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Friday, August 29, 2008

The 'Story' Behind Welcome To The Jungle

New York Magazine has an excerpt from Stephen Davis' Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N' Roses. The excerpt relates how Axl Rose (then Bill Bailey) came to find the refrain for his band's first big hit. I put the word story in quotes because Davis wrote Hammer of the Gods, a wildly entertaining if oft-refuted biography of Led Zeppelin. Davis gave our culture the story of Led's stay at a hotel in Seattle, which led to the bumper sticker on Troy McClure's DeLorean 'I [Heart] Sea World'. Yes, this is how my brain works. You don't want to be there. But I digress.

To Bill and his friend, it was bedlam, a Caribbean neighborhood in Washington Heights with a funky street scene of bodegas and shouting kids playing under open hydrants, crones yelling out of windows in Spanish, idlers under shop awnings, hustlers working the corners of 177th and Broadway. Bill and Paul, from Tippecanoe County in Indiana, were the only white faces in a sea of black people, Puerto Ricans, Jamaicans, Dominicans, Muslim women in veils, Haitians, Hindus, Chinese shopkeepers, and lots of kids immediately picking up on two white boys who'd just climbed out of the hellish Cross Bronx like hayseed mountaineers in cowboy boots, blue jeans, and very long straight hair. The boys just stood and gaped, checking out this scene. "Rapper's Delight," bass-heavy hip-hop, blasted out of a bodega speaker. Lurid graffiti covered every flat surface. Kids were busting moves — break dancing — on the sidewalk. Bill Bailey had never seen this before. Basically, there weren't any black people in his part of Indiana, so they might as well have been in Senegal.

Now an old man limped over to them. He gave them the once-over, seeming to linger over Bill's cowboy boots. Bill was becoming uneasy now, his friend noticed, which was never a good thing, because, when agitated or upset, Bill's behavior could get a little out there. Finally, the old man spoke, or rather squawked, in a high-pitched shriek.


The boys, taken aback, just looked at him.


Bill Bailey said, "Uh, we're just trying to get to…"


Bill Bailey — the future W. Axl Rose — just stared at him in wonderment. And then the little old man wound himself up to his full fury and told these white boys what they could expect from New York City at the tail end of the seventies: years of bankruptcy, endemic crime, corruption, decadence — the gateway to the eighties and the scourge of AIDS. He told it to them straight from the gut:


Either way, great 'story'.

A Swiss Army Knife, A Roll Of Duct Tape, & A Man

MacGyver sure knew how to rescue people. The man with the Scottish last name arrived in town, undid a nuclear missile with a paper clip, and left behind a tidy pile of separated recyclables. Wikipedia has an entry listing all the mad solutions this amiable rogue scientist used to get himself out of situations which would baffle Houdini. A few of my favorites:

Pilot (1x01)

MacGyver defuses a highly advanced nuclear warhead using a paper clip to short circuit the timing device.

MacGyver places a stick through the trigger of an AK-47 and hangs it from a tree with some string. He then attaches a paper match packet to the string and lights the matches, using them as a time delay. The AK-47 falls to the ground with the stick still attached to the trigger, causing the AK to fire and distract some guards.

He also makes a "Rocket Thruster" by hitting the end of a flare gun with a rock to make the nozzle thinner, launching him and a man he rescues from a mountain. Not only would the thrust produced from a gun of that size be unable to lift the weight of two human beings, flare guns fire projectiles. The more realistic result would be a jam at the end of the gun, much like if you bent the barrel of a normal gun.

When near a deadly laser grid, MacGyver lights a pack of cigarettes to make the lasers visible. He then smashes a pair of binoculars, removing a prism to deflect a laser beam back to the emitter, destroying it.

To help rescue a group of people trapped in a building, he ties a fire hose shut, places it under a girder in the way, and turns on the water. Using the water pressure to lift the girder, he pushes it out of the way.

MacGyver plugs a sulfuric acid leak with chocolate. He states that chocolate contains lactose and sucrose (chemically C12H22O11), which are disaccharides. The acid reacts with the sugars to form elemental carbon and a thick gummy residue. (This has been tested and confirmed by Mythbusters).

