Saturday, December 30, 2006

YouTube War: Surge Edition

Oh, Thers, you poor benighted dope, you have no idea.

And now, a can of whoopass.

Note: I have a weird weakness for this film, but it's not my fault. I was its demographic. And I was 12 in 1978.

Note 2: doesn't Mr. Mustard's driver slightly resemble The Kenosha Kid?

SO This Is Why.....

Sophie loves Josh:
"Bush administration officials" are telling CNN that Saddam Hussein will be hanged this weekend. Convention dictates that we precede any discussion of this execution with the obligatory nod to Saddam's treachery, bloodthirsty rule and tyranny. But enough of the cowardly chatter. This thing is a sham, of a piece with the whole corrupt, disastrous sham that the war and occupation have been. Bush administration officials are the ones who leak the news about the time of the execution. One key reason we know Saddam's about to be executed is that he's about to be transferred from US to Iraqi custody, which tells you a lot. And, of course, the verdict in his trial gets timed to coincide with the US elections.

This whole endeavor, from the very start, has been about taking tawdry, cheap acts and dressing them up in a papier-mache grandeur -- phony victory celebrations, ersatz democratization, reconstruction headed up by toadies, con artists and grifters. And this is no different. Hanging Saddam is easy. It's a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us.

Try to dress this up as an Iraqi trial and it doesn't come close to cutting it -- the Iraqis only take possession of him for the final act, sort of like the Church always left execution itself to the 'secular arm'. Try pretending it's a war crimes trial but it's just more of the pretend mumbojumbo that makes this out to be World War IX or whatever number it is they're up to now.

The Iraq War has been many things, but for its prime promoters and cheerleaders and now-dwindling body of defenders, the war and all its ideological and literary trappings have always been an exercise in moral-historical dress-up for a crew of folks whose times aren't grand enough to live up to their own self-regard and whose imaginations are great enough to make up the difference. This is just more play-acting.

These jokers are being dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that the whole thing's a mess and that they're going to be remembered for it -- defined by it -- for decades and centuries. But before we go, we can hang Saddam. Quite a bit of this was about the president's issues with his dad and the hang-ups he had about finishing Saddam off -- so before we go, we can hang the guy as some big cosmic 'So There!'

Marx might say that this was not tragedy but farce. But I think we need to get way beyond options one and two even to get close to this one -- claptrap justice meted out to the former dictator in some puffed-up act of self-justification as the country itself collapses in the hands of the occupying army.

Nicely put. The bloodthirstiness, as though this actually means something, is horrifying to behold.


YouTube Wars

So I hear over at Atrios that the YouTube Wars are back on. Take that, loosers!

Take THAT!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Celebrity Death Match 2007

The Kenosha Kid has tagged me with a meme of his own devising: more fun than a lot of them.

2007 Celebrity Dead Pool
The recent deaths of Gerald Ford and James Brown inspire this post: A Celebrity Dead Pool for 2007. Since it's my game, here are the rules:

1. Pick ten celebrities who you think will die in from 1/1/07 to 1/1/08
2. You aren't allowed to murder the celebrity.
2. Saddam Hussein doesn't count.
3. The point system works like this: you get one point for every year UNDER the age of 90 that the celebrity dies at. Anyone over 90 gets negative points.
4. Whoever gets the most points, wins.
5. I am tagging Dependable Renegade, Power Pop, Multi Medium, Whiskey Fire, Dohiyi Mir. Everyone else is welcome to play too. Post your picks on your blog or in comments here, and I will announce the winner in 2008.

His selections are:

My picks:
1. Lindsay Lohan
2. Andy Rooney
3. Gary Busey
4. Mickey Rourke
5. Bobby Brown
6. Robert Downey Jr.
7. Natasha Lyonne
8. Nancy Reagan
9. Michelle Rodriguez
10. Fifty Cent

Now, he's invented this game, and he does not say that we aren't allowed to duplicate, but I'll add that as a friendly amendment. I happen to agree with him re: Nancy Reagan, Natasha Lyonne, and Gary Busey, however. (Old age, drugs, motorcycle accident, though that hardly need be said.) I'm not very good at this sort of thing, since I only get celebrity gossip once it filters through to The Soup, but here goes...

My choices:
1. Jimmy Osmond
2. Andy Griffith (Matlock has to go sometime)
3. Henry Kissinger (probably just wishful thinking, though)
4. Neil Young
5. Colin Farrell (hooker)
6. Whitney Houston
7. David Crosby
8. James Baker (small plane crash)
9. Heather Mills
10. Angela Lansbury

This is about the hat, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

One More Christmas Post

...and I promise I'll stop. No idea why I've been so into it this year: I'm generally not, really. But this year I wanted to bake and decorate and wrap presents and crap. Weird.

