Friday, December 31, 2010

Privatize It !!

North Carolina has been debating (and debating and debating and...) for a year now the idea of privatizing hard liquor sales following reports of surprisingly high salaries and pensions for county ABC commissioners, concerns about too cozy ties with liquor industry reps, and indications of what look to be illegalities if not outright corruption. Not surprisingly, the North Carolina Association of ABC Boards is fighting these efforts.

Contained in that association's own press release from last week is one of the best arguments in favor of consideration of significant reforms, including privatization of sales: 
" North Carolina ranks 3rd among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in revenue per capita from the sale of spirits and 48th in per capita consumption. North Carolina's control system for the sale of spirits works, and accomplishes important public health and revenue objectives," wrote Mr. Carr [the association's registered lobbyist, according to the PR]
We rank 48th in consumption but 3rd in revenue, both figures based on per capita bases.  That's outrageous.  That's not a defense of the status quo: that's a strong sign that state is using its monopoly to gouge the public.

What's almost as bad is Carr's contention in the press release that the concerns driving the reform efforts stem only from a single instance of high pay and one incident of "a holiday meal" paid for by a liquor company: that's crap, plain and simple.  Salary concerns were raised in New Hanover and Asheville, and to a lesser extent in Wake and Mecklenburg because salaries in those latter two counties were significantly higher that the pay levels for execs at the state level.  Moreover, the larger concern was over the lack of state oversight of local board activities, including salaries.  Beyond that, the "holiday meal" that Carr refers to was actually $9,334 (some reports say $12,000) affair for 28 Mecklenburg County ABC employees paid for by a liquor company.  And while that got most of the attention, it was but the tip of the iceberg as it was soon found that this occurs regularly across the state, although the tabs are seldom quite so attention-getting.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Big Star Third

My excitement about these Big Star Third shows the next two nights has reached critical mass.  Seriously. I'm going to need some help getting any decent sleep tonight (no worries: I know exactly where my bottle of Advil PM lives). What your normal five-year-old feels like on December 24 is the exact shape I find myself in this evening.

First, I happened upon this blog by Chris Stamey in which he describes the planning and preparation behind this project.  That man be blessed.  His post about Mellotrons is especially nice.

Next, it was this article in the local weekly paper that goes into greater detail about the project's birth & long infancy.  Also some enjoyable stories about Stamey's work over the years with Alex Chilton and the incredible fact that the idea and early planning for this show started many years ago with Chilton as a willing & eager participant... damn, to have had him in a central planning & playing role for this... now THAT would have been so far beyond special as to defy description in this or most any other language.

A quick aside, somewhat related: Chilton, for all the talk about his being reclusive and a bit eccentric, sounds like such a good guy.  Check these pieces about him from Paul Westerberg (especially love the line about the tent!) and Steve Wynn.



Big Star - Thank You Friends from Derek Jenkins on Vimeo.














Friday, October 29, 2010

Early Voting

Two years ago, Marc Fisher, who used to write a regular Metro column in The Washington Post, wrote an interesting commentary about the dark underbelly of the world of early voting.  What's that?  You hadn't known that there was a seedy side of early voting town?  That's because you've probably only seen the sunny promotion materials coming from the early voting board of tourism (unrelated but true fact about that board's members: they tend to stretch their metaphors to the breaking point).

I first read that column several days after voting two weeks early in the 2008 election, and I remember feeling that Fisher had it totally wrong in his contention that early voting was ultimately detrimental to the cause of a representative democracy.  As a columnist, he regularly made the contrarian argument -- sometimes because he was expressing his honest opinion and other times simply to stir up some needed debate within the metro area -- and on this particular column, I felt like he pressed the case for the latter reason.  Granted, Fisher took great pleasure in discussing his negative view of dogs; still, how could anybody really be against even the general concept of early voting? 

(As a quick aside, his hope that Maryland voters would refuse the temptation of early voting in their state proved to be every bit as unlikely as he undoubtedly understood: the measure passed with more than 70% support.  The 2010 election is the state's unveiling of the new option.)

