Saturday, October 30, 2004

With a Goose in their Step

And the Bush camp tries out Triumph of the Will - On Stage! in Florida:

"I want you to stand, raise your right hands," and recite "the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."

Thanks to Josh Marshall for spotting this scarier-than-Halloween-deserves moment. Be sure to read all his fine al Qaqaa entries, too, if you have the time and follow the link.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Very Scary Not to Vote for Kerry

Have you been so busy getting out the vote that you almost forgot to get a Halloween outfit for your child? Be sure to check out The Stranger for last minute, low cost, incredibly funny costume ideas. Posted by Hello

The Return of Swift Dogs for Kerry

Dog Blog Friday: Mookie implores you, and how could you resist those eyes: vote for Kerry this Tuesday! (See, he's been doing his reading.) Posted by Hello

Thursday, October 28, 2004

That Town's Not a Number It's Simply Gone Numb

All the poll/horse race stuff mostly drives me nuts, if for no other reason than I want people to vote, not get discouraged (even Republicans, for I'm a small d democrat more than anything).

That said, I couldn't help but peek at Current Electoral Vote Predictor 2004 to find out that as of today:
1) Kerry has a tentative, slim Electoral College lead;
2) Kerry doesn't yet have the necessary 270 electors;
3) This election damn well better not get settled in the House of Representatives, for Tom DeLay creeps me out more than Antonin Scalia. (True this distinction is like trying to answer which of my testicles I would prefer to have eaten by rats, but still....)

The site also writes the following, something we shouldn't forget:

Today's Washington Post has an excellent story dealing with the issue of whether the polls are accurate. The basic problem is that the vast majority of people refuse to participate, so the sample is no longer random. Surveying mostly elderly, lonely, or bored people can bias the results. The Post reports that one caller apparently was so fed up with telemarketeers and pollsters that he attached a device to the telephone that made such a loud noise it damaged the pollster's eardrum. Even response rates for exit polls on election day have dropped to 50%. This information goes a long way to explaining why the polls are so erratic this year. But in all fairness, the final 2000 polls weren't so hot either. Eleven of the 15 national polls just before the election predicted Bush would win the popular vote by a margin of 2% to 6%. Ultimately, Gore won it by 0.5%.

I Want Me to Want Me

Here's one from the vaults (it's a slow day at work):

Living all the subtraction of adolescence in New Jersey suburbia, hanging out in each others’ basements. An innocent age, the 1970s, and we ached with crushes we thought were love. Of course, we just wanted to get our rocks off.

Add up all that wanting, multiply by all that not getting, and infinity plus one seems like an actual possibility. The mall didn’t cut it. Anthony Matarazzo’s 440 Plymouth Road Runner didn’t cut it. Even Saturday Night Live, back when it was good, didn’t cut it. As for the rest of TV, we somehow knew Lauren Tewes, who played Julie, ship’s social director of many of our dreams, however perkily lustable, would be a washed up druggie by 1985. That Love Boat always ended up back in port where it started.

Which gets me to Cheap Trick, who, for a couple of years there, me and millions of teenagers loved. A perfect image for male teendom: the band is half beautiful boys and half unlovable losers. And as for the girls: just the name Robin Zander could make damp many a nubile’s sweet underthings. Or so us boys thought. This boy, though, was no Zander. Instead Huntz Hall look-alike Rick Nielsen seemed more like me, nerdy even with, or perhaps because of, that lead guitar prowess (read technique). Why else would he play three guitars at once? It was a hope that he could ward off geekiness with his many magic wands.

But what happens when the geek lurks inside?

I could play no instrument, but I was a charter member of the fraternity of air guitarists, and that’s pre-TC, even (Tom Cruise in Risky Business). No, I wasn’t that guy who, instead of dancing at each high school dance, would maniacally windmill air guitar like Pete Townshend when the DJ played “Won’t Get Fooled Again”--come to think of it, that was Anthony Matarazzo. But in private I would stroke away, yes indeedy.

Now, don’t hear any slumming puns, for Cheap Trick, despite that drummer who smoked while he played and seemed as if he lured tykes into his backseat with candy bars, even despite his image, was slight, light, sweet. C’mon, “I Want You to Want Me,” has the sexual heat of Kathie Lee Gifford. Its big hit version was recorded live in front of people who didn’t even know English.

Cheap Trick is just evidence that we can not only endure but also prevail, over darn near everything: the 1970s, adolescence, parents, Catholic high school, the evils of rock ‘n’ roll. I saw them back on the Dream Police tour, 1979, when they packed Madison Square Garden and hoked it up and rocked it out and blew opening band the Romantics, decked in red leather new wave jackets, out of the arena and it seemed to matter and maybe I screamed the words or more likely I sat there quietly beaming, projecting like mad that I—-a non-musical, non-dating, soon to be goddam valedictorian--was all four guys, long-haired posterboy rockers (one blond, one brunette) on vocals and bass and the two wise guy axe-wielding, drum-bashing, dare-to-be-proud nerds.

As the band themselves put it: I surrendered, I didn’t give myself away. Lost in the lift of loud, noise bristled away my sins of being young and there I was: Me. I took the train back to Jersey, and, like any good rocker, went to school the next day on four hours sleep to ace my AP history exam with a best you can get 5.

Putting the Ick in Generic: All Signs Point to Yes

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There Once Was a Woman Named Harris

In case you hadn't heard, a disgruntled man in Sarasota, Florida attempted to run down Congresswoman Katherine Harris yesterday. A local news report claims she "was campaigning at an intersection" when Barry Seltzer opted to exercise his "political expression" and drove his silver Cadillac onto the sidewalk, narrowly missing Harris.

In addition to arresting Seltzer--who claimed the car lurched*--for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, police also charged Harris for solicitation for standing on a street corner and wearing her usual abominable make-up that makes her look like a cheap prostitute.

Not that Harris hasn't had experience whoring herself: Dearie, is that chad dangling from your chin or are the Bushes just glad to use you?

*One for you Woody Allen fans.

In a Blue State in Cardinal Country

Commenting to Blogger is a true pain, so here's a guest commentary from a far-flung friend:

Last night Kerry fans in Cards country consider themselves to have taken one for the team. Despite the Red Sox fans over in Iraq, it was Bush country that took a pounding yesterday. Tues. night I was there, and as Martina McBride (who?) hit the top of her 3-octave range on the anthemic "free," two F-15s cracked open the environs of the stadium with a noise meant to make haplessly-less-than-"free" populations all over the world cower and weep. Amy Grant sang the "God Bless America" in the seventh inning. This was clearly the call of our Cardinals owner, Bush-Cheney'04 Rangers Chair Bill DeWitt (former co-owner of the Texas Rangers, with Bush).

Last evening, as the MVCs took another night off, the pattern was repeated: Natasha Wilson (who?) sang a wretched anthem--she's no James Taylor, much less Steve Tyler--and at the seventh inning stretch, when "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"would have been appropriate enough, "Slade" or some other equally unmentionable Christian country performer did "God Bless America."

Meanwhile, the Post-Dispatch sitting on Cards fans' dining room tables led page-one with a headline that, after months of having been written off by the Kerry campaign as a swing state, Missouri polls show the race within the margin of error 47%-46%,with 7% still undecided. I like to think the Cardinal Democrats (Matt Morris, Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker, Ray King--and I'll accept other nominations) smiled silently as the Cards laydown and died, and Kerry cheered. Isn't that the spirit of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"?


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

This World Series Brought to You by the Bush Administration (Lying to You Since 2000)

And Fox had to remind us they are Fox: how wonderful were those cut-away shots showing us the "International Peace-Keeping Forces" in Iraq celebrating the Red Sox victory? Alas I forgot Poland, and all the ten of baseball fans there, well, they would be there if they weren't keeping the peace in Iraq.

