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Monday, April 30, 2007

Damned, Evil Fox Network

Fox has killed Drive,--a flawed, but interesting, new show that I was enjoying. For fans of Firefly, the most interesting part of this has to be that this is the second time that Nathon Fillion has been on the wrong end of an early Fox cancelation.

Despite its decent reviews, Drive did not perform well in its highly competitive Monday night niche. After airing four episodes, FOX decided to cancel its road-racing themed series.

Admittedly, Drive wasn’t in the same league as the brilliant Firefly, but I wanted to see where it was going (and the darling girlfriend wanted Mal to win the race).

I am wildly disappointed.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Zionist Neocons Blow Up California Overpsass. For Some Reason.

I demand the TRUTH. I demand that the Zionist Neocon Overseers admit that they blew up the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge using a remote-controlled tanker truck.

We all know that No NORMAL Fire could have MELTED part of a freeway. And we also know that California is one of the most liberal leaning states in the nation and that ONLY BY USING THE FEAR OF TERRORIST TANKER TRUCKS could California be PUSHED into voting for some puppet of the ZIONISTS!

Or, at least, that’s what I’m thinking.

A heavily traveled section of freeway that funnels traffic off the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed early Sunday after a gasoline tanker truck overturned and erupted into flames, authorities said.

Flames shot 200 feet in the air and the heat was intense enough to melt part of the freeway and cause the collapse, but the truck’s driver walked away from the scene with second-degree burns. No other injuries were reported.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Officer Trent Cross of the California Highway Patrol said of the crumpled interchange. “I’m looking at this thinking, ‘Wow, no one died—that’s amazing. It’s just very fortunate.”

Which, seriously, thank God and good luck that no one died.

Read the OFFICIAL story--and then think for yourself.

Kindly linked by Bodhi1 at Newsvine.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

American Idol: The Pros Take Over the Show

I hope that the money and good will raised by the American Idol Gives Back episode actually goes on to do some good in the world. Because, if it doesn’t, I just wasted a few precious minutes of my life on the horrendous new charity begathon song by Quincy Jones. I couldn’t tell you whether it was the mix of vocals or just that the song was bad, but let’s just say that I didn’t enjoy the experience. I would like to think it was worth something.

Begin the March of the Stars…

Things We Have Learned from Tonight’s Show, Part 1: Ben Stiller shouldn’t sing. He’s worse than me and I’ve always set the bar low.

Now, about those singers. Melinda is safe. Which is as it should be.

Things We Have Learned from Tonight’s Show, Part 2: Apparently, I don’t actually hate Paula. While her commentary is still something approaching useless, she has had fewer outbursts of blatant stupidity this year, so she’s been much easier to tolerate. It’s also nice that she seems to have gotten in touch with her inner sense of sobriety.

Just sayin’.

Sudden, Confused Outburst Aside: Hey, that’s not Devo! Where the hell are the funny little hats? Although, the guitar is kind of nice…

Things We Have Learned from Tonight’s Show, Part 3: Dr. Gregory House just can’t pull off a British accent; I’m telling you, it just sounds fake.

I love Tenacious D. Jack Black is over the top, ridiculous, and wouldn’t know subtle if it came and yanked his wiener. But the world needs clowns and he fills the bill, beautifully.

Blake is safe, too. Woo.

Political Question Aside: If a candidate for higher office bloviates in the woods and there’s no one there to kiss his ass, will tax dollars still be wasted?

Phil is safe. Which means my boy Chris is still in the running for the boot. Which makes me happy, although I’m guessing that the departing Idolator sill be Lakisha.

Things We Have Learned from Tonight’s Show, Part 4: It’s great to see Ellen put up $100,000 of her own money to the cause. That’s an damned nice donation.

I still can’t stand Josh Groban’s singing, but the cute kids helped tremendously.

From the CIA world factbook, we can learn these things about Zimbabwe:

  1. The life expectancy is just 39.5 years.
  2. An estimated 1.8 million people in this country of less than 12 million have AIDS.
  3. The unemployment rate is approximately 80%

I mention this only to note that while the begathons can feel overly manipulative to the point of insincerity, the bald truth is that there are some parts of Africa that are every bit as needy and broken as can be imagined. Finding a way to help so many people in need--people who have been screwed by their old colonial masters, by the fickle attentions of the world, and by the general failure of post-colonial African governments to rise above tribalism, corruption, and violence to create stable, emerging nations. I’m not suggesting that anyone who reads this is somehow responsible for those ills, but that lack of culpability doesn’t mean we can’t find generosity in ourselves.

None of which makes Madonna even a little bit less irritating.

Lakisha is safe. Which totally blows my theory. I’m starting to think that Chris R really might be going home.

Things We Have Learned from Tonight’s Show, Part 5: Damn, that Elvis feller can sing.

