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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Funny Gun Story

I have a job that requires me to work in an arena where I am not entirely comfortable: mass emailings to our subscriber base. So, being a good little geek, I subscribe to a few email lists, read a few sites regularly, and try to do my job as well as I can. Which is why I got to read this hilarious story from DirectMag.com’s Ken Magill:

...[O]ne of my favorite stories involves gun stupidity. Back in the early 80s, three Air Force buddies and I were in the Arizona desert target shooting with a.357 magnum. One of us—I forget his name, now—decided his lime-green Datsun 1200 would look really cool with bullet holes in the driver’s door. So he fired five or six rounds into it.

Then he remembered he had forgotten to roll up the driver-door window before he shot.

It’s in the context of bad email behavior from Republicans and conservative mass emailings--and it’s behavior that I had noticed, too, so I hope some list managers are paying attention. He’s right about this:

If Republicans don’t clean up their sloppy e-mail practices, soon their messages will get blocked from reaching people’s inboxes altogether. And then even people who want to hear from them won’t be able to.

Yahoo, Hotmail, and some of the other online services are pretty aggressive in the way they handle mass emailings. Even though everyone on my list has given explicit permission for us to email them with offers and information, their email providers don’t much care. Dealing with email design and distribution is enough to give me holes in my stomach lining--I’m not kidding when I say that it’s one of the most stressful parts of my job although not because any single part of it is difficult. The reason is more complicated: if the mailing isn’t well received, if the data in a first import isn’t clean, if I don’t do my job well, my email lists can be locked, my service can ban me, and the things that I am trying to get in front of customer eyes may not be seen.

My job requires me to convince people to buy and use our services; those mailings are vital to me doing a good job. Protecting my lists from marauding salesmen, an owner that doesn’t necessarily understand all the issues involved, all of our client companies that want to piggyback on our lists, all the while fighting against the natural attrition that comes with long-term list use is enough to drive me crazy.

Indiscriminate sharing of email addresses through the conservative and libertarian mailing lists will ultimately hurt the cause of putting ideas in front of people. You can’t change minds if you can’t first engage those minds--and if your emails aren’t getting through, you haven’t got a shot.

So, again I say, I hope some list managers are paying attention.

Read the rest.

And While We’re At It…

Not too many people even remember the Jeremy Piven vehicle, Cupid, so they don’t know enough to be cranky about the weak do-over being sold to the public right now. But while we’re sending a paltry bit o’ traffic to Liberty Girl, let’s just say that this is just about as spot on as her rants about personal liberty.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go consider Simon Jester’s place in contemporary American society. One nice thing about the Obama administration is that it is encouraging people to revisit some really great literature.

American Idol, March 31, 2009: The What the Hell is She Wearing Edition (Updated)

Update: I’m thinking it would be fun to watch Idol with the LibertyCouple. Nicely done.

Seriously, what the hell is she wearing? If you saw the opening of the show, you already know what I’m talking about. If you didn’t, then nothing I can say would make you understand. Except maybe Christmas tree drenched in blood and tinsel.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Anoop sings Usher and I’m already bored. Girl is more open to Usher, but she asks a valid question: “This is high energy?” Not so much.

Randy mumbles Randy-isms. Kara thinks that Frat guys dared him to sing the song. She didn’t mean it in a nice way. Paula mutters useless Paulaisms. Simon wants early boo-ing from the Anoop-loving crowd.

I think it’s time to stir the s’ghetti sauce.

And I’m back just in time for Megan, who is extremely lucky to still be in the show. Singing hippylicious music like “Turn Your Lights Down Low” should be a lock for her--but apparently the charm has worn off. Her quirky vocals just sound off tonight instead of fun, the song is a bore, and she’s wearing too much for me to cheer purely for the sake of naughtiness. Huh.

She’s gotta go home this week (unless someone else does really, really bad).

Kara brings down the hammer. “Irritating.” Ouch. Paula says something or other. The little crawl at the bottom of the TV tells me that the Broncos are going to try to trade Jay Cutler. Simon brings in the snark. “Boring.” Randy didn’t like it either.

She still likes herself, though, so that’s nice. A triumph of self-image over self-honesty.

I’m surprised Danny went for the Rascal Flats song, “What Hurts the Most.” Not the genre I would have expected from him, but I’m hoping he does well. Honestly, he’s one of the few bright spots left on the show this year. And he does sing it reasonably well, although he sounds a little off his game tonight. Pretty, decent, but far short of spectacular.

Not quite disappointing but somewhere near that line. I’m guessing the studio version is better. The crowd loves it, though.

Paula. Simon thought it was his best thus far--which shocks me. Randy thinks he “brought it crazy with the vocals.” Maybe it’s just our TV (or my overworked crankiness), but I didn’t think it was that great. Kara says that he “moved everyone in the room emotionally.” Weird.

