Thursday, February 27, 2003

OH MY GOD
Actress Melanie Griffith keeps a blog. At last, all my questions about Cherry 2000 will be answered!
LOVIN' THE EAST
According to a missive from B Bob in NYC, What you see below are not see-thru  skirts. They are actually prints on the skirts to make it look as if the  panties are visible and (they are all) the current rage in Japan. God bless our fashion-friendly little friends from the East.

MEETINGS
As much as I might be a Lefty, there are moments when even I am left slack-jawed. Today at a meeting, one staff member (a black staff member) expressed the view that some people in the black community don't like it when a white person makes money from black history, by writing a book or something. It's seen as a white person exploiting blacks. This staff member even expressed agreement with that point of view because white people have been exploiting blacks for centuries. It somehow suppose to be the sole domain of blacks to make a buck off black history.

Needless to say, I couldn't object in the slightest for fear that my comments would be viewed as a racist attack. But one of the cranky older white profs let out a yell That's insane! Good for him.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

A CONSERVATIVE CHECKS IN
Warren from LA read the Singapore letter below and responded thoughtfully...

This morning you said...

"I'm sure if you ask a conservative, they will tell the liberal US press is mocking President Bush and second-guessing his war plans."

I won't say that, and I certainly qualify as a conservative. I haven't seen or read anything that I would describe as "mocking." What I have seen is front page stories in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, as well as lead stories on the broadcast network news, covering the "massive" war protests of last weekend, as well as the Hollywood Left's efforts to stage a "virtual march" on Washington to make their opinions known.

While your friend from Singapore was right that Byrd's speech did not receive much play here -- largely because speeches on the floor of the Senate make lousy TV -- I think that your response of "the only time the US media covers anti-war sentiment is when they report on crazy hippy protesters or foreigners" is way off-base. I saw no mention of the words "crazy" or "hippy" in the major newspapers accounts that I read, other than the mention of "tie dyed shirts" in the LA Times. This despite the fact that the behavior of the protesters was in fact that of crazy hippies, as follows from the LA Times:

"In a distinctly Southern California event, between 2,000 and 3,000 marchers joined up with 500 meditators who sat cross-legged on mats, incense swirling around them, at Ocean Park Beach in Santa Monica. Theirs was billed as a spiritual gathering that combined American Indian rites, poetry readings and Buddhist prayer to express their antiwar sentiments.

"Breathe in the sound of the ocean, breathe out your wish for peace," said Mumun Algernon D'Amassa, one of the meditation leaders."

As far as "foreigners" go, yes, there is ample coverage of the West European opposition to the war. Try to balance that with the whisper of coverage for the large number of East European countries who support Bush's plan. You remember Eastern Europe --
those people who actually lived under a despotic totalitarian regime less than a generation ago.

Furthermore, check out this story, entitled Most Large Papers Argue for World Support on Iraq.

Meanwhile, the real question is, how much support for the war is there in the US? Should the coverage be balanced according to the actual sentiments of the public or the sentiments of the broadcasters? Obviously, if all you hear is O'Reilly or Sean Hannity, you would assume that all Americans are ready to fix bayonets and go. On the other hand, the major newspapers focus heavily on the protests and lack of UN and European support.

US support is growing, according to USA Today. This was right after Colin Powell's speech at the UN two weeks ago...

"Overall, 63% favor invading with U.S. ground troops to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, up from 58% before Powell's speech and 52% before President Bush's State of the Union address two weeks ago."

So, ultimately, what is balance? Is it achievable? Do liberal newspapers now find themselves wanting to counter-balance the plethora of conservative talk radio and cable hosts?


Many good questions and issues. Warren is right about the Eastern Europe opinion being ignored (as least as far as I can tell). However I think any hardcore media watcher can find the slant against protestors in most coverage. Needless to say, conservatives like O'Reilly and Hannity will just out and out trash them, calling into question the sanity or patriotism of anyone who disagrees with a Republican Administration' war plans. But even in the mastream media, take a look at who gets the air time during protests. From my POV, it's usually black-hooded anarchists or performance art clowns. Sure, thoughtful Senate speeches don't get covered, but wear a giant Bush mask and put on a street play and the cameras start rolling. Why? Well, just as Senate speechs don't play, an impassioned protest discussion about rejecting war is equally as boring to a TV producer. It's a product of the age - the middle isn't well telegenic, so the extremes get the air time.

When they don't cover anarchists or clowns, there's usually a subtext of Those silly soccer Mom protestors just don't get it! The big hint hides in the story tags. There might be coverage of an antiwar protest, but it's often followed by a closing tag like, Unnamed administration officials have reportedly set mid-March as the target invasion date. The effect -- regardless of your silly protest, this war is happening.

And that's one of the big things that bothers me here - I don't think anyone in the Bush administration (Powell excepted) is even mildly interested in avoiding a war. They want a fight. They've spent a few billion dollars moving trooops and gear to the Mideast and now they have to do something with them. It's either start a war or force out Saddam, then take over the country. Remember a few months ago? Pakistan and India were moving troops to the borders and threatening nuclear attacks? When push was about to turn into shove, the US helped talk them down. Unlike those supposedly crazy and irrational nations, the US appears incapable of being talked down. And that irritates the fuck out of me.

Why have we put ourselves in this position? And why so quickly? To combat terrorism? Stop. Terrorism has nothing to do with it. There are a dozen other countries who support terrorists on a greater scale than Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction? Another ruse. Saddam now has a few rockets that could hit Russia. Whoopdie-fucking-do. Like we care? Nope.

I think Bush has a hardon to play world cop, something he vowed not to do during the elections. In that process, he gets a chance to straighten out the Middle East the way he and his friends would like to see it and kick the ass of the guy who wanted to knock off his Dad. Unless Bill "Mr. Padded Resume" Bennett writes the books, I can't see any way an honest historical text will ever look upon this action favorably.

