My Take on TIME’s Person of the Year

Miley

TIME magazine unveiled Pope Francis as its Person of the Year today. No disagreement here, as the guy who’s been dubbed the “People’s Pope” has in nine month’s time made great strides in his attempt to lead one of the world’s largest (and in recent years most fractured) institutions. His intensely humble demeanor and messages of acceptance, unity and social justice have certainly resonated with Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

The runner-up for TIME’s honor was Edward Snowden, the computer contractor who fled to Moscow amidst charges of espionage after he leaked classified documents to shed light on the NSA’s extensive surveillance programs, which has created an international conversation about privacy as it relates to national defense and the prevention of terrorism. Whether you see him as a hero or a traitor, he’s certainly a tenable runner-up to Pope Francis.

As a big fan of TIME’s Person of the Year issue, every year I find myself mulling over the other individuals who must have come up – even if only jokingly – in the selection committee’s discussion. All ten finalists (below) are of course deserving of being deemed finalists, but I thought I’d also note a few other newsmakers who’ve crossed my mind over the course of the day.

TIME’s 2013 Person of the Year Finalists
Bashar Assad (President of Syria)
Jeff Bezos (Amazon Founder)
Ted Cruz (U.S. Senator to Texas)
Miley Cyrus (singer/actress and twerking extraordinaire)
Pope Francis (Leader of the Catholic Church)
Barack Obama (U.S. President)
Hassan Rouhani (President of Iran)
Kathleen Sebelius (U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services)
Edward Snowden (N.S.A. Leaker)
Edith Windsor (Gay rights activist)

My 2013 POY Honorable Mentions
Amanda Bynes (recovering celebrity train wreck)
Chris Christie (Governor of New Jersey)
Jason Collins (first openly gay athlete in the four major American team sports)
John F. Kennedy (35th U.S. President)
Nelson Mandela (South African anti-apartheid activist turned president)
Marissa Mayer (President and CEO of Yahoo!)
Mohamed Morsi (Egypt’s ousted fifth president)
Prince George (William and Kate’s son and third in line to the throne)
Dennis Rodman (NBA Hall of Famer and friend to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un)
Manti Te’o (current San Diego Charger who had the ultimate fake girlfriend at ND)
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (indicted Boston Marathon bomber)
Kerry Washington (actress Olivia Pope on ABC’s Scandal)
George Zimmerman (cleared of murdering Trayvon Martin)

Photo credit: Spin Magazine

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Nine-Year-Olds Got Nothing on These Nine Mascots

I taught nine-year-olds for two years coming out of grad school, and believe me, those kids had nothing on the nine mascots that took part in our recent CAA Basketball Mascot Tour in Baltimore.

The purpose of the tour was to help promote the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship’s move to Baltimore in 2014. I was tasked with manning the conference’s social media efforts during the tour alongside several members of a local public relations team helping lead the day’s events.

Needless to say, given the efforts (and antics) of our nine so-called furry friends, I think we got the word out.

The tour began at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, site of our CAA Basketball Media Day. Several mascots arrived earlier than the others, so while we waited, the mascots wasted little time finding their form, greeting (i.e. scaring the hell out of) guests as they got off elevators, getting spanked by security and even taking some time to check in folks at the front desk.

Elevator

Check In

Before heading out to our first stop, we corralled our cast of characters for a photo. The expression “herding cats” certainly applied here. They are a good-looking bunch, though, right?

CAA_0052

Waiting outside for us was Baltimore Trolley, which so graciously carted the group around for the day. There was plenty of room for the gang, including James Madison’s Duke Dog, who if it weren’t for his lack of opposable thumbs could probably start for JMU given that he’s a good 6’6″.

Mascots Trolley

Our first stop was the Under Armour Brand House, where the mascots did everything from play a little hoops to fold some of the apparel. There was also some fooling around with the checkout scanner gun. Oh, and this happened on the counter…

Doc Checkout

It was then off to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s office. While we waited for the mayor to return from some important business, the mascots rested up and took in a little TV.