She grew up listening to No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak.” I feel old.

Anyway, Allison starts well but falls off the tracks after the soft opening. And I’m bored again.

Randy thought she rushed through bits of it and asks, “What are you wearing?” Amen, Randy. Kara says, “The rawk in you comes out no matter what you’re wearing...” Which she didn’t mean in the nicest possible way. Paula likes Allison’s axe. Nice axe, lady. Simon thinks the outfit was “something out of the Adams family” and says that it was a little “dressy-uppy,” which just goes to prove that he likes making up words just like I do.

Scott Macintyre does Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.” Which is a great song and he sings it well enough that I wouldn’t walk out of the piano bar. I’d still be pretty happy when it was over, though. Is it just me or has he updated his hairdo to more of a Daryl Hall look? Nice. I realize that I’m being an asshole when I’m mean to Scott, so let me say some nice things: great song choice, he’s not without talent, he’s a rather good pianist, he performed quite well tonight, and he is easily one of the nicest guys to ever come through the show.

Kara digs him. Paula blah blah blah. Simon thought it was his best so far (and I agree). Randy dug it, too, and calls it one of the best of the night, which is undoubtedly true.

Football lovers aside: If you want to read a bit more about the Jay Cutler saga of doom, here is the report. Darling girl is not pleased with the “little whiner.” Indeed. Heh.

Matt G. was surprised to be near the bottom last week. Which proves that he should read the brilliant American Idol analysis found here at RSong. Bonehead. The Fray’s “You Found Me” sounds a bit like whiny complaint rock and his voice is seriously off tonight. Goodness but we’ve got a bumper crop of anti-talent this year.

Paula hits him in the face with a brick, which seems unkind. Or maybe just a metaphor. Whatever. Simon says, “We don’t like you this week.” The audience boos, but their heart isn’t in it. Randy didn’t like it and hated the song choice. Kara tells America: vote for him anyway.

Lil Rounds still isn’t a particularly good singer, but she was better than Megan by a good bit. She might should choose a slightly looser dress in the bottom area. Just sayin’. Her voice would sound really awesome if she were singing in tune, though.

Randy liked it. Kara liked it. Paula exists. Simon didn’t like it so much. All of which gives way to what might have been the cutest moment in all of American Idol: Randy hugging Lil’s daughter. That was adorable. For the record, darling girl tells me that I’m wrong: she wasn’t out of tune. According to DG (and she’s far smarter than I am) it was just a bad arrangement that didn’t quite fit the vocals.

“Play That Funky Music, White Boy” as rendered by the ghost of Queen. Adam Lambert is either hilarious, horrible, brilliant, daring, or mildly confusing. What a hell of a falsetto on that guy, though, no matter what you think of his arrangements. My biggest complaint is that he sucked a bit of the groove out of the song, but put me down for both hilarious and brilliant. Both.

Paula loves. Simon likes and admires the anti-karaoke spirit of it. Randy dug it big. Kara is disappointed that Adam kisses boys, I’m pretty sure.

Nice of Adam to give a shout out to the house band, too.

Can Kris Allen do “Ain’t No Sunshine” justice? I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know (this could go on for quite a while, you know). Actually, at this point I do know: yes. It was pretty good, although I didn’t like it as much as DG.

Randy loved it and loved the creativity of the arrangement. Kara loved it, too. Paula. Simon loved it. 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ashley Biden (And Her Big Bag of Cocaine)

The only reason to care about Ashley Biden’s snorting episode (if, indeed, it did happen) is because she didn’t see fit to share with the rest of us.

Bitch.

Aside from that, I’m pretty sure we have some more meaningful issues to discuss right now. Like my sadness about Duke’s early exit from the NCAA tournament, my patriotic fervor (as in, dissent is...), and the potential meanings of North Korea’s long range missile launch.

Compared to all of that, the overstimulated nostrils of one young woman can’t really be all that meaningful, can they?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

American Idol, March 26, 2009: The Holy Hell There’s Some Snow Outside

So, when did they start lip-synching during the big, annoying musical numbers? Is that something that they’ve always done and I’ve just not been paying much attention?

Not the Ford infomercial portion of the evening--that’s just obvious--but the “hey, gang, let’s put on a show” bit. If you take my meaning.

None of which changes the fact that Reuben Studdard’s song sort of sucks, doesn’t it? What a generic, bland bit of pop crap. And the suit coat with white piping had all the class of a tuxedo t-shirt.

Which makes me sad since I’ve always liked Reuben. Nice guy.

Joss Stone is hot, though. I’d let her sing to me. I might even braid her hair. Unless Smokey Robinson came along and ruined it all.

Ruiner.

Who is in the bottom three tonight? Known, from now on, as American Idol’s Ass End?

