30 December 2006

They Make It Far Too Easy Some Times

The AP article on the death of Saddam closes with a doozy of a paragraph.
While he wielded a heavy hand to maintain control, Saddam also sought to win public support with a personality cult that pervaded Iraqi society. Thousands of portraits, posters, statues and murals were erected in his honor all over Iraq. His face could be seen on the sides of office buildings, schools, airports and shops and on Iraq's currency.

The line, "sought to win public support" is what really gets me. All those dictators with their attempts at producing cults of personality around themselves are really just trying to 'unite' the many people under their control. By plastering his image across the land, he was just doing a public service. Saddam wasn't a brutal, murderous, foul, filthy, megalomaniacal dictator, instead he was merely a person who, "wielded a heavy hand to maintain control".

29 December 2006

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation (Week SEVENTEEN)

The final week of football and a lot of teams' playoff hopes hinges upon the Saturday contest. All 7-8 NFC teams that are challenging for the final wild card spot find themselves on the road this week. I'll pick the winners in all five of those games.

On the AFC side, it's as good as over, if the NY Jets can beat Oakland and Denver beat San Francisco, then it's all done. They're both at home, and there's no reason to expect either of them to fail.

ESPN shows every game as a toss up, but that ain't right, so I'll go with the Bodog.com line as of 12:55am ET Sat December 30th.

NY Giants at Washington (+3.0) Washington (+3.0)
The Giants are an awful team right now that have given up on their coach. Even though the Redskins have had a disappointing season, at this moment in time they are a better team then the Giants and will happily keep their division rival from making the playoffs. Tiki Barber might as well take the week off and start his TV career now.

St. Louis at Minnesota (+3.0) Minnesota (+3.0)
Both these teams have had disappointing seasons. Both teams are 3-7 in their last ten games. I think the Vikings will play with some pride and defeat a mediocre Rams team. It's a bit of a coin flip as to which team to pick, though, neither team have been exactly inspiring this season.

Carolina at New Orleans (+3.0) Carolina (-3.0)
The Saints have nothing to play for, and probably won't play their top players throughout the game. That should make all the difference. Carolina doesn't control their own playoff destiny, and if the Giants win on Saturday (which I doubt they'll do), then this game will be meaningless for them as well. Carolina has a lot of talent and despite a recent four game losing streak can play as well as any team in the NFC. They have a real shot at making it back to the NFC Championship game again this year. But only if they get into the playoffs.

Atlanta at Philadelphia (-9.0) Philadelphia -9.0
I know I said last week that the Falcons had given up, and I was right. But, if everything breaks their way in the earlier games, they'll know by kick-off whether or not they have something to play for. Philly is playing for a division championship, and for them that means the difference between playing at home or playing in Seattle next week. I think Carolina will make this game irrelevant for the Falcons, and they'll be playing to get their coach fired once again this week. They'll get their wish, too. Mora is toast, let the coaching search begin! (though I don't know who would want this job). This game won't be close, Philly will earn themselves a first round game against a dangerous Panthers team.

Green Bay at Chicago (-3.0) Chicago -3.0
Lousy weather is expected in Chicago, rainy and in the 40s. This is possibly Brett Favre's last game (which is why it's getting the Sunday Night treatment). Chicago has nothing to play for, and the Packers might be in a do or die situation. But that won't be enough for Green Bay to win this one. The Chicago defense will outscore both offenses in this game. Grossman and Favre will both give up the ball at least 3 times on fumbles or interceptions, the difference being that the Chicago defense scores off of turnovers keeping their mistake prone offense off the field. Should be a lousy game.

I think Carolina will be the only 7-8 team to be able to secure themselves a victory this week. That simplifies all the various scenarios, but who knows, all these teams are 7-8 because they've been inconsistent, so that probably won't change this week. Any or all of these teams can win or lose.

So if my predictions are all correct the NFC playoffs next week should be Dallas at Seattle and Carolina at Philadelphia, with Chicago already securing the one seed, and New Orleans already securing the two seed.

On the AFC side, San Diego will clinch the one seed, Baltimore will be second. Both New England and Indianapolis should finish 12-4, but the Colts beat the Pats earlier this season and will get themselves the 3 seed. The playoff match ups next week should be NY Jets at Indianapolis and Denver at New England, but none of those four teams has a chance against Baltimore or San Diego the following week.

There's Another Kind?

Is it really necessary to modify castration with the term, "malicious"? (via Drudge).

(she wouldn't have been charged in North Carolina if it was the shiny, happy version of castration, I guess)

USC Defeats Michigan

I'm not jumping the gun on a Rose Bowl headline.

Rather, I'm reporting the results from the annual Lawry's Beef Bowl (a video interview from KCBS here)

(I'd get the Michigan side of the story, but I'm from here and I'll be rooting for USC, so screw trying to be balanced)

(OK I lied, here's some balance)

It happens every year, both teams participating in the Rose Bowl get treated to lots of thick juicy prime rib at Lawry's Beverly Hills.

The Trojans narrowly out ate the Wolverines 630 to 612 lbs.

Teams normally consume 400-500 lbs, so the teams went all out this time.

Vegetarians aren't allowed on the football field, I guess.

And you can't blame either team for wishing they were in Arizona instead of Southern California. The Rose Bowl is the Consolation Bowl this year, unfortunately. Maybe they were trying to eat their disappointment away.

(Do they have a Tostitos eating contest before the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl?)

Fourth? That Probably Would Have Been First on My List

Here's a quote from a recent editorial by Robert Farago at The Truth About Cars,

"Fourth, Bob Lutz is an idiot."

Really, that would have been my first bullet point, but other than that, I agree with everything he says.

Bob Lutz has a blog though, he does have that going for him, if you want to read his post that caused the subsequent post, it's here.

Lutz wasn't always an idiot, far from it, but his way of thinking isn't adaptable to these times. I don't think a more flexible thinker could do anything more to move GM forward, their entrenched bureaucracies are too endemic throughout the corporate behemoth to move more than an inch. But, a chairman who articulated a better vision for the future would help their stock price and public perception.

Will They Air It? Will You Watch?

Possibly, Saddam Hussein will be as dead as a Norwegian Parrot within a week.

Also, more than likely, his last moments pining for the fjords will be somewhere on the web.

TV Newser has begun asking the question as to how the various news outlets will handle this possible footage.

It's nothing I need to see personally, but I have absolutely no problem at all with him dying at the end of a hangman's noose (unlike one far better known blogger).

And just to keep this a light post, here it is below (not the execution, the dead parrot).

The anonymous military source everyone is referencing as to the time of Saddam's execution might be talking out of his or her ass as anonymous sources often do. The Iraqi Justice Ministry claims any possible execution won't happen before Jan 26th. But who are you going to believe, an unnamed anonymous US military source, or an unnamed 'senior official' within the Iraqi Justice Ministry?


It's official, it's happened, and TV Newser (the link goes to their archives, clearly late December 2006 will go down as being the most Saddamtastic month ever) goes crazy with the coverage of who was first to announce. Who cares? (and no event is complete until it's become cause for some FNC bashing)

Also, I wasn't the only one who thought of parrots.

Tammy Bruce puts things in perspective well. She says most of what I'd want to say, and probably does a better job than I would have, so just read what she has to say.

And they should grind up Saddam's remains and feed him to pigs. That's what he deserves, no grave, no respect, and no dignity in death.

Creeping Sharia In Dear Old Blighty

Wolverhampton, England, segregation rules.

First it's pools, then it's buses, then it's Islamic courts. Surrendering freedoms in the hopes of placating a vocal minority within a minority that demand special treatment will only lead to greater demands.

Government condoned segregation, whether requested by a minority to keep outsiders out, or imposed by a majority to keep a minority down, leads to all sorts of social ills.

If Muslims fear seeing a belly button or upper thigh so much, they should open their own private pools, they shouldn't demand the local governments to conform to their concepts of modesty. If they want to play in public, play by the public rules.