MacGyver creates a bomb to open a door using a gelatin cold capsule containing sodium metal, which he then places in a glass container filled with water. When the gelatin dissolves in the water, the sodium reacts violently with the water and causes an explosion which blows a hole in the wall. ("MythBusters" questioned the size of the explosion but verified that pure sodium does cause an exothermic reaction when mixed with water, just not enough to destroy a concrete wall.) The amount of sodium required to destroy a concrete wall would greatly exceed the size of a cold pill.

The Gauntlet (1x02)

MacGyver is in a room trying to get out, but sees the key in the other side of the locked door. He takes out a map, unfurls it and sticks it under the door. He then pushes the key out of the lock using his Swiss Army knife, which lands on the map. He then drags the map back under the door, thereby getting the key to unlock him from the room.

In order to disguise himself, MacGyver rolls up the same map and uses it as a peashooter to distract a woman who was washing some clothes.

To get away from a guard with a gun aimed at him, he wraps the same map around an iron bar to disguise the bar from the guard. He first bats away the gun and then slugs guard in the chest with it.

MacGyver uses the same map again as a makeshift sled to slide down sand dunes to get away from the guards chasing him.

While escaping the guards, one of them shoots a bullet through the side of the balloon he is escaping in. He uses the same map and some duct tape to patch a hole over the balloon fabric and escape.

Thief of Budapest (1x04)

MacGyver uses a board and a bunch of light bulbs to simulate the sound of a tire being blown.

He uses salt combined with sugar and a small amount of chemical enhanced weed killer to create dynamite with a battery acid trigger.

He also creates a magnifying glass from a hairpin and wine to read names of spies off a watch.

He creates a traffic jam by jamming the timing mechanism for the traffic lights using cut strips of a plastic credit card.

He makes all police radios within a one mile (1.6 km) radius malfunction by duct taping an ordinary transistor radio to a pick-pocketed police radio and sends it up in the sky using around twenty balloons.

Who am I kidding? They're all great.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Iraq Now

Shambollocks prides itself it on providing educated differing opinions on the issues that most affect our country. One of the motivating issues for our editorial board is the war in Iraq. It is the standing recommendation here, and it will be until it becomes reality, that American troops be brought home ASAP. John McCain believes that America needs to stay in Iraq until the job is done, whenever and whatever that means.

The truth is that Bush's 'surge' has resulted in a more stable Iraq. Foreign Affairs, a premier foreign policy publication, states that there should be no forced withdrawal of American forces.

If the prognosis in Iraq were hopelessly grim, it might make sense for the United States to threaten withdrawal, hold its breath, and hope for the best. But the prognosis is now much more promising than it has been in years, making a threat of withdrawal far from necessary. With a degree of patience, the United States can build on a pattern of positive change in Iraq that offers it a chance to draw down troops soon without giving up hope for sustained stability.

The article affirms the importance of upcoming Iraqi elections, in which the major Sunni parties intend to participate, in creating a more united Iraq. I do not place much confidence in the results of elections to create stability. The elections in Palestine in 2006 showed that open elections do not ensure victories for pro-American parties. Yes, the elections later this year and next year in Iraq may very well create a functioning state that no longer needs our assistance. Alternatively, they could result in the same fractured government which exists now, further guaranteeing the need for American security. Stating a firm withdrawal date is risky. It would put Iraq's leaders feet to the fire. It very well could backfire. But we as a nation do not have a responsibility to Iraq to remain until they agree to compromise and completely disarm their sectarian militias. We can ask our ally England how long that took in Northern Ireland.

A firm withdrawal date lets every Iraqi citizen know the true stake of their vote. And it also proclaims to our hard-working servicemen that there is an end in sight.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ahmet Ertegun and the Music We Love

Ahmet Ertegun died last year. You may have heard it in the news, and seen a picture of someone who looked like a '70s retread. Well, that man had as much to do with inventing rock n' roll as any performer. Ahmet co-founded and ran Atlantic Records, the most successful independent record label of all time. He recorded Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin. Later his label released records by Crosby, Stills, and Nash, the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin.

The New Yorker's George W. S. Trow wrote a marvelous profile of Ahmet in 1978. If you love rock music like Shambollocks does, you need to read this piece. It carries a bit of the publication's snootiness, but gives a crystalline vision of what it meant to be in rock in the '70s, when the coolness faded and money became paramount.

