Thursday, September 30, 2004
First off: if you read this - and this - and you believe you have reason to think I linked to the lyrics just for you, you're probably right. If you don't ask, you'll never know.
Now, down to business.
Every few months I put together a compilation of tunes from old CD's and recent iTunes Store downloads. I just made such a CD yesterday; this is a list of what is on the CD, and why:
01 - The Ramones - I Just Want To Have Something To Do
This was one of the first Ramones tunes that really got my attention, back in the late 70's. Their first couple of albums were not well-recorded, but by their third and fourth albums, the band was coming into its own. This is just a wild and wonderful slab of rock and roll.
02 - Nirvana - Heart Shaped Box
Kurt Cobain insisted on making his second national Big Label release a little more raw than 'Nevermind.' 'In Utero' didn't have the polish of its predecessor, but it had several gems on it, among them 'Heart Shaped Box.' It doesn't so much tell a story as string together images that are at once beautiful and disturbing.
03 - Jimmy Eat World - Sweetness
I tend to make the mistake of thinking of this album as Jimmy's first; it isn't. But on it, the lads were able to master the fine art of writing and recording great pop-rock tunes. Coupled with a strange but compelling video, this was one of several hits from the album.
04 - Lifehouse - Hanging By A Moment
With its clear-cut religious lyrics, 'Hanging By A Moment' is one of the best simple modern rock tunes of the past decade. There's no fat here, just bone and muscle, with great production and hooks.
05 - Blink 182 - I Miss You
Alot of people wrote these guys off as nothing more than streakers and class clowns after their first national release, which sold bejillions of copies, but they were always a bit more than their critics would admit. With its syncopated drums and cello backing, this ode to pain and obsession rings true.
06 - Dido - Don't Think Of Me
An angry song by one who's been rejected. We've all been there, and we can all identify with the emotions unfurled here. It's never fun being replaced in someone else's life, and sometimes there's nothing better one can do than to write a song about it. Dido did.
07 - Beck - Lost Cause
Beck has always struck me as a man without focus, massively talented, but lacking in musical self-control. On 'Sea Change,' however, he took the heartbreak of the ending of a relationship and channeled it into great art. Sad, weary and lovely, 'Lost Cause' is something I wish I'd written.
08 - Calexico - Stevie Nicks
A strange tale of a man bent on destruction, with one of the strangest lyrics of all time: 'with a head like a vulture, and a heart full of hornets.' And then he drives off the cliff. Not Even Stevie Nicks Can Save Him. Get it? Neither do I.
09 - Nick Drake - Road
'Road' is here because no compilation put together by yours truly is complete without a song by Nick Drake. This one is off of 'Pink Moon,' one of the best albums of the past 50 years. If you don't own it, shame on you.
10 - Nelly Furtado - Turn Out The Lights
A trippy song, planting a flag of self-confidence in a field of weird emotions. Ms. Furtado makes records with alot of poise and verve for someone so young, but sometimes her precosity wears on my nerves after a while. Still, this a great song and infectious as hades.
11 - Jennifer Paige - These Days
Model-gorgeous, Jennifer delivers a performance here that's as pretty as she is, brimming with optimism and assuredness. It's a bright spot on an otherwise lackluster album, and if Ms. Paige doesn't record anything else of consequence, she can be proud of this tune.
12 - Pink - Get The Party Started
Yeah, Pink is self-indulgent and full of herself, but she's also a great talent. Now, if she could only be convinced to shut up about how hard her childhood was. Would it kill her to put a cork in it? Enough, already. But this is still a great song.
13 - Britney Spears - Toxic
I know Dissing Britney has become a cottage industry, but she's a great entertainer, and this is a splendid example of how her talent has earned her over one hundred million dollars.
14 - Justin Timberlake - Rock Your Body
When Justin went solo, he was surprisingly well-accepted by the critics, and proclaimed a star. And what's more, on this compilation, he gets to be side-by-side with Britney, one last time.
15 - No Doubt - Ex-Girlfriend
She fell in love, knowing she'd have to give him up some day. I think pretty much everyone has been in a relationship like that, which is why this song resonates with most people. And it resonated with me.