I live in a neighborhood with many Orthodox Jews. They have their rules on modesty for followers, but they don't expect everyone walking down the street to follow their customs (of course, a different story if you're invited to their homes, as it should be). They don't go around demanding public streets be closed down on Saturdays cause they can't drive on the Sabbath.

Yet, that's essentially what the Muslims in Wolverhampton are expecting. It's wrong, very wrong. This is a small thing on the surface, but it's symbolic of a trend going on, and that trend won't lead to compromise, won't lead to happy, shiny multiculturism. Instead that trend will lead to more demands and stronger reactions to the craziness.

It's hard to believe the good folks in England had once been known for their pluck and resolve, the news from over there seems to lack those attributes.

28 December 2006

"Our local area has been under cultivation for millennia. There are ancient tumuli going back into the mists of time all over the parish."

A sentence you probably wouldn't read in an American paper.

From this article in the Daily Mail.

The rest is worth reading, as well.

27 December 2006

RESULTS (Week SIXTEEN) Weekly NFL Related Humiliation

It's past time that I take my lumps and recount how I did picking these nine contests week sixteen.

Minnesota 7 Green Bay 9
(DOH!) Green Bay -3.5
The Packers won and kept their slim playoff hopes alive, but they didn't cover the spread. All the 7-8 teams in the NFC will be rooting against the NYGiants on Saturday. If the Giants lose (and they have been looking like big time losers of late), then it's pretty wide open. If Green Bay makes the playoffs, you never know, the NFC is week, and they're capable of winning on the road.

Carolina 10 Atlanta 3 (Woohoo!) Carolina +6.0
Atlanta has given up on their coach. They've worked very hard to get Jim Mora fired. Both these 7-8 teams still have playoff dreams given the sad state of the NFC. Whichever team ends up being the six seed has a chance to upset either Dallas or Philadelphia though, cause neither of those teams is really solid, either.

Tennessee 30 Buffalo 29 (DOH!) Buffalo -4.5
Maybe Vince Young is for real, afterall. Great 4th quarter comeback by Tennessee, if they manage to get in the playoffs, the Titans could be dangerous. They still seem a cut below the top two of San Diego and Baltimore, but they could cause fits to all the other teams in the AFC.

New Orleans 30 NY Giants 7 (Woohoo!) New Orleans +3.0
New Orleans dominated this game and earned themselves the number 2 seed in the NFC. I expect to see them at least in the NFC Championship Game, and possibly even the Superbowl. Their road to the Superbowl will be comprised of one home game against either a hot Philly team, or a crappy team that stumbled into the playoffs, and then a showdown in Chicago for the trip to the Superbowl. They look capable of winning both those games, but a lot can happen between now and late January, so don't book those reservations in Miami just yet if you're a Saints fan.

Baltimore 31 Pittsburgh 7 (Woohoo) Baltimore +3.0
The Ravens embarrassed the champs in Pittsburgh and ended their dreams of a repeat. An impressive effort by a team that I've touted as one of the best in the league since the start of the season (no fair going back and double checking (ignore the part about Tampa being good this season) to make sure I actually said that). Barring a freak monster game by one of the other teams in the playoffs, the Baltimore versus San Diego showdown in San Diego seems inevitable. Also, that should be the 'real' Superbowl, as the AFC Champion should be a heavy favorite over any NFC team.

New England 24 Jacksonville 21 (DOH!) Jacksonville -2.5
I've DOH!ed many times picking against the Pats, and I'll DOH! again. They were beatable in this game, and Jacksonville looked like they were going to get it done, but somehow the Pats always get that one or two key plays on both offense and defense to secure a victory where other teams would lose. Jacksonville played well and lost. The Pats looked good in victory, but there still isn't any sort of air of invincibility, and they still don't match up well against SD or Baltimore, but they certainly look capable of beating every other team they are likely to face in the playoffs (but I'll probably still pick against them, anyway).

Cincinnati 23 Denver 24 (Woohoo!) Cincinnati +3.0
The Bengals probably won't be consoled by the fact that they covered the spread on the road, but they certainly helped my stats. A bad long snap on an extra point cost them the tying point late in the game. A freak way to lose a game crucial to their playoff hopes. Denver is now in the enviable position of only having to beat San Francisco to get into the playoffs. If they lose that game they deserve to get an early off season.

San Diego 20 Seattle 17 (DOH!) San Diego -4.5
San Diego won, but didn't cover the spread. The Chargers had a tough game on the road against the defending NFC Champions. Luckily for the Seahawks, the rest of the NFC is awful and even with a loss they've backed into a NFC Lousy division championship as SF couldn't beat the lowly Cardinals when they needed to. Given the nature of the NFC, they will be a team to watch in the playoffs, they're just as good as any of the other six who will be in the playoffs and since they are division winners, they will host a first round game against either Philly or Dallas even if they finish 8-8. San Diego didn't look as impressive as in past weeks, but they did find a way to win, and they still look like one of the two teams that are most likely to win it all this year. All they need to do is beat the Cardinals at home to clinch home field throughout the AFC Playoffs, don't expect a let down, they'll get it done.

Philadelphia 23 Dallas 7 (DOH!) Dallas -7.0
Jeff Garcia MVP! Ok, maybe not, but close. I'm still waiting for Jeff Garcia to be the recent Jeff Garcia and not the Pro Bowl Jeff Garcia, but maybe the Pro Bowl Jeff Garcia really is the real Jeff Garcia. Dallas looked awful at home, and the usual TO whine was just as disgusting as always. Catch the ball first, then you can run your mouth off, till then, be humble (I know that's impossible). Neither team looks really playoff ready, and could lose in the first round. Also, if TO wants to be more 'involved' in the offense, make him hold the clipboard for the offensive coordinator and bench him for the week, that ought to make him happy (at least he'll be less likely to drop balls).

4-5 for the week. If I were a team, I'd be in the NFC West. DOH!

Next week, I'll pick every game with any sort of playoff implication, even if both teams aren't looking like playoff teams. That should include almost every game given the state of the NFC.

"Once in a while you see a movie that doesn’t have too many downer scenes until the end when the puppy gets crushed by a bulldozer."

The rest here.

Scott Adams reflecting on his personal taste in films.

He applies a formula to anticipating whether or not a film is worth his time.

I'm always more suspicious of the quality of films that get better than 85% positive on Rotten Tomatoes, when films are that well critically received it's usually for the wrong reasons.

A not entirely unrelated discussion regarding Little Miss Sunshine broke out on Althouse.

There was a time that I sought films that were far more than 25% downer (to use Mr. Adams' formula), but lately not so much. I don't need slapped on happy endings to enjoy a film, but the slapped on horrendous car wreck of an ending is even more insulting and disorienting than the slapped on happy ending.

26 December 2006

If Ford Received This Sort of Press While President, There Never Would Have Been a Carter Administration

Gerald Ford died.

I'm amazed how glowing the NYT and AP obits were, and a little suspicious. I bet if I delved into the contemporary accounts of events and actions that they now describe as laudable, back then, not so much.

An interesting 'coincidence' in both the NYTimes and AP articles are the use of the word "imperial" with reference to President Ford (and how he was definitely not that).

The NYT (the NYT piece is nearly as long as the Ford Presidency)

As president, he was quick to assert to Congress, in a play on words that nobody misunderstood, “I am a Ford, not a Lincoln.” If it was true, as was often said, that the Oval Office shaped the occupant, Mr. Ford resisted the temptation of the imperial.

The AP

Even after two women tried separately to kill him, the presidency of Jerry Ford remained open and plain.

Not imperial. Not reclusive. And, of greatest satisfaction to a nation numbed by Watergate, not dishonest.

Even to millions of Americans who had voted two years earlier for Richard Nixon, the transition to Ford's leadership was one of the most welcomed in the history of the democratic process _ despite the fact that it occurred without an election.

This is total revisionist crap. I may have barely entered grade school during Ford's administration, but I know enough of that time to know that this is an absurd remaking of the facts of those times.

President Ford was a good man, a decent administrator, but lousy at being 'presidential'. The figurehead aspect of the position is not to be discounted or ignored. When done right, the President helps shape the national mood and self-perception in a positive way, when done wrong the President can undermine confidence domestically and lessen prestige internationally.

