30 June 2005

Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines

Have your bags been in your possession
the whole time?

No. Usually the night before I travel,
just as the moon is rising, I place my
suitcases on the street corner and
leave them there unattended for
several hours -- for good luck.

- George Carlin

In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright conquered the forces
of gravity with the first powered human flight in Kitty Hawk,
North Carolina. An unforseen consequence of this bold act
was the bottomless wealth of material airlines and airports
have provided for nearly every popular comedian of the
past hundred years.

At the pinnacle of that comic tradition is George Carlin.
Back in 1999, he so effectively and hilariously deconstructed
the absurdity of airport security that I was surprised he
wasn’t asked to testify before the 9/11 investigation

Perhaps congress and the airline industry were a little bit
embarrassed that Carlin, without access to classified memos
or secret studies, arrived at the truth long before they did.

But everything is different now, right?

Now we have to wait on really long lines and take off our
shoes before we board. And the security folks have much
more impressive uniforms with important-looking TSA
badges. So air travel simply must be safer, right?

Well, if you’re a fan of that other great American satirist,
Harry Shearer, you’ll be familiar with a regular feature
on his radio show called Tales of Airport Security.

The premise is simple: Harry reads letters from listeners who
have firsthand knowledge of just how new and improved
the airport experience has become. Sometimes shocking,
always entertaining, you can hear the latest installment

Even the Department of Homeland Security admits that there
have been "inconsistencies" in airport procedures. But don’t
worry, they’ve got the solution: go back to using privately
hired screeners.

Sounds like a good idea, right?

Wouldn’t you feel safer going back to the pre-9/11 system,
when your bags were checked by minimum-wage workers
(some with criminal records) hired by companies you know
nothing about?

Well, consider this…

When airline security was taken over by the TSA after 9/11,
the government allowed five airports to remain under private
control as a pilot program to determine which system was
more effective. In April 2004, Norman Rabkin, Managing
Director of Homeland Security and Justice, presented the
results of the program to congress.

What was the title of his report?

Private Screening Contractors Have Little Flexibility
to Implement Innovative Approaches

Hmmm… That doesn’t sound too good, does it? But if you
download the actual report here and skip to the “concluding
observations” section, you’ll see that even the title is
misleading because…

The private screening pilot program was not
established in a way to enable an effective
evaluation of the differences in the performance
of federal and private screening and the reasons
for those differences. In developing the pilot
program, TSA did not develop an evaluation plan
or performance targets by which to assess how
the performance of federal and private screening
compares. Additionally, TSA did not collect data
in ways that would enable it to reach generalizable
conclusions about the performance of private
screeners. Further, the program was not designed
to achieve its intended mission, as defined by
TSA -- to test the effectiveness of increased
operational flexibility at the airport level that
contractors may provide.

So basically, nobody knows which system is safer.
[Incidentally, I'm pretty sure generalizable isn't a real word.]

But faced with rather embarrassing evidence of its
own ineffectiveness, the TSA has decided that it must
do something -- even if there is no proof that it will
actually work.

Sound familiar?

29 June 2005

Need a second opinion?

It is still too early to know if last night’s speech from the
president had any effect on the public. But the White House
can’t be too happy with the reviews in today’s newspapers.

The New York Times:

Sadly, Mr. Bush wasted his opportunity last night,
giving a speech that only answered questions no
one was asking. He told the nation, again and again,
that a stable and democratic Iraq would be worth
American sacrifices, while the nation was wondering
whether American sacrifices could actually produce
a stable and democratic Iraq.

The Washington Post:

Once again, however, the president missed an opportunity
to fully level with Americans, even though some of the
hard truths he elided have been spelled out by his aides
and senior military commanders.

Los Angeles Times:

President Bush's pep talk to the nation Tuesday night
was a major disappointment. He again rewrote history
by lumping together the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11,
2001, and the need for war in Iraq, when, in fact,
Saddam Hussein's Iraq had no connection to Al Qaeda.

Obviously, Democrats weren’t too pleased with what they heard
either. Senators Russ Feingold and Ted Kennedy have both posted reactions online.

