Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

30 September, 2007

Park this

Those who've known me for awhile are aware that I harbor no small amount of animosity towards the automobile, primarily because of its environmental impacts. It was never the greenhouse emissions that resulted from internal combustion, however, that fed my dislike. Rather, it was the heinous impacts on land use that really drove me nuts. The impact of the automobile on suburban sprawl is well known. Likewise, the answer to traffic congestion is reflexively, "Build more roads!" But as Katherine Mieszkowski writes in Salon, the gratuitous need for more and more parking might just be the biggest abomination of automotive transportation.
It's a self-perpetuating cycle. As parking lots proliferate, they decrease density and increase sprawl. In 1961, when the city of Oakland, Calif., started requiring apartments to have one parking space per apartment, housing costs per apartment increased by 18 percent, and urban density declined by 30 percent. It's a pattern that's spread across the country.

In cities, the parking lots themselves are black holes in the urban fabric, making city streets less walkable. One landscape architect compares them to "cavities" in the cityscape. Downtown Albuquerque, N.M., now devotes more land to parking than all other land uses combined. Half of downtown Buffalo, N.Y., is devoted to parking. And one study of Olympia, Wash., found that parking and driveways occupied twice as much land as the buildings that they served.

The article's a very interesting read and does a great job discussing the hidden costs of free parking. Some cities are taking action to reign in the proliferation of empty lots around massive structures, but it remains to be seen if the tide of blacktop can be turned. In the meantime, take the bus or ride a bike (preferably one that you haven't stolen from me).


Sunday night bambino blogging

And really, who (aside from soulless child-haters in radical chic) doesn't love a moonbounce?

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29 September, 2007

Don't mess with my kid

We have a general rule of thumb in our family - if someone doesn't like l'il wobs, we generally agree that said person is a bad, bad human being. This evening we went to an Octoberfest gathering and met a woman who was not only immune to his charms, but actively disliked him.

First, she took his chair. We've spent a lot of time teaching l'il wobs that if he wants something that another person is using, he should ask if he can have it. Polite, civilized behavior, right? So, this woman just goes over and snags his chair for her friend who had just arrived. When the kid comes back and finds his chair gone, he's upset. I offer him my chair, but he's three, and wants "his" chair back. No big deal, I take my chair over to the gentleman who had been offered l'il wobs purloined seat and offer to trade him. He's very nice about it and trades seats, but ms. chair thief rolls her eyes.

Next, l'il wobs really likes to help people, and so he was offering to fill up everyone's beer at the keg. It was pretty freakin' cute, and everyone got a kick out of the three year old kegmaster, except, of course, ms. mckilljoy. When l'il wobs offered to refill her beer, she told him that he can't pour beers until he's 21. It's not like he was doing keg-stands, but I suppose this woman needs to affirm her moral superiority by depriving a small child the happiness of helping her out.

On top of all this, this woman was making all sorts of obnoxious disapproving clucks around ms. wobs the entire evening. I kind of knew she was trouble when we arrived. Who arrives at a party with her partner wearing matching Che Guevera t-shirts (tucked in, no less)? Who sits around and brags about her closet full of yuppie radical shirts (like "Against the Neoliberal Tide") that she obviously breaks out for the protest du jour (or evening soirée)? I'd expect that from your college sophomore, but from a woman who looked to be in her fifties?

Humorless, child-hating biddies like her give us lefties a bad name.

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Fuck ABC!

You've got a top 25 match-up out west between Cal and Oregon, and you pre-empt it to show the fucking Terps-Rutgers game? I don't care if the game is of local interest! Screw the ACC! Give me my Ducks!