At the core, I think we're going to war to prove to the Arab world that the US can't be pushed around. And that is as doomed an argument as I've ever heard. Remember, exploding bombs didn't win the Cold War. It was Rock and Roll and Capitalism that brought down The Wall. Just ask Hedwig.

One last example of media missing the impact of protestors. A few weeks ago, some South American women got naked in front of the national Wal*Mart office to protest the opening of another Wal*Mart. After showing the clip and package, CNN's anchors chuckled about their stupidity, noting that the Wal*Mart executives never came out of their meeting to see the protest.

The implication was these stupid protestors got naked for nothing. Those CNN anchors were just too dumb (or biased) to realize that the point of the protest was probably to get media coverage and spread word about their cause. CNN covered it, broadcasting it around the globe. How much you wanna bet those Wal*Mart executives heard about the protest and saw the footage? Maybe those naked protestors accomplished exactly what they disrobbed for, hmmm?

Finally, regarding polls of public opinon, take them with a grain of salt. Anyone whose worked in marketing knows poll questions can be framed insuch a way to support most sides of a debate. To contrast with Warren's "63% favor invading with U.S. ground troops to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein", the NY Times reported this morning that in "the US, polls show a majority favor war only with United Nations approval."

Monday, February 24, 2003

FROM SINGAPORE
SM Lim from Singapore wrote to say Thank you for posting the speech by Senator Robert Byrd. He is the only one talking sense in the entire USA. Pity his speech was not widely reported worldwide. Is there a conspiracy by media to only report the hawks' rantings?
 
Thanks SM. Byrd's speech got a bit of play here, but mainly, it got drowned out by media hawks. They enjoy talking about weapons more than conflicting ideas. It's rather funny that the only time the US media covers anti-war sentiment is when they report on crazy hippy protesters or foreigners. They're easier to dismiss. That's changing a bit and I'm sure if you ask a conservative, they will tell the liberal US press is mocking President Bush and second-guessing his war plans.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

DIDN'T THEY HEAR ABOUT AFGHANISTAN?
Stunned by the ability of a third-rate dictatorship to talk tough, US Military folks seem surprised that Iraqis are discussing...good God!...fighting back! As quoted in a recent NY Times article"We have indications that their goal is to delay, impede and deny U.S. forces a clear and quick victory," a defense official said.

How dare they!

Monday, February 17, 2003

THE MOUTH OF WEST BY GOD
US Senator Robert Byrd is best known for his grasp of Robert's Rules of order and bringing home the pork to West Virginia's unemployed coalminers. I found it unusual that he went to bat against Bush and his oh so popular war (isn't it?) in a recent Senate Floor Speech (on Wed., Feb. 12, 2003). It's easy to pick and find something to disagree with in here, but the overall the argument is quite impressive.

To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war. Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing. We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralyzed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events. Only on the editorial pages of our newspapers is there much substantive discussion of the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this particular war. And this is no small conflagration we contemplate.

This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world. This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption -- the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future -- is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter. And it is being tested at a time of world-wide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our -- or some other nation's -- hit list. High level Administration figures recently refused to take nuclear weapons off of the table when discussing a possible attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilizing and unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a world where globalism has tied the vital economic and security interests of many nations so closely together?

There are huge cracks emerging in our time-honored alliances, and U.S. intentions are suddenly subject to damaging worldwide speculation. Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders is fracturing the once solid alliance against global terrorism which existed after September 11. Here at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist attacks with little guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur. Family members are being called to active military duty, with no idea of the duration of their stay or what horrors they may face. Communities are being left with less than adequate police and fire protection. Other essential services are also short-staffed. The mood of the nation is grim. The economy is stumbling. Fuel prices are rising and may soon spike higher.

This Administration, now in power for a little over two years, must be judged on its record. I believe that that record is dismal. In that scant two years, this Administration has squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see. This Administration's domestic policy has put many of our states in dire financial condition, under funding scores of essential programs for our people. This Administration has fostered policies which have slowed economic growth. This Administration has ignored urgent matters such as the crisis in health care for our elderly. This Administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for homeland security. This Administration has been reluctant to better protect our long and porous borders.

In foreign policy, this Administration has failed to find Osama bin Laden. In fact, just yesterday we heard from him again marshaling his forces and urging them to kill. This Administration has split traditional alliances, possibly crippling, for all time, International order-keeping entities like the United Nations and NATO. This Administration has called into question the traditional worldwide perception of the United States as well-intentioned, peacekeeper. This Administration has turned the patient art of diplomacy into threats, labeling, and name calling of the sort that reflects quite poorly on the intelligence and sensitivity of our leaders, and which will have consequences for years to come. Calling heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant -- these types of crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have massive military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone. We need the cooperation and friendship of our time-honored allies as well as the newer found friends whom we can attract with our wealth. Our awesome military machine will do us little good if we suffer another devastating attack on our homeland which severely damages our economy. Our military manpower is already stretched thin and we will need the augmenting support of those nations who can supply troop strength, not just sign letters cheering us on. The war in Afghanistan has cost us $37 billion so far, yet there is evidence that terrorism may already be starting to regain its hold in that region. We have not found bin Laden, and unless we secure the peace in Afghanistan, the dark dens of terrorism may yet again flourish in that remote and devastated land. Pakistan as well is at risk of destabilizing forces.

This Administration has not finished the first war against terrorism and yet it is eager to embark on another conflict with perils much greater than those in Afghanistan. Is our attention span that short? Have we not learned that after winning the war one must always secure the peace? And yet we hear little about the aftermath of war in Iraq. In the absence of plans, speculation abroad is rife. Will we seize Iraq's oil fields, becoming an occupying power which controls the price and supply of that nation's oil for the foreseeable future? To whom do we propose to hand the reigns of power after Saddam Hussein? Will our war inflame the Muslim world resulting in devastating attacks on Israel? Will Israel retaliate with its own nuclear arsenal? Will the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments be toppled by radicals, bolstered by Iran which has much closer ties to terrorism than Iraq? Could a disruption of the world's oil supply lead to a world-wide recession? Has our senselessly bellicose language and our callous disregard of the interests and opinions of other nations increased the global race to join the nuclear club and made proliferation an even more lucrative practice for nations which need the income? In only the space of two short years this reckless and arrogant Administration has initiated policies which may reap disastrous consequences for years.