Okay, I feel ripped off. No one is going home. Bono didn’t sing for my pleasure.

Damnit, the show starts with pain and ends with pain. Now, go use my money for good, you bastards…

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Send Care Packages to Left Off Colfax…

...And pack them well with dry ice.

American Idol: Blues Run the Game Edition (Updated w/ Free Music)

Tonight, we’ve got a special edition of the American Idol coverage. Not only will we be taking cheap shots at the singers and performers on tonight’s show, but there will be a little bit of a surprise for people who come back right after the show. And, yes, the title is a clue--but it probably isn’t what some of you smarties think it is. The surprise will only be there for a few hours, so be sure to check out the site right after Idol is over.

Now, for a very special Blossom...

A Very Special Aside: Could American Idol ever really give back enough to make up for the damage that Sanjaya and William Hung did to the world of pop music?

Chris Richardson mangles Eric Clapton’s “If I Could (Change the World)"--which, sadly, won’t go far in helping those poor families and kids in Africa. He took the soul of the song and buried under a mountain of horrible vocals. He was hideous. The judges all liked it and I really don’t get it; it was off key, it was awkward, it was almost unlistenable--and that isn’t simply because I don’t like the kid’s voice, it’s because he doesn’t sing well.

For the Record Aside: I do like what American Idol is doing tonight. A lot of people have become ridiculously wealthy from this show (and, yes, I wish I was one of them) and using their position to help others is not only good, it is right.

“There Will Come a Day” is a good choice for Melinda Doolittle, who continues to be the most competent of the singers and performers. G-phrase notes: Bad dress, but she is one of the few singers who is actually better than the back-up singers. I agree completely. Truly beautifully done and so much better than what Chris R did that the two don’t even belong on the same stage. No matter what happens on this show, she has a career ahead of her and it’s a bright one.

It’s a little disappointing to hear “Imagine” from Blake Lewis because the song has crossed over a little into cliché. I would consider it an overly safe and overly obvious song choice. Aside from that, though, he sounded about as good singing it as you might imagine. He was one of the few male singers who actually has a pleasant voice--full, very slightly reedy, and quite simply pretty. He’s much more of a singer than I originally thought, and I hope he sticks around for a while longer.

What I don’t understand is how the judges can heap praise on Chris while taking shots at Blake’s performance.

For the past few weeks, Lakisha has looked pretty far over the show. Tonight she seemed far more engaged, although I can’t help but think she’ll suffer in comparison to Fantasia Barrino. Not that Lakisha sounded bad, but because she isn’t nearly the talent that Fantasia is. It was decent, but far from great.

Phil, who still isn’t my personal cup of tea, has done a little bit better after each week. He’ll never be the kind of vocalist whose albums I will run out and buy, but I do think he’s earned his place on the show. You’ll never grab my attention by singing a Garth Brooks song, and, honestly, the arrangement bordered on the boring; but it’s hard to dislike the sentiment and his encouraging us all to be “heroes”.

I like Jordin Sparks, but this wasn’t her night. While her song ended okay, it started rough and she had a problem with the softer notes throughout. Not even close to her best.

Extra Special Merry Christmas Moment For All:

How about something a little musically different? How about something that you find only when skulking about in certain Russian message boards? How about something like the b-side from the Soulsaver’s single, “Revival”?

Glad you asked.

Years and years ago, a guy named Jackson C. Frank recorded a song called “Blues Run the Game.” Welcome to Mark Lanegan and the Soulsaver’s remake. (Link is gone. Song is gone. Sad sad sad.) It isn’t the most dynamic song, but there is something compelling about the thing and I can’t stop listening to it--and Lanegan’s voice is, in this man’s opinion, uncommonly gorgeous.

It won’t be up for long, so get it now--and, if you download the file, I fully expect a thank you. And maybe you could consider buying the album, too.

Britney Spears & Sanjaya: Islands in the Stream

Okay, it’s no news to anyone with half an ear toward the recent escapades of the former pop star, but Britney Spears is crackers. She’s completely lost her mind.

Proof:

The bald beauty is eager to work with ridiculed reality star Sanjaya Malakar, Star magazine reported.

The mag quoted Brit as believing that the two would make “beautiful” music together.

I mean, we all knew something was wrong in her itty-bitty brain, but now we know it’s serious.

I hope she gets the help she needs before she does something she’ll regret. Like make an album of 80’s cover songs featuring duets with Sanjaya and William Hung.

None of which explains how I could feel so luke warm about the idea of Sam Raimi directing The Hobbit. I love Raimi. The Hobbit was my favorite book of the bunch. Why am I not thrilled by this?

