Saturday, December 31, 2005

Two Games

Both the Illini and the Wildcats were in action last night in rare Friday night games. Both games were microcosms of the respective seasons these two have been having.

The Illini took on Tennessee-Martin at the Hall. After 5 minutes it was 17-0 and the game was already over -- hey, that's pretty much the story of every Illini football game this season, only in reverse.

That opening stretch featured three threes by Rich McBride, who finished up with 21 points on 7 treys.

The Illini pounded the hapless Skyhawks every way imaginable in the first half, taking a 47-15 lead(!) into the locker room.

This has been one of the m.o.'s of the Illini all season -- lure a marginal opponent into the Hall and cudgel them senseless. Of course the other m.o. has been to take on decent teams (North Carolina, Oregon, Georgetown, Xavier) in whatever environment (road, road neutral, home, home neutral, respectively) and pummel the hell out of them, too.

I'm not sure where Missouri fits into this -- a major conference team that plays like an OVC team. I'm not sure if Quin has decided what to do with his hair yet this season, but I am sure that his team SUCKS!

Anyway, all of this adds up to a 14-0 start heading into the Big Ten, with an average margin of victory of 20 points. I suppose that the question is, having not played a ranked opponent yet, can we really be sure of anything with this group?

Well, the one thing we can be sure of is that if Jamar Smith gets an open look he is incapable of missing.

The Cats have been another story.

Tested again last night by a solid mid-major, they gutted out a 71-63 win over Ohio in a game where they didn't lead in the second half until 2:32 was left.

The bad news is that they looked lost on offense again for the first 28 minutes of the game. The worse news is that they looked lost on defense for much of that stretch as well.

The good news is that they rallied at crunch time and gutted the Bobcats 26-9 over the last 12 minutes. The better news is that they were led by a resurgent Joe Crawford, who had 23 points and some serious crunch-time takes.

A small but vocal minority of mopes on the UK fan message boards certainly don't like it, but this is the type of December game that can help in the long run. I remain convinced (all evidence to the contrary) that this team will find some offensive flow eventually, and that a gut-check win like this will give them something to draw on when they run into a tight but meaningful game in March. I still see a lot of upside for this team, and JC is going to have to continue to be a big part of bringing that to fruition.

JC as savior. Has a ring to it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Random Great Stuff: John Singleton Copley

My tastes in art generally run to more "modern" types -- the abstract expressionists above all.

So while the real highlight of my only trip to the National Gallery of Art in Washington was its extensive collection of Rothkos, the real discovery for me was a world away in technique -- if not necessarily in sensibility.

John Singleton Copley was an artist (mainly a portrait artist) in colonial America (and England) in the late 18th Century. While his portraits are often distinctive (e.g., his portrait of Eleazer Tyng at the NGA) the NGA collection includes a couple of large paintings which are nothing short of startling.

His portrait of himself and his family is just hilarious. As a particularly distant Copley looks on from the back, smirk plastered on his face, we observe the wacky crew that is his wife, kids & father-in-law.

This is hardly your typical staid 18th century family portrait. Apart from Copley and one child, no one is even facing the viewer.

While all the kids seem rambunctious, Copley aims the most rowdy one directly at the neck of his father-in-law. Little doubt that this guy would rather be anywhere else in the new world than sitting there with this odious child clawing at him.

Think there might have been a little strife with the son-in-law after this portrait was completed?

The other most notable Copley in the NGA collection is "Watson And The Shark," probably Copley's most famous painting.

Like a production still from Jaws, 200 years before filming, the painting tells the harrowing story of English sailor Brook Watson's real-life tangle with a shark in the waters of Havana Bay.

But, of course, it's a story told with an eye on the absurd. The first question has to be, "Why the hell is young Watson completely naked?" Was he skinny-dipping? Did the shark devour his clothes as an appetizer before moving on to put the chomp on Watson? Was he rousted from some good old-fashioned British Navy sodomy and thrown directly into the briny deep?

And how in the world was he saved from what appears to be a seconds-later mastication? Harpoon through the eye of the great fish?

Perhaps the world's first action movie -- without the actual movement.