One can understand the anger and shock of any President after the savage attacks of September 11. One can appreciate the frustration of having only a shadow to chase and an amorphous, fleeting enemy on which it is nearly impossible to exact retribution. But to turn one's frustration and anger into the kind of extremely destabilizing and dangerous foreign policy debacle that the world is currently witnessing is inexcusable from any Administration charged with the awesome power and responsibility of guiding the destiny of the greatest superpower on the planet. Frankly many of the pronouncements made by this Administration are outrageous. There is no other word.

Yet this chamber is hauntingly silent. On what is possibly the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction on the population of the nation of Iraq a population, I might add, of which over 50% is under age 15 -- this chamber is silent. On what is possibly only days before we send thousands of our own citizens to face unimagined horrors of chemical and biological warfare -- this chamber is silent. On the eve of what could possibly be a vicious terrorist attack in retaliation for our attack on Iraq, it is business as usual in the United States Senate.

We are truly "sleepwalking through history." In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings.

To engage in war is always to pick a wild card. And war must always be a last resort, not a first choice. I truly must question the judgment of any President who can say that a massive unprovoked military attack on a nation which is over 50% children is "in the highest moral traditions of our country".

This war is not necessary at this time. Pressure appears to be having a good result in Iraq. Our mistake was to put ourselves in a corner so quickly. Our challenge is to now find a graceful way out of a box of our own making. Perhaps there is still a way if we allow more time.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

ANOTHER REASON TO PUT REPUBLICANS IN CHARGE
Political humor is so much better when the right is the target. Get these tasty posters and many others at Whitehouse.org.
CLEAR CHANNEL GETS READY FOR WAR

Good to see that media-monopoly Clear Channel Communications is ready for war. According to this internal memo from Sacramento-based KFBK-AM,(published by fuckedcompany.com), Clear Channel is working hard to make those opening hours of war coverage as smooth as a new episode of Friends. Some blurbs:

Our Coverage will be called America's War with Iraq In writing copy please call our coverage, 'LIVE In-Depth Team Coverage of America's War with Iraq.'

In the opening minutes of coverage blow off commercials. Contact me immediately. Be sure to discrep all commercials that are missed. We'll have a plan for making spots good.

Branding liners have been produced and are in the system. Michael please issue a memo making it clear where board ops will find this important imaging. Mike also make certain that our cross promos on the FMs all address Live in-depth team coverage of the War with Iraq on Newstalk 1530 KFBK

Anchors only, unless you think you can do a better job by jumping in and out of network long-form with local windows, stay with it. You can still start branding our coverage immediately with the bumpers already standing by in the system.

Don't forget, when appropriate use language like 'a Newstalk 1530 KFBK exclusive' 'a story you are only hearing on KFBK' or 'a story you heard first on KFBK'. Make sure we own being FIRST.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

LYRIC SHEETS OF THE FUTURE
This is so silly (and watch out for the volume!) But I'm impressed by the effort put in to create it. It's the kind of stupid ass "digitial media project" that grad students everywhere think up to fleece grants from the unsuspecting. Just to throw another log on our digitail rights fireplace, notice how at the end, the copyright notice doesn't mention the song, songwriter or recording. I assume the name listed there is only related to the creator of the flash animation. That pisses me off. Even if you don't pay somebody, you should give full credit.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

REDNECK GINGERBREAD HOUSE
From Trey Key in NYC, via CB in Hoboken (hey Trey, whatever happen to that radio show you were producing that I played on?)
SUBJECT: THE COMPLETE MILITARY HISTORY OF FRANCE
Currently making the rounds in the military community. It's been said "Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. All you do is leave behind a lot of noisy baggage." From CB in Hoboken.

THE COMPLETE MILITARY HISTORY OF FRANCE
- Gallic Wars - Lost. In a war whose ending foreshadows the next 2000 years of French history, France is conquered by of all things, an Italian.

- Hundred Years War - Mostly lost, saved at last by female schizophrenic who inadvertently creates The First Rule of French Warfare; "France's armies are victorious only when not led by a Frenchman."

-Italian Wars - Lost. France becomes the first and only country to ever lose two wars when fighting Italians.

- Wars of Religion - France goes 0-5-4 against the Huguenots

- Thirty Years War - France is technically not a participant, but manages to get invaded anyway. Claims a tie on the basis that eventually the other participants started ignoring her.

- War of Devolution - Tied. Frenchmen take to wearing red flowerpots as chapeaux.

-The Dutch War - Tied

-War of the Augsburg League/King William's War/French and Indian War Lost, but claimed as a tie. Three ties in a row induces deluded Frogophiles the world over to label the period as the height of French military power.

-War of the Spanish Succession - Lost. The War also gave the French their first taste of a Marlborough, which they have loved every since.

- American Revolution - In a move that will become quite familiar to future Americans, France claims a win even though the English colonists saw far more action. This is later known as "de Gaulle Syndrome", and leads to the Second Rule of French Warfare; "France only wins when America does most of the fighting."

- French Revolution - Won, primarily due the fact that the opponent was also French.

- The Napoleonic Wars - Lost. Temporary victories (remember the First Rule!) due to leadership of a Corsican, who ended up being no match for a British footwear designer.

- The Franco-Prussian War - Lost. Germany first plays the role of drunk Frat boy to France's ugly girl home alone on a Saturday night.