The question is why?

Three letters are my answer, B. D. S.

All occasions are now reasons to create some sort of negative comparison between someone or some event of yesteryear to the Bush Administration and current events, no matter how absurd and tenuous the connection may be.

So instead of Ford being the bumbling, stumbling and unpresidential failure he was depicted as (clearly unfairly) by contemporary accounts, he is now a plain-spoken, simple, and dignified man who brought that midwestern ethic to the White House.

The Reagan remembrances were equally ridiculous in the press' willingness to whitewash the vicious attacks they leveled against him during his administration.

But this time it's a little different, this time there seems to be pointed references to the current administration, and that's really out of bounds, uncalled for, and disgusting.

I doubt the word "imperial" would have showed up in any accounts of his life had he passed six years ago. But now, the dangers of the 'increasingly imperial presidency' are one of those things that 'everybody knows' (at least everybody who has a byline in the NYT or AP and the folks they meet at parties), like the endless 'quagmire' in Iraq, the 'new' wave of anti-americanism 'caused' by President Bush, and the certainty that nothing the current administration has done helped keep the homeland free from a spectacular attack these past five years.

Also why am I not surprised that one of the authors of the NYT piece is Adam Clymer?


Most of the news articles I've read (more examples, LAT and WaPo) felt compelled to reference the "imperial presidency" in part because of Arthur Schlesinger's account of the Nixon Administration titled "Imperial Presidency" (republished in 1998 with additional material attacking the Reagan and Bush 41 Administrations) and Gerald Ford's stated claim during his first days in office to bring more openness. But I think there's still an undercurrent of reproach for the current administration. And just to show that the fear of an "imperial presidency" isn't just a concern of the left towards right of center presidents, here's a blast from the past from the Cato institute written at the end of the Clinton Administration.

The WaPo memorial/retrospective/obit is the best written. Lou Cannon probably has something to do with that. His biography of Ronald Reagan as Governor (titled "Governor Reagan: His Rise to Power") is especially good, a book that should be read especially if youare a Californian, or even if you're just an American, and even if you're not.

NMT: 26 DEC 06 Switchfoot - Oh! Gravity.

Another Tuesday, more new music. This week I could have chosen from the Switchfoot album I'm about to dissect or Omarion's new effort. It came down to the capsule description of the band on URGE, "Spiritual SoCal surfers add some aggression on sixth album".

First, I couldn't not review an album by "spiritual SoCal surfers", second, sixth album?!? Never really heard of them before, I guess they've flown below my radar, I'm not a big fan of the current crop of pop/rock outfits, but why not give this effort a listen?

Also, I'm going to break down each and every song, cause nowadays, it's only old fogeys like myself who insist on listening to entire albums, so I'll evaluate each track on its individual merits, as well as the overall feel of the entire album, and that will be my method from now on.

On to the album.

1) Oh! Gravity.
Poppy-peppy-punky! Ugggh.

2) American Dream
I don't mind derivative music, but when the music is derivative of songs that came out one or two years ago, then it's not homage, it's just theft. It's a less good, less political American Idiot.

3) Dirty Second Hands
Just when I was ready to dismiss this band, a song like this shows up. Great song. Twangy guitar begins, with some nice syncopation on the vocals. Neo-pscyhedelica done well. Somewhere in Stone Temple Pilots territory. Big music played well, just how I like it.

4) Awakening
Not bad, but, meh. Nothing terrible about this song, but utterly undistinguished, and indistinguishable from countless other similar songs by similar bands, but some kid in high school will click with the lyrics to this song, and it will change their life. Funny how music works like that some time.

5) Circles
Again, another interesting song. These guys do slightly textured, slightly psychedelic, pretty well. They should lay off the more pop-punk stuff.

6) Amateur Lovers
Another song with slightly improved material from which it's ripped off. A decent attempt at big beat. If this had been on a Romantics or Knack album, nobody would have been surprised.

7) Faust, Midas, and Myself
I guess someone in this band went to college. Still kind of anonymous. There's something going on here, but none of it feels completely authentic or worth paying attention to. Close, but no cigar.

8) Head Over Heels (In This Life)
This song is kind of pretty. It's also kind of blah. It's typical of the whole album, a lot of almost but not quite. Nothing is specifically wrong with this song, but there's also nothing remarkably right about it, either (yet I can still picture some high school kid thinking this is exactly what they've been thinking and feeling and can't believe how these guys know how to express such deep and soulful things with a pop beat).

9) Yesterdays
I really want to like this song. It starts well, but it's a donut. Something is missing in the center of it. It just makes me think of other bands that do this kind of thing so much better. It's a wistful ballad with no punch, no soul, and no emotion.

10) Burn Out Bright
Big change from the last song. Up tempo punky-pop a la My Chemical Romance or Yellowcard, not bad, but not my cup of tea. If it came on the radio, I wouldn't try to change the channel, but I probably wouldn't notice when the song ends either, another anonymous unit pusher.

11) 4:12
Ohhh, clever, the song is named the same as its playing time. I can't put my finger on what doesn't work on this song, maybe it's the singer, the band is top notch, the arrangement is actually kind of interesting, but this singer just doesn't do it for me in this kind of setting.
UPDATE: Upon reflection, I realized that the title might have a deeper meaning beyond the total time for the song.

12) Let Your Love Be Strong
You can't ever go wrong beginning a song with acoustic guitar, right? Depends where you're headed. Another song that just sort of sits there. Sounds like it's supposed to be a Coldplay style sensitive ballad, but just doesn't work on that level. Another strong and emphatic MEH! (that is if a "meh" can be either strong or emphatic)

Maybe I'm Danny Glover (I'm just too old for this "stuff"). I still wouldn't be surprised if my hypothetical high school kid just gloms on to this album and falls in love with every song, but I'm not there any more, and this isn't the kind of album that should or would excite someone who either wasn't already deeply committed to liking this band, or really susceptible to this kind of album. I'm none of those things, so this album wasn't for me, but I don't feel like I completely wasted my time listening to it, I just won't be listening to any of it again (except maybe "Dirty Second Hands" that's a solid track).

25 December 2006

Thinking About the Inevitable Larry King Show . . .

. . . Presumably when Larry King does another live show, it should be a James Brown tribute. Larry King seems to be the go-to guy for the televised eulogy/remembrance.

But then, maybe they'll have someone else host a JB retrospective/talk with those that knew him, cause Larry King doesn't have the requisite funk.

But that has me thinking, who will do the "Larry King Remembers" on Larry King?

Has he pre-taped his own eulogy show, interviewing Jackie Mason and Regis Philbin about Larry himself?

It would make sense, he's not going to last forever.

The Late Great JB

First a little LA Style

Now some Sippican Cottage ruminating on the real JB

Finally, a little the backing track to Lyn Collins' Think (with Lyn taken out, but James' shouts left in).

24 December 2006

A Bad Day for Legs

Two famous legs were injured yesterday.

Gov. Schwarzenegger, enjoying a White Christmas in Sun Valley (where a black diamond trail is named after him), had a skiing accident and broke his right femur. Not good, not good at all. Hope you have a speedy recovery Governator, our state needs you in good spirits and not too painkiller addled.

The amazing Yao Ming, who had been having his best NBA season by far, had a non-displaced fracture in his knee during the Rockets' game against the Clippers. Out at least six weeks, even if he's on a team I don't root for, I hate to see good players go down to injuries on freak plays (or any kind of play for that matter). Hopefully he comes back with the same mobility he had before, watching him can be a thing of beauty (but between his injury and McGrady's, that gives hope for better seeding for the Lakers and a spot in the playoffs for the Clippers).

Vagina Dentata = XMas Fun?!?

Of course it does, in Tokyo.

Unfortunately Annette Bening Doesn't Blog

But I feel compelled to quote her anyway, in fact I'll include three Annette Bening quotes . . .

Right now, I love the fact that I have so many opportunities, but I know this privileged position cannot last. That doesn't mean that I'll stop working. I picture myself as an old actress doing cameos in films with people saying: "Isn't that that Bening woman?"