Safe: Adam Lambert. Kris Allen. Lil Rounds. Which, she’s lucky there were some really bad performances this week. Allison. Anoop. Danny. Because even Simon gets it wrong now and again. For some reason. Megan. Which proves that sometimes loveliness is more important than performances.

Not so safe: Matt G. Proving that America is sometimes smarter than the judges. Michael Sarver. Proving that some things are easily predicted. Scott Garfunkel. Who deserved it less than Megan, but really shouldn’t be in the competition.

Luckily for him, Scott is sent scurrying back to the safe zone--and I’m still probably right about who is getting the boot. Which, if you’re Candadian is pronounced “boot.” Which isn’t nearly as funny as would be if we were talking about the word “about.” For some reason.

They are breaking out the star power tonight, though, aren’t they? A little visit from Stevie Wonder is nice for everyone except me since I think he has a horribly nasal voice and writes songs that make me want to hit people in the face. Except “Superstition,” which is freakin’ awesome even when he sings it. I’ll pretend to ignore the shout out to our BiC (which probably doesn’t mean what you think it means--assuming you think it means anything, which it does, just not what you’re thinking).

And, yes, it’s Michael who is going home--and I don’t imagine the judges are even thinking about saving him this time around. As Simon said, he really isn’t good enough to win this thing. Wonderful personality and I hope he has a great life.

After much deliberation (more than I expected) they send Michael home. It was a much closer thing than I would have guessed, though, and his performance was better by a good bit this time around.

Weather Related Question

It’s cold. It’s snowy. It’s a freakin’ winter wonderland here in the big CO. I think that all of us in Colorado are asking the same question today: shouldn’t someone be warming my globes right about now?

Just sayin’…

Signs of a Society with its Priorities in the Right Place. Or Not. (Updated)

Proving, with a fevered sense of misplaced outrage, that stupidity happily resides in Republican and Democrat skulls alike, is one Senator Hatch fiddling with himself while a clichéd Rome burns. Or at least, while Rome stimulates itself into bankruptcy.

Behind the push for the hearings is the subcommittee’s top Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. People there were furious that Utah was bypassed for the national championship despite going undefeated in the regular season.

The title game pitted No. 1 Florida (12-1) against No. 2 Oklahoma (12-1); Florida won 24-14 and claimed the title.

The subcommittee’s statement said Hatch would introduce legislation “to rectify this situation.” No details were offered and Hatch’s office declined to provide any.

Hatch said in a statement that the BCS system “has proven itself to be inadequate, not only for those of us who are fans of college football, but for anyone who believes that competition and fair play should have a role in collegiate sports.”

In the House, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, has sponsored legislation that would prevent the NCAA from calling a football game a “national championship” unless the game culminates from a playoff system.

I would hope that voters would deliver a stern message to these folks who are so inclined to legislate and overreach whenever their own delicate sensibilities are tweaked by imaginary sleights: leave off this stupidity, gentlemen, or find yourselves a real job and do some honest work for once.

And that goes double for anyone of them who has shilled for the financially crippling stimulus packages that serve to increase the excesses of the last administration in ways I never imagined possible; who collected their massive campaign contributions and then cried “Outrage!” when companies followed the rules that they themselves put into place; who take their sweetheart deals, speaking fees, perks, and payoffs while readying themselves to legislate the compensation of private citizens; and who damned well know that they are playing the nastiest sort of hypocritical, populist games while serving up our hard earned money as sacrifices to their own career ambitions (and, nakedly, failing to serve the best interests of the people of the United States of America).

While folks like Geithner may not serve at our whim, the folks who hired him most certainly do. It’s time to remind them of that fact--to remind them that we (and our pocketbooks) are not slaves to their whim.

Vote the bums out.

I find it sad that we can’t just give them pink slips now, preferring to leave an empty seat to allowing them even one more day of unreasoning abuse of the power that we’ve placed in their hands. The fault ultimately sits with we, the people, though; the worst abusers often seem to be the ones with the longest careers and we keep voting them into office.

To steal a line, we can do better. And we must if we want the American dream to flourish.

Vote the bums out.

Update: I’d strongly second almost every word of this--even to including the reason that RSong has been a little quiet and I’ve been staying off politics for a bit.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Late Night Movie Fun

"Well, hello, Mr. Fancy Pants.”

Or, perhaps, you’d prefer something in a boomstick, you primitive screwheads.

American Idol, March 25, 2009: The Obama Delayed My Gratification Edition

They open the show tonight with a conversation about Alexis Grace. Because they want me to be sad.

Bastards.

Two hours of people who really really really really want to be famous singers when they grow up singing some of the more challenging pop music in American history is always fun. It’s always fun to see if the singers can pull off Motown music without sounding gimmicky or too karaoke in flavor. And then there’s the simple fact that not all of them will be up to the vocal task of the songs that they choose.