- World War I - Tied and on the way to losing, France is saved by the United States. Thousands of French women find out what it's like to not only sleep with a winner, but one who doesn't call her "Fraulein." Sadly, widespread use of condoms by American forces forestalls any improvement in the French bloodline.

-World War II - Lost. Conquered French liberated by the United States and Britain just as they finish learning the Horst Wessel Song.

- War in Indochina - Lost. French forces plead sickness, take to bed with the Dien Bien Flu

- Algerian Rebellion - Lost. Loss marks the first defeat of a western army by a Non-Turkic Muslim force since the Crusades, and produces the First Rule of Muslim Warfare; "We can always beat the French." This rule is identical to the First Rules of the Italians, Russians, Germans, English, Dutch, Spanish, Vietnamese and Esquimaux.

- War on Terrorism - France, keeping in mind its recent history, surrenders to Germans and Muslims just to be safe. Attempts to surrender to Vietnamese ambassador fail after he takes refuge in a McDonald's.

The question for any country silly enough to count on the French should not be "Can we count on the French?", but rather "How long until France collapses?"

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

GUCCI MADE ME HARDCORE
Warren from LA writes:

Uh, is it me, or has 10 weeks of working at a college campus made you, like, insanely, ravingly liberal? Between the O'Reilly bashing, the Vonnegut screed, and our debate over downloader rights, you have gone from what I considered to be a reasonable free-market Democrat to a slogan chanter.

Will we be seeing you at the campus anti-war rally?


Ahhh, life must be easy when you can divide the world so neatly. The quick answer to Warren' Q is - Are you fucking kidding me? The large, impersonal state university in which I work is a hotbed of political apathy and white guys wearing baseball caps. In short, the home to a many future Republicans. No influence there.

Of course there are a lot of hardcore liberals among the staff. One asked me to attend an antiwar protest and then added that she thought Bush was worse than Hitler. I made a mental note to thank her for not teaching history. These Florida college kids are confused enough without such nonsense. I didn't attend the rally for a variety of reasons,the biggest being I think rallies are good for little more than cheerleading and getting media attention. Since the Orlando mainstream media cares not a wit for anti-government commentary and I don't care for cheerleading, that makes the rally 0 for 2 in my book.

I have reprinted some liberal stuff in the blog recently for the very simple reason that I find interesting and completely unrepresented in the general media. While the cable networks fine-tune their Drums of War music cues, there are other people out in the world who have serious reservations about the motivations of the Bush Administration in getting us involved in a another war with Iraq. Is this really about terrorism and weapons of mass destruction? Or is it about oil, revenge for Daddy Bush, corporate sponsors, colonialism and a plan by the current Republican administration to maintain a state of perpetual war so that the population never gets too mad about the crumbling economy? Am I the only person who is reminded of that scene in 1984 where the speaker at a war rally gets info mid-speech and changes the enemy from one country to another without skipping a beat? I thought we were going after the Taliban? PooF! Now it's Iraq, that country we armed a few years ago when it was willing to kill a lot of Iranians.

Myself...I remain conflicted about the potential benefits of this war. While I completly mistrust anything the administration says, I still cling to the belief that this conflict could serve a purpose by eliminating a repressive, totalitarian (right wing???) government from the planet. As I've said before, GWB might not know it, but he's fighting to maintain strong liberal values and help spread them across the globe. Sure, he argued against then in the election, but he portrayed himself as a moderate back then too.

So yeah, I guess I'm more liberal these days. Like most folks in the middle, I'm not tied to dogma, so my opinion of things changes day by day as I see who's lying. Right now, our federal government - Remember? Those folks conservatives hated a few years ago? - appears completly full of shit. Their battle plans are likely to provoke more terrorism, not solve it. They are shattering long-held alliances and will likely render the US a second rate global power. It doesn't mean anything to have the biggest ball on the planet when nobody else wants to play with you. Short of the UK, Bush and company won't be getting many Christmas cards next year from our allies.

Regarding O'Reilly, Jeeze, how can anyone defend this putz? He is the Mort Downey of the new millenium. More proof today in the NY Times - Gaffes on Hispanics, From 2 Well-Known Mouths on Thursday night, the Fox News talk host Bill O'Reilly, used the word "wetback" as he fumbled for the word "coyote" to describe smugglers who transport illegal immigrants over the border. Mr. O'Reilly returned a call to say: "I was groping for a term to describe the industry that brings people in here. It was not meant to disparage people in any way."

No, of course not Bill. Everyone stumbles onto wetback when they're looking for that word that means no good Mexicans. What a fucking idiot.

Finally, on the digital download issue, Warren reminded me that his point was simply a stand against illegal distrubution. Point taken, and I missed that at first. Plus I agree. But as I pointed out to him, you can't have it both ways. If you're against illegal digital distribution. How can you justify downloading a few cuts via Limewire to see if you want to buy the CD? Isn't the person ripping the Cd for Limewire involved in illegal distrubution? Aren't you supporting that by downloading?

Ultimately, my digital position is that the record industry is going to change bigtime in the next few years and like Harry Shear said, the best policy to guide that change is probably not "Sue the customer." The music industry might be fucked for a while and it's nobody's fault but their own. Making shity product? Then don't be surprised when your audience treats it like disposable crap. BTW - whatever happened to getting posters and freebees in records? Did that end with The White Album?

At some point, I'm going to have to write a piece on work. I really do like it, particularly the blue collar aspects of the job. There's something very clarifying about lifting and pushing and fixing stuff. I feel useful as well as smart. Both are good.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

PROMISE YOU WON'T TELL?
Here's more outstanding journalism in action. This from Yahoo! News - Bin Laden Kin Sought to Use Hajj As Cover, a story which reviews how Bin Laden's family tried to sneak into Afghanistan and see him when he was sick in 1999. These revelations come from a former airline employee and according to the story, The former employee - the only non-Taliban among the Afghan men at the 1999 meeting - still lives and works in the Afghan capital, Kabul, and said he feared repercussions if identified.

