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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Al Gore Places Infant Son In Rocket To Escape Dying Planet

Absolutely hilarious. Thank you, The Onion. Make the jump and read the rest of this great article.

Jack Nicholson's 1970s HydroChevy

Jack Nicholson, my second favorite actor of all time (Mr. Bogart bests him), has always been cooler than tomorrow's headlines. In 1978, he and a group of investors brought to market a hydrogen Chevy. Sure, now we know this is bunk, but still a sweet flashback.

OK, I can't help myself. I know this this technology is unattainable, but I want to buy this car!

Is John McCain Stupid?

No, that's the real title of an editorial in the Wall Street Journal today by Daniel Henninger.

The one thing -- arguably the only thing -- the McCain candidacy has going for it is a sense among voters that they don't know what Barack Obama stands for or believes. Why then would Mr. McCain give voters reason to wonder the same thing about himself? You're supposed to sow doubt about the other guy, not do it to yourself.

John, John, John, with friends like these...right? What seems to have the right all up in arms this week is that McCain isn't staying on message like a brainless automaton, like...hmm, what's his name? Wood? Tree? I know it's something arboreal.

The reason McCain achieved any popularity is because he doesn't stay on message. It's his shtick. What, you expect Bob Hope to go blue?

John, you should have switched parties four years ago when Kerry offered you an out. These people never liked you, and now you just seem like a Wooderson at the dork party, trying to beat the squares at Clue.

Hey, at least all the baby-boomer media still think you're pretty cool.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Boy Blunder Update

If it wasn't bad enough that we're stuck sitting through the interminable last days of the Bush administration, we lucky residents of Illinois must also wait out the term of our Boy Blunder himself, Gov. Rod Blagojevich. It takes a lot to make me ponder whether you are a worse executive than Bush, but Rod does that on a near daily basis. One of the fringe benefits of an Obama election is that Rod may appoint himself Senator-designate, and then we would have him out of his North Side state house for good. Let Washington take him. If he remains here, I may send Robert Novak after him while he's jogging.

Rod can't get his fundraising bill passed, so he's taking the high road as usual and raising as much money from state contractors as he can, the Tribune reports.

The events are kept quiet and closed to the public. They're usually sponsored by top state lobbyists who, like the governor, work to keep details a secret. The Tribune learned about several of the undisclosed fundraisers and showed up to document the story behind the bi-annual campaign ledgers that Blagojevich is required by law to file.

After a photo opportunity to support Mississippi River flooding victims, a state plane sped Blagojevich back to Chicago and his state SUV dropped him at the door of Carlucci's restaurant in Rosemont to meet with clients of a top fundraiser, lobbyist Milan Petrovic.

On a different June night, another top fundraiser and lobbyist, John Wyma, was waiting inside Chicago's trendy Naha restaurant when the governor balked at the sight of Tribune reporters and photographers outside. With his security detail running interference, the governor dashed through a crowd of amused passers-by and into the restaurant.

Yikes! Poor Rod. He can't do anything but draw negative press coverage. Only in Illinois would a leader try to force fundraising reforms by abusing existing loopholes. Add to that his continued use of a state plane to fly him back and forth to his family because he won't move to Springfield, and many more months left in his term?

Washington, D.C. please take him. We're ready to transfer custody.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More AlternaFuel Hokum

What's a poor consumer to do? First, I thought we could achieve energy independence through ethanol. Well, it turns out that ethanol consumes more fuel being brought to market than it conserves in our vehicles. Bummer. Well, what about hydrogen vehicles? We can save money driving Mini-Hindenburgs, right? Wrong, says The New Atlantis.

The idea of hydrogen as the fuel of the future dates back to Jules Verne, and by the 1930s was a staple of science fiction. With the advent of nuclear energy after World War II, technologists expected that atomic power would provide electricity “too cheap to meter”—electricity that could be used to produce pure hydrogen at low cost, which could then be used as a fuel. By the 1970s, however, it was apparent that nuclear energy, while potentially competitive with conventional power, did not usher in a new golden age of cheap electricity. Still, researchers devoted to the idea of the “hydrogen economy” soldiered on, and with increased public concern about carbon dioxide emissions in the 1990s and about America’s dependence on foreign oil after 9/11, the pro-hydrogen crowd seized a new opportunity to make their pitch. Incredibly, the Bush administration swallowed it, hook, line, and sinker. As a result, over the past six years, billions of dollars have been dished out to national labs, auto companies, fuel-cell firms, and other beneficiaries of government largesse on hydrogen show projects that have no practical application.

