Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Dean Is Dead

So distracted I've been of late by all the News-Press horribleness that I've ignored a worse calamity in the world of journalism--the final take-down of all that's good in the Village Voice. Sure, you could say the Voice ran its course when it cut its insightful sports section or even with the death of Lester Bangs, but I've always been sentimental about it, even constructing an entire Voice v. New Yorker "what kind of reader are you?" dichotomy that totally ignores my love of Pauline Kael and is simply a way to make me feel cooler than I am or ever will be.

That said, the Voice, now owned by New Times, canned Robert Christgau today, which sort of means it ripped out its own heart, although that's probably the wrong organ. For as much as Xgau claims he likes good songs with a good beat and his reviews often spout the dance/sex talk, that talk often sounds like this, "In fact, I access punk with much the same part of myself that loves Thelonious Monk, who, like punk, buzzes the synapses while stimulating gross motor function, a metaphor and catharsis designed for the modern city."

But that might be the very reason I like him, how he comes at music with a sure love for it that's ever-intellectualized. There's a charm to that, pausing his pogo for his beloved Ramones just enough to wonder what it all means, but still being willing to surrender to pleasure. At times his Consumer Guide entries in particular can seem as if they are glosses to essays much longer, and they're so tight that trying to access them can be impossible--it's as if there's a decoder ring that didn't come with your issue of the Voice, but that ring is really Christgau's head. For he seems to have heard nearly everything, and remembered it, and formed erudite sentences about it, and remembered those, too. Like his former Voice compatriot Andrew Sarris, at times the sheer volume of what they know is the actual show. But that, of course, means if you can glide by the gaps you're going to learn something. There's numerous groups I first got turned onto by Christgau, and you can forgive a lot of pretentiousness for that.

Is That a Statute in Your Pocket or Are You Just Glad to Sue Me?

The Los Angeles Times' Sunday magazine West ran a blurb this week with the opening lines, "Thursday is Love Litigating Lawyers Day. This is easy in California, where there is one lawyer for every 180 or so people."

Of course, that ratio goes down in Santa Barbara, since Wendy McCaw is busy employing enough attorneys so that the rest of us are left with only 4 or 5 to share.

New Motto: It's I-raq, not I-wreck*

The Washington Post reports:

U.S. military leaders in Baghdad have put out for bid a two-year, $20 million public relations contract that calls for extensive monitoring of U.S. and Middle Eastern media in an effort to promote more positive coverage of news from Iraq.

The contract calls for assembling a database of selected news stories and assessing their tone as part of a program to provide "public relations products" that would improve coverage of the military command's performance, according to a statement of work attached to the proposal.

INOTBB humbly submits its proposal to be paid the $20 million. Here is what we have to offer:
  1. We have no problems making shit up, and even refer to ourselves as a "we."
  2. We already spend an inordinate amount of time "monitoring" media. (Just don't make us renew our subscription to the News-Press.)
  3. We have never been to Iraq, and therefore will find it easier to write positive stories as reality will not stand in our way.
  4. Our spellchecker is set to accept "Islamofascists" as a word.
  5. We will move to edit away any Shiite (which sounds dirty, anyway) and Sunni distinctions, thereby leading to a unification of the country. After all, these distinctions didn't originally make sense to President Bush and probably confuse the average, fart-joke-loving, brush-clearing American, too.
  6. What do you mean there's Kurds, too? No wonder this Iraq thing is so complicated. Look, if you want media stories to make sense, there can only be two sides.
  7. As for "Prospective contractors are also asked to propose four to eight public relations events per month," well, just off the top of our blog we think that a soldier-run felafel sale to raise money for armor for vehicles would be a terrific opportunity to stress U.S. ingenuity, the ability to adapt to a foreign culture by selling them their own stuff back to them, and if the prices were low enough, even show our concern for Iraqis. And that's just one idea. Imagine the photo op!
  8. When all else fails, we are very good at shouting, "Look! scary Iran nukes!"
*Dear U.S. government--as a sign of good faith, you can have that motto for free. (Please make the check for the rest of the $20 million out to cash.)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How Lowe Can He Go?

In case you missed it, and my guess is not everyone reads the official blog of the Chicago Tribune (and why do people who already have a public voice end up blogging? what does that tell us about what they can or can't say in their official capacities?), there's been a Rob Lowe sighting in New Orleans:

Lowe and his two young children joined the pool of reporters holding at Mother's, with the amiable encounter quickly becoming a press conference of sorts. Lowe, in town for production starting today on a TNT Christmas movie entitled A Perfect Day, said he had never been here before.

He had been offered either New Orleans or Canada, he said, and accepted a pay cut to work in New Orleans. "They took the bait, and here we are in New Orleans," Lowe said. "It's a good place to bring business to."

Hmm...maybe he's just feeling guilty for helping lead to the McCaw Meltdown at the News-Press, thereby setting in motion the events that lead to 17 former N-P staffers to leave their jobs?

Wait, I Head the Department of What?!

From the AFP yesterday:

US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales met Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh and discussed the tactics used by Iraqi security forces to combat a wave of violence, including torture.

"It is a somewhat difficult decision as to where to draw the line," Gonzales said, referring to possible measures that Iraqi police might use to extract information from suspected insurgents and death squad leaders.

"It is difficult to decide what is appropriate and what is allowed under law," said Gonzales, who has drawn criticism in the past for describing the Geneva Conventions against prisoner abuse as "quaint."

Dear Alberto--you're the Attorney General! It's not a difficult job, it's your job to decide what's allowed under law. If it's too damn tricky for you, resign and start preparing Bush's defense for the lawsuits that will have to come after his term is over. But whatever you do, be sure not to drag any moral consideration into what's legal or not. We'd hate for you and the Bush Administration to act out of character.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My Buttocks Are Dented but at Least I "Dated" Alyssa Milano

Steve Goldman over at the Pinstriped Bible/Blog has only one fault, as far as I can tell. He's a Yankee fan. Otherwise, he's more or less brilliant. Today he was more, with TBogg-worthy snark like this:

Granted, [Carl] Pavano has turned being broken into an art form. Any pitcher who misses half a season with dented buttocks deserves some kind of award for ace malingering. He's like the children's toy that every kid falls for at least once, the one that seems to walk, talk, fire ray guns, and fly through the air in the commercials but when you get it home it requires six D batteries just to sit there. You're lucky if it rocks a bit and moans quietly to itself.

