a hard 3-it’s a great song from beginning to its aggressive fist-pumping end. Plus one additional point for the use of the harmonica. Speaking of names, Mistaken for Strangers is also the name of the band’s documentary-very cool. This was going to a live-off with this version of Love and this version of Strangers. Mistaken really brought it live as it was somehow cleaner and slower, yet just as badass. It advances.

Baltimore/DC: 3 City Middle versus 1 Slow Show

Again, City Middle is a good three seed. It deserves its spot and has some good connections and makes one want to embrace a night. Yet, Slow Show has an incredible RPI and is simply a better song. In fact, the fact that Slow Show incorporates the song 29 Years from The National into the end of it, well that’s just amazing. Slow Show for the fast win.

Opole: 4 Squalor Victoria versus 2 Green Gloves

Time to get real: Squalor Victoria is a repetitive song that is not as strong as other Boxer songs. Meanwhile, Green Gloves is deeper and has a more emotional vibe. Bing bang boom, put your Gloves on for the next round.

Minnesota: 5 Runaway versus 2 Graceless

Runaway deserved to get into the next round without a doubt as it is a solid song. However, Graceless shows a surprisingly strong RPI with a great beat and pump-up feeling. Again, who the hell knows what walking through windows means, but I like the entire feeling of being Graceless around New Years Eve. God loves everybody, and I’ll remind you that Graceless advances.

London: 4 Abel versus 2 England
As expected, a strong start for Abel as it flies out of the gate. It is playing far above its four spot and talent level with the Florida sun and trees flying by. A perfect setting for this scrappy Alligator single that just wants to let you know that even if the mind isn’t ready, the song is. Meanwhile, England again starts off slow-a quintessential builder. Who doesn’t love the idea about not trying to make corrections…but the fact is, as this song was playing I, its defender, was enjoying it more than getting ready to debate. Abel’s energy had won the day and the round.

Buffalo: 4 Lemonworld versus 2 Pink Rabbits

Lemonworld still has great lyrics, yet Pink Rabbits still has home second play advantage with perhaps almost as good of lyrics. Here, the same slow pace of Pink Rabbits again was used to perfection as it slowed down the already rather slow pace of Lemonworld. It advances into the sweet 16 not like Abel (furious and fast moving), but more like an image that the first couple of beats of the song sound like: an old man popping into a room with a crutch and a limp.

Krakow: 4 Don’t Swallow the Cap versus 2 Terrible Love

Again, the Trouble leader Cap is a great melody-it’s a four spot with heart. Terrible Love may not have as quick of a beat, but in this matchup of singles off of the last two albums, it has something very unique. That is, it has this drop before it comes at you with full force. In other words, the song is not the traditional National builder (e.g. England) or even the National full-forced song (e.g. Abel): this one grinds and grinds like the little engine that could (listen to the first 1:35). Then, it appears to give everything it has (1:35-2:00), runs out of steam but desperately clings on to what it had built (2:00-2:45). Then suddenly in one last futile attempt it gives everything it’s got (2:45-4:00) before it is able to erupt and finally get over the hill. You know, this song is sex. It’s pretty awesome sex…or Terrible, I don’t know. Either way, as the last song of Day 2, it advances.


Martvili: 4 Lit Up versus 2 Daughters of the Soho Riots

Lit Up starts off with legs: it is the bad blood of the party and it’s a great song to get us going on our way back from Florida to the DC area. After a very challenging first round matchup against Wake up Your Saints, Daughters has a good start. It is a solid two and we decide that it goes to overtime with two really pretty good versions. Here, the second play home advantage cannot do the trick though as Lit Up advances with the upset.

Wisconsin: 7 Ada versus 4 Cardinal Song

We start with the wannabe-Cinderella story outta nowhere, the beat outta Boxer, the leave-it-all-up-in-the-air Ada. This track comes in flying with a piano and voice reminding us that this seven seed has got its competition speechless for more than a minute, and that it ought to go out in the hallway if they think they’ve got an easy win. Such. A. Good. Song. Meanwhile, Cardinal’s second play is again that very slow start building towards the second part of the song. It’s powerful, but not powerful enough to stand up to Ada and her horns at 1:38. Yes Ada, I think everything counts a little more than we think, including a birth in the sweet 16 for this glorious seven seed.



Opole: 2 Green Gloves versus 1 Fake Empire

Wow. Talk about shit getting real in a hurry. Green Gloves going first is a different feel and it remains a good song with that warm feeling, playing up the hands element. Meanwhile, Fake Empire comes on and for me, its RPI is slightly weaker. Yet, something about this song makes you conscious of everything going on around you. You find it hard to keep track of yourself, falling from the sky and listening. Fake Empire advances to the elite 8.

London: 4 Abel versus 1 Mr. November

Abel gets the people going if the people aren’t already going. It’s a pump-me-up-let’s-go-and-do-something sound and you just want to be given a reason that you are not as bright as you could be. In another sort of strange parallel to its competition, the lyrics in Abel (track 10 on Alligator) have a repeated feel right from the start: my mind’s not ready! Mr. November (track 13 on Alligator) does something similar at the start: in my best clothes! Yet, Mr. November also scores points because while the song possibly has one of the coolest titles of all-time, it also drives the listener right to the edge and walks away suddenly (listen from 1:20-1:45) multiple times! Only Mr. November can pull that kind of shit and get away with it. Thus, in this legitimate slugfest from two great Alligator tracks, he’s got to advance being carried in the arms of cheerleaders.

Minnesota: 2 Graceless versus 1 Mistaken for Strangers

Graceless comes in hot, as expected. Though we listened several times, it’s a song that each play gives you something new. For example, there seems to be an Alice in Wonderland reference going on in the lyrics as he’s taking the medicine, going missing and looking through the glass. Then again…walking through windows? Who knows, maybe that’s a nod to the Jabberwocky. Yet, as Mistaken comes on giving everything it’s got, something about Graceless’s free-flowing, rhyme-heavy and carefree attitude stayed strong in our minds. No overtime necessary as the 2 seed moves into the elite 8.