Maybe it’s because it’s such a long shot or maybe I don’t think he can pull it off. I really can’t figure it out.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Very Few Late Night Thoughts

Firstly, have you noticed that our culture has so utterly romanticized tragedy and drama that it has tainted our idea of what is good in relationships? Or is that just me?

Which leads me to the second thought of the evening: Societally, we seem to have an addiction to the term, uttered with much emptiness and earnestness, “I’m sorry.” The act of apologizing is more revered than is the kind of sober decision-making that doesn’t require frequent apology. Which is good for most of the Names in Hollywood, given their penchant for publicly screwing the pooch and having to explain away their idiocy.

Secondly, how could I have forgotten that History of the World, Part 1 started out with a bunch of masturbating neanderthals. You would think that’s one of those things that would really stick with you.

So to speak.

Thirdly, I am grateful to Jed for forwarding this link to the continuation of Sanjaya’s fifteen minutes of infamy.

Fourth, “Boy, you are nuts. Enn vee tee ess, nuts.

Fifth, I used to believe that Aunt Jemima was real and that my parents kept getting defective bottles. I felt deprived.

True story.

Sixth, I know I promised not to post any more about the recent tragedy--and I struggled with making myself a liar so soon. But Dave Cullen has an article in Slate that is well worth reading.

Seventh, I had high hopes for The History Boys. It didn’t work out so well. Maybe it’s because the focus drifted from an early, passionate exploration of education and on to a tedious exploration of homosexuality. Perhaps it was the fact that I had a hard time working up sympathy for the lead character, a teacher who enjoys serially fondling students sitting on the back of his motorcycle. Instead of sympathy, I mostly thought it was a little creepy.

Or maybe it was that in translation from stage to screen, it maintained huge tracts of overwritten, clunky, smart-assed dialog.

It wasn’t all bad, though. There were some good performances and beautiful scenery--much of it architectural in nature.

Eighth, here’s some simple instructions for recording your Skype interviews. Which I’m adding in here mostly so that I can reference it in the future.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

American Idol: Sanjaya’s Special School for Hair Doerologists

Will Sanjaya (I’m Sorry) and His Amazing Ultra-Changy Hair still be on the show at the end of the evening? My bet is on a painful “yes.”

Damn the luck.

But if Sanjaya (I’m Sorry) isn’t gone, I’m really hoping that Chris R will be; I doubt that will happen, though. My money is on Lakisha (and, no, I haven’t checked out the sites in other time zones, so don’t ruin this for me).

Catty Aside: Luckily we know that Fergie isn’t going to be back next week. Which, regardless of the vote, should make everyone feel a little better.

Just sayin’.

Let’s play Hi-Lo.

Two groups:

Sanjaya, Lakisha, and Blake.

Phil, Jordin, and Chris.

And Melinda has to choose which group to join--which always seems just a little bit cruel to me. Sitting in the middle and refusing to choose is not a bad choice.

For the record, though, the bottom three are Sanjaya, Lakisha, and Blake. Randy echoes my own surprise that Blake is in that group, while Paula admits that she understands why “two of you are up there.” Simon’s happiness, though, gives me hope for the immediate future.

OH GLORIOUS, HAPPY DAY! OH DAY THAT SANJAYA GOES HOME! THANK YOU, AMERICA!

What was funniest about Sanjaya leaving--aside from the return of the crying girl--was that the audience cheered his dismissal.

Good things happen to those who dare to hope.

That Was the Last of It

And that was, officially the last I’ll be posting about Virginia Tech.

Haven’t You Heard? Suicide is Painless.

Would it be insensitive to suggest that the world would have been much better off if this guy had followed his own advice?


Cho Seung-Hui Suicide Picture

Even better would have been for authorities to have followed what in retrospect seems like a tremendously obvious path to the realization that Cho Seung-Hui wasn’t just a risk to commit suicide, but to hurt others. He belonged in a mental hospital and it’s a damned shame that he wasn’t sent where he so obviously belonged.

State police, meanwhile, revealed that in December 2005, Cho was declared “mentally ill and in need of hospitalization” and posed “an imminent danger,” according to a temporary detention order issued by a Virginia district court.
[...]
The disclosures about Cho’s past run-ins with authorities added to the rapidly growing list of warning signs that appeared well before 23-year-old student Cho went on his rampage. Among other things, Cho’s twisted, violence-filled writings and sullen, vacant-eyed demeanor had disturbed professors and students so much that he was removed from one English class and was repeatedly urged to get counseling.

A Message for Zimbabwe

I normally wouldn’t reproduce an entire post, but I’m making an exception. I want to be sure that this is read as widely as possible and that Zimbabwe’s citizens who are devoted to the idea of democratic change are given every opportunity to succeed.

