Friday, September 26, 2008

It's Genetic, Apparently

So, I get home tonight and get this story.

We have this guy who lives on the block who walks around with a pistol strapped onto his hip like it's the wild wild west. Today, as the wife and chilluns was coming come, he was out front of his house, gun strapped on, but shirtless.

This is a guy who shouldn't be forgoing a shirt in public. It's hard to decide which is more unbalanced: the handgun or the naked man gut bared to the unsuspecting and innocent.

The family gleefully relates this story, and then MPC1, who's 11, pretend grabs her (nonexistent, of course) beer belly (in imitation of mr-have-gun-will-travel), and says, "Uhyuh, [loud exhale], this is what I call a six-pack, because that's what it's made of."

Yes, it was hers; she'd made it up on the spot.

Me and the missus were so proud.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Scott Adams of Dilbert fame wanted a non-partisan opinion on which candidate would be best for the economy.

Here're the results:

Rank   Issues                            Obama      McCain     No Diff.

1          Education                          59%           14%           27%


2          Health care                        65%           20%           15%


3          International trade              26%           51%           23%


4          Energy                              61%           22%           17%


5          Encouraging
Technology/innovation       43%           23%           34%


6          Wars and 
homeland security              58%           30%           11%


7          Mortgage/housing crisis     41%           18%           41%


8          Social Security                  40%           24%           35%


9          Environmental policy          72%             9%           19%


10        Reducing the deficit           37%           29%           33%


11        Immigration                       33%           29%           38%


12        Increasing taxes                 79%           14%             7%

            on wealthy


13        Reducing waste                 16%           38%           46%

            in government


The economists in the survey favor Obama on 11 of the top 13 issues. But keep in mind that 48% are Democrats and only 17% are Republicans. Among Independents, things are less clear, with 54% thinking that in the long run there would either be no difference between the candidates or McCain would do better.

Now, as you can see, Adams says this is probably skewed because the majority of economists are Democrat, and he says that's because a lot of them pull their paycheck from the world of academia, and we all know that college professors are liberal scum (my sarcasm, not his - follow the link above for his actual, unfiltered thoughts).

Here are the stats on party affiliation:
48% Democrats
17% Republicans
27% Independents
3% Libertarian
5% Other or not registered

I read the original article and gave it no more than a mental "hmmm" and moved on.

Then a few days later it hit me: most economists are Democrats no matter how you try equivocate, dismiss, or disassemble it. That in itself says something.

In other words, economists by definition would want the best economy possible, and if the majority of them are Democrat, they must think that the Democrat's handling of the economy is the best.

I've run into stat after stat the last few months that the middle class is always in better shape when Dems run the roost, and things go badly when Repubs do (Carter notwithstanding).

How much more straightforward can ya get?

Oh, and funny how the point was to get a non-partisan opinion, and apparently - for this topic anyway - no such thing exists.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Helluva Deal

One of the great albums of all time is now available for download for $2.99. Three bucks. If you count tax, you can't buy a fast-food lunch for that.

But, it'll get you Breakfast in America by Supertramp.

Now, it's unlikely that you don't already have this in some form, but if you don't have MP3s of it, and haven't heard this baby in a while (or ever - if you're young enough not to have heard of it), I think you'll be surprised how well it stands up.

I put it on about 3 weeks ago while cooking dinner expecting it to be one of those old favorites that would be more of an embarrassment now and worthy only of secret trips down memory lane. Heck no, it's still as affecting and brilliant as it seemed back in the day. "The Logical Song" in particular seems as though it could've been written just this year, given the lyric: "Now watch what you say or they'll be calling you a radical, liberal, fanatical criminal."

If you scroll through the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" thingy on the Amazon page, you'll notice all the other great 70s and early 80s classics that are comparable.

Supertramp was one of those groups who were fastidious about how their music sounded in its final form. Cassettes (they used to sell pre-recorded cassettes, kiddies) always had the latest technology. I think they even put out a version in "metal" - the last big-deal format of cassettes before CDs took over. Amazon's MP3s are at 256 kbps (a high sample rate), so I've been very impressed with the sound. So Breakfast in Amerca is bound to sound amazing. Going through the reviews, I notice many of them mention the superior sound quality - probably because Supertramp won over a lot of audiophiles with their insistence on recording quality.

If you've been resisting buying music in digital form, this might be the time to finally give it a try.

Friday, September 19, 2008

And Another Thing...