Buffalo: 2 Pink Rabbits versus 1 All the Wine

Pink Rabbits had lost its perch of second play advantage by this point in time. It hits the spot every time by slowing down the pace, making throw away references to Morrissey, and pulling needles from a doll. Yet, All the Wine comes on with its still great RPI and it remains such a strong powerhouse. All the Wine for the win.

Baltimore/DC: 2 Lucky You versus 1 Slow Show

We had another good matchup with the one seed showing some great RPI early on into its play. What is especially hard is there is a great user-made Lucky You video connected to Poland-strong personal connection for everyone in the car. Additionally, our fellow traveler Nell, who was becoming increasingly interested in the tournament as it waged on, said she supported Lucky You here. Alas, as non-voting member, Dan & I make the agreement that you can drive a car across our heads in 5 minutes and into the next round for Slow Show.

Krakow: 2 Terrible Love versus 1 Conversation 16

Here was a good old fashioned High Violet showdown on this two against one matchup. Another great thing about Terrible Love is that with the style of the song, it may not catch you in the first 20 seconds, or with a certain set of lyrics, but at a different point throughout the song each time you get hooked. It’s got this weird magnet that pulls you. Yet, it does lack depth lyrically which is exactly where, the less great melodically, Conversation 16 cleans up. In fact, the song is so good that Dan & I do not know what all the troubles are for: Conversation 16 advances with a mutual support of about 60-65%.

Martvili: 4 Lit Up versus 1 About Today

We all knew Lit Up was coming in hot, and it again fits the mood of the car as an energizer. Also a note, the way the song ends with a sudden drop finishes it so well. You’re Lit, and you’re done. Meanwhile, About Today is a big drop in energy but we go to OT and hear the big guns from both sides. First, the live version of Lit is the band’s television debut in the UK and for a little while, this song is the only good part of us. Meanwhile, we choose the live version of Today from the Virginia EP-an 8 minute masterpiece. This song rocks socks off, no joke. It’s a great trump card, and saves the day for About Today, which advances.

Wisconsin: 7 Ada versus 1 Apartment Story

Crazy good matchup of the A-level competition (on many levels). Ada starts like a seasoned pro, and works in so many instruments you want the National to play this song at Carnegie Hall with a full orchestra. At one point Dan makes the comment that this is the best 7 a tournament has ever seen, certainly this tournament. It’s hard to argue with grapes in your mouth. Meanwhile, Apartment Story plays back with its charming rhythm and vibe. We go live, have to. Ada, to the surprise of only the deaf, but likely even they heard the sound of the laughs through the walls, dominates. It was hard to dismiss Apartment Story personally, but the momentum for Ada was so great it advances. And you know what, Ada the judges have been hoping you know your way around.


Part 4: Elite 8 & the Final 4

Buffalo/Minnesota: 2 Graceless versus 1 All the Wine

Graceless came in as the last new song: that is it was the representative off of Trouble Will Find Me. It was the winner of Minnesota which in retrospect, was a fairly solid region. Not the strongest, but fairly deep. Yet, when All the Wine started after Graceless, Trouble found Graceless since, as usual, All the Wine took the judges to another level. In fact, it put us in a state. All the Wine, with high beams shining on its back, advances to the Final 4 with no doubt.

Opole/Martvili: 1 About Today versus 1 Fake Empire

Now, despite there being two #1 seeds, Fake Empire  had the second play advantage as it was one of the top #1 seeds from the onset. Therefore, About Today, came in having just spent its amazing 8 minute effervescent live version that captured emotion and energy in a way few songs can. Yet, its recorded version fell flat against the dominance of the #1 track from Boxer, and arguably the #1 track in the tourney by the way it had decimated opponents. Fake Empire was no longer staying out super late picking apples; it was getting up early and picking fights. It advanced to the Final Four looking to win.

Krakow/London:  #1 Conversation 16 versus #1 Mr. November

Another 1 versus 1. High Violet’s best lyrics versus the best energy Alligator can muster. More than some of the other Elite 8 matchups, this seemed like it could be a toss-up. Conversation 16 doesn’t disappoint for certain as it always makes one think and raises provocative questions and begging not to ask what the troubles are for…yet then Mr. November starts up. There is a debate over what the song is actually about.  Is it political in nature? Is it a guy who used to be the champion of high school and now has lost that winning stature? Is it some kind of mix, something different, or nothing like it at all. The fact is that the guitars after the pauses in singing create a wonderful tension for anyone listening. Then, listeners are once more treated as the song explodes into repeated moments of unequaled energy. No Mr. November, you won’t fuck us over in the Final Four.

Wisconsin/Baltimore/DC: #7 Ada versus #1 Slow Show

The surprise of the tournament versus the #1 RPI of the tournament. Dan & I love Slow Show for its guitar, its lyrics, and the fact that even if some lines are corny (lean on the wall and the wall leans away), there is something so perfect about the idea of trying to hurry home and be simplistically stupid to amuse the one you love. It’s a beautiful, beautiful song that walks on the boundaries of concern and hesitation. There is hope, passion, self-deprecation, humor and an amazing rhythm. And somehow, you sense that it is all coming within the first 15 seconds. Ada is an amazing song, this tournament has proven it. But Slow Show has been gearing up for this for 29 years before it happened. The Final Four is set.

Final 4

Final 4

Final 4

So, Nell in the back was very quick to laugh and point out that the Final Four were actually just the top four agreed upon seeds-yet it took us nearly 20 hours to get to that point…Well Nell, that’s not why you play the game! We had over 50 amazing matchups, a Cinderella, and discussion to rival anything done on music in my life before.

Also-looking at these final songs-none were weak and all were the kind that inspire. 2 Boxers, 2 Alligators. It was time to push play.


Europe: #1 Mr. November versus #1 Fake Empire

Mr. November went first by random chance. The song has such a strong gut feeling. You can beat a song to death by overanalyzing it, and that’s why these sections won’t drone on too much more, but Mr. November seems to have a sound that cannot be beaten to death. It’s resilience in the face of adversity. It played 4 minutes and 1 second of that resiliency to perfection: hard.

Fake Empire came out and did what it does. Dan thought its RPI was as high as ever, though I was leaning and hesitant. I wanted OT, as even through the horns of Boxer’s #1 track, Mr. November remained in my mind.