Let's recap, he was only non-Taliban man at a meeting attended by a few very insane and violent people. He worked for the state airline and still lives and works in Kabul. And he fears being identified. Well gee, I'm sure he's safe at home after those vague hints, huh?

Saturday, February 08, 2003

FOX NEWS - WE DISTORT, YOU DECIDE
File this under BILL O'REILLY - ASSHOLE. From This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow: I caught a bit of the O'Reilly Factor during dinner last night, during which Bill berated Jeremy Glick, a signatory of the Not in Our Name ad whose father died in the 9/11 attacks. I couldn't find a transcript on the Fox site, but happily, one came in over the transom (probably pulled off Lexis, so no link available). This is how Bill O'Reilly behaves when faced with genuine disagreement:

O'REILLY: You are mouthing a far left position that is a marginal position in this society, which you're entitled to.

GLICK: It's marginal -- right.

O'REILLY: You're entitled to it, all right, but you're -- you see, even --I'm sure your beliefs are sincere, but what upsets me is I don't think your father would be approving of this.

GLICK: Well, actually, my father thought that Bush's presidency was illegitimate.

O'REILLY: Maybe he did, but...

GLICK: I also didn't think that Bush...

O'REILLY: ... I don't think he'd be equating this country as a terrorist nation as you are.

GLICK: Well, I wasn't saying that it was necessarily like that.

O'REILLY: Yes, you are. You signed...

GLICK: What I'm saying is...

O'REILLY: ... this, and that absolutely said that.

GLICK: ... is that in -- six months before the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, starting in the Carter administration and continuing and escalating while Bush's father was head of the CIA, we recruited a hundred thousand radical mujahadeens to combat a democratic government in Afghanistan, the Turaki government.

O'REILLY: All right. I don't want to...

GLICK: Maybe...

O'REILLY: I don't want to debate world politics with you.

GLICK: Well, why not? This is about world politics.

O'REILLY: Because, No. 1, I don't really care what you think.

GLICK: Well, OK.

O'REILLY: You're -- I want to...

GLICK: But you do care because you...

O'REILLY: No, no. Look...

GLICK: The reason why you care is because you evoke 9/11...

O'REILLY: Here's why I care.

GLICK: ... to rationalize...

O'REILLY: Here's why I care...

GLICK: Let me finish. You evoke 9/11 to rationalize everything from domestic plunder to imperialistic aggression worldwide.

O'REILLY: OK. That's a bunch...

GLICK: You evoke sympathy with the 9/11 families.

O'REILLY: That's a bunch of crap. I've done more for the 9/11 families by their own admission -- I've done more for them than you will ever hope to do.

GLICK: OK.

O'REILLY: So you keep your mouth shut when you sit here exploiting those people.

GLICK: Well, you're not representing me. You're not representing me.

O'REILLY: And I'd never represent you. You know why?

GLICK: Why?

O'REILLY: Because you have a warped view of this world and a warped view of this country.

GLICK: Well, explain that. Let me give you an example of a parallel...

O'REILLY: No, I'm not going to debate this with you, all right.

GLICK: Well, let me give you an example of parallel experience. On September 14...

O'REILLY: No, no. Here's -- here's the...

GLICK: On September 14...

O'REILLY: Here's the record.

GLICK: OK.

O'REILLY: All right. You didn't support the action against Afghanistan to remove the Taliban. You were against it, OK.

GLICK: Why would I want to brutalize and further punish the people in Afghanistan...

O'REILLY: Who killed your father!

GLICK: The people in Afghanistan...

O'REILLY: Who killed your father.

GLICK: ... didn't kill my father.

O'REILLY: Sure they did. The al Qaeda people were trained there.

GLICK: The al Qaeda people? What about the Afghan people?

O'REILLY: See, I'm more angry about it than you are!

GLICK: So what about George Bush?

O'REILLY: What about George Bush? He had nothing to do with it.

GLICK: The director -- senior as director of the CIA.

O'REILLY: He had nothing to do with it.

GLICK: So the people that trained a hundred thousand Mujahadeen who were...

O'REILLY: Man, I hope your mom isn't watching this.

GLICK: Well, I hope she is.

O'REILLY: I hope your mother is not watching this because you -- that's it. I'm not going to say anymore.

GLICK: OK.

O'REILLY: In respect for your father...

GLICK: On September 14, do you want to know what I'm doing?

O'REILLY: Shut up! Shut up!

GLICK: Oh, please don't tell me to shut up.

O'REILLY: As respect -- as respect -- in respect for your father, who was a Port Authority worker, a fine American, who got killed unnecessarily by barbarians...

GLICK: By radical extremists who were trained by this government...

O'REILLY: Out of respect for him...

GLICK: ... not the people of America.

O'REILLY: ... I'm not going to...

GLICK: ... The people of the ruling class, the small minority.

O'REILLY: Cut his mic. I'm not going to dress you down anymore, out of respect for your father.

We will be back in a moment with more of THE FACTOR.

GLICK: That means we're done?

O'REILLY: We're done.


I'm starting to believe what all my conservative friends have for years said about the media. Thanks for proving their point, Bill.
CRAVINGS
B BOB writes: what's weird about your fiesta chicken blog pic? it makes me hungry when i see it. what is wrong with me?

R writes back: "You crave the mouth-watering spice of a Tropigrill meal. Come south and I'll show what it's all about."

I know how she feels. Tropigrill is the world's best fast food. Don't know? You don't know what you're missing.

Friday, February 07, 2003

HELL GETS CHILLY
Good friend and ever-hotter novelist Chris Bauman made the New York Times on Thusday - Seeing the Pen Not as Mightier, but as More Honest. Thanks to NYT writer CHRIS HEDGES for doing the story. If nothing else, this should make Bauman the toast of his day job's office. And it proves once and for all that I need to keep my mouth shut about people's work, since I poo poo'ed various parts of CB's book on first read. What the fuck do I know? For those who don't subscribe, here it is.