For those that haven't heard, Pavano sustained two broken ribs in a car accident earlier this month but took advantage of a rarely-invoked clause in the collective bargaining agreement that says that players are obligated to disclose all injuries except those that will make them look really, really bad when they eventually come to light. On the plus side, the fact that Pavano has ribs strongly suggests that he is in fact a vertebrate.

But the ultimate kicker comes when he turns to the Yankees' most recent opponent the Tigers and then manages to come up with the ultimate Neifi Perez putdown, which isn't easy to do given oodles of baseball-writing Henny Youngmans--this writer included--have exercised the "take my Neifi, please" punchline by now:

Neifi Perez, isn't the answer to anything except perhaps the question, "What did the Athenians give Socrates to drink after convicting him of impiety?"

Your Plan's All Wet

Reuters reports:

In the world's biggest economy, one in eight Americans and almost one in four blacks lived in poverty last year, the U.S. Census Bureau said on Tuesday, both ratios virtually unchanged from 2004.


In all, some 37 million Americans, or 12.6 percent, lived below the poverty line, defined as having an annual income around $10,000 for an individual or $20,000 for a family of four. The total showed a decrease of 90,000 from the 2004 figure, which Census Bureau officials said was "statistically insignificant..."

...particularly because you have to subtract the 1,577 dead in Louisiana because of Katrina from those removed from the poverty rolls.

The article goes on to say, "Major cities with the highest proportions of poor people included Cleveland with 32.4 percent and Detroit with 31.4 percent under the poverty line," but stops before pointing out that BushCo are busy looking into a new Eradicate Poverty Now plan that will make Lakes St. Clair and Erie flood. A lot.

The Truth! You Can't Handle the Naked Truth!

So ugly, so disgusting, so true.... (for more see Sutton Impact). Thank god for that Mideast Map!

As the Nail Sunk in the Cloud

Gee, you think the guy (I refuse to Google up his name and give him any more play) who confessed to killing JonBenet Ramsey did it because he got off on all the media attention he knew he'd get? Call it mediaerotic asphyxiation.

Meanwhile, there's the one year anniversary of the horrible un-natural disaster in New Orleans--the rest of Katrina was a natural disaster, but the failure of the levees is all human's fault, and we're not natural at all. Stories have rightfully flooded the media, even if at this point too much of the coverage is caught up in Bush spin.

Yet there's also this in the New York Times yesterday:

The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable, economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living standards — has risen steadily over the same period.

As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960’s.

How could this happen? If profits are climbing, how do wages fall?

At the very top of the income spectrum, many workers have continued to receive raises that outpace inflation, and the gains have been large enough to keep average income and consumer spending rising.


And don't think this isn't a Katrina story, too. For Katrina is one more lesson about class, about how America doesn't want its own poor yearning to breathe free anymore. In the age of Bush, the high ground is shrinking, but as long as he's there with his base, the elites, the rest of us can get washed away. Not only is the Ninth Ward still a wasteland, it's growing.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The World's A Mess, It's in LA

If Los Angeles didn't exist America would have had to invent it, but of course, it did...and that's the beginning of all the problems. While New York and Chicago and San Francisco, even, get to have some nobility, some sense of unity and purpose and the dignity age brings, LA gets to have a sense of detritus, a sense of the busy being sold. Its beauty buried under asphalt beneath the smog, its enduring symbol to the world is a sign for the part of LA that outsiders think is all of LA and that is pretty much all sign and symbol anyway. And part of that fell down due to neglected and got carted off.

So it hit me spending a terrific day in Los Angeles yesterday (and I don't just say that because I got to go home to Santa Barbara afterwards) that the town is really just one of Robert Rauschenberg's combines. The combines are on exhibit at MOCA right now, so we used our KCRW Fringe Benefits cards and got 2 for 1 admission and decided to do just that exhibit, since we were at the Mark Taper a few blocks away anyway to see Water & Power. These are powerful, mystical works, questioning art while being art (how very pomo, I know) while leaving enough blank space to invite the world in and let the void out. Plus it was great to see Coca Cola Plan at last, which I always mistakenly thought was bigger looking at photos of it, although how could it be and keep to the scale of the bottles? But the paint drops seem so fresh, the bottles commerce wanting to be art, the wings not really a joke. And that grooved ball, worn down and making the work seem older, but also peering out like some sort of brain. What weirdness can come together and speak to us? And isn't that not just Rauschenberg's question, but LA's?

Culture Clash also wants to know what LA is, and tries to take the entire city on in Water & Power, an of-the-moment yet mythical story of twin brothers and where Mexican-American political might might go. It's got the zest and humor of their earlier funnier shows, and to keep with the Woody Allen reference, is sort of their west coast version of Manhattan, a step up in ambition, if Woody's masterpiece decided to care about more than romance. (As if there's anything more, often, especially with Mariel Hemingway on hand to rhapsodize over.) Water & Power is devoid of women characters completely, and instead is about the struggle for the brothers' souls, and therefore about the city's soul. The play really takes off when Dakin Matthews shows up as the Fixer, the embodiment of white power in a white suit and white hair--he's practically transcendent, which makes his evil more striking and casual. The performance is part Noah Cross, part Colonel Sanders and a delightfully diabolical turn (to think he's played Cheney recently, too, in David Hare's Stuff Happens--processing all this darkside must require a lot of time in the confessional, or the shower, or doing multiple works of mercy).

Ultimately the point of the play is we all might be equal parts cop and the cholo, so we better learn to love each other like brothers, especially in Trader Joe's narrow aisles. Go see it.