The record business is not, in its essence, picturesque. The processes of the work are straightforward, and while it is true that behind the scenes there are several coherent styles in operation, these styles (the style of engineers of twenty-seven or thirty-four with long hair and a nose for drugs; the style of press agents of twenty-seven or thirty-four with one small item of Vuitton and a nose for drugs; the style implied by stencilled T-shirts and access to rented limousines) lack the air of ingenious contrivance that was formerly found in the movie industry, for instance. There was about the old movie industry a feeling that adolescents—adolescent actors and adolescent moguls—were dressing up to play-act as adults. The superior candor of the record business has resulted in a formal recognition of adolescent styles. Styles that must be a little jittery, however, since they are juxtaposed with the real work of a cutthroat business.

If you wanted to know why the Ramones saved rock n' roll, read this article.

Only In America!

Only in a America can a right-wing, wingnut, web troll top the New York Times' bestseller list. Jerome Corsi, he of 2004's error-filled Unfit For Command, is back this year with Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality. You could not make up a guy like this. And because no one could, The Nation provides a great profile of the conservative dean of fiction.

After fleecing people in some crazy real-estate deal in Poland, Corsi made a name for himself as the scourge of the conservative blogosphere.

In a comment typical of the dozens he posted under the handle "jrlc," Corsi wrote, "Anybody ask why HELLary couldn't keep BJ Bill satisfied? Not lesbo or anything, is she?" In another, he ranted, "Isn't the Democratic Party the official SODOMIZER PROTECTION ASSOCIATION of AMERICA--oh, I forgot, it was just an accident that Clintoon's [sic] first act in office was to promote 'gays in the military.' RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters--it all goes together."

It gets better. After writing Unfit for Command, Corsi faded from the public spotlight. He returned by announcing his candidacy for the nomination of the far-right Constitution party.

In early 2007, Corsi huddled with an old friend, Howard Phillips, a veteran conservative operative who had attempted to organize the anti-government militia movement into a cohesive political bloc during the 1990s. Corsi emerged from their discussion convinced of his destiny. He would declare his campaign for the presidential nomination of the ultra-right Constitution Party, enthusiastically embrace the party's call for a complete halt on immigration, banning abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and upholding its official platform that the "US Constitution established a Republic under God, rather than a democracy." With this momentous announcement, Corsi hoped to cast himself as the last, best hope to save America from the godless, globalist duocracy conspiring to merge the United States, Mexico and Canada into a "North American Union." (His latest flop, published in 2007, was a screed entitled, The Late Great USA: The Coming Merger with Mexico and Canada.)

In July 2007, Corsi spoke before the Texas Constitution Party. At the time, he remained focused on foiling the ambitions of Hillary and Bill Clinton. "I don't want Bill Clinton anywhere near the White House," Corsi proclaimed. "We had enough serial rape going on when he was President." But Corsi didn't want a Republican in the White House either, especially not Senator John McCain. The war-scarred McCain, Corsi wrote in a column for the far-right webzine WorldNetDaily, is a possible jihadist dupe who "has enjoyed strong support from a lobbying group that backs...a Muslim terrorist group with ties to criminal drug networks and Al Qaeda." Even George W. Bush was now treasonous. "Bush," he told the Texas Constitution Party, "is post-America and post-God," a figure so indebted to foreign interests that he had allowed "communist China" to "run its gunboats up the Mississippi." In Corsi's mind, both parties were fronts for the money-masters, the Trilateralists, the plotters of Bohemian Grove--the "elitists who want to destroy the nation-state."

"They don't want to offend anybody. They don't want to offend Mexico. They don't want to offend God," he railed, accidentally inverting what he meant to say. "They take God out of my money. I think we ought to offend Mexico! I think we ought to offend the sexual abusers! I think we ought to respect God."

Wow! Yes, this guy's book is receiving serious coverage on Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and other outlets of conservative nonsense. Please, before you hear how this book is credible, know that you are dealing with an author who is one step away from a neo-Nazi.

You Make The Call!

The Daily Dish's Andrew Sullivan asks today's profound question: Was John McCain tortured?

To any reasonable person, and Sen. McCain himself repeatedly during this campaign, the answer would be yes. To the completely unreasonable people who created our current interrogation policy, it would be no. Sen. McCain, in another life (last year), voted for these new interrogation techniques.

Cheney denies that McCain was tortured; as does Bush. So do John Yoo and David Addington and George Tenet. In the one indisputably authentic version of the story of a Vietnamese guard showing compassion, McCain talks of the agony of long-time standing. A quarter century later, Don Rumsfeld was putting his signature to memos lengthening the agony of "long-time standing" that victims of Bush's torture regime would have to endure. These torture techniques are, according to the president of the United States, merely "enhanced interrogation."

