Friday, April 30, 2010
Who Does President Obama Think He Is? A Kennedy?
Is there an Obama cheating scandal brewing? Perhaps. To me it sounds like a dead end.
While the Enquirer has been hitting these kinds of accusations out of the park lately--while I don’t think we were in real danger of a President Edwards, let’s be honest, they didn’t just kill his presidential campaign, they killed his political career--it pays to be skeptical.
And if we find that he did cheat? Well, it doesn’t change much of anything, really. He won’t lose his job (although I suppose, if she were to refuse to play by normal rules, he might lose his wife). What he really stands to lose is the continued goodwill of a lot of the citizens of the nation, the next presidential election, and possibly some of his support in congress. It would probably be a brutal blow to Democrats hopes of keeping mid-term losses to normal levels, as well, because that kind of thing would bleed into the rest of the party.
But the real issues of the day--energy policy, foreign policy, budgetary crisis, health care, immigration, and national salt intake--won’t change. My advice to conservatives who might feel the need to dive headlong into this possible scandal: keep your heads about you, keep preparing for the real debates, and let the story unfold in its own time.
Whether President Obama cheated or not might make our jobs a little easier, but it won’t hand us victory. We’ll need to win the debates on merit.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Sadly, I have precisely zero first-hand knowledge of boobquake. Happily, had I any first-hand knowledge of boobquake, my wife might be cranky. She’s claimed those hands for herself, you know.
Anyhow, during my travels yesterday, I saw no more (and, happily, no less) immodest dress than on any normal day; boobquake was a big bust as far as I’m concerned.
Yeah. Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Bumper Sticker of the Day: The Mad Banjo Edition
Those who know me know that I have little use for bumper sticker sloganeering. I tend to believe that if your political ideals or religions beliefs can be summed up in a bumper sticker, you’ve probably oversimplified. Take, for example, today’s bumper sticker which reads:
Banjos not bombs.
Which, apparently, they actually thought that was the choice. I can imagine the budget debate now. “We only have money enough for one more item in the budget this year. The way I see it, the choice comes down to either bombs or 250,000 of these finely crafted banjos.”
I should have seen this coming, though. I mean, there is no way you can play banjo with nuclear arms.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Quick Hits from a Nicely Spent Saturday
Darling girl and I have started haunting a little used book store here in Aurora. It’s run by an older couple and it sits in an anonymous little strip mall where the only real draw is the book and those two who seem to have been running the place for something close to ever. Anyway, when I was finishing up my run, I happened to spy a little hardback copy of Bill Mauldin’s Up Front.
I grew up with “Up Front,” which was Mauldin’s World War II infantry-eye view of World War II. Mauldin himself was an infantryman and his characters, Willie and Joe, were one of the most honest looks at the infantry that you could find, warts and all.
It may sound strange to hear that I, who wasn’t born within decades of WWII, grew up with those guys, but it’s true. One of my father’s friends had this same book and another (the name escapes me, sadly), and I read through not only the cartoons, but Mauldin’s commentary about the soldiers, the war, the cartoon, and the stories that inspired it all. I would still say that if you want to get an idea of who wartime grunts really are, this is a great place to start. It doesn’t sugarcoat the guys, but there is an obvious, gentle affection to the poor bastards who carry the load.
The technology and some of the terminology have changed, of course, and there is an old-fashioned feeling to the cartoons, but there is a reason that his fellow soldiers loved him, there’s a reason that he enraged Patton and the Eisenhower protected him, and there’s a reason that he won a few Pulitzers for his work. I have no idea what kind of a guy he was in the real world, but “Up Front” was as much a love letter to the infantry (and more authentic) as Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.
Of course, I picked up the fragile old book--pages yellowing and tearing in a few places--and brought it home with me.
Mauldin had a very obvious concern for his fellow soldiers and was concerned that the returning soldiers wouldn’t be taken back in by the country that sent them off to war. A bit that I read pretty close to the front of the book probably bears repeating today:
If you see a copy next time you’re in your local used book store, I highly recommend picking it up. It’s well worth the few bucks you’ll spend. Mauldin passed away a few years back, but he’ll be remembered as long as his doggies have to go to far off lands to fight wars on behalf of the rest of us. Mauldin told their story, perhaps, better than anyone else has ever managed.
