Monday, November 21, 2005
NFL: Jets at Broncos
I was tempted to start this post out with a joke equating the Jets’ on field woes to the infamous French military prowess, but decided it wouldn’t be fair. After all, at least the Jets have an excuse to be in a surrendering mood: they’re running out of bodies to send out into the field. Consider this: I’m fairly sure that the Jets have gone through five quarterbacks so far this season. They went through three of them yesterday.
The Jets are the ultimate bad luck team. The injuries have made this a sort of lost season for them, but, sadly, they can’t just call off the rest of the games. They actually have to show up every week and go through the motions of losing. That has to be awfully damned demoralizing.
I don’t mean this as a knock against the team. I’ve always liked Herm and the Jets and I thought at the beginning of the year that they had a chance at a playoff spot. But when you have the quarterback problems that they’ve had combined with numerous, and serious, injuries to the rest of the team, it’s hard to find a way to win. A road win against a surging Broncos team would have soothed their seriously bruised dignity.
The Broncos took the game 27-0 even though the offense seemed to go to sleep somewhere in the second quarter and only roused themselves late in the third--a typical Broncos mid-game slumber that usually allows opposing teams the sense that they are somehow getting back into the game. The Jets, though, couldn’t even get the ball past the Broncos’ twenty yard line and only ran ten offensive plays on the Broncos side of the field during the entire game. Five turnovers (compared to just one for the Broncos) and four sacks made it tough for the Jets to find a rhythm--and so did the mid-game change from Brooks Bollinger who left the game with a head injury, to Testaverde, who threw multiple interceptions, fumbled the ball, and then left the game late with an ankle injury.
The Jets only managed a paltry 22 yards of running yards and 173 yards passing while the Broncos piled up 196 yards rushing and 208 yards in the air.
What does it mean that when the Broncos, playing at home, beat a vastly inferior team? Not much in the sense that they should have won this game. On the other hand, championship teams win the games that they’re supposed to win and pick up a few surprises along the way. The Broncos are right where I expected them to be at eight wins. Only I expected them to take the entire season to get there and they made it with six games to go.
They’ve won all six home games and split their road games and they’ve managed to maintain their lead over the rest of the AFC West--a tenacious group of football teams that, with the exception of the Raiders, refuses to fall back far enough to let the Broncos get a breather. It’s tough luck for the Broncos, then, that they are about to hit the toughest part of their schedule with four of the final six on the road and three of the final six against AFC West opponents.
It wasn’t a meaningless game in that the Broncos needed to win it in order to come a step closer to having a playoff game in Denver this year. But the Jets were never in this one and never really tested the Broncos.
Friday, November 18, 2005
The House non-binding resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq failed in dramatic fashion. Of course, Democrats, realizing that they couldn’t possibly win, played the roles of martyrs; they cried foul and called names and pointed fingers, which is only funny because of all the noise they’ve been making about the war.
It was a stunt in the sense that the resolution never had a chance to pass. It was political theater in the sense that Republicans were making a grand statement about recent behavior from the opposition. It was also Republicans giving Democrats an opportunity to show a little backbone and vote for precisely what some of them have been calling for: the removal of American troops from Iraqi soil.
Predictably, politicians presented with an opportunity to show fortitude rarely rise to the challenge (and that goes for Republicans, too--how many opportunities have been lost to trim budgets and advance a sane fiscal policy over the last five years? (and how’s that for a freakin’ non sequitur?). The vote failed 403-3 with Democrats vowing to not vote their collective conscience, rendering their own votes slightly less than honest.
To Pelosi, it’s a disgrace for the Republicans to call a vote that they couldn’t lose. Not the word that I would choose, but fine. What is it, though, when politicians vow publicly to vote against their own beliefs simply out of a childish fit of pique?
In fact, I have a much greater respect for the idiots who voted for the measure--Jose Serrano from New York, Robert Wexler from Florida, and Cynthia McKinney from Georgia--than I do for those Reps who wouldn’t even stand up for their own beliefs. Even the six “present” votes were more of a statement than a hollow “nay” from people who, given the choice, would happily cut and run.
Update 2: Linked by Alphabet City, which has a series of connected thoughts and great links.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
No More Pork Rinds, No More Short Skirts, No More Gay Guys Lip-Synching to Disco
For some people, the war on terror most certainly is about religion, most certainly doesn’t stop at some imaginary border around the Middle East, and most certainly involves the West ending its Liberal ways.
