Author, Journalist, Photog, Poet Living in San Diego

Thoughts on the Zeigeist: Deflategate and Balls, Balls, Balls

Posted on January 25, 2015

Deflategate

It’s been a week since the news that 11 out of the 12 footballs the Patriots used in their game against the Indianapolis Colts were reported to be under inflated. The New England Patriots’ footballs were allegedly filled to 10.5 PSI — two pounds below the league minimum. An uproar ensued and America demanded football justice. Bill Belichik and Tom Brady were seen awkwardly answering questions in front of a media that were firing off probing questions as if they were interviewing Obama after he announced that America was planning to invade Canada for their maple syrup. Now the Patriots legacy is under question, and the evidence seems to suggest the Patriots are a bunch of freaking cheaters.

So, yeah, I’m a Patriots fan. I’m almost an obsessed Patriots fan. I read more articles on the Patriots in a given day than any man should, and I study formations, bench players, and strategy as if I thought any day the hoodie would call me up on the phone after a key injury and ask me if I wanted to suit up. “I’m ready coach.” As my brother-in-law says, I’m almost as much of a homer as the guy in the Saturday Night Live skit below, Dougie Spoons. “You think you can do what Brady does?”

Here is why I’m a Patriots fan. I’m from Massachusetts, and while I can’t stand the winters or the short days and the cold, I love my home. I love where I’m from, but I haven’t lived there in almost ten years. I have friends there, and I am aware that I am who I am today because of Clinton, Massachusetts. It built me. So I root for the Patriots, because I’m cheering for my roots. The Patriots represent something about my hometown that sports teams like the Packers and Steelers accomplish for their respected cities. We’re a bunch of wicked hard-working people who battle awful weather. People in Massachusetts are rugged, strong, grumpy; we work jobs that put callouses on our hands; we drink Dunkin Donuts coffee instead of that Seattle crap; and we never quit. We never quit believing that life is about hard work, family, and showing up every day as if it’s our last. We are underdogs. (Of course, this isn’t all Massholes, but these are the ones I love.)

Enter Tom Brady. He’s a quarterback that was benched at Michigan. He was a player who showed up at the NFL combine who looked like he was actually about to be examined for scoliosis.  He is an athlete who no one ever thought would be successful. He was a sixth round draft pick. Now, he is on his way to be the greatest quarterback of all time. He renegotiated his contract to give his team a discount in an era where free agents try to acquire the most money. He never quits. Every year, he leads a team with people like Julian Edelman, Alan Branch, Jermaine Wiggins, Shane Vereen, James Develin — football players who played different positions in college or couldn’t find a spot on any other team. He leads a team of people who were unwanted, undesired…cast off. And they play like a team. They preach team first. They are Massachusetts.

I consider myself an underdog. In high school, I couldn’t even spell, and I had no idea what a comma splice was. I received a D minus my freshmen year in English; I was told that being a writer is like trying to find a way to travel to the moon with a go-kart; and I’m trying to prove everyone wrong. I have a chip on my shoulder. I’m hungry, angry. So how do you think I took the news of deflategate?

It hurt. To think that the team I believe in is using a competitive advantage, one as bush league as deflating footballs, it was like someone just told me my best friend was spitting in my beer every time I went to the bathroom for four years. I wanted to believe that it wasn’t true. It had to be the weather. There had to be an explanation. I’m still a bit torn about this; Bill Nye the Science guy even came out and said Belichik was full of shit:

<iframe width=”853″ height=”480″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/dZFiYxI3DFM” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

It’s a bit suspicious though that Bill Nye is a Seahawks fan. There are so many questions surrounding deflategate (Did the hoodie give the order? Did Brady instruct one of his ball boys to deflate the balls? Didn’t Brady look like he was hiding something in his press conference?) that led anyone with common sense to think that the Patriots are, in fact, a bunch of cheaters. The way that the evidence stands, right now, seems to me that someone in my beloved organization is cheating.