CHRISTIAN BAUMAN says that when he has time, he watches the commercials, the ones that got him into war in the first place. He remembers what it was like, his daughter born before he graduated from high school, the series of dead-end jobs as a cook and a house painter, the bills from collection agencies he could not pay and the struggle to get by without health insurance. And he remembers the Army recruiter, with the promise of travel and another life, of adventure and a decent paycheck.

"I joined the Army for the same reason most people join the Army," he said, hunched over a hamburger on his lunch break as a copy editor for a company that prepares pharmaceutical advertising. "I joined because my marriage was not working out. I was young and poor. I had a child to support and no real job prospects. I wanted to escape. But what clinched it was when I found out the Army would pay for the operation my daughter needed."

He said that the birth of his daughter "saved my life because I couldn't be too much of an idiot." But it was the Army that gave him the discipline to put his life in order, and to write a book.

Still, he says, there are two Armies. There is the Army of motivated, elite units, which Mr. Bauman calls the "killing machines." He has a wry smile when he says it. And then there is the Army of poor and disenfranchised soldiers, the ones he said see the Army as a way out, the ones he wrote about in his novel "The Ice Beneath You" (Scribner, 2002).

"This Army of robots that you see on television doesn't exist," he said, referring to the way elite units are depicted. "What percentage of soldiers are in elite units? Almost none. The real Army is made up of people like me, people who had no choice, people trapped and suffocating without enough education and a real job. It is this Army, I explain, along with what happens to it when it is sent into countries where we don't understand what is going on."

Mr. Bauman, 32, who lives in New Hope, Pa., with his second wife, Brenda Muldowney, and their daughter Fiona, 4, was not a typical Army private. His mother is a doctor and his stepfather, who he says influenced him more than any of his blood relations, is a philosophy professor. Mr. Bauman was rebellious, unable to squeeze his curiosity into the confines of a structured classroom. His grades were poor. But he was also a reader, the editor of his high school newspaper and more important, a dedicated writer.

"I was the only private at Fort Eustis who got The New Yorker," he said.

He wrote compulsively, noting in minute detail the world around him, and out of it came his story of enlisted soldiers in Somalia. But it could be Iraq, or Afghanistan, or any number of countries where the brute might of American military gets stuck in foreign quicksand.

The novel centers around a young soldier, Benjamin Jones, who does not restrain his fire and unleashes a series of tragedies. The Army does nothing, which only exacerbates his guilt. The book follows his return to the United States, where he feels discarded and abandoned.

Mr. Bauman's hero is Woody Guthrie. He said he clung to Joe Klein's biography of the folk singer. Mr. Bauman, who plays the guitar, made a living for a while playing folk music after leaving the Army in 1995.

"Woody Guthrie's life was my fantasy," he said. "He was a reader. He wrote beautiful and creative songs that brought to light injustices, and most importantly injustices that were unknown by many. He was like Steinbeck. And this is what I wanted to do."

Mr. Bauman gave up his singing career when his second child was born four years ago because, he said, he didn't want to be away from home. He's working now to find a way to be able to write full time.

Mr. Bauman spent four years in the Army Waterborne, which is in charge of its boats. He left as an E-4 specialist, analogous to the rank of corporal. He was in Somalia and Haiti.

"There is a terrible injustice in these wars," he said. "We do not acknowledge who is in the Army and why they are there. We watch shows on the Discovery Channel about Green Berets or Rangers or Navy Seals and think this is the military. When I hear people use this patriotism card to justify these wars, it gets me angry. I wore a uniform. I carried a rifle."

Mr. Bauman said that he saw in Somalia and Haiti "the terrible ineptitude" of the country's interventions in situations it did not understand.

"We were not viewed positively by the locals," he said. "Being there opened my eyes. The only time they liked us was when they could get very concrete things from us, like food. They don't care about our Constitution or democracy. We storm into places like a big lumbering idiot. We did not understand where we were, what the conflict was about. We never explored these people, their culture, their concerns, yet we had just arrived like a big boot coming down on Mogadishu. On top of this we had to deal with the ineptitude of Washington, that understood even less, and officers that wanted to get into a war to punch their tickets on the way to promotion."

But what disturbs him most is what he sees as the cynical use of enlisted soldiers for power and resources.

"When some poor private from Alabama, who never had a chance in life, gets killed in Iraq, he won't know why," he said.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

A FEW THOUGHTS FROM MR. V
From Kurt Vonnegut vs. the !*!, an interview with the never shy KURT VONNEGUT published in In These Times, sent via soon-to-be interviewed in the NY Times author, Chris Bauman (look for it Thursday).

I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d'etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka "Christians," and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or "PPs."

To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable medical diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete's foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckley. Read it! PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose! And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country, and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And so many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick.

What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

BUSH JR CALLS SADDAM
Here's an excerpt of an imagined phone call between two homies. From Jeffrey Zeldman Presents: The Daily Report

GW: Things may not go your way. Then what?

SH: Lob a little of that anthrax I'm not making at Syria and Iran, give Israel or Turkey a taste of botulinum toxin. Then out the door with a fake passport, some nice luggage, and a fat Swiss bank account. I could pass as retired Greek shipping tycoon. Shave the moustache, have a little work done by Michael Jackson's plastic surgeons. Get me a beach house and a couple hundred servant girls, satellite hookup, Cartoon Channel, watch me some Power Puff Girls.

GW: Not if you're dead and in a box you won't.

SH: Yo, Bush Junior, my lookalike's been tied up in a dungeon for six months, shot full of morph, wouldn't know his own mother if I hung her up next to him. He'll die bravely on the field of battle, no problem.

GW: Not bad.

SH: Thanks. So how's your morning looking?

GW: Well, I've figured out a way to make sure rich people never have to pay taxes again. You?