As for the Republicans, fifty years have shown they can't govern without breaking the bank. Starting with Richard Nixon, every Republican president has left the dollar lower, the federal budget deficit higher, the American trade position weaker, and the U.S. manufacturing work force smaller than when he took office.

From: "Countdown to a Meltdown"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I've Been Trying to Say this for Years

From "The lying game":

McCain's propensity to lie has become what political junkies call a meme, an idea or behavior that runs, seemingly unstoppably, from one media outlet to another. Some bloggers offer daily counts of how many falsehoods McCain tells while others wonder why the Democrats do not respond in turn. Even the mainstream press has gotten into the act. One of the pleasures of the 2008 campaign -- I admit they have been few and far between -- is watching all those who once admired John McCain for his truthfulness realize the true depths of his moral depravity. When McCain is linked to Palin, moreover, as he so frequently wants to be, lying experiences something of a multiplier effect. These candidates lie so much that they have taken to lying about their own lies.

Before we get carried away with enthusiasm about all this, though, we should keep two things in mind. One is that we are so quick to label McCain a liar that we tend to forget how much, and with what horrendous consequences, George W. Bush possessed the same character flaw. The other is that Republicans lie so frequently, not because the party just happened to settle upon one serial liar after another to run for high office, but because the form of conservatism to which they all adhere demands that if they are to win they have no choice but to lie.

[My emphasis added.]


Y'know, the passing of David Foster Wallace - someone I never met - is really still chewing on me. I'm kind of embarrassed about it. I'd be worried about myself were I younger and had less of an understanding about the vagaries of mood and emotion that we all go through that usually have nothing to do with anything (or, to put it simply, some days you have the blues - or, mamma said there'd be days like this).

Reading this (via has been a salve. But it's also like having to tear off and reapply a Band-Aid over and over again because you can't seem to cover the wound correctly.

Perhaps also I should've avoided reading the comments to an article on about overpopulation. I wisely skipped the article because articles of that nature - alarmist piffle about an issue we really can't do a single thing about, or at least do anything that wouldn't be hideously immoral - are just textual analogs those misguided 20-somethings who snivel that bringing another child into this already crowded world is a crime. (But we can forgive them this folly of youth; it's the people over 35 who still hold opinions like that who should be watched closely at all times.) At any rate, on the first page of comments someone crows with cynical glee that all we need is a good pandemic to fix things, and someone else chimes in about how Gaia will adjust and thin out the herd once we've become too much of a burden.

It's a bitch to read such cavalier dismissals of death and destruction when you're stinging from a tragic and needless death (or suicide, in this case). And even when someone has had a good run, like (presumably) Richard Wright of Pink Floyd, their death is still a loss.

It puts me in the mind to write fan letters to my other heroes (listed below), but the recursive trouble with that is even though they meant a lot to me, the reverse is not true, so no matter how eloquent or earnest the letter, it would probably be equivalent to a raindrop in the ocean.

- John Irving
- Stephen King
- Kurt Vonnegut (alas - too late)
- Jeff Lynne (of ELO fame)
- Jerry Lewis (Yes, I adored him as a child and still think he's underrated. Watching Martin and Lewis movies, and even the latter Lewis movies, was something my Grandmother and I did ritually.)
- Red Skelton (alas)
- Bill Cosby
- Flip Wilson (alas)
- The Smothers Brothers
- Chris Ballew (of PoUSA fame)
- Donald Fagen (of Steely Dan fame)

Another possible reason that this particular death is troubling me is I'm exactly 11 days older than DFW. As we've all experienced, when someone your age encounters eternity, it hits you harder than someone way outside of your range (though the really young ones smart more).

But perhaps the main reason is since my wife and I lost a child to a very late miscarriage, death now always means to me the loss of hope and potential, and what that person would have brought to the world. (Which is the other reason why when some whiphead moans about "bringing more unneeded human lives into an already overtaxed world" I have to restrain myself. You never know if that's gonna be the person who cures cancer (not that that will ever happen) or does some other amazing thing for humanity.)

When the loss is someone as reportedly kind and decent as David Foster Wallace - not to mention gargantuanly talented he was - it just feels like a cosmic kick in the nuts. You ratchet through all of Kubler-Ross' stages. You snap at children on the street for a few days. When you witness people mistreating each other, you want to (ironically) deliver an angry lecture on not being such putzes. Every other internal dialogue is laced with profanity. The playlist skews to thrash and metal. You laugh too hard at jokes.

It'll pass, but dammit anway.

Btw, fwiw, iyi*, this blog's name is derived from DFW's style - also a fan of digression. (The other father of the name is someone who actually used the phrase when he realized he was wandering too far off topic. Thank you Earl.)