I also picked up a copy of PJ O’Rourke’s wonderful Parliament of Whores. It might seem a little dated--the book is nearly two decades old at this point and some of the stories stretch back to 1988--but it’s still a fun romp at the expense of the political class (finished with a painful look in the mirror).
Anyway, here’s a quote for you. It’s from the opening paragraph of the chapter entitled, “The Three Branches of Government: Money, Television, and Bullshit.”
I grew up reading this stuff: is it a wonder that there is a streak of cynicism in me that rears up now and again?
Lastly, we also picked up Crazy Heart since the local Blockbuster didn’t have one to rent.
No regrets on that. It’s a wonderful movie with absolutely stellar performances and surprisingly good music. It might be a little smaller than some people might expect--there are no grand gestures and no earth-shattering themes--especially given all of the Oscar talk. But it’s that tightly-focused look at one lonely, old, alcoholic that keeps the movie good.
No politics, no “brave” agenda about racism or sexuality or any supposedly hot-button issue of the day, and no overblown sentimentality leave it being a wonderful movie with more humanity, by far, than something like Avatar. Of course, I’m also of the opinion that District 9 was the best science fiction story last year, so take that as you will.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and I have to say it again: the music was surprisingly good. Jeff Bridges, as Bad Blake, actually made a credible country music artist. I didn’t realize that he sang so many of the songs in the film, but was pleasantly shocked by just how well he pulled it off.
That’s not my favorite song from the movie (that would be “The Weary Kind”, but that song isn’t sung by Bridges) but it has the bonus of featuring Collin Farrell, too. Again, surprising.
And here’s one more for the road.
I hesitate to throw this story in the mix, but I can’t stand not mentioning it. I realize that not everyone is heroic in action or willing to sacrifice for others--although I hope that if I’m ever tested, I would would be both--but this story is not only one of the saddest things I’ve read in a very long time, but also one of the most shameful. Not shameful to me, of course, but to those people who saw, who knew, and who still did nothing.
If I were to say a prayer on this day it would be that I am never so callous, never so uncaring, never so low as to leave a man dying in the streets while I did nothing. I’m sure that some of the passers never noticed, never saw the blood, and never realized what had happened, but, just as surely, some of them did see.
This man deserved far better not only because he had acted with courage to save a woman that he didn’t even know, but because he was a human being dying in the streets. He didn’t have to die and he deserved far, far better than this.
Shame, shame, shame on those people who let the man die.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Denver Broncos Give Us Some First Round Fireworks
Was there a team more active in trading draft picks than the Broncos? Not a chance. Up, down, this year, next year--the Broncos were a little manic whirlwind of activity.
If I weren’t so happy with the picks, I’d probably suggest that someone take the meth bowl from McDaniels.
But I do like the picks. I like them a lot.
First, at 22 overall, Georgia Tech WR Demaryius Thomas has similar size to Brandon Marshall, he has a lot of potential if he can learn to use that size the way that Marshall does, and he doesn’t seem to have the same behavioral issues. I hope that Marshall really has straightened up and that the trade will be good for him, but Thomas looks like the kind of guy who will make Broncos fans feel a little less pain at the loss.
Second, and most notably, is one of the most talked about picks of the day. Quarterback Tim Tebow is Denver bound. I love his character, I love his winning, and I love his attitude--whether he’ll end up being worthy of his first round status is an entirely different question. Personally, I’m betting the answer is yes and that the debate over his throwing motion is really overdone.
Consider: Phillip Rivers doesn’t have the best mechanics, but he’s one of the best young QBs in the league; Brett Favre has some of the most inconsistent mechanics in the game, but he also has more regular season wins than any other quarterback; even the Broncos’ beloved Elway had some strange tics in his throwing motion (like the double tap that he did through a good chunk of his career while looking for his receivers).
Of course, JaMarcus Russell has bad mechanics, too, but that comparison would be unfair. Like Russell, Tebow is a natural athlete. They are both big, quick, strong guys (although I think Tebow is a little quicker on his feet), but Tebow has shown leadership, character, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to accept criticism. It’s pretty hard not to like this pick and, if he develops well, it might be seen as one of the biggest bargains of the draft. Russell, by contrast, has to be one of the biggest disappointments in the league.
