Thursday, October 06, 2005

Advice

When making music mixes, try to not put two songs next to each other by performers of widely different talents. Once in some random music club purchase I got Jewel's first CD. I don't particularly like it as it is pretty apparent she doesn't have a lot of talent in songwriting, singing or guitar playing.

Anyway, on one of my minidisk folk music compilations Jewel's "Who Will Save My Soul?" is right before Beth Orton's "Pass In Time". The difference between them in terms of artistry and effectiveness is like the difference between LeRoy Nieman and Matisse...

I'm erasing the Jewel song right now. It's embarrassing.

Friday, September 30, 2005

That Was MY Idea

A year ago whilst drinking with some friends, I had an idea for a way to get our drinks filled more efficiently than waiting to flag down a waiter. Namely, a device in the beer mug that measures when the level reaches down to a level of say 5% of full - kinda like a gas tank. The microchip communicates with a central point (Radio, WiFi, whatever) which then indicates that there is an empty mug needing refilling and then the waiter can then swing by.

Well, of course since I'm a thinker and not a doer, it looks like someone beat me.

...argghh....

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Double Short Decaf with a Shot of Intolerance

The irony is too rich in the continuing saga of Starbucks' attempt to broaden their customer's minds just a little bit. They have been putting quotes on their cups that are more than the typical Hallmark "inspirational" crap that you might expect. One quote is from Armistead Maupin: "My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don't make that mistake yourself. Life's too damn short." Apparently someone at Baptist Baylor University didn't appreciate such evil words and had Starbucks pull the cups.

So what exactly is wrong with this quote? One man is saying that he regretted knuckling under to fear in his youth. He wants other youths to act from love not from fear. I don't know, sounds kinda Christian to me. My guess is Baylor is saying, "You know those people Mr. Maupin was afraid of? That'd be us. Y'all should bottle up that love and get some good repression and fear whipped up. That's why we don't allow dancin', it's not that we don't love to dance, but with all them bottles stuck up our asses, it's hard to get a good groove on."

I did have to double-check to see if Baylor had a Dance Department by checking their departments in the College of Arts and Sciences. No dance department, but they do have a "Church State" department and an Environmental Studies department (in Texas? at a right-wing college?). I imagine the Church-State department is contemplating a putsch or crusade to take over the Political Science department whose splash screen's motto is "Preparing students for effective living in a democratic society" - clearly an outmoded concept in today's current political climate. The new motto should be "Preparing students for repressed living in a theocratic society."

There is a faculty opening in the Biology department in the Genetics area. Apparently the previous scholar made the mistake of not giving equal time to Intelligent Design in their research and went afoul of the fact that "Baylor is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. The successful candidate must be able to embrace Baylor's Christian heritage and mission."

No dance department at Baylor, but there is a Theater Arts department. They do have a lengthy mission statement but I don't see any mention of a Don't Ask/Don't Tell policy. Hmmm...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Let Them Buy Shoes

One of the hard things about being a politician is that you get blamed for a lot of stuff outside your control. There has been a lot of piling on the Bush administration for the New Orleans disaster - the cutting of the plans for shoring up the levee's, the lack of National Guard troops because of Iraq etc. and etc. Some of this criticism is very warranted and of actions directly in their control. Some criticism may be about things that were very complicated and is a more systemic problem.

But there is one thing over which they have absolute and undeniable control - how they personally react to the situation and how they choose to be seen in that reaction. For a large part, this is the function of a leader - when all hell breaks loose, the people want to look to somebody with a level head who is going to do something. Giuliani may not have really done a lot in actual and effective terms in the hours and days after 9/11, but he was there on the streets as a symbol. Bush staying on vacation and then cutting short his vacation to look out the window on the way to Washington is an abysmal symbol when the federal government's reaction has been atrocious.