As the Evil Empire Turns

After the call went against Mabry it hit me--if the Red Sox sweep, they've become the Yankees.

Do As I Say, Not As I Doo-Doo

President Bush on the stump today, explaining the missing 380 tons (gee, that's more weight than Rush Limbaugh!) of plastic explosives from al Qaqaa:
See, our military is now investigating a number of possible scenarios, including this one -- that explosives may have been moved before our troops even arrived, even arrived at the site. The investigation is important and ongoing. And a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not the person you want as the Commander-in-Chief.

I'm sure you're as glad as I am that we've never had a Commander-in-Chief who jumped to conclusions about a country having weapons. That could lead to some awful disaster, I'd bet.

Was Not a Player or a Player Hater

Things are getting serious, what with Ezra Pound's birthday this Saturday, uh, I mean, the election on Tuesday. So, if you need a game or two to blow off a bit of steam, here are two. I've never been caught up in the whole Survivor thing since the personalities of those who play always make me want to vote for the entire island to be the next Bikini Atoll, but this version of Supreme Court Survivor, particularly after Chief Justice Rehnquist's diagnosis yesterday, makes this game awfully pertinent. Be sure to replace Thomas last. (I haven't been able to eat Pez since Rehnquist's tracheotomy.)

The other game seems rigged, but so is the scary reality it's based on. You could just wait for the MTV movie, or go play Spring Break Fallujah: The Game and see the rest of this very clever site.

And they had fun, fun, fun till the Republicans took their right to vote away.

Fox Won't Hose Sox

Consider, if you will, if there's a conspiracy in the cards:

Exhibit A. Roger Clemens. As a supposed Houston Astro and representative of the National League for the first time (although in his second career, since he did retire after 2003--do you think the Marlins feel duped that they came out of the dugout to applaud him after his "last out" during the 2003 World Series?), Clemens started the 2004 All-Star Game and got blown out, giving up homeruns to Manny Ramirez (ex-teammate and Red Sock: coincidence?) and Alfonso Soriano (ex-teammate and Cheater trade-bait: take that, Yanks).

The cost? The AL gets home field advantage for the World Series. Very good news for the Red Sox, who play very well in Fenway. (Plus Fenway makes a very attractive backdrop for the ever-roving Fox cameras, who don't quite seem to understand the game is played between the foul lines.)

Exhibit B. Jeff Suppan. As Boston's second round draft pick in 1993, he finally repaid the club's investment by forgetting how to run the bases and costing the Cards any chance of beating Pedro Martinez. Then again, perhaps the Cards were scared of Pedro, who was wearing a fright wig for Halloween a few days early.

Exhibit C. Roger Clemens. That he can make the list twice is enough for inquiring minds or Art Bell fans, but let's face it--the Cards are in the series because Clemens threw two fastballs too many to Albert Pujols and Scott Rolens (who certainly got his post-season on track with that homer, huh).

Now, if we think back to 1960, and Kennedy and the magic votes in Illinois, then realize that Kennedy was from Massachusetts (just like the Red Sox!) and that Illinois is a state bordering on Missouri (that's where St. Louis is!), well....

I'm just saying....

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Ephemera Everlasting

Anthony Hecht (1923-2004) is dead, but that is not what’s sad, for he has been dead for me too long, and he was probably never born into the consciousnesses of most in the first place. Hecht was one of America’s greatest living poets, if not a bit out of style, for he was a formalist foremost, a man as deft with iambic pentameter as modern English might allow. Indeed he allowed language more than we or it might expect, eager to have his meter and his mean way (consider the wit to work the following two lines: “The palaces decay. Venice is rich / Chiefly in the deposits of her dogs.”). Simply put, Hecht wrought beautiful verse about our ugly world and thereby made the words sing more sweetly and the hurt sting more true.

Somehow in college I fell under his poetic spell and tried to ape his works, but missed the point and didn’t bother to write in form, not that iambs fall trippingly from my tongue. Not that I had his erudition, either, the ease to craft lines like, “The mind at four AM / is a poor, blotched, vermiculated thing. / I’ve seen it spilled like sweetbreads, and I’ve dreamed / Of Byron writing, ‘Many a fine day / I should have blown my brains out but for the thought / Of the pleasure it would give my mother-in-law.’” The range in this brief run is staggering, from the purposefully fogged diction of “thing” to the dictionary-defying and precise “vermiculated” (crawling or creeping like a worm; hence, insinuating; sophistical); those sweetbreads two-ways, as a particularly ghoulish metaphysical menu might have it; and Byron making a decidedly modern appearance as a stand-up comedian.

But it’s all more than that, the weight, the wisdom, all the things poetry can bring to us that the our culture has seemed to have lost without lament. Upon reading of Hecht’s death it took me several days to get up the nerve to go back and read him, worried about difficulty. That’s sadder than his death and explains much as we barrel down upon November 2 and, what might be more important in our over-marketed age, a sweeps month for television.

For here is a man who saw horrible things and still spent his life shaking down language for beauty. The Times (London) obit contains the following about his military service in World War II (that, of course, sounds far too current to be comforted into the past):

“There is much about this I have never spoken of, and never will,” Hecht later said of his war service. He served in France, Czechoslovakia and Germany, often under heavy fire and inept command. He saw men of his company machinegun German women and children who were waving white flags, something that he said “left me without the least vestige of patriotism or national pride.” His division was also the first to discover the concentration camp at Flossenburg. Hecht, who spoke some French and German, translated the statements of the prisoners who could still speak.

"The place, the suffering, the prisoners’ accounts were beyond comprehension," he said. "For years after I would wake screaming."

On leaving Germany, he spent some time in Japan, generating news copy to portray the occupying American forces in a favourable [sic] manner. "It was quite shameless, hypocritical work," he said, "and therefore perfectly consistent with everything I had ever known about the Army."


With all that, even a numbskull nineteen year old, who still 22 years later has to reach for the dictionary to read him, was moved by his words. Now it’s your turn, if you haven’t read him, go find The Venetian Vespers and The Hard Hours and The Transparent Man and see who succeeded Stevens and Auden.

And some last lines from Hecht:

And the eye, self-satisfied, will be misled.
Thinking the puzzle solved, supposing at last
It can look forth and comprehend the world.
That’s when you really have to watch yourself.

Or, after a brilliant, tempestuous description of a storm, these lines:

To give one’s attention to such a sight
Is a sort of blessedness. No room is left
For antecedence, inference, nuance.
One escapes from all the anguish of this world
Into the refuge of the present tense.
The past is mercifully dissolved, and in
Easy obedience to the gospel’s word,
One takes no thought whatever of tomorrow,
The soul being drenched in fine particulars.

Cliché with a Twist (Like a Snap of a Neck at Noose-End)

Crows in Winter

Here's a meeting
of morticians in our trees.
They agree in klaxon voices:
things are looking good.
The snowfields signify
a landscape of clean skulls,
Seas of Tranquility
throughout the neighborhood.

Here's a mined,
a graven wisdom,
a bituminous air.
The first cosmetic pinks
of dawn amuse them greatly.

They foresee the expansion of graveyards,
they talk real estate.
Cras, they say,
repeating a rumor,
among the whitened branches.

And the wind, a voiceless thorn,
goes over the details,
making a soft promise
to take our breath away.

--Anthony Hecht
(from The Transparent Man, Knopf 1990)

You Make Me Feel So Fall Is Sprung

October showers bring November grasses, at least here in Santa Barbara, particularly at the Douglas Family Preserve, the 70-acre oceanside blufftop where we luckily, blessedly get to walk the dogs off leash each morning. Take a summer of dust, add water, and voila, the earth goes fragile with green. It's one mighty lesson of hope, and so I tread lightly, knowing so much more than weeds wait underneath my boot soles.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Ready (or Not), Here Tom Ridge Comes

In case of an emergency, save your own butt and then help the children and others around you. We will be updating this page soon, which we hope means soon enough.