Über-blogger Josh Marshall notes that even David Gergen found
Bush’s repeated invocations of 9/11 offensive.

Juan Cole breaks down all the inaccuracies and lies in the speech,
and even shares some reactions from real live Iraqis.

And Daily Howler offers its incomparable analysis of the post-speech cable coverage, deeming Chris Matthews performance “little short
of appalling.”

But if you’re looking for an escape from current events, I recommend
heading to your local AMC theater to check out the film that is
apparently so good, it’s got a money-back guarantee.

28 June 2005

Is that your final answer?

I recognize that Americans want our troops to
come home as quickly as possible. So do I.
Some contend that we should set a deadline for
withdrawing U.S. forces. Let me explain why that
would be a serious mistake. Setting an artificial
timetable would send the wrong message to the
Iraqis – who need to know that America will not
leave before the job is done. It would send the
wrong message to our troops – who need to know
that we are serious about completing the mission
they are risking their lives to achieve. And it would
send the wrong message to the enemy – who
would know that all they have to do is to wait
us out. We will stay in Iraq as long as we are
needed – and not a day longer.

- George W. Bush [6/28/05]

Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important
for the president to explain to us what the exit
strategy is.

- George W. Bush [4/9/99]

I think it’s also important for the president to
lay out a timetable as to how long they will be
involved and when they will be withdrawn.

- George W. Bush [6/5/99]

I seem to remember a special term used during the 2004 campaign
for this kind of thinking. Let's see, what did Republicans call it…?

Oh yeah!


Read the details at Think Progress.

Master of His Domain

What are you doing over here when you should be
reading this brilliant essay by Larry David?

Go! Read it now!

We'll still be here when you get back.


photo: Associated Press

music cue: Theme from 'The Odd Couple'

I wonder if this whole wacky friendship is just an elaborate
hoax to mess with the current president's head.

27 June 2005

God Only Knows

The blessing and burden of growing up in a secular
household is that I’ve been forced to confront the
mysteries of life without an official handbook. Instead
of simply inheriting the beliefs, values and rituals of
previous generations, I’ve had to start with a blank
slate and create a philosophy out of my own personal
experience. The advantage of this method is the
freedom to use every resource imaginable to inform
and guide me on this journey toward enlightenment.

In my life, these spiritual guideposts have included
traditional religious and mythological texts,
modern art and literature, cutting-edge physics
and cosmology, and even popular movies and
music. All have contributed to the creation of
a philosophy that I can only really describe as
Mystical Atheism.

Simply put: The universe is a mystery, God is
unknowable, and the only way to reach heaven
is to experience it here on Earth.

Or at least, that’s what I used to think until I
read this fascinating bit of theology:

The head of the Galactic Confederation (76
planets around larger stars visible from here)
founded 95,000,000 yrs ago (very space opera)
solved overpopulation (250 billion or so per
planet -- 178 billion average) by mass

He caused people to be brought to Teegeeack
(Earth) and put an H Bomb on the principal
volcanoes (Incident 2). And then the Pacific
area ones were taken in boxes to Hawaii and
the Atlantic Area ones to Las Palmas and there

His name was Xenu.

He used renegades. Various misleading data
by means of circuits, etc. were placed in the

When through with his crime, Loyal Officers
(to the people) captured him after 6 years of
battle and put him in an electronic mountain
trap where he still is.

"They" are gone. The place (Confed.) has since
been a desert.

Pretty cool, huh? Can you guess the author of this highly
evocative religious text? No, it’s not George Lucas. It’s that
other science-fiction writer who famously said: If a man
really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would
be to start his own religion.

That’s right folks, it is L. Ron Hubbard, and the passage
above is from OT III, a document that (according to critic
David S. Touretzky) “Scientologists must consider to be the
most significant document in the history of the human race.”

But unlike those other significant documents like the
Torah, New Testament or Koran. You can actually view
this text in its original form, handwritten by Hubbard

[You’ll notice that I’ve adjusted some of the punctuation
to make it a bit easier to read -- forgive me, Ron.]