Then there is this. Condi Rice in the spirit of Imelda Marcos, Marie Antoinette and several lovable Roman Emperors decided that the time of a national disaster was the best time to get some shoes (from Gawker):

...at the Ferragamo on 5th Avenue, Condoleeza Rice was seen spending several thousands of dollars on some nice, new shoes .... A fellow shopper, unable to fathom the absurdity of Rice’s timing, went up to the Secretary and reportedly shouted, “How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!” Never one to have her fashion choices questioned, Rice had security PHYSICALLY REMOVE the woman.
I mean, this is cluelessness on a galactic scale. Unless it was a carefully crafted political statement by Rove et al. I mean, what else could tell the disenfranchised (which your actions actually have literally disenfranchised) that they are so beneath notice in their little, poverty ridden, flooded Democratic city that we'll just go shopping for shoes, la la la...Hey, do I see a fire over there? Let's do some fiddlin', Yee-haw!

Monday, August 29, 2005

My Life at Events with A Lot of People

In the "I don't know why this is news" department we have this account of a shooting of rap mogul Suge Knight. Take note towards the end of one guest's reaction: "I don't think that what happened was any different than at any other event where you have a lot of people," said David Banner. "It's tragic that it happened and that the media magnified this so much."

One of my fondest childhood memories was my 10th birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's. All my friends were there and I couldn't wait for the pizza to come so that we could really get partying. As we were waiting for the pizza, a neighborhood kid ran in and shot my best friend Todd. The shooter was aiming for me because I didn't invite him but he was such a lousy shot he got Todd in the butt. Oh well, after the ambulance took Todd away I had a blast because I don't think that what happened was any different than at any other event where you have a lot of people.

Ah. Graduation from High School. Pomp and Circumstance. The goofy robes. The relatives from everywhere, including the Aunt who acts like she is your best friend but you could swear you've never seen her before. The class psycho who takes an Uzi from under their robe and takes out the Abramovich through Barnard row... Oh well, after we quickly reseated after the EMT's were done, the ceremony wasn't bad. Besides, I don't think that what happened was any different than at any other event where you have a lot of people.

One of the joys of young adulthood is being introduced to the honored traditions that our society has developed to honor those we love. The first baby shower I ever went to was my friend Alison's when we just got out of college. Her husband Dennis just landed a great job and everything was going great. Alison and Dennis even got an early start on getting their inheritance when a disgruntled shower guest lost a game of Baby Bingo and used her .45 to settle the score with Alison's mother. Even though I don't think this happens very often in baby showers, I don't think that what happened was any different than at any other event where you have a lot of people.

Is there anyone who doesn't enjoy Superbowl parties? Aren't they the greatest? The weeks of playoff frenzy. The wacky commercials. The food, oh, the food. And the beer. The Bud Light Bowl. The uninvited gangbanger who thinks someone insulted him and pops a few on the way out the door. That's why I try to leave before the fourth quarter, but I don't think that what happens is any different than at any other event where you have a lot of people.

Now that I'm a man of a certain age and living in assisted-living housing I love the things that the local community does for us shut-ins. Christmas can be lonely in the Home, but when the Carolers come around, the joy is infectious. Unfortunately, so is the gunplay when Irene yells that she is sick and tired of good goddamn King Wenceslaus coming out on Christmas Day and lets the Carolers know about it in her own Smith and Wesson way. But I don't think that what happened was any different than at any other event where you have a lot of people.

Friday, July 08, 2005

On The Vagaries of Leaking

The present racketeers running the syndicate called the Bush Administration have a code of Omerta: you talk, you walk and when you walk, it is preferably with figurative bullets in your back. Every gang knows that the only way for the game to keep on being lucrative is to make it "smart" for every gang member to stay in good graces with the gang leader. If a gang member is thinking they are not getting a proper share of the loot and is dissatisfied, then the temptation comes to do some talking in certain ears on the outside to twist the game back towards their favor. So the gang has to have some way to enforce the notion that talking outside of the gang will be dealt with severely. Former Secretary of the Treasury O'Neill alluded to this when he published his book. He said that since he already has his nest egg and does not need a job, he is not in fear of the White House. Well (knowing full well I sound like the Clinton loonies...) maybe not now, but I wouldn't be surprised in a few years if a certain plane went down, or if a certain boat went out on a lake but came back empty.