*Yet another tribute to DFW.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nice Diversion

Nathan Dintenfass's Playlist:
15 Most Artistically Awesome Advertisements

First time I saw the IKEA lamp commercial, the punchline literally had me ROFLMAO. The new one is much better, indeed.

And I've been wanting to see that bouncing ball one forever but could never track it down.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Richard Wright dies and....

all we hear from the traditional media is [cricket, cricket, cricket].

But if Britney Spears poofs out a silent but deadly, it even makes Fox "news".

Here is a guy who was an original member of one of the most popular rock bands ever, and I didn't even hear about it on the news last night. (For those of you in the cheap seats, he was a member of Pink Floyd.)

Gad, when a minor news figure, Tim Russert, died this year, you'd a thought that we'd lost one of the most important people on the planet ever. But when we do lose someone whose music has been heard by nearly everyone who isn't deaf, and certainly by everyone who went to college (read: "got high"), we don't even get a text scroll at the bottom of a screen (the modern broadcast news equivalent of a reach-around).

I mean, wtf?

I guess this is what we get when the "reporters" who still have jobs today managed to do so by asking presidential hopefuls if they'd ever smoked a joint or not.

Anyway, if you want some details, read this and this.

In other music news, I enjoyed this posting entitled "How the Music Business Spent the Summer Killing Itself"

Short version: when a label realized they had a hit, they would suddenly pull the downloadable version from iTunes and Amazon so people couldn't download only the hit in hopes that they would then go out and buy the CD.

The music industry - or more accurately, the corporations who sell music and not so much the artists - is still in denial that the huge album sales they enjoyed for a while in the 90s and early 00s are gone. Prices were unrealistically high, legal MP3s weren't available yet, and they controlled the radio and TV media's music playlists, so it was a false bubble that was going to pop regardless. (See this recent post and go search on the top 5000 songs of all time and look at the first couple pages. You'll see the songs that were part of this bubble - there's a lot of suckitude there. Clearly an artificial situation.)

But, there's hope. Just the other day I was talking to a guy who's been in on iTunes since the beginning, and he's finally said he's gonna start buying the DRM-free MP3s from Amazon. I think a lot of folks are gonna go, "Wait, I can buy a song I can play anywhere for under a buck? Really? I don't have the buy the rest of the album if I think it's dreck? And the albums usually cost $9 if I want the whole enchilada? Sign me up!" ... "You mean I don't have to sign up at all, just go buy it?"

Once the music industry just lets us buy music the way we want without a hassle, I think they'll be in better shape. Kottke and Co. agree.

Finally, to be totally incongruous, this next piece is not about music, and I'm praising a journalist even though I dissed the profession at the start of this post.

I love the phrase that ends this excerpt from Anne Lamott's article on today's Salon, because she's probably right - only Germans might have a word for it.
When I got home from church, I drank a bunch of water to metabolize the Dove bar and called my Jesuit friend, who I know hates these people, too. I asked, "Don't you think God finds these smug egomaniacs morally repellent? Recoils from their smugness as from hot flame?"

And he said, "Absolutely. They are everything He or She hates in a Christian."

I have been in a better mood ever since, and have decided not to even say this woman's name anymore, because she fills me with such existential doubt, such a sense of impending doom and disbelief, that only the Germans could possibly have words for it.
This just makes me laugh and laugh.

The looks on all their faces are great, but the one on the bottom left next to the hurl monkey is the best.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's Alive

One of my fondest memories of being an usher (which I failed to include in this post about the other great times) was one particular night working the B-movie, It's Alive.

A mutant baby is born to a mother who was exposed to radiation during the pregnancy, where it promptly bites off its own umbilical chord, tears through all the doctors and nurses in the delivery room, leaving mom alive, then escaping through (what else?) the air ducts and is unleashed on the city.

The little beastie is disturbing, and the sounds it makes are pretty nut-clenching. It was an effective little horror film. It was one of Rick Baker's first creatures.

The poster was even tres cool. It kinda made my stomach swimmy when we first put it up. Veined, fleshy letters are just gross, dude. I don't care who you are.

One night, the Indian School came.

The Indian School, as we very politically incorrectly called it back in the day, was a special school for all the Sioux kids in the area, if not the state. Apparently, in order to preserve their culture and so on, they didn't go to the same schools as the rest of us, and were all shipped off, Harry Potter style (though it was state-run), to the Indian School. They got free tickets to a couple showings every month and would show up en masse, and generally terrorize the theatre for that one showing. We usually had to refund a few tickets for the folks who'd paid because the movie was rendered unwatchable and/or unhearable when the school descended.