To cap our combine experience, we had to eat, of course. We opted to return to one of our LA favorites--Jar. We really can't say enough good things about this place. Its vibe is very 60s supper club with crisp cocktails, a clever wine list (lots of Rhone varietals--9 Gigondas), and help so good we even had witty banter with the busman (he was no boy). Of course, you go to restaurants to eat (I realize there is a breed in LA that doesn't eat, but I don't want to stereotype), but having just finished our leftover duck fried rice for my lunch today, all I can do is say we give Jar two big Yums up.

Seven hours--modern art masterpieces, state-of-the art theater, lipsmackingly good food. I'm singing my Randy Newman without any irony today.

Friday, August 25, 2006

That Electoral End Zone Is in Sight When You Run to the Left of Lieberman

Don't know if you heard or not, but according to the Washington Post a member of the U.S. Congress yesterday:

said he found a "noticeable lack of political will" among Iraqis "to move in what I would call a timely fashion" and concluded that Iraqi officials would act with greater urgency if the United States this fall set a timetable for withdrawal.

"My view is that it may be that the only way we are able to encourage some political will on the part of Iraqis is to have a timeline for troop withdrawal," he said from London in a conference call with reporters. "A timeline of when the bulk of heavy lifting is in the hands of the Iraqis."

Who is this renegade? Is it what we've come to expect from John Murtha? Am I trying to trick you, so I've switched the pronouns to throw you off and it's Maxine Waters?

Nope, ladies and gentlemen and readers of this blog, let me introduce you to Christopher Shays, R-CT. Which leaves me wondering--what's in the nutmeg in the Nutmeg State that makes all the politicos go crazy with how they express their party affiliations?

The funny part is Shays has been to Iraq more than 12 times, and now, in the post-Lamont world, has just decided to change his tune. In fact it was merely two months ago that U.S. Snooze reported:

In revealing comments published last week in the Hartford Courant, Shays said his mother wrote him a note last month that in so many words told him he would lose the election if he continued to reiterate his support for the war in the face of unrelenting attacks by his opponent, Democrat Diane Farrell. But the nine-term incumbent Shays said, as he has in the past, that he'll disregard his mother's advice--and that of some political consultants, no doubt--and continue to talk about his support for President Bush's mission in Iraq, which the congressman has visited a dozen times. Shays lauded the death of al Qaeda leader Abu Musab Zarqawi but said, "the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues."

At least Shays' rebellion against his mom is over.

Check Your Head

A Reuters report about teens in a small Vermont town going about naked has this headline:

Nude teens raise eyebrows

And all I can say is if it's only eyebrows, everything seems ok to me.

We're Number [Hiccup]!

Forbes, as you would expect from a business magazine, is interested in how much America drinks. Therefore they published a report on "America's Drunkest Cities." First, I am saddened to think that I've lived in only 1 of the top 40, and at that Baltimore has to share its ranking, just like it's an airport, with D.C. (Note: I never drove drunk between the two, and even if I did that was before MADD invented drunk driving. You could be eighteen and drink back then. And all the tvs were in black and white.)

Proudly sliding into the Number 1 position like Bernie Brewer sloshing into his mega-beer mug is Milwaukee. As Forbes explains:

Milwaukee has long had a reputation as a city built on beer. It was once the nation's top beer-producing city, home to four of the world's largest breweries: Schlitz, Pabst, Miller and Blatz. Legendary sitcom characters Laverne and Shirley fixed bottle caps on one of the city's assembly lines. Even the name of the town's baseball team--The Brewers--alludes to its boozy past. Today, Miller Brewing, now a subsidiary of SABMiller, is the only major brewery left in town, but other major corporations call the city home, including Harley-Davidson, Briggs & Stratton, and Manpower.

That last sentence might explain a lot--Milwaukee is now a town of hog driving, lawnmower pushing, part-timers. Sounds like a land looking for a drink to me.

Nigel's Noggin's Knockin' Blues

For Dog Blog Friday: Turns out you can get a hangover from too many Milk Bones.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Long Snake Moon on a Blog

You'd have to figure I couldn't pass up writing about something called the Great Moon Hoax, particularly when it involves John Hershel, the guy who named the satellites around Uranus. (Speaking of which, we saw some skinny gal get butt implant surgery last night on the Health Channel and just remembering it means I can't go eat lunch.) It seems on this day in 1835 the New York Sun began a series that claimed Hershel spotted whole worlds on the moon with fantastic creatures including bat-like winged humanoids. It turns out this was all a ploy to get circulation up, but the secret real writer of the series was cryogenically stashed away and defrosted to help the Bush White House with intelligence prior to the Iraq War. Seems many weapons of mass destruction look like bat-like humanoids in satellite photos.

Meanwhile the real Hershel was blacklisted during the 1950s and later the voice of Charley who never got to be a Starkist tuna (and what was with his desire to be eaten? almost as strange as thinking one needs surgery to fill out one's bikini bottom) and the "ho, ho, ho" voice of the Jolly Green Giant, who come to think of it was probably so jolly because he was too large to be devoured and got to send all the tinier vegetables off to their deaths.

Oh, wait, that's Herschel Bernardi. At least I left Herschel Walker out of it. Like the world needs more USFL jokes.

When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer

The International Astronomical Union (if they go on strike, do the stars have to fade in sympathy?) can take away Pluto's planet status, sure. But I'm going to have to come after them if they fuck with Uranus.

There's Got to Be a Morning After Pill

Plan B is finally approved, mostly, which is good news, mostly. Just remember that although you can buy the contraceptive pill over the counter, you can't buy it over a convenience store's counter, because stopping a pregnancy shouldn't be as easy as buying a six pack on the way home as the bars close so you can get further drunk and have sex you'll regret and then end up pregnant.

Of course, the struggle to prevent more abortions--which is supposedly what people on the right want--was largely waylaid by people on the right who really don't want you to have sex at all, but unfortunately that's the only way to have children. For example, we learn of immense nuttiness in the New York Times:

Dr. Florence Houn, director of the office that evaluated the Plan B application, said that she was told by Dr. Janet Woodcock, a deputy F.D.A. commissioner, that a rejection was necessary “to appease the administration’s constituents, and then later this could be approved.”