Now, me and Sam Cooke have the same trouble. We don't know much about science. And I made a promise to myself sometime in 1994 that I would never be left alone with chemical equations again. Fortunately for me and Sam, Robert Zubrin makes this plenty of easy to understand, even as he tosses around terminology like kilojoules. Like a good episode of Mr. Wizard, for policy wonks.

The Failure of Conservative Foreign Policy

The New York Review of Books contains a fantastic piece by Samantha Powers this week on exactly how damaging the Bush Administration's actions have been for the world. Republicans have longed championed their ability to defend America. Powers uses two recent works, Us vs. Them: How a Half Century of Conservatism Has Undermined America’s Security by J. Peter Scoblic and Heads in the Sand: How the Republicans Screw Up Foreign Policy and Foreign Policy Screws Up the Democrats by Matthew Yglesias, to trace the arc of the conservative ideology that has led us to the failed wars in Iraq and Afganistan.

Scoblic shows that these men had in common several core premises. One cannot coexist with evil-doers, who are irreparably "fallen," and thus rollback is required. Negotiation is not merely pointless, it is costly "appeasement." And the United States should participate in only those international institutions that are servants of American power; those that constrain American power are enemies of the national interest.

Scoblic's book offers a terrifying glimpse of the persistent tendency of one militant strand of conservatism to pursue conflict over peace, arms races over arms control, and ideology over pragmatism. His analytic history is particularly strong in revealing how, in a world of uncontrolled forces, conservatives sought to impose complete control, whether by pursuing technological fixes (like the nuclear missile shield) or treating US security as if it were something that could simply be willed. Because many conservatives presume exceptional American virtue —and believe that this virtue is self-evident to others—they have also consistently failed to see how aggressive US actions can appear abroad, and how the fear they generate can give rise to threatening behavior by others, who believe they are acting in self-defense. Scoblic, who sympathetically describes Reagan's shift from denunciation to negotiation with Gorbachev over nuclear arms reduction, writes that it had not previously "even occurred" to Reagan

that adopting a war-fighting strategy, beginning a widespread civil defense program, researching a missile shield, while increasing the military budget by 35 percent, starting a new bomber program, deploying a new ICBM, and deploying missiles in Europe could be construed as threatening.

We liberals must remind everyone of the awful mistakes the Republicans have made, how much of a mess has been left for the next President. We must remind everyone that McCain intends to continue the same knee-jerk ideological foreign policy. What Powers does not mention, but should be added to this conversation, is how important war is to business. Killing people and blowing up stuff will always improve certain interests' bottom-line. It's about time the Halliburtons of the world did not dictate our foreign policy.

Terry Gross interviewed J. Peter Scoblic on today's Fresh Air.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Stanley Kubrick's Boxes

Genius never fails to captivate. This is true for the films of Stanley Kubrick. I remember watching 2001 on PBS when I was eight or nine. It started late, probably like 11. My mother came downstairs about when the prologue finished and said it was time for bed. I asked if I could stay up. I told her I needed to finish this. My mom knew how strangely obsessive I was about things, so she neither approved or disapproved. She just went upstairs.

2001 goes beyond film for me. Like many of Mr. Kubrick's creations, it almost seemed to inhabit its own media, separate and distinct from anything I had ever seen. It was a genre film, but intensely not so all at the same time. It contained amazing special effects, but was also lyrical and boundless. In short, the film contained many of the paradoxes that make viewing Kubrick's films a pleasure.

Here is a documentary about the boxes of research Kubrick left after his demise. If you are a fan, you need to watch this. If you admire genius, you need to watch this.

Why Crime Is High

A particular focus of the Chicago media over the last few weeks has been the spike in violence. The story is usually swept under the rug, but earlier this month there were shootings at the Taste of Chicago which could not be ignored. Mayor Daley is betting a large part of his legacy on bringing the Olympics to Chicago in 2016, and gun violence at the premier annual public event is sure to set off alarms.

Last weekend, I attended a Chicago cop wedding. The talk at the event centered on how unsafe Chicago was. A good friend of mine had given up working the special forces-style TACT unit because he felt isolated by the politicians and media. In the last year or so, there have been heavily covered stories of police misconduct. These stories led to the hiring of a new Police Commissioner, Jody Weis. Weis now finds himself on the hot seat, charged with the unenviable task of answering to politicians who won't hire more police and improving morale with an increasingly disaffected officer corps.

But the question no one is asking is why? The reason no one is asking this is because in the current economic crisis, no one wants to hear the answer: More police. And more jobs for the poor.

In the current issue of The Atlantic, Hanna Rosin gives us some insight into why the small cities of America (Memphis, St. Louis, Milwaukee, etc.) are suffering through crime waves. The answer stems from the missing skyline of poverty that used to border the eastern edge of the Dan Ryan. The ghetto has been demolished, but the misery has been exported to other areas of Chicago, the suburbs, and to neighboring states. Areas which had never seen gang violence now suffer from the urban plague.