The worst statistic that I have found was a graph on fumbles. People are talking about how Brady was the one deflating the balls to ensure a better grip and a better quality ball, but if the Patriots are deflating balls, then it’s not for the aerial attack; it’s more for the running game and yards after the catch. Look at this graph on fumbles from Slate:

150123_SNUT_Fumble-01.png.CROP.original-original

As you can see in the graph, the Patriots had far more offensive plays per fumble than the second best team in the NFL. It’s almost not even comparable. How could they be that much better at ball security. Granted, the hoodie does preach and practice ball security in innovated ways, and he even had a runner, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who went an entire year without a fumble. While this seems like a great stat, someone actually looked at his fumbles with the Patriots compared to his fumbles with his next team, the Bengals. From 2008 to 2011, Green-Ellis didn’t have a fumble once with the Patriots. In two seasons with the Bengals, he fumbled a total of five times.

When I look at whether or not the Patriots are guilty, I see a lot of data that suggests that they are, but it’s still not proven.

On the way home today, I heard Boomer Esiason on the radio talking about the Patriots and whether or not they were cheaters. He made an excellent point. In the game against the Colts, Tom Brady under threw Shan Vereen by about five yards. He threw an under thrown interception, where he had Gronk open over the middle. He wasn’t performing well, so if he did deflate the ball the technique wasn’t working. Also, why would Belichik call a second press conference and emphatically state that there was no wrong doing from the Patriots after his first press conference. He knows his legacy is on the line, and he knows that people are suspicious: would he really double down on his teams’ innocence, publicly and emphatically, if we was still cheating? Think about Barry Bonds: he ducked the media on the steroid question.

The answer could be yes, but we don’t really know.

I read another theory from the Boston Globe that was intriguing. Chuck Pagano was the defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens with John Harbaugh, who was pissed that the Patriots used “trick” plays with ineligible receivers  in the divisional championship round. People are starting to get suspicious of a revenge plot from Harbaugh. What I’m reading is that perhaps Pagano and Harbaugh were scheming together to make it look like the Patriots were deflating their balls.

Yes I know that I’m making some paranoid, Homeland type conspiracy theories here, but Harbaugh is pissed. Could it be possible that the Colts inflated their balls outside in the cold temperature, knowing that the balls would lose air if the balls were inflated inside, in order to make it seem like the Patriots were cheating? Could the Patriots actually be innocent? Well, in the words of the great Boston Celtic Kevin Garnett, anything is possible…Let’s go Patriots! Your comments are always appreciated. Hopefully we can start talking about the game this week.

 

How Photography Makes Me a Better Writer

Posted on January 19, 2015

Since about 2010, I’ve been working on writing a version of a story that shows what it’s like to grow up with a family member who has a mental illness. I’ve written it as a novel in stories; I’ve written it as a memoir; I’ve written it as a straight up novel. Honestly, on the whole, I have failed to turn a story I believe in into something that is publishable and a piece of art. I have had pieces of those projects published, but I have not achieved the larger goal of turning them into a book.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time on this project, and perhaps it’s just too close. Perhaps I need to move away from this narrative and start one of my new projects. This school of thought clearly makes sense: perhaps you have to kill your darlings for good to create what you need.

Joseph A Lapin

Joseph A Lapin

But what I have found is that the most powerful stories are the hardest to write. Stephen King talks about discovering stories like uncovering fossils. You start digging underneath the surface, and suddenly, you start to unearth a massive creature that is larger than you could have ever imagined. Writing this type of story is like following a dream. You allow the story to come to you instead of forcing it. I probably have been forcing my story in the past, but I can’t help it: I’m right back to trying to tell this story again. This time, however, I’ve decided that it isn’t my story I was trying to tell; it is the story of the family member who has the mental illness.

Since I’ve made this discovery, I’ve been writing up a storm. It just seems to be flowing out of me, but this week, I started to hear those old voices start to creep in: It’s not that good; you’re wasting your time; you can’t write this story because it’s too close. Honestly, some of these things I’m hearing might be true. I could get to the end of this WIP and realize I have jack shit. So I was in a funk. I didn’t want to write. I hated what I was writing. And I was thinking about moving on to another project.