For the rest of us, when these political reformers do succeed in toppling Mugabe’s regime, the nation of Zimbabwe will need our help in picking up the pieces. Feeding the poor, rebuilding a ruined economy, providing emergency health care for the nation with the shortest life expectancy on the planet--these are just some of the help that they will be needing. Given an opportunity, I have no doubt that the wonderful people of Zimbabwe can rebuild what was formerly the second largest economy and best educated populace in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This is reproduced from a post by my friends at Sokwanele.

Declare your Independence!
Sokwanele Article: 18 April 2007

Send an e-card from our website!What is Independence? It is the period that comes after oppression. It is the time when you turn away from fighting for basic liberties to finally living your life in full. It is a time when you get to move across town, send your children to better schools, work with dignity and enjoy being a citizen of your country regardless of your economic status.

Have you got Independence? Have you moved across town? Do your children have qualified teachers who are concentrating on the job of preparing your children for a life style that is better than the one you had? Are you working with dignity? Can you even make it to work? Above all, are you enjoying being a Zimbabwean?

Four million of our people have left this country in the last six years because the fruits of independence have been stolen from them by a ruthless and uncaring regime whose aim all along has been to acquire power.

That regime is led by a man who has tricked Zimbabweans and the rest of Africa for ages.

We began to see his true colours in Matabeleland between 1983 and 1985, but we were too preoccupied with gazing at the fruit of independence as it lay just beyond our reach. We saw another flash of true colours just after the referendum, and still we remained blind to the fact that the kind of fruit he offered was poisoned; now that it is clear that it is anyone who opposes him who is an enemy of the state, we have responded with fleeing the country or silent embarrassment.

It is time to reclaim our independence from this monster of a regime. We have been used, abused for far too long by people who think us too docile to respond. Their arrogance stares us right in the face every day in the newspapers, on the evening news, at rallies and as they swagger around town in their jeeps, mercs and heaven knows what else. We have to defy them now.

From April 19 we need to individually and collectively do the following:

  • Stop buying the Herald and Chronicle. We must make sure their propaganda machine grinds to a halt. You have the individual power to do that.
  • Serve notice on those companies who advertise in these papers that you will boycott them if they do not stop financing government propaganda. Write hundreds of thousands of anonymous letters to the companies and give them the deadline of 1 May, Africa freedom day, to stop advertising or face a boycott.
  • Stop buying from companies who advertise in the Herald. The South African defeated a more powerful system by translating individual pressure in to collective pressure through the rent boycotts for example.
  • Do not go to work on the 2nd and 3rd of May. Call in sick. Every one has a tummy ache from time to time.
  • Real lives were lost in the war for independence and their sacrifice must not be in vain and was certainly not to put a few fat cats in power so that you watch them in awe as they threw a few scraps from the fruit table to you. We must reclaim our independence now, and we must prepare for both the worst and best case scenarios.
  • Prepare for elections and make sure you and your 18 year olds are registered to vote. The regime will do everything it can to make sure they do not vote. Work on your relatives and appeal to them to prepare to come back home to vote when the time comes. You have to start working on them now so they can save up and come home in less than a year’s time.
  • Talk to the police, gently, and persuade them within the secrecy of your homes that they are being used by a rogue regime and that you do not want them to face the day of reckoning when it arrives. Tell them you understand what pressure they are under but also remind them that the people know who gleefully and enthusiastically beats people. Make them understand that while they beat up people in an area far away from their homes, some other policemen are beating up their relatives back home.
  • Use graffiti and let the youth militia know that you know who they are and advise them to flee the militia or risk facing the justice of the people one day.
  • Support those families whose members have been beaten up, tortured or killed.

There is no better opportunity and moment for us to regain our dignity than now.

The day of reckoning will surely come. Kamuzu Banda, Idi Amin, Mobutu Sese Seko; all those evil men were defeated eventually.

We shall overcome! We shall overcome!

We in the West watch with hope.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

American Idol: The “Doesn’t This Seem a Little Inappropriate?” Edition

First: it does seem a little awkward to be doing an American Idol post on the day after a horrible tragedy. It makes the trivial seem even tinier than normal. And, yet, creature of habit that I am, here it is; maybe I’ll just be a little nicer than normal.

Second: Country night is usually more than a tad painful. I wonder if today will break tradition?

Phil Stacey starts out the night and sounds pretty good. Vocally, country is a fit for Phil and the performance isn’t bad. Pop country tunes still leave me cold, though.

Jordin Sparks is a letdown by comparison. Bad song, marginal vocals, boring performance. One of her absolute worst--although Randy disagrees, Paula loves her, and Simon offers wild praise. Sorry, but I didn’t see it.

Sanjaya (I’m Sorry) looks bad. All of his hairdos flirt with the ludicrous, but the bandana n’ frizzy fringe steps way over the edge. And then there’s the lazy, lackluster performance and vocals. Oh, please Lord, let this be the worst of the night.