The Canadian Secret

The London Free Press (London, Ontario, that is -- not the other London) analyzes how Canadian bands and labels have adapted to the digital environment, and why so many Canadian bands have so much buzz (via Chromewaves).

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Best Of 2005: Albums

My Favorite Albums of 2005

10. Black MountainBlack Mountain – I suppose it’s rather odd that, given that 2005 was the Year Of The Canuck, this is the only Canadian album to make my Top 10 list. Black Mountain updates the soundtrack of doing bongs and bathes it in a maple-leaf red haze.

9. Antony & The JohnsonsI Am A Bird Now – It begins and ends with that voice like no other. “Hope There’s Someone” just has to be the most arresting songs heard this year (or most other years).

8. LCD SoundsystemLCD Soundsystem – The first ten seconds of “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” tells you that riffs will be used to their ultimate purposes. Dance if you will, but smile you must.

7. The White StripesGet Behind Me Satan – A different kind of White Stripes. A little more experimental, but in the end chunky guitar chords played on the piano are still chunky guitar chords.

6. The Hold SteadySeparation Sunday – The chunkiest riffs of ‘70s rock updated in an ongoing tale of adolescent angst.

5. KraftwerkMinimum-Maximum – The godfathers of electronica in a live set that encompasses everything that’s lovable about Krautrock.

4. The DecemberistsPicaresque – Don’t believe that songwriting is a lost art – Colin Meloy still knows how to do it.

3. The Mars VoltaFrances The Mute – Prog rock makes its glorious return. Is the four-part opus “Miranda That Ghost Just Isn’t Holy Anymore” not enough? Then try the five-part “Cassandra Gemini” on for size.

2. Bloc PartySilent Alarm – Maybe it’s only the best Gang Of Four record since 1981, but isn’t that enough?

1. SpoonGimme Fiction – The best band around right now. Their best album yet = the best album of the year.

Just Missed
Keren AnnNolita
Andrew BirdAndrew Bird & The Mysterious Production Of Birds
Silversun PickupsPikul EP
Death Cab For CutiePlans
Sigur RosTakk
The New PornographersTwin Cinema
Sufjan StevensIllinois

Sunday, December 25, 2005


The King ... er, Prez ... takes some shots in today's Tribune op-ed page in reaction to the recent revelations about his extra-legal use of the NSA to snoop on America.

First up, erstwhile libertarian Steve Chapman gives his thoughts on the über-imperial Presidency.
President Bush is a bundle of paradoxes. He thinks the scope of the federal government should be limited but the powers of the president should not. He wants judges to interpret the Constitution as the framers did, but doesn't think he should be constrained by their intentions.
He attacked Al Gore for trusting government instead of the people, but he insists anyone who wants to defeat terrorism must put absolute faith in the man at the helm of government.
His conservative allies say Bush is acting to uphold the essential prerogatives of his office. Vice President Cheney says the administration's secret eavesdropping program is justified because "I believe in a strong, robust executive authority, and I think that the world we live in demands it."
But the theory boils down to a consistent and self-serving formula: What's good for George W. Bush is good for America, and anything that weakens his power weakens the nation. To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors.
Next up is Clarence Page, who raises the spectre of Monicagate by comparing the lies of Bush with the lies of Clinton, and even though he doesn't explicitly make the point it is still there -- Clinton is the one who was impeached for his lies?

One of the first rules of skilled lying is to avoid leaving evidence around that might expose your fibbing. President Bush has left evidence on the White House Web site. There we can see Bush promoting the Patriot Act at an April 2004 appearance in Buffalo, N.Y., and assuring us that his administration does not conduct wiretaps on Americans without court approval.
Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires--a wiretap requires a court order," he says. "Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think `Patriot Act,' constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."
Knowing what we know now, that sounds like the biggest presidential whopper since Bill Clinton denied his indiscretions with an intern.
Two years before Buffalo, Bush authorized the National Security Agency to turn its mighty electronic ears on thousands of phone calls and e-mails between the United States and abroad without bothering to get a warrant. He does not deny violating the now-famous Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. Instead, he argued after the disclosures by The New York Times that he does not have to obey the FISA.
He argues, echoing other presidents, that the special circumstances of the "war on terror" authorize him to take any steps he needs to keep Americans safe. But if the president can do whatever he wants, why do we need a Patriot Act?
Bush was too busy complaining about the "shameful" leak to the Times to answer that question at his media face-off. "The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy," he fumed. Ah, when discussing a well-known security program is "helping the enemy," George Orwell must be spinning in his grave.
Closing the trio is Ronald Allen, a law professor at Northwestern, delves into the myriad constitutional questions raised by the President's usurpations.