Oh, honey, I'm from Oklahoma! This is who I am - middle-class all the way!

I have perfected the art of putting my feet on my husband's lap during awards ceremonies so he can rub them.

Quotable Kat Dennings

I just quoted Ken Jennings in the previous post, seems only fair that I also quote Kat Dennings.

The post is linked above, the photo is linked here. Indeed, there is much awesomeness in that photo.

"As the movies have taught us, when librarians take off their dowdy glasses and let their hair down, some are real lookers."

What kind of movies has he been watching?

(Isn't that more of a porn thing than a mainstream movie thing?)

And if you want to see that in context, read this Ken Jennings post.

23 December 2006

It's The Second Annual Festivus List of Grievances (and Anti-Grievances) Part Two of Two

Alright folks, on to the second half of the year. The Jan-Jun list of grievances and anti-grievances can be found here.

July 2006

A July Grievance goes out to the weasels at Agence France-Presse. Jealous Much?

A July Grievance was well earned by another Frenchman for his Infamous Head Butt. Again, all I can do is quote Ren, "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEdiot".

The July Anti-Grievance was well earned by Mustapha at The Beirut Spring blog for calling out Aljazeera on their pro-Hezbollah bias during the conflict in Southern Lebanon (and doing so in a humorous way).

August 2006

An August Grievance goes out to the good people of the United States of America for staying away from Snakes on a Plane in droves. It was a fun film, you would have enjoyed it.

An August Grievance goes out to John Mark Karr (enough said).

An August Anti-Grievance goes out to Porkbusters.org, among others who tracked down which Senators were placing secret holds on legislation that would make Congress a little more transparent. It was good work, but much, much more needs to be done.

September 2006

A September Grievance goes out to Pres. Bill Clinton for the whining, and behind the scenes pressure he put on ABC because of problems he had with his portrayal in their Path to 9/11 drama. That episode encapsulated all that was wrong with his presidency, his overwhelming need to be loved and well regarded led to bad policies from time to time. His need to continue to polish his image since he left office has also been very unseemly, and un-presidential.

A September Grievance goes out to the Usual Suspects over the usual "Muslim Outrage". This month's edition was over Pope Benedict XVI's rather tame and scholarly speech. Again, EEEEEEEEEEdiots!!!

A September Anti-Grievance goes out to the Bush Adminstration. The fifth 9/11 anniversary passed without a follow-on attack. Many folks (especially those in the fourth estate) would like for us to believe that their actions had nothing to do with this, but hopefully the American people know better. They've done something remarkable in preventing all subsequent attacks in the homeland, if you don't believe that Al Qaeda has desired a spectacular follow up these past five years, then you're a deluded fool.

October 2006

An October Grievance goes out to Kim Jong Il. Is your penis that small that you have to blow up a nuclear bomb to feel like a man? Well the bomb seems like it was a bit of a dud, just like you.

An October Grievance was well earned by The Lancet for publishing an astoundingly off base estimate of total casualties in Iraq. You can be against the war, but don't make up ridiculous numbers using specious methods and try and convince us they're "facts".

An October Anti-Grievance goes out to the South Park fellas. They continue to rock, and rock hard. The episodes they put on in October were all pretty great (especially the one involving Satan). They've maintained a level of excellence that's impressive over ten seasons of shows.

November 2006

A November Grievance goes out to President James Earl Carter and his poorly reasoned, poorly researched tome released in this month. I really have no words to express my disgust, but the pounding he's been getting from many sources over this has been gratifying (and the worship he still gets from other sources is mind boggling).

A November Grievance goes out to President George Bush for firing (I'm sorry, Rumsfeld "resigned") Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld after the election. If firing was inevitable, it should have been done in September when it might have effected the election. To say the firing wasn't politically motivated in the aftermath of the election results seems like a lie. Rumsfeld has served well and was well liked, by most accounts, by the front line troops (but not so much by the generals). Dumping him when you did, the way you did, does not match the dignity of his service.

A November Anti-Grievance goes out to the good folks of the United States of America for turning out and voting. I may not like the results in most cases, and fear what the Democrats may do with their committee chairs, but I respect the desire for change. Also a mini-anti-grievance to the voters of California for rejecting many bad propositions and re-electing Arnold as the Governator. He's done a fine job, and will do us proud for another four years.

December 2006

A December Grievance goes out to the management team at GM. You've run an American institution and corporate behemoth into the ground, with a huge assist from the UAW. News articles began surfacing this month, and Toyota acknowledged, that GM's position as the globe's volume leader in car sales will be supplanted next year. There have been many missed opportunities in the past decade to prevent this from happening, but boring designs, union intransigence, reliance on truck sales for profits, and a general inability to cut through the entrenched bureaucracy within the corporation have lead to this sad moment. I have no solution, and no real desire to see GM overtake Toyota again. Toyota gets it and makes great cars, big, small, luxurious, econobox, and they make pretty good trucks, too. Still even with that it's sad to see GM get passed by.

A December Grievance goes out to Time Magazine for your ridiculous choice in your annual Personage or Entity of the Year edition. It's just more silly navel-gazing, and the internet has plenty of that, already.

December's Anti-Grievance goes out to You. I know I'm in Time Magazine territory here, but the few dozen folks that show up here on a regular basis, and the hundreds more who find themselves here while searching for bizarre things (like Kat Dennings Bra Size, or ...land of funk to the land of funk...lyrics) are reason enough to keep on doing this well into 2007 and beyond.

Hope you've had a Happy Festivus, and that the rest of your holidays are equally Festive and Joyous.

It's The Second Annual Festivus List of Grievances (and Anti-Grievances) Part One of Two

OK, it's Festivus. I'm going to turn this into both a Festivus List of Grievances (and Anti-Grievances) and a "Year in Review" post. I'll pick 2 Grievance recipients and 1 Anti-Grievance winner for each month. I'm generous like that (sorry, no feats of strength).

I'm breaking this up into two posts, one for Jan-Jun, another for Jul-Dec, ENJOY!

January 2006

The first January Grievance goes out to the people of Palestine. They elected Hamas as their political leadership in January 2006. As Ren would say, EEEEEEEdiots.

The second January Grievance goes out to (now former) Presidente del Mexico Vincente Fox. Fences may good neighbors, if we want to build a fence on our side of the border, that's our business. Maybe you should work to improve the conditions in your country and encourage entrepreneurship, maybe then 1 percent of your workforce per year wouldn't risk death and seek employment in El Norte.

The January Anti-Grievance goes out to Kobe & Shaq for showing each other some love on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Let by-gones be by-gones, you don't need to be buddies, but you should respect each other.

February 2006

The first February Grievance goes out to the NFL for their choice of halftime entertainers during a MOTOWN based Superbowl. The Stones at the first Superbowl would have been cool, but The Stones at Superbowl XL just plain sucks.

The second February Grievance goes out to all those stupid Rent-A-Mob's (links to the cartoons themselves rather than reports about the mobs, you remember it, no need to rehash) that protested the Danish cartoons throughout the month of February. Grow Up Folks, if you can't take the heat, stay home.

The February Anti-Grievance goes out to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Y'all had a great run in the playoffs (though if Carson Palmer hadn't suffered that injury on the first play in the wildcard, y'all probably wouldn't have made it out of the first round) and gave us some exciting games in the playoffs. Good show.

March 2006

The first March Grievance goes out to pranksters in Denmark who sullied the Little Mermaid. That ain't right.

The second March Grievance goes out to Rev. Pat Robertson. Follow the link if you want to know the specific rant that earns him this distinction, but really, he earns consideration just about every month with every word he utters.

The March Anti-Grievance goes out to the UCR Women's Basketball Team. Congratulations on your first appearance in the "big dance". Y'all were a 16 seed, one and out as is the case with 16 seeds, but you maded it, and that's a big accomplishment.

April 2006

The first April Grievance goes out to Seymour Hersh. Like Rev. Robertson, there are so many things he writes and says that could earn a grievance that it's hard to pick one, but the particular New Yorker article in question is an especially grievance worthy piece.