But seeing is believing, and until the US government can
figure out where they’ve misplaced the Ark of the Covenant,
this is how the score looks to me:

Xenu: 1
Jehovah: 0

So who’s really crazy here?
Tom Cruise?

Or the folks who stick with the more orthodox traditions?

26 June 2005


Here’s a nice little story that might be of interest
to the younger readers out there…

By Jonathan Krim, Washington Post Staff Writer

The Defense Department began working yesterday
with a private marketing firm to create a database
of high school students ages 16 to 18 and all
college students to help the military identify
potential recruits in a time of dwindling
enlistment in some branches.

The program is provoking a furor among privacy
advocates. The new database will include personal
information including birth dates, Social Security
numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages,
ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying.

And in typical Washington Post fashion, they buried the most
important information in the 21st paragraph:

The system also gives the Pentagon the right, without
notifying citizens, to share the data for numerous uses
outside the military, including with law enforcement,
state tax authorities and Congress.

Is it just me, or do you kids feel a bit of a draft?

Fortunately, President Bush has ruled out such measures
happening on his watch. So, as long as he stays in the
White House for the next twelve years, you and your
parents should have nothing to worry about.

24 June 2005

Music Review: Iron and the Albatross

Back by popular demand, it's M. with another music
review. Take it away…

* * *

This week's music pick is Iron and the Albatross, fronted by
trumpeter/pump organist/glockenspeil madman Ara Anderson,
whose sideman credits include work with Tom Waits, Tin Hat Trio,
Jolie Holland, and others.

This is instrumental theme music for a silent movie about a kid
who goes to a carnival in 1890.

He discovers the strong-man smoking opium with the bearded
lady -- both of whom are hunched over behind the creaky,
wooden stage.

They look at him with red eyes and laugh scarily.

“Heh heh heh heh.”

Smoke drifts slowly out of the pipe that burns in the lady's
wrinkled hand.

"Do you want some?" *cough* *cough* she says hoarsly,
as the pipe is lifted in your direction.

Okay, well maybe only a couple of songs actually sound like
that. To describe all of the different songs would take forever
and seriously tax my already deeply depleted creative reservoirs.
But take it from me, all of the songs are surprising and beautiful.

Go to araanderson.com and listen to these songs from the album
Iron and the Albatross, and then email Ara and buy it.

- M.

* * *

M. lives in San Francisco. He is one half of the band,
The Speakers. He also plays guitar in Jolie Holland's
band -- touring the world and wooing hearts with his
uncomfortable stage presence and looks of pain
and doubt.

Thanks again, buddy. Keep 'em coming.

23 June 2005

Revenge Of The Shit

Remember when your parents told you about how,
back when they were kids, going to the movies was
like a cross between Christmas and a day at Disneyland?

For the price of a nickel, you could spend all day at the
cinema (which in those days were truly movie palaces,
secular temples that invoked the kind of mysterious awe
usually reserved for more "sacred" spaces found within
cathedrals and halls of government.)

And they certainly got their money's worth: newsreels
from around the world, short comedy and musical pieces
(aka "two-reelers") and a cartoon that often pushed the
boundries of film technology and acceptable family
entertainment. All of that for the price of admission.
Sometimes it was even a double-feature (a form of
public entertainment now even more rare than the
double-header in baseball.)

These days, movie-goers have the privilege of paying
ten bucks to go to a multiplex designed to fit as many
screens as possible into a space with about as much
charm as your local supermarket.

And if you make the mistake of actually showing up
at the scheduled viewing time, you can look forward
to over ten minutes of obnoxious commercials and
formulaic trailers played at a volume loud enough to
wake Caesar's ghost. If you get there early, you can
enjoy the blatant advertising and P.R. disguised as
movie trivia. [Thanks Coca-Cola!]

And that's after you've spent another ten bucks
on popcorn and soda.

So pardon me if I don't shed a tear for the Hollywood
film industry, which is only now getting hip to the fact
that people are sick of this shit. We'll just take our DVDs
and stay home, thank you very much.

