Saturday, July 30, 2005

In defense of a pro-life stance

Senator Bill Frist, the Republican from Tennessee who lost so much of my respect for testing the water for President Bush on the Federal Marriage Amendment, and then lost more for his "diagnosis" of Terri Schiavo, has gained a little of it back. Yesterday, the majority leader flip-flopped (in other words, actually changed his opinion on something after developing his knowledge - still don't understand why that's a bad thing) and reversed his opinion on stem-cell research, saying that the federal government should fund such research and urging President Bush to reverse his stance.

Of course, he's receiving much criticism from pro-lifers across the country. My favorite quote is from Reverend Patrick Mahoney, the director of the Christian Defense Coalition, who stated, "Senator Frist cannot have it both ways. He cannot be pro-life and pro-embryonic stem-cell funding."

Well Reverend, I've got news for you: being pro-embryonic stem-cell research is about as pro-life as you can get. I have no idea what kinds of cures and medical developments stem-cell research may yield. It may yield none. I don't care. I have witnessed too many people in pain, heard about too many people dying from various diseases, to not be emphatically in favor of trying something, anything, with even a modicum of potential to reduce suffering.

So Senator Frist, I salute you for coming back from the dark side and supporting stem-cell research. And President Bush, Reverend Mahoney, and others, I refer you to a previous post to enlighten you as to why your viewpoint is anti-life.

Song lyric of the day:
"I was just guessing at numbers and figures
Pulling the puzzles apart
Questions of science and progress
Could not speak as loud as my heart"
- Coldplay, The Scientist

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Houston we have liftoff

Reporting from one of maybe three households that actually watches the NASA channel for shuttle updates, I am proud to say that all systems are nominal for the return-to-space flight of the shuttle Discovery. It's been an interesting ride since that phone call at 8 AM on February 1, 2003 when my mother woke up a still-slightly-drunk me to inform me that Columbia had crashed. I'm not the praying type, of course, but the brave astronauts aboard Discovery will be in my thoughts and prayers over the next two weeks. God speed, Discovery!

Song lyric of the day:
"I could never be Neil Armstrong
I'd be the last man on the moon"
- SR-71, Last Man on the Moon

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Songs the radio butchers

For no particular reason (other than that Aaron and I were venting about it this evening) I feel like writing a random rant about how the radio makes some odd choices on editing certain popular songs. I'm not just referring to the obvious "fucks" and "shits" that the FCC bans; there are other less necessary modifications made to many songs that more or less destroys them.

  • Third Eye Blind, Semi-Charmed Life - the best part of this song, the bridge that begins "And when the plane came in, she said she was crashing", is consistently removed when this song is played on the radio. Personally, I don't get it. The song is only 3 and a half minutes long anyway. Why deprive listeners of the crux of the ditty?
  • Everlast, What It's Like - okay, I think we all know this song becomes Swiss cheese when it hits airwaves. Horrible words such as "whore" and "chrome .45" are removed, and along with them goes any hint of the song's message.
  • Green Day, American Idiot - it's only one word, but the lyric "maybe I'm the faggot America" is the most powerful of the song, defiantly shouting against the "redneck agenda" that seeks to classify part of the country as second-class citizens.
  • Snow Patrol, Run - again, small beef, but the "slower, slower" verse is the best in the song in my opinion and for some reason they always skip straight to the "have heart my dear" verse. Can we not spare 20 extra seconds of air time?
  • and as for NIN's Closer, Disturbed's Liberate, and Rage's Killing in the Name, why even bother?

I guess what I'm saying is, to all you radio gods: play a song as it was meant to be played, or just don't play it.

On a totally unrelated note, I saw a huge fire in a building off I-45 on the way home tonight. I had never seen a building ablaze before; it was oddly beautiful in that way that nature has of making destruction look vibrant. I wonder if there will be any further information in tomorrows Chronicle.

Update: Jeff reminded me of some other songs also inexplicably altered by the radio, most notably the Wallflowers' Sixth Avenue Heartache, where they remove the second verse, thus rendering the fourth completely nonsensical. More minor offenses include Barenaked Ladies' Pinch Me*, which is usually missing its kickass outro solo, and Collective Soul's The World I Know, which thankfully is merely restructure but for the most part retains its awesomeness. To these three excellent songs I must add an extremely poor one, made even poorer by the removal of its one remotely clever line: when radio stations play Cowboy by Kid Rock, they edit the lyric "I'm gonna paint the town red, and paint his wife white" by removing "white" (perhaps the only time in broadcast history that word has needed editing). A really bad song made even worse by unneeded editing.

* The lyrics provided include tongue-in-cheek promo material spliced into the song by Steven Page and Tyler Stewart. It's pretty amusing.