The president purports to be searching for information relevant to foreign affairs, but he apparently has authorized highly intrusive searches of citizens in the U.S. He may very well have the inherent authority to do this if Congress does not act, but I am fairly confident that the Supreme Court also would conclude that Congress does indeed have the power to regulate the president in cases like this.
And Congress should make it clear that that is exactly what it intended to do through the adoption of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. This law permits emergency action followed by subsequent notification to the FISA court, and to my knowledge there has not been a single claim that information given to the FISA court has ever leaked or damaged national security.
Moreover, it is obvious that the government is engaged in an ongoing effort to get information and is not acting to stop imminent threats of harm. I applaud these efforts but prefer that the executive branch not exercise its authority answerable only to its own good judgment. That path does indeed lead to tyranny.
Most of all, I applaud the debate that will now occur in the country. Maybe I am wrong in my judgment that subjecting the president's actions to the minimal constraints of FISA wouldn't imperil our national security. If it would, the Bush administration should make that case, and the nation should evaluate it.
The point of all three is clear -- even this President in this environment is not bigger than the Constitution. You would like to think that the controversy surrounding this latest escapade would make that clear to him --- but nobody will be surprised if it doesn't.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Do They Love This?

This may seem like only the latest in a long string of bad stories for the Bush Administration, but isn't it really something else?

Soon after the 9/11 attacks, the President authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to undertake a completely secret and completely illegal program of wiretapping and eavesdropping on Americans thought by the NSA to have some connection with terrorism.

Legal mechanisms have been available for decades to allow this sort of thing, but the President took it upon himself to decide that these mechanisms (involving the issuance of a warrant by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- one which can be obtained rapidly and almost completely without fear of denial) were too unwieldy and could be ignored on the basis of an expansive (and, of course, secret and internal) reading of the Congressional mandate to combat terrorism.

The New York Times actually sat on this story for a year before publishing, and its Publisher and Editor were called in for a face-to-face with Bush at which he requested that they continue that censorship. In the end they did publish the story and the President's response, typically, was to castigate the paper and the unknown functionary who leaked the story.

Quite beyond the continuing story of arrogance and incompetence, though, this latest installment has to beg the question: what is it that we're doing here?

Leaving aside the stunning unreadiness that Katrina brought into sharp relief (not to mention the horribly frightening readiness report issued by the 9/11 commission earlier this month), what does it say when the ultimate answer to Islamofascism is to ignore the very Constitution the President swears to protect and defend? What does it say when the Vice-President, who took the very same oath, claims that only such lawless disregard for civil liberties could have prevented 9/11 (discounting, of course, the possibility that paying attention to their own intelligence briefs might have helped).

In his first address to Congress following the attacks, the President said, "Why do they hate us? ... They hate our freedoms." If their attacks resulted in rapid and secret federal government overrides of our 4th amendment rights, does that please them? If they hate our freedoms, do they love that our reaction to their attacks is to immediately start throwing those freedoms out the window?

Monday, December 19, 2005

SNL Music

So I checked out a 5-disc DVD set from our library, Saturday Night Live: 25 Years of Music. Basically it is what were considered to be the best musical guest shots from 1975 to 2000. This came out a couple of years ago, so I'm way behind the curve, but what the hell.

Right off the bat, there are going to be some quibbles with what is left out, since even at 5-discs we're getting maybe 5% (at best) of what appeared during those years. Off the top of my head, leaving out Devo's 1978 appearance is a travesty, but there you go.

Anyway, some thoughts on what was included:

Patti Smith - "Gloria" - April 17, 1976 - There is nowhere else to start but here. The most incendiary performance I think I've ever seen on TV. There can't be any doubt that the 15-year old me watching in the basement had never, ever seen or heard anything quite like this before.