This message brought to you by the Department of Homeland Security for Those Over 18.

Hey, if we get re-elected, we will finish the job.

Kerry's Socktober Surprise

This just in--at his appearances in swing states today, John Kerry was clearly sporting a sock that had a small yet telegenically-oozing blood stain.

Told that the words "courageous" and "hero" had been most often used to describe his recent run of campaigning, Kerry responded, "I'm proud of that. It's better than (being called) a bum or an idiot."

"And I don't mean that last part as a slur against my opponent," he added, limping off the stage to a standing ovation.

Immediate polling put him ahead by 10 points in the former swing state of New Hampshire. The Kerry campaign is also picking up steam in southern states as voters claimed they just had a feeling "he wasn't one of them darn Yankees."

From the Bush camp, Karen Hughes fired back, "C'mon, does the country really want to elect a man who will wear white tube socks with his three-piece suits?" Dick Cheney curtly replied, "Talk about terror."

Language Is a Virus from Outer Space

NPR announced this morning that President Bush would give a major address today, using "new language" to discuss the war on terror.

Immediately following the White House's announcement, lobbyists descended on the District, hoping to become the "official new language of the war on terrorism."™ Tagalog was an early favorite, especially due to Secretary Rumsfeld's weakness for satay. !Kung was pushed by the people who sell the exclamation point key to computer manufacturers, but it was discovered that President Bush has trouble making that clicking sound and would even prefer to have to pronounce "nuclear" or "Abu Ghraib," not that he has mentioned that place in months (for we have taken care of those few bad apples, kind of like jailing Martha Stewart has made big business completely above-board again).

A late favorite was Glyph, a language pioneered by The Artist Again Known as Prince (or conversely, The Artist No Longer Beholden to Warner Brothers). Rumor has it that President Bush has fond memories of sniffing coke off the cover of Dirty Mind while singing along to "Head."

INOTBB will have all the latest news as it breaks, or we can make it up.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Why Does Cliff Get All the Best Notes?

You could go read all of Luc Sante's review of Hip: The History by John Leland in the new Voice Literary Supplement, or I could give you the killer ending:

The fact remains that, if you shill for enterprises that exist primarily to further enrich people who are already many times richer than you, you are a servant. And you can hold my coat.

Just doing my service for all of you with too much to read and too little time on your eyes (so to speak).

I'm also waiting for Hip: The Future. History is like so yesterday.

I've Come to Suck Your Milkbone

I'd be a much fiercer vampire if I didn't have this thing on my head....Happy Halloween anyway! Posted by Hello

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Got a Dunce, Got a Dunce

Last Sunday’s "Media Matters" column by David Shaw in the Los Angeles Times pulled one of those incredible shrinking IQ tricks that made me wonder if the long format of his essay was dangerous—it left him with the opportunity to talk himself out of the good points he originally made. (I’d link to the essay, but the LA Times makes you pay for access, damn them, so I’m stuck quoting.)

The title sums up his major point: “Significant shift of polls suggest media’s failure.” That certainly sounded true enough to me before Shaw even began. Here is a quick rundown of the first half the column:

Every other poll I saw showed similar seismic shifts, and I don’t think all these shifts can be attributed to Kerry’s having “won” the debate.


What I think happened in that first debate is that Americans had the chance to see (and evaluate) both men standing and speaking on their own, without the filters of handlers or the news media.


But the news media are not supposed to obfuscate or exaggerate. They’re supposed to illuminate.


What the post-debate shift in voters’ perceptions of Kerry ultimately tells me, much as I hate to say it, is that the news media have done a pretty poor job of campaign coverage. If Kerry can so dramatically change how people perceive of him in just 90 minutes on television…it suggests to me that the media hadn’t fulfilled their responsibility to tell voters what Kerry is really like, what he stands for, what he would do, who he is.

I will avoid saying “Well, duh!” because that’s what my loser brother-in-law know-it-all says to shut down any conversation. But how can the writer who weekly pens "Media Matters" not realize how infrequently the media tend to cover what matters? Didn’t he see the media get sent off on a slow boat to Vietnam—but not as far as Cambodia, at least not at Christmas--and away from the truth?

Nope. Instead he looks for ameliorating factors for the media of which he is just one swimming, typing planarian. He suggests Kerry hasn’t defined himself well. (Perhaps.) He suggests “the people weren’t paying attention,” but of course doesn’t admit that even if they were, the piffly Kerry stories prevalent in the media wouldn’t have helped them much (which might be why they don’t pay attention?).

But ultimately he has to say the press has let us down. After all, it is a big election with big issues, Shaw admits, or he has a source, admit (it would be so scary to go out on a limb in a think piece without the cover of an expert).

What kills me is Shaw falls prey to the very thing he seems to be complaining about near the end of the piece when he claims, “I’m writing this before the third debate polls are in, but there were no major gaffes or coups by either candidate so I doubt that the voters’ sense of the men will change as dramatically as it did after the first debate.”

Gaffes or coups. That’s all that could change things. Uh-huh. And at the beginning he couldn’t even say Kerry won the first debate without putting won in quotes—so what was the gaffe or coup there?

Shaw completely discounts the horrible way media memes are created and then never altered. The best for instance is the joyous replaying of Howard Dean’s yi-hah moment in Iowa, as it, at last, proved he was as unstable and over-emotional as the press had always said he was. Never mind the context, that he was speaking to a room of wildly cheering supporters who had just lost a caucus they long thought they’d win, and they needed some bucking up. The media certainly accomplished those last two words, if you change the first letter. Notice, too, how one current media complaint is Kerry is a cold fish and notice, three (as it were), that the mainstream media failed to complain when Bush channeled his inner-Andover cheerleader when he shouted his way through debate two.

One of the non-candidate-specific memes is the horse race—all those polls that seem as scientific as Bush’s view of evolution and greenhouse gasses and missile defense. Crucial to the horse race is the “defining moment,” whether that’s Muskie crying in 1972 or Dukakis not defending Kitty with a baseball bat from hypothetical debate rape in 1988. But do these trumped up pseudo-events really tell us what a candidate would be like as a president? No, but they make good television.

And that’s what matters to the media, and why Shaw might want to rename his column Media Muddles.

Yank This One: It Plays "Me, Me, Me"

Going home at lunch today to see the dogs, I'm listening to NPR's Day to Day and hear New Yorker Mike Pesca explain the American League Championship Series wasn't a great Red Sox comeback from a three games to nil deficit, but a great collapse by the Yankees.

It might just be the Jersey in me showing, but it really does have to be all about them, doesn't it.

Triumph, the Shape of Pundits to Come (and Hump)

It hasn't been the easiest of weeks for Paul Begala. First, there was Jon Stewart on Crossfire, although it must be said Stewart mostly fired upon that natty Tucker Carlson. Now, he's had to take it doggie-style from Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. What does it mean that it's left to a puppet to ask the real questions in Spin Alley like "How painful was it when the doctor removed your sense of shame?"

$183 Million Dollars Can Be Wrong


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Of Course We Like Singin' in the Rain, Don't Everybody?

One of the few real joys of channel surfing--beyond the ability to immediately click past Anne Coulter's smug mug trying to think up her next whopper lie that will keep her the darling of the right wing--is stumbling upon great movies. Last night, as southern California got the rain it so badly needs (yet might turn us into a mudslide waiting to happen), what should we find post the Yanks-Sox wrist-biter (I nervously chewed well past my nails) was Singin' in the Rain. To be honest I'm more an Astaire man, myself, but we got to Singin' right after "Good Morning," so it was time for The Number. Have you ever seen Singin' in a theater? There's nothing quite like it, the palpable air of expectation, the knowing and knowing we all know feeling, as Gene Kelly ushers his chauffeur away with a far-too-dramatic wave of his hand. (Kelly seems a stage actor in films, a sin pardonable only for musicals.) The only other similar moment in cinema is Janet Leigh, may she rest in peace (especially after being famously abused in films by Hitch and Welles), turning on the shower at the Bates Motel.

