Aaron Brazell

Convergence of technology, journalism and sports

Sheer erudition — and erudition of a very specific type — throws up large barriers to entry. Too often, newer, younger, and more casual sports fans “can sort of get to a certain point of enthusiasm before they hit the ‘stat wall’ where discussion of sports becomes pedantic and quantitative for no discernible reason other than as a social indicator of investment/knowlegeability,” says Grantland’s Katie Baker. “In particular, I constantly see women driven away from sports because they are fed it as a zero-sum game: either you know everything about everyone or you don’t.” [via Tim Carmody]

Aaron Brazell

Making Decisions Inebriated

“But the ancient Macedonians used to make important decisions only when inebriated, the idea being that only when mentally lubricated are you free of the societal filters and self-doubt. Therefore you think and act as your true self. Therefore you are thinking and acting truthfully, and hence correctly.” [via Jason Cohen]

Aaron Brazell

You Can Never Take My Freedom

You can take my life, but you can never take my freedom. ~Sir William Wallace, Braveheart

Photo by MarkyBon on Flickr

You cannot protect intellectual property in the Internet age.

At all. Don’t try.

The idea of increasing protections on the Internet to ensure that piracy, plagiarism and other forms of intellectual property theft is sexy to content producers who attempt to eschew the freedoms provided by the Internet in the 21st century.

Photographers don’t like to have their photos used without permission, often times. Legitimately so. But that doesn’t change the fact that photos are used without the permission of the photographer anyway. Regardless of protections currently in place or employed.

Writers don’t like their articles copied wholesale or scraped from the web an re-purposed or re-published elsewhere. Their writing is valuable and their ideas are their own. Why should someone else gain the benefit? But that doesn’t change the fact that words are commoditized things worth little and that the writers of those words are the silos for the intellect and the ideas. Therefore, artificial protections of articles as intellectual property does little in protecting that actual value… the writer. The writer who cannot be stolen.

Musicians get paid very little money, when signed to record deals, because the labels and distributors end up taking most of the money for “overhead”. So musicians balk at the idea of someone else dipping in and profiting in even the slightest way from their work. Except the artists who have recognized the nature of the 21st century have proved a model of profitability that end-rounds the tired oligopoly of the labels by going directly to the consumer. Try Radiohead, for instance, who in 2007 released In Rainbows directly on their website to consumers. 22,000 records were sold in the first week in the United States 1.

The Internet, for more than 20 years, has survived and thrived based on freedom that levels the playing field for the world.  Thomas Friedman has long been the champion of a flat world where all are socially, economically and technologically on a level playing field and, while his idea has merit, does not entirely pan out as the digital divide still exists with more of a concept of hills than the mountains that existed 20 years ago. Regardless, the Internet (and really technology as a whole, considering consumer electronic progresses) has indeed made it possible for accessibility in technology.

Take, for instance, the hobbyist photographer who can have access to high quality cameras and lenses for under $1000. Cameras that, today, will shoot HD video as well. Instead of requiring expensive film and dark rooms, the art of photography has been opened to the masses for a relatively inexpensive cost.

Musicians can save overhead on production simply by having access to moderately priced software for their Macs, instead of renting costly space at a studio.

Writers can be heard by millions of people worldwide, simply by having a blog. In fact, major media (early nemeses of the Internet-era technologies we use today), now embraces citizen journalism and related platforms like blogs and Twitter.

Photographers like Thomas Hawk recognize that their work will be “stolen” and have come to terms with that insisting that he won’t run away from the inevitable but will embrace it and leverage it.

Freedom can never be sacrificed for the sake of protection. To do so thrashes against the very currents that are already washing away these protectionist ideas.

Fun Stuff

An Open Letter to Jesus: Come to Austin

Photo by doug88888. Used under Creative Commons.

Dear Jesus-

I hear you’re coming back tomorrow. I know this is really short notice, but I wanted to let you know that if I have any say in the decision about where you come back to, it should be Austin.

Why Austin? Well… let me tell you.

First, when you come back, there will still be tons of people here. We’re not really the type of people you want to take home to Dad, if you get what I mean.

Plus, most people in Austin are from California. Bringing them back would be, like, contradictory to everything in the Gospels about being kind to each other. You can’t be kind to the rest of the people who are going to go back with you and make them suffer with Californians.

Next, there’s shows. Bob Schneider is playing at Antones tomorrow and that’s a show you won’t want to miss. I’m sure you’ve heard him before since you’re, like, all omniscient and shit… but seeing him live? You have to. Tickets are $15 which, I know for you isn’t a whole lot since you’ve got, like, a cattle on a thousand hills or something.

But really, you want to do the Master of Pancakes show at Alamo Drafthouse. It’s sorta like Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (Do they have Comedy Central in heaven?), but live and in person. They are doing a Nicholas Cage-off. Seriously, Jesus?