Anyway, with 2007 looming, we have some work to do, people. I'm going to be out of town for a few days, but here's some stuff to keep you going.

(Happy Xmas Kyoko
Happy Xmas Julian)

So this is Xmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Xmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Xmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Xmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Xmas
And what have we done
Another year over
A new one just begun
And so happy Xmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear
War is over, if you want it
War is over now

Happy Xmas


Monday, December 25, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Babyblogging: Yuletide Edition

Note to self: It is impossible to get four children nicely dressed and take a decent picture of them.

Rat bastards.

A brief quiet moment of cuddling. Of course, not shod, and not everyone is here.

And people ask me: "Why is your tree only decorated on top?"

The best of a bad lot.

Rosie makes a bid for freedom... she can handle some personal, err, grooming.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


You know, blogger, it's not really fair to lock up the Crack Den without giving us a chance to prepare. I will need:

One room, which you will not leave. Three buckets, one for feces, one for urine, one for vomitus. A television. Six cans of mushroom soup, ten cans of tomato soup. Ice cream, to be drunk cold. Tranqilizers. Pornography.

I'm gonna end up digging in a toilet for a link to First Draft at this point.

Sweet! I found my morphine!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Monday Babyblogging: Random Recreation

Rosie plays in what is supposed to be a drop of blood. Those are, err, blood cells.

SP demonstrates his mad pulling-up skillz.

Triceratops skull!
(It's resin, but so cool.)

They have a wicked cool model train at this place, partly fixed, partly moveable.

I'm going to dress the whole tribe and take a fab Christmas picture, so check back!

Vote! Vote! Vote!

Speaking of Southeast Asia, I got a note from Aidil Rusli of the superfab Malaysian powerpop band Couple.

I've got some really great news and I really need your help now!! Couple has been chosen to be in the final round of Rolling Stone (USA) magazine's Best Bands on Myspace contest.

Right now the Rolling Stone magazine staff has chosen us to be one of the top 5 bands of the day.

What we need you to do is to ask all your friends to go to the link below and vote for Couple by leaving a comment saying how much they like the song "Now That I Can See" and Couple:

Hope you can spread this email/news around and get as many people as possible to vote for us!! It's Rolling Stone magazine!!

Thanks so much for helping!!


You vote by going to the bottom of the comment thread and adding your vote. Couple seems to be doing really well.

And, because I'm not a congressional whip, I'll tell you what I'm asking you to vote for:

I've posted it before, but it's always worth another watch/listen. Now head on over and show Aidil some love.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Those Lost at Sea and Never Found: A Review


All you need to know, really.

So I'm watching this HBO docudrama, Tsunami: The Aftermath. Now I know a bit about this subject. It's part of my broader interest in Southeast Asia, I've worked with relief organizations, and it really is just an interesting topic. I've watched a number of films about the disaster of 26 December 2004, and am currently trying to write a presentation to explain the tsunami to kids without scaring the shit out of them. That ought to be a challenge.

So I guess I'm coming at this from a bit of a different direction than your average viewer. But still...

I guess we all have our pet peeves: mine is what I call The Heart of Darkness Syndrome. There are two kinds of colonial texts: one focuses on the tragedies of colonialism on the native population via the experiences of the indigenous peoples themselves, the other focuses on a Westerner, changed by the colonial experience, just sort of watching the tragedy unfold in front of him.* In this latter form, indigenous peoples are set dressing, like the groaning forms in Conrad: they're there, but this is the story of two white guys, and don't you forget it.
"They were dying slowly--it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now-- nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom. Brought from all the recesses of the coast in all the legality of time contracts, lost in uncongenial surroundings, fed on unfamiliar food, they sickened, became inefficient, and were then allowed to crawl away and rest. These moribund shapes were free as air--and nearly as thin. I began to distinguish the gleam of the eyes under the trees. Then, glancing down, I saw a face near my hand. The black bones reclined at full length with one shoulder against the tree, and slowly the eyelids rose and the sunken eyes looked up at me, enormous and vacant, a kind of blind, white flicker in the depths of the orbs, which died out slowly. The man seemed young-- almost a boy--but you know with them it's hard to tell. I found nothing else to do but to offer him one of my good Swede's ship's biscuits I had in my pocket. The fingers closed slowly on it and held--there was no other movement and no other glance. He had tied a bit of white worsted round his neck--Why? Where did he get it? Was it a badge--an ornament--a charm-- a propitiatory act? Was there any idea at all connected with it? It looked startling round his black neck, this bit of white thread from beyond the seas.

