Saturday, April 29, 2006

Great Albums You've Probably Never Heard Of - Vol. 1




Not as searing and heartbreaking an album as Sonoran Hope and Madness, nor as rooted in down-home humor as Honky Tonk Union, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers' Americano is ultimately the most accessible and most satisfying Peacemakers album so far - and that's saying something.

Listening to Americano is the aural equivalent of a long drive down a desert highway. It's music for late nights and summer afternoons. It's deeply American music; hard-worn, hard-eyed, and evoking the majesterial backdrop of the West. Shot through with strains of melody imported from south of the border, its the Great American Album that Mellencamp and Springsteen have never quite made.

One of the reasons for that is over-exposure. Springsteen and Mellencamp both enjoyed (and/or enjoy) a level of stardom that Clyne's never reached, and doesn't really seem to aspire to. He remains an everyman, and that sensibility shines through on every track of Americano. Whether he's spinning a tale of outlaws on the run from law and mortality, or asking a lover/friend to "leave an open door behind you," Clyne sings in a voice that seems both intimate and mythic.

If you're a lover of song, songwriting, sincerity, and eclecticism, pick up a copy of Clyne's Americano. It's available online, and it's worth every shiny dime.


Friday, April 28, 2006

On The Insane Campaign Trail

This, to the best of my knowledge, is taken verbatim from the campaign literature of Vernon Robinson, currently running for congress against current North Carolina congressman, Brad Miller. This is Robinson's decription of Miller:

Brad Miller is a childless, middle-aged, trial lawyer whose ideological worldview was formulated when he joined the ranks of the hippie peaceniks and volunteered on Eugene McCarthy's 1968 presidential campaign. 206,000 North Carolina boys served their country in uniform during Vietnam and 1,609 of those brave souls came back in flag-draped coffins. During the Vietnam conflict, Brad did not answer his country's call to serve in the military, but sought sanctuary on a college campus.

When Brad left the country to attend the socialist schools of Europe, he was further indoctrinated against Judeo-Christian values, the necessity for a strong military, the wisdom of limited government, and the principles of free market competition. After taking a master's degree in political science, Brad came back to the states as an overgrown flower child, went to law school in New York City, and finally returned to North Carolina to make his fortune by chasing ambulances. He's been a radical, left-wing activist ever since.


Unbelievable.

How dare Brad Miller not have children! Damn hippie peacenik! Why not just mail everyone a crayon drawing of Miller with an arrow pointing to him saying "poop head?" Wouldn't that essentially serve the same purpose?

Picking Up A Chick And Smacking It Around

Every once in a while, when the world's feeling just a little too tolerant for it's own good, I head over to Jack Chick's Chick Tract site and remind myself of the hilarity/stupidity/horror of religiously-induced "Superiority."

Jack Chick produces black and white comics (or "Chick Tracts" - a name which sounds vaguely dirty) that help explain to kids about God, Jesus, and the literal, unequivocable truth of the Bible.

The strips are sort of like Wonder Showzen, but more sincere.

They're a vivid, refreshingly frightening window into fundamentalist dogma.

And they're funny as anything.

Take this particular Tract, for instance. Called "The Birds and the Bees," it gets to the "truth" about homosexuality. Tell us about this Chick Tract, Jack:

Don’t think that children shouldn’t read this. They already know about it. It’s going on behind your back, on your TV and in your school. So please, let the kids read “The Birds and the Bees.” It could save them from a homosexual nightmare in the future.

Your brother in Christ,

Jack

And now, thanks to the wonders of Fair Use, here are just a few choice panels from Mr. Chick's gay-bashing polemic:


I'm a big fan of how Chick's chosen to place squat, inexplicably-mustachioed demons on the shoulders of these two. And of the helpful editorial asides. "This is how the Gays are changing the way little school kids think." Such authority! Such machismo!


You've got to hand it to Jack. He fits a lot of stuff into very little space. In just two panels we learn that the Bible is true (apparently because the Bible says its true), and that "years ago," when Dinosaurs walked the earth (side by side with humans! The earth was created in 6 days!) people used to read it in school to educate themselves. Not anymore, of course.


I love this kid's reaction. Priceless. Pretty much how I think I would have reacted, had some dead-eyed, ponytailed little girl started talking to me about the lake of fire I was getting ready to do laps in. But what I really love is that, without the Bible in schools, kids grow up "not knowing what God says about the devil or what sin is!"