TV Mascots

We were then led into an immaculate chamber featuring artwork and furniture that had to be well over 100 years old. The mascots took full (and I do mean full) advantage of the space, with each taking a turn behind the podium, including Sammy, who’s got the whole politician thing down.

Sammy Podium

Mayor Rawlings-Blake arrived to quite a sight. After taking in the fur-filled scene and a little one-on-one time with the league’s lone female mascot, Hofstra’s Kate the Lioness (who had just finished dolling herself up in the 19th-century mirror), it was time for what was the day’s premier photo opp.

mayor

Following a quick return trip to the hotel to greet the media and their head coaches, the mascots joined us at Phillip’s Seafood in the heart of the Inner Harbor. A full spread had been set out for us, and it didn’t take long for the mascots to begin cracking crabs and making a complete mess. Even William & Mary’s Griffin was at a loss at the spectacle.

Griffin

At least Kate was there to help clean everyone up.

Duke Dog Kate

With everyone now stuffed full of seafood, we headed to Federal Hill. Along the way, Drexel’s Mario the Magnificent stumbled upon some long-lost family members.

mario dragons

We also discovered that Towson’s Doc the Tiger has some mad skills on the drums. We thought he was just cattin’ around when he first sat down, so this was a pleasant surprise to all of us and the other Inner Harbor visitors who gathered around for the impromptu show.

Doc Drums

A beautiful view of the city awaited us atop Federal Hill, making the hike up the several flights of stairs very worthwhile.

Federal Hill

It was important that we all stayed hydrated after that climb, as Northeastern’s Paws the Husky took to heart.

Paws Fountain

The next stop on the tour was a highly anticipated one – M&T Bank Stadium, where the reigning Super Bowl Champion Ravens’ mascot, Poe, joined us for a shot in the stands. Love or hate the Ravens, they boast one of football’s cleverest mascots.

ravens

We followed up our trip to the stadium with a visit to the Orioles’ historic Camden Yards, which combines classic ballpark beauty and an updated modern feel to create a great stadium aesthetic. Enough about architecture, though, as we were joined by The Bird, who led our nine mascots onto the dugout for this sweet shot.

camden

A few of us got left behind (not because we were perfecting our dugout dances), so the mascots enjoyed some extra time at Baltimore’s Sports Legends Museum.

museum

The four of us stragglers quickly caught up with the group and we then set off for Baltimore Arena, home of the 2014 CAA Men’s Basketball Championship. The league hopes to see plenty of fans in these lines come March.

arena

Our last stop on the tour was the National Aquarium, where the mascots made friends with one of the dolphins.

Dolphin

Sammy made a friend on the way out as well. Yeah, this is pretty adorable.

Sammy Girl

All in all, it was a highly entertaining and ultimately successful day spent with our nine crazy mascots, thanks to a lot of teamwork…

Teamwork

and a lot of fun.

Scared Lady

Children’s Classics Gone Wonderfully Wrong

Childrens Books Gone Wrong

I’ve always been a fan of children’s literature, especially after teaching fourth graders for two years. Kids books take me back to my own childhood when my parents would delight my siblings and I with some Maurice Sendak, Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss.

In the years since my youth, I’ve also (obviously) gained a penchant for the inappropriate. So, when my girl TL clued me into a tumblr called “dirty library” yesterday, I soon found myself slumped over my Mac crying from the absurd titles and faux reviews of the children’s titles gone wrong… or what I’d prefer to regard as oh so right.

My current favorite among the many titles is “Alexander and the Total Fucking Bullshit Hungover Day.” As a kid we all experienced those dreaded Alexander-like days, although I think we adults can all relate to this version of our boy Alex as well.

After having read through the list, I’m now left with the hope that someone soon takes the initiative to pen these bogus versions of our favorite children’s classics. Perhaps this is a new potential career path I should consider…

Hey Vine, Meet Instagram Video

Instagram vs Vine

It’s my first Free Friday from work and I’m up early at Starbucks researching (i.e. nerding out to) the latest battle in the social media landscape between Vine and the new Instagram Video. In my eyes, these kind of digital duels are like boxing or pro wrestling, but only better – quite a statement given my affinity for WWE.