Who was this person? What was this person? A chick, dressed like a dude, with absolutely no regard for the niceties of presentation that the world expected from its female singers.

Sneering. Strutting. All those things that Mick Jagger had made into a self-parody, but this was real. In April of 1976 I had never heard of the Ramones, CBGB, punk rock or much of anything else, so seeing this was an elemental shock.

Talk about subversive! The opening cry of "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine" was like a gut punch, one that I can still feel to this day. A sneering rebuke of everything I had known to that point in my life.

Watching it now, almost 30 years later, the performance has lost almost none of its power to amaze and astonish. Whatever rock music has become in the interim, this performance is the distillation of what, if anything, has ever made it important.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions - "Radio, Radio" - December 17, 1977 - Probably the most notorious appearance in the show's history. As the story goes, Costello was told not to perform "Radio, Radio," as it was considered too hostile to television's sister media. In response, Costello apparently agreed to perform "Less Than Zero" as his second song ("Watching The Detectives" was played in the first half of the show).

Six seconds into the performance Costello suddenly turns to the band, waving his arms and shouting "stop stop." Turning back to the audience he tells them, "I'm sorry ladies 'n gentlemen, there's no reason to do this song 'ere." Turning again to the unsurprised band he yells, "Radio, Radio" and proceeds to count off the time.

The price of his insubordination was to be banned from the show (at least for 12 years or so) by a supposedly irate Lorne Michaels.

Looking at it now, it all seems a setup.

Clearly the band knew what was coming. No shocked looks, no nervous glances at each other. All very much in the normal course of things. Of course that doesn't necessarily mean that Michaels and NBC were aware of it, but a little free publicity never hurts right?

In any event, the performance is Costello at his angry young man best, and the Attractions are in their typical kickin' form, so the song is notable even without the surrounding controversy.

Talking Heads - "Take Me To The River" - February 10, 1979 - It's funny, but I remember this as being in the fall of 1979 (which would be during the next season), but then they probably wouldn't have played this song then. I thought I remembered watching it in the basement of a house party, but maybe it was a rerun or something.

Anyway, this perfectly captures the band as they made their first tentative steps from jittery and cerebral to jittery, cerebral and funky. The interesting thing is the tempo for the song -- slow. Slower than the record, slower by far than the later live versions that would be captured on Stop Making Sense. Certainly slower than the Rev's original.

But I like it that way.

One of the most annoying tendencies of bands live is to speed up their tempos to breakneck speeds. That's fine if you're the Ramones and that's the only tempo possible, but it's OK for most bands to play songs at the tempos you're used to hearing them at, and at which they can luxuriate in the song a little bit.

By the way, their second song that night was "Artists Only," which I would probably like to see even more than this one.

Rick James - "Super Freak" - November 7, 1981 - One can only guess how many cows died to give their hides to be tanned, dyed and worn on the stage in red and blue leather during this number.

And if you've seen Dave Chappelle's Rick James treatment, you need to know that everyone in the band looked exactly like Rick (Bo Derek hair, dyed leather, etc.) -- except for the Eddie Van Halen clone on guitar, that is.

"Super Freak" featured, of course, a bass line so hot that it made James a fortune, as well as one for MC Hammer. Interestingly, both lost the entirety of those fortunes, and in exactly the same way (providing fodder for his 'n' his versions of Behind The Music).

Duran Duran - "Hungry Like The Wolf" - March 19, 1983 - Okay, you're not going to believe me -- and I barely believe it myself -- but if this performance is to be believed ... these guys were once actually pretty good!

I know, I know, but once you get past the haircuts (which really weren't that bad, this isn't Flock Of Seagulls or anything) and the clothes (which really weren't that bad either) and the synth drums (not too much of those), they could actually play some. They were entertaining, you know?

I guess that's one of the great things about a compilation like this. So much of a band like Duran Duran is based on hazy memories that have been eroded over time on the one hand, and burnished by the accumulated cultural detritus of two decades on the other. The result is an impression that may or may not have anything at all to do with the reality at the time.