No war crimes were committed against McCain. And the techniques used are, according to the president, tools to extract accurate information. And so the false confessions that McCain was forced to make were, according to the logic of the Bush administration, as accurate as the "intelligence" we have procured from "interrogating" terror suspects. Feel safer?

So let's ignore the fact that Sen. McCain was tortured, because according to what he voted for, he wasn't. Now he's just a POW. But he's not Jack Bauer, as he has been hilariously comparing himself to during this campaign.

Let's take the hero out of McCain, please. If he's a hero, than American interrogators have made heroes all over the Islamic world over the last few years.

Obama, McCain, and Taxes

A primary objective of the staff of Shambollocks is to fight the misinformation that floods us through campaign ads, talking heads, and irresponsible media outlets. I've been amongst a lot of my Republican-leaning friends of late, and what I hear from them is that Obama is going to raise their taxes. So, with the help of a great article in the Los Angeles Times, we're going to talk about some facts.

Fact: Both candidates' plans would balloon the federal deficit to (watch out!) $9.6 TRILLION dollars over the next ten years. Someone is going to have to pay that debt. Most likely, because our politicians are weenies, it will be our children. This is gross irresponsibility and fiscal negligence.

Fact: Obama will raise taxes on maybe fifteen people I personally know. All he's going to do is let the Bush tax cuts expire. Bush's tax cuts primarily helped the wealthy. The middle class will not see higher taxes, although they will find the tax cuts Bush made eliminated. Obama is simply asking that the rich (REALLY rich) pay a higher share of the tax burden. That is all.

Do you want to help out rich people? Really? When was the last time they helped you?

Fact: McCain supports millionaires. Rick Warren asked both candidates last weekend what they considered 'wealthy'.

Obama said the dividing line was an income of $250,000 a year, while McCain responded somewhat flippantly that it was $5 million.

OK, by Obama's standards I know a slight amount of wealthy people- all of whom can afford more taxes. None of them are people who have raised concerns about Obama's tax policies to me. McCain believes $5 million dollars is wealthy. In that case, I know ONE wealthy person. He can definitely afford to pay more in taxes.

Which is good for me, because I live by Bill Murray's words in Rushmore:

Keep the rich kids in your sights. And take them down.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Facebook Masturbators, Dinty Moore Dads, and Other Key Demographics

The Onion News Network has a pretty funny, Daily Show-like video up goofing on the crazy demographic slices pollsters and networks keep creating.

Latest Poll Reveals 430 New Demographics That Will Decide Election

Unfortunately, the key to Republican strategy is splitting us up into these small, meaningless groups. Divide and conquer. Let's hope it doesn't work this year.

David Byrne's Bike Racks

I grew up in love with David Byrne. Not only did he share my mother's maiden name, but, along with colleagues like Joey Ramone and Elvis Costello, he made pop music an arena for nerds. Sure, we still got beat up and picked on, but all we had to do was listen to Fear of Music and we knew that someday our ship would arrive. Although the Talking Heads remain a legendary act, I've found the opinions on Byrne himself somewhat split. Some blame him for the break-up of his band (true enough), some find his other art projects since self-aggrandizing noodling (maybe valid).

Me, I still dig David. The man loves culture, high and low, and is an ardent champion of enlightened art in the public square. New York City's Department of Transportation installed the above Byrne-designed bike racks to bring attention to and promote biking in the city. The New York Times has a post about the installation here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

YouTube, Soulja Boy, and Anthropology

The head of Kansas State's Digital Ethnography project gave a speech at the Library of Congress last month. The project devotes its time to the study of YouTube and how it is used. But the speaker, Michael Wesch, does a whole lot more. He provides a very thorough discussion of what can be expected on the frontier of Web 2.0. I take these thoughts seriously, because I think the Web still has a lot to revolutionize. Even if you think vlogs are aberrant navel-gazing, this video will provide a feast of food for thought.

Get Your War On

23/6 has the new animated series 'Get Your War On'. Very funny stuff. Take a slice.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Do You Want To Stop Fighting The Vietnam War?

I do. I was born five years after the last American soldier left. I am thirty-years old, and I wish to live in a country which can get past the scarring, divisive wars of yesterday and settle on ending the wars of today. I do not wish for the next President of the United States to be, physically, carrying around the scars from that conflict.