I suppose parents and Church don't exist on Chick's alternate-earth. No, on ChickEarth-1, the only way to learn about God (and not just any God - the Christian God) is in a classroom. It's knowingly disingenuous.


Wait, wait wait....Back up the truck.

So...they made the right choice to do what, exactly? Be intolerant of gays?


Well, the devil's already got all the best musicians. So, one assumes he's also got quite the stable of comedians. At any rate, if being in the devil's crowd means that I laugh at Jack Chick's Tracts, then just call me a brutha of beezlebub.

I'm sick and tired of the Jack Chicks of this world turning Jesus Christ into their personal excuse for hate. Jesus came for all of us. He informed us that there was none righteous. Not one.

Jack seems pretty comfortable telling us what the truth is. He also seems pretty comfortable with spreading hateful invective disguised as truth.

Wir mussen die Juden ausrotten, right Jack?

Throwing Down the "Hammer"

Krauthammer has had enough of the Washington cynicism regarding gas prices.

His thought regarding the increased gas prices: Supply and demand.

Imagine that.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Sullivan on Pelosi

Andrew Sullivan takes Pelosi to task on her intelligence (or the lack thereof).

I think we can all agree that Pelosi isn't necessarily stupid. I mean, I'm guessing she does not actually believe that George Bush = High Gas Prices, in a cause and effect manner, despite repeating "cause and effect" twice.

More likely what she's doing is trying to make a cheap political point by playing to the lowest common denominator of peoples' intelligence.

What's most annoying about stuff like this, on both the right and the left, is that politicians seem to expect so little from us. Maybe we don't deserve a real debate, with an actual "cause and effect" argument, but wouldn't that be nice?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Oops

I've made some mistakes before, but assuming the Defendant is telling the truth, this one is a particularly large mistake.

My Advice to the President - Veto Something

So, among the failings of the administration, one of the worst is the failure to stem the rising tide of discretionary spending and spending in general. By all accounts, the President and the Republican Congress have stolen the Nation's credit card and gone on a massive spending binge as if there were no tomorrow. And given the lack of any serious attempt to deal with the potential environmental impact of massive unrestrained growth, who really knows if tomorrow will come anyway?

So, here's my advice. It's a small start, but you have to crawl before you walk, right?

Veto something. Just once. Stop with the pork. You can't be President for eight years and not veto something. Come on. For the love of God. Please.

Bring On The Brundleflies

According to a post by Tom Tomorrow, we may be seeing "Standing Room Only" seats on airplanes in the none-too-distant future (cue theramin).

The airlines have come up with a new answer to an old question: How many passengers can be squeezed into economy class?

A lot more, it turns out, especially if an idea still in the early stage should catch on: standing-room-only “seats.” Airbus has been quietly pitching the standing-room-only option to Asian carriers, though none have agreed to it yet. Passengers in the standing section would be propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness, according to experts who have seen a proposal.


Here's the graphic that the NY Times published, blatantly swiped from Tomorrow's site (which he'd swiped, one presumes, from the Times):



Pretty "sweet," eh?

It doesn't look uncomfortable, per se, but I can't imagine spending a nine-hour flight in a harness. I have enough trouble obeying the seatbelt rules. It makes sense that this was pitched toward Asia, first, because no one there seems to care about living/travelling in spaces larger than, say, a shoebox.

Flying has mutated into a weirdly uncomfortable flying-bus ride. With news that airlines are now going to be charging more for the aisle seats, we get a nice, clear picture of just how dead-broke/tight-fisted and miserly the airline industry is.

Expect some more nifty innovations in the near-future. Like the "seating with a view" option, where passengers are strapped to the wings with duct-tape and bailing wire. Or the "pay toilet." Or, if we're lucky, the "bribe money to insure a sober pilot" fee.

None of this matters, of course. Airlines will become irrelevant once teleportation is introduced into the market. Despite the odd Brundlefly mishap, most Americans (myself included) will opt to risk the possibility of becoming contaminated with fly dna to avoid the experience of perching their asses on a "cushioned" shelf for hours-on-end.

Linktastic

Read an excellent, thoughtful (very long) review of the new Mission Impossible film HERE. It looks fantastic.