I still have a Duran Duran EP in my vinyl collection (and this song is on it), but it's become something of an embarassment over the years. Why the hell would I have ever spent money (or, more likely, traded something else) for something like that?

Seeing this performance now makes me think that maybe I wasn't a complete idiot.

Fine Young Cannibals - "She Drives Me Crazy" - May 13, 1989 - Probably the most minimalist record ever to sell a million copies. Hell, the drummer's kit consisted of a kick drum, a snare & 1 cymbal. That's it.

Of course the best thing about watching them perform (as was the case with The English Beat) is the manic, spastic "dancing" of Andy Cox and David Steele. With their matching pink Fenders and jarhead haircuts (and matching suede jackets -- apparently the forgotten trademark of the band) the pasty duo provided a nice contrast to the suave Roland Gift.

Gift later had something of an acting career, mostly known for playing the jilted boyfriend of Joanne Whalley-Kilmer (or was it Bridget Fonda?) in Scandal.

Man, talk about a matched set (or is that two matched sets?) -- JWK & Bridget Fonda. Damn, is there a hotter pair in the "Where Are They Now?" file?

R.E.M. - "Losing My Religion" - April 13, 1991 - R.E.M. at just about their peak. While Out Of Time was eventually overtaken in memory by Automatic For The People, this song and this point in time was probably the high water mark of the band's popularity -- the point at which they could do no wrong.

As an indication of just how little wrong they could do, consider the fact that Peter Buck spent this appearance making rock moves on a mandolin, even as Michael Stipe, beset by affectation, did him better by wearing a suit made of Federal Express shipping envelopes!

The song is classic R.E.M., though, and no suit is going to change that. One of the band's chief virtues is on display here, and that is the awesome background singing of Mike Mills. While watching this, Noreen brought up the point of how often good songs are made into great songs (and good bands made into great bands) solely by the force of their background singing and harmonies. Chuck Klosterman made much the same point in Fargo Rock City, identifying Michael Anthony's background vocals as Van Halen's secret weapon. I'd have to say that the first time I completely became aware of this phenomenon was The Cars, an album that is surely pushed from good to great by the force of its (heavily processed) background vocals.

Nirvana - "Rape Me" - September 25, 1993 - I suppose what is most notable about the Nirvana slot on the disc is that this was the performance chosen. They had appeared in January, 1992 and performed "Smells Like Teen Spirit," the one you would figure to see here. The choice was instead to go to their In Utero spot, and even there the choice was made to pass on "Heart-Shaped Box."

In any case, "Rape Me" is a most worthy choice, one of many stunners on their best album. The song and performance both feature everything you ever loved about the band: the trademark dynamics from verse to chorus, the thrashing bridge, the beautiful use of feedback, and the (unfortunately) all too prescient doom-filled lyrics.

It's of course impossible to watch this now without wondering what would have become of this man and this band if both had reached the middle-age that Novaselic and Grohl have settled into, each in their own ways. It's hard to imagine that Cobain would ever become a relic, but such is the inevitable way of rock history -- when was the last time you saw Eddie Vedder, anyway -- and don't kid yourself, to be a relic is still preferable to his miserable fate.

Garbage - "Special" - March 20, 1999 - You may not agree, but it's impossible for me to name a sexier frontwoman than Shirley Manson.

Whatever else you want to say about this band, you have to give them credit for getting this part right.

Anyway, my opinion, after examining the issue at length and from all angles, is that the woman likes sex.

Oh, and the song is pretty good, too.

Beck - "Where It's At" - January 11, 1997 - So the discussion Noreen and I had while watching this was, "is Beck the white Prince?"
  • James Brown fixation? Check.
  • Dance moves? Mmmm, sorta check.
  • Polyglot styles? Check.
  • Mega output? In the ballpark check.
  • Short? Double check.
Alright, so he comes up a little short (snicker). Well who wouldn't?

Backstreet Boys - "All I Have To Give" - May 15, 1999 - Guilty pleasure? Hell yeah! Very guilty!

No question about it, it's lame, but I dig the harmonies. The oldest shtick in the book, of course -- five guys standing around harmonizing is as old as the streets of Philly -- but that doesn't make it any less appealing. It ain't Patti Smith, it ain't Kurt Cobain, but it has its place.