But I soon came to believe that the man was right.  Days after it was published, incumbent Senator Elizabeth Dole released a series of the most ridiculous and desperate negative campaign ads I've ever seen in which she accused her challenger and eventual successor, Kay Hagan, of being "godless."  This came a week or so after I'd already voted, and my initial reaction as it related to my vote was a sense of relief that I hadn't chosen to support Dole.  My next thought was to wonder how many early voters who had cast their ballots for Dole -- citizens whose support of Dole had been shaky or independent voters who may have been on the fence until marking their ballots -- suddenly regretted their vote because of that ad campaign.

My third thought was along the lines of, "Hm, Fisher might have made one good point, at least."  He still hadn't won me over to side, but...

What finally changed my mind was Election Day itself.  I felt no excitement nor any pride as a participating citizen, and that was in stark contrast to my usual attitude about Election Days past.  I missed my ritual of arriving at the polling station early with a cup of coffee to stand amid a small to medium sized crowd of fellow voters, most of whom seemed just as elated to fulfill their roles and do their duty (I fear that I may be starting to sound a bit like Binx Bolling here: "I am a model tenant and a model citizen and take pleasure in doing all that is expected of me.”).  Instead, I went straight to the office that morning, went straight home that evening, and felt a tremendous sense of letdown, despite (or possibly, to some degree, in reaction to) the excitement of some around me and even in the face of most polls that indicated most of my candidates were going to win.

And again, I couldn't help thinking back to the Fisher piece.  I'd already been surprised to discover that he'd made what turned out to be a nearly prescient argument that two different voters in the same precinct in the same election -- one voting early, the other on Election Day -- can be said to have voted in election environments made so completely different by intervening events as to nearly suggest that they actually participated to two entirely different elections.  The Elizabeth Dole ad controversy may not have risen to quite that level, but the point had been made for me.  And now, I'd realized that he'd also been right about the possibility of further loss of community that can result from early voting.

Whether those arguments outweigh the benefits, especially the suggestion that early voting can allow more people to vote -- although there has been at least one well-researched study that has found the opposite to be true -- can still be debated, but I switched sides in that debate back in 2008 (doing so after my Election Day but likely before your Election Day).  I even wrote to Fisher a week or two after the election to thank him for putting the issue on my radar so that I'd been better prepared to consider the matter as I reacted to the Dole ad and my feelings of let-down come the election and as I stopped to wonder what it all meant.


So what did I do on this fine autumn morning for which I've taken off work?  I just voted in the 2010 election, four days before official Election Day.  At this point, Fisher almost certainly doesn't want me on his side of the debate any longer now that I've shown myself to be such a lying, hypocritical s.o.b.  But, in my defense, I have some very important appointments next Tuesday, among them a meeting with someone to discuss housecleaning services: I had to prioritize!

I got to the Board of Elections office 20 minutes early, coffee in hand, and waited with a group of nearly 100 people and a slew of election volunteers, nearly all of us in great moods and not the least bit upset at having to wait on line for something so important and exciting.  Now I just have to hope that I don't find out in the next four days that my vote for Candidate X went to support a Lincolnesque figure who's sold poison milk to school children.  And I'll just have to see how I feel come election Day.

But now that I've admitted to going back on my word concerning early voting, I'll revisit a near-threat I made last month regarding this election's race for Richard Burr's U.S. Senate seat.  In a blog post from five weeks ago, I'd expressed tremendous disappointment with Democratic candidate Elaine Marshall's refusal to take a position on the so-called Ground Zero mosque controversy and wrote that I would likely not give her my vote as a result.  True to form, I failed to live up to my word.  At this point, it's anybody's guess what dastardly effect my treachery might next take.