Neek’s middle-class habits have made him, unwittingly, a perfect target
for homegrown gangs. Gang leaders, cut loose from the housing projects,
have adapted their recruiting efforts and operations to their new
setting. Lately, they’ve been going after “smart, intelligent,
go-to-college-looking kid[s], without gold teeth and medallions,” said
Sergeant Lambert Ross, an investigator with the Memphis Police.
Clean-cut kids serve the same function as American recruits for
al-Qaeda: they become the respectable front men. If a gang member gets
pulled over with guns or drugs, he can hand them to the college boy,
who has no prior record. The college boy, raised outside the projects,
might be dreaming of being the next 50 Cent, or might be too
intimidated not to join. Ross told me that his latest batch of arrests
involved several kids from two-car-garage families.

Neither candidate has made crime an issue, but it is only a matter of time before a crime so heinous is perpetrated that the focus will return to the recurring ills of inner-city poverty. Will either stand up and demand that government place economic development for the impoverished as a priority? Or will they demonize these communities? In today's political climate, I'm not too optimistic for increased government aid.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Alberto Gonzales Is The Center Of It All!

Slate provides an interactive guide to which people in the Bush Administration should be prosecuted and for what. The big winner, and the man at the middle of everything? Alberto Gonzales! Step on down, Alberto, and see what you won. A brand new job at a boutique industry law firm!

I hope Alberto knew he was going to be a bag man. The sad news is that there won't be any prosecutions of any of these individuals. Bush will grant ex post facto, superlegal immunity to all before he leaves office. But I do hope that Congress does call for an investigation, at least so that the evidence against all can be read into the public record.

Darth Novak Cited for Hitting Pedestrian

Robert Novak, perennial runner-up to Dick Cheney in the America's Most Evil Man contest, clipped a pedestrian on his way to work yesterday in his black Corvette according to Politico. Novak told the assembled press that he did not see the 66-year old pedestrian (I know, this story is great!), but was glad 'he's not dead'. A bicyclist spotted the incident and chased Novak and his end-life crisis mobile down K Street. He parked his bike in front of Novak and made a citizen's arrest, waiting for the police to arrive.

Oh, and it gets better. It turns the guy he hit was 86 and homeless. Priceless! Can you get a better example of Novak's contempt for America than this?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The American University Scam

Nothing gets my goat more than American higher education. Our institutions of higher learning continue to increase their tuition and fees at an extreme rate while not interrupting their boondoggling of our youth and their parents. Want a great job for Sally? Well, Sally better go to an Ivy. Not for the education, but for the status that it will set for her. The whole practice is unseemly, and the definition of undemocratic. And unfortunately, this scam receives almost no ink from the press.

Well, The New York Times corrects that today. Some young phone fundraiser for Brown or Columbia must have really struck some reporter's nerve, or else they've decided to chase economic stories that don't involve food or gas (finally!).

In January, the Senate Finance Committee requested detailed endowment and
spending data from 136 colleges and universities with endowments of at least
$500 million, with a possible eye to forcing them to spend at least 5 percent of
their assets each year, as foundations are required to do. Large, tax-free
endowments “should mean affordable education for more students, not just a
security blanket for colleges,” said Senator Charles
E. Grassley
, Republican of Iowa, who is reviewing the data.

Wow! You mean universities should use some of the money they raise to offset their higher costs, instead of just passing the bills to the student/consumer? What a crazy idea!

Wake up America. Today's college degree is primarily worthless unless you utilize a university's resources to find your dream job, or just want to learn a secret handshake. And even with all that, there's not much guarantee. Have your kid get a job, save their money, go to the local juco, and figure what they really want to do. Because university's breed confusion and exhaustion. That's how they keep you coming back for more degrees.

Related, a Harvard TA describes life at the square in The Times Higher Education.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Porn Getting The Shaft As Well

Wired reports that the porn industry is suffering through this economic downturn, as well. It seems the tentacles of this oil-economy can reach anything.

Well, there goes plan B. Guess I'm back to selling plasma.

Gizmodo Goes To LegoLand

The great toy site Gizmodo takes us on an exclusive tour of the Legos factory. Fantastic! If you are a big fan of process (like me) or the old Mr. Roger's how-tos (also me), you will love this.

I totally want to build the World's Largest Lego Tower. Again.