Drs. Galson and Woodcock both said in their own depositions and public statements that scientific considerations drove their decisions. One memorandum that has since been made public states that Dr. Woodcock told agency employees that she feared that Plan B could take on “ ‘urban legend’ status that would lead adolescents to form sex-based cults.”

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the "hey I got hormones" party that is post-puberty a fierce call to the cult of sex all by itself? Then again, it's little surprise a woman named Woodcock might have sex on the brain.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Are You Ready for Some Folderol?

So Tony Kornheiser has taken up the Denis Miller hotseat almost warmed by the buns of Rush Limbaugh on Monday Night Football (remember the days when you could watch it without cable?) and people are as impressed by the real Kornheiser as they were by Listen Up, the fictional show based on him (don't remember it? see?).

In particular Kornheiser's own paper the Washington Post took him to task, doing everything short of calling him a Weisenkornheimer. The writer Paul Farhi even criticized his pallor, as if the only thing separating success from failure on TV was the burnished glow of a George Hamilton.

Now Editor & Publisher reports:

After reading Farhi's slam, Kornheiser appeared on ESPN Radio's The Dan Patrick Show Tuesday, offering his own attack on his fellow Postie. "I apparently got ripped in my own newspaper, The Washington Post, you know by a two-bit weasel slug named Paul Farhi, who I would gladly run over with a Mack Truck given the opportunity," he said, according to a transcript.

And immediately after the broadcast, Wendy McCaw and Ampersand Publishing filed a restraining order on Kornheiser and fired him from the News-Press, even though he's never worked there.

Dreaming of Days of Dooky-liciousness

Often it seems Amy and I spend just too much time on dinner--planning, buying, cooking, eating, groaning in stuffed pleasure. But I'd also argue what we do with food is what makes us human. After all, every living thing "eats" to survive, but to take that basis of survival and build it into something, that kind of mucking up of the simple is what gets us past endurance into something like art. Plus what you do with your food is a political act--where does it come from, how does it get to your plate, do you even wonder? And I haven't even begun to delve into how food connects us with those before, those to come--the preparations passed down for generations, the dishes native to a place, the cocktails resonant of a certain town, the wines ripe with the soils the grapes were grown in. So much on the tips of our tongues.

So I can't help but feel touched, a year to the day the levees did in New Orleans when Katrina couldn't quite, to read Kim Severson's "In New Orleans, Knives, Forks and Hammers" in the New York Times today. Especially the focus on one of New Orleans' broken souls, the wonderful restaurant Dooky Chase. Amy and I had dinner there back in June 2001, on a delicious weeklong trip where we ate our way through the Crescent City. And as good as the food was--and it was, rich with flavors you know partially come from the very air of a long-cooked-in kitchen, lively with the depths of a court bouillion (that's coo-bee-yon if you don't speak Creole, but you will after a bowl of it)--it's a moment after dinner I remember most. Dooky Chase isn't in the best of neighborhoods, across the street from one of New Orleans' too numerous housing projects that are often merely late 20th century warped versions for the much fancier above-ground cemeteries haunted by tourists--it's a place for those assumed to be dead to most of us. We were cabbing it about the city, so were on the corner, waiting for our ride. Everything seemed fine, but Dooky himself stuck his head out the door and asked if we were ok. We're talking a place that cares for its customers.

So it breaks my heart to read:

Even if Mrs. Chase gets the doors open, there is no telling where she will find waiters, cooks or customers. The housing project across the street is sealed with steel plates, and most of the houses in her neighborhood are empty, still bearing spray paint from the search for bodies.

“I know people say, ‘My God, a year later and you’re not any further than this?’ ” Mrs. Chase said. “They just don’t understand. We’re all taking a whipping down here.”

But then there's always another meal, and when there's a meal, there's hope. For near the end of the article we get to read:

Fund-raisers have been good to the Chases, too, bringing in about $100,000 so far. Kitchen equipment and some labor have been donated. But the work has been slow, a reflection of the realities of rebuilding in New Orleans and their small budget, and because the couple, being somewhat old-fashioned, prefer not to take out loans.

And as Mrs. Chase points out regularly, she and her husband disagree on the direction the project should take — whether, for example, to open the takeout window before the main dining room. Not only that, he just doesn’t like to spend money.

“He wouldn’t give a crippled crab a crutch to get to a gumbo party,” Mrs. Chase said.

“I don’t have a message until I have something positive to say,” Mr. Chase countered.

Here's hoping Dooky has plenty to say soon.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I Couldn't Live Like That, No Siree!

The Orange County Register, no prize bastion of brilliant journalism itself (look! INOTBB rags on a newspaper besides Wendy McCaw's chew toy!), has decided it needs a yet inferior version of itself to attract a different demographic, or, as the paper puts it, a "psychographic," since it's not really aimed at the demos/people but rather at the thought of people, as if the residents of Orange County all starred on MTV's Laguna Beach. Needless to say this means shorter articles, more color images, more things to buy masquerading as newsly importance.

But does the dumbing-down have to continue at this quick a pace? Check out this page (PDF) from today's on-line edition that hypes new DVD releases. Poseidon, Just My Luck and Phat Girls rate actual write-ups, if one can "up" in 100 words or less (if that's too much for readers to handle, the films get letter graded, too). Now look at what films are merely listed as "More on DVD": Silent Hill--worth remaining silent about, sure--but also Double Indemnity: Special Edition and House: Season Two, Invasion: Season One, and Veronica Mars: Season Two.

Sure, the "psychographic" probably can't even handle Fred MacMurray as the dad in My Three Sons, let alone as a tough talking murderer. So there's no reason to bother with the classic. We'll call House and Invasion a wash. But the "skews a little female and a little younger" audience doesn't want to read about Veronica Mars? Why, like 'cause she's too brainy and from San Diego?

Cover Me Blind

Imagine the Human League fronted by Dr. Smith from Lost in Space, with a synth assist from R2D2. They are singing "Layla."

