Friday, March 30, 2007

tom waits- Chocolate Jesus

In honor of the latest religious scandal.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sad Kermit

Catch it before the Jim Henson estate gets wind of it (not to mention Trent Reznor):

Saturday, March 17, 2007

See what you made me do?

I swear I was going to come up with an intelligent and well-reasoned post on a topic of great relevance, but then I found this excellent gun control debate video. Quicktime and an appreciation of Halo 2 are required.

Obama, Nader and Lapp

Mikeswanson called me out recently on calling Ralph Nader "an unreasonable man" (see here), which I feel contrained to point out I never did but can respond to nonetheless.

Without rehashing the dreaded Nader Wars of circa 2001-02, when the entire leftern half of the political spectrum joined the circular firing squad and emptied its barrels until everyone was dead, I will say that Nader can be very right when he is right and very wrong when he is wrong. His being admirably acute in calling a spade a spade when Democrats fail to live up to their potential cannot make up for the fact that even during the 2000 campaign, when I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, he ran on the dubious claim that there was no difference between (center-left) Al Gore and (zealous corporatist) George Bush, which has been shown to be so spectacularly wrong that Nader has to work doubly hard to get any respect from me these days. He sold his supporters on the idea that it didn't matter who won in 2000, that the candidates were two sides of the same corrupt coin; this was implausible enough at the time, and at this late date, anyone who believes it isn't worth debating. So why listen to him?

He speaks the truth on some issues, such as health care. But a lot of other candidates are doing that as well these days. (Obama has called loudly for single-payer, including in his book, which I just finished.) He served a needed purpose, in some capacity, in reminding voters that triangulation isn't the be-all end-all of politics, that there are serious issues at stake that cannot honestly be ignored or poll-tested. I have always admired his dedication to workplace and environmental issues. I find him persuasive when he talks about the military budget. But when he starts talking about almost anything else, I start to chafe and wonder why he's still rehashing his 2000 campaign themes. I also don't like his style and think his supporters ought to get off their high horse. This theme was expounded well by Joshua Micah Marshall (of the very good, and journalistically ambitious, TalkingPointsMemo) in his review of Nader's book "Crashing the Party":
Nader's supporters (invariably described as "thoughtful") are set against a pitiful cast of sellouts, hacks, turncoats, and cowards, which constitutes more or less everyone else on the leftward side of the political universe. To be sure, Nader and his crew were treated to no small amount of derision by Al Gore's supporters in 2000. But none of it matches Nader's intensity of denunciation, the facile opportunism of many of his political gambits, or the breezy thoughtlessness of many of his attacks.
Ultimately, Marshall echoes my own feelings about Nader:
Nader's supporters will no doubt argue that these recent revelations [about the Enron scandal] show that we very much need the Ralph Nader who first sounded the alarm against corporate malfeasance in the 1960s and 1970s.

They're right. We do. Too bad the 21st-century Ralph Nader is the one we're stuck with.
I think it's fine to defend Nader as a man who was right about a lot of things at one point or another in his life. But if you're looking for someone to trust, someone to support -- in short, if you're looking for a candidate -- it's time to look elsewhere. Ralph Nader is essentially a spent force, and it's not worth it to keep wishing he'll make a comeback.


I suspect most of you aren't familiar with CONCACAF, the premier boundary-crossing soccer league for the western hemisphere. Well, poo on you, because I went to my first CONCACAF game Thursday night, and it was even better than watching MLS on television. Why could I do this? Because D.C. has cultural opportunities that Phoenix, for instance -- despite its tragicomic population boom -- cannot compete with. More on that shortly.

Stephanie and I thought we'd mistakenly been seated in the Chivas Guadalajara area when we got to our seats and began to wonder where the D.C. United fans were. We needn't have bothered: the "Chivas area" could more accurately be called "the stadium," and despite technically being the home team, United were outnumbered in the stands about six to one. This included people with Mexican flags, Chivas bandanas, beer, jerseys, cigarettes (near enough to smell that flavorful tar!) and plenty of chants we weren't able to follow. At first it was nice just to know a U.S. club team was worth inviting to the championship tournament, but once we realized D.C. could actually win it was hard not to watch intently and freak out when things went wrong, sort of the way you see rowdy English fans hit things on TV.

United got two yellow cards early, one of which -- unless the halfback threw that banana peel -- was patently bogus. It was raining and everyone was sliding every which way, and the replays were pretty clear that nothing had really happened, but you know how those referees like to show they're not going to give the locals a break. It was fun watching Chivas fans go nuts whenever something interesting happened until they actually scored early in the second half. By that point I was emotionally invested and couldn't be happy just to watch good sportsmanship. I considered hurling abuse.

United equalized a few minutes before the game ended with a header off a chip shot penalty kick from the right side, getting Ben Olsen off the hook for his hilariously inaccurate open shot on goal seven minutes earlier. The goalie watched the ball sail ten feet wide and twelve high and probably had time for a few jumping jacks before it landed in the mud under the bleachers.

It ended in a tie. Their songs are better than ours. The next game is April 3.

Anyway, this contrasted nicely with the Sibelius concert Stephanie and I went to a few days before. The program included the violin concerto, which is probably one of the most interesting pieces of classical music ever written, and I don't mean in any technically intricate or professional way so much as in terms of just listening to it. It sounds, alternately, like gypsy music, frantic pagan drumming, Sherlock Holmes at the fireplace and sometimes like a caveman standing over a newly slain antelope, crudely proud of himself for doing something important. This was a good birthday present -- even better than the Dwight Schrute bobblehead doll -- and probably could not have been given back in the home state, where we don't get a lot of Sibelius and certainly don't have concertgoers with nearly as expensive or musty an air about them.