Totally and utterly non-random ten plus one playlist

I'm not leaving it up to iTunes to pick the songs today. Instead, I'd rather share some of the songs I'm regularly dialing up on the Pod and tell you why I'm digging them. And there's not a conservative or Catholic tune in the bunch.
  • "Welcome to the Terrordome" - Public Enemy: It's a rare song that captures a moment and place in time so vividly. Chuck D's apocalyptic recounting of the mean streets of New York back in the "bad old days" of the late '80s is perfectly complemented by the Bomb Squad's production, which evokes the cacophony of a disintegrating social environment.
  • "The Gash" - the Flaming Lips: The world's first and only psychedelic gospel march. I once read someone who stated that this song should be listened to very loud, sitting directly between the speakers after taking a giant bong rip. That sounds about right - the dense, swirling sounds perversely buoy the sweetness of of Wayne Coyne's plaintive lyrics.
  • "Windchimes" - Brian Wilson: Staying in the realm of psychedelia, this little gem from the Beach Boys' lost masterpiece (finally released in the last few years) manages to capture the expectancy of a person about to embark on a wild trip, focusing on the minutiae of the surrounding landscape until the world explodes around him.
  • "Caribou" - the Pixies: A narrative of self-loathing, the spartan production of this tune from their first EP creates a mournful atmosphere that accentuates the massive crescendo in the chorus, culminating in Black Francis's desperate cry of "Repent!"
  • "Negative Creep" - Nirvana: More self-loathing (but really, what in Nirvana's catalog isn't about that?), but furious. The only thing that would make this song more perfect is morphing back into an angry sixteen year, huffing glue, and flipping off my parents while listening to it.
  • "Bread and Roses" - Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco: Of all the labor hymns, this is the one that affects me the most. This memorialization of the Lawrence mill strike is a stirring testament of feminine (and human) dignity that never fails to make my skin tingle or bring a mist to my eyes. DiFranco's sympathetic accompaniment only underscores Phillip's sonorous baritone.
  • "Must Be The Moon" - !!!: A wry accounting a hook-up born on the dancefloor, this song is sexy as fuck. It's a driving piece of dance punk made all the more compelling by the layers of processed guitar drone.
  • "Hey Ladies" - the Beastie Boys: A hilarious send-up of the quintessential cad, I think this song also conveys a real, erm... appreciation for the women (especially the "beatnik chicks just wearing their socks"). Add to that the multiple obvious and subtle pop cultural references and the funky-ass Dust Brothers' production, and you have a bona fide classic.
  • "Side with the Seeds" - Wilco: I've gone on before about how much I enjoy the laid-back, jammy feel of Wilco's latest, but this song stands out for me as featuring some of Jeff Tweedy's most soulful vocals to date.
  • "One Reporter's Opinion" - the Minutemen: "What could be romantic to Mike Watt?" I have no idea what the answer to d. boon's rhetorical question might be, but this song rides on Watt's rolling bass lines and boon's perfect delivery of surreal lyrics.
And your bonus #11:
  • "Common People" - William Shatner: You might be tempted to believe that I'm offering this track with an ironic wink. It is Captain Kirk, after all, and one could be excused, after his campy take of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and the atrocious "Rocket Man," for believing that this is just more self-indulgence. But this cover of the Pulp classic honestly rocks (witness the Shat's dueling with Pulp icon Joe Cocker). Does this make me post-postmodern? The song certainly is self-conscious, but Shatner's vocals nail the song's not so subtle contempt for rich hipsters. It's worth price of admission just to hear the Shat deliver the lines, "Laugh along with the common people/ Laugh along even though their laughing at you/ And all the stupid things that you do/ Because you think poor is cool" with such vitriolic cool. It really is a great track, and iTunes does a great disservice classifying it in the "comedy" genre.

So there you have it. Songs that are worth the $10.89 to download from the iTunes store, download from Napster, or steal from your favorite on-line pirate. Not that I condone that.

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28 September, 2007

I want to believe

Usually by this time of year, I've lost interest in baseball. Fuck, who am I kidding - usually by mid-June, the Cubbies have been statistically eliminated yet again from contention. But tonight, Wrigleyville's alive with possibility as my beloved Northsiders punched their ticket to the post-season.

Hope springs eternal.

Am I ready for this? Will it be a merciful, we're-just-happy-to-be-here exit in the divisionals? An excruciating collapse in the championship series as cumulus clouds in the shape of a billy-goat leer over Waveland Avenue? Or do I dare to believe that we're a mere 99 innings of winning ball away from the end of a 99 year drought?

My great-grandfather was an 11 year old boy in Austria the last time the Cubs won the World Series (he'd become a Cubs fan after emigrating to Chicago following the First World War). My grandfather spent his entire life making pilgrimages to Wrigley Field, and died seeing them come close to the holy grail only once. My parents have only known the Lovable Losers. And I was bequeathed the comforting mantra, "Maybe next year, maybe next year..."