Song lyric of the day:
"We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we're trying to fight it"
- Billy Joel

Friday, July 22, 2005

All I can do is laugh about it

Eventually, you just reach a point where all you can do is burst out laughing at the thought that some people are actually serious.

Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo (who, if you can't figure it out from his statement, is a Republican) made some remarks on a talk show on WFLA in Orlando, to the effect of "we should threaten to bomb Mecca". Yes. Bomb Mecca. For those of you who don't know, Mecca is the holiest site of the (largely peace-loving) Islam religion, the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed. One of the five pillars of Islam is the Hajj, which is an annual pilgrimage to that very site. In short, the idea of us bombing it is a very big deal.

Please note, the link I provided is to, which gives the entire context of the remarks, making them seem slightly less insane. I understand his point, of course: if Muslim extremists threaten us with nuclear detonation, we would need to respond in some manner. But surely, by now any politician should know that such a quote would be taken out of context. Then again, let's consider it in context: a small subgroup of Muslims carries out a horrendous act (or threatens one), so we respond by destroying (or threatening to destroy) a holy shrine of Islam, thus pissing off the 99% of Muslims who actually practice what the religion preaches beyond one or two lines about infidels, and causing many of them to shift their focus away from the larger messages of the Quran to those lines. Brilliant! As Leonard Pitts points out in an article on the subject, "Osama bin Laden would thank us for writing his recruitment material."

This is all too confusing. The main problem with Tancredo's comments is it casts the war on terror as a war on Islam. And that's precisely the point we need to make abundantly clear: it is not.

Song lyric of the day:
"Save me from myself
Turn around, throw it all away
Turn around until it all breaks down
To the fields of falling angels"
- Sponge, Fields

Monday, July 18, 2005

New additions to the blogroll

A couple new blogroll additions I wanted to point out:

First, David Barzelay, my successor as Editor-in-Chief of The Slant and all-around good guy. His ambitions turned the little humor mag that could into (arguably) the most popular publication on campus. Though The Hustler might have been saved by the crossword.

Secondly, a friend of mine who wishes to blog anonymously (let's hope that's still possible on the Internet), so I have her permission to refer to her as "random hot girl I know in Kentucky". Hmmm... suddenly I know what my song lyric is going to be. Anyway, she's just starting out, but she promises to be more diligent than, say, me.

Finally, I blogrolled Gaurav Guliani a while back and didn't give him a proper shout-out. Gaurav was the illustrious drummer for Jimmy B and the Fortune 500 and helped me survive one or two English classes in undergrad. I'm still in debt to him for letting me know the proper due date for our Brit Lit final, so I figure this is the least I can do.

Anyway, check out these new additions to this odd little blog community. I'm out, for now.

Song lyric of the day:
"He tells me a story about some girl he knows in Kentucky
He just made that story up
There ain't no girl like that"
- John Mellencamp, Key West Intermezzo

(But really, she does exist - this song just always pops in my mind when girls and Kentucky are involved.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Guest blogging

In an effort to provide the illustrious Aaron Coyner with an unbiased review of the new Audioslave album "Out of Exile", I am guest-blogging on his blog. (It sounds more sophisticated than it really is. I doubt I'll ever reach the level of sophistication of soon-to-be professional blogger Jacob Grier.) You can read the review here.

Song lyric of the day:
"When life comes alive
The past moves aside
No regrets and no remorse
We'll squeeze the blood out of life"
- Audioslave, Yesterday to Tomorrow

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Farley, you're still wrong

Bear with me, this is gonna be a long one. It is leading somewhere though.

During my stay at Vanderbilt, there were certainly a few race-related incidents. And in an ironic twist, I was actually against the extreme liberal side in most of them.

First was the whole incident with the Homecoming Court in 2001, the female side of which contained only caucasian faces. There was a protest march to Kirkland Tower and a huge hubbub. In the end, the man crowned king was a minority, and the girl crowned queen, who I believe would be technically classified as a dwarf, was in a greater minority than African-Americans, Hispanics, or even Arab-Americans in this country. But then what do I know?

Then of course there was the bathroom graffiti laced with racial epithets (the n-word and so forth) found on the 10th floor of Towers or some b.s. like that. Boy did that ever cause a fracas. Never mind that the word "fag" has been written on a stall on the main floor of the Stevenson Math Building since my freshman year. I assume it's still there. And yet the gay community didn't get in an uproar over that one. Nevertheless, it spawned the infamous "Anti-Hate: Not In My Community" campaign whose double negative was an endless source of amusement. It also inspired an Unexpectedly Sober song called "Never Again".