16 - Mandy Moore - In My Pocket
Mandy Moore has a great voice, but has always suffered from poor song choices; last year's 'Coverage' was no exception. Even though it didn't sell that well, her previous self-titled album actually had some great stuff on it; one of the best tracks was this song. The lyric is a little vacuous, but the North African rhythms make it shine, all the same.
17 - Radiohead - Idioteque
The meaning of this song, like that of most Radiohead songs, is hotly debated on discussion boards on the net. I'm not exactly sure what it's about, but it's obviously a song of paranoia and fear, like so many other Radiohead songs of paranoia and fear. But it's a great song of paranoia and fear.
18 - Four Tet - No More Mosquitoes
Utterly bizarre, just one line, repeated over and over: 'Oh no, no, no more mosquitoes,' yet somehow mesmering and intriguing, all the same.
19 - Randy Newman - Political Science
Randy recently re-recorded this without orchestration, just his voice and his piano, 30 years after the original, and it still sounds fresh. I'm sure Randy meant it as satire, but I wouldn't say it has to be.
20 - House Of Love - Girl With The Loneliest Eyes
Another gem from one of the most criminally-underrated bands in rock. Sad and lovely, with Chadwick's perfect delivery. The quartet was down to a trio when this was recorded, and it doesn't even show.
21 - Oasis - Gas Panic!
An apocalyptic-themed movie projected over a 6-minute pop song. Loosely based on the musical themes in 'Wonderwall,' this is an epic tune, a shining example of why Oasis should never be counted out of contention.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Hugh Hewitt took calls tonight, asking listeners to comment on John Kerry's Code Orange alert. I think my favorite line of the hour was the caller from Minnesota who said that Kerry's new orange look was the nothing less than 'sunset of the Kerry campaign.' It's a beauty, eh? Let's savor it. Heh heh.
And, in other important campaign news: yawn.
President Bush sat down for his second interview tonight with Bill O'Reilly in the No Spin Zone, and once again, did quite well, thank you. Relax, all of you. It's gonna be fine.
First joke on Leno tonight: 'Big News at CBS, Dan Rather is still there.' Applause and big laugh. Second, third and fourth jokes on Leno tonight: poking fun John Kerry's Orange Face, followed by derisive howls of laughter from the audience. And several jokes in, on how 60 Minutes II ended its show last week: 'If you'd like a phony transcript of this show, please send...' Oh, the Humanity!
And, listen, I'm as glad as anyone that the Italian Aid Workers were released today in Iraq, in safe condition. But why haven't we heard more information on the organization they work with. I'm sure someone must have covered the story, but I haven't seen it.
Bush got only 19 percent of the Jewish vote in 2000; he has known all along that most Jews would vote Democratic in 2004. Yet there is nothing anomalous about his ardent support for Israel or his firm stance against anti-Semitism. Unlike the Europe of Jewish memory, in the United States today it is the left that has increasingly set its face against Jewish interests. As poll after poll confirms, conservative Republicans are much more likely to self-identify as pro-Israel than liberal Democrats. It is no surprise that a man like Pat Buchanan has had to leave the Republican Party. Or that a man like Sharpton is at home among the Democrats.Now, go read the whole column. Then read it again.
When I was a kid and my parents started talking about politics, I'd run to my room and put on the Rolling Stones as loud as I could. So when I see all these rock stars up there talking politics, it makes me sick.
If you're listening to a rock star in order to get your information on who to vote for, you're a bigger moron than they are. Why are we rock stars? Because we're morons. We sleep all day, we play music at night and very rarely do we sit around reading the Washington Journal.
Besides, when I read the list of people who are supporting Kerry, if I wasn't already a Bush supporter, I would have immediately switched. Linda Ronstadt? Don Henley? Geez, that's a good reason right there to vote for Bush.
Well, I say if you are going to let an aging rocker do your thinking for you, at least let it be Alice, and not Bruce. Can you dig it? Right on, man!
