Sunday, March 29, 2009

"Never Give Up' - Common Sense (for Marissa Coleman)

Check out this song: Never Give Up by Common Sense

It's been a while since I've posted on my blog. I guess I needed to be shoved out of my writers block by something inspiring. That kick in the ass came yesterday in the truly breathtaking performance of Marissa Coleman in University of Maryland Women's Basketball team's come-from-behind triumph over Vandy in the regional NCCAAW finals.

Lots has been written recently about Coleman and her senior teammate, Kristi Tolliver. The Baltimore Sun went so far as to say that expectant mothers should include Kristi and Marissa on their list of baby names. They are both spectacular competitors and spectacular athletes, who I was honored to watch in two games here last week. But yesterday, Marissa Coleman "brought it" in a way I have not seen since playing against Jackie White in the CA State High School Championships in 1980. (After crushing us in the semi's, she totally willed herself and her team to victory in the finals from a 17 point deficit) Unlike Jackie, Marissa Coleman will have a chance to play professional basketball and earn endorsement money and become - as she dreams - a prime-time sports commentator. Thank you TitleIX and the passing of time.

Mike Wise summed it up really well in his column today in the Washington Post: "Ain't No Stopping Her Now." My favorite excerpt, noting the (unlikely-to-happen) recognition warranted by this performance:
Under "Notable Events" in the RBC Center's history, things such as "Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band's Reunion Tour, 2000" and "Stanley Cup Finals, 2002 and 2006" listed. After today, it needs to include "NCAA Women's Tournament Regional Championships."

Coleman's performance literally took my breath away and reminded me why - among lots of reasons - I love competitive sports. It's about heart, and team and never giving up.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Don't Let Me Come Home a Stranger - Robin/Linda Williams

Home. Few words, in and of themselves, have so much power. Besides the word "love," it is hard to come up with a word whose literal meaning - and symbolic and emotional resonance - is more visceral. In fact, I would argue that love is so overdone that home wins in an arm wrestling contest. When I have an idea I want to write about I generally go to my iTunes Library and do some searching on the key words around the topic. So I typed in "home" and got 90 items. I am sure that is a record. No pun intended.

I arrived in Northern California last Thursday afternoon. It was a crisp spring day. And certain things just hold:
  • You can bet there will be See's and Ghirardelli chocolate stores in the airport
  • If you can, you always want to drive on 280 vs 101. The experience is just so much better.
  • There will be lots of people outside. Always.
  • The fog will roll in over the hills in that billowing way.
  • Mom will have put fresh cut flowers and a bottle of water in my room and
  • Dad will have a fire going in the fireplace, even if it's really not that cold.
As usual, the smells are the thing that always kick me in the butt. They yell at me - FAMILIARITY! EASE! HISTORY! No, that's wrong. They whisper to me, "familiarity, comfort, embrace." Saturday my brother and sister-in-law and I went over to the coast...the beach of my growing up. Santa Cruz, Twin Lakes, Capitola. We sat in the sun (me, with 50+ sunscreen on the surgery scar on my neck), we ate lunch by the water, we drove along the cliffs. And we came back on the "old highway." With the window cracked just an inch I drank in the smell of the eucalyptus trees. It's just a smell you don't get on the east coast. And it is a smell that causes that strong, familiar feeling.

This song, written by the Williams' and in my view best performed by Tim O'Brien, really sums it up for me. Tim is a Telluride Bluegrass regular, and this song was on an album he and his sister Mollie put out in 1994 that speaks to their Appalachian/Celtic roots. Mary Black does a great version, which is popular in Ireland. Unfortunately I could not find any of them on YouTube, but this version is nice.

Here's how they so beautifully sum up the fear of losing that feeling of home:
Will there come a time when the memories fade
And pass on with the long, long years?
When the ties no longer bind
Lord save me from this darkest fear
Don't let me come home a stranger
I couldn't stand to be a stranger

Sunday, March 1, 2009

"Trouble with a Capital T that rhymes..." Music Man

For over a year Debbie has been telling me "this is a major fucking disaster. There is nowhere to hide." For the first nine months I listened and tried to make the arguments about why things weren't really that bad.

Fannie Mae was really not in as bad of shape as it seemed. It couldn't be...

The securities has massive collateral and rating agencies and conservative default assumptions

The companies were not THAT stupid

There couldn't be THAT many people who would go along with the "wink wink, nod nod" of stated income loans

Merrill? No
WAMU? - No freaking way - they were the most respected thrift out there in the 1990s
AIG? - conservative, money printing machine
Chevy Chase Bank? Known for cautious, non-innovative approach

But i was wrong. Let me say it loud and not so proud - I was wrong.

There is no place to hide. People in the financial services world LOST THEIR FREAKING MINDS.

And so many ignorant people (and i mean that in the true definition of the word not pejoratively) just assumed that all those really smart Ivy League, mostly white male Masters of the Universe know what they were doing. Did anyone read Liar's Poker? Those guys were amateurs. This is Liar's Poker on Barry Bonds' level of steroids. And then some.

But they LOST THEIR FREAKING MINDS. Greenwich CT is next - mark my words - there will be a story on 60 Minutes in the next six months about "what used to be" in Greenwich CT.

Usually I like to be right. This time I am sure, and sad, that Debbie was right.