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Saturday, January 30, 2010

My God

For the first time in months, I went to Foxnews.com to see if they had anything about the Glenn Beck/Bill O'Reilly show we're running today..and this is what I find.

Seriously.

This is what passes for intelligent commentary on Fox News?
These groups [National Organization for Women, etc.] are not “for” women and they don’t want them to have a “choice.” They only want women to “choose” the path of abortion.
I'm pretty sure that's, well, let me be blunt about it, a fucking bald-faced lie.

No matter. The writer of this piece, Marjorie Dannenfelser, isn't arguing against NOW. She's arguing against the demons in her own head.

I hope it's fun.

Updated: On the way home, I was thinking about the irony of the "pro-life" movement. You've got good ole Marjorie hacking on pro-choicers for only wanting to "choose" abortion, and then you've got Focus on the Family running an ad celebrating how Tim Tebow's mother "chose" to keep him despite possible medical complications.

And then, just a personal anecdote, you have me going to Planned Parenthood (mostly because my insurance company couldn't figure out how to send my 2010 ID cards, which I just got in the mail today) and not hearing anything about abortion except from the protesters posted outside.

Let...it...go. In a previous post, I referenced Matthew Chapter 6, verse 1. I now reference Chapter 7, verse 1. Look it up.

Or let me help you.

(Don't look at me that way. It's not my sacred text.)

A Few Things

Some stuff I'd like to blog about...if I had more time.


Amazon Pulls Macmillan Books Over E-Book Price Disagreement


The gist:
Macmillan, like other publishers, has asked Amazon to raise the price of electronic books from $9.99 to around $15. Amazon is expressing its strong disagreement by temporarily removing Macmillan books
This is called flexing your muscles.

The truth is Macmillan needs Amazon a whole lot more than Amazon needs Macmillan, a fact Macmillan will no doubt come to accept in the coming weeks, but a larger truth is that you can't arbitrarily set prices and expect people to pay them.

I don't know about you, but I'm not paying $9.99 for an e-book anymore than I'm paying $15.00. I'll give you a buck (maybe) but you better let me print it out, make a back-up copy, and read it on any device I want to. Until then, I'll stick with buying actual books. They're cheaper, portable, can be more easily loaned, and if my hard drive croaks, they're still sitting there on the shelf, waiting to be read.

Republican slams Obama administration on terrorism


I know, surprise, huh? But let's not dismiss the criticism because it's so predictable. Let's listen to what she has to say:

In her roughly five-minute address, Maine Sen. Susan Collins takes issue with how the Obama administration has chosen to treat Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian accused to trying to blow-up an American airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

“Less than one hour. That’s right, less than one hour,” Collins says in this week’s Republican address. “In fact, just fifty minutes. That’s the amount of time that the FBI spent questioning AbdulMutallab, the foreign terrorist who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day. Then, he was given a Miranda warning and a lawyer, and, not surprisingly, he stopped talking. How did we get to this point? How did the Obama administration decide to treat a foreign terrorist, who had tried to murder hundreds of people, as if he were a common criminal?”
I heard an earful of this stuff from my Uncle Jim. But here's the deal.

We tried this approach. It doesn't work. In the laboratory of life, the results are in: the Republican "war" approach to terrorism is a failure.

What would Collins prefer, I wonder? Calling the underwear bomber an "enemy combatant" and throwing him in Gitmo? (Never mind that "enemy combatant" is just a useful way to deny "prisoners of war" Geneva protections...)

So we're going back to the old way. Arresting them, trying them, and imprisoning them. Because there hasn't been a single incarcerated or executed terrorist that has escaped or lived to fight another day. But there have been several documented cases of "enemy combatants" released from Gitmo continuing the terrorist trade...

So back to the drawing board, Republicans. We're going back to trials and convictions because your ideas don't work. Deal with it.

And now...everyone's favorite topic! Abortion.

Scott Roeder, the homicidal maniac that gunned down Dr. George Tiller during a church service, was convicted of first degree murder yesterday and sentenced to life in prison. It's telling that a jury of his peers had more mercy for Roeder than Roeder had for his victim.

After all, decent people can have strong feelings against abortion, but decent people by definition do not walk into churches and gun people down. May he live a long, miserable life and die a lonely death.