Not everyone can deliver a Marvin Gaye song the way that he could--not just with singing, but the power and the charisma of the original music. Few Idol singers have that kind of talent (or, to be brutal, even the potential to reach those heights). Which isn’t to say that I’m cheering against them; I always hope that these kids step up and amaze us.

I’m just rarely surprised when they don’t manage the feat.

Matt Giraud decided, for instance, to make “Let’s Get it On” into a crappy, elevator tune sung in Karaoke fashion. Smokey Robinson seems to think otherwise, but I thought it was horrible. Painfully contrived with none of the raw emotion of the original--just some guy going through the motions without making it feel real. Predictably, Randy, Kara, and Paula loved it. Simon believed it was a good performance and a great song choice (true) and names Matt “one of the frontrunners.” I say go listen to the original (link opens in iTunes Music Store) and realize just how small Matt’s version sounds.

I’m crying on the inside.

Pretty pretty aside: I’m fond of good photography. And redheads.

How about “How Sweet it Is?” (again, iTMS warning) by Kris Allen is a strange beast. It definitely takes on his personality, so it avoids the bad karaoke curse, but it’s oddly like any of a number of contemporary singers doing a remake of the old classic. Not my style by any stretch of the imagination, but it sounds commercially viable and works better for me than Matt G’s song.

Kara loves him, Paula loves him, Simon isn’t quite as effusive as he was with Matt (but is overall positive), and Randy called it “all good.”

I wouldn’t buy it, but it struck me as a more honest artistic stab than the fakery of “Let’s Get it On.”

Some would call it a petty petty aside: Madoff is leading the way. Right over the cliff.

I continue to not be a fan of Scott Macintyre and his brand of exceptionally wussified musical expression. I believe that Robinson said that Macintyre brought a little stride into his piano work tonight--I’d say that’s a little overstatement. Fats Waller would not be impressed. (iTMS) Perhaps I misheard…

He’s a ridiculously nice guy and I truly hope he has a wonderful life, but every time I hear him perform I get the impression that, nationally, we’re doing the equivalent of putting the kindergartner’s latest finger painting on the refrigerator door. “Can’t Hurry Love” was spectacularly bad tonight.

Paula loved it, Simon thought it was quite bad, Randy is in Simon’s corner, and Kara carefully stakes out middle ground.

Adventures in bad decision-making aside: Don’t trust the Sat Nav. A lesson I learned in a much less painful manner when I drove out to Arkansas over the holidays. But that’s a story for another beer…

Strangely, tonight the American Idol crew seem to be exploring things that are up Paula’s skirt. Which is wrong. Really wrong.

I’m a Megan fan, but that was rough. She’s one of the most original (which I’m typing and then Smokey is saying) singers this year and that’s not even discussing her, ahem, personal charms. Thing is, when she sings “Once in My Life,” I get flashbacks to bad lounge singers on The Love Boat. At moments, she sounds quite good, but the overall effect isn’t something I want to experience again.

None of which changes the fact that I cannot take my eyes off of her.

Randy opens with “that song was a train wreck for me.” Kara agrees and suggests “My Guy,” which, she’s right, that would have been a better choice. Paula agrees. Simon wants to fire whoever is advising her on her songs and leaves her wanting to cry. Even though she tries to make it bravely through the pain.

Sad for me, if she goes home there is no eye-candy left for me this year.

How about Anoop doing “Ooo Baby Baby” (iTMS) is quite nice. His voice suits the song and he captures the sweet nature of the song. It might be a little slow to be a crowd pleaser, but I think he did a really nice job. First one of the night that I’ve really enjoyed, in fact. Not a lot of originality, but a lovely visit to an old favorite.

Kara talks about how difficult the song is to sing and gives him credit for doing a “pretty good job.” Fair. Paula wants him to know that he’s doing a really good job. Simon likes the singing but things the performance was a bit boring. Randy agrees and gives some advice for next week.

Yeah, Anoop will be sticking around for another week and is definitely earning his spot on the show.

None of which changes the fact that Michael Sarver isn’t good enough to pull off “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” (iTMS)--a song that needs a bigger, better voice. We descended back to High School talent contest levels with this one. Which is a shame since it’s such an awesome song.

Paula casts the first stone and likens him to Fat Elvis. Okay, not in so many words, but that’s what I got out of it. Simon “couldn’t wait for it to end” and says that he has no chance to win. Which I agree with, but which Michael isn’t going to take well. Randy tees off, too, and says it was “too big” and “a little bit corny.” Kara--well, I stopped caring when she started talking about artistry and didn’t address the fact that he was just horrible this week.

Sarver handles the critique with grace, but I do think that he’ll be going home this week. Unless it’s Megan instead.