Monday, September 27, 2004
Meanwhile George W. Bush was practicing up for the Big Debate on Thursday by taking questions from Bill O'Reilly in the No Spin Zone today. As well as things have been going for Bush this week, it was a major gamble for him to agree to face one of the toughest interviewers in the business, unscripted, if not unrehearsed. But Bush did a more-than-solid job. And, as Hugh Hewitt pointed out on his show tonight, the fact that the interview will run in-series, over three nights, right up to the debate on Thursday, which guarantees that Bush will control the news cycles until then. And fending O'Reilly's questions also helps Dubyah sharpen his claws for the debate. Bush should do well in the debates, especially given the low expectations so many have for him, just as long as he doesn't let today's encouraging poll numbers make him overconfident.
"This is a book about morons. The morons that we’ll meet don’t have tobacco juice dripping from their chins, sunburned necks, or any other stereotypical manifestations of dimness. As the title suggests, Intellectual Morons focuses on cognitive elites who embarrass themselves by championing idiotic theories, beliefs, and opinions. It is a quite pedestrian occurrence for stupid people to fall for stupid ideas. More interesting, and of greater harm to society, is the phenomenon of smart people falling for stupid ideas. Ph.D.s, high IQs, and intellectual honors are not antidotes to thickheadedness."
(This excerpt from the book explains pretty well the immediately preceding post.)
Sunday, September 26, 2004
Friday, September 24, 2004
(And, as much as I cringe hearing myself say it, I'm kinda going to miss Barbara Walters, at least on 20/20. The View is another thing altogether. I can't bring myself to actually sit and listen to the creepy banter between those women. I do wish Babs well.)
The other surprise of the evening - for me, at least - was when Barbara announced that Elizabeth Vargas is joining John Stossel as co-anchor of 20/20. John's unflapplable nature and Tom Selleck-like good-looks are a good complement to Elizabeth's pretty/smart combination. I've always enjoyed Stossel's reporting for his integrity and his willingness tweak the conventional wisdom. John and Elizabeth will make a good team. And I suspect the complete collapse of credibility over at the Big Black Eye will only serve to highlight the talent of the 20/20 hosts.
As I recall, the whole dustup originated in an online discussion thread, was picked up by Powerline, was then expanded and supported by the likes of Instapundit, and denied by the likes of Kos. And it finally 'went nuclear' when Drudge started linking to it. Then - and only then - did the cable and broadcast outlets pick up the story, and Dan Rather became the butt of jokes on Leno and Letterman's shows.
Fact is, without the Blogosphere, Dan Rather would not have been exposed and CBS would have gotten away with what amounted to electronic libel of the president. On the other hand, while the most-read of the Blogs gets a not much more than a few hundred thousand readers a day, Drudge claims nearly 10 million, and there is a significant percentage of the country for whom the news of the day does not register until Jay Leno has made a joke about it. So, in the end, while the Blogs drove the story, it was a chain of reporting that ultimately brought 60 Minutes to ground.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
But first, a bit of background: my friend is not yet a US citizen, but intends to become an American in the next year or two. He is not only a fan of Michael Moore, but he truly dislikes President Bush. In other words, while he and I are friends, we do not generally agree on politics.
My friend asked me what in the world John Kerry was thinking to speak of the Iraqi Prime Minister in such a fashion. He said he didn't care if Kerry lashed out at Dubyah, but that it was rude and ugly that Kerry would refer the Iraqi PM like that. Here Allawi is risking his life daily to rebuild Iraq - with the assistance from the US and its allies - and Kerry basically calls him a liar when the Prime Minister tells Congress of some of the successes that have happened recently in Iraq, and further expresses his gratitude to the US and the coalition for their support.
Then my friend asked me what I thought was going on. The illustration I gave my him was of the cars we see in Winter, stuck in the icy snow. The inexperienced and panicky driver, realizing his tires have got no traction, presses the accellerator as hard as he can. As the tires spin madly, however, the driver only digs himself deeper into the icy muck. And, soon enough, he is stuck even worse than he was before.
I told my friend that it seemed obvious that John Kerry is desperate, that his candidacy is sinking like a stone and he's at the point where he will say or do anything to try to get some traction. What surprised me was that my friend agreed with me.