Imagine a band called Ethyl Meatplow, not to be confused with Hazel Fishcombine or Eveline Poultryseeder, rocking its bitter way through "Close to You." (I did write rocking, yes.)

Well, you can hear these and more on L.D. Beghtol's High Bias column over at the Village Voice website. Given Beghtol gives voice to one of the Magnetic Fields' most magnetic songs--"All My Little Words"--you know he's someone to trust for sonic brilliance. Plus who else is going to dish up Diamanda Galas and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in the same playlist?

And He Doesn't Even Have a Blog

From Simon Reynold's totally compulsive read Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 (AKA, break out your vinyl! or, why isn't there a good career-spanning domestic Orange Juice compilation?):

"Finding minutiae overburdened with potential significance, this can contaminate your whole life to the point where you might describe it as mental illness," Green from Scritti Politti.

Monday, August 21, 2006

One More Reason to Hate the Braves (As if We Needed Any)*

John Smoltz does a Home Depot ad in which he happily squirts Round-Up all over a lawn to kill one dandelion.

*Complaints do not apply to Brian McCann, as he's on my fantasy team.

When the Rich Die Last Like the Rabbits Running

The suddenly chatty President today held a long news conference where he said the same things he's been saying for years--stay the course, fight them there, democracy rah rah rah, he could have had WMDs...someday. But he also said this about the Middle East:

The final history in the region has yet to be written.

That is good news, no? Shouldn't we hope the leader of the free world thought we were eons away from the writing of "final history"?

McCaw Killed the Newspaper Star

It's easy to think of potentate of the News-Press Wendy McCaw and editorial page editor Travis Armstrong as the Mr. Burns and Waylon Smithers of Santa Barbara--both matching their Simpsons counterparts for mindless evil and shameless toadyism. So when the word came that Starshine Roshell was losing her Sunday column at the N-P, one can only imagine Wendy as Montgomery Burns hissing, "Excellent--now you'll see what it means to have your mouth taped, dearie."

The paper will argue it's only doing what people asked for and separating news from editorial--after all, what's an entertainment/life beat reporter doing opining in a charming way about raising children, men and women getting along (or not), etc. And they will deny it has anything to do with Starshine being a prominent critic of all the recent events at the once admirable paper, including working to help unionize the remaining staff.

Sure. And McCaw has some Hope Ranch property she wants to sell you, since, after all, she was unsuccesful in her suit to keep the riff raff off of it.

Actually, McCaw is desperately trying to make life miserable for anyone left at the paper who might be pro-union. If you fill the building with scabs, then the threat of the Teamsters winning a vote evaporates. You don't want to have to fire anyone, so you just make the job untenable. Figure out what each person does best/enjoys most at the job, and then take that away.

That's not just bad business and poor management, it's flat-out nasty. But such a word would probably be just considered a compliment to Burns/McCaw.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Asp Me No More Questions

In case you didn't hear, there's some film people on the internets have been buzzing about that opens this weekend. I doubt anyone will top this line about it in a review at Film Threat: "After months of buildup and a marketing blitzkrieg that – quite frankly – achieved critical mass some time around Memorial Day, the release of Snakes on a Plane is a genuine relief, like passing a kidney stone or surviving a Republican President."

To which I reply, "I've had it with this motherfuckin' Bush in this motherfuckin' White House!"

Let's Play Greyhound Games

For Dog Blog Friday: Actually, they often look slightly blurry in person, too. You just get used to it.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I Will Dare

Today we celebrate the birth of Virginia Dare, the first child of English parents born in North America, and later the first child to appear on milk cartons, along with the rest of the good, missing people of Roanoke Colony. If you're even part Native American, you are free to ignore this celebration, but try not to be a wet blanket--smallpox optional--on the festivites for us white folk who are glad we're here even if more than embarrassed about the decades of broken promises, lies, death, devastation, uprooting, and eventual sad-sack casinos. We are sorry our forefathers and foremothers didn't know any better. (OK, they did know better, but didn't care. They're our stupid ass relatives so we have to love them anyway.)

Of course, Dare, while the most famous--probably because she disappeared and got to be on all the cable news network shows--isn't even the first European child to be born in North America. Martin de Arguelles had her beat by 21 years, but he had the misfortune of not being English and surviving. And then there's Viking Snorri Þorfinnsson, but his story put even his parents to sleep (read that name again)(oh, c'mon, you giggled a little bit).

Of course 20th century wackos went and borrowed her name, forming VDARE, a center for racist nativists to rant about how our country is being taken over by immigrants by naming themselves after the first North American immigrant. They're so busy ranting, they don't even get the joke.

Not Feeling Even a Little Bit Leary

Do yourself a favor and go check out this fantastic video clip in which Mel Gibson get his and you get some great baseball to boot.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I'm Not Saying We Wouldn't Get Our Hair Mussed

(Second photo credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Now, which one of these images captures the dark comedy? And which one ends with the end of the world? That Ken Adam is a genius.

Amish Is as Good as a Mile

President Bush wonders if Amish boys also taste like chicken.
(Photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

P.S. What's up with the Amish binoculars? Is it ok to have a pair as long as there's no moving gear to help you focus?

If I Just Had a Passport and a Plane Ticket, I'd Be Flying Now

So in a knife fight of truth, do you take the guy who has lied about darn near everything or the guy who helped uncover the Brits' part in torture campaigns in Uzbekistan? I know where my money rests.

Here's part of what Craig Murray, Britains' former ambassador to Uzbekistan, has to say about the latest Liquids on a Plane! scare:

We then have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests over the weekend. Why? I think the answer to that is plain. Both in desperate domestic political trouble, they longed for "Another 9/11". The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a new 9/11 they could sell to the media. The media has bought, wholesale, all the rubbish they have been shovelled.

Well worth reading the whole entry at Murray's website. (Hat tip to This Modern World.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Imitation Is the Sincerest Way to Lawsuits

No time to comment on it, beyond to point and shake my head in disbelief: Dear old Wendy McCaw is so litigious, she even threatens to sue other newspapers because they look like hers. (Well, they do! They're black ink printed on white paper! They feature something called stories! They try to write the truth--uh oh, Wendy doesn't have a legal leg to stand on.)