I've got no problem with them having made the Flight 93 movie, I'm just not emotionally prepared to see it in a movie theater. It's gotten outstanding reviews, and the director (Paul Greengrass) is an accomplished, intelligent craftsman who was the perfect person to choose for this difficult film. Read Brian Orndorf's reaction to the film HERE.

Find out which A-List actor has been cast in Ocean's 13 by clicking HERE. (Hint: He's blind, the head of a crime family, a homicide cop who can't settle down, and ol' scratch).

Did you love A History of Violence like I did? Christmas done come early, because director David Cronenberg and star Viggo Mortensen are teaming up again.

Sage and Savant, Vern, explains why Groundhog Day is both a modern-day comedy classic, and a deep and touching rumination on humanity and choice.

Latino Film Review has a look at the Iron Man script, and it's interesting, if not heartening.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Left You Can Talk To

There is some hope, perhaps, for the Left.

There is now posted a Euston Manifesto, which appears to operate as a policy blueprint for purported "democrats and progressives."

Enough to turn the tide against the Michael Moores of the party? Time will tell. If they take this seriously, the Democrats might actually win an election. And for good reason.

Digging Himself Deeper

I speculate that the actions of this administration regarding the new Oil Crisis will rival Katrina and Harriet Miers.

Put It In Neutral

This is fascinating, and worrisome. Contact your representative.

Congress is pushing a law that would abandon the Internet's First Amendment -- a principle called "Network neutrality" that prevents companies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from deciding which Web sites work best for you -- based on what site pays them the most. Your local library shouldn’t have to outbid Barnes & Noble for the right to have its Web site open quickly on your computer.

Net Neutrality allows everyone to compete on a level playing field and is the reason that the Internet is a force for economic innovation, civic participation and free speech. If the public doesn't speak up now, Congress will cave to a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign by telephone and cable companies that want to decide what you do, where you go, and what you watch online.

This isn’t just speculation -- we've already seen what happens elsewhere when the Internet's gatekeepers get too much control. Last year, Canada's version of AT&T -- Telus -- blocked their Internet customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to workers with whom Telus was negotiating. And Shaw, a major Canadian cable company, charges an extra $10 a month to subscribers who dare to use a competing Internet telephone service.

I've already contacted my reps. I suggest that you do the same. The internet is one of the few truly democratizing forces in the world, and there are a lot of people who don't like it. Here's a map that displays information on what representatives have taken a stance, and which way they've leaned. It makes the act of contacting your legislators almost painfully-easy.

Exercise your democratic responsibility and make a phone call.

Playing "Hardball"

From the stakeholder:

Starting this week, hundreds of young Capitol Hill aides will indulge in an annual rite of spring here by changing out of their business suits and heading over to the National Mall to play in the Congressional Softball League.

Amid all the partisan rancor of congressional politics, the softball league has for 37 years been a rare case of bipartisan civility, an opportunity for Democratic and Republican aides to sneak out of work a bit early and take the field in the name of the lawmaker, committee or federal agency they work for.

This year, the league will be missing something: a lot of the Republicans.

During the off-season, a group of Republican teams seceded from the league after accusing its Democratic commissioner, Gary Caruso, of running a socialist year-end playoff system that gives below-average teams an unfair chance to win the championship.

The league "is all about Softball Welfare -- aiding the weak by punishing the strong," the pitcher of one Republican team told Mr. Caruso in an email. "....

....The softball coup is a "reflection of how partisan and Republican this town has really become since Republicans took control," responds Mr. Caruso, a longtime Democratic aide who worked for congressmen in the 1980s and '90s. "Republicans come here and want to bash your head in. And if they don't get their way, they pick up the ball and go home."


Jesus.

No wonder our government is so ineffectual. If they can't figure a way to play softball together how the hell are they supposed to figure out education?

So, what does this emotionally-charged, obviously high-stakes battle of softball-wills consist of, exactly? The above quotes make these games seem like brutal, manly, balls-out contests of skill.

Sort of.

The congressional league is a relaxed affair: No umpires call balls and strikes, so batters don't have to swing until they get a pitch they like. Fields are open to the public, so most teams dispatch an intern or junior aide to reserve a field several hours before game time. And after games, teams often head to a bar to recap the game over chicken wings and pitchers of beer.

Gosh, no wonder people are upset over the "socialist softball" approach. I mean, after you've worked your ass off waiting for that perfect pitch and ignoring such pesky game-hiccups as "strikes," of course you want to be recognized for the superiority of your achievements.