I further told my friend that I think Kerry's given up the swing voters and is now trying to win back the Nader supporters. That's the only explanation I can fathom for his bizarre pronouncements today. But the Naderites only constitute a tiny fraction of the votes Kerry needs to win. Kerry has to try to reach back to the middle: another waffle.
Over the next few weeks, as Kerry falls further behind, I fear we will see more of the kinds of dirty tricks from the left that were pulled with the CBS National Guard report last week. In fact, I don't think we've seen anything, yet. A cornered - and sinking - critter is not only pitiful, it is downright dangerous.
MusicStack bills itself as a clearinghouse for 2500 individual record shops, with over 14 million items listed. It is a place to, as they put it: "Buy Rare Music • Used CDs • Vinyl Records • Hard to Find LPs • Out-of-Print Albums." Prices seem a little high, and you might get a better deal on Amazon or eBay, but I've checked, and MusicStack has stuff that none of the others do. Also of note, CDBBQ promises to find rare albums and copy them to CD for their customers.
At first I thought this site was a joke - it *is* a parody, after all - but it's for real. And I suspect that someone, somewhere thought it was funny. It's not.
Lastly, there are alot of great reference resources on the net, but there is nothing else quite like Wikipedia, a kind of open-source encyclopedia that accepts contributions from its users. It is not only entirely free, but has various editions in around 100 different languages. Read the FAQ. (Check out as well: Wiktionary, Wikibooks, and Wikiquote.)
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
In particular, I draw your attention to two of Mr. Prager's recent columns, in which he discusses matters of faith that pertain to both Christians and Jews. As an American Christian who was raised in the Presbyterian church, and who is a friend to both Jews and Israel, I maintain that both articles are right on target:
1) Presbyterian church defames Christianity
2) What American Jews need to think about this Rosh Hashanah
I also stopped in at Best Buy to check out the deals, but there was nothing that I really felt the urge to buy. As I was making my way to the exit, I did see something that caused me to do a double-take: a cart with over 500 copies of the newly-released DVD of 'The Passion Of The Christ.' I read that it sold some 4 million copies on its first day of release, but it seems obvious that retailers are expecting to sell a whole lot more. And it isn't even near Christmas, yet.
While I was out and about today I bought a bottle of the new Coke product 'C2,' designed to appeal to all those who feel the need to cut down on their carbohydrate intake. It wasn't that bad. But it wasn't that good, either. I want to try Pepsi's version of the same thing, but I don't suspect I'm going to be blown away by it, either. Hey, there's a reason people drink the real stuff in the first place.
(Actually, American-manufactured Coke is made with corn syruc/fructose. But if you go to any of the Mexican markets around town, they sell bottles of Coke and Pepsi imported from the old country, made with real cane sugar. There *really* is a difference in taste - the sugared cola is better.)
In migratory bird news: I was walking back to my car after work the other evening when I was confronted with an awesome sight. As I was crossing the river, I looked up to see a v-shaped group of some 30 Canada Geese, flying silently up the length of the bridge, about 50 feet above me. As they passed overhead, the group banked sharp-left and, still holding formation, plunged at a steep angle, to land gracefully in the river below. I wish I'd had a camera to get it on video.
Unlike former president JFK, JFK II doesn't understand the nature of the danger we face, and has shown no indication that he is able (or willing) to deal forcefully with evil. In the war on terror, so far G.W. Bush has shown that he is serious. John Kerry is not. Kerry says he will destroy the enemy, yet he's stated time again that he would have not gone to war in Iraq. Or maybe he would. Or not. In fact, it doesn't really matter what Kerry says; he'll express an opposite opinion as soon as it is seems expedient to him.
This is important stuff. I urge you to read Hugh Hewitt's latest book. And, when you're done, go check out Iraq The Model to learn about what's *really* going on in that troubled land. Pay close attention to Ali's post of 09-21-04 entitled 'The Iraqi Adventure.' Read it twice. Read the couple of hundred comments. Read the link to Robert Novak's column. Ali is worried. He thinks Novak might be onto something that would be disastrous to his country. John Kerry and Michael Moore and the hundreds of other not-so-useful idiots have so hammered away at Bush's Iraq strategy that - according to Novak - it seems some in the White House *do* want to cut and run. We must re-elect President Bush by a large enough of a margin so as to send him a message to stay the course, until the job is done.