It is irresistible, of course, Kelly's mad play about the drenched soundstage (why was anyone ever that impressed the film could be re-created on stage back in the '80s or whenever that was?), and the wonderful Brown and Freed tune, and the swooping crane work that moves in and out on Kelly like a dance partner. His "yada-yada-yas" are almost too effusive, but he's supposed to be crazy in love, not to mention he just figured out how to save what seemed like a doomed career (a good night, all in all). Those stomps in the puddles are so free--it makes dancing seem so much more possible for the non-Kellys among us. Of course, throughout the number Kelly is musically attuned--there's actually very little freedom in the sequence, for he must go delicate with the music, or swing wild with the swells. It ends, of course, when the policeman comes along--the old super ego wondering what all this extravagant fuss is about--enough to guilt Kelly to a stop, to give his now pointless umbrella to a passerby.

It does mean something that the greatest sequence of the film is Kelly solo. That sums up Kelly for me--no one can love him as much as himself, so why bother to partner? Sure enough, the number in a number in a number number "Broadway Rhythm Ballet," which I still think of as "Gotta Dance," features a dream vision of a dancer (not Kathy Selden or Lina Lamont) but Cyd Charisse, owner of Hollywood's best ever-legs. When Charisse and Kelly actually do "ballet" she's got that silly white train on that eventually shoots straight up. That's the pay-off for Don Lockwood's dancing wet dream.

And then there's poor Lina. Jean Hagen's honk of a voice and impeccable timing as this helplessly untalented star allow her to steal every scene she's in, which isn't easy co-starring alongside muggers like Kelly and Donald O'Connor (btw, a paean to "Make Em Laugh" will have to wait for another bloglet). Sure, she's gets truly mean at the end, hoping to keep Kathy hidden away as her voice forever.

But doesn't she deserve better? If she ends up a Marie Provost (as Nick Lowe had it "when the talkies came, Marie just couldn't cope...she was the winner, that became the doggie's dinner..."), how will we all feel then? She really is an innocent victim of two forces that have run roughshod over many in the 20th century--publicity and technology. She read and believed all those stories that she and Don were a hot star couple. She could act for the silents, but then she had to be able to speak on her own. Perhaps we need more mercy for the less than mellifluous, the too-quick-to-believe.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Fan's Jokes

Q: What's the left side of the Yankees infield?
A: Jeter and Cheater.

Q: When does it really hurt to be taken out of a game for a pinch runner?
A: When the player who replaces you is named Pokey.

Actually, my wife Amy came up with that first one. I'm a lucky man--not only does she let me watch baseball, she watches it with me, gets it and makes good jokes.

By the Rubbing of Our Thumbs, Voter Fraud This Way Comes

Something about the Bush White House makes me think of Macbeth and over-reaching power, but then you have to assume Cheney is Lady Macbeth.... (I prefer Francesca Annis in Polanski's very spooky, bloody film version.)

In Afghanistan, where we're trying to jump-start democracy (which is a hint things might not be optimal--it's best if a country tries to do democracy on its own, after all), it's hard to be shocked things have gone a bit shakily. But in the US of A, where we've been practicing the whole voting thing for over 200 years, you'd think we'd have it down by now. That's why this handy guide to possible voter fraud is so scary--over two dozen possible concerns throughout the country.

Cross Your Fire and Hope to Die

A follow up, if you didn't see it on TV Monday (and I didn't)--here's Jon Stewart discussing his Crossfire appearance.

In my book if you get Bob Novak to insult you on national television, that makes you an even better person. Just make sure he doesn't reveal you're a CIA agent. Not that Novak would ever risk a person's life like that and be a stooge for the White House.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Where's Your Sign, Girl?

Someone stole our Kerry-Edwards yard sign this weekend. We tried to get another one from the Dems*, but they are on back-order, and it turns out our entire neighborhood had their signs stolen.

So I'm making a homemade sign, using the nifty laminater at work. The message:
Backers of Bush stole this sign.
If re-elected, Bush & Co. will steal
the rest of the First Amendment.
Vote Kerry-Edwards.

*The Dems also said that one evening someone drove by headquarters and mooned them. No big surprise, just one more asshole for Bush.

I'm Rubber, You're Glue

It would be so much easier for me if I just learned to follow the prevailing modus operandi--take my biggest problems and then act like everyone else had those problems instead. ("The world is so lazy, wasting so much of its time blogging and being consumed with its fantasy baseball team," I think. OK, that doesn't really make me feel any better.)

Take the whole Mary Cheney flap. (See, the Republicans probably think I just made a nasty sexual slur.) Who has done squat for gay and lesbian rights for their whole term in office? It was Bush who said this in debate 3, "And I also know in a free society people, consenting adults can live the way they want to live. And that's to be honored," right before he re-affirmed his call for an Amendment to the Constitution that says those consenting adults can't live married, even if they want to. It seems he missed Civics that day the teacher talked about how the first ten Amendments are called the Bill of Rights.

Now the BC04 team calls Kerry the horrible person for pointing out that the out Mary Cheney is out and that her parents love her. Jeez.

We got to see the same thing with the already much-ballyhooed appearance by Jon Stewart on Crossfire. (Read the transcipt here or watch the interview here, but you have to sit through ads, sorry.) Stewart refused to play the game, and didn't just shoot for yucks and push his book America, since the business of televison is business, of course. (And a side note: America is number 1 on The New York Times bestseller list, probably the first #1 to include nude pictures of Supreme Court justices--one of the funniest, grossest things I've ever seen. I always thought Clarence Thomas was trying to overcompensate for something.) Instead, Stewart called out Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson for hosting a faker news program than his own Daily Show. Not surprisingly, the CNN duo turned on him, cutting him off when he tried to explain, accusing Stewart of lobbing softball questions to Kerry, and, sin of entertainment sins, not being funny on their show. It was splendidly uncomfortable television, for it's so rare someone won't play the game (for the complete opposite approach, think of Kerry relishing reading that Top Ten Bush Tax Proposals list on David Letterman, say).

But if you don't play the game, they will try to punish you. Part of that is to call you all the things that they are. Turns out the root of the word hypocrite goes back to the Greek hupokrites, meaning actor. Begala and Carlson aren't newsmen, but they play them on TV. And Bush isn't president, he just plays one in the White House.

We can change that, you know.

(Assuming the Electoral College and Diebold and Jeb Bush and Jim Tobin and the Sinclair Broadcasting Group and Voters Outreach of America let us.)

I just depressed myself again. (But how about that Carlos Beltran?)

Your God's Back and You're Going to Be in Trouble

A reporter from Florida was just talking to Warren Olney on KCRW's terrific news program To the Point. Turns out that the precincts most damaged by the sweep of hurricanes through the Sunshine-Not-Frequently-Enough State were strongly Republican ones.

Things like that throw the agnostic in me for a real loop.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Keeping God in Your Head & Man Out of Your Pants

I've been troubled by the "armies of compassion" phrase that Bush trotted out twice while preaching to his creepy choir during the debate in Arizona the other night. He and his administration have used the term to sell faith-based initiatives, so I thought I'd look at those a bit.