For comparison, consider the fully formed and complex figures of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

In Tsunami: The Aftermath, the quarter million or so dead and missing South and Southeast Asians are reduced to a waiter helping Europeans find each other, some mean cops, and a helpful photographer/cultural guide in the mode of The Year of Living Dangerously or The Killing Fields. I sort of knew I was in trouble when I saw that the film was set at a fictional resort in Thailand: Thailand got a lot more coverage than some places harder hit, because of the resorts and the large number of Westerners there. But its casualties were relatively modest, comparatively speaking. For every person dead or missing in Thailand, 30 were dead or missing in Indonesia. But, you know, they didn't snorkel or speak English, so who cares?

Wacky Buddhist, but teh hot.

There is one point, in episode two, where the Thai photographer rails at Tim Roth for sending a picture of a dead body to the wire services. "Even though you come here for holidays and you drop your tabs on the beach, and love the food, yeah? ... It'll slide us right back into the Third World, and that's fine for you. You're not Thai." But it's a brief reminder of whose tragedy this is in a sea of European faces, and even that is couched in what is--according to the structure of the film--some wacky Buddhist idea that burning bodies is okay. And it's the Western bodies which are in question anyway.

I mean shit, more orangutans died than Westerners. Feh.

This was a horrible, an almost unimaginable, humanitarian crisis. But it was not primarily a crisis of people on vacation.

If you have to buy a gift for the person who has everything, consider donating money to these people in their name: they do great work.

*Pretty much always "him," though you do have your Beyond Rangoons and such for balance.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

If I Had a Million Dollars

...and were a woman of leisure, there's all kind of stuff I could do that would be too fun for words.

For example, I could follow this band:

All Things Considered, December 13, 2006 · One of the most consistently popular bands in Nashville does not play country music, has no lead singer and doesn't plan to release an album. Instead, the Long Players perform classic albums, from beginning to end, before a live audience with all-star guest vocalists. Their shows have become a sensation in Music City.

The core of the band is Bill Lloyd (of the 1980s act Foster and Lloyd), Gary Tallent (who has played with Bruce Springsteen), and John Deaderick (Dixie Chicks, James Taylor).

And for singers, they band has used many, from Allison Moorer when they did Neil Young's After the Gold Rush to Kim Richey and others for Sergeant Pepper's.

Adrian Belew was part of the Blonde on Blonde show -- with special guests Al Kooper and Charlie McCoy, who backed Bob Dylan on the original.

The Long Players also have performed The Pretenders' self-titled album; The Band's second album; and Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True.

Listen to the whole thing: I was sort of dazed driving home after a root canal and a faculty meeting (toss-up as to which was more painful) and I heard the words "power pop" on NPR. "National Public Fucking Radio is talking about power pop?!?" I said out loud, speaking only to the fast food bags and unpaid parking tickets on the floor of my car.

Steve Allen plays guitar, and the lead singers are an impressive list of who's who in both country and pop music. Lloyd (always terrific) has a list on his website of every gig they've played so far, who sang what, and where they donated the proceeds. Mark Volman, Doug Powell, Brad Jones, Robert Reynolds, Marshall Crenshaw, Walter Egan, Steve Forbert..... holy christ on a cracker, it's an astounding list.

I would soooooooo sit in the front row for every gig for this band. Jeffraham Prestonian would let me sleep on his couch, wouldn't you, Jeff? Shit, it's only 14 hours. Each way.

UPDATE: Inspired, I treated myself to Lloyd's terrific "Set to Pop" album on my way to work today. What a gem. My fave is "Trampoline," hands down the best song ever written about manic depression.

God Bless our daily bread,
Coffee and dramamine.
God bless our ups and downs.
Goddamn the trampoline.

Rings true. Great mouth harp, too.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Book Meme

I found this over at watertiger's new digs, and though she didn't exactly tag me, I'm kind of book-y, so I'll do this:
1. Grab the book closest to you.
2. Open to page 123, go down to the fifth sentence.
3. Post the text of next 3 sentences on your blog.
4. Name of the book and the author.
5. Tag three people.

Okay, so here goes:
"Yes, I, my master, Honored Lord Bupati," said my mouth, and like a machine my hands were raised in obeisance for the umpteenth time and my heart cursed for I don't know how many times now.
"You! Why have you come only now?" his voice emerged more clearly from his throat, which was suffering the end of a bout of influenza.

The book is the classic This Earth of Mankind by the late Indonesian author Pramoedya Ananta Toer, whose life story is fascinating: raised in Java, worked for, then against, the Japanese in WWII, then joined the resistance against the Dutch, then became a leading light in the new nation of Indonesia. Slapped in jail by Suharto, narrated his four volume epic to his fellow prisoners before being granted writing materials. Finally released to house arrest, then altogether. Died this spring.

I won't tag anyone either, but I'm curious to know what you're reading.

Monday, December 11, 2006



And I have to spend money on presents for other people. Bah humbug.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Dixie Chix: Back On Top

Digby notes that the Dixie Chicks have been nominated for five Grammys.