The second April Grievance goes out to His Excellency President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His continued Mahmoudiness threatens the stability of the entire world. He earns a grievance for just being, but I give him an April award because, it combines nicely with naming Seymour Hersh, and also, that article shows him at his Mahmoudiest.

The April Anti-Grievance goes out to Pope Benedict XVI. He's done a commendable job in replacing a soon to be Saint. His first Easter message couldn't have been easy to deliver, yet he delivered it, and did a job worthy of his position.

May 2006

The first May Grievance was earned by The Swedish Police for shutting down Pirate's Bay. Arrrrrrgggggghhhh!!!

The second May Grievance goes out to the Phoenix Suns for knocking out both the Lakers and the Clippers in the NBA playoffs. Damn you!!!

The May Anti-Grievance goes out to all the Europeans who chose Lordi as the 2006 Eurovision Champions. I'm impressed.

June 2006

The first June Grievance goes out to the MPAA for giving Facing the Giants a PG rating for "proselytizing". What more can I say?

The second June Grievance goes out to The World Cup Referees. I'm not a Soccer fan, but even I could tell that many of their calls were ridiculous (they went seriously card happy). It was not "the beautiful game" for most of the tournament, and that's just plain sad.

The June Anti-Grievance goes out to Ken Jennings. He started his blog in June of 2006, and so far it's been a good one chock full of daily posted ponderings. He's a funny, funny man.

That covers the first half of 2006, the second list will follow shortly.

22 December 2006



Big Day Tomorrow

There will be a Festivus post for the rest of us here by the end of the day tomorrow, just fair warning, and maybe some special Saturday edition dogwalking photos, also, and if that weren't enough, I'll finish that tour around the blogosphere I started a few days ago.

Modern Problems

No, not this Modern Problems, instead these modern problems.

The long , read the article, the short: choice=bad.

21 December 2006

The Very First (and possibly last) Immodest Proposals BABE of the WEEK (2006 DEC 21 Edition)

I'm not the first blogger to think of doing a "Babe of the Week", and usually these sort of things aren't done on Wednesdays, but I have some photos I took today of a real "Babe" from Japan.




Probably not what you were picturing initially. It's Babe the Blue Ox as a creamer. It's pre-WWII Japanese hand painted ceramic, possibly valuable, probably not. Made back when "Made in Japan" was synonymous with crap.

If James Lileks ever visits this site, he'll see those shots and his head might 'splode.

A Minnesota legend, in tchothke form, and it's pre-WWII.

(but then, there's the very real possibility he already owns one)

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation (Week SIXTEEN)

It's back. Time for the inconsistency of this year's crop of NFL teams to bedevil my skill at picking winners once again.

There are nine games that have playoff implications for both teams playing, so I'll risk guessing on all nine (My picks in orange).

Thursday 21st, December
Minnesota (6-8) at Green Bay (6-8) Green Bay -3.5
In what sick and sad world do both teams at 6-8 tonight still have a chance at a playoff spot? The NFC is really, really crappy this season. At least the loser can quit pretending to be a playoff team. I'm going with Green Bay for two main reasons, it's on the "Frozen Tundra", and the weather will be less than clement. Favre is better than anyone born in the South has a right to be in playing in bad weather. They still need a lot of help from the teams ahead of them to make the playoffs, but at least that dream won't end tonight. For Minnesota they can start thinking of next year.

Sunday 24th, December
Carolina (6-8) at Atlanta (7-7) Carolina +6.0
Again, another game with two teams that have played lousy of late and normally wouldn't be in any sort of playoff talk, but this isn't a normal year, and Atlanta can win out and still be on the outside looking in, or they can lose and still have a chance to make the playoffs at 8-8 depending how Philly and NYGiants do this week. Carolina has to win out and needs lots of help. There were moments this season where either one of these teams looked legit and to be a serious threat to the very vulnerable looking Chicago for the NFC Championship, but that was before Carolina dropped 4 in a row and Atlanta lost 4 of their last 6 games. Also I hate picking games involving the Falcons. Impossible to fathom, have they quit on their coach and are they determined to get him fired? Or, do they realize that they still have a shot to make the playoffs and once in, given Chicago's vulnerability on offense, all six teams from the NFC have a chance to get a trip to Miami to be spanked by whichever team wins the AFC? I'm guessing they've given up, I realize it's a bit unfair to leave Carolina out of this equation, and they'll have plenty to say about the outcome of this game, but this little summary is already pretty epic in length, so enough said.

Tennessee (7-7) at Buffalo (7-7) Buffalo -4.5
These are two of the hottest teams in football right now. Vince Young has looked very good, but it's going to be a chilly day up in Ralph Wilson Stadium (though not by Buffalo standards, by any means). The winner will still cling to a small shred of playoff hope, the loser is definitely out. The clincher for this is that my mother's family is from Buffalo (I know, that's not really a reason to pick the Bills, but I'm just not ready to jump on the Vince Young/Norm Chow bandwagon just yet).

New Orleans (9-5) at NY Giants (7-7) New Orleans +3.0
The Saints are already in the playoffs, but are still fighting to earn a first round bye. The Giants have the inside track on the last wild card slot, if they win out, they're in, but they won't win out. After demolishing Dallas two weeks ago, they the Saints couldn't do anything right last week, but they'll bounce back and look again like the second best (or best?) team in the NFC again this week. The Giants will look again like the team that's lost 5 of the last 6 games, yet even with a loss at home, they won't be out of the playoff picture just yet.

Baltimore (11-3) at Pittsburgh (7-7)
Baltimore +3.0
After their horrendous start, the Steelers are looking again like champions. But, Baltimore is a better team, and their defense will be able to overcome a resurgent Steelers offense. The big question hanging over this game is McNair's hand. It's injured, but won't keep him out of the game. If his accuracy, or ability to handle snaps, is effected that could mean big trouble for the Ravens. He's a football player, he'll tough it out and play fine. I can't believe the Steelers are favored in this, that's just crazy.

New England (10-4) at Jacksonville (8-6) Jacksonville -2.5
Jacksonville put themselves in a really bad position by losing to Tennessee last week, but should rebound at home against a very good New England team. But for their drubbing by Miami, the Pats look like a dangerous team come playoff time, but they're only getting one home game at most, so if they advance to the second round, they'll have to win on the road. Jacksonville will win, and give themselves. Let Sippican Cottage come here and tell me how foolish I am to pick against Tom Brady, I'm a man, I can take it.

Cincinnati (8-6) at Denver (8-6)
Cincinnati +3.0
After the storm this week that shutdown most of Denver, it looks like conditions for the game will be bone-chilling but calm and dry by game time. The loser of this game is going to be the best team not to make the playoffs this year. The Bengals have won 4 of 5, but that last loss was a tough thumping by the Colts on Monday night, while Denver has lost 4 of 5, but managed to win on the road in Arizona (not that hard to do) last week. Denver has lost most every game they've played against legit playoff teams this year, I don't think this game will be any different. Their defense was phenomenal earlier in the year, lately not so much. Carson Palmer looks healthier and healthier and he'll pick Denver apart (so long as he's not foolish enough to challenge Champ Bailey, and he's not).

San Diego (12-2) at Seattle (8-6) San Diego -4.5
San Diego, favored on the road, still have something to play for. They want and need home field for the entire playoffs, they do not want to have to face an AFC Championship game in Baltimore, and a loss here could mean just that. Seattle would clinch the NFC Lousy (West) division with a win or SF loss, but they won't do it here. The Seahawks may still make the playoffs, and even get back to the Superbowl, but it seems unlikely at this point, and losing this game won't make it seem any more likely (though if they win this game, they might be considered a contender again).

Philadelphia (8-6) at Dallas (9-5) Dallas -7.0
Dallas wins their division with a win here. Philadelphia won't be eliminated from wild-card hopes with a loss. Jeff Garcia can not possibly keep playing as well as he has. The Dallas defense will make him look like Jeff Garcia once again and Dallas will trounce the Eagles in Irving, Texas. Merry Christmas Cowboy fans! (and Bah Hum Bug Eagles fans)

20 December 2006

Around the Blogosphere, Again (part one of two)

I've been "around the blogosphere" before, but this time it's different.