Kindly Osama bin Laden wants to save us; war is his evangelical crusade to make the world a better place. A place where women are covered up, kept uneducated, and chained to lives of subservience. It would be a place where there wouldn’t even be a conversation about abortion rights, same sex marriage, or the separation of church and state. It would definitely be a place where drag shows with sparkly gay men lip-synching to Diana Ross tunes would be entirely out of the question.
Understanding Osama and his crusade is key to understanding why the United States is knee deep in the ugliest politics in the world. Why did the United States overthrow the government in Afghanistan? Why did the United States lead a coalition of countries into Iraq--essentially making a huge bet that it could quickly and easily overthrow Saddam Hussein and then find a way to set up a relatively liberal government in the middle of our enemies and, frequently, reluctant allies?
Understand the aims of Osama’s terrorist organization and then it becomes obvious why the United States and our allies have to find a way to be successful in ushering in change in the political and social structures of the Middle East--and, ultimately, throughout the failed nations in Africa and Asia. The kind of failure that Representative Murtha suggests (and, apparently, has suggested in the past) is much greater than merely losing a little respect in the international community, it’s waving the white flag in our entire endeavor.
Democracy isn’t just a Christmas present we’re trying to give to people around the world, it’s the path to bolstering our national security. The war against the West isn’t just crankiness about troops on Saudi soil or our support of Israel. It was a war declared against us because we don’t conform to a very specific Muslim ideal.
Links (Since I’m Silent (Nearly))
The Democratic National Convention in Denver? It would be a nightmare of horrible traffic, ranting political loonies, and impossible lines at my favorite restaurants. And I’d love it. The things I would write…
Speaking of Walter (because we were, you know), he seems to be back amongst the blogging after a pretty good break. We missed him.
I never would have imagined…
Nope. Never crossed my mind that healthy habits, exercise, and a better diet might help control weight.
Take My Money, Please
While obsessively looking through my referrals, I noticed a trickle of traffic from Memeorandum. Having never heard of the site, I followed the link back to see who the hell was linking my stuff. Lo, from the Post-Lastly in the previous post, Memeorandum (which is actually pretty interesting--it might even find its way to the blogroll) linked up my piddly writing and Matthew Yglesias over at Tapped.
Normally, I’d grin a little grin and that would be the end of it; this time, though, I had to comment on what Yglesias wrote.
Obviously, The American Prospect is something I read only when I’m aiming for cranky--the politics don’t exactly mesh with mine. The Yglesias assault on Robert Samuelson’s article (as referenced in the Catallarchy post) is not only disturbing to any fiscal conservative, but indulges itself by labeling Samuelson’s work as “fear mongering” while failing to even attempt to refute the figures that Samuelson offers.
First, I happen to believe that the growing wealth of the nation does not belong to the government. No one but a “progressive” could call me an extremist on tax and spending issues, but the government should be limited to the things that it either does well or tasks that simply can’t be performed properly by individuals. The list isn’t a long one and it is tending to grow shorter in response to so many others’ apparent willingness to put undue faith in our government’s efficiency.
I also believe that wealth created by an individual is generally going to be used more wisely than it would be after the government gets hands of it--and that gathering wealth isn’t the selfish activity that most liberals seem to believe. Building wealth is an activity of guarantying security for individuals and their families--building the kind of financial safety blanket that ensures that a family won’t rely on Social Security, flawed prescription assistance, and heavily subsidized school loans. If more people were allowed to amass wealth, and if more people could see their wealth flow down to their children, then the need for government assistance would shrink.
Less confiscation means more individual wealth and only people like Yglesias see it as otherwise.
The first flaw is the idea that we somehow owe a larger proportion of our paycheck to the government just because we’ll all still be rich on the other side. Especially in regards to the damage that increased taxes can do to an economy--damages that Yglesias doesn’t bother to address--there is also the fear that under this model taxes as a percentage of our incomes would ultimately grow to be the greater portion of our paychecks leaving us with far less than “our elders did.”
Consider the tax increases that would be necessary to salvage our current social programs (Social Security, Medicare, and the like) according to Samuelson:
Any of these moves would be disastrous to our economy and our individual wealth--our individual security (not to even delve into the national security issues involved with any of those solutions). Yglesias rushes past without even discussing the numbers, the potential damage, or the inherent unreasonableness of 30-50% tax increases. All he offers is some happy thoughts about how we’re all actually pretty darned rich compared to our parents even after the government gets done raising taxes and spending our money.