But back on the matter of Marshall's invisible stand on the mosque controversy.  Her argument that the issue was local for NYC and therefore of no concern for North Carolinians would have been the proper tack four to six months ago, but the debate has since evolved well beyond local zoning issues and has grown (ridiculously, I'll grant) into a national debate which centers on tolerance and some of the basic freedoms most of us thought had been secured 219 years ago.  Refusing to enter into that debate should not be an option for a serious candidate for such a high office, so Marshall's decision to go that route was deeply disappointing.

However, with the benefit of additional time to consider the matter (were he reading this, Marc Fisher would now be saying aloud, "Aha!!"), I decided to give Marshall my support despite my frustration over her refusal to speak up for what is right.  It seems that there is too much at stake right now, and while Marshall appears to have little chance go unseating Burr, I realized that a protest vote for Michael Beitler or a refusal to cast a vote for any candidate in that race ultimately amounted to a vote for Burr, and I just could not do that.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Teachable Moment Regarding Irony

This story on how CNN anchor Rick Sanchez managed to get himself fired today following a radio interview he gave this morning is nearly killing me, it's so good.  In addition to the pathetic hilarity, there is the fact that this represents a true teachable moment for Farkers (since they're the ones who put me onto the story this evening), specifically those who for years have proven unable to understand the meaning of irony.

Really, how much more ironic can you get than this?  Sanchez goes on a radio show to complain about Stewart & Colbert making fun of him.  And why do they make fun of him?  Because they say he's a dimwit.  But in defending himself, he says such unbelievably stupid things (not to mention hateful & hurtful) that he gets himself fired for being so incredibly dimwitted.  Irony seldom reaches this level of perfection.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Shutter Island (kinda sorta possible spoilers herein, maybe)

So this afternoon, I ventured out to a engage in one of my favorite weekend relaxation activities: reading while bellied up at a bar.  I actually did this at two bars, but at the first I only had a sandwich and a regular iced tea, so I don't know if it really counts, although I'll be the first to admit that that's probably very much beside the point.

The book of choice was Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, a few of whose other books I've very much enjoyed, particularly The Given Day.  And his writing on HBO's "The Wire" was, well, I'd hardly be first to extol the vitures (e.g., he wrote one of those lines from the show that I think of often, whether I'm at work or reading the newspaper: "It's Baltimore, gentlemen; the gods will not save you.")

So, about Shutter Island...

Actually, I can't go any further without warning that I'm about to reveal a possibly important aspect about the structure of the book and my guess about what it means.

[spoiler space]

[/spoiler space]

I'd barely begun reading the book when someone took it upon himself enough to inform me that the book had one of the "most mind-blowing twist endings" he could recall.

Well, isn't that just freakin' great.  Thank you so much.  Can I repay the favor by sneezing on that lunch of yours?

I've gotten through the first 100 pages, and I'm enjoying the story immensely, so far, but I'm reading it with "twist ending" in mind.  In fact, when I read the single-sentence paragraph that ends page 30 of the Harper Fiction paperback edition ("And he turned and led the way through the gate, and the gate was closed behind them."), I immediately felt certain that I knew what the twist was.  And most everything I've read since then has only reinforced my guess that Teddy Daniels is actually an inmate-patient at Shutter Island for having set the fire that killed his wife and three others years before this story is supposedly set.

I have plans for tonight and nearly a full day planned tomorrow, so I likely won't be able to find out if I'm right until next weekend.  But I'm dying to know.  If it turns out that I'm right, I might just have to make it my mission to track down the s.o.b. who spoiled it for me.  But I might still be able to enjoy the story, and might even enjoy watching how Lehane was able to control the story while leading readers down unexpected paths.

UPDATED 26-SEPT: Just finished the novel.  Turns out that while I wasn't right, well, I had, in fact, been right.  Tomorrow, I'm gonna have to figure out how I go about hunting down that s.o.b.  Good book, though.  Might have to rent the movie this week to see how faithful it is.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wanted: Senator with Spine Attached

It just became likely that I'm going to throw my vote to an independent candidate, write in a name, or simply not cast a vote for the U.S. Senate election in North Carolina this fall.  Again. 