MSM to McCain: No Chance, Buddy

The Mainstream Media (MSM here in the blogosphere) has not yet canceled their Barack Obama Victory Tour. You can't get more MSM than Time, where Michael Grunwald writes that McCain doesn't stand a chance.
Last week, the McCain campaign's case against Barack Obama went something
like this: He's irresponsible when it comes to Iraq, naive when it comes to
Iran, and a big-government liberal when it comes to the economy. But now Iraqi
Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has more or less endorsed Obama's plan to
withdraw from Iraq, forcing McCain to argue that Maliki didn't really mean it,
and even the Bush administration has accepted a "time horizon" for withdrawal,
if not a precise "timetable." The Bush administration has also engaged in some
diplomatic outreach with Iran, just as Obama has recommended, a severe blow to
McCain's efforts to portray Obama's willingness to talk as appeasement. And on
the economy, a TIME/Rockefeller Foundation poll found that 82% of the country
supports more federal infrastructure spending designed to create jobs. When
big-government liberalism is all the rage, McCain's courage in opposing water
projects or the farm bill becomes less of a selling point.
Wow. Part of me is still incredulous as to the glowing press Obama has received. Where was this press for Kerry or Gore? Nowhere to be found, I guess. Mostly because Kerry and Gore could wave eight balls around and get ignored by a junkie. Obama has fully recovered from his ghastly FISA vote. The New Yorker imbroglio makes him look sympathetic, and this week's world tour makes him look like the Anti-Bush.

Two things to be pleased about: One, the Rove Machine has not found a way to confound the media into spouting the Republican message. The story remains the crowds and money Barack attracts. Two, (and miraculously for Barack (the man most have a horseshoe jammed up somewhere)) the spineless Iraqi government has grown a pair over the last month and completely changed the context of the Iraq issue into one of national sovereignty. They don't want us there, and they're (finally!) ready to face the consequences. I've never said this, but-kudos to you, Maliki.

I am not optimistic that this will remain true, however. We have less than four months left, and the networks will be under great pressure to make this election as close as possible. Expect more positive McCain coverage in the next few months, as the MSM makes a mad attempt to make their made-for-TV spectacle as close as possible.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Who Made Steve Guttenberg A Star?

Not had a good laugh yet today? Steve Guttenberg crawls out of the hole he has been in to grant an interview with The New York Observer and make a complete ass out of himself. He goes third-person, nickname-style. And shares this personal insight:
After his morning jog, he hits the gym in his building; he lives in the
Reebok Condo on Columbus Avenue and 67th Street. “I’ve tried to stay fit, you
know, because it’s my instrument, this is my violin,” he said, gesturing over
his body. “I play the violin. So I want to keep it tuned up …. So I work out
there during the day, and then I write.”
What a pompous ass! Dude, your violin is supporting Jessica Simpson in her next movie.

I also needed to justify posting that great picture.

On Covers and the Meaning Behind Them

Slate had a great piece Friday on cover versions and what they communicate. It seems Noel Gallagher (resident twat from Oasis) and Jay-Z were embroiled in a war of words. Noel, in his position as Lord Overseer of British Pop (unelected and, unfortunately, unignored), stated that Jay-Z shouldn't headline Glastonbury because it's a 'rock' festival. So Jay-Z opened his set with a mocking version of 'Wonderwall,' mumbling the lyrics and purposelessly strumming a guitar. Pretty brilliant move, IMHO, considering the venue.

What Jonah Weiner brings up in his piece also troubled me at Pitchfork. Mockery definitely has a place in music, but irony really doesn't-especially in pop. This came to my mind during the King Khan set I saw at Bottom Lounge Saturday night. King Khan present an indie r&b revue to their audience, and it has all the fixings. Costumes. Horns. Choreagraphed patter and dance moves. And as a huge r&b nut, the first song did move me. But after two or three more songs I realized that the whole set was shtick. King Khan and his cohorts may actually love '60s soul, but their version of it is way too aware of itself and bent on self-mockery. If you are going to satire art, it always helps if you actually look like you appreciate that in which you give the piss. Otherwise, it comes off as mean and snarky.

The other weird, fantastic connection in the piece was the link to Alanis Morrisette's version of 'My Humps'.

Pretty great. The person who posted it to YouTube was my good friend Kevin, who lives in L.A. Crazy, odd, getting-incredibly-smaller world we live in.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Last Call 6/17/08

Jeez, so this is easy publication, huh? My rep told me I'd be getting space in Spin, and then no, the new Crawdaddy, and now it's a blog?! I left my Halliburton job in Iraq for this? Hmm...I guess I shouldn't complain. Mike has promised me I won't be invited to his wedding, so that's worth its weight in gold.

Well, lots of new music since we last touched base. This weekend is the Fourth Annual World Do You Own A Mirror Convention and Fair, otherwise known as the Pitchfork Music Festival. Ya know what? I missed those silly bastards with their bandanas and ugly sunglasses. Many, many excellent bands will be plying their trade, and today I am sharing a song with you from one of them-Vampire Weekend.