Thing is, he’s right. For now. But part of the reason is because of the economy that Reagan created and that Greenspan has shepherded--an economy whose bumps came because of natural disasters, acts of war, one bout of lunacy during the dot-com era, and after significant tax increases. Does he imagine that our economy is sustainable under the kind of taxation necessary to save social programs as they are currently configured?
Of course he does because he isn’t even considering that side of the equation. The only thing he sees is the hopeful benefit on the other side.
Most of us wouldn’t propose keeping spending constant in terms of absolute dollars, but wonder why the same job can’t be done with a similar portion of our incomes going to taxes. Because if the proportion left behind leaves all of us so much better off, wouldn’t the bit going to the government look similarly enhanced?
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
A Little Bit of Housekeeping
First, This is Zimbabwe has made me want to revive AfricaBlog. If I find the time, I’ll be setting up the site in Expression Engine and trying to import the current posts. For a good taste of the site, try this post about payments for prostitutes. It would be funny if it weren’t so tremendously sad.
The blog is part of a larger site run by Sokwanele, a pro-democratic organization in Zimbabwe. This is from their site:
A worthy goal.
Secondly, follow the link from Combs’ site to the Kurdistan site. Watch the ads (which I haven’t seen on TV). If you don’t get a little misty when you see the “thank you” it would shock me. But, then, I’m a bit of a softy.
The most bitter part of our overthrow of Saddam is this: that we didn’t do it a decade ago.
Lastly, I have zero idea of where those other Pajama Source Media Biggies have gotten off to, but, let’s be honest, the illusory wanderings of Jeff are probably way more fun.
Post-lastly, I have to second the anti-AARP thoughts here:
AARP’s slavish devotion to an anti-Social Security reform platform is hideously short-sighted. I won’t have them representing me.
Review: Dog Train
That Mark Lanegan was going to be singing music for kids (along with a cast of other oddballs). Of course, there was a strange level of excitement in happening upon the book at Barnes and Noble this past weekend. But it was excitement tempered by fear: would his song make children cry or shudder in fear? And, just as disconcerting was the idea of a duet with Weird Al and Kate Winslet. Before I jump into a full review, let me just say that one of my fears was well founded and one completely baseless.
The book doesn’t actually present a story--it’s a collection of songs with corresponding lyrics and illustrations. While I have little room for judging how successful the presentation will be with kids, I can say that it is quite successful with adults. Just sitting on my desk at work, in an office of just ten people, there were three people who said they were going to order the thing--one for his son, another for a friend’s children, and the last for her husband.
If kids like it as much as their parents do, Dog Train should be pretty successful.
The book is broken into three parts with the first being big illustrations and partial lyrics, the second part with music and complete lyrics, and the third comprising a little information about each of the artists. For example, Mark Lanegan, we learn, is an “evocative, infinitely cool singer and songwriter, much sought after for his distinctive low-down voice, and his remarkable vocal and stylistic range.” Which sounds about right if you aren’t going to write about jails and rehab.
As a package, it’s fun stuff. The music is the thing, though, isn’t it?
And the music is good. It starts out with the Spin Doctors’ tongue in cheek “Tantrum” and goes through a series of songs ranging from utterly outrageous to simply beautiful. I found myself giggling during John Ondrasik’s disturbingly catchy “Penguin Lament” when he croons, “Little legs cannot stride so we rock side to side, side to side, side to side, to move. We can’t even fly!”
Just as good are Blues Traveller singing the title song, “Dog Train,” Alison Krauss’ gorgeous “Evermore,” and the light bluegrass “Dragonfire” sung by Rob Hyman and Eric Bazilian. In fact, while the songs trend towards simplicity, this isn’t just dumbed down kid entertainment, and that is all the better. I can’t help but think that some parents will rejoice simply because this is kid-friendly music that they won’t mind playing.
The range of performers is impressive, the laughs genuine, and the sound quality good.
But what about Mark Lanegan and the strange Weird Al/Kate Winslet pairing?
The duet, “I Need a Nap,” is out of place on this disk. It comes across as a parody of Disney movie music--and that isn’t meant in the nicest possible way. The rest of the songs are funny and original with, perhaps, the exception of “Boring Song” by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, which is short and good-natured where “I Need a Nap” is merely tedious. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that Mark Lanegan, if he weren’t covered in some pretty odd tattoos, could probably moonlight singing kids’ songs. His voice is warm and light, his tone is wry but not overdone, and the song (as, I believe all of them were, written by Sandra Boynton) is charming. It’s a bluesy tale of a bear and his sneakers--an addictive song with a funny punch line.
