Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Yet another reason...

Allow me to present reason #2646 why we need to legalize marijuana: Art Garfunkel was caught yet again in possession, this time with a joint in his car's ashtray when he was pulled over. He has been charged with possession of marijuana.

Um, excuse me, but this is Art Garfunkel. We're talking Lieutenant Nately here! Not to mention, he also formed a little group in the 60's you may have heard of called Simon and Garfunkel. Let the man toke up if he wants to. Without drugs, who knows what 60's music would have been like? (Probably like 50's music.)

(Note: Garfunkel was apparently smoking up while driving, and since marijuana does alter one's consciousness, I would not object to equating this with driving under the influence. I propose, as I always have, that we legalize marijuana, but regulate it similarly to alcohol consumption. And, of course, drop the legal age for both to 18.)

Song lyric of the day:
"There's no need to complain
We'll eliminate your pain
We can neutralize your brain
Buy a big bright green pleasure machine"
- Simon and Garfunkel

Monday, August 29, 2005

Teenage girls, rejoice!

I have some very exciting news (source: the Titanic special edition DVD will be unveiled September 20! Among other things, it will have almost 30 deleted scenes, including one in which Leo returns from the grave to smack old Rose for tossing a priceless artifact into the ocean. There will also be an alternate ending. Hey, maybe the boat won't sink this time!

Seriously, this movie is a relic from the year the Academy decided to go totally mainstream. I mean, here's a short list of films in 1997 that probably deserved best picture rather than Titanic: L.A. Confidential (which should have won), As Good as it Gets, Wag the Dog, Good Will Hunting, Amistad, Boogie Nights, and surely many more. Shoot, even Men in Black had better writing. Not that it deserved no awards at all, but best picture? Sheesh.

I think I've had that stored up in me for 8 years. Thanks for letting me get it off my chest. I promise, from now on I'll try and keep useless rants to a minimum.

"You're excited?! Feel these nipples!"

Just wanted to begin with a Bob Costas quote from BASEketball to get everyone's attention. So there's that.

Now, on to the actual topic. My favorite columnist Leonard Pitts wrote a column today about the news media's decline into fluff, using Costas as an example of the rare remaining journalist who actually wants to report news rather than feed the public appetite for sensation. It is telling to me that I was familiar with all the celebrity "news stories" he cites in the second paragraph, and not with Costas' stand on principle when he refused to guest host "Larry King Live" after learning that the focus of the episode was going to be the ongoing Natalee Holloway fiasco.

For those of you who have been living in a tree, on Pluto, in an alternate dimension, and are thus unfamiliar with that story, Natalee Holloway is the unfortunate Alabama teenager who went missing during a senior trip to Aruba. CNN (and doubtless other major news networks) has seen fit to report on this story every day for the past three months. And I admit, I do get a little choked up every time I see that picture of her with her friends, looking young and pretty and care-free. I want to believe she's all right. I desperately want to believe that she actually ran off to Europe with some kind Casanova who promised and delivered her the world. But I don't. If nothing else, I at least want peace for her family, for it all to be over. I think we all do. Which must be why we kept watching no matter how exhausted we get.

Pitts points out that modern media thrives on sensationalism, on telling a story that sounds like it could have come straight from Hollywood. (Some conspiracy theorists might actually believe this is the case.) Such stories must, of need, depict attractive people, harrowing circumstances, occasional plot twists. That happy ending is the only thing the media usually can't deliver. But we tune in, hoping that somehow they will.

He concludes with a question: "Shouldn't the news be about the things that affect us, instead of just those that titillate us?" A simple case of want vs. need. In reality, we need the media to give us the information vital to our day-to-day lives, the actions of state and local governments and so forth. But what we want, for the most part, is a good story. We want something to distract us from our lives, if only for a moment. It's the allure of reality TV: the idea that perhaps real life can be packaged like the movies, like entertainment, and be constantly compelling and melodramatic. However, I think I know how the Rolling Stones would answer...