As Col. Trautman told John Rambo, I believe we should all tell Sen. McCain.

"It's over, Johnny."

Do you want a hawk who was, days after 9/11, ready to attack Syria, Iran, and Iraq according to the New York Times?

“There is a system out there or network, and that network is going to have to be attacked,” Mr. McCain said the next morning on ABC News. “It isn’t just Afghanistan,” he added, on MSNBC. “I don’t think if you got bin Laden tomorrow that the threat has disappeared,” he said on CBS, pointing toward other countries in the Middle East.

Within a month he made clear his priority. “Very obviously Iraq is the first country,” he declared on CNN. By Jan. 2, Mr. McCain was on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea, yelling to a crowd of sailors and airmen: “Next up, Baghdad!”

Do you trust this man with the security of our country and armed forces? A man who cannot, understandably, see outside the context of his own Hanoi imprisonment?

A vote for McCain means we will be dealing with the Iraq and Afganistan wars in 2012-guaranteed. Let's bring the soldiers home.

Why Go To College? Why Go To Night School?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are aware that I am highly skeptical of the American higher education system. At best, it is a terribly inefficient cash grab by institutions who claim to be serving the public. At worse, it is a rigorous form of social apartheid which feeds on the fears of the elites and their desires to guarantee success for their progeny.

Either way, we can blow up this system at any point and I would not shed tear one for any tenured professor.

The Wall Street Journal, which I rode over the coals a couple of weeks ago, contains a piece by Charles Murray which I couldn't agree with more.

Imagine that America had no system of post-secondary education, and you were a member of a task force assigned to create one from scratch. One of your colleagues submits this proposal:

First, we will set up a single goal to represent educational success, which will take four years to achieve no matter what is being taught. We will attach an economic reward to it that seldom has anything to do with what has been learned. We will urge large numbers of people who do not possess adequate ability to try to achieve the goal, wait until they have spent a lot of time and money, and then deny it to them. We will stigmatize everyone who doesn't meet the goal. We will call the goal a "BA."

You would conclude that your colleague was cruel, not to say insane. But that's the system we have in place.

Fantastic! Murray calls for a series of certification tests as a means for institutions to identify appropriate candidates, modeled on the CPA. I concur. I distinctly recall my state certification test for teaching. The test was such an absolute joke- a fact that indicted not only the state Board of Ed but the schools who provide Illinois with teachers.

To paraphrase Will Hunting, Americans spend billions of dollars collecting initials after their names which could be had for hundreds of dollars in late fines at the public library in a more perfect world.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Making Money In America for Free!

You too don't have to pay any income taxes. All you have to do is incorporate yourself. The Pocono Record has AP reporting that two-thirds of US companies paid no federal income tax between 1998 and 2005.

I repeat, TWO-THIRDS of US companies paid ZERO federal income taxes.

And people are scared of higher taxes from Obama? How 'bout we vote out the people who gave corporations the free pass.

Americans. We pay Coca-Cola to sell sugary drinks in China. Fantastic!

The Truth Behind the Energy Ads

I'm really digging the Olympics this year. Maybe it's because I just fell for the hype, or that I am thoroughly engaged by a gigantic country's coming-out party (this is the most historically significant Olympics since those of 1936 in Berlin (and let's hope it's not that kind of history in fifty years)). I like to think it's because I have a DVR and can FF'd through the non-stop Coca Cola and Nike ads. Two ads I do run across frequently are those by John McCain and Barack Obama. The two ads are freakishly similar, down to the same stock footage, and state that either candidate has the best energy plan and their opponent's sucks.

Thomas Friedman wrote in Tuesday's New York Times that neither McCain or Obama was around to vote in an extension of solar and wind energy tax credits, thereby basically putting a moratorium on alternative energy for '09.

The fact that Congress has failed eight times to renew them is largely because of a hard core of Republican senators who either don’t want to give Democrats such a victory in an election year or simply don’t believe in renewable energy.

What impact does this have? In the solar industry today there is a rush to finish any project that would be up and running by Dec. 31 — when the credits expire — and most everything beyond that is now on hold. Consider the Solana concentrated solar power plant, 70 miles southwest of Phoenix in McCain’s home state. It is the biggest proposed concentrating solar energy project ever. The farsighted local utility is ready to buy its power.