Back on October 1, 2008, while the Senate debated the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (a.k.a., the "bank bailout bill") that had been much discussed over the previous weeks, Senator Elizabeth Dole, the Republican incumbent, announced her opposition to the measure while Democratic challenger Kay Hagan refused to take a position, claiming that she needed more time to study the issue.  That struck me as wholly and unforgivably gutless, and it was at that point that Hagan lost my vote.

Today, I found out that this year's Democratic challenger to the state's U.S. Senator is being equally spineless.  On a news report on WUNC radio this afternoon -- a story which I've since confirmed online here and here -- it was discussed how the three candidates view Park51, the Islamic community center and mosque proposed for the site two blocks from Ground Zero in NYC (that being the long-winded but more accurate name for the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque").  Republican incumbent Senator Richard Burr has come out in opposition to the proposed mosque near NYC Ground Zero, saying that he views the location as "insensitive."  Libertarian candidate Michael Beitler says he that he is unconcerned about the mosque or its location, arguing that the efforts and arguments employed against the center strike hims as being "un-American."  Democratic candidate Elaine Marshall, by contrast, has refused to offer any opinions, claiming that it's an issue for New Yorkers only, so she will not comment.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Connells: Buy 'em!!

As promised several months ago, for the first time in far too many years, albums from Raleigh's own Connells are available once more.  Currently, access is limited to MP3 download only from Amazon, but the band hopes to have CDs and albums in stores soon.  

Doesn't appear that their first album (1985's Darker Days) or most recent album (2001's Old School Dropouts) are available, but every release in between is out there.  If you're not familiar with the band please, please, please check them out.  Boylan Heights, their second album from 1987, proved to be a good starting point for me thanks to an incredibly exciting album review in the Washington Post the year after its release.  And if you're familiar with the band only from their fifth album, 1993's Ring (or maybe just from the single "'74-'75" from that album) you need to hear their other work.  Weird Food & Devastation from 1996 is not only a very good album -- no matter what 50% of Amazon reviewers would have you believe -- but a pretty brave one, too, given the drastic change in sound & direction they settled on following the huge success they had with Ring (and it's that unexpected change that accounts for so many unfair listener reviews of the album, of course).  And 1998's Still Life is one of those albums that is so overlooked & unknown that you just have to shake your head.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bloody Good Time

In a post from April 2009, I declared as ridiculous the overly cautious policies of the FDA that meant that I was prevented from ever again donating blood because of the suspicious results of a single blood test.  Specifically, despite being a longtime regular donor, I was put on the deferred list due to a positive result for Hepatitis C.

Everybody appreciates a high level of caution to protect the blood supply, but to ban someone over a single result -- not making any allowance for the possibility of false positives -- seemed to me to be too much.  So for the past 17 months, I've been unable to do anything except grow frustrated whenever I'd see occasional reports of critical blood shortages in the Raleigh area.

Until now, that is.  Thanks to a revised FDA policy, I was able to go back into the blood services unit for a retest earlier this month.

I got a letter in the mail today showing negative results on both of the tests used to detect Hep C, so I have been cleared for additional needle sticks.  And I'm wasting no time getting back into the routine: I'll donate platelets at the Red Cross donor center in Durham after work tomorrow.

I'm pretty happy about this.  I hate the needle part, to be perfectly honest (I'm one of those wimps who has to turn his head away when the tech inserts the needle), but the platelet donation process itself is extremely cool -- the pulling and pushing of blood, the centrifuge, the machinery whirring and clicking, the cool graphics showing flow rate & estimated time remaining, etc. -- and it's the closest I come these days to volunteer work.  I've really missed it over the last year and a half.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bad Ideas in Safety Pharmacology

I just picked up a refill for a prescription that I've been on for over a year now.  I noticed a new warning label on the bottle that I'd never seen anywhere before:

This struck me as a bit odd.  And then it struck me as funny, albeit in a purely twisted manner.  I've been prescribed this medication for off label use because it's been found effective in treating certain types of neurological pain, but the medication's approved indication is depression.