This is at the bottom of the Plame affair. Joseph Wilson talked outside of the gang and his wife got the bullet - the crooks in the White House found a nice little bit of leverage and used it, a bit like "Accidents happen, see, it'd be a shame if anything happened to your wife." I don't think the aim of the leak was purely punitive on Mr. Wilson, but that it was also a warning to everybody in the White House privy to the gang's plans, lies and crimes.

But the Plame Affair has taken a whole new twist with the jailing of Judith Miller of the New York Times for not disclosing her source that told her of Plame's CIA status. The beauty of it is that an entirely innocent person - one who didn't report on it like the humanly challenged Novak - was going to jail for something that somebody in the gang did! And it is a member of the New York Times who printed the Wilson piece in the first place! You really can't get any better than that. There must have been a hell of a hoot in a certain spherically skewed room (or as I call it - the Roval Office) when she was arrested.

But I like looking at all the angles and implications, so let's get going shall we? I call this rumination:

Eight Ways of Looking at All That Is Black in the White House

1. Looking at Judith Miller: Miller was one of the gungest of the gung-ho "Iraq has WMD" criers. This is what probably made her a bit more sympathetic to the syndicate in the White House, even with her affiliation to the mostly reality-based New York Times. She is defending a principle - that her livelihood depends on her sources being able to talk to her in confidence. She is also defending a felon and a felony. Here is where it gets sticky. This was not a whistleblower fearing retribution from a government. This was an agent of the government using the press to punish somebody. This was Gotti telling a rival mob boss that there was a snitcher in the rival's gang.

2. Looking at Special Prosecutor Fitzerald: Follow the money. Who hired him? Who will fire him when if and when it is deemed appropriate? Who will close up shop citing lack of evidence if not fired? Who will not touch anyone in the gang? He is playing his role brilliantly using the liberal power of the press like a jiu-jiutsu master, but remember, this tale of sound and fury is being told at the behest of an idiot in the White House and will signify nothing.

3. Looking at Watergate: The Watergate associations are easy to make. A corrupt administration committing felonies not because they are forced to, but because that is the way they operate. Nixon did not need to break into the Watergate hotel and the Bush administration certainly could have gone on the same way without outing Plame. The opportunity and means to commit a crime were there and there was not any compelling reason to avoid committing the crime. The only moral reason for not doing anything for these crooks is if they would lose money or power by doing it.

4. Looking at Deep Throat: The leaker in Deep Throat was revealing the corruption of a government in the only way he could. He saw at firsthand that the FBI was complicit with the White House and the head of the FBI was little interested in acting on the information he had. Getting the information to the American people was pretty darned near patriotic whatever his motives may have been, be they revenge or disgust. The leaker in the Bush gang operated out of pure nastiness, vindictiveness and selfishness. It was not out of cherished American ideals such as Rule of Law but for the Rule of Men. The tyranny of King George over which the American Revolution was fought was precisely because it was government by Man and not Laws. But now we see a similar King George punishing somebody extra-legally as if by regal dictate. Is this why our Founding Fathers went to war? So a future President can be prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner? Deep Throat in Watergate revealed corruption, the leaker in the Plame affair embodies corruption.

5. Looking at the Press: Much has also been said about the freedom of the press in a true democracy. Oh, I agree with all that. But what about the responsibilities of the press? Where is our era's Ben Bradlee and Washington Post? Where are our Woodward and Bernstein? The crimes are out there. Sometimes it seems that not two weeks goes by where an administration crime can be investigated. No, I think the only thing the press is fighting here is the honor to keep anonymous sources to themselves. And the sources are not whistleblowers but whistlesilencers. Don't the whistlesilencers have the whole status quo edifice of power on their side? Do they need or require the efforts of a free press? Do we want them to have that power? The answer of course is complicated - the price of freedom is that sometimes those freedoms are used by people and things we don't like - the Nazi march in Skokie being a notable case.

