Thursday, June 30, 2005

Got 10 minutes to kill?

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Credit: Jacob

(And no, I don't have a clue who Cameron is. It just reminded me of "Save Ferris".)

Edit: Now that I'm slightly more coherent, I get the parallel between Ferris and Cameron. "When Cameron was in Egypt land, let my Cameron go..."

Slapping my forehead two times too many

I have smacked my forehead twice over the past couple of days, and I wanted to share these moments of human stupidity.

The first was before a "Simpsons" episode on Sunday (which I taped and didn't watch until Tuesday). It was a rerun of an episode I saw a few months ago, in which Springfield tries to gain prestige by legalizing same sex marriage, and Homer, of course, tries to capitalize on the church's refusal to perform them. Before the episode was a parental advisory, as often appears before "South Park" and "Family Guy". However, this disclaimer was like none I had seen before.

It read: "The following episode contains discussions of same sex marriage. Viewer discretion is advised."


The stupidity of the disclaimer exists on multiple levels. Among them:

  • The episode merely contains "discussions" of gay marriage. Not an endorsement. Certainly not an ending in which the entire town of Springfield rejects the notion that the United States has true freedom and starts singing "O Canada" (and yes, that did happen). Canada, incidentally, is moving to recognize same sex marriage (according to The Washington Post, among others).
  • The people who most need to listen to a frank discussion of same sex marriage, even a humorous and ridiculous one, are the people most likely to turn off the television after reading the advisory.
  • Where was this disclaimer before the Republican National Convention and Dubya's last two State of the Union speeches? Oh, maybe "discussions of same sex marriage" are okay as long as they are one-sided and narrowly focused on defining gays as second-class citizens. Yeah, that must be it.

Wow, I got more riled up about that than I expected to. But those who know me can probably understand why. Anyway, on to the second "D'oh!" moment of the past few days (not related to "The Simpsons").

As I was driving north last night for my weekly dollar pints at Two Rows, I noticed a sign on the side of the highway: "To report drunk driving, dial *DWI".

There are several problems with this one as well. First, how can your average person really spot a drunk driver? Especially around here, where no one signals while switching lanes, red lights are purely advisory, and

Second, when there's a drunk driver on the road, do we really need to add to that another driver trying to spell "DWI" on his cell phone? I mean, sure, it's cute and it's easy to remember, but at least offer the numbers on the sign. Don't make some poor guy going 60 crash while he's searching for the key that has the "W".

Anyway, that's my completely irrelevant rant of the hour. Perhaps I'll be back with something worthwhile soon.

Final note: at the behest of Aaron, I have added a counter to the bottom of my blog to track how many people visit. Whether this will have horrible lasting effects on my self esteem remains to be seen.

Song lyric of the day:
"Now I know I should say no
But it's kinda hard when she's ready to go
I may be dumb but I'm not a dweeb
I'm just a sucker with no self esteem"
- the Offspring, Self Esteem

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Eminent domain, imminent doom

I don't want to say much on the Supreme Court's recent ruling in Kelo v. New London that essentially gives the government the right to confiscate privately-owned land and use it for its own purposes, under the guise of the public good. Knowing little about the decision beyond what I've read in the papers and seen on TV, [which may have been distorted by liberal media (suppressed laughter)], I doubt I have much to contribute.

What irritates me is how the Justices voted, and what it means for the modern definitions of "liberal" and "conservative". In an editorial yesterday, conservative columnist George Will (who, while often insightful, should still stick with baseball) writes about how the Court's ruling represents a triumph for liberals everywhere.

I would really suggest Will meet and actually talk to some liberals sometime. Because the most liberal people I know, among them Jeff and Ben, are appalled by the decision. I, a social radical and economic moderate, agree with them.

This is an interesting turn of events: I never thought I would agree with Clarence Thomas and William Rehnquist on anything. And then, first pro-medical marijuana and now anti-eminent domain, and suddenly I'm about to call them liberal, while Will maintains that their actions are conservative. Whose definition is the right one? Classically, these votes would be conservative in nature, but in the modern sense of the word, the conservative vote would be against medical marijuana (boo personal privacy) and in favor of eminent domain (yay corporations). As the great Homer Simpson once emoted, "I'm living in a cuckoo clock!"

And yes, the title of this post is over-dramatized. I just like the play on words.