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
It was only when I got back to the office that I found an email waiting for me from a friend, linking to a story on Yahoo about the sad death of Johnny Ramone (55) of prostate cancer. Wow. He's the second Ramone to die in the past couple of years. It's the passing of an age.
Much has been written over the years about The Ramones being the godfathers of punk. That they were. But musically they really were more of a '50s' band, with a pumped-up beat and crunchy guitars. (Hey, they even covered 'Surfin Bird' on 'Rocket To Russia.') And their lyrics were something else, again: two-chord celebrations of girls, beaches and amusement parks, drugs and cartoon violence.
Unlike The Clash, who also were also labeled 'godfathers-of-punk,' The Ramones were never great musicians; they never even pretended to be be accomplished on their instruments. What was most 'punk' about them was their attitude about music. They always gave off the vibe of not really giving a rodent's posterior about what anyone thought of them or their music, and - true or false - in doing so, they inspired thousands of young kids, without otherwise noticeable talent, to start up bands and give rock a shot.
Even if The Ramones were eclipsed musically by their punk decendants like Bad Religion, Green Day, Blink 182 and Yellow Card, I suspect that members of those bands - like millions of the rest of us - doffed their caps last week in honor of Johnny Ramone's passing. And I say thanks for the great music.
I found a website with a wonderful online tour of the Hermitage and a great site with loads of information about the Romanov dynasty. Very cool.
I know that alot of people prefer Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien, but I always thought that Craig Kilborn was in a league of his own. Although Conan can often be quite funny, he doesn't always seem to understand the diffference between irony and sarcasm - Kilborn had irony in spades. For his part, Jimmy's appeal is his rather disheveled presentation. Craig was never dishevelled - he was the epitome of cool.
Alot of people have told over the years that they didn't like Craig, that thay felt he was full of himself. I suspect he was. It's unlikely that a performer of any ilk can go in front of an audience night after night and not be just a little bit of an egocentric. But Craig was consistently funny, and his program had great ratings to show for it. He will be missed.
Monday, September 20, 2004
But for CBS News President Andrew Heyward to maintain that
Nothing is more important to us than our credibility and keeping faith with the millions of people who count on us for fair, accurate, reliable, and independent reporting [and] we will continue to work tirelessly to be worthy of that trust
just makes him sound foolish. The cows are already out of the barn. Standing in front of an open barn door and engaging in wishful thinking ain't bringing Bossie back.
The real question: was the airing of the story due to malfeasance on the part of CBS, or just plain ineptitude? I guess I'm inclined to go with the old Maxim that's served me well for years: "Don't ascribe to malice in others that what can be more simply explained by incompetence."
The Sage of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken, wrote the following about the state of the country's newspapers in 1927, published originally in the Chicago Tribune, and most recently in the Anchor Books collection The Impossible H.L. Mencken. I have to wonder what he might have written about the recent ruckus at CBS.
The fake news that pours in from such centers of controversy as Russia and China is not ordered by Wall street, nor even by the dull Babbitts who now own the majority of papers. It is ordered by managing editors who are professionally incompetent to get better--which is to say, by men who are unequal to the demands of their jobs. They know very well that news fakers swarm in such places, and it is their business to detect them and put them down. Some of them actually do it. But the rest swallow whatever comes in, and so the public is informed every Tuesday that the bolsheviki are preparing to throw up the sponge on the ensuing Saturday, and from Shanghai comes news of the complete defeat of the Nationalist army, and twenty-four hours before it marched triumphantly into the city.
Of late every reflective American reader must have noticed the inaccuracy and imbecility of most of the special correspondence issuing from Washington. In it all the frauds, high and low, who flourish in that town are treated with the utmost gravity, and their cheapest and most venal maneuvers are depicted as masterpieces of statecraft. Is this bilge ordered by Wall street? I doubt it. Is it demanded by the customers of the papers that print it? Again I have a doubt. Far easier and more plausible is the explanation that the Washington correspondents write it willingly and in good faith--that they are too stupid to penetrate the fraudulencies by which they are surrounded.