I don't want to like Vampire Weekend. First, they all come from an ivy league school (Columbia (I'm sure their parents are very proud)). Second, they describe their sound as "Upper West Side Soweto." Third, they cite Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon as influences. At this point I should be flailing about as if on fire. But then a funny thing happened. I downloaded their session from (The Always Excellent) Daytrotter site. And then this lovely melody, M79, filled the air.

M79 is a song constructed with pure rhythmic details. It is the kind of song that makes you want summer, and since it is summer, makes you want to run out of your house arms open, and then run backwards, and than run forward (Monkees-style). I see the guitar and piano on a porch, watching the drum and bass walk down the street with their new shoes and slicked-back hair, and thinking to themselves, "Hell, we can follow that groove!" And they do, contributing a wonderfully rythmic melody. The vocals play as an instrument as well (Daytrotter = live), riding the melody. And the shouted chorus! I'm always a fan of "oh whoah oh whoah" (unless it's Sting). At the bridge, we have the drum and bass. Thunk thunk thunk thunk. They're bouncing the ball off your wall, begging you and the rest of the band to come out and play. "Charm your way across the Khyber Pass" is witty, and contextually brilliant. I hope our next President can charm his way across the Khyber Pass. Then bang, the tinkly piano comes back and yeah, we're at the beginning! Hear the bass gurgle? One of my alltime fave effects.

The Hold Steady forum had a thread about great positive music, and this is that to me. At the time of the session this song was still unreleased. I've never heard the studio version 'cause how could it be more joyful than this? I totally allow you to make this your summer jam. Imagine Vampire Weekend playing it for you and only your best friends. Everything's sunny, everyone looks great. No one has a bandana around their neck.

Hmmm...If only Saturday could be like that.

Check back in Monday (or Tuesday, depending on how the body feels) to hear much more about the Fest.

With photos. If I can figure out my phone.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My First President

Ladies and gentlemen, Shambollocks is excited to introduce a new series today with our official 2008 Presidential election correspondent, Cate Ryan. Cate will be sharing her experiences over the next few months as she readies herself for the Biggest Decision of her life- how to drop her 8:30 Rhetoric 101.

Take it away, Cate.

How many 18-year-olds relate to their middle-aged fathers on a personal level? OK, now how many 18-year-olds relate to their grandfathers on any level? Not many. Unless you know a lot of 18-year-olds who've ditched their technology- obsessed, short attention-spanned generation in favor of whatever it is that people older than 30 do - spend time with their families? read old books? play chess at parks? lose their bifocals on their heads?

This 18-year-old does not find it easy to relate to people twice, let alone three times my age. And it may seem like I'm being insensitive; that I'm just another immature teenager implementing ageism to express the lack of connection which exists among various generations. In fact, the latter assumption may, and probably is, true.

However, I make these comments on age and the differences that result when decades separate people because it just so happens that I became a legal "adult" during a very important year indeed. And unless you've been on an island with Tom Hanks [or in Austria- Ed.] for the last year, you probably know where I'm going. The economy is down, the war is raging, and the big W's time is soon up (Wow. Eight years. Time sure does fly…) which means… it's time for a new man, I mean person, (but all political correctness aside, it is man) in charge. It's election year and the American political party, well parties, are in full swing. The date is set, the invitations have been sent, food and drink are on the way - all that's left to decide is the guest of honor!

Ok, now that that's all figured out, I'm placed in a very special situation. Don't get me wrong, I've R.S.V.Ped to this November bash, but I've also heard that it's proper etiquette to know who you prefer as guest of honor before you attend. It's up to me to figure out to whom I'd rather give a nondescript plant, make small talk, and compliment about living room painting choices. I mean, this person is going to be ruling one of, if not the, most powerful social circles - I mean nations - in the world. Who's going to make me feel the most comfortable and have my back when I spill my drink all over myself? And who's going to continue to help me out for four years straight? It's hard to have my favorite television show remain loyal to me for that long, let alone a real person. [True dat, Cate. I'm looking in your direction, Party of Five!-Ed.]

As you can see, I'm finding it difficult to decipher between the rhetorically charged, stadium-filling, "youthful" Obama and the straighter-laced, not-so-youthful McCain. Both look like nice guys, but they have money and money allows people to be dressed and groomed to look like nice guys. (That's not to say I don't think one can dress themself well. One can, but one doesn't.) They both seem educated but that's only because they've had excellent educations and have staffs that tell them what they need to know. In the end, both have survived a grueling primary race - a decathlon of unrelated, puzzling and uncontroversial events - and ended up as their party's presumptive nominee.