But it sure does leave the Broncos with a strange mix at quarterback. Orton may not have had the season that Broncos fans hoped for, but he definitely earned the chance to keep his starting job. Brandstader, the Broncos’ QB pick from last year looked pretty good in preseason last year and, as a project, it’s far too early to say that he is or isn’t a good quarterback. Rounding it out, McDaniels wanted Brady Quinn last year when he was dealing Cutler, but ended up with Kyle Orton--and Josh went out and got his man this off season. Who is the odd man out? Is it Brady Quinn, who may not get quite the chance to compete that he originally expected? Or is it Brandstader who will likely either be dropped from the team or who may find himself “groomed” to be the number three guy in Denver.
Kyle Orton, who is one of the league’s ultimate team players, seems like the one with the most job security. Not did he put up decent numbers last year, but he is a good caretaker for the position and a mentor for Tebow. He seems to be unlikely to chafe at competition from the younger player. Quinn, on the other hand, is probably eager to find himself named the starter and not so eager to be in another crowded backfield with an unsettled QB lineup.
Josh McDaniels may be walking into another quarterback controversy, but it’s entirely different from what we saw last year.
I wonder if he’ll manage to make the rest of the draft as interesting as he did in that first round.
And here we have a great example of why sexuality should not be a major consideration when considering the qualifications of our political class. Which is to say: this is dumb.
So, Babette Josephs and Gregg Kravitz should get back to meaningful issues because this little display is laughably unserious.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
You’re in Goods Hands
GEICO Voice Actor fired for leaving insulting message on Tea Partier voicemail
I’m a little surprised he’s a GEICO employee…
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
So, Yeah, That’s Probably My Fault, Too…
I’m pretty sure I screwed the curve for everyone.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Bravo, Mr. Postell.
Would They Do it Today?
There are two factors here. First, even if one of the respected news outlets respected the wishes of the family, the paparazzi would still be selling pictures to the highest bidder. They--and most of us, to be honest--seem to believe that any public figure is completely public and that we have the right to know every little bit about that person even in what they imagine to be their private moments. Is Aging Actress getting a little chunky? If she is, we’ll know it because someone with a ridiculously powerful telephoto lens will spy her in a two piece on a “private” beach. That intrusion from those fleas is driven by a public insatiable for details about our celebrities.
This isn’t new, of course. There was a time when agents would do things like providing details about one client’s life (a stint in jail, for example) in exchange for gossip writers ignoring information about other clients (news of homosexuality was carefully guarded). But the extent of the intrusions seem to have increased with time and technology and public figures now have very little reasonable expectation of privacy in now about nil.
There’s another change, though, that is even more disturbing to me: the near-insistence on public exposure from those same figures and from people who want to be celebrities. If you don’t have a clear understanding of just how far people will go to find their own tiny sliver of fame, you haven’t seen the abomination that is Daisy of Love. If you don’t have a clear understanding of just what the American public will watch and call entertainment, you aren’t acquainted with TLC’s lineup of shows about the intimate lives of little people or the fading trend of shows about families with more than the normal complement of rug rats.
These days, the family and friends of the deceased make a public show of their mourning.
These days, Jennifer Love Hewitt feels that it is entirely normal to share her adventures in Vajazzling--which is, if not trashy, then definitely of questionable artistic merit. Where does too much information actually mean too much information anymore?
I’m a private person and I’m not a person who is given to indiscriminate intimacies. I find myself wishing there were more people like me in the world.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Mood Music. Or Moody Music. Or Loud in Another Direction.
This is from Mark Lanegan’s first solo CD, The Winding Sheet from way back in 1990--which is a depressingly long time ago.
If you’re curious, here’s the Lala version of the entire album in all its rough glory. I once described it as being a lot like a demo tape. It’s not polished, the mix is a little rugged, and no one would say it was over-produced. What it is, though, is in the tradition of old, southern Americana in the same line as Chris Whitley’s Dirt Floor. Brilliant stuff, but not to everyone’s taste.
Back in ‘90, this album was quite a shock to people who were more used to Lanegan as the voice of the latter day psychedelic rock of Screaming Trees and went mostly unnoticed in the music world. His next album, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost was where i discovered his moonlighting gig and where I fell in love with his solo stuff. But this album, a little rougher around the edges, has its own charm.