And speaking of abortion, I can't wait to see Tim Tebow's Focus on the Family commercial during the Super Bowl. From what I understand, Tebow's mom is going to tell us all about she was going to abort her son until an angel came down from heaven and told her he was destined for football greatness.

I joke.

I've really got no opinion on whether this is appropriate for the Super Bowl, but I lean towards "Why not?" If Focus on the Family wants to pay umpteen-million-dollars to air a commercial during the Super Bowl, well, go for it.

I'm not sure what they hope to accomplish with it, but I believe that Focus on the Family should be allowed to blow as much dough on completely useless things as they want to. The more money they waste, the better I'll feel. I won't be perfectly happy until they are declaring bankruptcy and selling off assets at auction.

I know, I know. Why do I root so strongly for the ruin of a group called "Focus on the Family?" Because they're obnoxious charlatans.

Jesus didn't say, "Put Bible verses on your eye tape" or "Run a commercial during the Super Bowl."

He said, "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." (That would be Matthew 6, verse 1, you know straight from the Big Man himself.)

Or you, could ignore what Jesus said and go with the Tebow/Focus on the Family route, slathering your "acts of righteousness" all over the largest television audience known to man so everyone can see what a "good Christian" you really are!

Yeah, that'll really impress the dude who already said --in writing-- "don't do it."

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Phantom Cop

This morning, I was just going to drive to the park-and-ride and catch the bus, but once I got to driving, I decided to just skip the bus step and drive to the train station.

It's six o'clock. The streets are deserted. I'm talking to myself. Telling myself that it's cold, it's early. No cop wants to freeze his nuts off busting my balls. Besides, they're all probably still at Denny's.

Just find a crowd, stay there.

And it worked, until I hit Parker and Iliff. I was all alone at a red light. Red lights are killers. You never know what's going to creep up on you at a red light.

But it's cold, it's early. No cops are out.

The light goes green just as a car pulls up next to me. I start going, get up to speed. It's a cop! He's pulled up right next to me, pacing me.

I didn't look over, just saw him out of the corner of my eye. Please go, I thought. Just go.

The cop slowed down, and I expected to see his lights in my rear view, then the blue and red, then the handcuffs.

But he just disappeared.

On the way home, a sinkhole ate the road I was going to drive on and stranded me in traffic hell.

Anvil

I was going to write a post about Anvil! The Story of Anvil, a truly great documentary that's on DVD now, but then I saw this.

Trust us. It's worth a watch.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So White of Me

My hip-hop rant was inspired by watching this slightly humorous nerdcore video this morning and watching some of the documentaries in the Beef series last week.

I am by no means an expert or an interested party, so my views may be completely irrelevant, but hip-hop has so much more potential than just being the "poetry of the streets."

It doesn't always have to be as jokey and nerdy as this, but it could be, and that's an important point to consider.

On The Poverty of Hip-Hop Culture

I'm not down with hip-hop. I'm not talking about the music, because I do like some of the music, but the culture: thug-life, the money, the bitches, the fake machismo, all of that. It's nothing personal. It's just not my thing.

Every music comes with its own culture. If you're a big Tim McGraw fan, the chances of you wearing a cowboy hat in public are pretty high. If you're into metal, you might have once owned a leather jacket, possibly with studs, and grown your hair long. (Although I never really did.) If you're mostly into classical, you probably close your eyes a lot and conduct air symphonies to the adoring audience in your head. It is what it is. That's how music culture works.

But hip-hop has been around long enough to evolve beyond gangsta style, but the thugs seem to have a stranglehold on it, in my opinion, to hip-hop's detriment.

Hip-hop originated as party music, DJs playing riddims and spicing it up with scratches, drum machines, and samples. MCs were used to hype the crowd, but soon the competitive nature of MCing gave rise to bonafide rappers who were more concerned with owning the mic than hyping the crowd. You couldn't just get up there and play out the old "bawitdaba da dang dang ditty" stuff. You had to say something.

You had to bring something to the table: the best rhymes, the illest stories, the heaviest dis. You had to speak up for your people, whether it's just the crew on your block or your entire race, and you had to do in the most creative way possible. You sucker MCs is who I please.

