Friday, January 16, 2009

Random thought re: Obama's inaugural address

I have no idea what the content of Barack Obama's inaugural address will be, and look forward to finding out, but in my mind, ideally he will utilize the following mash-up of John F. Kennedy's inaugural (from the late David Foster Wallace):

"Let the word go forth, that the past has been torched by a new generation of Americans."

How awesome would that be?

Mr. Gupta, tear down this wall... of legislation against marijuana use

This article by Dr. Sanjay Gupta about why he would keep marijuana illegal (hat tip: Jacob) is worrisome and an excellent example of narrow thinking regarding the subject. As a doctor, he naturally focuses on the health risks rather than the social effects, which hampers his article more as its the flimsier argument.

Off the bat, Dr. Gupta writes, "The first is that marijuana isn't really very good for you." Well no shit, Sherlock. The number of people who use marijuana for its health benefits (beyond simple relaxation) are few. I could say the same for alcohol.

I'll respond to Dr. Gupta's other points more tersely:

"Frequent marijuana use can seriously affect your short-term memory." Alcohol.

"It can impair your cognitive ability... and lead to long-lasting depression or anxiety." Alcohol.

"While many people smoke marijuana to relax, it can have the opposite effect on frequent users." Alcohol.

"Smoking anything, whether it's tobacco or marijuana, can seriously damage your lung tissue." Granted. But...

(Mike takes a deep breath)

Cigarettes are completely legal and come with a warning from the surgeon general (that will be you soon) indicating they aren't exactly Mama's Homegrown Clean Lung Elixir. And getting back to alcohol, well sir, that's also completely legal. And, to address your concluding point, getting behind the wheel of a car after having too much alcohol is in fact illegal. Very few people are arguing that it should be any different with pot.

I'm sorry, Dr. Gupta, but your article offers absolutely no compelling reason to keep marijuana illegal. While I appreciate your concern for the health and well-being of marijuana users, that doesn't trump the fact that it should be their right to decide for themselves.

"Can't get caught in the endless circle
Ring of stupidity
Out for my own, out to be free"
- Metallica, Escape

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Civil disobedience (of sorts) in my own backyard

This, on the other hand, is awesome. (Hat tip: Radley Balko.) I am totally driving by this place tonight or tomorrow - it's only about ten minutes away from my place (hell, maybe I'll bike it).

Oh good, 'cause the Fourth Amendment isn't circumvented quite often enough

The Supreme Court, by which I mean Justice Anthony Kennedy, has apparently decided that the Fourth Amendment only matters if the police screw-up deliberately instead of accidentally.

What can you say? I mean, while I have a little sympathy for the "sure, your Constitutional rights were violated, but if you're guilty, you're guilty, so whatever" point-of-view, we can't just ignore that pesky little document that provides the framework of out little 230-year-old social experiment because it's convenient. Can we?

Incidentally, there did use to be Supreme Court decisions where the breakdown of the Justices' voting was actually surprising, didn't there? These days, it's so blatantly partisan it's starting to get to the point where SCOTUS itself is becoming superfluous.

"They finally caught the killer
They found his skin beneath her nails
Squeeze him hard enough and he'll confess"
- Vendetta Red, Suicide Party

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Top 10 Albums of 2008

Okay, I know I didn't post a top 10 albums of 2007, but that wasn't for lack of trying: indeed, that year was so ridiculously loaded with good music I found it very difficult to even narrow it down to 10. And even then, I couldn't stop typing when I started extolling their virtues, and it was growing into a blog post so epic it would almost put The Lord of the Rings trilogy to shame. Almost. Anyway, as things happen, I gave up after a while.

This past year, while there was a lot of really good music, there aren't as many albums I'm quite so enthusiastic about. So, as I increasingly grow to agree with Polonius that brevity is the soul of wit (and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes), I'm opting to do something a little out of character: I'm simply going to list my top 10, sans explanation or descriptive rhetoric, and if anyone wants to launch a discussion of the year's music in the comments section (disagreements, albums I just plain may have missed, etc.), well, that is strongly encouraged.