I have to admit I'm less than tickled pink (not that I ever tickled pink before I was married) that Bush requested $73 million in his 2004 budget for abstinence-only education. (That's no problem if you are part of the 1% who got the huge tax cut, you lucky-stiff-who-still-gets-something-to-do-with-it you.) Sure kids having kids is a problem, and not just programming for Sally Jesse Rafael, but to deny that teens have urges that often wake up too soon, to act as if kids aren't curious, and to deny teaching children how condoms can keep them both from being parents and from dying, well that's just stupid.

According to a Health Resources and Human Services press release from July, at least $31 million in new grants were awarded to 50 communities teaching abstinence-only. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson was quoted in the release (oops, can I call it a release given the context?): "Sexual activity before marriage can have a negative social and psychological impact on teenagers. Abstinence-only education programs support teens in their decision to remain abstinent until marriage."

Does this quote sound as whacky to you as it does to me? First, what about the negative psychological impacts of virgins and their uneducated expectations come their surely botched wedding nights? More seriously, it seems as if Thompson is suggesting all highly-hormonal and at last no-longer-teens need to rush to wed to get their rocks off. You'd think he was recruiting for one of those Moonie mass marriages.

I would prefer some teens make the beast with two back too soon than get married too soon just so their sex is consecrated in the eyes of God and Tommy Thompson. Shouldn't the divorce rate bother these so-called religious? The CDC (part of the government, but science-based, so probably not to be trusted) reports: "The largest proportion of divorces were granted to men and women who had married between the ages of 20-24 years. First-time male divorcees on average were 24 years of age when they married; for women, the average age was 22 years." Gee, I can't imagine any of those divorces were folks guilt-tripped into becoming Mr. and Mrs. just so they could go down on each other (pardon the language, but the ab-only folks even consider mutual masturbation a no-no). Something blows here, even if it's not the poor couple.

Then there's the money side of it. A measly $31 million is a mere drop in the voluminous $413 billion deficit bucket, but it's $6 million more than the $25 million in matching grants the federal government gave to Reading is Fundamental(RIF), which annually serve 5.1 million children of all ages, most of whom are at risk of educational failure, with a focus on those from birth to age 11. RIF has provided more than 265 million books since 1966 for children to choose and keep.

So reading, the crux of education and critical thinking and therefore the motor of a sound economy and good citizenship, gets less money than trying to keep kids from denying that their groins have urges. (I realize there is more federal money that goes toward reading education.)

Perhaps Bush & Co. call these initiatives faith-based because the only way you can think they are correct is to believe.

Evidence, We Don't Need No Stinkin' Evidence

Winning the battle one journalist at a time in a world where, as The Daily Show claimed, "The truth is clearly anti-Bush." Here's William Saletan in his latest Slate column:

This is the second time Kerry has defined the test. Each time, he has made clear that it's a test of evidence, not opinion, and that Americans, "your own countrypeople," are the first people to whom the evidence must be shown.

When Bush replied last night that he refuses to pass this "truth standard," there's really no other way to interpret his position. He's saying that he doesn't have to show you any evidence, because evidence is the sort of thing a Frenchman would ask for.

I know I've been hard on the president lately. I'd like to say something nice about him. I'd like to be "fair and balanced." But my first responsibility as a reporter is to the truth. When one candidate tells half the truth, and the other says the truth doesn't matter, it becomes irresponsible for me or any other journalist not to report that by that standard—the standard of respecting the truth standard—one candidate is head and shoulders above the other.

He's My Witch

For Dog Blog Friday--it's Monster Horror Chiller Mookie! (3-D glasses optional)

P.S. We sold this couch to the comic strip "Zits." Posted by Hello

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Me? I'm Wearing Lifshitz

If you get invited to his party--and as one of my loyal readers I'm sure you will--don't forget to ask Ralph Lauren, born Ralph Lifshitz in the Bronx on October 14, 1939, what's in a name. He will reply, "No ethnicity," and you'll both chortle but not so much that you dribble your cosmos on your cashmere Polo sweaters.

Hate Is the New Love

noun: a person who believes very strongly in particular principles and tries to follow them carefully (from The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary)

In his closing statement last night, President Bush went way out on a limb, only a week after his brave denouncement of slavery and pro-slavery Supreme Court justices, when he railed against "the ideologues of hate." I'd bet the meetings for that particular ideology must be spectacularly unpleasant.

I can only assume they would be opposed by those "armies of compassion" we keep hearing about.

And somewhere in heaven E.B. White and George Orwell are banging their heads together and weeping.

Nice Work If You Can Lose It

Forget location, location, location, last night President Bush's favorite answer was education, education, education. How has America lost so many jobs? Bush-the-Buck-Stops-Elsewhere said that our workforce just wasn't educated enough. His advice, "Get thee to a community college." But it's unclear what an AA will do for folks with PhDs.

Here's some news from the AFL-CIO:

White-Collar Jobs: America’s Growing Export
Ask anyone which sector of the U.S. economy comes to mind as the most likely to be shipped overseas, and chances are he or she will say manufacturing.

But though the United States lost 2.5 million manufacturing jobs since the Bush presidency beginning in 2001, U.S. corporations now are racing to outsource white-collar jobs—including work in computer sciences, engineering, entertainment, financial and medical services—to countries where workers earn far less.

Terry Antisdel was a Chicago-area engineering associate for Lucent Technologies Inc. and its predecessor AT&T for 35 years until his entire 42-member International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 81 was laid off in July. He figures his job will end up in India or China. “The words management used were a 'less-expensive offshore site,’ ” recalls Antisdel, who estimates Lucent will send a total of about 5,000 U.S. jobs offshore this year. “I feel let down,” he says. “Companies used to provide jobs for people, but now they’re just there to give money to executives, board members and shareholders.”

In late July, the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech), a Communications Workers of America affiliated group that helps high-tech workers win a voice at work, released a tape of a conference call in which IBM’s top human relations executives discussed transferring 3 million U.S. service jobs to countries such as China and India by 2015.

Testifying in June before a House Committee on Small Business investigating the globalization of white-collar jobs, AFL-CIO Department for Professional Employees President Paul Almeida said, “If these cost-saving jobs shifts are taken to their logical extreme, even American corporations should be wondering where their future consumers will be located and how they will buy the goods and services.”

A Forrester Research study predicts U.S. employers will move about 3.3 million white-collar service jobs and $136 billion in wages overseas in the next 15 years, up from $4 billion in 2000.

White-Collar Jobs Going and Gone
The jobs already are leaving. By the end of this year, General Electric will have sent a total of 20,000 aircraft and medical research and design jobs to India and China, according to Business Week. And the Accenture consulting firm, which incorporated in Bermuda after splitting from Enron accountant Arthur Andersen, plans to send 5,000 accounting and software jobs to the Philippines in 2004, the magazine says.

According to WashTech, Microsoft plans to eliminate at least 800 full-time call-center jobs near Dallas and shift the work to India and Canada in the next fiscal year. It would be the largest one-time firing of full-time Microsoft employees in the company’s history. WashTech says a Microsoft senior vice president recently urged company managers to “pick something to move offshore today,” though Microsoft publicly has repeated it will not lay off U.S. workers and send the jobs offshore.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Well, They Say Twins Run in Families

So maybe there are two George Bushes (in fact, there could be the yelling, angry one and the laughing-like-Butthead, jokey one--we've seen both at the debates). That might explain this:

Presidential Press Conference, March 13, 2002
QUESTION: Do you believe the threat that bin Laden posed won't truly be eliminated until he is found either dead or alive?
BUSH: As I say, we hadn't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, you know, again, I don't know where he is.

I'll repeat what I said: I truly am not that concerned about him.

Third Presidential Debate, October 13, 2004
KERRY: Yes. When the president had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, he took his focus off of them, outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, and Osama bin Laden escaped.
Six months after he said Osama bin Laden must be caught dead or alive, this president was asked, Where is Osama bin Laden? He said, I don't know. I don't really think about him very much. I'm not that concerned.
We need a president who stays deadly focused on the real war on terror.
SCHIEFFER: Mr. President?
BUSH: Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations.