Don't Worry, We're Always One Step Behind Them

Here's a moment from President Bush speaking to the press, off the cuff (don't worry, they aren't French cuffs), yesterday. I heard it live on NPR but couldn't believe it until I saw the transcript on the White House site today. First, let's examine the doozy of a question, which one can assume is so bad only because either: 1) the reporter Bush called "Michael" is really Dr. (of Physiology) Laura Schlessinger or 2) the reporter was so surprised he had a chance to ask a question at an unscripted moment that his brain let out a fart larger than one the dogs can let loose (not from their brains).

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Until the other day, few Americans thought about liquid explosives when they got on a plane. What are the other emerging or evolving threats to the homeland that are most on your mind? That is, what else needs to be hardened as convincingly as cockpits have been hardened?

OK, the reporter didn't make a snakes on a plane joke, so that's good. But while "few Americans" have thought about liquid explosives, shouldn't the reporter know that the Americans actually in charge of keeping us safe have known about this threat since the mid-90s, just decided it was best to wait and see if the terrorists re-figured it out? Shouldn't that be the question--why are we all surprised by what we should already know and have a plan for? And I know it's called Homeland Security, but does the reporter have to use "homeland" in that "fatherland" kind of way? As for "what else needs to be hardened," well, I can only guess that the journalist assumes that there's some sort of liquid Viagra that might lead to high-flying explosions....

THE PRESIDENT: Michael, we will take the actions that are necessary based upon the intelligence we gather. And obviously, if we find out that terrorist groups are planning and plotting against our citizens--or any other citizens, for that matter--we will notify the proper authorities and the people themselves of actions that we're taking.

One thing you have to say about George W. Bush--he instills confidence. Once those terrorists make plans, we will figure them out. Until then, let's face it, it's silly to get too worked up about anything.

Monday, August 14, 2006

All We Are Saying Is Give Blogs a Chance

One of my entries has been called "not pretty" over at Doc Searls Weblog, so I guess I can't really worry about things getting ugly then. For, it seems, poor Dr. (of Physiology) Laura, new scab columnist at the besieged Santa Barbara News-Press, has discovered the blogosphere doesn't appreciate her over-judgmental, hypocritical, gay-bashing ways. It must hurt the poor Dr. (of Physiology), as she opts to lash out, plus sort of plagiarize, but maybe that just means she reads Ann Coulter and wants to live up to Coulter's journalism ethics (I think my computer just giggled).

First, let's get the plagiarism out of the way, before we deal with the mendacity and stupidity: At one point Dr. (of Physiology) Laura writes (all of her quotes from the Doc Searls entry, as the N-P is behind the paywall I refuse to breach), "Some of these sites have had a big impact on politics, technology and journalism." In the next paragraph she does reference a New York Times article--her only source--but I guess you have to assume for a fledgling columnist, one source is better than none. She should learn to quote from sources by putting quotation marks around those quotes, however, for that line above is verbatim from the NYT article by Felicia R. Lee, who at that point is actually quoting one of her sources, a researcher at the Pew Internet & American Life Project that conducted the survey: "'Certainly, as a research center, we get asked about blogging,'" Ms. Amanda Lenhart said of the reason for the surveys. "'It was something igniting the American consciousness. Blogs were perceived as having a big impact on politics, technology and journalism. We wanted to go in and see what bloggers were doing.'"

Since Dr. (of Physiology) Laura is Miss Morality, I'm going to assume she's just a piss-poor journalist and not a thief.

As for the actual content of her anti-blogger rant, it opens with this ridiculousness: "Bloggers are folks with their own personal Web sites, which they can use for whatever end they please with impunity." She doesn't mention she writes for Wendy McCaw, who own her own personal newspaper, which she uses for whatever end she pleases with impunity. I wonder if my lowly site with its average of 75 hits a day, half of them looking for naked Monica Bellucci pictures, really has the same impact. Plus I don't moderate my comments, so anyone can reply to my entries. The News-Press, on the other hand, has been oddly devoid of critical letters to the editor bemoaning what has happened there the past month or so. So tell me who's afraid of a bit of negative response.

Of course Dr. (of Physiology) Laura goes on to warp her dislike of blogs (since they dislike her they must be bad) into her usual spiel about the ugliness of our me, me, me culture. She writes, "Some 37 percent of bloggers use them as personal journals to 'share' with others. I think that this compulsive public disclosure of usually, if not hopefully [sic], passing thoughts, emotions and impulsive behaviors indicates an exhibitionism spawned by so-called reality TV and bad behaviors of celebrities getting positive attention." First, that means 63% of blogs are doing something else, like maybe telling us what's really going on in the Middle East, or in DC, or LA. Second, the diary has an a centuries-old history, and who says Samuel Pepys might not have had a blog if the technology existed in the 1660s? Third, the personal essay has an even longer history, and who wouldn't have wanted to read the blog of a Montaigne or a Hazlitt or a Virginia Woolf?

But there's an even more important fourth--what Dr. (of Physiology) Laura suggests really means only certain people (those like Dr. Laura and Wendy McCaw) should have a public voice in this world. Doesn't she reralize that the web has democratized the means of publication, and alllowed those who might never publish to get their work out? Who says some anonymous person's daily life, truly examined, isn't as important as those lives we are constantly told are more fabulous than ours? At the least, hasn't this woman heard of Howard Zinn?

No, instead she quotes only part of a quote from that NYT article (it's so convenient to do all your reporting by repeating another working writer's quotes), comments by Wired's editor in chief Chris Anderson. The entirety of what he says is:

The finding that jumped out at me was the recognition that people are talking about the subjects that matter in their personal lives. It’s narrow, niche subjects. It’s a granularity of media that we in the commercial media could not scale down to. Niche media is ‘me’ media, and the blogosphere is the ultimate manifestation of that.

Guess what part Dr. Laura (of Physiology) quotes and how she spins that?