Before it was just a way to post something when I couldn't think of anything specific to write.

This time it's something to make sure I keep up my Solstice to Solstice posting streak with only one day left while not having anything specific to write (big difference).

So highlighting recent highlights from my links over on the side, let's start at the top:

Amy Alkon, complains about a whiny Brentwood traffic based complaint from director David O. Russell, I couldn't do it better, so instead of trying, I'll just link.

Althouse, remembers bad toys, really, really bad health threatening toys, I'm old enough, and my parents were trusting enough in my common sense to have many dangerous toys at a young age despite growing up in the 70s instead of the 50s. My favorite was the chemistry set, used to make some sort of strange sulfur based plastic, don't remember what else went in besides sulfur (I could look it up of course, but I'm lazy).

Cathy Seipp, rails against old-fartism from some old fart at the LA Times. As usual she's right.

Pastor Jeff, he doesn't want to be your "go to" source for Benny Hinn hating, but nevertheless he serves up a good dose of skepticism regarding that charlatan.

Defamer, highlights the fight brewing between The Rosie and The Donald. Too bad they both can't lose. But if someone has to lose I'd prefer it be The Rosie.

Scott Adams, goes after Al Qaeda's big heaping steaming pile of #2 and wonders aloud whether or not he's a cubicle dweller at Al Jazeera.

(I'll finish this tour around the blogosphere tomorrow)

(and there will be Weekly NFL Related Humiliation for your perusal before the kick-off of the Thursday night game)

19 December 2006

Or is this just a sad sign of how Hollywood treats great actresses of a certain age (and, apparently, Matthew Modine)?

I just noticed that the previous post was POST 1000!!!

welcome to the next millennium of Immodest posts.

About that title, you really have to read this to understand why that's so funny.

NMT: 19 DEC 06 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - The Painted Veil

The pop/rock releases this week were just too terrible to even speak of, so I searched through other genres to find something that I might connect with.

Luckily I delved into the Soundtracks/Musicals section of Urge cause I've found a real gem.

The film, The Painted Veil, is getting some buzz especially for the performances by the lead actors, Ed Norton and Naomi Watts, but then they are "serious" actors in a "serious" film, so buzz is obligatory.

It looks way too Merchant/Ivory (but it's not) to see in theaters. These kind of period piece dramas set against exotic backgrounds with fantastic actors acting fantastically are best seen at home, in my opinion. The big screen adds nothing to the experience, and often takes something away (bad sound, projection, noisy bodily functions of other theatergoers, et cetera).

But enough about a film I haven't seen, I'm posting this to talk about a soundtrack that I have listened to.

It's bloody brilliant. I hadn't heard of Alexandre Michel Desplat before, but he's the real deal. He's yet to win an Oscar, but this soundtrack received a well deserved Golden Globes nod this year.

Looking over his credits, I have yet to see a film he's scored, he's exclusively done French films up until a few years ago, recently he seems to have been doing both "art house" and mainstream pictures (in 2005 and 2006 he scored "The Painted Veil", "The Queen", "Firewall", "Syriana", "Casanova", "Hostage", and "The Upside of Anger" among other projects, he's a busy, busy man).

Actually describing what's good or bad about a "classical" film score is a difficult task, to say the least. Also, having not seen the film, it's impossible to know if the music is too good for the film's own good.

But with that said, let me assure you, there are no bad tracks on this album, all the songs are evocative and compelling. Especially noteworthy are "The Water Wheel" which obviously comes from an "action" scene (or at least as much action as a Maugham based period drama would have) and contains many "oriental" touches befitting the Chinese setting of the picture. "The Lovers" is spare, but beautiful, sad, and a bit distant to begin with, then swirls into something a little more dense, but equally pretty without getting too schmaltzy. An impressive journey in only 1:26.

Pretty much every track is a standout, it's a really solid piece of neoclassical composition that probably fits closest to the later romantics if I were to pick one style to suggest a fit, but that would sound a bit dismissive and be largely inaccurate.

This was performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra along with featured work by Lang Lang on piano. Lang Lang (seen here on an annoyingly German talk show) had previously collaborated with Desplat on the soundtrack to "Girl with the Pearl Earring".

I can easily recommend this album if you're the kind of person who enjoys listening to Soundtrack albums. It's one of the better ones I've heard of recent vintage in quite some time.

It won't be released on good old fashion CDs for two more weeks (Jan 9th), but through the miracle of subscription music services I was able to listen to this before the film was released in the US or the CD hit stores. Love this modern age.

Of course, if you are a Soundtrack listening person, then really you should be listening to Herrmann's stuff, but sometimes it's nice throw in something a little different now and then.

And if I never heard another Zimmer or Williams score in my life, I'd probably be a little happier, but I know in my heart that I'm likely to be subjected to their works for some time to come (not that they both haven't done some great scores in the past, it's just that they have been recycling the same tropes ad infinitum for a couple decades now)

18 December 2006

Excuse Me, I Got To Take A Really, Really Big Ship

Not me actually, but Michael Jennings posting at Samizdata.net.

And not just one really, really big ship, but two!!

(and I mean take, as in take a photo, of course)

The Emma Maersk and its sister ship Estelle Maersk, the two largest ships in the world, seen in their home environs.

Read the post, it's interesting.

(here's another semi-Christmas themed story on the Emma Maersk from CBBC Newsround)

In Praise of Sophie Muller

Music videos are generally throw away objects not meant to resonate much beyond the immediate present and sell some units, or build a buzz around an artist.

But a few music video directors manage to create a style for themselves that carries over from decade to decade and from artist to artist.

Sophie Muller is one such person.

Browsing through her list of credits on her Wiki page is like a summary of some of the better videos of the past 20 years.

Through the miracle of YouTube and copyright infringement, I can share with you some highlights.

The video for Eurythmic's Beethoven, the non-musical intro speech from Annie is simply brilliant. For a first video credit, an impressive effort. Why Ms. Lennox didn't do more acting I'll never know. She would have been fantastic. Simple, surreal, compelling, and services the song well, all the things a video should be.

Next up, Sade's No Ordinary Love, the underwater theme suits this song perfectly. Her voice is so flowing and liquid, she's easily believable as a slightly sad siren. The scene shifts between that and a sad runaway bride. It doesn't have to make sense, it's a video dammit.

Have I ever mentioned I love me some Hope Sandoval? That's her with The Jesus and Mary Chain in the video for Sometimes Always. She and the lead singer were an item at the time, a bit of that shows through in this video. Again, Sophie finds a visual setting that serves the sound of the song. There's a western edge to the song, and the video is shot in what looks like Death Valley (or the Mojave, not sure). Simple, and simply beautiful.

No Doubt - Simple Kind of Life, another video that uses the tensions of a real life relationship to help sell the song and the visuals. This video would seem to be part of the process of Gwen becoming "Gwen" and overshadowing the rest of the band. Some interesting stuff going on from a technique standpoint, I especially like the shot towards the end where the camera stays focused on a spot and Gwen walks into focus. Different without being too showy.

Loretta Lynn & Jack White, Portland Oregon, another case of matching song to sight. Sophie has some particular things she likes to do that carry over from video to video, and she seems to like a real saturated look on her studio work, plus the low tracking shot cut with close ups. But it works, dunnit? For a moment I thought Jack and Loretta were going to make out though, ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

Lily Allen, Smile, I can't wait till this album is released in the United States. I eat this sort of stuff up with a spoon. But back to the video, again, she shoots a video that highlights some aspect of the sound. In this case, Lily's style is very London-centric, and the video is pure chavtastic. Brilliant stuff, that. This is a pretty snotty song (in a good way), and the video is equally snotty. Perfect.