And say what you will, but these guys can sing.

Unless they're lip-synching.

Aw, crap. Nah.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Wow! Now THAT DIDN'T Suck!

Back from a depression-filled week of moaning about that Indiana debacle -- I really do take these things wayyy to seriously you know.

After their own week off, the Cats were back in action yesterday vs. The Great Satan® in Rupp Arena.

The normally sedate crowd was in full throat throughout, and the goings-on couldn't have been further from last Saturday's if they were held on Uranus ... er, Pluto.

Led by the rapier-like Rajon Rondo, the Cats dismantled the other Red Menace 73-61 in a game that (as is often the case with Tubby's teams) wasn't that close. Louisville may well be one of the better teams in the country eventually, but yesterday they looked thoroughly pedestrian -- mediocre, even.

For their part, the Cats played with some intensity, and the difference showed. It appears (and newspaper accounts agree) that Rondo has been given both greater latitude and greater responsibility by the Coach. This is both appropriate and necessary, as #4 has the ability to break down defenses on his own (and did so repeatedly against the Ville yesterday). 25 points and 7 assists attest to the soundness of the idea. Include an increasingly rejuvenated Joe Crawford (whose monster dunk brought the house down early in the second half), and you have a game in which the Cats never trailed, and led most of the game by double-digits.

The (most recent) outcome of the Morris Randolph saga took some of the importance of this game away. Prior to that, I had it in mind that this was almost certainly the most important December game in the 30 years I've been a Kentucky fan. Without Morris, and given last week's horrific display, a poor effort vs. TGS® may well have been a pair of cement shoes on the season.

Randolph's return in January now means that the true measure of the team is still a ways in the offing -- which is only as it should be. A meaningful December game is a magnificent rarity -- a Nessie still waiting to be glimpsed, an Alabaman still waiting to be probed by some curious extraterrestrial. His insertion (alright, I'll stop with this now) back into the lineup will give opponents one more threat to ignore as they try to deal with Rajon's drives.

What a difference a week makes. All is well again in Wildcat Country.

At least for now.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Wow! Now THAT Sucked!

The Wildcats took a header off the RCA Dome yesterday, immolating themselves (how's that for a mixed metaphor?) by shooting 2-for-27 from 3-point range on the way to their worst loss since 1989 (the fifth worst in the last half-century) -- 79-53 to Indiana.

There's not much to be said about it other than this team sucks right now. No offense (31% shooting overall, 4 assists/19 turnovers -- I can't even believe that one!), and no defense (53% shooting for Indiana) equals a team with absolutely nothing going for it.

What's worse, those stats don't even begin to tell the story of how bad they look. No fire, no hustle, no movement, no toughness, no clue.

I'm not sure what Tubby can or will do with these guys at this point to keep this from turning into a truly disastrous season. Some version of a pressing smallball team seems about the only possibility. There is just no way this team can beat a good team in a traditional half-court game, but I don't know if Tubby is capable of coaching a more wide-open team -- especially on the fly in the middle of the season.

Did You See Us?

Noreen, Cait & I answered pledge phones (Tess was deemed too young to answer the phone, but helped by collecting pledge cards) for Channel 11 last night as part of a group from her company.

We each got a little face time on screen and had a good time doing it. Of course perhaps the most fun was getting home and watching ourselves (I TIVOed it, of course). It was probably the only time someone FF'd through the programming to get to the pledge segments.

Come to think of it, the programming was probably the biggest reason why you didn't see us -- specials from Andre Rieu (don't worry, I've never heard of him either) and John Denver.