Hey, Washington: If you can't put aside your petty squabbles in the name of beer and wings, then you ain't men at all.

I Have No Soul

From the washingtonpost.com:


For emotional wallop, there are few rivals to the windswept, grassy field outside of Shanksville, Pa., where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001.

But for three years, that field has made do with a makeshift monument while one member of Congress, Rep. Charles H. Taylor (R-N.C.), has blocked a $10 million request to buy the land for a permanent memorial to the 40 passengers and crew members who overpowered hijackers bent on crashing their jet into the Capitol or the White House....

...."We need to build a memorial for these people," said Rep. William Shuster (R-Pa.), whose district includes Shanksville. "These 40 people were the first counterattack of the war on terror, and they were victorious. We owe them a great debt of gratitude."....

....Taylor infuriated some Flight 93 family members by suggesting a more fitting tribute would be a scholarship fund.

"We believe the land speaks to anyone who goes there and sees the site," said Patrick White, whose cousin Louis Joseph Nacke II died on Flight 93. "It is very moving."

Here's something I didn't expect to find myself saying: Good for Taylor. His reasons for not wanting a memorial federally funded are clear, unambiguous, and hard to argue with. The value of said-memorial is questionable at best. What's of more benefit to the families of those who died on Flight 93? An open, scarred field (complete, one assumes, with a Flight 93 Memorial Gift Shop and McDonald's kiosk)? Or a scholarship fund?

Taylor's acting like an honest-to-God Republican and I, for one, appreciate it. No one seems to have a problem with the government picking up the tab on an estimated 60 million-dollar memorial. But just try suggesting that the People share that tab to the tune of 30 million in taxes, and let's see how important that field really is.

I don't understand this need to stuff-and-mount September 11th on the mantle in order to insure that we don't "forget" it. What, precisely, are we going to forget? Speaking only for myself, that day is seared over my retinas like a man who saw lightning right before dying.

Is a concrete statue in the middle of a Pennsylvanian field really going to be a bulwark in the struggle again National Short Attention Span Disorder? More importantly - should it be? Should our history and our tragedies be reduced to tourist stops and commemorative t-shirts?

Some will say that this is insensitive. That I have no soul. That a memorial to United's flight would never be so tasteless as to include t-shirts. Or a vending tent.

To those people I ask, with sincerity in my heart: Are you F*@%ing retarded? Or have you forgotten the "commemorative" pieces of faux-Twin-Towers-steel sold immediately after the attacks?

Beneath my warm n' cuddly exterior beats the heart of a stone-cold cynic.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Why It's Hard to Take Republicans Seriously Sometimes

We're at war. We're facing serious deficits. Our public educational system is basically a waste. We have 12 million undocumented (i.e., illegal) immigrants in this country and no real plan on what to do with them. Gas costs $385,000,000,000 a gallon.

What is South Carolina doing about it? You guessed correctly. Outlawing sex toys.

Note: If you want people to take you seriously, act like you deserve it.

Duke Lacrosse Trial - The Nation's Ink Blot

A good post about why the Duke Lacrosse Trial may say little about the justice system and more about our society generally.

Ah Could Impeach A Girl Fer Hours

From OpEd News:

The Illinois General Assembly is about to rock the nation. Members of state legislatures are normally not considered as having the ability to decide issues with a massive impact to the nation as a whole. Representative Karen A. Yarbrough of Illinois' 7th District is about to shatter that perception forever. Representative Yarbrough stumbled on a little known and never utlitized rule of the US House of Representatives, Section 603 of Jefferson's Manual of the Rules of the United States House of Representatives, which allows federal impeachment proceedings to be initiated by joint resolution of a state legislature. From there, Illinois House Joint Resolution 125 (hereafter to be referred to as HJR0125) was born....

....Should HJR0125 be passed by the Illinois General Assembly, the US House will be forced by House Rules to take up the issue of impeachment as a privileged bill, meaning it will take precedence over other House business.


I've got no idea whether OpEd News is a legitimate news source, but this story appears to be on the up-and-up. Personally, I think pushing for impeachment now is stupidity incarnate. But I also believe that if we're going to impeach a guy for getting some sucky-sucky, we should be willing to impeach for reasons that actually effect the people of this country.

Weigh in on this rainy Monday morning in the comments section below!