Watching him at this point is a little like going over to a good friend’s house and having their ten year old try to put on a show for the guests. It was about as bad as it gets.

Which is why it was nice to hear a little brutality from Randy, a useless sidestep from Paula, and “utterly horrendous” from Simon. “I know this has been funny for a while...”

Lakisha is okay probably because half of it counted as her most restrained performance. In fact, I liked it better before she really started pushing (and hit a few ugly notes).  It wasn’t great by any means, but it was better than I expected. The judges were unanimously negative.

Chris sucked very nearly as much as Sanjaya. The style was uncomfortable and the vocals an ugly whine. Why can’t we vote both of these guys off the show? In fact, why aren’t we in the business of voting people off instead of on? The judges are more kind than he deserves, but that comes from the fact that he is one of the singers that they’ve been pushing for some time.

Melinda continues with a strong showing--in fact, it was one of her most fun songs ("Trouble is a Woman") and a damned decent vocal performance. For some reason, it reminded me a little (stylistically) of Esther Phillips take on “No Headstone on My Grave”. The only song of the night that I actually, fully enjoyed.

Blake is way out of his territory doing a country song. He has a compelling quality to his voice that saves him even when he can’t quite pull the whole performance together, which is good on a night like tonight where is obviously a little uncomfortable. As imperfect as it was--some missed notes, a little lackluster compared to his best--it was one of the better songs of the night. Not great, but far from bad. 

Heroism in the Midst of Tragedy

It’s hardly something I can celebrate today--not in the context of the terrible sadness of those who will have to live with the murderous acts of Cho Seung-Hui. I’m sure that any family would much rather have their father/husband/son than a memorial for a hero. Yet it’s exactly that heroism that I would hope I could show in the same situation, that same courage that saves lives even in sacrifice.

It’s hard to celebrate Liviu Librescu today when we mourn, but it’s a name we will celebrate for years to come as we remember this tragedy. While a murderer was terrorizing a school, Professor Librescu did what he could to save his class full of students.

I don’t know what he was like in his daily life, but I think that this glimpse of him provides one hell of a measure of the man.

“It wasn’t like an automatic weapon, but it was a steady ‘pow,’ ‘pow,’ ‘pow,’ ‘pow,’” student Richard Mallalieu, 23, told The Washington Post. “We didn’t know what to do at first.”

The students in the class dropped to the floor and started overturning desks to hide behind as about a dozen shots rang out, he said.

Then the gunfire started coming closer. Librescu, 77, fearlessly braced himself against the door, holding it shut against the gunman in the hall, while students darted to the windows of the second-floor classroom to escape the slaughter, survivors said.

Mallalieu and most of his classmates hung out of the windows and dropped about 10 feet to bushes and grass below - but Librescu stayed behind to hold off the crazed gunman.

Alec Calhoun, 20, said the last thing he saw before he jumped from the window was Librescu, blocking the door against the madman in the hallway.

He died trying to protect the students.

When the time for mourning is past, remember to celebrate the uncommon courage of people like Librescu.

Update: Kindly linked by my buddy, Trench, who also has a good number of links you should be reading.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Global War On Terror is Dead

Long live the Global War on Pretty Little Girls in Bonnets.

The British government has stopped using the phrase “war on terror” to refer to the struggle against political and religious violence, according to a Cabinet minister’s prepared remarks for a Monday speech.

International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, a rising star of the governing Labour Party, says in a speech prepared for delivery in New York that the expression popularized by President Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks strengthens terrorists by making them feel part of a bigger struggle.

We wouldn’t want the terror masters and jihadis think that we took them seriously, now would we?

Or...

Maybe what we should do is acknowledge their seriousness of mind and purpose, the danger that they pose, and the reality that our war is with not a single organization or nation, but with those who would use TERRORism as a weapon to gain their political aims. Maybe now, when many are questioning our and our allies’ will to continue the fight, isn’t the best time to try to find gentle euphemisms that won’t offend the wrong people and won’t make the terrorists “feel part of a bigger struggle.”

The terrorists know who they are and what they are; I don’t think we should be worried about anyone’s self-image.

We could call it World War 3, recognizing the global scale of the conflict. But, honestly, it isn’t nearly as all-encompassing as that war--our economy and our military might have grown well past those years of national sacrifice and we aren’t seeing anything nearly as bloody, either. Our enemy isn’t as numerous nor nearly as strong. Arguably, the stakes in the long view are similar, though. This is a war of ideologies and cultures that is much more meaningful than just “a small number of loose, shifting and disparate groups who have relatively little in common apart from their identification with others who share their distorted view of the world and their idea of being part of something bigger.”