SH: Removing the fingernails and eyelids from a six year old child while his mother watches.

GW: Ouch. You are one bad hombre.
THRIFT STORE RECORDS & CHEAP RED WINE #4
From Lane S. via CB in Hoboken

The Record: Nyiregyhazi Plays Liszt (CBS) 1978 - $2.00
The Wine: Chateau Timberlay (Bordeaux), 1995 - $5.00 (discounted)

When it comes to classical music, and to a much greater extent, wine, I'm a bit like Columbo. I don't always know exactly what I'm talking about, but my instincts usually bear me out. It's pretty easy to find lots of great cheap classical recordings sitting in thrift stores, and buying a stack of vinyl will usually cough up a couple of lifelong treasures. There exists a great wealth of tender, brilliant, & mind-blowing music out there that is miles away from the inflated, ponderous visage that is conjured up by most people when they hear the term "classical music".

No matter which genre one chooses, one has to dig a bit to find any artist's most relevant work. There are exceptions (Bach, Beatles, Bird), but for the most part, an artist's most popular work is not necessarily their most profound. Most of the time, the years will do the sifting and the good stuff eventually rises to the top. But even with a major artist, like Sinatra for instance, only a select group know of his dark & personal 50's albums "No One Cares" & "Where Are You?".

Franz Liszt, in his day, was as much a sensation as Sinatra or Elvis was in theirs. His performances were legendary. When he used to give concerts, they'd keep two pianos on the stage because he'd bust so many strings on the first, he'd have to move to the second. When the second one was destroyed, the concert was over. The composer, John Field, seeing Liszt perform for the first time, turned to his companion and asked, "Does the artist bite?". Women used to throw their handkerchiefs and undergarments at him. Both men women would routinely faint at his concerts and have to be rushed from the hall. At the height of his career, as the biggest concert draw in Europe, he abruptly said, "I quit". He was under thirty. He decided to devote his time to composing and teaching. Imagine Hendrix in his prime, retiring from the stage to make records and give guitar lessons! Liszt didn't perform again for almost four decades, and then, as an old man, he toured Europe and gave the money to charity. Like Sinatra, the guy had class, taste, & balls.

The Hungarian Rhapsodies, which Liszt is most famous for today, are nice, showy pieces. They are the first compositions many people associate with him. When I was younger (so much younger than today), I bought a record of his two piano concertos played by Alfred Brendel. They both knocked me out and I still love & listen to them today. They both possess super melodies, bold orchestral colors, and great swagger. But, again, these are big pieces designed to make great pianists show off their capabilities. It wasn't until years later that I got a sniff of the other side of this man's genius, thanks to Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. But, before I continue, a sip of tonight's wine...

There are two guys at the snobby wine store across the street: the thin guy and the fat guy. The fat guy doesn't want to be bothered by anyone unless they're dropping a hundred bucks. The thin guy likes to talk about wine, and though he tells me the same stories over & over again, he's very patient with my dumb inquiries about all this discounted damaged label juice that he just wants to get rid of. I picked up this bottle of Bordeaux and asked him, "How about this?" He lowered his glasses on his nose to get a better look at the label and said, "That", then leaning in for closer inspection, "might be interesting".

Bordeaux is the Cadillac of wine. Before California, Australia, etc., if one mentioned "fine wine", they were most likely talking about wine from the Bordeaux region of France. This is the wine that Ben Franklin wrote home about. He drank so much of the damn stuff while petitioning the French government on our behalf, that he came down with the gout and blamed it on too much of "France's fine wine & rich cuisine". Thomas Jefferson died broke with a wine cellar fully stocked with expensive Bordeaux. In the recent U.S. wine boom of the past twenty years, most of us are used to seeing wines labeled by the grape variety: Cabernet, Merlot, etc. Bordeaux is a blend, usually of Cabernet, Merlot, & Cabernet Franc. I guess the last variety is a more blunt version of regular Cabernet.

This particular bottle has a very sexy label. Sexy, to me in this case, means expensive looking. There is a fine line drawing of a huge Chateau, with "Chateau Timberlay" written underneath. This is surrounded by lots of French writing and two medallions. On top of one it says, "since 1366". 1366? As a Yank, I have trouble wrapping my consciousness around such a date. I picture a guy with a bad haircut dressed up in a metal knit shirt holding a bloody ax in one hand and a beer stein in the other. But then again, I guess that's not far from something one would see today on MTV. Maybe we're going through a neo-Medieval phase.

Bordeaux is often not ready to drink for years after it is bottled. It has to age in order to shed some of its harsh tannins. Though this wine is from '95, it is still plenty tannic. The nose is not too big on this, some cherry and lemon peel (it is, after all, a $5.00 discounted bottle, though it retails for about $12.00). The color is a light ruby, lighter than most Bordeaux I've tried. But the first taste gives off lots of really deep flavors that go all the way back on the tongue. Sour cherries and cigars. Very long finish. I'd bet whoever made this wine probably had generations of winemakers in the family. It's complete, realized, confident. Yet, for all its taste, it's very parsimonious in the flavors it does give up. It seems to be holding back. There's something uptight about this wine. Some wine is like an over-eager dog that jumps onto your lap & licks your face. It seems to say, "I taste like raspberries, I taste like chocolate, I'm big, I'm lovable, love me, LOVE ME!!" This wine says, "I may not be beautiful, but I'm pretty. And my daddy has money. If you don't like me, you can fuck off.".

So back to Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. When my daughter was around three, she really loved this show and I loved watching it with her. While totally non-threatening, it's never condescending. Fred Rogers would often have musicians as his guests (being a fine pianist & songwriter himself), and he would talk to them about their art in very simple, direct language. In one episode his guest was the great pianist, Andre Watts. "Hello, Andre. What are you going to play for us today?", said Fred. "I am going to play a little known piece by the great composer, Franz Liszt. This piece is called "Nuages Gris", or "Gray Clouds". What came forth was nothing I would ever associate with Liszt. There was nothing technical or showy about this piece. It was stark, naked, and scary. Almost atonal. It was the last thing you'd ever expect to hear on a show aimed for kids, but Fred Rogers was always up for challenging his young audience in his inimitable way. I made a mental note to check out this late-period Liszt stuff.