We now move to Lil Rounds tackling “Heat Wave.” And, honestly, her voice isn’t quite up to the task, either. Not in the big bits where she does fine, but in the opening her voice is week and all over the place. She goes for old fashioned--style, hairstyle, clothing--and just doesn’t manage the trick when it comes to the vocals.

She won’t go home, though, because she’s far from the worst of the night. Randy wasn’t highly impressed (and gets booed during his critique). Kara wasn’t much impressed. Paula reverts to classic Paula-level stupidity. Simon calls her one of the best singers in the competition, but didn’t like the song or the performance.

I wonder how Adam Lambert will recover from last week’s abomination? My guess is that he’ll go minimalist to combat last week’s overindulgence. And I’m right: he dresses in Smokey chic, slicks back the hair, has an accoustic arrangement, and keeps the histrionics to a minimum. He can certainly get that falsetto going, can’t he? This was almost as good as last week was bad. He loses the tune here and there, but the effect is quite nice and he closes wonderfully.

He’s a smart guy and he learned a lesson from last week. Kara would kiss him if he weren’t so into boys. Paula would just like to talk him into submission. Or something. Simon calls it the best of the night--probably true--and praises the voice, the performance, and the songwriting, too. Randy loved it.

To this part of the competition, though, I’m really pulling for Danny Gokey and his surprisingly strong rasp of a voice. And it’s nice that he’s not wearing the scary white jacket this week.

He doesn’t disappoint. Allthough his performance is a little awkward, his voice is solid and his interpretation of the song is a lot of fun. Like Anoop, he doesn’t do a lot to personalize the arrangement, but his performance is a highlight for the night.

Paula loved it, Simon thought it “clumsy” and “amateurish”, Randy thought it was wonderful, and Darling Girl is talking so who knows what Kara said? Probably wasn’t that important anyway…

Cool books in the mail aside: I just received a review copy of a book that will be released in a few days. A Legacy of Liberation:Thabo Mbeki and the Future of the South African Dream by Mark Gevisser looks to be an impressive view on Thabo Mbeki and recent South African history. I’m really looking forward to this one and I hope to have a review ready for all y’all soon.

“Papa Was a Rolling Stone” is a brilliant little song and it suits Allison Iraheta’s voice and personality. Horrible outfit, though. Unfortunately, with the washer going through a rinse cycle in the background, I can hardly tell whether she’s doing well or not.  The audience seems to like it, though.

Randy gives love. Kara gives more love and stumps for the youngster complete with big “woo’s”. Paula has a drawn on mustache which seems to make her angry. Simon is too busy giggling to offer real insight. I can’t imagine that she’s in any danger, though.

Not a great night, although there were a few performances that were well worth the time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quick Thoughts While Pondering My Blog’s Future

One of the things that amazes me, living as I do with a teacher, is that parents hold their children to such incredibly low standards, work hard to undercut teachers’ authority in the classroom (and in the grade book), and make excuses for their lovely little angels. Then they wonder why those same children grow up only marginally skilled and completely unprepared for the difficulties of the real world.

I’m not in the habit of making excuses for the schools--from an overly insular culture afraid of outside influence and on to unions that protect teachers who are unfit for their positions, there’s a lot to be cranky about in public education--but I hear stories daily that have convinced me that the biggest stumbling block to many of these kids’ success happens to be their parents. I wonder who taught these parents that their kids should be protected from the deserved consequences of their decisions.

If anything, I continue to feel that the kids should be held to a higher standard than that imposed by the teachers in DG’s school--standards that many of the parents think impose undue burdens on their kids. Burdens like turning their homework in on time, doing their own work, and failing when they won’t even show a basic level of effort. Not competency, mind you, but effort.

Grow up, parents, you’re not doing your damned job.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Two Questions Completely Unrelated to Each Other

Firstly, how do I get this on my wedding registry? Because, with the right pattern, I can see using that for any occasion.

Secondly, when someone says “DRM’ing books and knowledge is like burning the Library of Alexandria” and, apparently, means it, what is the proper response? Because I drew a blank.

Wait! Before you answer, I’m throwing in fifty percent more question. Because I love you.

Thirdly, and by way of a bonus, I’m sure that you think back on Ronald Reagan fondly and regularly as every bright American does (because only good, bright Americans read this blog). When you do remember Reagan, what speeches, what words do you remember? What is it that gets into your mind when he pops up? Or is it just a glancing, nostalgic blow that bleeds straight into memories of Red Dawn and Flock of Seagulls?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This Little List of Mine. I’m Gonna Let it Shine.