Did no one involved in the decision to label this drug find it self-defeating to encourage depressed patients to stay indoors with their curtains and shades drawn, avoiding sunlight or any aspects of a healthy, normal life that may accompany said sunlight?  "Suddenly feel like going outside for a walk?  Oh no, not so fast there, Frowny!  FDA strongly discourages you from attempting to escape your bleak basement existence.  So turn that TV back on and enjoy another few hours of that 'Smoking Gun Presents: World's Dumbest' marathon!"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Talk Me Down from the Tower

Last month, as vacation was approaching but still seemed far off given the long days and increasing workload, I sometimes found myself in need of someone to talk me down from the tower.

This is a phrase that suddenly came to me this evening.  Not certain how or why, but the more I thought about it, the more I decided that I like it.  And to my amazement, it seems that this an almost unheard-of phrase: Google returns no hits for it while Yahoo shows only three uses and Bing's only result is one of the Yahoo three.

This is an idiom that demands wide usage.

If you're uncertain of its meaning, you should first read this Wikipedia article regarding Charles Joseph Whitman and the University of Texas shootings of 1966.  Simply put, it's an indication that the speaker is feeling frustration or anger and is in nearly desperate need of calming.  It's important to note that the humor inherent in the phrase softens what otherwise could be viewed as a warning or a threat.

And make no mistake: while this expression gets some of its power because of its similarity to the familiar "talk me down off the ledge" saying, it has very much the opposite meaning.  To a large degree, of course, it is exactly that simultaneous resemblance and dissimilarity which makes the phrase work so well.

I will acknowledge that some might fail to see the humor in a phrase which makes reference to an incident that resulted in the death and serious injury of so many people 44 years ago.  After all, there are those who get upset for similar reasons over use of the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid."  I have two responses to such concerns, both of them vulgar and insulting.  People who make such complaints are part of the reason why I sometimes find myself in need of being talked down from the tower.

Friday, April 23, 2010

On Matters Southern

In a separate post I include an excerpt from Walker Percy's novel The Thanatos Syndrome, wherein Percy references earlier sections of the novel that describe the hidden depths of communication between old-style Southern white and black. In Part I Chapter 2 of the novel, he starts to detail the strange relationship and its navigation. Being neither old-style nor Southern, I find this fascinating, not just the dynamic being described but also the beauty and precision of Percy's writing.

A strange case, yes, but nothing to write up for the JAMA.

Indeed, I couldn't make head or tail of it at the time, the bizarre business with the boy and the stallion, but mainly the change in Mickey LaFaye. But what physician has not had patients who don't make any sense at all? To tell the truth, they're our stock-in-trade. We talk and write about the ones we can make sense of.

Here's another mini-case, not even a case but a fifteen-second encounter with an acquaintance even as I left Mickey's room. How much of the change, I was wondering, comes from my two years away and the change in me?

Here's old Frank Macon, polishing the terrazzo floor. I saw him a week ago, just after I returned. Frank Macon is a seventy-five-year-old black janitor. I have known him for forty years. He used to train bird dogs when there were still quail around here. Then as now he was polishing the terrazzo with a heavy rotary brush. From long practice he was using the machine well, holding back on one handle to give it a centripetal swing until it caromed off the concave angle of the wall to propel itself back by the torque of the brush. I broke his rhythm. He switched off the motor and eyed me. He clapped his hands softly and gave me one of his, a large meaty warm slab, callused but inert.

"Look who's back!" he cried, casting a muddy eye around and past me. He throws up an arm. "Whoa!"

"How you doing, Frank!"

"Fine! But look at you now! You looking good! You looking good in the face and slim, not poorly like you used to."

"You're looking good too, Frank."

"You must have been doing some yard work," says Frank, good eye gleaming slyly.

"Yes," I say, smiling. He's guying me. It's an old joke between us.