I'm 33 years old. There are three outs in each team's at bat per inning. 99 innings. 99 years.

I want to believe. I have to believe. Go Cubs.


27 September, 2007

Pleasant reminders

One of the nice things about living in DC is that people from far away come here. Conference, research, tourism, it seems that just about everyone has a reason to show up every now and again. Even though Eugene is a gorgeous place to visit and has its own charms to recommend, it was like pulling teeth convincing people to come spend some time. Hell, my parents only visited three times over eleven years - and two of those were after l'il wobs made his triumphant appearance. Maybe it's because you can't get a direct flight.

At any rate, some friends from the sociology department at UO are in town this week, working on a really cool research project where they're gathering data at the Department of Labor research archives. We had dinner with them down at Dupont Circle this evening and spent a few hours catching up. Even though C. and A. aren't particularly close friends, seeing them provided me with a much needed morale boost. The big city can be a little lonely when you're still new.

In other news, when I was dropping my sister-in-law off after baby-sitting for us, I saw a red fox. And it was good.


25 September, 2007

Facts, schmacts

As we continue our investigation into the use of powerful, hallucinatory horse tranquilizers by prominent... uh, well-known... ok, dime-a-dozen right-wing hacks, we stumble across the sad case of Dennis Prager who, when not drooling on himself as he lolls around in a stupor, is engaged in a nonsensical diatribe against the truthlessness of "the Left":
In the hierarchy of leftist (as opposed to traditional liberal) values, truth is below other values, such as equality, opposition to war, the promotion of secularism and a number of other highly regarded values on the Left.

Wait a minute... you mean to tell me he's sober and he actually believes this shit? Well, he's got to have something to back it up, right?
The first example is what is known as political correctness. Leftist denial of what is true is so widespread that we have a term for it, political correctness. There is no comparable right-wing political correctness, i.e., denying truths so as not to offend right-wing values or certain groups.

He's right, there's no such thing as political correctness on the Right. Why, they would never spew hypocritical outrage over an ad criticizing war leaders (while they themselves slimed military veterans of the opposition party). Nor would the Right seek to intervene in the highly personal individual decisions around end-of-life issues in order to appease their base. They would under no circumstances try to file a harassing lawsuit that would cost the job of a professor who believed that teaching the Old Testament story of creationism as literal truth was inappropriate for a course on Western Civilization. And, of course, the Right always tells the truth about Iraq. Everything's great, and getting better all the time! Nope, not one bit of political correctness at all.
Textbooks. A prime example of the Left's view of truth is its changing the goal of high school American history textbooks from telling truth to promoting self-esteem among minority and female students by depicting more women and more non-whites in American history textbooks.

Yet another valid point. Discussing the contributions of Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Martin Luther King Jr. aren't really "telling truth" so much as they're feel-good exercises in morale building. We all know that women and minorities have contributed absolutely nothing to this country!
"Bush is a liar." Currently, the most widely repeated lie of the Left is that President George W. Bush lied about Saddam Hussein having Weapons of Mass Destruction. It is repeated so often ("Bush lied, people died") that many Americans now believe this. But it is not true. There were valid reasons for anyone to believe that Saddam Hussein had WMD. Saddam had used them in the past; he refused to allow unfettered inspections; he was the major foreign sponsor of Palestinian terror; and most important, virtually all Western intelligence agencies believed Saddam had WMD.

Of course he didn't lie! Bush believed - and still believes - every damn word he's uttered. So saying that Bush is not a liar may be technically correct; it's much more accurate to say that Bush refused to believe reams of evidence which contradicted his myopic view. Bravo, Prager!
Callling [sic] liberals "unpatriotic." Another lie of the Left is that Republicans and conservatives regularly label opponents of the war in Iraq "unpatriotic."