I've got about four months to decide between the two. Can I believe in the change Obama promises, along with the hefty money needed to make those changes? Can I risk another 4 to 8 years (more likely four – he's not getting any younger) of Republican dominance? Everyone else has an opinion, but what's mine?

I personally like Chris Rock's take on McCain's chance at the presidency: "How you going to make decisions about the future when you aren't going to be here?"

Well, I am going to be here and I want my president to be looking out for me just like everyone wants to feel welcomed at the party. And before my vote can tell the Man "nobody puts baby in the corner", first thing's first: time to register.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Woman Hit By Lightning

Very intense. Seems she was leaning out her second floor balcony and had her hand on a metal railing.

I think the same thing happened once to Gene Simmons. Or maybe it was Keith Moon.

More Inglorious Bastards Info

Yes, we at Shambollocks are officially head-over-heels excited about Tarantino's WWII epic Inglorious Bastards (or Inglourious Bastards, as it is misspelled on New York magazine's copy of the script). The article reveals some secrets, and what it reveals sounds awesome. All I'm saying is Brad Pitt, Nazis, and scalping.

Gee, I heard some Batman film is coming out in a week? Yawn.

Anxiously await word on when we can see this, QT!

Side note: Introduced my best friend and fellow film lover to Death Proof over the weekend. He loved it. If you haven't had the chance yet, rent this seperate from the Rodriguez mess with which it was released. Great flick, great kills, just more proof on how our man Tarantino can do no wrong.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Barack in the Middle

So Barack is getting it pretty good of late from us liberals. Seems some of us thought that we had a leader on our hands, someone who would fight for some key guarantees we Americans take for granted.

It turns out we were wrong. Barack has decided that now is not the right time for controversial votes, so he up and gave Bush what he wanted on FISA. In today's New York Times, Gail Collins writes that this is what Barack preached all along. Apparently, we liberals were duped. According to Gail, the FISA vote:

Put[s] some restrictions on the government’s ability to wiretap[, and] is
better than nothing, even though he [Barack] would rather have gone

Really? Because to me the vote legalizes the criminal actions of this administration and the telecom industry while allowing for increasing privacy violations.

Barack is the one who has been duped, Gail. And he and his advisors better get back on point before bad votes like this leave a stain his charisma can't clean.

God and Gas

I was much more comfortable when the crazy religious people in this country were white. White people crazy about God are oddly comforting. But this year, thanks to Rev. Wright, is the year of the Crazy Black Preacher. Along these lines, The Washington Post writes about one Rocky Twymann. Rocky is making high gas prices a civil rights issue, and in so doing, bringing God with him.

Rocky, God won't bring gas prices down. But you can. By doing one thing.


I have had it up to here with the non-stop gasoline price story. I wish the MSM would focus on real economic issues, like the low credit rating Freddie Mae received this week. But no, instead we get dumbed down, knee-jerk pieces on how gas is spiraling out of control.

Yes, gas is expensive. When a product is too expensive, you adapt your lifestyle to deal with the raised price. Shambollocks' Editorial Board advice? Use less of it. Gas is not coming back down. Ever.

Let God get back to his important work of having his emissaries appear on plantain leaves in Latin America.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sascha Baron Cohen Spotted in Middle East

Israeli and Palestinian talking heads have fallen prey to Sacha Baron Cohen, according to The Jewish Daily Forward (what, you don't read it over your gnosh?). They appear to be taking it in good spirits, although worried that Cohen is about to make comedic gold out of their tragic circumstances.

Book it, Yossi. And I can't wait to watch.

I wonder how much of these reactions by those filmed is created by the film's producers themselves. Hmmmm.

Elvis With Cuppa

Photographer Steve Schofield has portraits of US pop-culture consumers in the British suburbs.

No one captures my dorkiness artfully.

New Tom Wolfe

At best, I and all other bloggers are just poor pale comparisons of that unwieldy God of Journalism, Tom Wolfe. Anything he writes is an event to me. I don't care how faint his feel of today's American pulse is. The man's words are a scald to all those who consider a browse through US Weekly or In Touch as enough for them to state they are well-informed.