Song lyric of the day:
"You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes
You just might find you get what you need"

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Some brief baseball-related venting

Taking in my Sunday afternoon Astros game, I was dismayed just now when pinch hitter Craig Biggio, and subsequently manager Phil Garner, were ejected from the game for what seemed to be minor offenses. The ejections occurred when Biggio flied out one pitch after having an HBP taken away from him because home plate umpire Doug Eddings ruled he did not make a sufficient attempt to get out of the way. The ruling, which I agreed with at first and then changed my mind after seeing the replay, was a legitimate judgment call. The ejections immediately following were not. I could see some validity in Biggio's ejection, since he did slam the bat down rather violently after flying out. But that was not when he was ejected. He was ejected for shouting something at Eddings as he walked away. Therein lies the problem. He was walking away, back to the dugout. In my opinion, umpires should only throw a player out when they are being confrontational and disruptive to the game, and won't let things alone after they get their two cents in. Biggio does not fall into this category. Garner certainly doesn't; although he was confronting Eddings about the toss, he seemed (in my admittedly slightly biased eyes) to be doing so in a calm manner. Nothing flagrant that seemed to merit an ejection.

To me, this is part of a larger trend I've seen: umpires who are too quick to pull the trigger. There was a rash of incomprehensible ejections earlier this year. Though I can't recall the player, I do recall someone getting ejected while standing at the plate and preparing for the next pitch, merely commenting to the ump on the previous one. Umps, you need to keep your thumbs in your pockets unless absolutely necessary. Let the players play the game.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled lives already in progress.

Song lyric of the day:
"Love forever
Love is free
Let's turn forever, you and me"
- the Gorillaz, Feel Good Inc.

(I hated that stupid "cool shoeshine" song, but must admit this one's growing on me.)

Friday, August 26, 2005

You go, Chuck Hagel

I just a brief post with a shout-out to Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, who made national news earlier this week when he criticized President Bush's policy on the "war" in Iraq, saying that "stay the course is not a policy." (Chronicle article here.) Regardless of whether you agree with him (though I'm guessing approximately 87% of my readers do), you just gotta respect the guy for breaking with a) his party and b) his president. In these days of tremendous partisanship, every now and then it's nice to see someone prominently break from the established party line, as Bill Frist did earlier this summer. So, kudos to you, Sen. Hagel.

Please note that I put the word "war" in quotation marks. This is not meant to deride the sacrifices of our brave soldiers who have put themselves in harm's way with the deeply-felt desire to make America safer. It's merely to illustrate a point: to be a war, it would have to be formally declared by Congress. So really, the war on terror is actually a "Congressional authorization of the President to use force to combat terror". But then, I guess war is just easier to say.

(Side note: In my perusal of Articles I and II of the U.S. Constitution to investigate Congressional and executive powers regarding war, I noticed something: if we take a quite literal interpretation of the Constitution, the President is only the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy; the Marines and Air Force, not being specified, technically don't have to follow his orders. I suddenly find myself wondering if anyone has ever tried to bring that up before. Not that I'm saying it should be included in an Amendment to the Constitution, or that this quite literal interpretation is correct. I just think it's an interesting point.)

Don't ask me why I started rambling about that.

Song lyric of the day:
"We got rules and maps and guns on our backs
But we still can't just behave ourselves
Even if to save our own lives
So says I: we are a brutal kind"
- the Shins, So Says I

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A note to the rest of the world

Well folks, it seems our dear old friend Pat Robertson, the televangelist with the heart of gold (gold being cold, hard, and utterly devoid of compassion), has once again opened his mouth and inserted his foot in calling for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. When I read Aaron's blog entry yesterday, I chortled (yes, not merely laughed, but chortled) in the middle of a quiet library.

However, this morning it occurred to me that not everyone understands how laughable people like Robertson and the illustrious Jerry Falwell are to 95% of America. In particular, because of their blatant partisanship (staunch support of the Republican party and particularly President Bush), many citizens of the world must think they speak for a majority of Americans.

I am here to inform the world (since I know I have a huge international readership) that this is not the case. Given the circles in which I usually run, I may be underestimating the number of people that take these crackpots seriously, but I would still posit to the world that the vast majority of Americans are usually either chortling along with me or cringing at the ridiculous crap that flows from the mouths of Pat and Jerry. Hey, maybe they should start an ice cream chain! They would probably be mistaken for Ben and Jerry's often enough to get by...

Seriously, as amusing as those wackos are, most of us would just as soon relocate them to a place without microphones just so we wouldn't have to listen to them anymore.

On a totally unrelated note, today's "Zits" is a rerun of one of my favorites. Enjoy!