Again, Dennis is dead-on. Conservatives have never called liberals unpatriotic. Treasonous, sure. Traitors, you bet. But never unpatriotic. Oh, wait...
The homeless, heterosexual AIDS, and rape. For years, mainstream leftist news media purveyed false information supplied by Mitch Snyder, the major left-wing activist on behalf of the homeless. Likewise, we were told by gay and AIDS activist groups that AIDS "doesn't discriminate," meaning that heterosexuals in America were as likely to contract the HIV virus as homosexuals. It was never true in America (Africa may be another story for other reasons). Feminist groups have offered statistics on rape and sexual violence that are patently false.

First of all, real classy pegging as a liar a man who has been dead for seventeen years. Of course, the National Coalition for the Homeless are just repeating his lies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are well known fabricators when it comes to the rates of same-sex and opposite-sex transmission of HIV, as well as sexual assault. I'm sure Dennis is going to come back here with some solid evidence that will demonstrate to us all what a bunch of truth-challenged fibbers these leftists all are. Right Dennis?


You're sure he's not 'round back snorting lines of ketamine?

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24 September, 2007

Punk Rock Monday

This is two weeks running that lex has inspired a PRM, this time with a reminder at his place about how totally and completely awesome the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion are. I’ve heard kicked around “best live band ever,” and from my own experiences seeing them in Tampa in the mid-90s, those claims have merit. The blues are certainly a reference point for these guys, but don’t let the name fool you. The Blues Explosion is punk as fuck.

“Wail” from 1996

“High Gear” and “Talk About the Blues”

And I don’t usually post videos, but since this song is so badass, I’ll make an exception: “Afro”


23 September, 2007

Sunday night bambino blogging

It's only a matter of time until he's on the river...

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Not serving the High Life

The dy-no-mite ms. wobs and I had a date night on Thursday evening. We headed into the city for... bowling. We don't go bowling too often, namely because ms.wobs convincingly kicks my ass most of the time, but it seemed like a good idea for this evening (I did win one game, thanks to Lady Margarita).

However, the bowling alley we went to... I dunno. It was the Lucky Strike down at Gallery Place. Now I have nothing against fine or trendy establishments. I enjoy a good meal at a nice restaurant, and I can dig on the trendy bar with the impressive martini menu. But "posh" and "bowling alley" should not be uttered in the same breath. Yet there we were.

First, it appears to be cosmic bowling all the time in there, so the lanes are a black-lit dim, with a video projection screen over the pins (this was very annoying, as it obscured the lane markings which I desperately need to make a decent roll). The seating area around the lanes had a low table with two couches. Couches, people. And they were relatively comfortable. On the table was a freaking candle.

What's more, there's something highly discordant about being able to get a well-poured, top-shelf manhattan delivered to your lane while you're bowling. I don't begrudge the liquor - the tasty margarita which ms. wobs slurped down did inebriate her enough to assure victory in game 2 (ok - it was only by a sliver) - but it's strange. And having goat cheese pastries and coconut prawn shrimp that actually taste good while you bowl? I'm sorry, but a bowling alley should serve greasy fries and jalapeño poppers. And the rest of their menu was pretty good as well. It shouldn't be that way. It really shouldn't.

No rotund, mustachioed guys with a scowl named Earl disinfecting shoes. Nary a Polish-American social club in sight. Not even a gang of college hipsters swilling PBR and occasionally sneaking out to smoke rolled Drum cigarette. Nope, this was bowling for the young and beautiful crowd (where, of course, ms. wobs and I blended in perfectly). Don't get me wrong, we had a lot of fun, but I think for our next ten pin experience, we'll seek out something a little more downscale.

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20 September, 2007

So very, very disappointed in you

Is there a reason why none of you Oregon folk relayed the news that our beloved Duck totally kicked the crap out of the Houston Cougar?

Memo to Oregonians: I am to be alerted to all mascot-related shenaniganry which helps devalue my degree.



If you haven't seen this yet, watch it. In an age of unbridled cynicism and partisanship, it serves as a powerful and emotional reminder that those in power can search their souls and ultimately do the right thing. Thank you, Mayor Sanders, for having the courage to listen to your heart.

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19 September, 2007

A few questions

Should I be pleased that the WaPo has dedicated a blog to fact-checking the statements of the 2008 candidates, or pissed that it took them this long to hit on the idea? And who wants to bet that the fact-checking will keep to trivial statements like "Americans are getting fatter and stupider?"