Yes, Instagram has introduced a 15-second video feature to complement its trademark filtered-photo sharing service, news my broworker Bobby rushed down to share with me at the office yesterday (see, I’m not the only one who’s amped about this development). I suppose this should come as no surprise to the world’s 130 million Instagram users and the 13 million of us on Vine; it was only a matter of time until Instagram introduced video.

Let’s not lose sight of the overarching significance here, though, because while this is seemingly a battle between Instagram Video and Vine, in all actuality it’s a larger war between Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, and Twitter, owner of Vine. Furthermore, in no way is this simply a competition for users, but a play for advertising dollars – two concepts that go hand in hand in the digital world nowadays.

When it comes to the advertising aspect, it’s no coincidence that Instagram went with 15 seconds given that it’s an increasingly popular length for TV and online ad spots. Companies can do a great deal in 15 seconds – and much more than in six seconds on Vine – as evidenced by Lululemon in this sweet Instagram Video. Here are a few other brands also wasting no time taking advantage of Instagram’s new video offerings.

Facebook was undoubtedly smart to embrace the bite-sized video-sharing side of the industry, thus stealing a key element of Twitter’s business model following the latter’s immense success with Vine. As an early adopter, it seems like Vine’s been around forever, but it’s important to note what many have called “video Instagram” was only just introduced in late January 2013.

Instagram CEO/co-founder Kevin Systrom billed his app’s new 15-second video feature as “everything we know and love about Instagram, but it moves.” In my quick research online and limited experience with the feature itself, here are a few notable comparisons between Instagram Video and Vine:

  • Both offer stop-motion video (thus allowing you to take clips within the full video clip itself), but Instagram Video allows you to actually delete any undesired clips.
  • Instagram carried its classic filtering feature over to video as well, giving users the ability to edit individual clips. Vine doesn’t offer this capability… yet.
  • Two big advantages of Vine, however, are looping and embedding, which Instagram did not implement as part of its initial video launch.
  • And longer is always better, right? I’d imagine that Instagram 15-second videos are preferred to the six seconds granted by Vine. I do wonder if 15 seconds is too long, though, in the sense that we’re so used to six-second videos, 140 characters and the general notion of concision in our digital world… I mean, I know it’s hard for me to even bear the five seconds before I can skip ads on YouTube. Nevertheless, I think 15 seconds will soon become the perceived norm.
  • Creativity is king when it comes to digital, so users will undoubtedly learn to be even more innovative with their increased time allotment. Just look at these people who are already doing unbelievable things with six-second videos… and they’re getting paid for it.
  • Interested in additional comparisons? Jordan Crook of Tech Crunch (great site) compiled this breakdown of the two dueling apps.

Some folks are already predicting the early extinction of Vine (hence the #RIPVine hashtag) after yesterday’s announcement, but this guy’s not so convinced. With Twitter behind it, I have little doubt that Vine will fight back – some of its most faithful users (hilariously) are already firing back.

and up its proven game. And let’s face it, a little healthy competition never hurt anyone and should only serve to benefit us users.

Lastly, if you want some extra help before taking a stab at your first Instagram Video, how about a little seven-step tutorial care of the great folks at Mashable?

My Dad, Will Smith and Me

Dad Fam Pool

Writing Saturday’s post about the strange cast of characters that I’m proud to call my family served as another reminder of what a fantastic job my parents did raising us Burri over the years. My various life experiences, and perhaps most notably teaching for two years, have made me see how significant and positive a role having an involved father in one’s life can be in who he or she becomes later in life.

When you’re a 20-something like me, you generally start trying to define yourself, often without any awareness or acknowledgement of the whole process. As I approach the big 3-0, I’ve done a bit more reflecting on the person I’ve become and have increasingly come to the see the truth behind the many comments on how similar I am to my dad.