Besides teaching and writing, Liszt was a pretty severe ladies man. Small wonder that he had so many female students. But after years of whoring around Europe and shacking up with any Countess who owned a castle (sometimes two at the same time), he decided he didn't want to go to Hell and joined the Priesthood. Not that he stopped his carousing, he just figured he'd hedge his bets a little. But as he got older, he became a more private person. By the late 19th century, the Romantic era he helped to usher in was long gone. Chopin, Schumann, & Mendelsohn all died before the age of forty and Liszt alone remained from his old buddies. In his sixties, he started to compose these little epigrammatic pieces for his own enjoyment and curiosity. Many were never even published in his lifetime and some weren't even recorded until a few years ago.

I found this double-album from 1978 at the same two-dollar per disc Salvation Army thrift store I had mentioned in the last entry. In huge white letters across the top screams the title, "Nyiregyhazi Plays Liszt". Though he's in a suit, the man seated at the piano looks like some life-damaged soul you'd see in a nursing home. I never heard of him or his crazy name (pronounced Near-edge-hazee) before, but I could tell from looking at the titles of the compositions, that enclosed was some of the late-period Liszt I had been searching for. "Nuages Gris" was included here as well. The vinyl looked like it was never played. Because this was a double album, they wanted four bucks as per their policy of two dollars a disc. Here came my favorite part: The Haggle. I reached the counter, put down the record, & said, firmly, "Two bucks". To my surprise, the Spanish lady with the dice earings shrugged & said, "Ees OK". I laughed as I handed over her the bills and said, "Who else is gonna buy this crazy shit?"

Boy, what I didn't know! Crazy is not the word for what I have here. Reading the liner notes, it turns out that Nyiregyhazi was a child prodigy that became a sensation in his teens, playing in sold-out concert halls around the world. He even studied with one of Liszt's own pupils. Then, after a fight with a concert promoter, he flipped out on his manager and became blackballed for some forty years. He became a hobo and lived on the streets of LA & the subways New York. He didn't touch a piano for decades. Trying to raise money for his ailing tenth wife (that's right,10th wife), he agreed to perform at a church in San Francisco. Somebody taped the show, released it on a small label, and all hell broke loose. Classical critics claimed that Nyiregyhazi possessed some long lost Romantic spirit and Columbia gave him the first recording contract of his career. He was in his seventies.

Speaking of Romantic, I've concluded that this wine is like the girl you go out with date after date, not because you want to eventually marry her, but because there is something unknown about her that you must uncover, something hidden well beneath the surface, something that you're sure will eventually reveal itself. Sip after sip, I marvel at the way this wine seems to defy being broken down into its individual components. The flavor from the oak seems to bend its way into the lemony citrus flavors in a really beautiful way, but it's too prim, too fussy. A little mean. I go to write something and the wine says, "You want to write about ME? You still know nothing of me. Take another sip, sucker"

And this music is just as unsettling, although in a totally different way. I was totally unprepared for such a raw and emotional listening experience. This record makes Skip James sound like Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass. There are wrong notes EVERYWHERE. The tempos are glacial. "Nuages Gris" was pretty slow when Andre Watts played it, but here the notes hang in the air like icy crystals of anguish. The quiet parts are so soft, like the cooing of a sleeping child. Then, on the louder passages, he's banging away like a madman. I have to keep getting up to make the stereo louder, then lower, then louder again. If this is the true Romantic spirit, everyone who was running around Paris in the 19th century must have been out of their minds. He doesn't seem to settle on any fixed tempo on some of the pieces. If Nyiregyhazi likes a particular chord, he seems to hold on to it for dear life, draining every shard of feeling he can before leaving it to go on to the next one. There is nothing overtly intellectual here, though the information and feelings conveyed seem almost too advanced, too real, too personal and direct to fully take in. I'm reminded of that episode of Star Trek when Spock does a mind meld with some rock-like creature who can't speak. He concentrates, closes his eyes, and waits for the thing to speak through him. Finally he screams out, "PAIN!". That's what this music is. Heartbreaking pain. The pain of loss, the pain of life. Though at the same time, it is also very dignified, not self-pitying and finally, hopeful. I did some research on the web about Nyiregyhazi and it turns out that soon after these recordings were made, he drifted back into homelessness and died a few years later.

This LP has not been re-issued on cd, so you have to check e-bay if you want to find a copy. Fine music, like fine Bordeaux, requires a bit of patience. Though the pieces here are fairly short, they are not three minute pop songs. Liszt's late period music speaks on a very rarefied & intimate level. Here, he's interpreted by a homeless madman who hits all the wrong notes, but somehow finds all the right ones as well. I'm not feeling very comfortable tonight after indulging in two of mans' oldest balms for the soul, wine & music. I feel anxious. There are reasons that recordings like "Tonight's The Night" by Neil Young, "No One Cares" by Sinatra, "Where Did Everyone Go?" by Nat King Cole, are at best, marginally popular, though the artists themselves are world famous. They cut too deep. Most of the time, we listen to music to feel good, to relax. Music such as this does not seek to entertain, but to help us uncover a deeper truth. And as they say, the truth hurts.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

SHUTTLE AS A CLOUD
I used to save newspapers when something major happened in the world. For 9-11, I saved a 6-hour video of the cable news networks. Below is my new keepsake - a .gif animation of the weather radar, showing the breakup of the shuttle Columbia earlier today as a cloud of dust and fine metal particles (the long red/yellow line south of Shreveport). It's a time to be sad and I have nothing else to say about it.