20 June 2005


TCS is on vacation. Please check back
later this week for fresh cheese.

Until then, enjoy the cheesy archives.

16 June 2005


photo: Associated Press

Columnated Ruins Domino

After I'm dead, I'd rather have people
ask why I have no monument than
why I have one.

- Cato the Elder

I wonder what future civilizations will think, many centuries
from now, when they find the remains of this.

15 June 2005

Santa Monica Blues

Now this is an Ah-nold flick I'd really pay to see!
But I always did prefer his comedies.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) - Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger's return to his alma mater turned
into an exercise in perseverance when virtually his
every word was accompanied by catcalls, howls and
piercing whistles from the crowd.

Schwarzenegger's face appeared to redden during his
15-minute commencement address Tuesday to 600
graduates at Santa Monica College, but he ignored the
shouting as he recalled his days as a student and, later,
his work as a bodybuilder and actor.

"Always go all out and overcome your fears,'' he told the
graduates. ``Work, work, work. Study, study, study.''

Inside the stadium, the drone from hundreds of rowdy
protesters threatened to drown out the governor's voice
at times. Many in the crowd erupted in boos when a police
officer pulled down a banner criticizing the estimated
$45 million cost of the Nov. 8 special election that
Schwarzenegger proposed Monday.

The governor is backing three ballot initiatives that
call for imposing a cap on state spending, stripping
lawmakers of the power to draw their own districts
and increasing the time it takes teachers to gain

Gee. I can't imagine why he'd be unpopular in Santa Monica.

Digby explains it over at his blog.

Movie stars and fratboy heiresses are used to being
treated with deference and awe. They get all flustered
when people fail to worship at their feet. Here in
Soviet Monica, however, movie stars are a dime a
dozen. They don't turn heads. Rich Republican
phonies, however, get our attention.

And whoever told Schwarzenneger that it was a good
idea to say that teachers, nurses and firefighters were
sell-outs to big business must have been drunk. (Mike
Murphy, perhaps?) That kind of statement doesn't exactly
ring true, especially coming from multi-millionaire
Republican movie stars. He has managed to radicalize
the middle class.

Since Schwarzenneger wants to hold a special election
this fall come hell or high water, maybe we need to start
talking about making it a recall.

Another recall election? Cool!

I hope it has more porn stars this time.

You can hear the Governator's whole speech here.
And Marc Cooper has more in LA Weekly.
It's pretty surreal.

Amazing Grace

If there is any silver lining to the Jackson case,
it is that TV viewers around the world had an
opportunity to see Nancy Grace's head almost

I was very stunned to hear a juror refuse to
state what he thought Jackson does in bed with
all of his line of little boys, say he didn't want
to stick his neck out by telling what he believed…
I mean, isn't that the point of the justice system,
to do what you believe in, what you think is
right, for Pete's sake?

No, Nancy. The point of the justice system is
to ignore what you believe in, examine the
evidence, and follow the rule of law.

What you think is right has nothing to do with it.

Good grief! This lady is actually a lawyer?

14 June 2005

If you’re still keeping score…

American military deaths in Iraq: 1,700

Deaths in Iraq by suicide bombers
in the last 24 hours: 28

Percentage of Americans who approve
of how Bush is conducting the war
in Iraq: 41%

Percentage of Americans who believe
troop levels in Iraq should be
maintained or increased: 36%

Percentage of Americans who
believe the war in Iraq is not
worth fighting: 60%

[tap - tap]

Is this thing on?

13 June 2005

A Helpful Reminder

Don't forget folks…

The Time Traveller Convention

May 7, 2005, 10:00pm EDT
[08 May 2005 02:00:00 UTC]

Events start at 8:00pm.

East Campus Courtyard, MIT
3 Ames St. Cambridge, MA 02142

42:21:36.025°N, 71:05:16.332°W

I may go twice.