So what does Sophie Muller do that's so good? She serves the artist, that's what. Each of these videos, though there are some common touches, are different enough from each other that you wouldn't have been surprised if they were made by different directors. Sophie lets the music speak for itself and the personality of the artists escape from the screen. With each of the videos you don't get the sense that you're seeing a manufactured and test-marketed pose, but rather a window into who these folks are in their everyday lives. Remarkable thing to accomplish on a budget while the main purpose is to push units.

I'm glad she hasn't tried to make the leap to making features. I don't think she'd be good at it. Most video artists who try to become directors lose something in the translation and end up making very disjointed and incoherent films that stretch 15 minute stories into 90 minute films (instead of compacting 15 minute stories into 4 minute videos as is their habit and talent). McG and Michel Gondry come to mind.

It's a special talent to be able to tell 15 minutes of story in 4 minutes of music video, something that shouldn't be scoffed at.

All the above was inpsired by Bill at So Quoted's post regarding Gwen Stefani and her Wind It Up video (above). Notice how in the No Doubt video way up above she seems scared of being in the spotlight, and now she's somewhere between Elvis and Madonna (but with a smirk). Interesting developments.

And I reviewed the album The Sweet Escape (mostly positively) about a week ago here. I kind of ignored the song Wind It Up in my review, mainly cause I find it to be the most annoying track on the album. I prefer to build up, rather than to tear down, I guess that's why my reviews aren't as compelling as they could be.

17 December 2006

It Was Too Cold . . .

. . . to snap shots while dog walking this morning.

How cold was it?

Mid 40s.

Hey! Quit that snickering, and muttering, "toughen up lad", this is Southern California, and I haven't been in weather this cold since last winter. It was mid 70s just on Thursday, and a couple of showers and a big blast of Alaska air has changed things considerably.

It's not like the camera would have frozen or anything, but I wore gloves while walking the dog, and trying to fumble with the camera in gloved hands didn't appeal.

No matter the temperature, I'll tough it out and photoblog on Christmas Eve, that's my solemn pledge to you. Two weeks without some photos from various spots my dog has sniffed on a Sunday stroll is enough.

The dog didn't seem bothered at all by the cool temps, he's happy walking in any sort of conditions.

I'm working on my List of Grievances and checking them twice, just to make sure who's both naughty and not nice, so expect some Festivus related blogging some time in the next few days.

16 December 2006

This Just In . . .

Drudge just posted this bit of hyperventilation

YOU were named TIME magazine 'Person of the Year' Saturday for the explosive growth and influence of user-generated Internet content such as 'blogs', video-file sharing site YouTube and social network MySpace... You -- YES, YOU -- beat out candidates including Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, China's President Hu Jintao, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi... YOU, YOU, YOU....

Woohoo!! I am Da Person!!! I take a big share of the responsibility, I've been pimping YouTube pretty hard these past few months, on top of that, all those "user generated" photos I've been posting while walking the dog have forever changed how dozens of folks get their entertainment.

So I accept this accolade on behalf of all the other folks on the internets, and I just want to know, where do I pick up my prize?

15 December 2006

YouTube, Best Thing Ever, or Menace?

I'm not talking about copyright issues, I'm talking about the kinds of stuff folks feel compelled to submit.

First the menace (the number of like videos astounds)

Now, the best thing ever

"I Only Know Enough On the Topic to Publish a Book in My Name, Not Actually Debate My Positions On Their Merits"

Regarding this . . . (via Drudge)

The above quote may not actually have been said by former President James Earl Carter (I use his full name out of respect for the office he held, not the person, the person I hold beneath contempt, the office is still something very special).

I hope Prof. Dershowitz responds anyway.

Here's the money quote

"I don't want to have a conversation even indirectly with Dershowitz," Carter said. "There is no need to for me to debate somebody who, in my opinion, knows nothing about the situation in Palestine."

This may be one of the most massive and obvious cases of projection on record, Carter won't debate Dershowitz because it's Dershowitz who is ill informed . . . . . . . ., riiiiiiiiiiiiiggghhht.

Bullet points from the Wiki on Psychological projection below(my comments as it pertains to this particular case, in red)

  • "Projection is the opposite defence mechanism to identification. We project our own unpleasant feelings onto someone else and blame them for having thoughts that we really have." (check)
  • "A defense mechanism in which the individual attributes to other people impulses and traits that he himself has but cannot accept. It is especially likely to occur when the person lacks insight into his own impulses and traits." (double check)
  • "Attributing one's own undesirable traits to other people or agencies." (come on, this is too easy)
  • "The individual perceives in others the motive he denies having himself. Thus the cheat is sure that everyone else is dishonest." (This line should be over on this Wiki)
  • "A man harboring attractions for a woman would perceive other men has having the same attractions for her." (he did lust in his heart, after all)
  • "People attribute their own undesirable traits onto others. An individual who unconsciously harbours his or her aggressive/sexual tendencies may then imagine other people acting in an excessively aggressive or sexual way." (if he wasn't still respected by some, he'd just be a sad fool you could ignore)
  • "An individual who possesses malicious characteristics, but who is unwilling to perceive himself as an antagonist, convinces himself that his opponent feels and would act the same way." (Saint Jimmy the Tortured and Misunderstood, that says it all, really)

Wherein Bill at So Quoted Gives Me an Excuse to Expound Upon Dreamgirls, Laura Nyro, Patti LaBelle, and Kylie Minogue Among Other Things

I feel inspired by this post where Bill at So Quoted felt inspired by one of my posts (he's so entirely right about Sinead O'Connor, that I can't possibly add more, also her Wiki mentions she's due to deliver her fourth child Christmas Eve, God could do worse for his latest Mary (and the Devil could do worse as far as his first Mary, for that matter)). The blogosphere is full of these sort of self-referential feedback loops, I didn't want to be left out.

I'm trying to trace back in my mind where all this horrible Whitney, Mariah, Celine, Xtina crap started and I think I know where.


I was going to do a review of the album from the new film, but I loathed it so much, that I figured I couldn't possibly be fair towards it. Then I listened to a cast recording of the original musical, and it was just as bad, if not worse.

That song, the big show stopper, the big moment, the one that supposedly made Jennifer Holliday a star, that song is a wreck, especially at the end. Jennifer Hudson does an equally horrific job with that crappy song, warble for warble, oversung note for oversung note.

It may be enough to earn her a Supporting Actress Oscar. Good for her, I guess.

Needless to say, you'd have to pay me to see that film, and pay me well, like getting Prof. Althouse to eat an egg salad sandwich type money (current price seems to be around $1,000 US, but as she seems more prosperous lately, the price may have risen).

Dreamgirls first hit Broadway very early in the 80s, before Whitney had her hits, and before Patti LaBelle went from being a powerfully voiced singer into being a ridiculous parody of a warbler. It is a play about girl groups from the sixties but it applies a bombastic Broadway sensibility to the lyrics and song style. It's a match made in hell, if you ask me. Listen to Motown, listen to Mary Wells' velvety vocals, or Diana Ross' sexy whisper. That's not what Holliday does in that stupid musical. Dreamgirls is as if you mixed girl groups with the demonic presence that is known as Andrew Lloyd Webber. To paraphrase Hugo Chavez, whenever ALW leaves a room, the smell of sulfur lingers for days.

So why did that crappy vocal style catch on, and why do consumers continue to eat it up?

I don't have a precise answer, but I think it has something to do with the idea that folks have a tendency to believe that things that seem hard take more talent than things that seem easy. The shortstop who's always in the right place never has to make a spectacular play to get the easy out, while the guy who doesn't know what the hell he is doing, but has amazing physical gifts gets to make spectacular play after spectacular play as he dives in the dirt, wheels and throws. People assume the diver is the better shortstop, when really it's the fella who does his homework, and does the job as it should be done.

I think pop music consumers have fallen in a similar trap. They hear vocalists doing runs and singing in a couple octaves and keys within one song, and they think to themselves, "self, I could never do that, therefore this here that I'm listening to must take real talent, and therefore is well worth my time, even if it sounds like a bag of cats drowning".