Even better, in that 2002 press conference Bush said: "And the idea of focusing on one person is really -- indicates to me people don't understand the scope of the mission. Terror's bigger than one person."

What he left out was, well, it's not bigger than Saddam.

The sad part is if Bush is secretly twins, both are evil.

The L Word

So you're Bush, and the economy isn't going to win you re-election, and the disaster in Iraq won't, and even scaring the beejesus out of folks (they're running "Be Alert" Homeland Security ads on the Air America radio station in my area) only gets you to a November 2 that polls as a tie. What do you and Karl and Karen opt to do? Get in your wayback machine and try to turn this election into the last one against a Democrat from Massachusetts. That's right, call Kerry Dukakis!

Tonight's sure-fire drinking game for the debate is to sip every time Bush says the L-word; my guess is you'll be tipsy enough to see a wire beneath Bush's jacket before half the evening is over. Bush and Cheney and all their surrogates have already frequently quoted the bit that the National Journal rated Kerry the most liberal senator.

What they don't tell you is that the National Journal wishes BC04 would get the facts straight, or even better, not mention the publication at all. In this very clear story, the journal explains how Kerry got rated the most liberal senator in 2003, largely because he missed so many votes while on the campaign trail. (And if any right-wingers have stumbled upon this blog, don't think that's an issue, as the journal points out that Jack Kemp and Jesse Helms earned their conservative ratings years back by missing votes when campaigning. And Helms wasn't even running for president, shudder at the thought.)

The journal's lifetime averages chart is actually quite fascinating, and, it seems, accurate--for there's Zell "Them's Dueling Words" Miller so far in last that even Hangdog Joe Lieberman is almost twice as liberal as Zell. Kerry is ranked 11th "lifetime" (20 years is a lifetime?), just behind Patrick Leahy, who evidently is a Democrats' Democrat, even if he can't do the physically impossible to himself, no matter Cheney's charming urgings on the Senate floor. (Cheney didn't get nailed enough for this comment in his debate when Gwen Ifill asked how he would bridge the divide in the country: "Well, I must say it's one of the disappointments of the last four years, is that we've not been able to do what the president did in Texas, for example, when he was able to reach across the aisle and bring Democrats along on major issues of the day." Or, re-reading the quote he is perfectly clear, "Vote with us, or go blank yourselves!")

Also note that the Right's favorite witch Hillary only comes in 13th...ooohh, that is spooky. The religious whackos (who think Dred Scott=Roe v. Wade) will have a numerological field day with that one.

Good thing nobody reads this blog. And a tip of the hat to Josh Marshall, doing his usual great work over at Talking Points Memo (see the links) for pointing out the National Journal article in the first place.

An Angel Who Has Hope on High

Wise words from playwright Tony Kushner (from an interview with Tom Jacobs in today's Santa Barbara News-Press):

Despair is a luxury. You surrender your agency. You say, "This can't be affected, and therefore I don't have to affect it."

It's a safe position for us all to be in. We all are guilty of luxuriating in that. You can arrive at a point where things are so terrible that you can't prevent the loss of a lot of lives. We reached that awful point when Bush attacked Iraq. We didn't have the means to stop him. That point passed, and we are where we are. If one succumbs to despair now, one is giving up at a very bad moment. There are people in Iraq, including American soldiers, who don't have the luxury of despairing. They're fighting for their lives. If we, who have the luxury of relative safety, give up, what are we doing to these people? Our despair becomes a grotesque form of indulgence.

You have to maintain a watchful eye that you don't stray into illusion. I sound like a rabbi right now! When you get up every morning and renew your hope, you're working to figure out how to transform your circumstances and the circumstances of the world around you. It's a constant battle. I don't think it's a predilection or a disposition. And I don't think it's a delusion.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Elephants in Pinstripe Clothing

Of course they were pumped by Mussina pitching that perfect game for 6 innings, but Yankee fans proved why I could never be one tonight. Any time Mussina got close with a pitch on a 2-strike count--and by close I mean Posada was able to catch the pitch--the crowd groaned at each called ball as if someone knocked over their grandmother and stole her bingo money.

Please. Enough entitlement. You've won more World Series than any other team, so at times a call might go against you. Sometimes it actually should.

And then they dragged out that damn Irish tenor to warble his way through "God Bless America" for the seventh inning stretch, and reminded me how much they were co-opted by that video before Bush's convention speech that sort of went like this: 9/11 = New York = Bush = Yankees/Jeter. So more than anything I dislike the Yankees because at heart they're Republicans.

Nobel Gasses Leave Me Inert

I'm on the staff at UCSB, and we are supposed to all be elated at the news that the campus, with the annoucement of the Nobel Prize for Economics yesterday, now has 5 profs in 6 years who have been honored with a Nobel.

I'm not elated, however, and not just because I'm bitter that the closest I've come to Sweden are the Swedish pancakes at IHOP.

And it's not just because the Nobel Laureates get reserved parking spots, making it harder for mere staff to park on campus to do their JOBS. That we have to pay for parking at our workplace still smacks of the bad old days of George Pullman and factory towns, if you ask me, pardon my long-term labor perspective.

And it's not just because the Nobels seems so oddly awarded--the last two UCSB profs two win them got theirs for research they did years before, when neither worked at UCSB. It's kind of like the BBWAA suddenly giving Cubbie Greg Maddux a Cy Young for his fine pitching for the Braves in 1993, but I digress.

Or I don't, for another baseball analogy provides me with my true complaint with the glorifying of Nobel Laureates as university superstars. In fantasy baseball, where you often have a limit on how many pretend dollars you can pay to psuedo-purchase your faux-team, one strategy is called Stars & Scrubs. The theory is to pay top dollar for the best in the business, and hope your huge advantage there will allow you to fill out the roster with sub-luminaries. Mr. Bonds, meet St. Rey Ordonez.

It seems to me that universities are busy playing Stars & Scrubs. It actually does mean something that UCSB has lured all these Nobel Laureates to campus--it means they get paid lots of money. And it's not just their salaries, for in the sciences these folks need top-of-the-line labs. They often come with a cadre of graduate students/research assistants/slave labor, who also need support.

That money has to come from somewhere, and it's usually somewhere else in the university's budget. I know, I know--UCSB is a fine research institution, and what these esteemed folks do might make the world a better place. But UCSB is also a school, where learning is supposed to go on. Once you win a Nobel, you don't just get a better parking space, you don't have to park yourself in front of students much, because it's your research that's important. Somebody has to do that teaching you're not doing, and too often that means colleges rely on lecturers, the academic netherworld (when the Catholics got rid of Limbo they actually sold it to academia, where it became the world of the non-tenured teacher). I was a lecturer once (OK, for 13 years at two different schools), and as a lecturer's life went, mine was pretty good. I had full-time jobs at one place of employment. I wasn't a freeway flyer, cobbling a career together out of two courses here, one there, one there. But it still ate at my soul, for it was perfectly clear the big U thought I was imminently replaceable, no matter how good a job I did. And I wasn't alone, for at UCSB close to 50% of all undergraduate classes are taught by lecturers. Too bad the U thinks lecturers might not be worthy of employment here.

So, more Stars mean more Scrubs, means less of a commitment to teaching. Yet tuition certainly doesn't go down. Yet students certainly don't deserve any less.