While I don’t profess to share his penchant for napping or (lack of) organization skills, there are many traits that the two of us undoubtedly share. To name a few, we both have a love of the guitar, good music, peanut butter, road trips and technology. More importantly, however, I like to think that I’ve become the compassionate, cultured, inquisitive, driven, fiercely loyal, fun loving, overly sarcastic and accepting person I am today because of him.

I’m proud to say that I see so much of myself in my dad (and Mama Burrus, of course). While there are entirely too many things to list for which I’ll be forever grateful to my parents, one of the most striking at this moment is that they always made sure my siblings and I appreciated and embraced our African-American heritage, and that we never tolerate any form of prejudice because of it. I can safely say that I’m not only the man I’ve become because of my parents, but the Black man I am because of them as well.

Anyone who knows my dad is also keenly aware of his kind heart, ever-chill demeanor and the prudence he exercises in his choice of words and their timing in a given situation. With that said, I recently saw a quote from (the fake Twitter account of) Will Smith that reminded me very much of my dad (and indeed myself) that I wanted to end on here.

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 11.09.37 PM

And as on Mother’s Day, since the fam and I couldn’t physically reunite for the holiday, we met up on Google Hangout – a pic for your viewing pleasure…

Fathers Day Hang Out

My White Sister Has Got Me Thinking…

Family Bombeck Quote

My fav middle (and white) sister, Elizabeth, Instagrammed this quote from journalist Erma Bombeck on my birthday this week. Perhaps because of all the birthday wishes or the fact that it’s now Father’s Day weekend, but the quote she shared has increasingly resonated with me these past few days.

I’ve mentioned this to people on and off over the years – and yes, I know it sounds hella cliché – but my family are my best friends. We’re indeed a strange cast of characters who may look nothing alike but share so very much in common – from our winsome smiles and inane senses of humor to our core values and many little quirks. We’re a bunch who’ve each become fiercely independent while still learning to grow together through our individual and common experiences.

No doubt there’s been lots of loving and laughter over the years -two qualities that go hand in hand in our family. We’ve also had our fair share of sharing illnesses (really, the ‘rents are saints for taking care of our sick selves, especially with Mare’s hypochondriac ways), hiding (and breaking) toys, borrowing (and at times stealing) money, among many other challenges, which I view as having only served to further unite us over the years.

As important as loving and laughter are to any functional fam, I’ve also come to find the “defending” component as equally essential to the mix. We’re all quick to call each other out on our shit, but even quicker to defend one another. We may not be fighters (well, except for maybe Annie after that hockey stick incident), but I would caution anyone to mess with the Burri.

Sure, with the six of us (seven if you count our token black sheep or good ol’ Grandma across the street) occasionally comes the selfish diva, moody bitch, annoying vegan, inconsiderate ass, unsought counselor and insufferable know-it-all (often as a result of the blond – ahem, Elizabeth). We’ve seen each other at our best and at our absolute worst – I know I’ve resigned myself to never living down Annie’s wedding reception…

After some solid reflection on that moment and so many others these past few days, I keep coming back to something my dad told us time and again growing up: “You’ve all got to stick together.”

Well, Dad, stick together we certainly have. I believe it’s this that has become the common thread that’s bound us all together.

A Truly ‘Strangers’ Inspired Pic

Pitchfork Teepee

My girl Di texted me this pic of a teepee yesterday along with the words “Pitchfork on its side with the handle broken off,” which I’ve since captioned on the photo itself. Her text absolutely made my day (well, that and talking to my mom on Mother’s Day, of course).

The pic probably means nothing if you’re not a fellow (and refined) fan of “Strangers With Candy” – hands down one of the greatest cult classic series of all time, and one that has served as a foundation for a number of my friendships. The latter may appall you if you’re one of those uber-politically correct types, but it actually makes me quite proud.

The context of the quote along with the premise of the episode in which it appears can be found on some guy’s ridiculously involved series companion site. And I thought I was a Strangers superfan…

This pic is a keeper though. There are often times I send friends photos that remind me of them, but I haven’t gone as far as those tumblr types who caption funny phrases or inspirational quotes on his pics. This one may just have inspired me to start doing more of that.