But lets get back to the responsibilities of the press. Our custom and history has given the press the status of watchguards watching the powers that run our country. One could argue that they are failing in current times. The press are now "watchguards" at the pleasure of the government which means they are not watchguards at all. Thomas Paine did not bother with wondering what King George would think when he printed "Common Sense". The media owners and the reporters depend on the crumbs given to them by the syndicate in the government, anxious to not let those crumbs end up at a brick wall if they misstep and call black that is black and white that is white. The press's responsibility is to be on the side of free information that promotes a democracy by the people. Protecting a rat in the White House that wants to squelch free and accurate information which enhances democracy does not warrant any protection that I'd like the press to have. What do we end up with then, a Pravda (or Proveda) to read every morning?

But on the other side one could argue that the press is not to blame. How do I know of the crimes of the Bush mafia? I do not have any special source in a Washington parking garage telling me stories out of school. I am just a citizen reading multiple sources of information by journalists doing their job. The problem is that the American people do not want a Tea Party. It is hard to drink tea when your head is in the sand. The reason why Bush is getting away with the treasury and our future is because the American people want him to. There is no conceivable way an American twenty years from now (if there are Americans recognized as such then) can say "I didn't know it was going on" like the Good Germans did in Nazi Germany. They know it is going on and they want it to go on. The press is doing their jobs, but the audience is deaf and dumb.

6. Looking at Rove: The more one looks at Rove the more one looks at the heart of Darkness. A Mistah Kurtz at the end of a long fetid river ending at the effluent sewage of the White House. A river signposted with the skulls of whisper victims like Anne Richards and John McCain and John Kerry and Valerie Plame (and these are only the ones which I have names). There is no notion of good or evil in Roveland, just the inexorable will to dominate and destroy.

7. Looking at Novak: He was an accessory to the felony but also a journalist. One of Proveda's journalists that is. He has long been a recipient of Rove's leaks and whispers. Anyone who has spent anytime listening to him realizes that there a very loose screw in that man's head. The hatred for any compassion is remarkable. One wonders if he dangles spare kidneys and livers in front of hopeful organ transplant recipients just to see their reaction. But he is not the one going to jail. Like a coward he is sending someone else in his place. One of my favorite definitions of a Republican is this: He who evades the taxes to pay for the war he supports where his neighbor's son goes but not his own. Novak and the leaker do the crime, but Plame's career is ruined and Judith Miller does the time. Does any rightwing fantasy get any better than that? Not only do you get away with it - your enemies get punished! Awesome, dude!

So the question remains. How does Novak sleep at night? Is the man so without any scruples that he can rationalize this as something patriotic he's done? Or is he so up the river into the heart of darkness that he sees only actions devoid of any moral meanings? One can only stare into the face of evil and wonder.

8. Looking at the Burning Bush: In the old testament, the burning bush appeared to Moses and said "I am that I am". Bush loves to say to the nation that he is a humble Christian. One could go through every one of Jesus' parables and teachings and wonder how they ever could apply to the Bush administration (and Bush's life for that matter) except in the converse. He has used the "I am what I say I am" to deflect the anti-christlike policies of stealing from the poor, disenfranchising the weak and elevating Pharisees to unheard-of powers in our land.

The appointing of a special prosecutor was surprising for this gang. It was among the first times that they recognized that what they've done may appear wrong - (they don't for a minute think it was wrong - just that it might appear that way.) Certainly one of the lessons learned from Watergate and Iran/Contra is that any evidence that the President knows anything must be destroyed. One of the functions of the special prosecutor may be to make it easier to find that evidence - like gangsters calling in the cops on their enemy gangsters.