Dan was worried as there are some hit and misses with Fake Empire’s live version. We selected the version of Fake Empire performed on Letterman on July 24, 2007 and according to the late night host it was their television debut. Simply-they hit it out of the park. While Mr. November was the man among Fall’s boys, Fake Empire took the year to itself. Proof? Barry Obama’s campaign used Fake Empire because it caught the tide of the 2000s in just under 4 minutes. They felt it represented hope, change, and the zeitgeist of America. Whatever your politics, this version, and generally the serious width and depth of the song are too good. Fake Empire is the song of the decade and, in a bloodbath, it goes to the championship.

USA: #1 All the Wine versus #1 Slow Show

There was another fantastic matchup for the final spot in the final. On one side, and going first by random draw, was All the Wine. Again, this song owns a moment. If you climb a mountain, if you are selected as 1 of 100,000 applicants, if a supermodel chooses you out of a crowd, whatever: this is that song. This is you, owning that moment.

But, strangely, as this competition went to live versions-which were both amazing-something appeared about All the Wine that only Slow Show had been able to draw out of it. All the Wine was fantastically deep, although it was not wide.

In essence, it again aimed to do one thing, and it succeeded and it may be the best song ever at doing that. Yet, Slow Show is a more complex and far reaching song. Slow Show, in its live version and acoustically bare showed overall it was the better song. At least at this moment. This was an agreed upon decision (around 53-54% on both sides), but probably the hardest of the tournament.

No one wanted to celebrate this outcome because the failure of All the Wine seemed such an antithesis to what it is. Meanwhile Slow Show, determined to win at its own pace and entirely encapsulating the National’s humble yet marked ambition in one song, hurried home to the championship ready to try and crack up the Fake Empire. It was set.

Part 5: The Championship

We needed a break. We had just finished a long road trip and listened to one band, almost exclusively, for the majority of three out of five days. In no small way were we worried that our judgment at the time might be cloudy or rushed. We had a large choice. So Dan & I decided to think of all that we had accomplished, and meet back in mid-January to decide the championship.

Then, one winter day, the match was played.

We came in knowing the songs well and the match-up was between a song that embodied the 2000s versus a song that embodied the band.

Fake Empire played first, because of its leadoff position on Boxer (this album subsequently became the real winner of the tournament).

In a sense, the details on percentages are less important than before. While there was a discussion about how maybe it would be best to just avoid choosing a winner, we realized we had come too far not to finish the marathon. At mile 26.1, we saw the light and that it would likely be the slightest of victories before collapse.

Fake Empire’s arrangement and melody is a song you would want to take with you as the last song you could ever hear. Its melodies and arrangement, coupled with instruments that an artist like Beethoven could even incorporate, lead to a spiritually moving and motivational piece. Yet, while the lyrics are undeniably important, the message is the undercurrent to the actual melody and sound. Fake Empire could have different words, and may have a different meaning, but be just as powerfully motivating.

Meanwhile, the sap in us all instantly recognizes that the National hits on so much more with the non-political message in Slow Show. It’s an idea that love is possible. You find something, you believe in something, and you try your damnedest to make the hardest thing in the world simple.

The arrangement may not be able to move mountains, but the voice and the meaning strikes a chord more apparent in other National songs. In a sense, the song is also more in touch with music’s heart-less refined but more vulnerable.

Love trumps politics, and Slow Show trumps Fake EmpireSlow Show is the National Champion.

Get your shit together, gather your shit in: the King is dead, long live the King.

Get your shit together, gather your shit in: the King is dead, long live the King.

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“Whenever I reminisce, I know that the greatest risk, is giving up the fun for pay, I don’t want to live that way” ~ Brett Dennen: fashion, Sens games, and more!

In at the buzzer for November are a few quick thoughts.

  • There is a great deal about fashion that goes over my head. Going back to old school Kanye, I feel the line about how ‘I can’t even pronounce nothing, pass that ver-say-see’ begins to hit on my understanding. However, there is definitely an unmentioned trend that I cannot help but notice: male shirts and checked box patterns. Note: I’m not talking Argyle. I’m talking the black on white in small boxes or the blue or red or green boxes. The point is, there are boxes everywhere. It’s like some kind of weird Picasso-inspired cubism is overtaking male fashion. Or maybe everyone just wants to rep M.C. Esher-style paintings as their garments. Crazy stairs/crazy squares…I should note that I have about three of these shirts myself.
M.C. Escher, fashion designer.

M.C. Escher, fashion designer.

  • The DC metro is certainly an interesting place. In a sense, each trip is a new adventure, sometimes not even on the train. Two quick examples: the other week I was walking up to the metro chewing a piece of gum. As I was approaching I saw a little adorable black child sitting with his mom outside. However, my attention stuck to him because he was making this weird open and closing motion with his mouth-basically as big as he could make his mouth go. As I got closer I realized he was staring at me and then I realized the child was, in the strictest sense, mocking me chewing my gum. Needless to say, it is quite good to have an unintentional etiquette lesson from a probable 3 year old showing you how stupid you look. Oh metro.
    Less pleasantly, during the workday cattle rush onto and off of the metro, there are often collisions and upset people. The other week, as I was preparing to go up the escalator with 40-50 other people in about a two foot space, I heard a woman quite agitated. Specifically, she yelled “You know, you could say ‘Please!’” This seemed a bit contrary to me: a woman yelling at others on their lack of manners (Irony or coincidence…I know where my money lies). However, I did not think it best to point this out to her. Oh metro.
  • Saw my first concert at the Black Cat with my friend Tara recently. The concert was with the band ‘He’s my brother, she’s my sister.’ First the bad: in comparison with the 9:30 club, the layout of Black Cat just isn’t as great. One kind of feels like they are walking into a low-ceiling high school gym for an unpopular dance. There are two bars on two sides (I do not recommend asking for the Dark and Stormy unless you want to punish your tastebuds), and before shows people are disinterestedly interspersed in front of a stage that is probably transportable. There is also a section in the back with the lights on and people looking glum and perhaps sentenced to prison. We called this the “Happy Section.”
    The good: the vibe presented by a good ol’ rock and roll band is pretty sweet and can overtake all of those concerns. It seems that Black Cat caters specifically to the up and comers and that’s good for price but also experience. What added to that ‘witnessing something new’ experience was that He’s My Brother, She’s my sister were on their last show of the tour and really put a lot into it. The song linked above was their conclusion and probably about 60 people (okay, maybe 20) were on the stage from different acts earlier in the night. Oh, not to mention one girl drums the whole time by standing on the drum and kicking her feet. Neat.