“Ugly Sunday” chugs along like something Johnny Cash might have sang and the mood, though a little less country, hits the same ground. “Down in the Dark,” one of the few full-on rock songs in the mix, makes its way onto my road trip playlists regularly (and wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Screaming Trees album). It’s after this opening salvo, though, that the songs really surprise.
“Wild Flowers” and “Eyes of a Child” are quiet, sweet little gems. Not happy--this was coming from a man who was getting serious about his drug addictions--but pretty, gentle, tender songs with very little adornment. That’s for the best since they stand so well on their own. “Wild Flowers” has an echoey sound that gives it the intimacy hearing a song played live in a church. “Eyes of a Child” has a more full sound and more full instrumentation, but, with the tone of these two songs, it would have been impossible to avoid putting them one after the other on the album.
As much praise as I can give some of these songs, though, this half of the album is ridiculously uneven. “Juarez” is a sleazy mess and it sounds terribly out of place. “Woe” feels unfinished. “I Love You Little Girl” is, perhaps, too light for a Lanegan album.
But you forgive it when you hear the scary, nightmarish “The Winding Sheet"--a ghost story that’s gothic in the old, unposed sense of the word. The chiming bell-like guitars in the foreground play over a fuzzed-out drone in the background while Lanegan sings of ghosts and God and dying. Wonderfully evocative.
Another song--the song up there in the YouTube clip at the top--that makes it worth the trip is the angry take on the old standard “In the Pines.” Here, with its roots in Leadbelly’s reading, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” sounds very little like most of the bluegrass, country, and backwoods blues versions of “In the Pines.” Here it is aggressive and menacing (helped along by Curt Cobain singing in the background and playing guitar, Chris Novoselic on bass, and Screaming Trees’ own Mark Pickerel pounding drums). The blend of Lanegan’s and Cobain’s vocals near the end of the song is about perfect--and a sad musical footnote of their aborted attempt to start a side-project together.
It’s a good album that might have approached greatness, surprisingly, by killing off a few of the weaker songs that detract from the high points.
Still, this is one of those hidden bits of the whole “grunge” thing that made that whole, overblown (yes, that’s an intentional reference) scene worth revisiting. Especially now where the pop music has become so overproduced and soulless, filled with whiny voices and Justin fucking Beiber, that we could use something to remind us of what music sounds like when it isn’t grown in a lab.
OK, fine, here’s your freakin’ context.
Feel free to add your own to the list, but you’ll have to provide your own context this time.
A Very Small Eulogy. Of Sorts.
Shawn eulogizes Pete Steele (if you know him at all, I would guess that you’ll know him as the lead singer for Type O Negative or maybe Carnivore).
RIP you twisted bastard. And, since I believe in the power of grace and redemption, I’ll even hope that, as Shawn says, “the Christians are right.” By some reports, Steele had returned to Catholicism over the last few years of his life. For a guy who had problems with substance abuse and depression, at very least, I would hope that it provided some peace and comfort.
Shawn’s right about one thing, though: I’m pretty sure God wasn’t digging on a lot of those songs…
Fair warning: the song gets a little loud and a little profane. Your cube mate might not like this stuff.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Misplaced Praise, Eighth in a Series of 562
When the progressive left infiltrates the Tea Parties, they show such amazing subtlety and understanding of the movement.
Just, wow. Great job, guys.
(To be fair, some of those signs, while wrong, were pretty funny (be sure to click, click, click on through)).
Well, Yes, But…
From Mitt Romney :
Well, yes, that is certainly one of his weak points. In fact, whether you agree that he has or hasn’t focused enough energy and time on jobs, the weak economy and general feeling of unease in the country will be working against President Obama.
But, Mr. Romney, one of your weak points is Romneycare, and it’s a big one. Bigger this year than it was during the last election cycle. Bigger than you might expect.
I’ll be curious to see how you handle that one.
Can We Banish These Words from the Debate?
They come from the left. They come from the right. They come from the posts. They come from the comments sections. They come from the articles in the daily paper. These are loaded words that are used in contemporary political debate like little bombs cut through the rest of our arguments leaving little sense in their wake. Talk about, say, Bush’s minions and you’ve made your case that he’s the evil, mustache-twirling baddie and you don’t have to treat him as a man who, however much you might have disagreed, made choices that he thought were right. Talk about Obama’s cronies, and you dismiss the motives of the people around him by turning them into some cackling cabal of evil who couldn’t possibly be acting from principle.