Then something changed. What I’ve realized about novels and memoirs over the years is that, well, they’re freaking hard work that lack inherent short-term goals. Unlike journalism, which sometimes has quick results and you can see your work published within a week of writing a piece, novels and stories and poems have a much longer shelf life, and the fruits of the work might take years to generate — if at all. So that’s why you have to find a way to make your creative projects work beyond the page. Here’s what I mean:

The other week I saw the movie Wild with Reese Witherspoon. Honestly, it’s a phenomenal movie with a Jack Kerouac type as a main character who has an incredibly rich back story filled with emotional trauma. She’s shooting drugs and becoming reckless with her body. Her marriage ends, and she decides to hike up the Pacific Coast to find a balance or a wholeness in her life. What drives her is a comment from her mother: “You can put yourself in the way of beauty.”

That line, “You can put yourself in the way of beauty,” had a major impact on me in the theater. It’s something I should do everyday. As a young kid, I made a promise that there wouldn’t be a single day that went by that I wasn’t putting myself in front of something beautiful — that I wasn’t struck by something awesome — that I didn’t feel alive and a part of the world. Well, I definitely have those days when I don’t find beauty. I don’t seek it. I don’t put myself in the way of it. This isn’t a new idea either. It’s something that I remember discovering when reading Wordsworth and studying romanticism. It was about taking in something in nature, something like a dancing daffodil, and recalling that image in a moment of tranquility later. For a while, that’s how I thought about poetry and great writing. Now I also see it as essential to the creative process.

In order to get out of my funk with my story, I realized I just had to accomplish that goal: find the beauty. So I went out and started taking some photographs. I went down to Ocean Beach and took these from near the pier.

What I really enjoyed about this photo shoot was that I just put myself in the way of something beautiful and during editing I started to interpret that scene in different ways using various effects I’ve been learning with Photoshop. It freed my mind a bit. It allowed me to be creative without carrying about publications or an audience; it also allowed me to attain an immediate goal compared to writing a novel that takes (what feels like) a lifetime.

Then I went to Downtown San Diego. I wanted to find “beauty” there too. There is an airport parking garage I always see on my way to work, and I’ve been meaning to stop there and take photos of the city and the airplanes landing on the runway. So I set up my tripod and waited. Here is what I found:

These photos ended up being the same process. I took an angle and worked it in different ways. This was tremendously inspiring for me. It freed my mind. What I’m finding with photography is that it allows me to step out of the writing space and use the same wheels that I build stories and poems and kind of give them a new work out. It’s helping remind me that art comes in many forms; it’s helping to give me balance to sit at the desk after a long day of work. It’s helping me write. It’s helping me keep going. It’s helping me find the beauty in front of me.

Photos of Florida and the San Diego Zoo

Posted on January 15, 2015

I had one of the best holidays in a very long time, and I was able to travel back to my secondary home: Florida. I was in Jacksonville for almost 10 days, and I spent time with family. The St. John’s River, to me, is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited, so when I was back home, I took some shots from a dock that I often visit. Then when I returned to California, my family from Massachusetts came and visited me in San Diego. I took them to Cabrillo in Point Loma and the San Diego Zoo. Below you’ll see some random photos from that time.

Thoughts on the Zeitgeist: Patriots Ravens, Obama in Paris & the Pope in Diapers

Posted on January 13, 2015

Design by Joseph Lapin

Design by Joseph Lapin

Today I’m beginning a new series called “My Thoughts on the Zeitgeist.” Let me explain. In my role as creative director at Circa Interactive, I have to stay on top of the media to create content that taps into larger trends. I have to remain cognizant of the broader narratives for journalism. I have to understand what’s ahead and building to a boiling point in order to create timely blog content. And I have to continue to find ways to keep my creative pieces relevant by following the world as closely as possible. At work, when we’re in that moment, in the spirit of the times, we call this tapping into the zeitgeist. So I’m always reading the news, and I figured I could use this strategy a bit more for my blog posts. I decided to start a series on my blog that examines a few stories in the media (sports, culture, law, finance, marketing, SEO, literature, etc) and comment on them. Simple as that. This will be the first week.

1. “Bipolar Wackos” in the NFL Playoffs

As you may know, I’m a huge Patriots fan. Tom Brady is a superstar that was once an underdog. I find the team inspiring, and in terms of digital media, the Patriots website is one of the leaders in advancing content marketing and sports business. Like most people, I was absorbed in the playoff game between the Ravens and the Patriots, and I must have read every single article on Twitter about the game and the strange formations.