Song lyric of the day:
"What's this you say? You feel a right to remain?
Then stay and I will bury you
What's that you say? Your father's spirit still lives in this place?
Well, I will silence you"
- Dave Matthews Band, Don't Drink the Water

Monday, June 20, 2005

There's hope yet...

As many of you know, I am always on the lookout for "well duh" or "no shit" headlines or articles in newspapers, as they amuse me immensely. Today's Houston Chronicle featured one sentence in the Entertainment section that struck me as such. The article was entitled, "Events transform a teen in Lubbock" and it was about an upcoming documentary on PBS that chronicles a group of teens in Lubbock, Texas as they push for better sex education. One girl, Shelby Knox, a conservative Christian, stood out among that group of teens, and the documentary focuses on her, depicting the process that led to her finally getting it.

The "well duh" or "no shit" sentence was this: "Although the area's high schools teach abstinence-only sex education, Lubbock has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in the country."

Proponents of abstinence-only education have long been missing the point: no one is pushing your children into the bed. In fact, if anyone is pushing them, it's the parents who are repressing them by demanding such a myopic curriculum. But for the most part, it's just pure adolescence: nervous experimentation, a search for new modes of expression. Kids are going to have sex. It's up to parents and schools to ensure that kids know how to protect themselves in the process, and make wise choices. The Texas Board of Education is not doing a particularly good job of helping either cause, as documented in a brilliant post on November 13, 2004.

And then you have this Shelby Knox girl. Raised Southern Baptist, she intends to wait until her wedding night before engaging in intercourse. A noble goal, held by many more of our generation than you might think (particularly as 15-year-olds - of course many of us grow out of it, but still). So how can a conservative Christian, a proponent of abstinence, push for comprehensive sex ed? Because she gets it. She, unlike so many of her sheltered contemporaries, understands that the key to solving the problems of unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STDs is to make sure that people are aware of all their options. Certainly, abstinence is one. But there are plenty of others that those with less willpower, or stronger appetites, should be aware of. People have needs, dammit.

Seriously, though, it's refreshing to hear about people whose desire for a conservative lifestyle for themselves don't begrudge others their more liberated lifestyles. Especially for someone who kinda lies in between. Anyway, that was my somewhat serious, somewhat amusing thought for the day.

Song lyric of the day:
"I find a fatal flaw in the logic of love
And go out of my head
You love a sinking stone that'll never elope
So get used to the lonesome"
- the Shins, Gone for Good

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A memory lane, everybody wants one...

A mostly boring day concluded with a conversation with my old friend Ricky from high school. We were best friends in high school and still manage to chat periodically, as schedules allow. This time, like most times, we spent a lot of time reminiscing and discussing what we'd heard about people from our common past. Sadly, this time he was telling me about who was married.

Now granted, I am very much in favor of settling down quickly once you find the right one, but is it really possible that so many people have found that one already? Especially when I haven't even been close? Studies show that apparently our generation is getting married at later ages than the previous one, so why does it feel like in a year I'll be the only swinging bachelor left?

Anyway, ranting aside, it's always good to reminisce. Occasionally I wonder how life would have been different had I been able to stay in Virginia, near all my friends from high school. I certainly wouldn't have lost touch with so many people, as I have now. I would have been able to make it to the 5-year reunion, and gotten drunk and hit on all the girls I was too scared to approach back in high school. I guess, as the song I was just playing a little earlier says, "It's crazy what you could have had..." (Bonus points to whoever correctly guesses the song.)

Oh well, all those what ifs get you nowhere. They're kinda fun, and kinda tragic too. Like life.

Also, sorry for misquoting Pavement, I'll leave with some of the real lyrics...

Song lyric of the day:
"A shady lane, everybody needs one
Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God
Oh my God, oh your God, oh his God, oh her God
It's everybody's God..."
- Pavement, Shady Lane

Friday, June 17, 2005

The power and beauty of film

You'll have to pardon me for a moment as I indulge in some probably self-righteous expounding on, as the title suggests, the power and beauty of film.