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My shame, my salvation

I no longer feel so guilty about harboring a secret liking of Justin Timberlake, as David Byrne seems to dig him as well. That's not to say I'm entirely guilt free, but having a Talking Head in your camp does absolve some it.

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18 September, 2007

What I learned on the internets today

According to Ramesh Ponnuru at The Corner, the votes of a handful of Republican Senators on a procedural matter that would move residents of DC a step closer to democratic representation in an institution in the nation where they are - allegedly - citizens are a "move to the left."

Well, at least he's honest about the GOP's take on democracy. It's leftist drivel.

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Hey, you know what makes your 33rd birthday really, really awesome?

Walking out in the morning and finding out that some fuckwit has stolen your bike! Woo, yeah! Happy fucking birthday to me! Rot in hell, bike thief!

On the lighter side, when I was reporting the theft to the police, the officer's cellphone rang. Her ringtone was Chamillionaire's "Ridin' Dirty."

Okay, cheer me up and tell me about your shittiest birthday.


17 September, 2007

Punk Rock Monday

I have to thank pattyjoe for introducing me to the Walkmen when he floated me a copy of A Hundred Miles Off. Had it been released ten years earlier it would've been the soundtrack to my mid-20s, combining the intensity and rawness of punk, a strong sense of dynamics (the Pixies come immediately to mind as a comparison in this regards), but with a woozy ambiance that perfectly encapsulates one thousand nights in a dive bar.

"Wake Up" and "Rue the Day"

"Lost in Boston"

And lastly, "North Pole"


16 September, 2007

Sunday night bambino blogging

This pretty much says all you need to know about l'il wobs:


Middle Yough death paddle

I just got back from Western Pennsylvania and a day on the Youghiheny (pronounced YOCK-i-hay-nee, in contravention of conventional English pronunciation) River. The whitewater was less than we hoped for, unfortunately. We had the choice of two runs, the Lower Yough, which is a Class III/IV playland, and the Middle Yough, which was an easy class I/II run. Since it had been awhile since Mark, Mara and I had actually had an opportunity to paddle, we opted for the Middle, thinking that it would at least offer some splashy water and a few playholes for some surfing. We were wrong. Oh my, we were wrong.

We spent the vast majority of the 9 mile run paddling. For the uninitiated, that seems like "Duh, you were in a kayak." But by way of explanation, in a whitewater kayak, you shouldn't have to paddle. The key to kayaking, like dancing and good sex, is the swivel of the hip. Subtle shifts of your weight against the current of the water account for 90% of your maneuverability (and 100% of any on-river carnage, when you plant the wrong edge). Your paddle is used mainly as a brace (like an outrigger on a canoe), a pivot point around which to maneuver, or, lastly, as a means of propulsion to either punch a feature or move away from something which you don't want to find yourself in or against.

But on the Middle Yough, we found ourselves paddling on interminably long stretches of flat water. There were a few riffles in the first mile and half and the last two miles, but the intervening stretch was flat, flat, flat. And into an upstream breeze. Even if there had been some playspots at the bottom of the run (which there weren't), my arms were too noodlely to attempt any upstream paddling, or even to roll if I got myself in a bit of trouble.

So the kayaking was kind of a bust. Later in the afternoon, we hiked in to see a few of the rapids on the Lower Yough. There was nothing particularly scary about them - a lot of technical picking your way from eddy to eddy, but nothing that was out of the range of our abilities, even being a bit out of shape, and there were nice recovery stretches after each rapid to collect your wits and/or boat if you bailed. In retrospect, we should have run the Lower. We would have suffered the indignity of a couple of swims (but we're all between swims on the river), but would have had a lot more fun. So opportunity lost. Next time.

But the weekend was overall a lot of fun. The Ohiopyle Falls race was going on, so we got to see all sorts of idiots experts run the approximately 20-foot waterfall in the center of town (kudos to the guy who ran the falls standing up in an inflatable kayak and stuck the landing). They also had an upstream race where kayakers raced down the class III Entrance rapid on the Lower Yough, then turned around and raced back up the river. Not for me, but entertaining to watch, and the guys who came in first and second were fucking monster upstream paddlers. And, of course, you can't beat sitting around a campfire drinking cheap beer with good friends and sleeping to the sound of the wind in the trees.