    He's My Brother, She's My Sister @ Black Cat

    He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister @ Black Cat

  • Who projectile vomits? Really?! Well, I suppose people super excited about going to hockey games….More details: the night before Thanksgiving I went with my friend Caitlin to the Washington Capitals – OTTAWA SENATORS GO SENS GO  game. It was probably about the 5th or 6th time I’ve gotten to see the Senators play live (I think their record in these games is 4-1 or 5-1, GO SENS GO) and I was going to be exceptionally happy simply because of that. However, to set the scene: I was meeting for Caitlin for a beer before the game next to the Verizon Center. We were sitting down and having some good conversation on recent movies (Dallas Buyers Club = phenomenal acting). At one point though, a group of friends near the bar took a shot that one of them was not a fan of. While I remember looking up wondering why someone’s face would turn into a volcano-like shape with full cheeks, I did not anticipate step two of the volcano process. Less than a second after I witnessed this contortion, all hell broke loose (well shot out of his mouth) and landed at our feet. No real damage (Caitlin’s boots…a little smudge on my jeans…a little bit of our pride)…but really, who projectile vomits? Filmed recreation here.
    Oh, and it was an amazing game. Sens won 6-4 after being down 3-1. Chris Neil also won one of the two fights. All of this pleased myself, a girl 10 rows in front of me wearing Senators clothes, and probably about 15 other people in the stadium. That’s the one thing I’ve learned about Caps games: there are a lot of Caps fans. Emphasis on a lot. Ah well, I think my cheering and excitement may have won over the Asian family to our right…or caused them to leave after the second period. GO SENS GO!

    Cheap Seats for SENS game

    Cheap Seats for SENS game

  • Finally, read this dated and overly optimistic take on the Vilnius Summit if you wish. Until December!
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“And I can spend a lifetime searching for someone to blame, but don’t look back, don’t feel ashamed. Oh cause now is exactly the time, to be out on your own again” ~ Noah & The Whale: Life in DC, the Socratic Method, 9:30 Club, Online Dating, and more!

Apologies for no September post; I was very busy. Moving to DC, landing some work and creating a place for myself here as well as meeting a lot of new people and some old ones too-well it takes time to adjust to this sort of thing. However, there have been a series of thoughts that have crossed my mind, and here are some:

  • The problem with truly dedicating yourself to the Socratic Method is that you eventually end up drinking hemlock alone to prove a point. I firmly believe in the approach and have no problem claiming that I know nothing. It’s fun to confront irrational confidence with a range of questions at any opportunity (a hobby that one can find plenty of chances to do in DC…or actually anywhere). But, it seems sometimes that such an approach, at times, diminishes more than maximizes conversations. Why break everything down for the sake of reason when at times its fun to engage in building things up, however unreasonable?
    A motif that has seemed to emerge in my blog is enjoy life at all opportunities because moments are so often fleeting. In essence, I think a few times the past few months I’ve tried to avoid getting caught up in what are, I suppose, trivial things. After all, however important it is to assess the principles of an argument, for some discussions I know I’d rather not poison myself to prove a point.
  • Not as much as I’d like, but I do still run around in DC (or more accurately, Northern Virginia). One small thing I’ve noticed is that the nod to other runners as you pass them is definitely not as popular here as in Wisconsin, or even Texas. No real scientific study to prove this, but people must think I have a bobble-head. In any case, I still try…and may soon take drastic actions e.g. stopping and shaking hands, hugs, or resorting to a really, really awkward wink.
  • Music (1)/Pixburgh: I owe a debt to my friend Max for introducing me to a great album I likely wouldn’t have stumbled across. On one of my recent drives between Chicago and DC, I was able to meet up with this bicho from Bandza and he made me listen to Sam Cooke’s One Night Stand in Harlem. I spend a lot of time on music on this blog (see the Noah & the Whale point), but for a great listen to an old soulful album that captures the desired intensity of a live venue, check out this song and album. It’s so perfectly 1963 soul, and yet so timeless.

    Max & I in Pittsburgh & a retro shot from Georgia

    Max & I in Pittsburgh & a retro shot from Georgia

  • I should also mention that Max hooked us up with tickets to a Pittsburgh Pirates (aka Pixburgh Buccos) game. What made this even more interesting than standard beisbol was that 1) the Pirates had just recently clinched a winning season for the first time since Honus Wagner was on the team I believe (in jest) and 2) we sat in an “all you can eat” section. What that translated into was a handful of cheeseburgers, some hot dogs, a couple of nacho dishes, a heart attack in 10-15 years, and some peanuts and popcorn…each…I think ice cream servings were also in the mix. Mmmm beisbol food.

    Shot from the all-you-can-eat-in-baseball-food section at PNC Park

    Shot from the all-you-can-eat-in-baseball-food section at PNC Park

  • So DC definitely has some quirks. I mean, even 8 years ago, this city was a bit funny to me during my summer here. It’s a transient place full of people from around the US and the world, so it kind of lacks its own truly unique culture. Yet, it is so strong culturally with such a range of activities to do and places to see (e.g. the Smithsonian, great restaurants, and last night I even went to a really interesting ‘drag race’ [that is, a bunch of presumably gay men running heels]). Quirky DC. Speaking of restaurants, I cannot help but notice that I pass more pun-named restaurants (Thai-phoon, Thai-tanic, just to do the Thai food examples) than witness people who use the Arlington Cemetery Metro stop on any given day.

    Quirky DC: Sometimes you meet the owner of your favorite football club. Up the Pool! Go Tangerines!

    Quirky DC: Sometimes you meet the owner of your favorite football club. Up the Pool! Go Tangerines!