Bush will escape from this in the end, however it comes out. With Republicans owning Congress and the Supreme Court, and a nation of sheep he perpetually frightens, he can do wrong - in fact that is always his first instinct (Henry Kissinger heading the 9-11 panel? Bolton for UN?). But he is immune from the consequences of doing wrong - which ends up being the same as doing no wrong.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

How Deep Were Our Throats?

It is with mixed pleasure that I am viewing the unmasking of Deep Throat. Ask a member of my generation what Watergate meant to them. If they are truthful they will say something along the lines of "I'm sorry, but I had to give up months of Gilligan's Island, Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons, Bewitched and Speed Racer for endless broadcasts of this boring guy named Sirica just sitting and talking to other guys who were also just sitting and talking? Watergate was a disaster of monumental proportions, the boredom and ennui of those wasted afternoons still haunt me to this day. The only Deep Throat that I cared about was my own - and its vast deepness for crappy sitcoms was not being sated by these televised hearings - isn't this kinda stuff are what newspapers are for? Do not ask me again of this, this, ... Watergate! Begone!"

In those antediluvian days before the deluge of cable channels, there were four TV channels. The three networks and PBS were it. During the day after the soaps were done, it was pure kid bliss. Until the news came on at 5:30 we wallowed in sitcoms and "family programming". Hogan's Heroes and the Flintstones and Looney Tunes and I Love Lucy etc. The only weird show that I can recall right now was Disney's Mickey Mouse Club. There wasn't anything I wanted more than to love the Mickey Mouse Club show. I had been to Disneyland and had subsequently memorized the layout of the park from the 6 foot foldout map I reverently treasured. Disneyland was my country - not this thing called the United States which seemed to intrude on my pre-teen consciousness in very inopportune ways.

The problem with the Mickey Mouse Club show was the enormous amount of bait and switch that happened with the show. Not like the X-Ray specs or Amazing Sea Horses that I saw in my comic book ads that even I knew were probably too good to be true (though I did want to pester my parents into sending away for them, you know, just for sociological research purposes...) The problem of the show was that Disney had the goods and they didn't deliver. They had the cartoons of Mickey and Donald Duck and Scrooge McDuck and Goofy and all that. Granted, the cartoons lacked the edge of Warner Brother's delightful lunacy but did we ever see them? I don't recall EVER seeing a cartoon on the Mickey Mouse Club. Instead there was this creepy adult called Jimmie (and don't think I didn't resent having the same name as this moron...) speaking to a bunch of clean-cut kids with their names on their shirts with nothing of interest ever happening. Here is what Wikipedia says about the show: "Each show would have a dramatic portion in which teens faced challenges in everyday situations, often overcome by their common sense or through recourse to the advice of respected elders." Yeah, and gimme another hit of that castor oil, buddy. I remember pleading with my television set: "Please let them go to a cartoon, pleasepleasepleaseplease, I'll mow the lawn the next time Mom asks me, and and and I'll actually swallow the pot roast instead of putting it into my pocket to feed the cat, pleasepleaseplease..." It never worked, but then again I did get to continue procrastinating on mowing the lawn and to continue strengthening our cat's jaw muscles with indestructible tidbits of Mom's Wonder Pot Roast - "You Can Chew it Forever!".

So, I already knew disillusionment and that loss of innocence thing. I didn't need the televised Watergate Hearings to wipe out any idealized faith in my elders that I might have had. As far as I was concerned if they could make the Mickey Mouse Club into a Sunday School lesson, then there is nothing that Nixon and his gang of plumbers could do that would have surprised me. With Bugs Bunny, Wally, Larry Mundello and the Beav, Major Nelson and Lieutenant Schultz as my witnesses, nobody was more ecstatic to see that helicopter lift off from the White House lawn than me. The end of Nixon meant the return of my blissful afternoons and the illusion of my innocence. That is, as long as I avoided the Mickey Mouse Club.