The Dixie Chicks took the slings and arrows that were meant for all of us who were speaking out against Bush in that dark time four years ago when he was considered by many people in this country to be more of a religious figure than a politician. It was an ugly period and the Chicks were a profile in courage for refusing to back down. In fact they got their backs up when people started writing them death threats for daring to speak their minds and stood even taller. That's patriotism.

Good for the grammys for embracing them. And as a resident of Los Angeles, I couldn't be more proud to call them an LA band.

Fuck off, wingnuts.

A PowerPop Book Review

I recently received Jeff Murphy's new book Birth of a Band, the Record Deal, and the Making of "Present Tense." Now, regular readers know that I am obsessed with this band, though not in an unhealthy, costume-wearing sort of way. And so, with one thing and another, I've done a fair amount of reading over the years about the Present Tense sessions and what happened there. I've also got a spotty email acquaintanceship with Murphy himself, so I've seen some of these stories before.

But it's nice to have them collected between two covers.

Shoes are that most unusual of bands, a group of friends who just decided to play together. Beloved by critics and music afficianados, they were perhaps the worst-marketed band on the planet. For example: when Present Tense was released in 1979, Elektra released FOUR--count them, four--singles in six weeks. Three of them had the same B-side. I would love to know what marketing genius came up with that plan.

Similarly, as Murphy notes here, the same four tunes were made into not-very-good videos in 1979. When MTV premiered, they were nonetheless placed in heavy rotation, because there was fuck-all else to play. But this created a slight resurgence which Shoes, who were just finishing their second album, Tongue Twister, could have capitalized on easily with new, better videos. In other words, the world was reminded just how good PT had been in the days before TT came out. But Elektra assured them that MTV was "a flash in the pan," and was not forthcoming with any more money for videos, which were becoming increasingly sophisticated and expensive.

It's a goddamn crime.

In any case, if you're a Shoes fan, you'll like this book. There's some nice rare photos and great stories (including the full story about how Richard Branson tried to kill Skip Meyer), and for the real wonky musician types, some discussion about guitars and effects and techniques. (My favorite was the amp-in-the-loo, but your mileage may vary.) It appears to be a complete DIY operation: in my humble opinion, Murphy could have used a good proofreader, but then I tend to obsess about that sort of thing. I'd also like to see some reflections from John and Gary about the issues Jeff outlines here, but hey, a girl can't have everything.

Order Birth of a Band, the Record Deal, and the Making of "Present Tense." here.

Powerpopulist has more.

Sorry, Folks

Many apologies for the exended silence: it's been A Week. I have a number of posts brewing, including a book review of Jeff Murphy's new book and another Albums You Need posting, but it won't be until at least later today.

If anyone wants to help me do my grading, feel free. I've also just finished a wicked cool powerpoint on orangutans, which I'm delivering at a science museum this weekend.

Soon, I swear.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Humble Request

It's something of a joke in the blogosphere that Thers and I have a huge brood of children, the numbers of which vary from the hundreds to the thousands. (It's actually 4: The Teen, The 7YO, Rosie, and SP.) I cheerfully accept my ethnic responsibilities: four is a large family now, even if it isn't the seven I was raised with, nor the seventeen of my oldest friend's father's family. (One room, back in Ireland, no twins.) So at 4, we're relative pikers.

One reason families are smaller now is that it costs so much more to raise them, and like most Americans, we stumble from paycheck to paycheck. (The glamorous life of an adjunct instructor isn't really what you'd think, unfortunately.)

Thus, I announce the Liberal Mountain Christmas Fund. I know that by far my most popular feature is Babyblogging, so if you'd like to see SP in some snazzy new duds or Rosie with a real babydoll, it would help to throw a few bucks our way. (See Paypal button to the right.)

Many thanks to all our friends in the blogosphere, and peace and humptiness forever!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Donita & Jane: Part 2

Another fabulous podcast from Donita and Jane. Hear Jane talk about dogs, Paris Hilton, and her boyfriend, Sid Brown.

(IIRC, Jane was also dating Terry when they cowrote "Our Lips Are Sealed.")

(Dave, curious about what you think about Paris's people turning down Jane's "bubblegum punk" compositions for Paris.)

Friday Babyblogging: Vacation

We were away last week visiting the fab metropolis from whence my handle comes, and the grandparents and many many many cousins who reside there. Some photos:

Just before we left, the 7YO appeared in a play about the water cycle.

He is "Snow." (Not Tony Snow, we fervently hope and pray.)

He makes faces at his mother.

And menaces his brother with an evil candy machine ninja.

(SP is now both crawling and cruising along the furniture: I think he's going to walk early.)

With cousin Taylor, who, though a scant week older than SP, is closer to Rosie in size. I like the stair-step effect here.

(I found out that Taylor's nanny makes more than I do, which depressed the hell out of me for a couple of days.)