  • Sometimes I miss Poland, as well as Georgia & Ukraine. By that, I really miss the people I haven’t had a good opportunity keep up with these last two months as much as I’d like. Again, no need to list you but I’m already hoping to have the chance to chat/skype/etc. more in the next few months. Who knows and likewise I have no idea what I’m doing in January at the moment and more and more I’m thinking that area of the world, well there’s something about it. Then again, it’s nothing special:
  • So I really do enjoy my work, but a general observation that crossed my mind is a daily commute + 9 hours in an office a day + occasionally long Tuesdays…well living by Walden Pond has crossed my mind once or twice (that’s it though).
  • Music #2: The 9:30 club is amazing. I saw Noah & the Whale there in early October. Full discretion, I was very excited because Noah and the Whale were among my top 5 bands I’d never seen live. I love their albums for both their poppy hooks but also morose sentimentality. A lot of their songs have strong ties to great and bitter memories and I appreciate them both. I also believe that Noah and the Whale capture true sentiment as good as any other band with their lyrics and accompanying rhythms. And they don’t twerk.
    But, I went to their show with a few friends from Aggieland and a few reservations: would they live up to the hype in my mind? Would it be a slow boring show with a laconic stage presence? Would they play the songs I wanted (selfish, sorry)? The fact that their tour bus was delayed and the doors had to be delayed by 90 minutes was an inauspicious beginning.

    Noah & The Whale Show

    Noah & The Whale Show

    Well, guess what, this was one of the best concerts in recent memory (No fooling). Noah and the Whale’s lead singer was charismatic, engaging and funny (they were responsible for ending the government shutdown it turns out). More than that, they put together unique renditions of their songs that made even the melancholy seem catchy and uplifting (as much as they could). The guitarist-who looked like a character from Alice in Wonderland (far right in the blurry photo above)-was one of the loudest fans as he sung along in the songs. Perhaps my favorite thing however was that they saved their encore from a really superior setlist for the song, “The First Days of Spring.” A really, slow, again somewhat melancholy song. Yet, while the majority of bands would have likely hid this in the middle of a setlist, or not played it at all, they took a different approach. After constantly gaining momentum throughout their show, they came back on for the one song encore which felt like a strong, deliciously stiff drink to put fans over the edge after a wonderful buzz all night. It was a dramatic, building effort that epitomized efforts of dashed romantic hopes, and fruitful efforts to rebuild. Well done, Noah.

  • OK, Cupid, time for a quick vent and my thoughts on Online Dating. Now I’ve long been skeptical, even after I learned it’s not just for people dating HAL from 2001 a Space Odyssey.  Okay…maybe I had that wrong…but let me clarify: a few months ago (maybe a year), my friend Dan & I were both strongly against this ever more popular trend. Yes, this idea is full of common sense. You can instantaneously identify similar interests, associations and connections. Skip through a lot of ‘pointless’ stuff by using metadata and whatever else to see if you and X’s stars are aligned. Technologically speaking, it’s the future and therefore it’s good; I get it.
    XKCD's take

    XKCD’s take

    The reasons I don’t get it though…well; first: why should things be organized and sorted? It seems to me, sleuthing your way through someone else’s life, interests and history (and if they are a pathological liar) is a pretty important (and fun) part of getting to know someone. Maybe it seems shallow, but asking someone ‘about them’ and hear them respond is the mystery/challenge/game/intrigue that’s so important. It is also, I guess, generally part of the whole point-isn’t it? I mean, I don’t want to meet someone the same way I would if I was hiring them for a job: reading a prepared writing sample or their sample of work (see: photos). Life is far too real for that and I’d rather meet a real person.

    Second, and this is more personal, but there is a definite lack of story coming from online dating. I mean, sure, I’m glad you may be one of the world’s first couples to have married after meeting on tinder, but…so what? Give me a chance encounter in a coffee shop or on a train you know why? Because the randomness of that conversation, and the excitement of that unknown is not only more memorable but its so much more indelible to everyone around. Sorry, it’s true. Maybe that’s very Hollywood-esque…but I’ll prefer to think of it as very romantic-esque.

    Yet….Dan & I, both having recently moved, ran a bit of a social experiment. We both kind of pulled the trigger and checked out OkCupid. Now, I must damper some of the above skeptcism without getting into details that aren’t mine to share by just saying Dan was quite happy with this e-romantic-xperience.

    Me? Well I shut down my profile (which, by the way, had this man’s introductory paragraph as my about me) after 36 hours. I still simply believe most of the reasons above, but also I saw that this film was on TV: 

    So, it’s probably cliche, overplayed and quixotic-but the whole idea of a hopeless romantic is fine by me. I just love the idea of chance and spontaneity too much to do these types of things.

  • I owe a final shout out to another old acquaintance from my Georgia days, Tom. I believe Tom is now living the life in China (China: he’s the British one drinking vodka through his eyes); but recently in my somewhat uncertain move and transition to DC, I remember a specific conversation he and I once had and him saying how he, “always lands on his feet.” Now, I don’t think Tom was secretly telling me he was a cat, but instead hinting at his luck and also the right outlook to adopt. After all, Tom had gotten a great gig in the town of Zugdidi– the Paris of Samegrelo as it is commonly referred to. But, I’m guessing any situation would have worked out-things kind of just do. And, for some reason, that expression always stuck with me and I guess so has the luck in the more uncertain times. I needn’t go into too many details, but it does seem like everything is attitude = luck. I guess, even if you crash and burn the important thing is that you land on your feet…And not New Castle.

    Old School from Sakartvelo: Tom & I, (metaphorically) on our feet.

    Old School from Sakartvelo: Tom & I, (metaphorically) on our feet.

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“I’ve been singing you this song, inside a bubble, been zorbing through the streets of Cali” ~ Stornoway: Southwestern America Road Trip, Part 3.

Let’s continue with the adventure!