Unfortunately, thirty some years later, hip-hop is saying the same things over and over and over. The rhymes are still creative, but the themes are stuck in a kind of hip-hop death cycle. Gangsters rapping about their hoods are a dime a dozen. There are a few that have grown up, so to speak, but even then, you can bet that Ice Cube's next record isn't going to be about a tough day on the set of Are We There Yet. You can bet that Ice T and LL Cool J's new records won't be about the pressures of being stars of their own cop shows.

Even these guys can't escape the box that hip-hop culture has put them in, not completely. They've got reputations to live up to, and the young'uns coming up want to surpass them. So the walls of the box gets tighter, more constricting.

And while there are some hip-hop artists who try to take the art form in new and interesting directions, gravity and inertia keeps pulling it back toward the street. It's worked out well these past few years, making a lot of people a lot of money and taking over the pop charts, but it's also a recipe for artistic obsolescence.

I'm just a white boy metalhead, but I don't want to hear another record about robbing and killing, because I have DMX, or sipping on gin and juice, because I have Snoop Dogg. Sure, I'd like to hear some fresh beats, some jaw-dropping rhymes, but don't forget, you have to say something. More importantly, you have to say something else.

It's Official

The left has turned on Obama.

Bipartisan hate is so heart-warming, innit?

Updated: Even Ta-Nehisi Coates is getting in on the act:
Beyond that, I think, in part because of this health care fight, I've lost some confidence in the president. For the last week he's just seemed directionless and uninterested in pushing the bill forward. That's a liberal voter who lives in Harlem talking. I don't know how this, or the budget freeze, will play politically. Maybe all of it is pure genius. But I'm not feeling the magic.
Just browsing through the commentary on this issue, both right and left, it seems there's a disproportionate concern about how this will play politically. And, hey, I get it.

Our political system is geared more towards winning elections than actually governing. But what about the (strong) possibility that this was a governing decision rather than part of the never ending campaign season?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Creation

When I first saw this trailer, my first impression was, "Oh, man, this movie looks like a crappy Oscar-bait vanity project for Paul Bettany and his wife Jennifer Connelly."

But then something happened towards the end. "There is grandeur in this view of life. From so simple of a gimmick, endless forms, most wonderful, have been, and are being, evolved."

I thought that was a beautiful way of putting it.

The movie will probably suck and will --put money on it-- flop in the United States, but I'm curious to see it. I just hope it's not the tepid melodrama that it looks like it is.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Art Attack

A few months ago I was looking for Dia De Las Muertos stuff on Ebay and I saw some sweet light-switch covers. I almost bought one too, but it was ten bucks plus shipping, which is a bit steep for a light-switch cover if you ask me, but I didn't because I noticed the description said that the seller made it.

Any idiot can print out a cool picture and glue it to a light-switch cover, even me.

Hence:

It's not my best work, but it'll do. I might make some more for all my light-switches, I might not. But I won't be buying any on Ebay.

Speaking of Dia de las Muertos stuff, here's a painting I did. I was going for a candy skull on a pedestal or something, but I think I only succeeded in "my kid can do better than that."

Don't worry, I'm not quitting my day job.

Dumb Dumb Dumb

Megan McArdle on the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to use their capital resources to influence our elections:
Good for media companies. But bad for the rest of us? Fewer and fewer people watch commercials. And I can't say that I believe that either ads for policy positions, or ads for salad dressing/floor wax, are so mind-shatteringly effective that I'm much worried which kind we get.
A couple things about this:

A) The "fewer and fewer people watch commercials" crap. So??? The rightness or wrongness of something is not determined by the number of participants. Fewer and fewer people are in Satanic cults, but sacrificing children is still not okay.

B) McArdle doesn't believe ads are "mind-shatteringly effective." Not all of them are, it's true. But advertising is a multi-billion dollar enterprise precisely because advertising is, indeed, "mind-shatteringly effective."

C) This post is a classic case of rationalizing. Let's say you believe something with every fiber of your being -say, allowing corporations to buy elections is fine and dandy- and someone points out the downside. What are you going to do?

Abandon your beliefs completely? Or are you going to come up with dumb reasons for why you were right all along? Like, "no one watches commercials anymore" and "commercials aren't effective anyway."