"I knowed they couldn't keep you! People talking about trouble. I say no way. No way Doc going to be in trouble. Ain't no police going to hold Doc for long. People got too much respect for Doc! I mean." Again he smote his hands together, not quite a clap but a horny brushing past, signifying polite amazement. He turned half away, but one eye still gleamed at me.

One would have to be a Southerner, white or black, to understand the complexities of this little exchange. Seemingly pleasant, it was not quite. Seemingly a friend in the old style, Frank was not quite. The glint of eye, seemingly a smile of greeting, was not. It was actually malignant. Frank was having fun with me, I knew, and he knew that I knew, using the old forms of civility to say what he pleased. What he was pleased to say was: So you got caught, didn't you, and you got out sooner than I would have, didn't you? Even his pronunciation of police as po'-lice was overdone and farcical, a parody of black speech, but a parody he calculated I would recognize. Actually he's a deacon and uses a kind of church English: Doctor, what we're gerng to do is soliciting contributions for a chicken-dinner benefit the ladies of the church gerng to have Sunday, and suchlike.

I value his honesty -- even his jeering. He knew this and we parted amiably. We understand each other. He reminds me of the Russian serfs Tolstoy wrote about, who spoke bluntly to their masters, using the very infirmity of their serfdom as a warrant to scold: Stepan Stepanovitch, you're a sinful man! Mend your ways!

"How Miss Ellen doing?" he asked, playing out the game of Southern good manners.

"Just fine, and your family?" I asked, watching him closely. Am I mistaken or is there not a glint of irony in his muddy eye at the mention of my wife's name?

That was my encounter with Frank Mason a week ago, a six-layered exchange beyond the compass of any known science of communication but plain as day to Frank and me.

This is my encounter with Frank this morning, in the same hospital, the same corridor, the same Frank swinging the same brush. He simply stepped aside, not switching off the machine, neither servile nor sullen, not ironical, not sly, not farcical, not in any way complex, but purely and simply perfunctory.

"How you doing, Frank?"

"Good morning, Doctor."

"Still featherbedding --" I begin in our old chaffing style, but he cuts me off with, of all things, "Have a nice day, Doctor" -- and back to his polishing without missing the swing of the machine. I could have been any doctor, anybody.

Here again, a small thing. Nothing startling. He might simply have decided to dispose of me with standard U.S. politeness, which is indeed the easiest way to get rid of people. Have a nice day--

Or he might have decided that the ultimate putdown is the same American civility. What better dismissal than to treat someone you've known for forty years like a drive-up customer at Big Mac's?

Or: Feeling bad, tired, old, out of it, he might have drawn a blank.

Or: Something strange has happened to him.

On Matters Asinine

Here is a portion of Part I Chapter 6 from one of my favorite books, The Thanatos Syndrome, by one of my favorite authors, Walker Percy. I've thought about this passage regularly in the 15 years since I first read it and have wished that I'd read it 10 years earlier so I might not have wasted so much energy engaged in so many heated and pointless political arguments in high school and college. In part of this section, Percy writes about the interaction of old-style Southern whites and blacks: that is worthy of another transcription of another small section of this same novel.

Bob Comeaux likes to argue. I don't much.

For two years I was caught between passionate liberals and conservatives among my fellow inmates at Fort Pelham. Most prisoners are ideologues. There is nothing else to do. Both sides had compelling arguments. Each could argue plausibly for and against religion, God, Israel, blacks, affirmative action, Nicaragua.

It was more natural for me, less boring, to listen than to argue. I was more interested in the rage than the arguments. After two years no one had convinced anyone else. Each side made the same points, the same rebuttals. Neither party listened to the other. They would come close as lovers, eyes glistening, shake fingers at each other, actually take hold of the other's clothes. There were even fistfights.

It crossed my mind that people at war have the same need of each other. What would a passionate liberal or conservative do without the other?