We left CCMAMC University College on Sunday evening heading west to the coast to stay at my friend Mark’s place in Santa Monica. Having never been to LA, I was expecting it to be a labyrinth of interstate road connecting different areas, constantly full of traffic. Yes, I imagined LA to be a pain. The fact that we left Claremont, which is on the far eastern part of LA County, and then drove more than an hour (Wikipedia tells me that it’s 33 miles to the center of downtown LA) to Santa Monica seemed to confirm at least part of that suspicion.

Mark had a lovely place that felt like home midway through the trip. Especially if when you think of home, you think a place full of vulgar language and rampant cursing. I say that because my strongest memory there is the night we played Cards Against Humanity. This game is basically “Apples to Apples” though with answer cards seemingly written by a sociopath with tourettes. The game encourages everyone’s inner devils to make an appearance. Mark, his now fiancée Ali, Reid, Jake and myself were none too saintly. One answer may have been, “My favorite lifetime movie of the year was, ‘The ____________ Story: ______________________.” Winning answer: Michael Jackson, kids trapped on leashes. Yep.

Santa Monica (image from Google)...

Santa Monica (image from Google)…no pictures with Mark…oops.

Mark’s crib was right near the beach and promenade of Santa Monica. Our first morning there, I acted like a grumpy nomad and went for a run by myself on the beach while Jake & Reid went together. This is when the appeal of ‘SoCal’ started to show: really beautiful weather, some really beautiful people out walking dogs or walking their tans, the big thing of water doing what that does, etc. etc. Later on in Santa Monica, we went shopping along the promenade and I found a pub that was kind enough to show the Ottawa Senators blow a game against the Boston Bruins. Some things do not change no matter where you are.

Other activities during Monday and Tuesday day included visiting old Bush school alum Jess Y. at a sweet outdoor restaurant. Jess is an LA-expert cause she is from there. Yet, before we even met up with her, we got the full LA experience by bumping into a celebrity!

That's right: Reid & I met Paris Hilton!

That’s right: Reid & I met Paris Hilton!

Jake didn’t get his photo-just a video. . .We thought we were funny.

Good Eats In

Good Eats In LA…here.

Anyway, the place we ate was delicious and I guess an “in” place. After, we made a trip to the observatory for some good overlook shots of the city and the Hollywood sign. One fun fact I picked up: the sign is not made of crushed hopes and dreams, but instead metal. Now you know.

Jess and Us

Jess and Us



Some other day-time highlights included walking along that whole street full of stars on the ground (dumb), going into the Amoeba Music record store (awesome…this didn’t happen when we were there, but worth a watch if you like Flight of the Conchords), and checking out Venice Beach & boardwalk and that entire groovy area. How groovy was it? It was so groovy that there was some denim shop where you could buy $800 jeans (I may have exaggerated that price-I wasn’t there for this part) where Reid and Jake got a business card made out of leather. LA=groovy.

Venice Beach Area/Tony Hawk Hangout

Venice Beach Area/Tony Hawk Videogame

The boardwalk itself was pretty dope. I say ‘dope’ being because there were signs for medical marijuana everywhere, not to mention the smell. Additionally, though the weather wasn’t as Sunny D{elightful} as Southern California is promised, there was something very neat and relaxing about the beach. Kids on their skateboards doing the tricks, the sound of the ocean doing that thing, seagulls that weren’t criminals (i.e. Aberdeen, Scotland). All of that jazz, and these two looking poetic out towards the Western sky. I liked it very much, I did.

The not so old men and the ocean...

The not so old men and the ocean…

On Tuesday afternoon, we got Jake’s friend ______ (I don’t remember his name…) from the airport. Our plan evolved into going with ________ to San Diego for our concert, but first we took him home and got his motorcycle so he could drive down there. This involved going up the Matterhorn/the street he lived on with my car. Now, the ol’ Camry had reason to complain over the last few days: snow, heat, carrying around a Hello Kitty toaster, etc.: but it had not complained once-and thankfully it was not about to start.

The Matterhorn/Sharp Hill...okay it was steeper than it looks...

The Matterhorn…okay it was steeper than it looks…

And despite the fact we had to go a bit down the hill, stop, and use it to jump start ______’s motorcycle, there were still no real problems.

The sparks flying out mean we know what we're doing.

The sparks flying out mean we know what we’re doing.

So, we get down the road of death and started heading for our concert in San Diego with all of that taken care of and no problems!

…Right? Well, the ol’ Camry I was just defending had a slight problem before we got too far. _______ comes up to us on his motorcycle and points out that the Camry’s trunk, well it isn’t really closed. So, the trunk is open on the interstate. At 5:00 pm on a Monday in LA traffic; people are stopping for 15 seconds and going for 10 seconds…Reid takes this as a chance to act and runs out during a pause to see if there was a way to close it.

Once more, we are in the middle of an interstate.

Sadly, the report comes back that it’s not going to close but will keep popping open. I think this took two trips running out and pulling over to the side of the highway to figure out.

Eventually, we get off the highway and MacGyver ourselves a solution in record time. Partially because we are talented graduate students…but also partially because I think we were 3-4 blocks from the more ‘interesting’ parts of LA.

That's how you close a trunk...

That’s how you close a trunk…

So, then it was south to San Diego (actually Solana Beach, close enough)! And that’s where I will conclude this, the penultimate installment. But, five questions to keep you interested in the last piece are:

  1. What does a flying shark have to do with a frightened rabbit?
  2. Is it ever a good idea to try and drive from San Diego to College Station in one day?
  3. What color is sand?
  4. Is my estimate on how long it takes to drive 900 miles to Carlsbad before it closes that much different than Reid’s and Jake’s?
  5. Austin?? Austin??

Answers to those and more in the final part of the Southwestern Road trip, coming soon.

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“I was left to my own devices, many days fell away with nothing to show…and if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you’ve been here before? Oh, how am I going to be an optimist about this?” ~ Bastille: 10 Julys Are How I’m Going to Be An Optimist About This

Song in title: 

Jack Kerouac captured a popular sentiment when he wrote that life is holy and every moment is precious. That, a bit of Freud, attacking the frustrating irrationality of peak-end theory, and answering the repeated pessimistic question in Bastille’s song is what this entry is about. Oh and there are pictures from throughout the summer!