I bought the CD because I’m a completeist, but I was happily surprised by the music and the humor. I don’t know that I would recommend it to any adult who has overdosed on irony or cynicism--the urge to sneer would be too great--but for any grown-up who wants their children to listen to good music or who can enjoy kid flicks unashamedly, this could be a quality Christmas gift this holiday season.
Kid friendly, Zomby approved.
The story starts here:
And just gets worse. A police error compounded by lawyers’ incompetence followed by an actual criminal act that barely qualifies from my point of view.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
If it Weren’t Official Happy News Day at Resurrection Song (Which, it is, You Know)
If it weren’t Official Happy News Day at Resurrection Song, I would probably link to and comment about this depressing post. But it is Official Happy News Day at Resurrection Song, so I won’t even mention how much it mirrors my view of, and fears for, Europe.
And I’m not even touching the prostitute conversation, Germany’s self-immolation, Sony’s inept dealings with customers, torture, or oil profits (all of which, as of this post, still appear on the front page of r-song). Nope, today I’m looking for a few happy thoughts…
Last night, while taking a break from work, I found myself hunting for information about Earl Grey tea. I love a good Earl Grey and wanted to know about the secret ingredient that makes it particularly tasty (bergamot oil--some odd, tart citrus fruit (just in case you were wondering)) and somehow came across my next booze-related project: the marteani.
Now, I admit that the Earl Grey Marteani seems to have about as much in common with a real martini as most of the so-called martinis served at upscale bars around the nation. Which is to say, it’s just booze served in a martini glass--in fact, most of those martinis are things that I served as shots for years as a bartender.
I don’t let martini snobbery stand between me and tasty booze, though.
The Earl Grey Marteani sounds like a fun way to add a little extra flavor to a gin-based beverage, although instead of using Tanqueray as they suggest, I’ll probably end up using Bombay Sapphire. Sapphire has a more subtle flavor that I imagine would be friendlier to the tea leaves. Of course, it’ll be a marginally expensive experiment, and I hope I don’t ruin a good bottle of booze…
Anyway, for the curious, I’ve copied the recipes below the fold. Enjoy.
Bryan from Spare Change has made an important scientific discovery: the physical location of the ego. While this is probably an important discovery that will earn him fortune and the adulation of millions, it’s the story of how he made the discovery that had me enthralled.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Angela Merkel’s Self-Destructive Coalition
Update: Kindly linked by Andy.
I believed that Germany needed Angela Merkel—a moderate conservative who could be a tough-minded economic reformer. I was in love with the idea that she could be the leader to tear apart the broken apparatus of Germany’s overwhelming social programs and build up new structures of commerce and stability.
Trouble is, Merkel isn’t the person that I thought she was and the reforms being proposed by her coalition government could be far more ruinous than Schroder’s incompetent neglect. God help Germany.
The specifics of the proposal aren’t just ugly: they contradict the economic policies that have maintained healthy economies in the US and helped usher in growth in emerging economies throughout the world.
What Merkel’s coalition has done, simply, is to wave the white flag. They are admitting that they don’t have the backbone to re-work the social programs that are dragging the economy down, admitting that they have no idea how to broaden the tax base by making an economic climate more conducive to business expansion (and job growth), and admitting that in the absence of other ideas they will simply ask the working class to foot even more of the bill for the unemployed and retired.
NFL Quick Hits
First, for KC fans, yesterday’s game had to be like voluntary, un-anesthetized dental work. With a chance to put pressure on the Broncos with a win and the Broncos facing a divisional away game, they rolled over ugly. Their saving grace? A much easier schedule than the Broncos for the remainder of the season; but, even if they come up with the wins it would be hard to mistake this team as having Super Bowl potential. They are uneven and simply not coming up with the kind of play that you’d expect from champions.
Secondly, I’m really hoping that the Eagles can come up with a win tonight if for no other reason that to prove that they can be successful without T.O. Unfortunately, as banged up as they are and as good as Dallas has been playing, it just doesn’t seem likely. I can hope, though.
Thirdly, the Broncos are better than I expected. Quite a bit better. They have a balanced rushing and passing attack, special teams that are mostly improved from last season, and a defense that gambles and comes up with big plays when needed. They haven’t given up the ball a lot, they’ve been efficient at controlling the pace of most of the games, and they’ve come up with a solid record of 7-2 after playing some pretty tough opponents. They have a long way to go ‘til the playoffs and still have it in their power to stumble badly, but this has already been a better season than I had expected.