While I was going trough my twitter feed this morning, a story on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s coverage that caught my attention. It was about a fight between Steve Smith, current Ravens wide receiver, and Jermaine Wiggins, former New England Patriot tight end who became a legend in the tuck-rule game. The big story was that Steve Smith approached Wiggins after the game to let him know that he was upset over being called a bully. Sure, this sounds like two middle schoolers fighting in the parking lot after a baseball game, but it’s sports. So I’m not expecting a conversation analyzing the plot of “American Beauty.”

Scott Zolak, a former Patriot who interviews Belichick on the Bellestrator (the hoodie breaks down film of previous games, and it’s incredible), starts to give a play-by-play of the incident. I’m listening and intrigued, but then he says this: “Steve Smith is a diminutive guy. He’s about as big as Bob Socci. Everything we talked about last week with Suggs being the nut job, the bipolar wacko…”

That’s when I stopped. Did he just say bipolar wacko? A journalist, a commentator, a respected professional in the media really just used bipolar wacko, the nut job, on the radio? Honestly, this comment shows ignorance on the part of Scott Zolak, and it’s a nuisance for anyone who has ever lived with someone with bipolar disorder. If you have needed to help someone who has bipolar, you know how difficult it can be show them that they have an illness, because it’s such a stigma, especially in their own mind. The illness is still viewed as a failure, and people with mental illness have enough problems in the world than to have ridiculous stereotypes and ignorance being shared on the radio.

Okay, I know what you’re saying. I’m being the PC police. Learn to chill out. Take a joke. Well, Scott Zolak is not a comedian. This is a normal conversation on sports radio, and a journalist is using such an ignorant and lazy description to describe one of the most unique characters in the NFL. Don’t get me wrong here, I still have a lot of respect for Scott Zolak and think he’s a great commentator, but I just wish people took more care for how they used the word bipolar and developed a better understanding of the nuances and complications of mental illness. Perhaps Zolak actually does. If so, I wish he would have shown it.

2. Obama Didn’t Show Up in Paris. So? 

Credit: Joseph Lapin

Credit: Joseph Lapin

The terrorist attacks in Paris were atrocious. Je Suis Charlie. C’est vrai. The protection of freedom of speech is essential. I believe America clearly stands with Paris in terms of finances, policy, and security issues.

But Obama is taking a lot of heat for not being in Paris to join 1.5 million people, including many important global leaders, who marched down the Boulevard Voltaire on Sunday in a show of unity against extremism. We sent Eric Holder instead, and the world is insulted that Obama or Biden didn’t show up in person.

The White House has since acknowledged that they should have sent a higher ranking official. I just think this criticism is really unfair. Think about it: For one moment German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, French President François Hollande and other European and African leaders were in one spot. They were standing together. Yes, it was a great message sent to the terrorists that we were not scared, that we were not bothered by their terror tactics, that we would stand up to extremism everywhere we find it, but it was also like putting a target on the back of every one of those leaders and inviting an opportunity for disaster. In one awful moment, the world could have lost some of its best leaders.

Yes, I get it. That’s the point. Show them we’re not scared. I love the idea. It was a momentous occasion that will definitely go down in the history books, but should Obama ignore his intel? Should Obama ignore the threat? Should he wave the middle finger in front of killers and dare them to kiss his ass?

We were there. Obama was there. I am there. Anyone who believes in human rights was there. I don’t doubt that about Obama. I just believe his staff made a decision they thought was right based on the information they had.

I mean, look what Ted Cruz wrote: “The absence is symbolic of the lack of American leadership on the world stage, and it is dangerous. The attack on Paris, just like previous assaults on Israel and other allies, is an attack on our shared values.”

Bullshit.

3. Now Time for Something Funny 

Credit Derek Peto

Credit Derek Peto

Pope Francis is kind of rock star. He’s seen as a man of the people, and he rides buses and drives old cars instead of going for a spin in a fancy pope mobile. ABC News even reported that he sneaks out of the vatican in tattered clothes as a disguise to treat the homeless and sick. He sounds like a hell of a guy, honestly, and I’m not religious at all.

What’s fascinating about Pope Francis this week is that he’s due to visit the Philippines. When the Pope shows up in Manila, he’s expected to draw an enormous crowd that will put security and facilities at capacity. This is forcing many people in Manila to, well, flip a shit.