Update: Okay, the "Zits" link is already outdated. Hope y'all saw it. I'm gonna leave it up because really it's a daily must-read.

Song lyric of the day:
"I'll get you everything you wanted
I'll get you everything you need
Don't need to believe in hereafter
Just believe in me
'Cause Jesus he knows me and he knows I'm right..."
- Genesis, Jesus He Knows Me

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Green Day and the halcyon days of adolescence

Tonight reminded me of a Friday night 11 years ago, sitting in my Alexandria, VA basement with my friend Jonathan, listening to a CD he had just bought at a very low volume level. The band was called Green Day, and I knew nothing about them except the lead singer's hair was blue. The CD was called "Dookie", and we were listening to track 4, "Longview", a song about being lazy and lacking motivation. We had retreated to the basement to listen and still kept the volume low, for fear my parents might hear the words "shit", "fuck" and "masturbation" contained in the song, as well as the reference to marijuana ("smoking my inspiration"). Yes, I was 12 years old, and I was pretty sure my parents would disapprove of such music. It was the glory of adolescence, that sense of getting away with something you knew your parents wouldn't like you doing. And in retrospect, it was something so minor, but damn, did I feel alive.

The reason this was recalled to mind this evening was that I finally got around to seeing Green Day in concert. As Aaron and I wandered to our seats, I couldn't help but notice the number of parents who were there with their children. We're talking 9- and 10-year-olds here. Now, I don't believe the claims that music or television or any of the various other methods of entertaining children cause undesirable behavior, so I'm fine with the kids listening to Green Day. I think my problem is that the parents condone it. As it turns out, my parents were actually fairly relaxed about that sort of thing, and I probably could have gotten away with more than I tried. But man oh man, when I was younger, it sure didn't seem like it.

I guess my point is, every kid when they hit the good ol' puberty needs to do something dangerous, something they think their parents would kill them if they ever found out. For me, it was listening to CDs that had bad language and blatant sex and drug references. For that former friend Jonathan who introduced me to Green Day, his parents were fine with him listening to that kind of music. It wasn't long before he moved on to something else to get away with: marijuana.

I know I'm rambling, but I think that maybe the illusion of parental strictness is the key. The more parents let their kids get away with, the farther the kids will have to go to get the rush of being naughty. Of course, there's the counterargument that the stricter parents are, the harder the kids will retaliate. It's all about balance, I guess.

As for the show itself, it was pretty damn good, though I wanted more off of "Warning" and there was one blatant absence off "Dookie" (today's song lyric). I kinda wish Billie Joe had spent a little less time getting the audience to chant too. Still, I loved the electric version of Good Riddance and the cover of We Are the Champions (though I slightly expected it after Live 8) was also well-done. Opener Jimmy Eat World ripped through a 30-minute set that hit the highlights, though they missed some songs I was hoping to hear, particularly Kill and Authority Song.

Thanks for reading this poorly organized post. I'll try and do better next time :)

Song lyric of the day (still can't believe they didn't play this):
"So go do what you like
Make sure you do it wise
You may find out that your self-doubt means nothing was ever there
You can't go forcing something if it's just not right"
- Green Day, When I Come Around

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

On a lighter note...

I just wanted to say that the pairing of Snoop Dogg and Lee Iococca might be the most inspired commercial gimmick EVER. That is all.

Song lyric of the day #2:
"We gonna smoke an ounce to this
G's up, hoes down
While you motherfuckers bounce to this"
- Snoop Dogg, Gin & Juice

Losing your base? Yeah, right

So, in the midst of my morning routine, I got around to the Editorials section of the Houston Chronicle today to read an interesting piece by Robert Novak. You know, the columnist who outed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent after someone who deserves to be fired told him about her because her husband said something the Bush administration disagreed with and therefore deserved to have his and his wife's life and careers put in danger. Phew, okay, had to get that out of my system. (Incidentally, Jeff wrote a good entry about the Plame fiasco.)

Anyway, today Novak was writing about how many Republicans are not pleased with Frist's timing on breaking with the president on the stem-cell issue. I'm sure you'd need a whole team of experts working around the clock to tell you that one. The column goes on to talk about several Frist boners over the course of his service as Senate majority leader. (For one blogger's analysis of Frist's change of heart, go here.)