Bob Comeaux reminds me of them. He comes just as close when he argues, must closer than he would in ordinary conversation, his face, say, a foot from mine. He wants to argue about "pedeuthanasia" and the Supreme Court decision which permits the "termination by pedeuthanasia" of unwanted or afflicted infants, infants facing a life without quality.

I can tell he has hit on what he considers an unanswerable argument and can no more resist trying it out on me than a lover can resist giving his beloved a splendid gift.

"Can you honestly tell me," he says, coming even closer, "that you would condemn a child to a life of rejection, suffering, poverty, and pain?"


"As you of all people know, as you in fact have written articles about" -- he says triumphantly, and I can tell he has rehearsed these two clauses -- "the human infant does not achieve personhood until some time in the second year for the simple reason, as you yourself have shown, that it is only with the acquisition of language and the activation of the language center of the brain that the child becomes conscious as a self, a person. Right?"

He waits expectantly, lips parted, ready, corners moist. His eyes search out mine, first one, then the other.

"Do you see what I mean?" he asks.

"I see what you mean," I answer.

He waits for the counter-arguments, which he already knows and is prepared to rebut.

He is disappointed when I don't argue.

Instead, I find myself wondering, just as I wondered at Fort Pelham, what it is the passionate arguer is afraid of. Is he afraid that he might be wrong? that he might be right? Is he afraid that if one does not argue there is nothing left? An abyss opens. Is it not the case that something is better than nothing, arguing, violent disagreement, even war?

More than once at Fort Pelham I noticed that passionate liberals, passionate on the race question, had no use for individual blacks, and that passionate conservatives could not stand one another. Can you imagine Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson spending a friendly evening alone together?

One of life's little mysteries: an old-style Southern white and an old-style Southern black are more at ease talking to each other, even though one may be unjust to the other, than Ted Kennedy talking to Jesse Jackson -- who are overly cordial, nervous as cats in their cordiality, and glad to be rid of each other.

In the first case -- the old-style white and the old-style black -- each knows exactly where he stands with the other. Each can handle the other, the first because he is in control, the second because he uses his wits. They both know this and can even enjoy each other.

In the second case -- Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson -- each is walking on eggshells. What to say next in this rarified atmosphere of perfect liberal agreement? What if one should violate the fragile liberal canon, let drop a racist remark, an anti-Irish Catholic slur? What if Jesse Jackson should mention Hymie? The world might end. They are glad to get it over with. What a relief! Whew!

Frowning and falling back, Bob Comeaux even gives possible arguments I might have used so that he can refute them.

"In using the word infanticide, you see, you are dealing not with the issue but in semantics, a loaded semantics at that."

"I didn't use the word."

Bob shrugs and turns away, his eyes suddenly distant and preoccupied, like an unsuccessful suitor.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Connells Albums: Soon Back in Print

This is GREAT news, not just for people who like good music but for anybody who appreciates fairness. After a decade of being unable to make any money off their impressive catalogue of work due to corporate asshattedness, it appears that the Connells' albums will soon be back in print and available for a new generation to discover good Southern jangle rock.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Am I the Only Person

... so immature as to snicker upon hearing or reading any form of the word "taint" when used in relation to the latest allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests? Just wondering.

Friday, March 26, 2010

They're Infuriating Nutcases, Sure

...but at least they can sometimes be entertaining.

This first one comes from V. C. Rogers for the Durham-Raleigh Independent Weekly:

No commentary is required for this one, either, except perhaps to declare it the best bumper sticker I've seen in an awfully long time. These are available for $2 from Northern Sun:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

You Lie!

So after taking a day to consider his options, Rep. Randy Neugebauer admitted on Monday that he was the jackass who shouted "baby killer" on the House floor Sunday night. The thing is, he claims that he actually said "it's a baby killer," referring to the abortion funding deal, not to Rep. Bart Stupak himself.

Uh, yeah. That's the best he could do? Randy, really, after 15 hours of hiding, you weren't able to come up with something more believable than that? You're pathetic.

Monday, March 22, 2010

No! They Really Printed That?!