We could call it the War on Islamic Extremism, which I think would be about right. Terror isn’t only a tool of the Islamic extremists, of course, but those are our enemies, aren’t they? And it is their ideas and their culture that we must vigorously oppose.

Global War on Terror is ungainly (and, perhaps, so is War on Islamic Extremism), but it had the virtue of being honest about the scope and the enemy. I can’t imagine that anyone believes that this will be won by “military means alone"--the use of all forms of our national power will be in play. Economic, “soft” diplomacy, small and large scale military projection, and information dissemination. In fact, I remain convinced that the last will be the most important--convinced that in the war of ideas, our ideas are far more attractive than theirs.

Freedom and liberalism are more desirable than religious dictatorships (at least when the former can be had with political stability and an individual sense of security). In line with Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy, it is our moral duty and pragmatic obligation to support democratic movements around the world both because it is right and because it will help ensure our own future security.

We can call this struggle whatever we want, but let’s not fool ourselves about its ultimate importance or scope. The term “Global War on Terror” doesn’t preclude a use of wide ranging powers to achieve our goals any more than “Cold War” left us unable to use those same powers to defeat the USSR in a similar war of ideologies. Turning to a new name just feels like re-branding.

NEW! IMPROVED!

Global War on Terror (Now With More Diplomacy!)

Virginia Tech Gunman Kills 21 (Updated)

From the latest news report:

A gunman opened fire in a dorm and classroom at Virginia Tech on Monday, killing 21 people and wounding another 21 before he was killed, police said.

On the Web site, Tech reported the shootings at opposite sides of the 2,600-acre campus at West Ambler Johnston, a co-ed residence hall that houses 895 people, and said there were “multiple victims” at Norris Hall, an engineering building.

What grievance against society could push a person to walk into a building and start killing innocents? No crime like this happens for “no reason"--there is always a reason, even if it isn’t rational. I just can’t imagine a state of mind where any reason would be good enough to push me over that particular ledge.

I feel for the families and the friends of those killed today, and I’m glad that the murderer was killed today. It saves me from having to continue to find justification for opposition to the death penalty.

Read the rest.

Update: Unfortunately, ABC is reporting more dead and telling us to expect the toll to rise.

Links:
Video with an interview of a man who was shot.

The death toll now stands at 33.

Not in reference to the post, but in reference to the comments, why does something like this have to descend so quickly into a political brawl? What friends and family right now need are shoulders to cry on and help getting through to tomorrow. What they don’t need is the angry political fighting that just nudges aside the tragedy and preaches about some pet political cause.

Of course, this, from the “Moderate” Voice, is even more blatant from the post through the comments.

There is enough time later for that; let this time be for the families.

Pajamas Media has a range of links.

And Ed Driscoll also has a series of links and thoughts worth reading.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

BREAKING NEWS!

Some people think that they* hate us because of our freedoms.

I always found that too simplistic and would say that they hate us because our cultures are too dissimilar to handle rubbing sharply pointed elbows in an ever shrinking world--that is, neither culture has an easy way to deal with the cultural eccentricities that make each group culturally dangerous to the other. On one side you have puffed and secular public life (relatively), fried pig skin, boobies, and binge drinking; on the other side you have misogynists, unquestioned rule by Koran, no public boobies to speak of, and tremendous xenophobic leanings. Honestly--and my flip attitude aside-- our differences are very real.

Luckly, though, I’ve found the real problem. It seems to be that some of us eat so darned well that the poor, luckless bastards just can’t help but hate us.

While the world’s elite dine on sumptuous meals courtesy of the White House, the number of hungry people in the world continues to increase. Tell me again why they hate us?

By Adem Carroll, April 9, 2007

On April 7, as the world around us continued to burn, the White House issued an Immediate Release: the Easter Dinner Menu. I am sure you will be glad to know that after a hard day of work the President and First Lady look forward to a Texas Grapefruit, Avocado, and Mozzarella Salad; Fire-Glazed Ham; Green Chili Cheese Grits Soufflé, Roasted Orange Molasses Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Asparagus, Brazos Valley Cheeses, Fresh Yeast Rolls, with Coconut Cake and Blue Bell Ice Cream to wash it all down.

We hope the President and First Lady had enough to eat. At the same time, 854 million people across the world are hungry, up from 852 million a year ago. Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes-one child every five seconds, according to the World Food Program.

Hell, I’d been thinking this whole situation was about something serious, and now I find out that our problems would be solved if we just send all the hungry people in the world a nice, roasted duck and maybe a decent creme brulee. Because that whole cracking open browned sugar layer is so fun that it will distract them from the urge to blow shit up.

So, people, for the sake of all that’s important to our world, put down your food, wrap it up, and send it to a hungry person. STOP THE HATE! STOP THE WAR! NO BLOOD FOR COOKING OIL!