EIGHT TIMES? Wow. Hey, the Democrats are actually trying at least.

People, the Republicans are devastating our energy plans. Do not believe McCain's distortions.

And Barack, you got to show up for the big votes, brother. No free passes here.

Where Are The Missing Fifty Million Indian Women?

Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen compared the natural ratio between men and women globally to the ratio in India and found that India has fifty million less women than it should have. Where are these women? They are dead. India has a massive, hidden, socially-sanctioned genocide on their hands.

The numbers are jaw-dropping:
  • Some one million female fetuses are aborted each year.
  • Midwives in some regions regularly kill the infant girls they deliver for as little as $1.50.
  • Dowry-related murders of women stand at about 25,000 cases a year.
  • A UNICEF report found that the mortality rate for girls under five is more than 40 percent higher than for boys the same age.
  • WHO and UNIFEM estimate that one pregnant woman dies every five minutes in India.
Sure, in a country of over a billion people, "What is fifty million?" you might be thinking. Those are people's daughters, sisters, friends. The Mount Holyoake Alumnae Quarterly has an interview with a photographer, Rita Banerji, covering the killing of women in India.

Fifty million is SEVENTEEN times the population of Chicago.

With this post and now this, Shambollocks is proud to be fighting for women's rights in India.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hillary: The Post-Mortem

The Antlantic's Joshua Green has an exhaustive analysis of how Hillary Clinton and her staff blew up her chances to become the Democratic nominee for President. Most of the fault lies with Hillary herself, who allowed her own media paranoia to cripple the huge edge she had in name recognition. Basically, Clinton is a brand-a successful, well-known brand. Hillary made the brand mysterious, which took some effort considering how famous her and her husband are. Her distrust of the media allowed Obama and Edward to capitalize on the void by using the media to spread their own core messages. Finally, her decision to bail early in Iowa will be studied in political science classes forever as an example of how to make an opponent bigger than you. Obama's win in an overwhelmingly white, heartland state launched him as a legitimate contender, an image she didn't combat until much too late in the campaign.

As I've written before, Hillary deserved to lose because she ran a poor campaign.

I highly recommend this article if you are a fan of inter-office politics and arrogance. The Clinton campaign's emails are hilarious to read.

Great John McCain Profile from Arizona

The Phoenix New Times News (no, I've never heard of them either) has a wonderful profile on John McCain entitled 'Postmodern John McCain: the presidential candidate some Arizonans know- and loath' It seems Sen. McCain is not as popular in his home state as his campaign would leave us to believe. The story gives us a glimpse of the '80s John McCain, the Senator who got himself inextricably involved in the savings and loans scandal (think mortgage crisis for the '80s) by becoming close, personal friends with Charlie Keating. I don't want to rehash the whole episode, which this articles does well, but there is an anecdote that should be told.

In the late '80s, Arizona was suffering through an Illinois-like rash of political corruption. The Republican governor at the time, Evan Mecham, was impeached and the long-serving Democratic secretary of state, Rose Mofford, stepped up to serve out the rest of his term. A week into her tenure, Rose made a trip to Washington where she would make a perfuntory appearance before the Senate Energy and Water Development Subcommittee on Appropriations on the topic of the Central Arizona Project (the '60s era water project which allows for humans to live in Arizona). Rose had not been briefed extensively on the project.

At the hearing, Republican Senator James McClure fired a series of complex questions at Rose which left her staff scrambling to find the answers. That same day, Pat Murphy, publisher of the Arizona Republic, arrived at the Senate with his wife to take McCain out to lunch. Murphy tells the rest of the story to the News writer via email:

"During lunch, McCain said, almost with mischievous glee, that he had slipped some highly technical questions to [James McClure] to ask Mofford — questions she wouldn't be prepared to answer or expected to answer.

"Flabbergasted, I asked McCain why would he want to sabotage Mofford's testimony, when in fact the CAP was the nonpartisan pet of Republicans and Democrats — such as far-left Udall and far-right Goldwater — since its inception.

"His reply, as near as I remember, was, 'I'll embarrass a Democrat any time I get the chance.'

Whatever my disappointment with Obama's centrist poses the last couple of months, my belief that he will steer us away from the vehemently personal Washington partisanship of the last generation has not wavered. I am sick of watching the unending conflict over the cultural gulf which exists between conservative and liberal boomers. Vietnam and the civil rights marches ended thirty-five years ago, people. Get over it! Stop licking wounds incurred when Nixon resigned and educate yourself on the fairly progressive country you happen to represent.