Lake Superior

Lake Superior

It’s easy to become complacent at nearly every turn in life-most especially in a summer of idleness. Just as a crisis of confidence from life’s uncertainties might render one inactive, so too can moribund laziness result from a forgotten, yet at the same point routine, familiarity.

My summer seems to be a see-saw between these two points: at times irrationally over-stressed at what may professionally and personally happen next as I’ve refreshed my email inbox roughly 800 times an hour. Conversely, times where I’ve been drunk on the nostalgia and have stopped, figuratively and literally, to smell my dad’s roses in the backyard. I’ve passed this type of time with old and new family members, friends, running, and once more, gasp, reading for pleasure (e.g. I’ve recently been reading a very detailed book on Georgian history and now know more about Vakhtang Gorgasali than I ever knew while living there).

Me and some new family...

Me and some new family

I start with this because I remain concerned that both points may result in maudlin complacency; a docile and unproductive lifestyle. Yet, I recently realized because of that fear, I was unfairly deriding this summer-especially when I compared it with last summer.

Dan at Lake Superior

Danny P at Lake Superior

To refresh, last summer my Ukrainian adventure was chock-full of laughter, spontaneity, soccer championships, academic and professional achievement, and living with a sense of reckless abandon (I wrote a bit about this last feeling, but a recent article about the circus in Russia reconfirmed that it’s a region-wide issue). As much as it was a summer celebrating my id, my superego’s cravings were met by a larger overarching plan and purpose which were connected to opportunities and responsibilities in the fall (It’s fun to slip in Freud so long as it’s not a Freudian slip).

Old Friends (Belle & Sebastian Concert!)

Belle & Sebastian concert

This summer is assuredly different for all parts of my psyche. For a bit that bothered me as though it has had many memorable moments (see: photos), it has lacked the overarching plan and purpose to the degree my superego would like. Yet, I’m increasingly starting to comprehend that permanent stability, or even a set plan for the future, is as likely as permanent happiness in life. The more important thing truly is the pursuit.

...and new friends!

New friends

With that in mind, I was facing the fact that my experience last summer “enriched my store” of memories more than this summer had simply due to its raw newness. Thus, the frustrating aspect of peak-end theory (in essence peak-end theory being: “we give too much weight to a) the peaks and b) the ends of periods, rather than logically evaluating their entire duration.”) made this summer worse both for an inability to forget how great last summer was in comparison to this one, but also because the future was so uncertain.



Sometime around understanding this, I began to think about what I had been doing the past ten July summers. 18 seems a pivotal age. More than that, it was the time I went on a month long odyssey with an Outward Bound course. 28 days in the isolated backwoods of North Carolina and Tennessee. Every day hiking, mountain climbing, whitewater canoeing, whitewater drowning (nearly), and three days in a ‘solo’ tent alone. All of that and many more memories came flooding back. One of the biggest personal takeaways from that program: constantly seek to expand your own circle of comfort. Yes, certain memories stood out rather than the duration-but it felt important to associate the gains of that summer with today.

Not this summer...Outward Bound 2003

Not this summer…Outward Bound 2003

I am not going to write here what I have done each of the previous nine Julys, but I will say this: highlighting the most important things going on in my life (e.g. the people, where I was, what I saw etc) provided a wonderful break and reminder of past summers. Moreover, in retrospect it showed how much uncertainty the future should have represented (who knew Poland would play such a pivotal role in my life 7 years ago?).

It also gave weight to the duration, not just the peaks. When I read it over, I realized I still probably emphasized some of the memorable stories, but at least I did not feel like the last ten minutes of this July should mean so much more than how the previous ten got me to this point.

Too often moments are forgotten or, conversely, inappropriately dwelt upon. I have no idea where I’ll be ten years from now in July. Yet, I will attempt to emphasize the full duration as well as the peaks that get me there. This summer has helped to place the proper emphasis on the overall journey without feeling overcome by present challenges and the incessant intrigue of the future. That, to answer Bastille’s song at the intro, is how I intend to be an optimist about this.

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“Somebody left the gate open, you know we got lost on the way. Come save us, a runaway train” ~ LP: Southwestern America Road Trip, part 2.

Song in Title: 

Las Vegas has long been on my to-visit list-though it had never made its way to the top. One reason was I was always worried I may just have too much fun. The drinking, debauchery and gambling may fit the moniker of “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” But I fretted the effects of life-long debt or a late night wedding would not be so easily cast aside. Thankfully, my self-control is greater than I gave it credit for; Sin City and its temptations provided a great time without any negative lingering effects.

The three of us arrived after stopping at the Hoover Dam on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Once more, the night before we had been snowed in (at the Grand Canyon) so it’s a bit hard to say if we were more impressed by one of the world’s largest dams, the Las Vegas architecture and surrounding landscape,  or the simple fact that you could see the sun and it was warm. It was probably the sun…but we were all pleasantly surprised by the city appearing out of the desert.

Our first pressing matter to deal with was not losing money but food. This provided my first ever opportunity to try In-N-Out burger. There has been very much written and talked about the legend of these burgers. I do not want to cause an online debate-I will only say this: it was a pretty good burger. Would I be okay if I never had another? Yep.

After that we drove around and checked into our hotel. The process to check-in was a little more fun since ended up walking through a fancy indoor mall/casino for about 15 minutes first. At this point we were still smelling horribly like campfire smoke and looking like we had just camped out in snow in the Grand Canyon…which we had. Viva Las Vegas.

This suite was classssy.

This suite was classssy.

After checking in to our artsy-fartsy suite, it was time to go out and explore. Traveling with Jake and Reid is always an experience and the way down on the elevator reminded me why. Reid, followed by Jake, and then me, started jumping on the elevator. We were reminded at the bottom by a security guard that, “Stop…a reminder that there are video cameras everywhere.” I ignored the Big Brother overtones and as we were walking away I had my head down, embarrassed…whereas I think Reid may have said, “that wasn’t us.” Gig Em’, Vegas-style.