He has a new piece in this month's New York on the mag's founder, Clay Felker-a man of whom I've never heard. Here's the opening paragraph:

I took a second look—I was right the first time. The man’s shirt had a
button-down collar … and … French cuffs with engraved gold cuff links … a boy’s
lolly boarding-school collar … and … a set of cuffs from a partners meeting at
Debevoise & Plimpton … This shirt had to be custom-made … had to be.
Likewise, the man’s jacket … Catch the high armholes and the narrow cut of the
sleeves. They clear the French cuffs by a precise eighth of an inch. They’re
just short enough—just so!—to reveal the gold cuff links and not a sixteenth of
an inch shorter. Check out the shoes!—brown leather cap-toed English oxfords
custom-fitted so closely to his high-arched feet, they look absolutely petite,
his feet do, as if he were some unaccountably great strapping Chinese maiden
whose feet had been bound in infancy to make sure they would be forever tiny at
teatime … I could not imagine how a man his size, six feet tall and 200 pounds
at the very least, with a big neck, a burly build, a square-jawed face, could
possibly rise up from his chair here in a little bullpen slapped together out of
four-foot-high partitions in the sludge-caked exposed-pipe-joint offices of a
newspaper not long for this world, the New York Herald Tribune, and support
himself, no hands, teetering atop that implausibly little pair of high-arched
bench-made British cap-toed cinderella shoes.

Makes me want to go back to teaching. Preschool.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Thanks, Native Americans...

If you're like me, you are probably exhausted by the grievances each individual niche holds in our American potpurri (face it, no one tries to melt anymore). African-Americans want a national apology for slavery, hard-core vegans want you to apologize for eating meat, and Bush-haters want him to apologize for hurting the country. Lots of wounded feelings, all around.

Right when I want to say, "Get over it" I realize I suffer my own grievances, carrying torches for slights which would be much better extinguished. And then I read an article like this from American Public Media on how Native Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, and I think, "Wow, how classy and enlightened."

So it makes sense that, growing up, the Fourth of July would be a dark day
for Hudson, a sad tribute to the country that tried and tried again to
exterminate its native people and their culture. But it wasn't -- for Hudson,
the Fourth meant "summertime, family, fireworks. You can't wait for the
fireworks. As a kid you look forward to that celebration."

Hudson was not alone. Across the Fort Berthold Reservation-- what was
left of it-- people partied on the Fourth of July. Sno Cones and barbecues,
weaved together with older, indigenous traditions like powwows that would last
deep into the night.

At the center of the festivities was the drum. "The beat of the drum
means everything in the powwow," Hudson says. "It signifies the heart beat of a
people. There are different types of dances, ceremonies, give-aways,

People heal, and difference is celebrated. What a novel idea. We can all learn from this.

The Showbiz Pizza Band!

My folks never took me to Disneyland or DisneyWorld, so my first experience with the wonderful world of animatronics was the Showbiz Pizza which opened next to Venture on 95th and Pulaski. It soon became the cool kid's birthday party venue of choice (we still rocked my folk's basement). The highlights of Showbiz trips were visits from Chuck E Cheese (poor bastard), and a personalized serenade by the Showbiz Band. Totally freaked me out. With all the buzzes, flashes, and general funks of one too many kids who just had accidents, I could not stand Showbiz. And than to top it off I had to watch a Croft-like animatronic band of animals leer at us with their dead robot eyes? No thanks.

But now, it's awesome.

How soon does some club buy a version of this band off eBay and do this every night?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Dress Like A Stepford Mormon

You sat at home throughout the news of the Yearning for Zion raid, and later court actions, and your first thought wasn't, "These are some severely brainwashed and backward-ass women," but "I would look terrific in one of those Laura Ingalls Wilder dresses these ladies rock." You're in luck! You can buy the dresses here, at the Church's website. Yes, you too can look like the accomodator for the rape of your own daughters!

Next time some conservative wingnut tries to state that urbanites live in pestilence and sin, someone remind him about this group of rapists out in the Texas bush.

Seriously, anyone else want to vote Texas and Florida out of the union?

From an article in the Times.

Friday, July 4, 2008

American Intelligence Success

Maybe it's because today is the 4th, but I feel a blog that is consistently critical of U.S. intelligence agencies and their capabilities should give a shout out when credit is due. Our intel and servicemen were key in rescuing Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and a few Americans from the FARC two days ago in Colombia. The BBC has a great recap here.

The best news is it all went down, bad guys taken out, good guys alive and well, without a shot fired.

Bravo, U.S. military and intelligence.

Happy Fourth of July to everyone else. Congratulations on 232 years of a (mostly) successful experiment!

Christopher Hitchens Visits Room 101

Overweight, out-of-shape, alchoholic Christopher Hitchens chose to be waterboarded on video for Vanity Fair. Hitchens has been a defender of torture for terrorism suspects, and his primary assumption is that the intelligence agencies do everything not to kill their detainees. Therefore, how tortuous can it be?

Watch the video. That's torture, baby. Hitchens 'fesses to this here:

Also, in case it’s of interest, I have since woken up trying to push the
bedcovers off my face, and if I do anything that makes me short of breath I find
myself clawing at the air with a horrible sensation of smothering and
claustrophobia. No doubt this will pass. As if detecting my misery and shame,
one of my interrogators comfortingly said, “Any time is a long time when you’re
breathing water.” I could have hugged him for saying so, and just then I was hit
with a ghastly sense of the sadomasochistic dimension that underlies the
relationship between the torturer and the tortured. I apply the Abraham Lincoln
test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well,
then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing
as torture.