Tonight, I was watching one of my favorite movies of all time with my parents because my father had only seen it once on an airplane with the sound off. He remained convinced that he had gotten the gist of it, whereas I insisted that he needed to see it for real. This is largely because the movie was "Almost Famous", a 2000 Cameron Crowe film about a fictional 70s rock band. For those of you who haven't seen the movie you must, because in addition to representing the tremendous impact a movie can have, it also demonstrates the tremendous power of music. ("What do you like about music?" the main character asks the lead guitarist. "To begin with," he replies: "Everything.")

Anyway, I felt an interesting sensation as we shut off the movie, one that I've felt many times before but never been able to put my finger on before now. I think the sensation can best be described as, coming back down to Earth. Because what a truly great movie does is suck you in, getting you so wrapped up in its characters and plots and themes that you forget everything else. Suddenly, as the credits begin to roll, it spits you back out again, and you begin to feel (at least I do) a certain dread and anxiety about the world you are returning to, after feeling so at home in the fictional world of the movie. It's a terrible and fantastic sensation. And very little besides the movies can generate such feelings.

Of course, few movies incite us to feel this way, maybe at most one or two per year. In addition to "Almost Famous", I'll list a few other such films here for your consideration: "American Beauty", "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", "Forrest Gump", "Adaptation".

While we're on the subject of movies, I saw "Batman Begins" the other night, and would have to say it's one of the better comic book movies out there, up with Tim Burton's original "Batman" if not even better. Christian Bale does an excellent job as the protagonist, Gary Oldman is great as Sgt. Gordon, Cillian Murphy is deliciously psychotic as Scarecrow, and Liam Neeson is, well, Liam Neeson. The action serves the story rather than the other way around, and the film is far more developed than most of its genre. A solid 8.5/10.

Now if you'll excuse me, "Almost Famous" has inspired me to play some Zeppelin.

Song lyric of the day:
"Measuring a summer's day
I only find it slips away to gray
The hours, they bring me pain
Tangerine, tangerine
Living reflection from a dream..."
- Led Zeppelin, Tangerine

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Concert review: Music Midtown

Until last Thursday, I was unsure whether I would be able to escape to Atlanta for the weekend to see Music Midtown with Ben, Jeff, and Dan, but as it turns out, I made it. While the lineup this year was not nearly as solid as those in years past, there were some excellent performances.

I pulled in on Friday and hauled ass from Marta to the show, making it just in time to catch the beginning of Interpol's show. Their performance was decent enough but (as you might expect) centered around the new album "Antics", which I have heard all of once. The only songs from "Turn On the Bright Lights" played were "Obstacle 1", "P.D.A.", and "Say Hello to the Angels". I was amused that during "P.D.A.", the couple directly in front of me was engaging in some extreme P.D.A. themselves (continuing the trend of me always getting stuck behind a facsimile of the most annoying couple in the world at every concert I go to). All in all, their show was okay but nothing impressive. I was disappointed that "N.Y.C." did not make an appearance. If nothing else, the show helped me realize how much lead singer Paul Banks sounds like Fred Schneider of B-52s fame.

After Interpol came the White Stripes, who put on an energetic, chaotic and very rewarding show. Jack White proved himself to be a bad-ass guitarist, playing some crazy improv riffs. Meg White leaned her head back and kept her eyes closed as she drummed, creating the illusion that she was asleep as she wailed on the snare with particular intensity. They roped me in immediately by opening with "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" and then ripped through a set that sounded as if they were making it up as they went along (they probably were). In the end, I was impressed at the fullness of the sound and the energy created by merely two people. If not for the following day, they no doubt would have been the highlight. But they had competition.

Saturday brought with it some artists I had only passing knowledge of, and others that I just about knew every word to every song. In the former category, the first was Bloc Party. Their performance, while not remarkable, was thoroughly enjoyable. The second was Keane, who invite comparisons to Coldplay like guests to a wedding. For example, the keyboard player had a similar style of rocking out in his seat, just as Chris Martin does. I only got to hear half of their set though, because the 96 Rock Stage awaited with its promise of two stellar shows, a promise I hoped would not be broken.

It wasn't. The first performer of the evening was John Fogerty, former lead singer of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Many would scoff and wonder how a rocker of fairly advanced age such as Fogerty can still rock out. Those people have not seen him live. He roamed around stage and sang and played guitar with energy befitting a 30-year-old, not a 60-year-old. He played every CCR song I could think of, opening with "Travelin' Band" and closing with "Fortunate Son" ("Who'll Stop the Rain?" was particularly ironic since it was pouring at the time). He also threw in solo favorites such as "Centerfield" along the way. For an encore he played "Bad Moon Rising" (complete with distinctly singing "bathroom on the right" in the final rendition of the chorus) and finished up with "Proud Mary". The chance to see such an experienced rocker, who had penned so many gems over the ages, lived up to and even exceeded expectations.