"Niche media is 'me' media, and the blogosphere is the ultimate manifestation of that," he said. That is all our society, and our city, need: more folks focused on themselves, esteeming themselves over respect for ideals and each other.

Oh please. Read some blogs and don't just read about them. Sure, blogs often focus in, but that doesn't necessarily mean focus on the bloggers themselves. Just think about the community of greyhound owners in the blogosphere, who are gaga about their dogs and hope that by sharing that enthusiasm they can save more dogs and maybe, someday, shutdown the cruelty of dog racing. That is pretty self-centered and narcissistic.

What our city of Santa Barbara needs is its daily newspaper back. Instead, it is run by a woman who esteems no one else and fails to respect the ethics of journalism or her fine staff that has tried to uphold those standards. Indeed here's a story from the San Jose Mercury News on Saturday:

The Society of Professional Journalists on Friday said it would give an ethics award to nine journalists who resigned from the Santa Barbara News-Press when they believed the paper's owner was meddling with editorial content.

"We pay tribute to the courage and principled sacrifice of these nine journalists, who opted to risk their livelihoods rather than remain in a position where they felt their journalistic ethics and professional credibility were being violated," SPJ President David Carlson said.


"SPJ traditionally steers clear of management-employee disputes," according to the statement. "Nevertheless, the society has concluded that the tumultuous events that led to the collective resignations at the Santa Barbara News-Press were precipitated by breaches in the newspaper's foremost ethical obligation --to its readers --and is proud to support those who have put ethical convictions about professional security."

Of course, it turns out that according to McCaw, this is just more evidence of the conspiracy to get her, for her response in the article is:

In the letter, McCaw denied inappropriately influencing editorial content. She also complained that SPJ investigators never sought more than a written statement from her. The allegations of ethical violations were one-sided and out of context, she wrote.

"We would urge you to carefully look at all the facts," wrote McCaw, who has previously said that the former employees had injected their personal opinions into the news coverage. "It is our belief that the SPJ is being used by this group to further their own personal and political agendas, and not as an expression of ethical principals."

Which reminds me of the old Daily Show line about how reality in Iraq is definitely anti-Bush.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Hitch in our Wok

It's been one wild week of celebrating escaping New Jersey nine years since the day I tricked Amy to marry me (sshhh, don't let her know her mistake!). On the anniversary itself we drove up to SB wine country for the first time in a while and had dinner at the Hitching Post II, now made famous thanks to Sideways. Indeed, we'd avoided the place since the movie, worried about too many drunken, failed novelist tourists lumbering in looking for Maya. The good news is it's as wonderful as ever, 40 miles but 40 years away from Santa Barbara--much more old California west, with relish trays and baskets piled with HiHo Crackers and iced tiny shrimp cocktail over finely diced celery. And steaks. Lots of 'em. My New York was wonderful, but Amy, as usual, picked better and went with a flat iron, which, it turns out, is not only one of my favorite buildings in Manhattan but darn tasty, too, somehow full of flavor yet absent of fat. The 2002 Hitching Post Cargassachi Vineyard Pinot Noir was equally, surprisingly balanced: rich in berries and stone fruits, low in alcohol (under 14%! from Santa Rita Hills?!), and hearty and earthy in its finish. Plus we served a HP Pinot as the red at our wedding reception way back in 1997, beating the Sideways crowd by a good 7 years. (Hint: if we continue to drink ahead of the crowd, Anderson Valley pinots will be all the rage soon.)

Then last night we drove all the way to LA to take a cooking class only to return hoping we can achieve mutual yum. Get your minds out of the gutter and into the galanga--we took a Thai curry class at the wonderful New School of Cooking with the talented, both as a chef and a teacher, Jet Tila. We'd often heard him on KCRW's Good Food, so he seemed like a wise choice to guide us to the green curry we'd always hoped to make and never quite pulled off, despite the purchase and use of arcane (for us) ingredients like kaffir lime leaves and tamarind paste. Well, thanks to his tips and tricks and recipes we can whip up a little something now (at least we could last night), so it's just figuring out what our balance of sweet, salty, spicy, and sour is and hope Amy's yum and mine are pretty similar. And this time I'm not just talking about the food--after all, we want to stay mairred for another 9, and another 9, and another 9....

Play with Me or Else

For Dog Blog Friday: Nigel and his new friend. The new friend's name is Breakfast.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wanna See Something Really Scary?

From the first victim in a war on TERROR is language file....

Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson, of London's Metropolitan Police, said the swoop by anti-terror police had disrupted a bid to cause "untold death and destruction" on flights between Britain and the United States.

"We can't stress too highly the severity that this plot represented. Put simply, this was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale," he told a news conference.

Unimaginable? After 9/11? After the daily news from Iraq? After the recent weeks of Hezbollah v. Israel? After movies and video games?

Not to mention, if the people who have to be wily enough to stop these things can't imagine them, how can they protect us?

Look, I don't doubt there are people plotting horrible things. But if we act as henny-penny when we stop their plot as we might act if the plot had succeeded, they've kind of won. After all, the goal is TERROR and the deaths in a way are merely collateral damage to the further end of making us not want to leave our beds in the morning. I won't even begin to get into the issue of the timing of this, and how with BushCo's past practice you can't help but wonder if it seemed like a good time to take out the fright masks and shout ooga booga again.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Stephen Colbert helped me put these offenders on notice--and you can make your own board by going here.

Joementum Gone Wild!

If you missed it, there was one of those eye-opening yet completely expected kind of profiles in the Los Angeles Times' West magazine this past Sunday about "Girls Gone Wild" porn mogul Joe Francis, the guy who figured out you could point cameras at drunk girls taking off their clothes and get stinking filthy rich. In addition to assaulting the author of the profile, there's a chilling passage when Francis follows up a photo shoot with a plastered "model:"

Eventually, Jannel Szyszka says, Francis told the cameraman to leave and pushed her back on the bed, undid his jeans and climbed on top of her. "I told him it hurt, and he kept doing it. And I keep telling him it hurts. I said, 'No' twice in the beginning, and during I started saying, 'Oh, my god, it hurts.' I kept telling him it hurt, but he kept going, and he said he was sorry but kissed me so I wouldn't keep talking."