Don’t think that I dismiss the problems of hunger in the world, but another person’s hunger isn’t caused by my caloric intake. Hunger is largely the result of failed economic and trade policies, intentional strategies to marginalize opposing political and tribal power, and the kind of educational deficit that leaves a country’s infrastructure in a constant state of decline. Whether the leaders of any of the Western nations never eats Lemon Carnaroli Risotto with Asparagus Tips again, the leaders of countries like Zimbabwe will ensure that a giant portion of their citizens stay hungry.

What Adem Carroll is trying to say with this kind of tripe, though, is useless. Global success is not a zero sum game--depriving the President of his Blue Bell ice cream might make Carroll feel better, but it won’t do a damned thing to feed another man, woman, or child in the world. Indeed, there is a strong argument to be made that constant food aid shipments from the West have helped create a permanent reliance on that aid in some third world countries. I’ll need to break out some statistics when I have a bit more time, but if memory serves there are a number of countries where the number one economic driver is foreign aid--that is, international welfare.

While I could use a slimmer me, a few less hamburgers in my stomach this year won’t salvage broken economies or miraculously make an uneducated populace in a third world country capable of caring properly for a small engine to run the pumps that might help them have clean drinking water. What they need is to set up educational systems, reasonable social safety nets, basic health care programs, and plans for reinvigorating collapsed systems of infrastructure (not to mention governments that rely less on corruption and graft and more on addressing public needs) more than some misplaced sense of either guilt or judgement that comes with eating dinner.

The people who hate us enough to bomb us don’t hate us because of our culinary delights; they hate us because our way of life is in direct opposition to theirs in public, political, and private aspects of our lives. Asking people to give to help feed the hungry is understandable; blaming our current conflicts and our cultural differences on the fact that some people eat well is idiotic.

* They, in this case, are extremist Muslims who believe that the world should be ruled by strict--ie, their--interpretation of religious law and that killing is a grand way to achieve the goal. The cat who wrote this article seems to think that pretty much everyone in the world who isn’t eating glazed parsnips and young carrots is in the camp of “they hate us”; I prefer to stay focused on the ones who actively work to blow us up. Apparently the others are just too weak to strap on the bomb vest.

A somewhat related post: Aid to Africa. This post of mine from 2005 touches on some of the same topics.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

American Idol: The Sanjaya Crisis Continues

Oh, man, if the group singing moment is any indicator, this night will be at least as bad as last night. Teaming Haley and Sanjaya for an uncomfortable, flaccid few seconds of singing must have been someone’s idea of a joke.

America’s favorite karaoke contest just lost a few ounces of whatever credibility it had left.

Hot Girl Vote Aside: Does anyone else find Haley’s protestations of innocence funny as hell? I mean, her ingenious nearly nekkid strategy for success isn’t exactly a state secret.

Who is lowest for the week?

Phil (again), Haley (appropriately), and Chris R (which, damnit, is probably the right answer--Sanjaya was better than the Q-Tip head). Sanjaya should have been in there on general principle, of course, but I don’t have much to complain about in the choice of these three.

Another Hot Girl Aside: Dorkafork asks if I’m going to review Olivia Mojica’s upcoming blockbuster sex video as part of my annual American Idol coverage. I would say that I’m sort of obligated, wouldn’t you? It’s the kind of public service that I’m willing to do for the readers of RSong. I’m just that kind of guy.

Shockingly, the ingenious nearly nekkid strategy for success fails and Haley heads home and Andy mourns.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

American Idol: The “Let’s Pretend Sanjaya Doesn’t Exist” Edition

Jennifer Lopez, huh? Yeah, okay, that’s nice…

Simon was wrong about Melinda’s performance. It was understated and gorgeous--actually it was one of my favorites from her. She handled his criticism beautifully as well, showing a great sense. The almost uniformly good performances do rob us of a bit of drama, though, don’t they?

Lakisha sounded decent if not entirely convincing. The style is a near miss for her--it isn’t completely off, but it wasn’t quite right, either. Randy liked it, Paula is in my corner, and Simon pretty much nails it when he says it wasn’t great and he didn’t imagine that the home audience was going to get much out of the performance.

Now, a touchier subject: Paula complimented Lakisha’s wardrobe, but she shouldn’t have. She needs to make better wardrobe choices because it really does matter.

But she makes Chris R look like he doesn’t belong on the stage. Holy crap was that bad. Randy says it was “really good”, Paula says it was “sexy” and a “hot performance”, and Simon liked it better than the first two. Maybe it sounded different live, but home viewers were treated to a sub-Sanjaya (sorry) level performance that was messy and confusing in light of J Lo’s ignored advice.

Hell, unless Sanjaya (sorry) really lives down to his potential tonight, I would think that VoteForTheWorst.com has a new hero tonight. I’m shocked that the trio of judges all enjoyed that.