What do Christ Whitley, Mark Lanegan, Kurt Cobain, Screaming Trees, Patty Griffin, Social Distortion, 16 Horsepower, School of Fish, Soulsavers, Elbow, ZZ Top, Madrugada, Placebo, Stevie Ray, Wovenhand, Otis Rush, Gorillaz, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Queens of the Stone Age, Sonia Dada, Catherine Wheel, Bomb the Bass, Otis Redding, The Sundays, Arbouretum, Sam Cooke, Corrosion of Conformity, Fury in the Slaughterhouse, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Gary Moore, The Handsome Family, Fred Neil, Mazzy Star, and Jeff Buckley have in common? Not much except their presence in this little list of mine.


Blues, rock, folk, country, and a smattering of other stuff for your listening pleasure. Hopefully.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

At Last, Some Fiscal Sanity

Unfortunately, the fiscal sanity isn’t happening here.

Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe’s new finance minister, on Wednesday halved spending plans for 2009 and cut revenue projections 40 per cent, in one of the first signs of change under the country’s new power-sharing government.

Presenting his first budget, Mr Biti, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change, said the government would operate on a cash budget basis: “What we gather is what we eat.”

It’s an awful shame when the finance minister from Zimbabwe--one of the most blighted, backward, and failing countries in the world--shows the kind of sense that our own leaders here in America can’t quite fathom. Live within your means. Try to honestly project your revenues. Cut spending instead of printing another trillion dollars.

This is the most positive change I’ve seen in Zimbabwe in a long time. Not because it represents a big step forward (given the actual value of the Zim dollar, I still wonder how they’ll manage to dig out of the hole Mugabe dug for the nation), but because it represents some real power sharing. This is the first meaningful thing that’s been done by a member of an opposition party in a long time.

I wouldn’t and don’t trust Mugabe to keep his word, to share power peacefully, or to allow the kinds of changes that might ultimately save Zimbabwe from the final collapse that would destroy the government and fairly force a civil war, but it’s nice to latch on to a little hope (and change!) now and again. Especially when it is embodied in good ideas.

Read the story.

American Idol, March 18, 2009: The Results Get Sucked Into a Scary Ring of Fire Edition

Could the awful “Ring of Fire” be enough to submarine Adam Lambert today? It seems unlikely--and, if it does, don’t be surprised to see the judges break out the save a little earlier than they wanted to--but it was one of the strangest and most off-putting performances I’ve ever seen on the show.

If Adam isn’t the victim of the national vote tonight, though, I have a hard time imagining them saving any of the other singers tonight. Or, at least, not any of the others that seem likely to be pushed over the edge. Before we find out, though, we have to endure the sing and dance extravaganza that always makes me want to lash out wildly at the nearest high school drama troupe (but that might just be a me thing) followed swiftly by a Ford infomercial happily unfunded by massive bailouts from our phenomenally generous government.

Hooray bailouts!

Safe: Danny. Which is as it should be. Lil Rounds. With extra, post announcement squeakiness. Anoop. He’s so lucky he got that second chance. 

Not So Safe: Allison. Maybe she’s not pretty enough? For once, I don’t mean that with Extra Snark--I’m just surprised that she’s in the bottom three tonight. Sarver. Who just got Punk’d by Ryan Seacrest in a really cruel way.

Safe: Art Garfunkel. Which is fine. Megan. Because she is definitely pretty enough. Matt Giraud. Which he deserved (even if it wasn’t best of the night). Kris. Which is a matter of luck. Adam Lambert. Lucky bastard.

Not So Safe: Alexis. Which is reasonably well-deserved.

Who is staying? Alison. Definitely fair.
Brad Paisley bores me into changing to the station to the Nuggets game (which they are currently winning by one point with only 33.2 seconds left in the game (and an Alan Parsons Project song ("Sirius," in case you were wondering) playing in the background)).

Nuggets win.

If you missed last night’s performance, by the way, here’s video of Adam Lambert’s take on “Ring of Fire.” Seems a bit like what might happen if Queen covered the tune and absolutely nothing like Jeff Buckley, as Randy suggested.

Link for the embed-averse.

Now, finally, we find out who is going home. In theory. The judges have just thrown a kind of cruel safety net to the two contestants by admitting that one of them would be worth saving. If the other gets chosen, there will be a moment of hope followed by a sense of crushing rejection for the loser.

Ouch.

The loser tonight is Alexis Grace-- which I called yesterday. But will the judges save her? I hope so and the judges are giving her one last chance to sing for life.

The judges save their save for another time. Poor kid is going home which is a shame since Motown week could have been damned good for her.

Update: Dig Mr. Lady’s take.

Heh. Indeed.

Proving, yet again, that every home should have their very own Liberty Girl:

“These idiots aren’t even useful.”

Fans o’ Obama might find a reaction slightly different from my own.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

American Idol, March 17, 2009: Well, It’s Better Than Anything to Do With Miley Cyrus Edition

Before we start in with the wannabe rock stars and pop stars of the world, I want to say that our former president, George Dubya, again acts with surprising grace for a guy who still says nookyoolar. Which I find strangely endearing.