Browsing through the record reviews in a recent edition (#54) of the punk zine Razorcake, I was surprised to find a review of a new Flipper album.

Aphid Peewit heaps praise on this new album, Love. But he does have one complaint:
My only gripe with Love is that their dadaistic [sic] sense of humor, exemplified in classics like "Ha Ha Ha," "Brainwash," and "The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" sadly seems to have been packed into the urn along with the remains of Will Shatter. And Flipper without their absurdist humor is like a thalidomide baby without a clown nose.
Holy crap! That has to rank somewhere in the top ten of the most tasteless lines I've ever read in print. And if I weren't laughing so hard, I'd perhaps gather the energy to be offended and/or outraged.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Alex Chilton

Found several good Alex Chilton articles, obits, and appreciation pieces online today. 99% of folks are referencing the same few songs, which is fine really -- "In the Street", "Thirteen", "September Gurls" are all pretty amazing -- but there are so many more gems out there, and the man should be known for more than just the songs that helped make other bands famous 20 and 30 years after he first wrote and recorded them.

From the first three Big Star albums:

Chilton and drummer Jody Stephens reformed Big Star back in the 90s and put out a new studio album in 2005 called In Space, and these next two tracks (30-second samples only, sorry to say) are from that album. I *highly* recommend getting this album. It's a shame that their 4th album rec'd about as much attention as their first three originally did. The first song, "Dony" is mighty good (can't find any samples of it to link to, unfortunately) while "Mine Exclusively" should shock and amaze you: I'd put it up against "In the Street" any day, it's so good (in other words, buy it, buy it, buy it, BUY IT!!!):

And here are some samples of his solo stuff:

And some more solo stuff, but from the very much dark, bizarre side of his solo career (not for the faint of heart!):

Friday, February 26, 2010

Policy Change

Effective immediately, anyone who eats or chews gum while talking on the phone with me will be penalized. (That's right, Elliot from the Help Desk, I'm thinking about you, you lint-licker.) I can't at the moment say what form that penalty might take as that will largely depend up my mood at the time of the incident. Just know that the policy is now in place and that the penalty may be quite severe.

Your understanding and cooperation is appreciated.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Why I've Never Been Able to Board the Pitchfork Bandwagon

I can't read Pitchfork reviews of this sort without wondering if the writer is serious or merely having us on:
Tarot Sport marks a comprehensive stylistic shift for Fuck Buttons-- from experimental noise to a sort of modernized electronic take on classic post-rock structures-- but also represents a subtler, more mature approach to songwriting and a sharpening of their craft.
I mean, really now, doesn't that read like something from Monty Python or Kids in the Hall?

As Paul Westerberg once commented, "And it's all a bunch of shit."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hiding from Fame, Setting Gerry up for Another Big Fall

The AP asks, "What's in J.D. Salinger's Safe?"

I'm deeply disturbed by the question because I fear it can only lead to Geraldo Rivera, a work crew, and a live TV special. On the plus side, the schadenfreude would be even sweeter this second time around.

(Unrelated question: Am I really one of the very few who is annoyed by Catcher in the Rye? It's one of those books that everyone is expected to fawn over, but I just can't do it. One of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th Century? Really? According to Time Magazine, yes. According to me, no freakin' way. Portnoy's Complaint (also on Time's list, sadly) leaves me similarly weary: the constant bitching and moaning of the two books' narrators is too much for me to overcome.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Corporations and Free Speech

So the Supreme Court ruled moments ago that corporations have the same free speech rights as individuals. Do other basic rights apply to corporations, as well? For instance, will corporate officers be able to take the Fifth if they feel their testimony might incriminate the companies they represent? And what about Second Amendment rights? How much more exciting and interesting will the Microsoft vs. Google and the Google vs. Apple wars become if those companies can now keep and bear arms?

UPDATE: A friend responds to this by observing that, "Conservatives will be happy with the 2nd amendment rights just as long as Microsoft and Apple can't get gay-married."