“About 2,000 traffic enforcers who will be on duty during the Jan. 15-19 papal visit will be required to wear adult diapers, said Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino,” reports the AP.

That’s 2,000 government officials in diapers. When I see images of that crowd all I’ll be able to think about is 2,000 people potentially pooping in their pants. It’s not just traffic enforcers either. The people attending the event are also encouraged to wear diapers.

Well, that’s it for my thoughts on the media this week. I’ll probably try this again. Finally, I wanted to leave you with something Aziz Ansari recently tweeted at Ruport Murdoch.

Netflix Drops House of Cards Trailer

Posted on January 11, 2015

Netflix finally release the House of Cards trailer, and they set a release date for season three on Feb. 27. If you’ve lived on planet Earth over the last couple years, then you’ve probably seen “House of Cards.” I’m pumped about this next season. Kevin Spacey plays the most ruthless son of bitch this side of Clint Eastwood. Leave a comment and let me know if you’re excited about the trailer.

Thoughts from the Rose Parade and Bowl

Posted on January 4, 2015

This last weekend my family flew into San Diego from Massachusetts to visit, and we were planning on heading to the Rose Bowl to watch Florida State take on the Oregon Ducks. Before the game, we watched the Rose Parade in Pasadena. This has been my Dad’s dream since he was a kid, growing up in a row home in Philadelphia and watching the parade and the game on television.

I picture him sitting there in my grandmother’s house, a young man who was then working at Franklin Field, cleaning up after the fans in the stands, sitting on the green carpet my grandmother had, observing the bands and the floats moving through the streets on an old RCA television with rabbit ears. He told me that he never imagined that he would be there in Pasadena.

So that made the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl more important than it could have been without him. I have some photos below that I took with my Samsung, and I wish I had my DSLR to take better pictures.

The parade was by far the best parade that I had ever attended, and I’ve been in a marching band. There were bands from Florida State, the University of Oregon, and Midland High School. Plus, the floats were monstrously big, and it was hard to imagine they were constructed out of flowers. Probably the funniest aspect of the parade was that the pooper scoopers who followed the horses were receiving some of the biggest applauses.

But the parades struck me in a strange way, because I was a member of the Clinton High School marching band. I was a drummer, and yes I wore the goofy hats and the strange jackets. I looked at these other bands, and I just realized how terrible of a band we were comparatively. We had a great band leader and excellent teacher, but our lines were out of proportion, our brass section was out of tune, and our drum corps would get tired and hold the drums as if they were sacks of water and they were traveling through the desert.

So what is so special about the Rose Parade? After the parade is over, everyone found their cars and started weaving through the traffic, except for my family, who went walking down Colorado in search of food or a place to sit — anything to avoid the traffic. On the way out, there was trash all over the streets: an unopened red Gatorade bottle, soda cups, silly string, and countless containers of food. It was a mess. Sometimes I wonder what all the fuss is about.

But then I saw an RV — they were all over the place in parking lots to watch the parade — with posters and streamers ushering in the new year. I guess that’s what it’s all really about: ushering in a new year with a celebration, with an over the top and celebrated walk through the streets of Pasadena in order for us all to stay positive about the future. I think about the parades where governments march tanks and warheads down the street — here we cheer on floats made out of flowers and applaud military members on horseback.

That’s what this post is really about: welcoming the new year. Over the next year, this blog will follow my travels as well as my 2015 goals: publish more stories and poems; finish a draft of my new novel; and master the Creative Cloud. Thanks to everyone for making 2014 a great year. Your comments are always welcomed.

(As for the Rose Bowl game, for the sake of my FSU friends, I won’t bring up any of the details.)

Chili Cook Off in North Park

Posted on December 29, 2014

If you’ve ever seen my project Rockwell’s Camera Phone, then you know how much I love Americana, especially Norman Rockwell. His paintings capture something innocent and profound about our daily lives, as if every moment has the potential for wonder and surprise. It’s fun to think that the everyday is an adventure. This is part of the reason I really enjoy American events like baseball games, Thanksgiving, and, well, chili cook offs. A couple of weeks ago I went to a chili cook off in North Park, San Diego, and I snapped some pictures.

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