Former President George W. Bush said he won’t criticize President Obama because Obama “deserves my silence,” and said he plans to write a book about the 12 toughest decisions he made in office.

Bush declined to critique the Obama administration Tuesday in his first speech since leaving office. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has said that Obama’s decisions are threatening America’s safety.

“I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena,” Bush said. “He deserves my silence.”

There is and should be a brotherhood (someday, somehow, probably before I die, with added sisterhood) that says, “I know how tough this job is and I’m not going to add to the pressure.” In fact, I fully believe that the presidents should always and forever be ready and willing to support the current president to the best of their ability. In my view of the world, Carter wasn’t only a horrible president, but a phenomenally bad former president, Clinton gets mixed (but often positive) results, and, well, you get the idea. I doubt that Obama will ever ask Bush for his opinions or his ideas, but he may well ask for his face and his influence in something important some day--and I have no doubt that Bush will again do what he thinks is best for the country.

Instead of taking easy shots from the sidelines, Bush is taking the high road--and with the flak that continues to come from the left, it probably takes a bit of self control to stay on the polite side of the conversation.

No one is above criticism, but Bush is acting in an admirable way, and I hope the left takes a moment to appreciate it.



Randy Travis seems like an awfully nice guy and he has an absolutely wonderful voice. It’s nice to see him on the show coaching the kids.

Michael Sarver should be good on country week--and he is. Not great, but definitely a credible performance on a tough song (sorry, didn’t catch the name and I don’t know the tune). Randy didn’t like it so much (not showcasing the vocals enough), Kara had the same criticism, Paula offers empty words and love (which makes me worry a bit about my own performance), and Simon wasn’t so fond. He does bring up a good criticism (which Darling Girl agrees with): it was a little clumsy and he didn’t enunciate well.

Travis gives Allison Iraheta good advice about not playing too cutesy and let her strong voice carry the strong. And while the backup singers phone in their performance, Allison’s voice does shine. Incredibly well done--better, by far than I thought she could manage a country song, but very simply good. Kara loves, Paula goes on and on, Simon offers decent criticism, and Randy offers her drugs. For some reason.

Can Kris Allen manage to rise above the serious mediocrity that currently envelopes his entire being? Or am I being unkind? Well, he bravely sings without his guitar and makes Garth Brooks’ “To Make You Feel My Love” into a more contemporary pop ballad--which isn’t a stretch since Brooks always straddled the line a bit in his songwriting. Unfortunately, his voice really isn’t all that great, I found myself more bored than mesmerized, and I hope he goes home soon. Paula loves the world and isn’t afraid to talk about that love in completely incomprehensible ways for amazing lengths of time, Simon dug it big, and Randy offers Kris some tender moments. For some reason. Kara loved it, too.

Apparently my opinion was wrong: it was a good performance. Darling girl says so, too. Apparently, I just hate the guy.

Slightly Worried Aside: Is my penis devastating the environment? Good Lord, I hope not. In fact, I’ve always thought that my penis could save the world, if only we could tap its vast powers for good.

Lil Rounds might be a little out of her element on country night. Just sayin’. I don’t know Martina McBride’s “Independence Day”, which seemed an awfully good song for her. She might shoulda gone for “Little” Esther Phillips version of “Don’t Put No Headstone on My Grave” (link opens in iTunes Music Store). Phillips bounced around both country and R&B her entire career, with most of her success coming on the R&B side, but with credible country roots."Don’t Put No Headstone on My Grave” is something that might have come across too blues for the show, but given that the song was written by the great Charlie Rich, the country roots would have been easy to justify.  This was a stretch for her--a tough night with a merely serviceable performance for the woman with one of the best voices on the show. Randy wasn’t impressed at all. Kara says something, but I don’t remember what it is. Paula blah. Simon has problems with her name and didn’t like the song so much.

The most professional of the group Adam Lambert (who likes to kiss boys--which might break a few pre-teen hearts in the audience) does strange, bad things to “Ring of Fire.” I mean, seriously, what the hell was that? I’ve been a booster ‘til now, but that was a hideous and self-indulgent misfire. Kara is confused. Paula makes random noises. Simon says, “What the hell was that?” and then calls it “indulgent rubish.” Randy says it was Nine Inch Nails doing a country song.

Which, no.

Read the Rest...

Selling a Lie

No, this isn’t a post about the economic “crisis/non-crisis/worst-ever-crisis” acrobatics coming from the White House. Nope, it’s about a woman who wants to get her son laid. Unfortunately for the boy, he has Downs Syndrome and can’t quite close the deal on his own--which, if we were to be completely honest, isn’t a surprise since he’s running with a serious handicap in this particular horse race.