Now, allowing our elected officials to be humans rather than cardboard cut-out baddies doesn’t absolve them from their mistakes and bad-judgement. It’s just to say that attacking the person isn’t the best way to refute their arguments and ideals. It’s intellectually lazy and unconvincing.
These are the words that are driving me crazy right now. These are the words that, it seems, I can’t escape these days even though they almost never bring any substance to the debate.
The first two pairs generally sound as if they belong in some overwrought political play where our heros and villains are drawn in the broad strokes of a Victorian era melodrama. Your point will be better received and understood if you don’t use over-the-top language that can detract from your argument or even discredit your argument with folks on the other side of the aisle.
With the third set, the words are often used incorrectly and sound like they belong somewhere in an overwrought G8 summit protest where protestors-by-avocation tend to push their disparate agendas (regardless of the tenuous relation of the agenda and the event) in annoyingly ill-considered ways like crashing the windows of every Starbucks in the area. They have created this weird little monoculture of people who bounce from anti-war protest to anti-G8 protest to anti-whatever protest with the same set of socialist literature, anti-US sloganeering, childlike view of politic realities, and same giant paper-mache puppets no matter the occasion. In that way, they are reminiscent of the moronic Wesboro Baptist Church types who see the entirety of the world’s issues as a referendum on God’s feelings about gays. They aren’t serious people and they shouldn’t be treated as such; anyone who adopts their linguistic tics faces the danger of putting themselves in that same, ignore-at-will category.
Likewise, the last set are rarely used correctly. They are knee-jerk reactions to any negative unpleasant negative commentary when the debate turns a little rough. It’s easier to claim the moral high ground with an assertion of racism than it is to argue the point--say, for example, by claiming that opponents of Obama’s health care reform push were racists when it is clear that those same opponents worked hard to ensure that the Clinton health care package failed. It isn’t racism (or sexism), but a genuine political difference--but if you claim that the opponents are racists, you won’t have to refute their arguments.
That said, real racism, sexism, and fascism do exist. Calling out racism where it exists--say, in the kinds of offensive comments that black conservatives receive about the real nature of their racial heritage when they espouse something other than the orthodox line of accepted racial politics--is important. Ask someone like Condi Rice if racism exists in America and I’m sure she’ll say yes. Ask her to describe the racism that she has faced in her adult life, though, and her answer might be a bit surprising. I would doubt that it would be racially oriented attacks from the KKK; I would guess that it would be racially-oriented attacks from liberal political commentators. Those folks weren’t so much interested in the content of her character except inasmuch as that character could be viewed through the distorting lens of racial politics.
So, yes, these things exist, but be damned careful when breaking out the accusations because the power in those words diminishes every time they are used improperly.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Where Will Brandon Marshall Go? (Updated)
You’d have to think that if Brandon Marshall, one of the league’s better wide receivers, were going to stay with the Broncos, the contract he signed would have been bigger than the $2.521 million tender contract. If the Broncos wanted to keep him (and keep him happy), they would have offered bigger dollars; if he wanted to stay, he would have asked for the kind of contract that would have kept him happy. Instead he signed the lowball tender which wasn’t significantly more than he made last year.
So Marshall is going to go somewhere. The question is where he’ll land and how much the Broncos will get in return.
Similar to the Cutler situation in the last off-season, I can’t help but be a little disappointed with both sides of this personnel equation. Marshall deserved a better contract in the last off-season and the Broncos deserved better than Marshall gave them every off-season. While Marshall played for small money through his first contract, he watched less talented players coming through the team signing bigger contracts and contributing far, far less. On the other hand, Marshall’s constant legal difficulties and his suspensions made it hard for the Broncos to justify the investment.
If Marshall really is leaving town, it will be one more disappointment for fans who have stomached more than their share over the last three years.
Strategically speaking, the Broncos are also showing players that if you don’t want to play in Denver, you don’t have to play in Denver. You can always bully, whine, or cry your way out of town and the Broncos will ultimately accommodate you. Not a good reputation to have when you’re trying to build stability in your team and loyalty in your players.
Update: Brandon Marshall is going to Miami--and he immediately makes them a better team--and the Broncos got fair value for him. A second round pick this year and a second round pick this year makes a pretty compelling case for letting him go; I imagine the Broncos will be looking to draft a new receiver pretty high this year.
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