Like A Rolling Stone

Continuing with our 60's rock legends theme…

Did you see this article on Bob Dylan in the
Sunday New York Times? [written by Bill Wyman,
who I assume is not the former bass player for
The Rolling Stones, because that would just be
too weird.]

Wyman writes:
Mr. Dylan has turned his act into one of the weirdest
road shows in rock. He rarely speaks to the crowd, and
when he does, his remarks are often gnomic throwaways.
("I had a big brass bed, but I sold it!") He plays some of
his best-known songs, but often in contrarian, almost
unrecognizable versions, as if to dampen their anthemic

Thomas Bartlett at Salon puts it in slightly sharper
Dylan seems to have temporarily given up on
melody... to focus on tone (rasping and hollow, like
the ghost of Tom Waits) and, above all, on phrasing.

He also recommends this website which features
Real Audio samples of Dylan's live shows going all the way
back to 1961. Great stuff. I particularly enjoyed hearing
Dylan's 2002 cover of George Harrison's Something, which
he dedicates to the deceased Beatle "because we were such
good buddies."

Which one is Pink?

Holy crap!

Next you'll tell me pigs can fly.

I wonder if these guys had something to do with it.

Here's a slightly odd interview Roger did a few years
ago for Iceland's Channel 2 -- mostly about fishing.

11 June 2005


photo: Associated Press/WCBS-TV

Damn Yankees

It's tough reading the sports pages
when you're a Yankee fan.

But if you look hard enough, you can
always find the fair and balanced coverage.

"YANKEES pull away from RED SOX"

I'll be watching the man with the giant
pitch today -- but probably with
the sound turned off.

I hope you'll be doing something cooler.

Something like this.

10 June 2005

Music Review: Bardo

Ladies and Gentlemen, TCS is pleased to present our very
first guest blogger! His name is M, and he'll be checking in
from time to time with music reviews and other interesting

Today, M. writes about an album you might have trouble
finding at WALMART.

* * *

So I got a hold of this old record -- an EP from the eighties.

It’s purple and white.

On the back is a picture of the band: two sax players,
two guitar players, a drummer, and a singer. Most of
them are dressed like mental patients -- like something
is seriously wrong with them. A couple of them are
dressed conservatively -- like they’re going to meet
their friends for tea and biscuits.

So I put the record on.

And it completely blows my mind.
I cannot overstate this: It is amazing.

It’s like listening to a great jazz record where
the players have such touch, such sensitivity…

And then some weird drunken dude comes bursting
into the studio, singing about the diarrhea he just
had after his Big Mac Attack.

But this jazz band (who play like legends -- you know,
the great ones) all happily join in, playing together
as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

The song “This Bi-Morphic Kiss of Ice” is worth the price
of admission alone. I mean it. This is a great album.

But who is this band?

It’s 1987, and the buzz in San Francisco is about a group
called Bardo. Combining the profound silliness of Parliament
with the experimental beauty of the Art Ensemble of Chicago
and Sun Ra, this band is playing all over the place.

And people are listening. Dirty punker drop-outs, washed-out
hippies, normal people like you and me -- even music reviewers!
(one said: ‘Bardo is one of the few bands I can stand to see.’)
And everybody sits on the floor and watches them in awe and
has an amazing time, feeling like five-year-olds again.

And the buzz gets bigger.

They’re playing live on KUSF and KALX.
They’re filling bigger and bigger venues.
And then…

Poof. Nothing. The band splits up.

Personal differences? Drug problems?

Who knows.

But if you can get a hold of this album (also called Bardo),
you will not be disappointed. It’s a lost gem.

The best way to find a copy is to email the drummer.
I think he still has some laying around.


Good luck!

- M.

[M. lives in San Francisco. He is one half of the band,
The Speakers. He also plays guitar in Jolie Holland's
band -- touring the world and wooing hearts with his
uncomfortable stage presence and looks of pain
and doubt.]

* * *

Thanks dude.

Send your questions and comments about M's reviews
(or anything else) here.

09 June 2005

Blockbuster Politics

These days, the box office numbers are almost
as important as the poll numbers.