Perhaps the most well-known incident was the debate over the name change of Confederate Memorial Hall to simply Memorial Hall. Okay. Works for me. As my great U.S. History teacher Philip Bigler once commented, "If you change the name, you change the reality." The Daughters of the Confederacy (and presumably the Sons, Fathers, Cousins, etc.) were not pleased with the name change. Voicing a counterargument in favor of the name change was a math professor named Jonathan Farley. He wrote a rather infamous article in The Tennessean (reprint shown here) in which he made some good points and some not-so-good ones. My very good friend and renowned roommate Jeff Woodhead, in an article commemorating the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, decried some of Farley's not-so-good points as violent in nature.

Okay, by now you're all probably wondering, "why in the hell is he writing about all this stuff?" Well, almost 3 years after this incident, Dr. Farley is back, according to Jeff's post yesterday afternoon. He is calling for Jeff to retract his statements in January of 2003. Jeff, in response, is laughing that famous laugh of his. As always, we can't help but join in.

Dr. Farley is guilty in his article of over-generalizing, and as we all know, broad sweeping generalizations never work. Listen to his words: "Here is how one slave owner exercised his 'rights'" (emphasis added). Thank you Dr. Farley, for demonstrating that certain slave owners were assholes. I would be willing to bet that the same slave owner didn't fire a single shot for the Confederacy. Most of the soldiers didn't own slaves - they were too poor for that. One of such soldier would be my own great-great-great-grandfather, who died fighting for what he believed was a just cause. (Incidentally, why don't presidents fight the war? Why do we always send the poor? Good questions, System of a Down.)

Do I think the Confederacy was right? Of course not. But I think President Lincoln's plan of amnesty would have worked far better than what we ended up with (damn you, John Wilkes Booth). Far better than what Farley proposes.

Professor, you might be interested to know that I too had a habit of flipping off dirty ol' Nathan with his crazy tongue as I drove up north 65. I even shifted into the right lane to do so, so that no driver would misconstrue my gesture. I too am angry at the atrocities many white men inflicted upon your race over the generations. I choose to rebel against their attitudes by looking upon you not as African-American, but simply American, or even better, simply human. At least I try my damnedest to.

I understand, Dr. Farley, that there have been several hateful comments printed against you. I wish I could expunge them all, but we have this pesky little thing called free speech. I respect you for exercising yours, for standing up and voicing a rather unpopular opinion. However, I would appreciate it if you would acknowledge Jeff's right to have exercised his. Also, try to recognize the difference between when your article is cited to arouse hatred, and when it is used to promote peace and harmony.

Jeff doesn't ask you to retract your comments. He acknowledges and refutes them. Extend him the same courtesy.

Song lyric of the day:
"What happens next?
I'm so perplexed
How we can rise
When we can't look past our eyes..."
- Unexpectedly Sober, Never Again

Friday, July 08, 2005

We will never surrender

I desperately want to write about the bombings in London yesterday. I want to have something to say that hasn't been said before, but nothing springs to mind. Every time terrorism strikes, whether it be a car bomb in Baghdad, a slow genocide in Sudan, or a coordinated attack on London's transit system, I am reminded of one universal truth: killing people is not cool.

I do want to say, for the record, that Britain has been a great ally and trustworthy friend to these United States, and that I only hope that we can afford them the same in return.

Bob and Jacob both have far more eloquent things to say about what happened in London yesterday.

So many song lyrics spring to mind today, so I want to give honorable mention to Stroke 9's "Little Black Backpack" ("Your mind is lined with layers of lead / Have you heard one thing that I've said?") before going, perhaps obviously but nonetheless fittingly, with the Clash.

Song lyric of the day:
"London calling to the faraway towns
Now war is declared, and battle come down..."
- the Clash, London Calling

Friday, July 01, 2005

Where has the news gone?

So Justice Sandra Day O'Connor just retired. With the loss of its swing vote, and nothing but conservative nominees in sight, the balance of power in the Supreme Court is about to shift. We haven't had a new Justice appointed in almost ten years.

Learning this, I turned on CNN to hear all about it. Instead, I got an in depth report on Ben Affleck's wedding to Jennifer Garner. CNN Headline News, which still advertises that it is a 24-7 news source, now features at least one hour of Showbiz Tonight (featuring the latest from the Enquirer) followed by one hour of Nancy Grace (who, to her credit, at least talks about news). When it is showing Headline News, about 5-10 minutes of every hour is dedicated to celebrity news or some fluff piece.

If anyone knows of another network that will present facts in a timely, relatively unbiased manner, please let me know. It appears to me that we just lost the last one.

(Incidentally, Washington Post article can be found here, Jeff's response is here, and Ben's is here. Thanks for the head's up, guys.)

Song lyric of the day:
"You don't really need to find out what's going on
You don't really want to know just how far it's gone
Just leave well enough alone
Eat your dirty laundry"
- Don Henley, Dirty Laundry