Fourth, it has to be noted, though, that the Broncos aren’t playing just to get into the playoffs. They are playing for a first-round bye and home field for at least one game. Indy’s schedule is pretty easy, so it is highly unlikely that the Broncos could catch them for home field throughout, but, for them to have playoff success, they need to be playing one at home. And Shanahan can script a particularly good game if he has an extra week to prepare.
Lastly, this has been a pretty fun season. Lots of surprises and the only truly dominant team (Indy) hasn’t played a truly difficult schedule. While the NFC has been pretty ugly, a lot of the AFC is playing helaciously good ball. Good luck to the Eagles tonight (although I’m thrilled that Drew Bledsoe has been having such a good season--he’s a great guy who deserves the success).
The Life of a Prostitute
I don’t have any agenda on this story and I don’t have any greater point. It’s just the kind of sad story that you run across and wish would go away. But, in the UK (although certainly not limited to the UK), the problem is growing.
And some people scoff at the idea of evil in the world.
Update: Nathan has expanded on his thoughts over at Chiefly Musing. Well worth reading regardless of where your opinions on pornography and prostitution end up.
Marx in Soho
Perversely, I find myself intrigued by Marx in Soho, a play reviewed by Shawn Macomber.
Not that I think it will convert me to the true faith of Marxism, it’s just that I want to see all the dogma of the faithful come to life on the stage. It sounds illuminating and, like most of the rhetoric that I’ve heard in conversation with communists, a little empty of real content. That is, it sounds mostly like talk about how things “should be” instead of working with the realities of how things actually are.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Review: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
All you need to know is this: violence hasn’t been this fun and funny since Pulp Fiction.
The setup for the movie is simple: Robert Downey, Jr plays a petty thief who blunders his way into a screen test, ends up in LA where he meets Gay Perry (played by Val Kilmer) and his childhood love. Soon, people are dying, mysteries are unraveling, and the audience is rolling around laughing at some truly hideous things.
As a humorous take on buddy movies, film noir, and LA, the movie is clever and quick. There are a few moments where it is perhaps too self-aware—where the winking is just a little too obvious. There are a few moments where the plot doesn’t hold together as well as it should. Still, only someone truly intent on disliking the movie would dwell on the shortcomings.
The movie is just too witty, the action too quick and the dialogue too sharp to let a few flaws stand in the way of enjoyment.
The direction is strong, but it’s the script and the acting that really set it apart. Kilmer and Downey are brilliant in roles that are more demanding than they might appear, and, without the chemistry that they share, the quick dialogue would have fallen flat.
But, like Pulp Fiction, it is also a movie that wallows in violence and has its fair share of profanity and even a bare breast or three. This isn’t a movie that’s bound to go over too well with the Baptists and it would be a severely irresponsible parent that mistakes this one for good, wholesome family fare.
For the rest of us, though, it’s a treat.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Sony: Working Hard to Suck
I have to admit, I was reading all the reports of Sony’s DRM malware with smugness. I, as a Macintosh user, wouldn’t have to deal with the Windows-only installation of a rootkit that was extremely difficult to safely remove from the system.
Well, it would appear that only the Linux users can be smug now, because if this report is correct, Sony is assimilating Mac users, too.
Of course, faced with that request from a just-inserted music CD, I’m not going to give the application the chance to continue. I’m sorry, but enjoying legally purchased music doesn’t (or certainly shouldn’t) require installation of kernel extensions. My guess would be that the inducement to open up the door to Sony’s installation is extra material provided on the CD, and I haven’t seen anything describing precisely what the extensions do, but I know that it isn’t the kind of thing I think should be necessary on any CD that I buy.
While I sympathize with the artists and record companies in wanting to stifle file trading, it is reasonable for me to expect that I can make digital copies of the music that I purchased so that I can listen to it on my iPod or burn mix CDs for playing in my car. If Sony (or any of the other companies) can’t come to comfortable terms with that, then I simply won’t buy their stuff.
So, Sony, keep your freakin’ kernel extensions to yourself.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Grease is the Word
Read this story and know that my take-out Chinese habit would probably be good enough to fuel a moderately-sized band on a tour across America.
It’s good to be able to contribute.
Bombs in Arvada (Maybe)
This is happening just a few miles away from where I am, right now, typing happily about torture and bombs.
I would really rather that this bomb scared didn’t have an unhappy aftermath.
I’ll update if I hear anything.
© 2005 by the authors of ResurrectionSong. All rights reserved.
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