Since the spectacular success of Fahrenheit 9/11
and The Passion of the Christ, pundits and hacks
all over the country have increasingly added
“film critic” to their well-padded resumes.

Vanity Fair’s James Wolcott has this to say
about National Review Online’s glowing
review of Cinderella Man:

It’s amusingly obvious why NRO has thrown its
nonexistent critical weight behind Cinderella Man.
It's everything Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby
quietly, subversively wasn't. Eastwood's allegorical
chamber drama violated the pious strictures of
family-value entertainment as chiseled on stone
tablets and brought down from the mountain top
by Michael Medved. The fighter’s family in MDB is
a gimme-gimme pack of trailer-trash Snopeses;
Braddock's family in Cinderella Man is a warm,
movable hearth. Million Dollar Baby enters a dark
tunnel and travels the length of it to accept death
as a personal choice and deliberate destination.
For all its somber coloration, Cinderella Man is as
life-affirming as a Frank Capra movie without all
the corny humor of contrived eccentricity.
Million Dollar Baby took a girl-power story and
existentialized it. Cinderella Man enshrines
masculinity in a humble wooden frame.

Well, the box office has spoken -- and so has Russell Crowe.

The End of the World?

Whatever you do… don't click here!

08 June 2005

Won't Get Fooled Again

Oh, the humanity! Poor Mayor Bloomberg didn’t get
his new stadium. It’s stories like this that stir my
native New Yorker pride.

Besides the obvious funding issues, there is an
even simpler equation to consider:

The proposed stadium would hold 75,000 seats.

The current population of New York City is about 8,008,278.

So how many of these average Joes are going to be able
to watch the Olympics anywhere except in front of a TV?

Forget it. Let Paris deal with that headache.

Maybe now the billionaire mayor can get back to
some slightly more important construction work.

07 June 2005

Any Questions?

Have you heard about the Downing Street memo?

It’s a UK government document that describes a
July 2002 meeting between Tony Blair and his
war cabinet.

The memo makes clear that the Bush administration
was already determined to invade Iraq.

Here is the key paragraph:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington.
There was a perceptible shift in attitude.
Military action was now seen as inevitable.
Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through
military action, justified by the conjunction
of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence
and facts were being fixed around the policy.
The NSC had no patience with the UN route,
and no enthusiasm for publishing material on
the Iraqi regime's record. There was little
discussion in Washington of the aftermath
after military action.

You can read the entire memo here.

Why is this a story? Well, take a look at what
President Bush was saying in public after the
confidential memo was written:

Bush: “Of course, I haven’t made up my mind
we’re going to war with Iraq.” [10/1/02]

Bush: “You said we’re headed to war in Iraq.
I don’t know why you say that. I hope we’re not
headed to war in Iraq. I’m the person who gets
to decide, not you. I hope this can be done
peacefully.” [12/31/02]

Bush: “I’ve not made up our mind about military
action. Hopefully, this can be done peacefully.”

You can find more of these quotes at Think Progress.

So what’s the deal? Was the president (gasp!) lying
to the American public? Was he claiming to be seeking
a peaceful solution while planning military invasion all
along? And were intelligence and facts being fixed
around this policy?

Haven't we impeached presidents for lesser crimes?

You’d think reporters would be all over this story -- especially
with Bob Woodward enjoying another victory lap around the
media landscape.

But our current press have yet to ask President Bush about
the memo.

Maybe they just need a little encouragement.

Update: Salon.com reports that Steve Holland of Reuters
finally asked both Blair and Bush about the memo at Tuesday's
press briefing. Both men claimed the memo was wrong -- but
offered no explanation for the contradiction. Read the
transcript here.

06 June 2005

And now for something completely different.

-- Who’s that then?

-- I don’t know.

-- Must be a king.

-- Why?

-- He hasn’t got shit all over him.

[Monty Python and the Holy Grail]

I congratulate the winners.
And my love to those
who have not won tonight.
I just remind you of my motto:

Cheer up. Life isn't everything.