Damn, Haley’s hot. Since her singing is so forgettable, I say we just right off her performances and spend time talking about whatever body parts are left most exposed by her weekly costumes.

Nice legs, kid.

The trio of judges hammered Haley, which only sits wrong because they complimented Chris R. so heavily.

Jesus, tonight sucks. The songs are fine, but the last three singers--Phil, Haley, and Chris--have all been so horrendously bad that if it were a concert I would have walked out. If it were karaoke night at the local bar, I would be ordering shots just to survive the experience. This isn’t a comment on the individuals--they could all be the most wonderful people in the world--but these people can’t be million selling artists.

My level of crankiness is rising.

Thank God Jordin Sparks doesn’t make me angry enough to do an Elvis on my TV screen. Especially since it isn’t actually my TV screen and the girl would feel her level of cranky rising if I suddenly started using one of the weapons in the house to make my point about tonight’s musical selections.

Oh, and Jordin wasn’t so bad, she just wasn’t so good. My level of crankiness has subsided somewhat, but my level of boredom is skyrocketing.

Could Blake salvage what started out as a promising evening? Sort of.

Blake continues to be the best of the guys both vocally and as a performer; sadly, the bar has been set so low that this comes perilously close to damning with faint praise. While he sounded better than Blake and Phil, it wasn’t exactly an inspired performance, was it? Girlfriend was more impressed than I was, but, then, she’s not writing this little post is she?

Sanjaya (sorry).

Macintosh Geek Aside: For those of you who have recently switched to the Mac side of the force, here’s a site that you might want to check out daily. FreeMacWare.com features a new freeware program for your Macintosh and the archives have a ton of great utilities and applications (some of which have found permanent homes on my own hard drive). Not every day is a killer, but there are enough good offerings to keep me interested.

Which is more than I can say for American Idol.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Stupid Gov’t Tricks (And the Funny Things People Say About Them)

This may be the funniest thing I’ve read all day, especially considering the context of the massive idiocy it references:

We have come to the conclusion that the crisis Michigan faces is not a shortage of revenue, but an excess of idiocy. Facing a budget deficit that has passed the $1 billion mark, House Democrats Thursday offered a spending plan that would buy a MP3 player or iPod for every school child in Michigan.
[...]
We wonder how financially strained Michigan residents will feel about paying higher taxes to buy someone else’s kid an iPod.

Stupid government tricks are not party dependent, but if there were ever a moment to break out the “big government Democrat” stereotype and complain about overspending, this would be the occasion. I won’t lean to heavily on that platform, though, since my own, beloved “party of smaller government” isn’t making me proud on the fiscal responsibility front…

Read the rest.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

100 Doses: A Long Term Cure for American Idol, Part 4

The purpose.

I don’t know what ingredients build a great song, but I do have my opinions about some songs that I consider to be great. And, one by one, I’m going to share 100 of those songs. They won’t be in any particular order (and Mark Lanegan might be a little over-represented), but they will be accompanied by MP3s and the reasons that I think the songs are so brilliant.

Some of the songs will be familiar, although popularity is no quick gauge of virtue.

Think of this as a cure for American Idol. A group of songs that make up a hell of a playlist with songs that you’ll hate and songs that you’ll love and a little bit of musical exploration for the class. The only two rules are that the songs have to have a prominent vocal, can’t be a cover of another artist’s music, and that I think that they are so damned good that they are worth sharing.

The song.

Soulsavers – “Revival”

Instead of a downloadable mp3, this revival of a very irregular tradition brings you the music video for Soulsavers’ latest single, “Revival.” One of my favorite current songs, this is latter day gospel with some of the prettiest vocals you’ll hear this year. And, yes, for anyone keeping score, that’s Mark Lanegan singing.

It’s a passionate thing, but not overwrought; it’s phenomenally pretty without being fake. The rest of the album--sadly released only in Europe to this point--is just as good. It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s The Way You Land mixes dance beats, ambient sounds, rock, and a good deal more gospel. I might get around to writing a full review some time, but the upshot of a longer piece would be the same: if you get a chance you should buy what will probably be remembered as one of the better releases of the year.

For Lanegan fans it’s a must considering he sings on eight of the ten songs and had a hand in writing five of those. It isn’t a Lanegan solo album, but it seems to be more of a collaborative effort than the Isobel Campbell pairing, Ballad of the Broken Seas from March of last year.


So, when thoughts of Sanjaya are getting you down, it wouldn’t hurt to get a little Soulsavers into your ears. It might just save a life.

Previous Posts:
100 - Mark Lanegan - “Judas Touch”

99 - Dean Carter - “Jailhouse Rock”

98 - Chris Whitley - “Scrapyard Lullaby”

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