Well, It's Alive scared the ever-living shit out of the whole tribe. They couldn't even stay in their seats. Every time I went to walk the aisles (something we had to do at least every 15 minutes to make sure everything was OK), I'd open the door to about 15 of them standing there, and they'd all jump and yell, causing the rest of the audience to scream.

Three of four times during the "BOO!" sequences, they'd come flying out of the door like gazelles running ahead of the lions. It was quite the sight. I could barely contain my laughter until they went back into the theatre.

I think after that, the school didn't come to another horror flick and stuck mainly to the comedies.
A Disturbing Trend

Thumbed through Billboard's Hottest Hot 100 Hits, 4th Edition by Fred Bronson, meaning I perused every list, but only the top 30 or so.

My collection of classic rock and pop is pretty complete these days, but I have never had the opportunity to view old BB lists, so wanted to see if there was any cool classic tunes I'd forgotten. Seems I haven't missed a trick.

Besides the year by year listing, it also listed top songs by artists, producers, labels, and a few genres. What an interesting way to slice things up. It pointed out something I found kinda disturbing. The years I thought were pretty much the worst on record for popular music - those being the years rap dominated the charts - which is roughly the middle 90s to the early 00s - are the years when sales were amazingly high, so they dominate the "top 5000 hits of the rock era" chart ("The Macarena" is No. 3, for crying out loud). Yes, that means that P-Diddy and JLo pretty much have high higher sales on singles than the Beatles or the Stones or Bruce (or anyone you care to name), save for perhaps Elvis. That just made me sad.

Oh, and probably the best producers of modern rock, Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, weren't included in the producers section.

The other trend is that for most of the big deal artists listed, like Billy Joel, the Beatles, and so on, many of their latter hits had much better sales than the hits that made them stars in the first place. Often these late songs aren't nearly on par with the early stuff.

Thus, I conclude the Billboard charts are not really great guides to the best music has to offer because the sales do not equate to the quality of the song (see "The Macarena" above).

Another proof of this: two hits that showed up on chart after chart were Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" and Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons." The top one-hit wonder of all time was "In the Year 2525."

The book is searchable on Amazon, so if you wanna see how faves of yours stack up on the charts, have a go.
2 for the bins

Read a couple really sub-par novels that made me think of M. Blowhard's quarterly lamenting refrain of the state of the publishing biz. I kept thinking, if THIS can get published, then either things are much better or much worse than I thought. Can't decide which.

First was The Reapers by John Connolly, where the heroes are a gay couple who happen to be hit men. But they're nice hit men, who let the lady who lived in their building before they took it over with monies they'd made from various crimes still live there because she's a good watchdog; and they kept a mechanic's garage open after the guy's wife divorced him and made it impossible for him to continue unless helped by their dirty money. And so on. The theme of this novel is all the various configurations of male pair bonding, some of them gay, some of not but still falling cleanly in the "that's so gay" category (meaning not really gay, but not too far of a stretch from it). I'm not sure what the author was going for with that particular bent. Maybe he's dropping a huge hint to a buddy of his. Who knows?

The plot was merely an assassin that the two gay assassins knew from way back comes back to kill them because they tried to kill him once.

I have no idea why I bothered to finish this one.

The other was The Last Patriot by Brad Thor, which tries to pull a Da Vinci Code where a final revelation of Mohammad was removed from the Koran because it said, in essence, "let's just be nice to everyone for a change," which conflicts with sura #9, which says kill the infidel and redeem their corpses for cash prizes and virgins. Thomas Jefferson (yes, that TJ) discovered the contents of this lost sura through a code hidden in the first edition of Cervantes's Don Quixote, and so whips up an early enigma machine to encode directions to a little mechanical doll that has the lost sura hidden inside it that he then hid in the fireplace of one of his estates in hopes of whipping it out one day and forcing Islam to become a peaceful religion like it claims to be.

I didn't bother reading this one all the way through and began skimming for just the Da Vinci Code plot. The other 69% of the book is "action sequences." so it was a quick skim.

The author has an amusing style tic in that he describes the exact high of every character when we first encounter them, ala "Buck Nichols was 6 foot 2 inches with sandy hair and was thought to ruggedly handsome by most females." You'd think his editor would've sent back a note to effect of "enough with height thing already."