Those Nobel Prizes sure do make for good marketing, though.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Tuned V. 1. No. 3: "It's a Hit," Rilo Kiley

found on Rilo Kiley's More Adventurous (2004)
Tuned In:
So I'm a sucker for a woman with a voice that can do many things. That's just one of the charms of Jenny Lewis' performance on "It's a Hit," which should live up to its name, but won't, because: 1) clearly the song is anti-Bush, and we can't have none of that non-patriotic crap now, can we? 2) it's also too smart for radio, or MTV, or whatever makes hits hits nowadays. There's a hidden third reason, as the song comes out against false faith, too--"You still wear a cross / Think that you're going to get in"--but Rilo Kiley doesn't even have the guts to put those lines on the lyric sheet, even if they do have the guts to follow the lines with a few bars where the song threatens to break into "I'm Waiting for My Man," which brings God, Godot and Lou Reed together in fascinatingly unholy ways.

But as you can see, tuning into this song makes me tune out some too. "It's a Hit" is a bit all-over, which only makes me like it more, for all its glockenspiel and pedal steel, horns and chimps wearing ironed uniforms. Still, despite the very catchy melody, the show is really all Lewis, who starts off conversational, in her pretty Amy Rigby-ish voice. But then the voice pushes and breaks on the plosive in "no one wants to pay," and it gets growly gruff on "I'm not buying it either / But I'll try selling it anyway." So, money changes everything.

Then there's my favorite verse in a long damn while, which begins:
Any idiot can play Greek for a day
and join a sorority or write a tragedy
and articulate all that pain
and maybe you'll get paid
but it's a sin when success complains

As the guitars make sweet chimes and Lewis pipes out on "pain" and "paid" like she's channeling Neko Case channeling k.d. lang channeling Patsy Cline, and there's nothing truer than "it's a sin when success complains," is there? Pause to consider your life, at least, and if that's too painful, point at the put-upon Republicans who control the House, Senate and White House and still get petulant and pouty.

So, of course, the all-too-gorgeous chorus could be nothing but "It's a holiday for a hanging," sung over sho-bops and strings and things, for as that original hitmaker Ben Franklin (#1 with a bullet on the first ever Dick Clark--yes he is that old--Countdown) said, "We shall all hang together, or surely we shall all hang separately." I'm just hoping to see John Ashcroft go first.

Tuned Out:
Track ones that kill. With CD store listening stations surely artists know this, but nothing makes a day seem worth its initial waking like a new CD with a track one that kills. Personally I've had a long history of deeming a tune "the best song of all time for this week," and I'm sure the majority of them are the opening cuts of albums (sorry, my age is showing) that made me think the whole album was even better than it is because I am that easy to please, if you do it fast and quick. Now with the ease of repeat on CDs I'll often listen to the cut immediately again, putting off the rest of the album, which can only disappoint after the dizzying opening acme. (Disclaimer: Rilo Kiley's track 3, "Portions for Foxes," is equally a killer, if less of a lyric.)

Just the right words, a nifty lick, and I'm all yours, honey. So when Lewis goes "chk-chk-chk-chk" after the line about the salt shaker, or throws in the "Sh-bop, sh-bop my baby" line in a totally inappropriate place in a song not up to love's work, I love it all the more. Seduce me, do weird things, then run away. I will follow.

And some day I may wake up from your siren song, and be a bit embarrassed, even more eager for the best next thing. Like that week in the summer of 1988 I spent (musically, that is) with Howard Devoto (yes, ex-Magazine leader) and Noko and their band they called Luxuria, playing the lead cut "Redneck" over and over, for its guitar hook, for Devoto's snotty voice and its polished bromides, never getting enough, till then I had. The name of that album, Unanswerable Lust.

Watch the video for "It's a Hit", which has not much to do with this post, and sadly is on the MTV site.

Vicious, You Hit Me with a Flower

A belated post for Dog Blog Friday: Nigel, doing his Dick Cheney impersonation, tells everyone who disagrees with him to go blank themselves! Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 09, 2004

War Excuses R Us

Wonkette can be downright silly, but that's why I like Wonkette. Here are her other reasons to invade Iraq:

Didn't rewind rental tape
Mixed recyclables
Wrote a book
Reads books
Throws like a girl
Is too tall
Fuzzy math
Prevented OBGYNs from practicing their love
Wanted us to pass a global test

I might add the following:

Tried to kill dad (or so they say).
Sadam is almost a dyslexic way to say Osama.
Dick told me to through that wire they implanted in my back.
Might allow stem cell research.
Sold the URL to George Soros.
Had to--Goddam Perle and Wolfowitz have those pictures of Jenna and Barbara with the SMU football team.

One Chimp Who Never Evolved

Perhaps the funniest line of the second presidential debate last night, if you take it out of context, was this closer by Senator Kerry, "I'm going to be a president who believes in science."

But then I saw a shot of President Bush, for whom every stem cell is sacred, for whom evolution is an ugly rumor, and for whom the ozone layer is limitless. (And I won't even stoop to make fun of his lithe way around the language of technology--the Internets, indeed.)

Is it too much to want a president who agrees with 97% of the scientific community?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Sonic Reducer, It's Tony LaRussa

The Cardinals have the game in hand, leading 8-3, two outs, bottom of the ninth, the pitcher Julian Tavarez has only given up a measly single in two innings. But Tony "I Get Paid to Manage by the Decision" LaRussa, ever eager to point out he's got a law degree and is smart and all, changes pitchers to get a lefty-lefty match-up. After all, Steve Finley might slug that rare five run homer.

Beelzebud Selig should fine him for ruining baseball's image. No wonder people think the game is slow.

Putting the Deb in Debate

The BBC begins its definition of "debutante" as follows :

Never trust a ceremony that begins with flocks of young women (notionally virgin) processing in white dresses towards some ritual object. There's bound to be a dark and sinister motive behind all this innocence. So it was with the offerings to Artemis in ancient Greece, back in the fourth century BC. So too with the presentation of debutantes (young women making their debut, or entry, into society) at the start of the social Season.

Well, the phrase "dark and sinister motives behind all this innocence," besides getting me a bit excited, I'm afraid to admit, also makes me think about politics (when I think in a completely different direction, of course). It's easy to imagine, for instance, a politician claiming, "We've never met," when in fact the two candidates have and there are even photographs to prove it, or perhaps claiming something silly like, "I've never linked Saddam and Al Qaeda" when people have tapes of him doing just that. So much feigned innocence, such bitter, dirty experience.

So, to strain my metaphor to the breaking, and for a really good laugh, what I propose is that Bush and Kerry have a Debutante Coming Out Debate in St. Louis on Friday. And I mean a drag out fight. Full gowns, make-up, heels. Let's see who totters and who stands tall. Let's see who tells the most tear-jerking anecdote about some poor sufferer from a swing state, yet can keep his mascara from running. Let's see who has the best falsetto.

The winner gets to the run the country OR marry that dashing Charlie Gibson, who flutters all the young sweet things' hearts on "Good Morning America," and is therefore the perfect moderator for this event.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Perhaps Stem Cell Research Might Help Cheney With His Alzheimer's

After all, he said he had never met John Edwards before. Sure looks to me like they've done The Bump on a prayer breakfast dais. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Cheney Headlines Shout: "Dean Defeats Truman!"

It seems Cheney doesn't read the papers much, either, perhaps to be more like his hermetically-sealed-from-reality boss. He said the following tonight: "And then I looked and figured out that what was happening was Howard Dean was making major progress in the Democratic primaries, running away with the primaries based on an anti-war record. So they, in effect, decided they would cast an anti-war vote and they voted against the troops."

Sure he had early buzz and the MoveOn push, but Dean went 0 for 17 in the first primaries.

So that's lie number one.

To say John Kerry was new to the anti-war movement, well, I thought the Republicans hated him because he was against Vietnam after fighting there (as opposed to so many of them who were for that war because they didn't fight there).

So that's lie two.

And being against a war is being against our troops?

That's lie three, or perhaps Cheney believes love is only having to say die for your country in a pointless war.