But that's not what I want to rant about either. The line that caught my eye was when Novak pointed out that "advocacy of new embryonic research alienates social conservatives whose support he needs." This sentence is correct in both its points: almost all Republican candidates need social conservatives' votes to succeed, and supporting stem-cell research does not sit well with them.

My question is, so what?

The accusations fly all the time: Democrats say that Republicans cater to the right, the Pubs counter that Dems cater to the left, and in many ways, they're both right (er, correct). But the problem is, there's no need to cater to either extreme, because who the hell else are they gonna vote for? Is a social conservative gonna be so pissed about Frist's stem-cell viewpoint that they turn around and vote for the Democratic candidate? No way. Is an avid pro-choicer gonna vote for a Republican just because insert-Democrat-here favors a ban on partial-birth abortion? I wouldn't like those odds in Vegas.

(As far as third-party candidates go, I refer you to "The Simpsons Halloween Special" when Kang and Kodos take over the bodies of presidential candidates just before the election. One citizen says, "Well I for one intend to vote for a third-party candidate", to which Kodos (or was it Kang?) replies, "Go ahead! Throw your vote away!")

American political viewpoints, in my opinion, can best be charted by a normal bell curve. 95% of us are no more than two standard deviations from the center (even as a social radical, I tend to count myself in this category). These are your swing votes. These are the votes that will make or break you as a political candidate. They are also the majority of that 50% of the population that doesn't exercise that most fundamental American right of voting. Could it be because no one listens to them? Because no one wants to lose the outlying base they have no threat of losing anyway?

Probably not. It's probably more just laziness or apathy. But hey, it's just a rant.

Song lyric of the day:
"The future teaches you the be alone
The present, to be afraid and cold
So if I can shoot rabbits, then I can shoot fascists"
- Manic Street Preachers, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Just got back from Rudyard's, where I saw a show by a band called Endochine. My friend Aaron introduced me to these guys, and I immediately begged him to grab their CD "Day Two" if he came across it. Their melodies, harmonies, and production are excellent, and I must say their live shows (though the one tonight was too short and notable lacking "Always Tomorrow" on the set list) rock fairly hard. Anyway, I just wanted to break from normal blogging to recommend them. Also, taking a cue from Bradley, I thought I'd post some full song lyrics as my "lyric of the day":

"Without Love"

Without love, I'm insecure
Without love, I'm never pure
I could love you with a broken heart
I could love you with a broken heart

Without love, I'm incomplete
Without love, I get so weak
I could love you with a broken heart
I could love you with a broken heart

Oh yeah, and I try so hard
Oh yeah, and I try so hard

I know you want the truth
I know you're gone forever
I do this all for you

Without love, I feel so small
Without love, I'll lose it all
I could love you with a broken heart
I could love you with a broken heart

Oh yeah, and I try so hard
Oh yeah, and I try so hard
Oh yeah, and I try so hard
And on and on and on
And on and on and on and on and on...

Friday, August 12, 2005

Mothers still control the country

First off, I want to congratulate Maureen Dowd on an excellent burn of President Bush in her column yesterday. The article was about Cindy Sheehan, the woman keeping vigil outside of Dubya's Crawford Ranch, demanding a meeting with the President to discuss the war in Iraq and the reason her son had to die. The line that made me cackle was "If only her husband were an undercover CIA operative, the Bushies could out him."

No doubt everyone reading this blog entry is familiar with Sheehan's story, so I won't really expound on it much here. All I really want to say is, it all comes down to the mothers. You see, it turns out that mothers don't like it when bad stuff happens to their sons and daughters. And every now and then, they get pissed off and decide to do something about it.

Case in point, though certainly not the only one: 25 years ago, no one seemed to give a flying damn about drunk driving. Then Cari Lightner got killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. Candace Lightner, her mother, formed MADD, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The bottom line is, there is nothing more terrifying and willful than an angry mother. Sometimes I wonder what the outcome would be if we sent a whole bunch of mothers to the Middle East. Fewer casualties, more milk and cookies? Even bastards like Osama and Saddam can only take so much finger-wagging.

God bless mothers everywhere.

Song lyric of the day:
"Mother, mother, there's too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother, there's far too many of you dying
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some loving here today"
- Marvin Gaye, What's Going On