[Mike Nichols -- director of Spamalot]

I didn’t watch the Tonys and I haven’t seen the show -- but
I’m quite happy Spamalot took home the top prize last night.
The world needs Monty Python more than ever these days.

Listen to this recent interview with Eric Idle,
original Python member and creator of Spamalot.

Hardcore Pythonistas should also visit PYTHONLINE.

And if that’s still not enough, check out what's new with
Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones.

Familiar Faces

Marvin Gaye said it best:

People say believe half of what you see
Oh, and none of what you hear.

It’s unlikely that the Motown legend ever knew Bret Schundler,
and unless you live in New Jersey, you’ve probably never heard
of him either. He is a conservative Republican running for
governor of the Garden State.

It seems Bret is having trouble finding enthusiastic, young
supporters to pose with him in photos. But hey, that’s why
God invented Photoshop, right?

I mean, who’s really going to notice that the folks behind him
are actually from a Howard Dean rally? It’s not like these are
real people -- they’re just political props, window-dressing.


By the way, this is not a new Republican tactic. The Bush/Cheney
campaign used a similar dirty trick during the 2004 election.

05 June 2005

We're sinking like stones…

I guess the New York Times finally got the memo on Coldplay.

Jon Pareles writes in today's Arts Section:

There's nothing wrong with self-pity. As a spur to songwriting, it's right up there with lust, anger and greed, and probably better than the remaining deadly sins. There's nothing wrong, either, with striving for musical grandeur, using every bit of skill and studio illusion to create a sound large enough to get lost in. Male sensitivity, a quality that's under siege in a pop culture full of unrepentant bullying and machismo, shouldn't be dismissed out of hand, no matter how risible it can be in practice. And building a sound on the lessons of past
bands is virtually unavoidable.

But put them all together and they add up to Coldplay,
the most insufferable band of the decade.

And that's just the first two paragraphs. Read the article here.

It ain't pretty.

04 June 2005

Is this how you win a war?

from the Associated Press:
The Pentagon confirmed Friday evening — after the networks' evening news shows had aired — that a U.S. soldier had deliberately kicked a prisoner's holy book.
The report also said prison guards had thrown water
balloons in a cell block, causing an unspecified number
of Qurans to get wet; a guard's urine had splashed on a
detainee and his Quran; an interrogator had stepped
on a Quran during an interrogation; and a two-word
obscenity had been written in English on the inside
cover of a Quran.

But it's all Newsweek's fault, right?

And what does the White House think about all this?
"It is unfortunate that some have chosen to take out
of context a few isolated incidents by a few individuals
without making clear the policies and practices of the
overwhelming vast majority, the 99.9 percent, of our
military personnel," said White House spokesman
Scott McCellan.

Good job, Scott. I'm sure these people will understand.

It's not the years, honey –– it's the mileage.

Did Harrison Ford reveal the title to the next Indiana Jones film?
Does it suck as much as the new Star Wars titles?
Will it actually get made?

Harry Knowles has the scoop at Ain't It Cool News.

03 June 2005


photo: Roger Patterson

Do you want to know a secret?

It’s been quite a year for mysterious characters revealing
their true identities. [I predict Batman will be next]

The mainstream press are all on the Deep Throat
story –– giving Pat Buchanan and G. Gordon Liddy
yet another shot at rewriting history.

But as Nixon himself once said…

I’m not going to wallow in Watergate.

Instead, I’d like to direct your attention to another man
who recently revealed a secret he's kept for over 30 years.

His name is Bob Heironimus. You know him as Bigfoot.

The only mystery that remains is why he stayed
silent for so many years –– since he was never paid
the money he was promised from the photographer.

Get the full story, here and here.

02 June 2005

The Asteroid is Coming!

Mark your calendar: 2036

01 June 2005

Heroes & Villains

So we finally know the identity of Deep Throat.


In dark times, [if I may borrow a phrase from McC]
it’s hard to view Mark Felt as anything less than a
courageous hero, who quite possibly saved our
republic from self-destruction.

But the truth is never that simple.