You see, this is why I came here, this and the journalism. And Stephanie is fun enough to share each of these interests with me. If I can get her playing poker, we may have to get married. At the Vegas Bellaggio, if we do well. Or maybe the Westin Casuarina, where we'll be in May for a vacation. They have a Web site. Look them up.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Vaino's Diatribe

This is being posted courtesy of Vaino, who was more active here in days of yore. You should look up Vaino in Finnish mythology -- for instance, the Kalevala -- to see how much wisdom is attached to his pronouncements.


Is this the end of the Republican Party? Has their greed, hypocrisy and sleaze finally brought them to just ends? Or is this the beginning of the end of American civilization? I fear that despite our outsized economy and military, our influence on the rest of the world has already begun to wane. American policy in the Muslim world had been a complete disaster from propping up the Shah in Iran, to providing chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, to Narco-Warlords and the Taliban taking over control of Afghanistan. We are making all of Osama Bin Laden's predictions come true. In Latin America, the Milton Friedman economic experiment has been a failure everywhere. Other than a dumping ground for cheap manufacturing goods from overseas, the United States is becoming irrelevant. (And our foreign debt is being financed by the sale of bonds primarily to foreign countries.) In twenty years, China's economy will be as big as ours and they will wield more international political influence. This turnaround is a direct result of neocon policies, starting with Reagan but really coming to full implementation with Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld. Their arrogance and utter ruthlessness will be the final undoing of America.

No More YouTube Posts, Eh?

This is my own first foray into direct YouTube linking, and if it's even moderately successful, I would implore everyone (including Nolo) to use this blog as a "best of" board for stuff we should be watching. Boring or average material, obviously, will lead to namecalling and ridicule, not to mention calls to step down from whatever imaginary public post you hold in the Lappland bureaucracy. (Charvakan, for instance, is Minister of Produce, and he'll think twice before he gives up that plum little assignment.)
The link below is from a Bollywood film. The song is very catchy and the whole enterprise is legitimate, I assure you.

Longest Journalist Imprisonment in U.S. History

I don't know anything about this case and it certainly isn't one of my pet issues -- which is actually why I'm linking to it, because it struck me that nobody else knows about this guy either.

Friday, March 09, 2007

An embarrassment of riches (and someone I used to know)

Andy Cohen.

Friday music post

I have no idea if this will work, but I'm gonna try:

Sunday, March 04, 2007

An Unreasonable Man: A Tale of Three Movies and a Bookstore

Two Saturdays ago Stephanie and I tried to see "The Lives of Others" at E Street, which we are learning will constantly sell out movies hours ahead of time. If you don't know the movie, it won Best Foreign Film this year, so do you live in a cave with your ears shut and a bag over your head? Because that's one explanation.

Anyway, it was sold out. We stamped our feet and threw a little tantrum and wondered, oh, wondered -- what do we do for fun? Then we noticed that a film with much less critical acclaim was playing around the same time; we went for it. I can say the following about "Amazing Grace," starring Ioan Gruffudd of "King Arthur" fame: it would have made a very good four-hour miniseries on the BBC. As it is, it feels like a BBC miniseries somewhat awkwardly adapted to the screen. There are the usual powdered wigs, the ridiculous accents (is Ciaran Hinds really that plummy? Who can say!?), the English countryside, the bountiful bosoms and all the rest. It is saved by the fact that the English abolitionist movement is an interesting and not well understood phenomenon that makes for a good, if predictable and one-sided, historicoromance, which is a word I had to make up to describe it.

On our way out of the theater, we saw Ralph Nader sitting at a table in the lobby.

We didn't know exactly what he was doing there, but the documentary about him was playing (presumably opening) at the same theater that night, and he was there to sign his new book and maybe -- we weren't there -- to talk before or after the film played. To be honest, I agree with about maybe half of what he says and find him insufferable for the rest, so I wasn't particularly starstruck, especially because living here has completely desensitized me to seeing public figures. (Although catching Trent Lott in the halls of Congress with his toupee slightly askew will always be with me.) I wondered what to do, as a good journalist would, but ended up staring at him from about his 4 o'clock as he talked to a few people until Stephanie got out of the bathroom. Then we left. I figured he was gone.

Yesterday we passed him on our way up to the second floor of the Metro Center Barnes & Noble. He was downscalatering to the info booth. Maybe there was a problem with the bathroom tissue. I don't know. Or it could have had to do with their treatment of him as he tried to hold a book signing. Perhaps the chair was uncomfortable.

We finally saw "The Lives of Others." It's very good. We also, since then, saw "Avenue Montaigne," which is hard to excuse on any but the most optimistically romantic pretext. It's a harmless way to pass the time, but don't be fooled by critics who try to make it sound like anything better than that. It wasn't made with ideas in mind. Paris sure is pretty, though.

We Have a Throwdown

Everyone, direct your attention to the comments for Nolo's most recent post. (The one having to do, among other things, with guns. The title begins with the word "Kicking.") A commenter has taken exception to Nolo's opinion. He also thinks I wrote the post, which is understandable. He also has a bit of snark in his tone. If Nolo chooses to respond, I think this blog should be the place. It's been a while since we had a good back-and-forth -- not since the great Croatian war crimes debate of early '06 has the blood really boiled over.