Gotta Love the Goon

Let's walk through this answer from our Vice President, shall we (italics is by we, ok, me):

"Gwen, the story that appeared today about this report is one I asked for. I ask an awful lot of questions as part of my job as vice president. Why do Bush and Cheney like to stress that they work hard? They damn well better. They certainly don't damn well best. A CIA spokesman was quoted in that story as saying they had not yet reached the bottom line and there is still debate over this question of the relationship between Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein. The only debate is how much Cheney and Bush should push this falsehood, for on June 17, 2004 The New York Times wrote: "Mr. Bush later backed up Mr. Cheney, claiming that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a terrorist who may be operating in Baghdad, is 'the best evidence' of a Qaeda link. This was particularly astonishing because the director of central intelligence, George Tenet, told the Senate earlier this year that Mr. Zarqawi did not work with the Hussein regime." When the NYT of Judith "Chalabi Is Alright By Me" Miller calls a Bush-Cheney line astonishing, that means something.

The report also points out that at one point some of Zarqawi's people were arrested. Saddam personally intervened to have them released, supposedly at the request of Zarqawi. But let's look at what we know about Mr. Zarqawi. Here is the lead of an article from March 6, 2004 in Newsweek: "The stark fact is that we don’t even know for sure how many legs Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi has, let alone whether the Jordanian terrorist, purportedly tied to al Qaeda, is really behind the latest outrages in Iraq." We know he was running a terrorist camp, training terrorists in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. We know that when we went into Afghanistan that he then migrated to Baghdad. He set up shop in Baghdad, where he oversaw the poisons facility up at Kirma, where the terrorists were developing ricin and other deadly substances to use. We know he's still in Baghdad today. He is responsible for most of the major car bombings that have killed or maimed thousands of people. He's the one you will see on the evening news beheading hostages. He is, without question, a bad guy. It's so good when you can just call someone evil, isn't it, Dick? But Al-Jazeera commentator Abd al-Bari Atwan asserts "Al-Zarqawi has become the new superpower, the perfect bogeyman. The Americans are just building him up to mask their failure in Iraq and their inability to maintain law and order. He is a foreigner, so it is the perfect way for them to discredit the resistance and say these attacks are not coming from the Iraqi people." He is, without question, a terrorist. But he's our terrorist, or at the least, our excuse. He was, in fact, in Baghdad before the war, and he's in Baghdad now after the war. Uh, after? Oh yeah, "Mission Accomplished."

The fact of the matter is that this is exactly the kind of track record we've seen over the years. We have to deal with Zarqawi by taking him out, and that's exactly what we'll do.

But they haven't, at least three times. NBC added: "Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi's operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam. " Hmm, so we let Zarqawi go, so we could say Iraq harbored al Qaeda and attempt to sustain that flimsiest of lies. I wonder how the hundreds of people dead at Zarqawi's hand or command feel about that decision.

A Bobo in Brooksdom

My favorite David Brooks comment after the debate on PBS (paraphrased): "After watching tonight, I've come to realize the most important issue in this election is Iraq."

Somehow Mark Shields didn't fall off his chair. My answer would have been, "I thought it was David Brooks sitting at this table making analysis with me the past few weeks, but clearly you were in a coma of soap opera proportions. After all, only someone unconscious for over a year would not realize that the key issue in the election is that our president led us into a war on false pretenses, thereby lowering our status in the world, adding $200 billion to our debt that he further fuels with tax cuts to the wealthy, killing over 1000 of our young men and women (not to mention killing many more foreign men and women, many of whom are Muslim, so somehow really don't count), and creating many more terrorists to boot. You're so perceptive, David. How could any of that be important?"

No Slip--Freud Might Call That a Whole Body Garment

"We saw on 9/11 that the next president--next decision a president has to make can affect the lives of us all."
--Dick Cheney

Bush's next decisions on 9/11: "What would life be like at Crawford if I had a pet goat?" "Why isn't someone telling me what to do?" "Gee, it's good to have Air Force One to fly about the country in, evading any threat of death." "You mean we have planes that could shoot down the hijacked planes turned into missiles?"

Monday, October 04, 2004

Liberate Your Minds, Your Jeep Will Follow

Of course commercials are rot (sez the man in marketing) that try to make you feel inferior and then sell you a societally-approved placebo for the deep pains that really wrack you, even if the ads convince you that you feel inferior because of dandruff as opposed to the flaking into dust that goes on inside your scalp.

Anyway, of late one particular ad drives me truly bonkers. It opens upon an art class, and the caftaned African-American soul mama gris gris mystico teacher enthuses, "Paint your soul...liberate your minds..." only to get truly jazzed when she sees one student's canvas, covered with a not particularly well-drawn image of a red Jeep Liberty. "Now that's what I'm talking about," excited--if clearly a charlatan--teacher exclaims.

Then again, the ad angers me so because it doesn't really lie. This is what art has come to, a way to play fancy dress up for a down and dirty sale. This is what teaching has come to, a quest not for knowledge and critical sensibility but for a degree that leads to a job that leads to bucks. This is what liberty has come to, when one of our few freedoms is the rush of the air in one's hair as one drives a Jeep. That is, if the driver can get up to speed on crowded city streets. That is, if the driver isn't afraid of the next car bomb barreling down the Baghdad streets as he or she fights Bush's mistake of a war.

Friday, October 01, 2004

The Incredible Shrinking Little Big Man

If you're not reading James Wolcott's blog (see link on the right), here's just one sample that shows why you should:

Last night I believe we saw the ugly comeback of the private face of Bush--the irritable expressions he flashes subordinates when he's presented with information he doesn't like or feels someone's taken up too much of his time or is pressed to explain himself to people he shouldn't have to explain himself to because he's the president and fuck you. The notion that Bush is "likeable" has always been laughable. It takes a Washington pundit to be that dumb. He's an angry, spoiled, resentful little big man--I use "little big man" in the Reichian sense of a small personality who puffs himself up to look big through bluster and swagger but remains a scheming coward inside--and next to a genuinely big man like Kerry, shrunk before the camera's eyes.

What's more, what's with Bush's lines like: "I know how these people [foreign leaders] think. I deal with them all the time. I sit down with the world leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently," or, "I work with Director Mueller of the FBI; comes in my office when I'm in Washington every morning, talking about how to protect us"? I mean, we know the job description--he's the president. That doesn't mean he does the job well, however.

It's kind of the story of his life, though, cruising on generations of Bush power and wealth, so he could goof off and survive business collapses, the Texas Rangers, Vietnam, losing an election yet being annointed president, and, he hopes, never having to take responsibility for the most disastrous day in U.S. history.

They're not booing, they're saying Moooookie!

A bit of smiling, outside joy for Dog Blog Friday. Posted by Hello

The No Messed Mixages Zone

So don't you feel a 100% better about candidate Kerry today? He was as composed as Bush was confused--you'd think Rove and Hughes could have provided Bush with more than 3 talking points for a 90 minute debate. Was it just me, or at one point was he flipping his notecard back and forth as if it should magically yield some new answers to Kerry's pointed attacks?

Of course the spin folks are selling Bush's performance as if he won, as if the whole country might prefer a Victor Zambrano to a Scott Kazmir. But America isn't as easily duped as the New York Mets.

By the way, let's put to rest the notion that David Brooks is a thoughtful conservative. On PBS afterwards he called the debate "a tie." Which reminds me of that moment in A Fish Called Wanda when John Cleese is attempting to rile the dim-witted yet supercilious American Kevin Kline and he brings up Vietnam. Kline's response, "Vietnam was a tie!" Well, Brooks and Bush, I would like to reply with the words Cleese nexts says in an accent close to Crawfordian, no doubt, "I'm tellin' ya baby, they kicked your little ass there. Boy, they whooped yer hide REAL GOOD."

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