McCain represents our country's past. Let's make that distant past history. Finally.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

R.I.P. Bernie Mac

One of the best things about spending so much of my adolescence hauling body shop supplies around the South Side was the hilarious stories I heard from the black body shops. These guys could tell stories. They took care not to leave out any detail, and once you were there for the beginning you had to stick around for the end-no matter if you were in the worst part of the ghetto or not. Those guys could shoot the bull like nobody I've known since. And they could swear. They truly wove tapestries of profanity so wondrous they left me speechless.

Bernie Mac was one of those guys who hit the big time. I loved him because the rhythm of his speech was home to me. Bernie was a lyrical comedian. It wasn't the content (hell, most of it was shtick even whites have heard done ad nausea), it was how he said it. The man could rap. Here's a great clip from his career-making performance in the Kings of Comedy film. NOT OKAY FOR WORK.

Bernie, you were one hard-core, funny motherfucker.

More Photos From 'The Road'

USA Today has more photos from the upcoming adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Viggo looks great as the father. I'm still upset that they wrote a bigger role for the wife (to be played by Charlize Theron), but hopefully it is not that much of a difference.

I'm still here for this opening weekend.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting

Slate has a great piece on the history of fights in cinema. Here are a couple of which I happen to be a huge fan.

First. Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris. When Bruce Lee says jump, Chuck Norris looks for a soft landing. Bruce Lee's breakfast is juice, bacon, Chuck Norris, bacon. See for yourself.

Bruce Willis has had a bad day. First, his wife wants a divorce. Then, a bunch of thugs take a high-rise hostage and bust up his romantic attempt to get back together. His feet are cut up. And how he's gotta fight Aryan Eric.

Do not do this at home. Except if it's with your wife.

Friday, August 8, 2008

What Got Us Here

I'm about to admit publicly a fact that I've been hiding for many, many years. In 2000, I voted for George Bush. There. I said it. Now here's why.

My parents are in no way liberals. Abortion, for instance, is a major issue for them. My brother and sisters continue to rag on my father for voting for Nixon in '68. But a funny thing happened. America became more conservative, and as this sea change occurred, my moderate parents moved ever closer to the left.

My parents are New Deal babies. They believe a government has a social responsibility to its constituents. When Ronald Reagan became president, this philosophy was painted as radical. My earliest political memory is my grandmother, Irene, calling Reagan a 'damn idiot' during one of his State of the Union addresses. I stayed up to watch Mondale lose with my mother, hoping beyond hope that Reagan would not win again. I rooted for Dukakis in '88.

But then the Iraq War I happened. My father was adamantly against the war, but my sister Michelle, my mother, and I were impressed. George Bush and his aides had confronted a notoriously bad man and prevented him from attaining his wishes of regional domination. He also got us out immediately afterward, and did all of this with immense international support. Republicans couldn't be all bad, right?

Bill Clinton held the office for the rest of the '90's, and the idealistic teen I became was fairly disillusioned. I watched Rwanda happen, and our government did nothing. I watched Bosnia happen for years and years, and our government did nothing for the longest time. At home, I saw a president forced into mortal combat with an unyielding Republican majority in Congress. Nothing got done.

Then Bill did the Monica in the Oval Office. I was truly appalled. Looking back now, most of my anger was jealousy. I suffered from the pious self-righteousness of the 'not-getting-laid'. In '00, Al Gore ran a ridiculously awful campaign. I watched the whole thing thinking, "He's gonna let the boob son win. How is that possible?" Sickened, when I entered the booth I couldn't vote for anyone who had made such a fiasco out of a sure thing. Hey, Bush had Cheney with him and Powell, right? Just like the old days!

So I voted for George Bush.

Very quickly, I discovered the error of my ways and I intend on making up for that failure of conscientious citizenship.

But I was not alone. Millions of fellow Americans were similarly hood-winked. My father has developed a wacky conspiracy theory that the right is a concentrated, shadowy organization (a true Evil Empire) which developed plans hundreds of years into the future intending to disenfranchise the American citizen. I don't believe this, because I don't know how it explains the current disaster which is the Republican party. I do believe there is an industrial cabal, though, who intends to use the Republican party as a means to further their short-term, selfish goals. And I believe this has been going on for years and has reached its pinnacle in the George Bush II administration.