Hitchens will next be dressing up in drag and performing at comedy clubs to prove his theory that women aren't funny.

Dennis Haysbert Needs A Reality Check!

According to CNN, Dennis Haysbert believes that David Palmer (the FICTIONAL president he played on 24) opened the doors for Barack Obama.

"If anything, my portrayal of David Palmer, I think, may have helped open
the eyes of the American people," said the actor, who has contributed $2,300 to
the Illinois Democrat's presidential campaign.
"And I mean the American
people from across the board -- from the poorest to the richest, every color and
creed, every religious base -- to prove the possibility there could be an
African-American president, a female president, any type of president that puts
the people first," he said Tuesday.

Come on, Dennis. You seem a pretty reasonable guy. Why make statements that make you look like an unbelievable ass? I, actually, think it's Morgan Freeman who made it cool to be a black President. Morgan played God, for crying out loud. Try to top that, Haysbert!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Why You Just Paid More

Carol Marin writes a fantastic column in today's Sun-Times about where we can place the blame for the higher expenses we Cook County residents bore witness to yesterday.

Then again, what we don't need is what Stroger has offered in terms of
leadership. He runs a government that spits in the eye of the taxpayers who
support it. It is an 8th Ward fiefdom in which friends, relatives and precinct
workers get high-paying, often six-figure jobs whether they have credentials to
do the work or not.

Reform efforts are more often than not thwarted by Stroger allies who like
things just the way they are.

The only way to solve the Todd fiasco is to get him out of office. Cook County is the most inefficient and corrupt government this side of Panama. Educate yourself! The County takes more out of our pockets than the feds, state, or city.

Make Todd history in '10!

Fortieth Anniversary of Paris Protests

Over forty years ago this year, middle-class Parisians, teachers, and students took to the streets of their city to protest the poverty and unemployment which they had been subjected to by the de Gaulle government. Students and faculty took over the Ecole des Beaux Arts and formed the Atelier Populaire. The Atelier Populaire paperbilled the cities with a series of screens. Creative Review features a number of these posters from an exhibit at the Hayward Project Space in London.

The Paris street protests took down de Gaulle's government and ushered in the social protections which would become standard all over Western Europe. All in all, these protestors were much more able than our own. An interesting look back, and some fascinating street art.

Your New Milk Jug

I'm a big fan of process. I loved when Mr. Rogers would show us how your mail arrives, or how milk gets to your table. Well, watch out. Our milk is changing. It's getting square.

I felt like George Costanza a few months ago when I ran into the new carton at my folks (they're so hip it hurts). George believes that toilet paper will never change, and I thought milk delivery would remain the same. It isn't. According to the New York Times, the new cartons are greener and cheaper. Cheaper they must be, or Bill Brett would never have it in his house.

Get ready to learn how to pour milk-all over again.

The Boss and Alejandro Escovedo

A few weeks ago, Alejandro Escovedo (a Shambollocks favorite) found himself playing in his home state in front of the largest audience he ever entertained. All courtesy of the Boss, natch.

Alejandro told the Tribune's Greg Kot:

“I shook his hand for the first time ever a few hours before the show,” says Escovedo of Springsteen, the hook-up brokered by their mutual manager, Jon Landau. “We sat in his dressing room and ran down the song acoustically with the band. Later, before I went on stage, I was scared to death. But about halfway though [the song], the fear started to melt away and I just had the time of my life. I told everyone it’s like dropping into a 30-foot wave: You’ve got to go for it, and I did not want to die in front of 18,000 people.”

Escovedo will play the Taste with Old 97s this Friday at Grant Park. K and I won't be there (boo!) because of a previous engagement.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Poetry, Metaphysics, and Looney Tunes

The Warner Bros. cartoons of the '30s and '40s reside on a pinnacle of animation with their Disney feature-length peers from that time and, more recently, the Pixar films (can't wait to see Wall-E this weekend). Bugs, Porky, and Daffy lead a crew of characters who closely engage in a completely visceral universe where the laws of normal human behavior and nature are besides the point. The whole point is to get the laugh. The method which generates the laughter, the sheer madness of their pursuits and misadventures, inspires a sense of child-like awe in even the most jaded viewer.

And it inspires poetry.

The Wall Street Journal has a great article by former poet laureate Billy Collins on how Looney Tunes has effected his art. Billy is absolutely correct that artists recycle influence lists, and what is most influential is the stuff subsumed into the culture.