Dal LaMagna, founder of the Progressive Government
gives some essential background on the
Number 2 man in J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI:

Part of Felt’s duties... was to direct counter
intelligence programs [COINTELPRO] created
to repress political dissent.

Programs were created to infiltrate and discredit
the Civil Rights Movement, the American Indian
Movement, as well as dissident student groups.


Felt’s job, according to the Church Report,
was to ensure that Bureau programs were being
operated efficiently, not constitutionally:

"There was no instruction to me," Felt stated,
"nor do I believe there is any instruction in the
Inspector's manuals, that inspectors should be
on the alert to see that constitutional values
are being protected."

Read LaMagna's article in The Huffington Post.

If you’ve never heard of COINTELPRO, read all about it here.

The Watergate break-in was a tea party compared to the crimes
Tricky Dick & the FBI were committing against American citizens
and the U.S. Constitution.

And that was before the PATRIOT act.

You say you want a Revolution?

David McCullough has written a new book about the
American Revolution called 1776. But I won't be reading
it anytime soon.

I’ve been forever fascinated with that chapter of history,
but McCullough's biography of John Adams was duller than dirt.

He was interviewed the other day on WNYC.
[David McCullough, not John Adams]

Click here to hear it.

The only interesting part is near the nine-minute mark.
The author is asked to compare the American Revolution
with the current situation in Iraq.

Leonard Lopate:

We just discussed on this show what’s happening in Iraq right now. It’s hard for me not to see certain parallels: the raggedy, American revolutionaries defeating the formidable British – outnumbered by the British who had all the firepower. And they’re doing it through unconventional means while the British army is stuck in its old ways – the same sorts of things we’re hearing about [today’s] American military.

David McCullough:

It’s not hard to be inclined to think that way. I think however that one shouldn’t. It's too simple. Then was then, and now is now. And I’ve never felt that one ought to be interested in history or embrace history because of how it pertains to the present. You should have (if I may say so) a passion for history the way you have a passion for literature, or music, or art.

Yes, there are lessons to be learned from history.
Many lessons to be learned – and many lessons to be learned from the experience of our country during that time. One lesson to be learned, clearly (to me) is that we’ve not just been through hard times in the time since September 11th, we’ve been through very hard dangers, dark times, many times before.

And this year, 1776, was the darkest time in all of our history. The prospects for a successful United States of America never looked so bleak as they did then. It’s also an example that democracy does not come easily – that democracy is a struggle – to achieve democracy is a struggle, sometimes a painful and bloody struggle, and an extended struggle.

The Revolutionary War, the American Revolutionary War, was the longest war in our history, which very few people today seem to realize – except for the Vietnam War. It lasted eight and a half years. And it was never clear it was going to come out the way it did.

Yikes. This geezer won two Pulitzers?

I'll bet he's got a great editor.

It’s both amusing and sad to hear an intelligent person act dumb because he won’t admit the obvious. Does McCullough really believe what he said in the first paragraph?

I’ve never felt that one ought to be interested in history or embrace history because of how it pertains to the present. You should have (if I may say so) a passion for history the way you have a passion for literature, or music, or art.

Yes, you may say so. But could you also explain what the hell that means?

It smells like he’s saying history should be hung on a gallery wall,
to be appreciated and interpreted by scholars (ie. those who have
a passion for literature, or music, or art) but kept just out of the
reach of angry peasants who might want to use it to fight a war
against a powerful army.

I’ve never felt that one ought to be interested in history or embrace history because of how it pertains to the present.

Could a more absurd statement come from the mouth of an historian?

Fortunately, the American revolutionaries didn’t share this view. According to McCullough himself [about a minute earlier in the interview], one of the few advantages Washington and his officers
had was their deep knowledge of history.

They lived in an age, in a culture, which believed that
reading books was a very good way to learn things.
The old Enlightenment idea that with a close study of
books you can learn anything – including how to be
a soldier. And they did.

Boy, it's a good thing the Enlightenment is over, right?

I’m not the only one who thinks McC is overrated.

Click here.


Skip the book... but see the movie!