Anyway, without further ado about nothing:

Top 10 Music Albums of 2008:

  • 10. The Broken West, Now or Heaven
  • 9. R.E.M., Accelerate
  • 8. Murder by Death, Red of Tooth and Claw
  • 7. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Real Emotional Trash
  • 6. Seven Mary Three, Day and Nightdriving
  • 5. The Hold Steady, Stay Positive
  • 4. Nada Surf, Lucky
  • 3. TV on the Radio, Dear Science,
  • 2. Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
  • 1. Los Campesinos!, Hold On Now, Youngster / We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

Okay, I realize number 1 is technically a cheat, but I can't separate the two albums in my head, and when a band puts out that much good music in one year, it deserves to be recognized.

Honorable Mention:

  • Black Kids, Partie Traumatic
  • Bloc Party, Intimacy
  • Coldplay, Viva La Vida; or, Death and All His Friends
  • Death Cab for Cutie, Narrow Stairs
  • Deerhunter, Microcastle / Weird Era Cont.
  • Destroyer, Trouble in Dreams
  • Flogging Molly, Float
  • Guns 'N Roses, Chinese Democracy (for its mere existence if nothing else)
  • Kaiser Chiefs, Off With Their Heads
  • Kings of Leon, Only By The Night
  • Metallica, Death Magnetic
  • The Notwist, The Devil, You + Me
  • The Offspring, Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace
  • The Raveonettes, Lust Lust Lust
  • Sun Kil Moon, April
  • Times New Viking, Rip It Off
  • Wolf Parade, At Mount Zoomer

Incidentally, if anyone still cares about my top 10 of 2007, just ask.

UPDATE: I can't believe I forgot about the Raconteurs' Consolers of the Lonely and Drive-By Truckers' Brighter Than Creation's Dark, both of which also deserve honorable mention. Thanks for pointing me to The Current's list, Matt!

UPDATE #2: By popular demand - okay, by Matt's demand - er, well, okay, not demand so much as polite request - I have decided to throw up the brief version of my top 15 of 2007. (I changed it to a 15 because when I looked back on it I realized I would have swapped a few, which is probably cheating since it doesn't reflect what I had at the time, but whatever.)

Top 15 Music Albums of 2007:

  • 15. White Rabbits, Fort Nightly
  • 14. Deep Ella, Empty Seas and Memories
  • 13. The Bravery, The Sun and the Moon
  • 12. Okkervil River, The Stage Names
  • 11. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
  • 10. The Fratellis, Costello Music
  • 9. Band of Horses, Cease to Begin
  • 8. The Shins, Wincing the Night Away
  • 7. Interpol, Our Love to Admire
  • 6. The White Stripes, Icky Thump
  • 5. The New Pornographers, Challengers
  • 4. The Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
  • 3. Modest Mouse, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank<
  • 2. Dinosaur Jr., Beyond
  • 1. The National, Boxer

"Oh we kid ourselves that there's future in the fucking
But there is no fucking future"
- Los Campesinos!, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy 2009!

I don't remember exactly which age I was when I first became aware that something was different on January 1, but it was exactly the same age that I became aware that, really, nothing at all was different on January 1. To a friend of mine who said she was feeling weird about staying in for New Year's Eve, I pointed out that she could just go out for the Lunar New Year, or Rosh Hashanah, and call it even. Because when you really think about it, how do we really determine when the transition to a new year occurs, other than by a calendar we arbitrarily created?

But then again, does it really matter? If we want to bid arrivederci to 2008 (and I'm sure most of us do, although there were some good things about it), why shouldn't we be able to? Even if nothing actually changes on New Year's, it's still an excuse to party.

And speaking of reasons to celebrate...

'Twas a great end to 2008, and I wish all a spectacular 2009.

"I know that it’s true
It’s gonna be a good year
Out of the darkness and into the fire"
- the Walkmen, In the New Year