Not great.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Most Recent iTunes Random Plays

  • Temporary Like Achilles - Bob Dylan
  • Delirious - Prince
  • The Winter Rush - Some By Sea
  • Spin The Bottle - The Juliana Hatfield Three
  • Dancing Machine - The Jackson 5
  • Shipbuilding - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  • Vapor Trail - The Crystal Method
  • Two Headed Fight - Young Fresh Fellows
  • Epic - Faith No More
  • King Of Birds - R.E.M.
  • Why'd You Want To Live Here - Death Cab For Cutie
  • Lullaby - The Cure
  • In My Mind - fiREHOSE
  • Here I Am (Come And Take Me) - Al Green
  • Stacked Crooked - The New Pornographers

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Other Contest

Since the weather has turned cold I've been running on a treadmill instead of outside. Lately I've been watching Seinfeld episodes while running, and this classic exchange from "The Nose Job" was on:

Jerry: Please, please, Isabel? She is the most despicable woman I have ever met in my life. I have never been so repulsed by someone mentally and so attracted to them physically at the same time. It's like my brain is facing my penis in a chess game. And I'm letting him win.

George: You're not letting him win. He wins till you're forty.

Jerry: Then what?

George: He still wins but it's not a blowout.

At the time, George was not over forty. I am. Believe me, it's still a blowout. Brain has yet to even beat the spread.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


David Brooks is sure that the Bush Administration finally knows what it's doing.

The president's Annapolis speech last week marks the start of the third phase of the Bush administration's efforts to function amid the fog of the Iraq war. John Burns and Dexter Filkins wrote that the speech was a watershed; for once the Iraq Bush described matched the Iraq his generals confront every day. ...

Now when you ask administration officials about how the Iraqi government is doing, you get complex and informative answers...

When you ask about the Sunnis, you also get answers that acknowledge the contradictory nature of reality. ...

There's also more internal debate. For example, some administration officials believe primordial sectarian passions threaten to rip Iraq apart. Others believe that Iraqi politics are sectarian but that Iraqi society is not so bitterly divided.

I still wouldn't say deliberation is this administration's strong suit. ...

But just as our troops and the Iraqis have learned to fight better, the White House has learned to think and communicate better.
All this comes, mind you, nearly three years into a war they had been planning for a year prior to that!

Nearly three years into this godforsaken mess and they appear to have no more idea of what is driving the people in the country they invaded than they did when the tanks rolled in.

But it's not Bush's fault:
... a bewildered newcomer to the Bush administration interrupted an interview to ask me why I thought there was such a big difference between the probing and realistic President Bush he would see in the Oval Office, and the pat and repetitive Bush he would see at press conferences and on TV.
You see? The dumsquizzled look and the unresponsive rote non-answer answers were merely a clever ruse, meant to hide the sizzling intellect and keep the everyman facade in place. Reminds me of the Saturday Night Live routine where Phil Hartman played Reagan as the amiable dolt in public, but the razor-sharp super genius out of the public eye.

Only that was meant as comedy.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Ummmm, WTF?!?!

Our current Representative in Congress (IL-8th) is Melissa Bean, that rarest of all breeds, a Democrat from a heavily Republican District. She gained her seat by beating Phil Crane, a 74-year old 30+ year Congressional vet who had generally become regarded as out of touch with his constituents, if not reality.

Her tenure in Washington has been generally non-descript, as you might imagine from a backbencher in an all but completely negated minority party. Her only vote of any notoriety was her "Yes" vote on the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which has earned her no small amount of enmity from organized labor (such as it exists in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago).

All of which means that the Illinois 8th is at the top of the list of districts in play in the 2006 election -- one of only a few dozen such districts nationally. This in turn means that we've been getting Republican campaign literature in the mail for months (the Illinois primary is in March).

Normally I immediately throw these out, but I got one today that absolutely caught my eye -- probably not for the reasons intended by the candidate.

Someone named Kathy Salvi is among the phalanx of Republicans vying for the seat, and this arrived in the mail today (click to enlarge):

Now, leaving aside the fact that Hillary Clinton is hardly a "liberal," couldn't they have found a picture of her dated sometime later than 1992? Governor Rod Blagojevich is not exactly popular these days, so I can see that, but I have no idea in the world who the guy in the lower left hand corner is -- Dick Durbin, maybe?

But the star of the show has to be this guy (please click to enlarge):

What the .....?

This is supposed to be...what? The typical Melissa Bean voter? Her congressional advisor? Abbie Hoffman?

What kills me is that someone in the Salvi "campaign" looked at this and said "Yes, that's our message! THAT will get us to Washington!"

I guess what would be worse is the someone who would look at it and decide, "THAT is who I have to vote for!"