I’m not going to debate the wrong or right of pleading and potentially paying for someone to do naughty things to her boy (although I’m curious if she would go to the same lengths if the kid were on the other side of the gender fence). What I am going to quibble with is this:

“I strongly believe, and have always said, that society has a learning disability when it comes to Down syndrome,” she continued. “If he doesn’t get a girlfriend, I will feel really bad, because I have sold him this thing that he is like everybody else. That’s why I’m working overtime to get this sorted for him.”

If you have to break out the checkbook to get your twenty-one year old adopted son a shot with a woman, then he isn’t like everyone else. This isn’t a value judgment about the kid, nor is it saying that he has to live the life of a social recluse, shuttered away from polite society because he isn’t good enough to be around the rest of us. I’m not saying that his life is a useless thing.

But the idea that he is “just like the rest of us” is clearly a social nicety that folks play along without out of a sense of decency. ‘Cause he isn’t like everyone else-- which all rational people would probably agree with even while many try to keep up the “treat them just like everyone else” face because no one wants to be seen as the heartless bastard. But his mental faculties aren’t the same, the way he processes information isn’t the same, the kind of opportunities that he will have in life because of that simply are not the same as for an average person without Downs Syndrome.

I’m not a heartless bastard, but I don’t think that self-deception is a great place to start when deciding what kind of help you want to render to a horny, socially limited, young adult with Downs Syndrome.

Read the story. The comments on the original story (here) are an interesting read as well.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Looks Like Jay Cutler is Going Bye Bye (Updated)

The Broncos-Cutler rift looks like it is going to be resolved with a trade. This is disappointing since Cutler is a talented young quarterback and it seems that there should have been some way for the Broncos and Cutler to bridge their gap--but I still leave most of the blame in Cutler’s corner for having taken word of a potential trade as being something personal rather than what it was: a business transaction. When he refused to return the phone calls of the team owner, he was making a really bad decision.

CBS4 has learned that disgruntled Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler is no longer in Denver and is done negotiating with the team. Cutler will not be attending Monday’s voluntary team workout. Sources tell CBS4 he has told the Broncos to trade him.

Cutler and his agent met face-to-face with the Broncos Saturday where no progress was made between the quarterback and his new head coach.

I hope that wherever he lands he will be successful. By all accounts, he’s also a very good citizen who has given quite a bit to the Denver community--and he will be missed in many ways. But this ending was his choice. 

Read the story.

Update: And ESPN has a story that gives a much more sympathetic ear to the Cutler side of the story. Read it here. Doesn’t change my overall feelings, but it does give Cutler the opportunity to say his piece.

I would still hope that there is a chance to fix the situation--but these guys are suffering a serious communications issue. And here’s another take that brings Bill Belichick into the story.

Angry Muslims, Please Don’t Burn Down My House (Or Beat Me Up)

Offered without comment (except, of course, the important title--with apologies to Macomber).

A Christian minister who has had heated arguments with Muslims on his TV Gospel show has been brutally attacked by three men who ripped off his cross and warned: ‘If you go back to the studio, we’ll break your legs.’

For those who don’t remember (or never knew to begin with), the title reference goes all the way back to a post in 2006. Unfortunately, the links to both Macomber’s post and Goldstein’s post are both dead. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Examples of Bad Decision Making

Not to make light of the vile nature of Stephen Quick and Samantha Light’s actions, but I want to know why any parents might trust the meth addict in the “Satisfaction Guaranteed” t-shirt to watch their kids?

Samantha Light, of Veedersburg, Indiana, Light faces four counts of child molestation and one count of child exploitation in a child exploitation case that local authorities called “horrible, just horrible.”

The young girl’s mother told reporters, “I asked her if they were just helping her in the bathroom and she said, ‘No mommy, they took pictures.”

Deputies seized several computers, cameras, a video camera, pornographic materials, drugs and drug paraphernalia during an initial search of the couple’s home, said Fountain County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Bob Kemp.

They also found a videotape that showed several sexual acts involving both Stephen Quick, 31, and Samantha Light, 25, with at least four different children between the ages of 2 months and 6 years old, Kemp said.

I’m glad I’m not a parent faced with all the difficulties of the world (or the diapers that come with kids for that first bit of their lives), but I honestly can’t imagine being in a situation where I would put my faith in those two.

This isn’t to say that the parents are to blame for what those two did--but I’m betting there are some folks out there wondering why they didn’t listen to that little voice in their heads that told them that those two couldn’t be trusted to keep the kids from the E-Z Meth Cooking Kit in the basement. Without worrying specifically about the kind of abuse that took place, it doesn’t seem hard to imagine many other kinds of problems with this duo.

Anyway, yet another example of the existence of evil in the world.

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