What's that have to do with Laura Nyro? Everything, I've been listening to her album of soul covers, Gonna Take a Miracle, and it's amazing. That was a vocalist who knew exactly what she was doing and used her instrument in surprising and exciting ways. Her voice wasn't always pleasant sounding, and she brought a shocking emotionality to those songs that tended to uncover a dark undercurrent in the sunny lyrics she was singing. This is especially true on Nowhere to Run, her take on that song is absolutely enthralling. At the end when she repeats "I've got nowhere to run to" it sounds as if she's really being stalked by something sinister. It's a fascinating change from the original, and it's all done through how she uses her voice.

As it so happens (I was going to edit that needlessly conversational phrase from this post, but instead I'll link to this Althouse post as penance), this album is a joint project between Nyro and Labelle, Patti LaBelle's group at the time. It's amazing, and somewhat hard to believe now, that Patti used to be able to use her voice in the service of the song rather than as turning each song into glorified vocal exercises.

What has Kylie Minogue have to do with this conversation?

She's a thinly voiced singer who has perfected the art of using that thin voice to maximum effect. She is that shortstop who is always in the perfect position to make the easy throw. Her last album, Body Language, is just about the most perfect pop album released in the past 5 years. It's a sublime creation, and it doesn't matter that she can't power through a note, what matters is that she's able to interpret songs, and present something pleasing and beautiful within the context of light, confectionery pop. It's one of the easiest albums you'll ever listen to, and that's a big compliment in my opinion.

Folks don't always get it, but Easy is Hard, it's Hard that's Easy.

14 December 2006

Car Talk

Cars, can't live with them, can't live without them.

GM should soon be number two worldwide to Toyota in total vehicle sales. I bow (very low, from the waist) before our Japanese carmaking overlords. I didn't realize that GM divested their stock in Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru's parent company) and Toyota gobbled up a big share of the same company. They're even going to make Toyotas alongside the Subarus in Indiana. Matching Subarus engineering with Toyotas economies of scale is a match made in heaven. I really do love me some Subarus. So does this kid, probably a bit too much.

Also, a review of the latest Expedition EL. Yes, it's a boat on wheels. I don't like big trucks personally, but I don't think they should be banned from the roads. I'm fascinated by the comment section following the review of that beast on the The Truth About Cars blog. It descends into talk of nanny-statism v. ecodisaster v. class-envy v. regional biases. Nothing stirs the pot like big SUVs.

13 December 2006

No Year End Wrap Ups Here

For some reason I just don't think this year is ready for being wrapped up. I haven't heard enough albums to talk about "best" albums of the year, same with films, and as far as TV, there was nothing new this year that stood out over what was out last year, and most returning shows were pale imitations of their former selves (South Park excepted).

Last year felt wrap-up-able, but not this year.

If I'm up for the announcements of the Golden Globes tomorrow morning, maybe I'll do a semi-liveblog post regarding the picks. They're usually kind of amusing.

And despite the Michael Richards thing, I'll revisit Festivus this year.

12 December 2006

Purple and Gold Time Again

The Lakers are doing their Texas two-step with a game in Houston tonight and a game in Dallas tomorrow.

They won tonight,
being alternately impressive then maddening.

The impressive part was the 3rd quarter where they once again were commanding. On Sunday against San Antonio they outscored a very good team 37-22, tonight they trounced Houston 30-13 in the 3rd. Tonight's third quarter magic was even more impressive given that Lamar Odom strained his knee early and was not even in the building for most of the game (went to a local hospital for an MRI on his knee).

Early in the 4th quarter their lead swelled to 27 points, but then they went cold, really, really cold. A 26-1 run by the Rockets b-team wiped out all but 2 points of that lead with 2 minutes still left to go.

I don't know if I should be impressed that they regained their composure and still won, or scared that they are still a young team and are incapable of putting away good teams when they have the chance.

If they also beat Dallas tomorrow, then you'll have to start looking at the Lakers as a legitimate title contender for this season. They have length, speed and strength at every position, and the Bynum/Brown tandem are doing an amazing job at center, a position that has held the Lakers back ever since they lost Shaq. Also Luke Walton has been amazing. He's leading the league in 3pt field goal percentage. Where the hell did that come from all of the sudden? With Lamar and Kobe able to drive from the outside, having guys hit their 3s from the wing with consistency has greatly improved the Lakers as an offensive team, and defensively they have players who can shut down opponents at every position. For whatever reason, they don't keep up their defensive intensity for 4 quarters, but they have had 10-15 minute stretches in every game where their opponents are stymied. That's the kind of team balance on offense and defense that causes headaches for opposing coaches. Unfortunately, their inconsistency must test the Zen-ness of Phil Jackson a bit too often.

This team is light years ahead of where they were last season. Given their youth, it's possible they'll all come crashing down to earth at the same time and have some horrible stretches now that they'll be on the road for some big stretches.

There are still a lot of very good teams in the Western Conference, but this current bunch of Lakers can be counted amongst them, and that's not something that could be said last year.

NMT: 12 DEC 06 Taylor Hicks - Taylor Hicks

Taylor Hicks - Taylor Hicks

Not just one, but two albums by American Idol winners are being unleashed on an unsuspecting public this week. Fantasia's Fantasia album is also hitting stores. They're keeping the album titles simple (see also Chris Daughtry's Daughtry).

I was never a member of the soul patrol. I watched Idol, I've watched every season but the first (it's a good show to watch with the folks). I really didn't much like any of the folks in the final six as far as their singing, some had their charms, but consistently solid vocals wasn't one of them.

Taylor Hicks is a pretty solid singer, for that he should be respected and not dismissed as a novelty act, or just some guy who got lucky.

He's good at just singing the song, that sounds simple, yet so many artists nowadays can't do that simple task.

There's twelve songs on this album, and there's not an absolutely awful song in the bunch. There isn't anything that will make you weep in joy, either.

The whole album is a bit of a throwback to soul flavored soft rock from the early/mid 80s a la Huey Lewis, Steve Winwood, Phil Collins or Michael McDonald (especially him). You're fondness for that sound will color your feelings towards this effort.

I hated that stuff back in those days, but it's hard not to appreciate the craft that went into that music. The same can be said of this album.

There's plenty of musical plagiarism, but it's done well, and seems clearly done with some affection and not just affectation.

One stand out track is Heaven Knows which almost steals the organ from Ray Charles' "What I Say", and if you're going to steal, steal from the best. In the same song there's even a nice little Prince-ish break towards the middle. Add to that just a touch of horns at the end, and you got yourself a solid song.

The other track that he verges into Ray Charles territory is the closing track Right Place. It's a pretty standard love ballad, but he sings it well, and they give it some gospel touches around the edges in the production. I predict it will be a wedding song for some time to come (for some that might be a high compliment, for others that might be damning with faint praise).

Another good one is Give Me Tonight, which has some interesting things going on (especially in the intro) and breaks out of the 4/4 straight jacket that the rest of the album is confined in. His vocals really suit this song, and they've got some good back-up singers in support to give him someone to play off of.

My favorite track is The Maze, his vocals are strong, he doesn't push his voice, he just plays his instrument well in this song. This song's got a nice lush arrangement, and even though it's kind of a standard radio friendly rocker, it's not just inoffensive, it's actually kind of good.

Having seen him perform, and his inherent goofiness, it's difficult to buy him trying to sell a "I love 'em and leave 'em" song like Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home). It's a pleasant enough song, but hearing him actually sing the lines, "For I'm the type of guy, who gives the girls the eye, everyone knows, but I love them and leave them, break their hearts and deceive them, everywhere I go" is a bit too much for me.

That leads to what is the weakest part of this album. The lyrics veer from insipid, to down right laughable. The less said about Places I've Been the better (but he does sound good on the song).

As far as some of the other tunes, for a song called Soul Thing, that song is surprisingly unsoulful, but all in all, there are no songs that are outright unlistenable, and there are plenty of tracks that you can actually enjoy.

With that said, while listening to this, I couldn't help but flash on that scene from American Psycho where the Psycho was extolling on the pleasures of Huey Lewis. Yes, I'm a sick puppy, but much of what he says about Huey and Hip to Be Square, could be said about this album.

(the bloody, NSFW scene is YouTubed below)