And then, following Fogerty was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, another performance that bordered on religious experience. Obviously, I did not expect them to play all of my favorites ("Learning to Fly" and "The Waiting" were glaring omissions) but the performance was stellar nonetheless. For example, I did not expect the band to play "Don't Come Around Here No More", and I got really excited when I heard them launch into it. I also screamed with joy when Tom said, "This next song goes out to all the Traveling Wilburys" and proceeded to play "Handle With Care". Thankfully, my two favorites "Free Fallin'" and "I Won't Back Down" made the set list, as did "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and "You Don't Know How it Feels". He also covered Dylan's "Rainy Day Women" as an encore. In short, there were plenty of marijuana references. Jeff swears he got a contact high at the show. The high I was on, on the other hand, was at simply having witnessed it. An unbelievable show. (Incidentally, they opened with "Listen to her Heart" and closed with "Running Down a Dream").

From there, of course, there was really only one way to go, and our interest in Sunday's lineup was fleeting at best. Jeff and Ben really wanted to go see Tegan and Sara, a sister duo with a backup band. They put on an enjoyable show, with some rather amusing stage banter. I would imagine comparisons to the Indigo Girls would be accurate, but I'm not really familiar with the Indigo Girls either. They were followed by Coheed and Cambria. I was somehow the only person in our group who had heard "A Favor House Atlantic", and their performance of that was rather shoddy. Afterwards, we just decided to leave, not really caring about the remainder of the bands in the lineup. The only reason I would go to see Devo or Def Leppard would be to say I saw them, unless I thought Def Leppard might play "From the Inside", which I'm sure they didn't.

Besides, we wanted to get back to Dan's place so we could have an Unexpectedly Sober reunion jam session. We dragged my friend Bob along to play bass with us, and had a fun jam session, going over some of our own original favorites ("Littleton", "Island", "Every Refrain", "Start") as well as a few covers (U2's "One" and "Running Down a Dream" in honor of our Tom Petty experience). All in all, it was an awesome weekend.

Tonight, I will hopefully be viewing "Batman Begins", for which I will post a review at some point. I know I promised a review of "Episode III", and I actually began one, before realizing it was going to be way too long and not all that interesting. In short, while it was a flawed movie, it still makes the first two prequels better, and casts a new light on the original trilogy. A success overall, and a 9.5/10.

Song lyric of the day:
"Get over regrets
While you were sleeping with angels, he was under the bed
And the more skin that you shed
The more that the air in your throat will linger when you call him your friend"
- Toad the Wet Sprocket, Crowing

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

My return, and a brief word on stem cells

Well, I am back. Having spent the last month in Nashville and Virginia, my loyal reader (readers?) will hopefully understand that my updates have been few and far between. After all, I spent slightly less time sober than your typical alcoholic. But now I am hydrated, and daily blogging (yet again) recommences.

One noteworthy event that occurred during my absence was that the House voted in favor of increasing U.S. government funding of embryonic stem-cell research. President Bush has vowed to exercise his veto power for the first time during his presidency, and Congress will likely not have the votes to override. Unless, of course, monumental scientific evidence revealing that, oh I don't know, maybe that THE EMBRYOS CREATED HAVE NO CHANCE OF EVER BECOMING HUMAN LIFE ANYWAY. Regardless, it's currently being held up in the Senate.

A note to Dubya: if you do veto this, you have forever categorized yourself as a hypocrite. Aren't you the same man who was blathering on about this whole "culture of life" thing just a few months ago? And yet you would refuse to support something with the potential to save thousands? I'm not trying to say that stem-cell research is the end-all, be-all (as many pro-research activists seem to think). But at least give science a chance!

As for the other issue, of whether government should even fund this kind of research, I look forward to my libertarian friends' comments.

Song lyric of the day:
"I guess I should be ashamed
But I forget to be vain
I did the best I could I guess
But everything just bleeds
They say you're only sad and lonely
And no one is impressed"
- the Wallflowers, Bleeders