Afterward, she says, Francis cleaned them both off with a paper towel and told her to get dressed. Then, she says, he opened the door and told the cameraman to come back, saying, "She's not a virgin anymore."

As frightening as Francis is, the article also seems to echo other current events. Go back and read the passage above, and replace Jannel Szyszka with Connecticut and Francis with Joe Lieberman, the man who hopes to date rape democracy by fucking over the state no matter how many times voters say no. There's not enough paper towels for you, Joe.

Friend and Dear Friend and a Planet's Encouragement

Today I get to celebrate the smartest thing I've ever done, as it was 9 years ago that I married Amy. Here's some Wallace Stevens for the occasion, which isn't quite right in its specifics but the emotions sure swell in all the right places.

The World as Meditation

Is it Ulysses that approaches from the east,
The interminable adventurer? The trees are mended.
That winter is washed away. Someone is moving

On the horizon and lifting himself up above it.
A form of fire approaches the cretonnes of Penelope,
Whose mere savage presence awakens the world in which she dwells.

She has composed, so long, a self with which to welcome him,
Companion to his self for her, which she imagined,
Two in a deep-founded sheltering, friend and dear friend.

The trees had been mended, as an essential exercise
In an inhuman meditation, larger than her own.
No winds like dogs watched over her at night.

She wanted nothing he could not bring her by coming alone.
She wanted no fetchings. His arms would be her necklace
And her belt, the final fortune of their desire.

But was it Ulysses? Or was it only the warmth of the sun
On her pillow? The thought kept beating in her like her heart.
The two kept beating together. It was only day.

It was Ulysses and it was not. Yet they had met,
Friend and dear friend and a planet's encouragement.
The barbarous strength within her would never fail.

She would talk a little to herself as she combed her hair,
Repeating his name with its patient syllables,
Never forgetting him that kept coming constantly so near.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What Do You Want, Wicker?

The Scotsman reports that all's not well in remake land (that's where Hollywood used to be, remember?). It seems the director of the original cult classic The Wicker Man is not at all pleased with what they're doing in the new version of his creepy film:

In the original, Woodward's character was a virgin, making him ideal for sacrifice. That element has been ditched from the remake, because it was thought that while audiences would accept the idea of an American community that practised human sacrifice, the idea of a grown-up virgin was just too farfetched.

Ah, that sums up America right now, doesn't it? Human sacrifice, no problem, but we'll be sure we let you get your rocks off before we off you.

Truth in Badger-tising

The AFP headline reports:

Elephants show capacity for compassion, scientists find

This breaking story was quickly followed by this news out of Washington: the Republican Party has chosen to change its symbol from the elephant to the honey badger.

All He Is Saying Is Give His Piece a Chance

Some stuff you can't make up (like that guy in the White House, for instance). According to the AP:

Gerald Lynn Kelley decided to protest the war in Iraq by walking along a highway in a cowboy hat and boots. Just a cowboy hat and boots.

He said he realizes he broke the law and does not encourage streaking, but he hopes the incident encourages people to speak out against the war. Kelley, 52, was charged with public lewdness in the July 30 incident.

"My dad told me years ago if you've got a stubborn mule, you've got to hit him across the head with a 2-by-4 in order to get his attention," he said.

Perhaps it's the size of Kelly's lumber that led to his arrest?

Monday, August 07, 2006

One Stupid Thing the News-Press Does to Further Destroy Itself

Here I am left wishing there was some way to go and cancel my subscription to the News-Press a second time, for as Editor & Publisher recently reported:

[Publisher Arthur] Von Wiesenberger noted the recent hiring of famed radio therapist Dr. Laura Schlessinger as a columnist, replacing [long-time, beloved Barney] Brantingham. "She approached us when she heard our columnist had departed," he said about the local resident. "[Her column] is very Santa Barbara-oriented. It is wonderful to see her take this on."

Laura Schlessinger, Ph.D. in physiology, the self-righteous, gay-bashing prick is also a scab. And you have to know that there's no worse thing I can call someone than a scab. But how else can someone of such dubious talents get ahead than by taking advantage of others' misfortunes?

Three Days Late and a Dog Blog Short

For Dog Blog FriMonday: Pose by Mookie, photo and PhotoShop by Amy.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Ain't It Fun

So here's an evening for you--my mom keeps complaining about the diarrhea (love that proper noun--it's like some plague in some novel) and she can't taste anything but thinks she should decide where we eat tomorrow night and this evening we go to dinner at one of my sister's where her husband is endlessly critical and I almost want to call him on it but he's the kind of guy where we'd have to actually, literally break into fisticuffs about it (I mean, I was a guest in his house? how dare I mention he treats my sister like shit!), and now it's been a Dogfish Imperial IPA and at least half a bottle of Marquis Phillips Sarah's Blend (but even that's sad as the Marquis and Dan Phillips had a big row and have split company) and now a healthy couple of fingers of Hangar One Mandarin Blossom, with its 80 proof kick kicking and I risk this turning into Peter Laughner's review of Coney Island Baby, but I've already way outlived him by almost two decades even if I never wrote "Sylvia Plath" or co-wrote "Final Solution," so someone outside the whole scene has to decide who wins there.

It's lovely to be in NJ.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Easily Uneasy

If only dial-up were the worst of my New Jersey problems (I've been on the internets for over an hour and viewed about 11 pages--the good news is I'm ready when Net Neutrality fails).

I keep trying to say to myself, "Be nice, George. Your mother has cancer."

And then she reminds me there are many cancers when from the other room I can hear her tell a friend, "Mel Gibson was drunk the other day, but what he said was right...."

It's comforting to then later go out to dinner with my dad and have him tell me, "Those people protesting supporting Hezbollah up in Boston, they should line them up and shoot them all with a 50 caliber machine gun."

At least their hates sort of balance each other out.
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