Finally, it’s got to suck to be single for over 2000 years. There’s girls here. Lots of them. And Austin is one of the best single cities in America. Need I say more?

If you don’t decide on Austin, at least do me a favor and try not to choose to return to someplace stupid… like San Antonio… or Los Angeles… or Des Moines.




Love Always,


Aaron Brazell

Osama, Closure

Photo taken by theqspeaks
This post is therapy for me. Twitter and the media have already done a fine job of reporting and I am intentionally 12 hours late. There’s no new information I can provide, nor do I wish to.

Last night was important. It was important for the world, the United States and me.

I remember 9/11, as so many other people also do. It was one of those key moments in history where everyone remembers where they were when they got the news that an airliner had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.

For me, it was a day like many others. I was living in Maryland at the time. I lived out in the country about 30 miles west of Baltimore. It was a small place that my new wife, at the time, and I had moved into after we had gotten married. We both worked at a government facility doing mundane contract work in a data center.

I remember that 30 minute drive into work that day around 7:30am. The sky was blue. Not a cloud in the sky. There was a definitive autumn crisp in the air that reminded me that summer was over and winter was on its way. I could smell the clean air with the faint smell of oak and cornfields. It was a beautiful day.

When I got into work that morning, after making small talk with the guys I worked with, I remember going through my daily routine. After firing up my computer and ensuring there was no pressing emails to attend to, I took a ten minute walk to the other side of the compound to a little deli. I grabbed some coffee (cream and sugar), a pre-packaged muffin and and orange juice and I sauntered my way back to the data center I worked in, stopping briefly along the way to jaw with colleagues I ran into en route.

When I got back to my cubicle, my coworkers Mark and Marty were not around. I didn’t think much of it. They had their morning routines as well.

But then a minute or two passed and Mark came rushing over in a frenzy. He said something quickly about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in NYC. I was confused. Must have been some errant propjob that got lost. I went to my computer and pulled up the Internet. Surely, CNN.com would have the story? Couldn’t reach it. MSNBC.com? Nope, can’t reach that either.

Is the Internet down? Nope, Amazon.com loaded fine. Hmmm. Well, let’s go next door to the command center, I suggested.

The command center was, as you might expect, a darkish room with televisions and monitors to allow contractors and employees to monitor every aspect of the mainframe system housed in the data center. They also had a consistent cable news feed so if there was news, it would be on there.

When Mark and I reached the command center, it was already overflowing with people who had also heard the news and had the same idea I had. By the time we arrived, only one plane had hit the towers. No one was really sure what the hell was happening, but no one was really thinking terrorism at the time. Just some unfortunate mishap in the worlds largest city.

Within minutes of being in the command center, I witnessed the second plane hit the towers. There was no mistaking this for anything less than a choreographed attack. Now people were pissed and you could sense it in the room.

Until the breaking news came in from CNN that the Pentagon had also been hit. The anger in the room immediately changed to fear. We were sitting in a government facility and “they” were attacking DC. Were all government facilities targets? What about schools? Are our kids safe?

People started rushing from the room, grabbing their jackets and belongings and fleeing the building. Many were not so much fleeing the building but going to immediately fetch their children from school. We had no idea what would happen next.

That day I wept like I never wept before. Hours of endless tears as the horrors were played over and over on television. Eight days later, I would be in New York City, another place I once called home. I would get as close as 4 blocks from Ground Zero and still smell the burning ammonia, debris and flesh. I remember it vividly right now as I describe it and my stomach is turning.

This is what Osama bin Laden did to me.

We were all affected in different ways. Many people were not immediately affected, but their lives would radically change in the 10 years that would follow as loved ones went off to war to fight an undefined enemy with an undefined location. Some of those loved ones, sadly, never returned.

Some people lost friends and family in the Towers, or the Pentagon or in Pennsylvania that day. They will never return. The finger print of a murderer who cost us much more than just 3000 lives in 2001.

We all mourned in our own way. We were allowed to. We were encouraged to. We had to cope in different ways just because we are all different people.

This morning I awoke to a world without Osama bin Laden. It doesn’t change the past. I mourned again last night as I relived that September day 10 years ago. I watched crowds spontaneously amass in Lafayette Park in Washington, and in New York at Ground Zero and Times Square. I watched Twitter people question the mode in which other Americans celebrated. I watched people frown at beach balls being tossed. At least in one place, the celebration was encouraged.

This is closure.

We all mourned in our own ways on September 11, 2001 and that was expected. We all now have an opportunity for closure and that process cannot be dictated. People are wounded and scarred. This news is a reminder of that day 10 years ago and, like me, many are now re-living it. However one gets the necessary closure at this time, let it be done and get out of peoples way.