If anything, these books kinda prove that Dan Brown deserves a lot more credit from the critics than he got. Only the public gave him love by dumping zillions into his bank account. I recall having a grand time when reading The Da Vinci Code. I did not have a grand time with either of the above. Consider yourself warned.
I can't believe....
that I'm never gonna read another novel by David Foster Wallace that I know was all his.

I'm sure there are gonna be posthumous publications, but it won't be the same.

I remember feeling this way after John Lennon and then Kurt Cobain died.

It's as if you can actually feel some light leaving the world.

May he rest in peace. God, I'll miss him.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wonderful World

This makes the wife and I guffaw every time it's on.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Is it going to matter?

I asked my wife after the news last night what she thought of the coming election. She said she felt Obama had a good chance, but surprised me by saying that it might not matter if they fix the election again like they have the last two times.

Good point.

Here's an interesting post and subsequent comments (particularly this one) on Making Light about the stolen elections, and summed up by a cartoon.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

What does it mean when all the best comedy out there comes from Republicans trying to campaign but only proving themselves to be asshats?

This is a comedy gem - Jon Stewart nails asshat after asshat on blatant hypocrisy. (These people know they're being recorded, right?)

Oh, and the press is finally fact-checking the Repubs in REAL TIME rather than having Al Franken write a book about it after the election's over.

My here are two of my favorites from this article:

PALIN: "The Democratic nominee for president supports plans to raise income taxes, raise payroll taxes, raise investment income taxes, raise the death tax, raise business taxes, and increase the tax burden on the American people by hundreds of billions of dollars."

THE FACTS: The Tax Policy Center, a think tank run jointly by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, concluded that Obama's plan would increase after-tax income for middle-income taxpayers by about 5 percent by 2012, or nearly $2,200 annually. McCain's plan, which cuts taxes across all income levels, would raise after tax-income for middle-income taxpayers by 3 percent, the center concluded.

Obama would provide $80 billion in tax breaks, mainly for poor workers and the elderly, including tripling the Earned Income Tax Credit for minimum-wage workers and higher credits for larger families.

He also would raise income taxes, capital gains and dividend taxes on the wealthiest. He would raise payroll taxes on taxpayers with incomes above $250,000, and he would raise corporate taxes. Small businesses that make more than $250,000 a year would see taxes rise.

FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOV. MITT ROMNEY: "We need change, all right — change from a liberal Washington to a conservative Washington! We have a prescription for every American who wants change in Washington — throw out the big-government liberals, and elect John McCain and Sarah Palin."

THE FACTS: A Back-to-the-Future moment. George W. Bush, a conservative Republican, has been president for nearly eight years. And until last year, Republicans controlled Congress. Only since January 2007 have Democrats have been in charge of the House and Senate.

I LOL'd at these:

(Thanks to Whisky for the second one.)

Finally, reporters were babbling during a station break into open mics and said what they really thought about the choice of Palin for VP (though none of them mentioned the term "MILF", to my disappointment). [Source]
Mike Murphy: You know, because I come out of the blue swing state governor world: Engler, Whitman, Tommy Thompson, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush. I mean, these guys -- this is how you win a Texas race, just run it up. And it's not gonna work. And --

Peggy Noonan: It's over.

Mike Murphy: Still McCain can give a version of the Lieberman speech to do himself some good.

Chuck Todd: I also think the Palin pick is insulting to Kay Bailey Hutchinson, too.

Peggy Noonan: Saw Kay this morning.

Chuck Todd: Yeah, she's never looked comfortable about this --

Mike Murphy: They're all bummed out.

Chuck Todd: Yeah, I mean is she really the most qualified woman they could have turned to?

Peggy Noonan: The most qualified? No! I think they went for this -- excuse me-- political bullshit about narratives --

Chuck Todd: Yeah they went to a narrative.

Mike Murphy: I totally agree.

Peggy Noonan: Every time the Republicans do that, because that's not where they live and it's not what they're good at, they blow it.

Mike Murphy: You know what's really the worst thing about it? The greatness of McCain is no cynicism, and this is cynical.

Chuck Todd: This is cynical, and as you called it, gimmicky.

Mike Murphy: Yeah.

Then came the steaming plate of crow that Peggy Noonan had to consume for the length of an article, apologizing for essentially doing what Rush, O'Reilly and Fox "News" do for a living. The part about our favorite VP of all time, Dan Quayle, and the idea of the Republican "narrative" is worth the read. (Btw, I think Palin has shown out of the gate she's not the slack-jawed moron that Quayle obviously was (is - he's not dead yet). I don't want her in office, but there's no need to insult her by implication.)