We then set out to wander up and down the strip. Las Vegas’ promenade (aka the strip) really didn’t seem as overtaking as I thought it might. A lot of people, a lot of lewd behavior and a lot of random architecture mixed up. There was the discussion brought up a few times that if aliens were to find Las Vegas in a thousand years, they’d probably think this was the treasure of our civilization. I think it’s possible, but I also think right now it seems such an obviously gold-plated replica of what it aims to be that the aliens would have to choose not to explore the rest of earth to believe it. The Eiffel tower within a football field of St. Mark’s and fountains on the other side of the street, all nearby a Pyramid. All of this is not tributary to any civilization: it’s a sheer, faux-reality that is Las Vegas; image not depth. That’s not a critique, it’s just reality. Anyway: I’ve got to admit that I like the fountain show.

Fountains & Handsome

Fountains & Handsome later on

We then went to a restaurant to watch some college basketball and Reid made the first bet of the night for his beloved UNC Tarheels against Duke. What should be known is that Reid, Jake, and I had never really gambled. The city of vice seemed an inopportune time to swim with sharks. This had all the makings for more entertainment.

Time soon passed and a friend of mine from Poland-Chris-and a friend his-Angelo-met us. This added to the night on so many levels as they both live in Las Vegas and provided some great insight. I’ve compiled a top 5 of this insight (and as this was several months ago, don’t expect the world):

Betting Area w/Chris

Betting Area w/Chris

5. You can drive drunk on the strip/in fact you can do pretty much anything in Vegas so long as you don’t kill anyone. The fact is, the police won’t do anything to kill your Vegas buzz. They don’t want to cause any problems with Vegas’ industry of tourism. Makes sense.

4. Only a fool would do the following-
A. bet $10 on UNC against Duke. Chris (properly) berated and then taught Reid, Jake & I on the rules of betting. But, though I don’t remember them all exactly & won’t put them here, they were much appreciated. Oh, and Duke crushed UNC.
B. Turn down free drinks when the waitress offers them. It should be noted that Reid did (A) whereas Jake & I did (B). Thanks Vegas, you’ve been great.

3. Places to go in Las Vegas are rarely the casinos on the strip. Probably smarter to check out the old strip-which we didn’t. We were tourists short on time, so we made the best of it and did get a bit away and there are many other and better places to go. For example, Ellis Island. Great beer, especially when you keep playing blackjack and slowly losing what you’ve won (in comparison to the Monte Carlo where you lose $40 in 3 hands).

At Ellis...'I think you have my beer in there'

At Ellis…’I think you have my beer in there’

2. Worth checking out is the place where Robert DeNiro always got food in Casino. Good food. That said, I had one bite.

1. Duke is afraid to play UNLV in Vegas. Just ask a local…

So that was Vegas. We took off the next morning/early afternoon to head to Cali and stay with my friend Mark and see what was to see in LA/the city of Angels/city of smog/etc. On the way, we had to stop to see some major and important sights. First, was a sign that Reid had been dreaming of getting his photo next to since he was a child.

Turned out well.

Turned out well.

Second was the extremely famous CMSACMCMAMC University that I had been hearing about on and all last summer in Kyiv from a friend of mine, Bojana. I was
A) impressed that it was a really nice university
B) amazed that Reid could walk on water there
C) saddened Bojana had lost her recent election (it was several months ago so I’m not exactly sure but I believe she was running for community organizer or local chef, something like that).

Reid performing a miracle at CCMAMC

Reid performing a miracle at CCMAMC

Then was Mark’s apartment in Santa Monica where we slept. More details on our time in LA, concert in San Diego and trip back in the next post…probably in 8 months.

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“Sound is the color I know, oh, sound is what keeps me looking for your eyes” ~ Beirut: Thinking about the news.

How unbecoming. I was supposed to write a post a month yet now find myself two months behind. Well, thanks to my current idle state, I should be able to pump some droll material out at a much better clip (including finishing up writing on the SB trip at one point…).

At night recently I cannot help but think about 1) Game of Thrones and 2) the recent media uproar surrounding the NSA. To address the latter first, from a distance this seems to be a simple question of liberty and security. A man motivated by his own moral compass with privileged access makes a decision to betray the trust of company and country for what he considers the betterment of that country. Admirable to some, sedition to others. Throw in bits of Enemy of the State and it makes sense why this is a sensation. What to think of it all?

Just like the the devil, an important conclusion is in the details. After all, one should not look at this issue and form an opinion from a distance. Need proof? Just look at the most famous maxim related to the security/liberty debate provided by Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  A full explanation of that (suggesting it’s not actually about these rights as we know them) proves nothing is as straightforward as one might think-even if we want it to be.

So, for the moment, set aside the Scarlet Letter fact that he betrayed company and country-something I cannot stomach. It’s done. Let’s analyze from beyond that point.

As I see it, Mr. Snowden’s decision to self-edit what he handed over certainly shows a degree of concern and appreciation for national security implications much more so than Bradley Manning’s rash act. Yet, it also shows arrogance that he would understand the implications of what he was doing-that he knew what was best or could hope to understand the outcomes of his monumental actions.

There is something undeniably altruistic about his desire to believe that the internet should be above snooping; a moral high-ground which advances the best ideas of humanity. Of course it is extremely naive, but it gives Mr. Snowden a Promethean feel.

Unfortunately, I feel he is not a titan; more a member of Anonymous than Prometheus. He is supposedly well-versed in the ideas of the internet, yet he is advancing his set of ideas more than the reality of the world wide web and society.

At the end of the day, he has not blown the whistle on anything illegal. Yes, as American citizens, the concern for government overreach should be a concern. But, the program is “perfectly legal” and I think the example of Twitter choosing not to participate demonstrates corporate responsibility-especially as a company seeking to cultivate an image of user-privacy.

Moreover, people now caught up worried that their phone calls are listened to are misinformed. Similarly, those who fear Facebook is only now collecting private information about them are fools. Naivete is a (very) poor excuse to be outraged by these revelations.

Mr. Snowden cannot be naive (and should know of the Obama administration’s extreme crackdown on whistleblowers which makes you wonder if he’s a masochist, but that’s another story). He has the makeup of an informed and intelligent individual but chose to show personal disagreement in such a provocative (and likely illegal) way I do not understand.

Or at least that’s what I think at the moment…Game of Thrones is pretty sweet too.

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