Thomas Frank agrees. In Salon, he discusses his great new book,
"The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule" , where he does all the research to reveal the greedy machinations of the forces behind today's Republican party. Frank reveals that an extreme, corporate, anti-government hatred existed before the depression. This from a 1928 pamphlet:
"The best public servant is the worst one. A thoroughly first-rate man in public service is corrosive. He eats holes in our liberties. The better he is and the longer he stays the greater the danger. If he is an enthusiast -- a bright-eyed madman who is frantic to make this the finest government in the world -- the black plague is a house pet by comparison."

The forces behind the Republican party still believe this. We must inform everyone that the Republicans are sock puppets of corporate interests who care very little about America's long-term well-being. Sure, the Democrats receive contributions as well from corporate America. But there is in no way the incestuous relationship between money, lobbyists, and policy as there is with the Republicans.

Do not repeat the same mistake I did. Inform yourself, and vote for the future.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Two transplanted New Yorkers who now live in New Delhi are attempting to secure sanitary pads for women in India. In poor areas, women tear cloth off their saris to stanch flow, leaving them open to infections. Really, this is fairly awful. They are asking for contributions of $40.00 to help build a machine that can manufacture sanitary pads and aid two women who wish to form a company to sell them. You can check out the web site here.

Consider this your One Small Good Deed today.

Aye Yi Yi!

Barack Obama has reversed his energy policy, and now wants to open up the strategic oil reserves according to the Washington Post. At this very moment, House Republicans are trying to pass legislation that will expand Arctic drilling. Yes, Virginia, this really is an election year.

The politicians have heard it loud and clear-Americans are sick of high gas prices. Guess what, America? THEY'RE NOT GOING DOWN!

Not in the short-term. Not in the long-term. The days of the under $4.00 gallon of gas are over. No matter how much we attempt to increase our own domestic production, the people of China and India will still control the market through their vast energy needs. This is Global Economics 101.

This is not the '70s. We are not the largest consumer of oil anymore. China is.

Why can't we have leaders who talk to America straight and let them know the truth? Barack, my principled friend, I'm looking in your direction. We need to ween people off oil.

Related: The New York Times reports on how the high price of oil is affecting the global economy. Good news for Mexico. Bad news for China.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Here's Your Rupert Murdoch Wall Street Journal

File this under 'Too Freaking Bizarre to be Actually True'. Last week, a Wall Street Journal writer, Amy Chozik, wrote a piece about whether Barack was too skinny to be president. Seriously. Yes, the Rupert Murdoch era has officially begun. If it wasn't bad enough that WSJ assigned such a fluff piece, it turns out Ms. Chozik did her research by posting to Yahoo! Message Boards the query, you guessed it, "Is Barack Too Skinny to Be President?"

How in God's name did a journalist this awful get a job? Newspaper business, watching your disintegration is actually starting to become a pleasant case of schadenfreude.

Friday, August 1, 2008

We Hate Hipsters

Right when you thought it was safe to stride city streets, this weekend brings Lollapalooza. Yes, Austin and Brooklyn are about to barf up their hipsters all over us...again. I survived Pitchfork. I survived because there is definitely an audience breach afoot. There exists an audience which loves the music for the music, an audience which is growing as exponentially as the hipsters are. I believe music and culture will survive the hipsters mad attempt to co-opt everybody's childhood for their own. I have hope.

But some of you may be wondering, "What is a hipster and why should I be scared?"

Adbusters provides the answer. The new issue has a well-written article titled, "Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization".

Hipsterdom is the first “counterculture” to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion. But the moment a trend, band, sound, style or feeling gains too much exposure, it is suddenly looked upon with disdain. Hipsters cannot afford to maintain any cultural loyalties or affiliations for fear they will lose relevance.

Excellent! Clap, clap! Growing up, going to Metro all ages shows, was not a happy time in my life. I wouldn't repeat a day of my adolescence for all the money in the world. When I went to the shows, I didn't think I was cool. I was looking for something to communicate why I didn't fit in. What I loved about the indie scene of the early to mid-90s is that there were all kinds of people invited. Everyone brought their own knowledge.

Hipsters breed out these differences. Everything about them is manufactured, because they've never learned appreciation. Their taste has not been developed and, stunted, it's rotting. They are true culture zombies. If you value art, you must make sure they are ignored and remain in their ghettos.