14 September, 2007


I'm bailing for a weekend of cheating death on the river. I'll be joining friends Mark and Mara at Ohiopyle State Park in Western PA for a couple of runs on the Lower Yough River.

Pros: I love me some whitewater kayaking!
Cons: Possibly drowning.

I'll be back Sunday evening with exciting pictures, river stories, bambino blogging, and more fun than you can shake a stick at!

Stay out of my liquor.

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11 September, 2007

Lost gems of my youth

I've been culling my CDs for things to put on the new iPod, and I've been discovering some old friends from long ago...

Life's Rich Pageant - REM
Oh, to be young and earnest again. This album was the soundtrack for a time when I believed that "we" could change the world. The songs on here bristle with righteous concern, belying an optimism that things could, indeed, be better. "Begin the Begin" and "These Days" still remains one of my all-time favorite opening track combinations. "Fall on Me" is the tune that originally introduced many of us to the band, and the Southern Gothic of "Swan Swan H" made many a teenager in the South believe that coming from Dixie might not be all that bad. Even if it was the accompaniment of a far simpler time in my life, it's still hard not be infected by the album's recurring themes of hope.

It's a Jungle in Here - Medeski, Martin, and Wood
MMW's second album still rooted them firmly in the Downtown jazz tradition, but the space-funk explorations of their later work are clearly presaged here. And the albums eclecticism is a wonder to behold. The mash-up of Coltrane's "Bemsha Swing" with Bob Marley's "Lively Up Yourself" is alone worth the price of admission, and their cover of King Sunny Ade's "Moti Mo" is a gorgeous excursion that, along with a bottle of red, provided for many relaxing moments coming down while the sun came up. The album's NYC vibe doesn't translate so well walking the streets of DC, but who fucking cares.

Slip, Stitch, and Pass - Phish
The only way to experience Phish was live - they never translated well in the studio. And listening to a whole show is a three hour commitment that, quite frankly, if you don't have the pot and other psychedelics to sustain you, can get a little dull after awhile. Slip, Stitch, and Pass distills the live experience down to a manageable one disc affair, and it captures the band at a great time. Playing a small European room, you can practically hear people in the crowd elbowing their buddies and saying, "Wow!" This 1997 recording marks a point in time when Phish learned how to swing, and the jams became grooves. Trey's guitar work on this album is great, and the band tips their hat to the Talking Heads (with a funky cover of "Cities"), ZZ Top, Pink Floyd, the Doors, and even to beloved cartoon frog Michigan J. Frog with an a cappella "Hello My Baby." I can't listen to Phish much these days, but I'll make an exception for this album.


Jonah's holding

Mama's little Goldberg has gotten hold of some powerful pills if this statement is any indication:
Me: I think history will be kinder to Bush than all of the smug prophecies and assurances that he's the "worst president ever" suggest. But, I'd be surprised if he's ranked alongside Reagan.

I'll leave alone the assertion that Reagan was a "great" president, and I'll probably just have to suck it up and admit that the dominant historical narrative for the foreseeable will be that Reagan "won" the Cold War (again, a dubious proposition). Given all that, Bush won't even come close to being alongside Reagan. Sorry, Jonah. Bush isn't the worst president ever (that spot will be retained by current basement dweller James Buchanan - Bush only precipitated a civil war in somebody else's country). I mean, can we name a success for the Bush presidency, besides winning an election (yes, just one election)? He managed to turn universal goodwill into international disdain over the course of a dozen months after 9/11. His War on Terror has actually caused terrorism to increase in the intervening six years. NCLB? Failure. Social Security reform? Failure. Civil liberties? Thoroughly trashed. Government corruption? Endemic. His poll numbers are downright Nixonian. He's leaving the GOP in disarray. His fiscal policies have turned surpluses into deficits.

Seriously, I can't think of one thing that the Bush Administration can legitimately claim as a success, other than orchestrating a string of electoral and political wins. Not one thing.

Now, to be fair to Jonah, who is, after all, high as a kite, I don't think history will be much crueler to Bush than his contemporary critics. We all know he is the dauphin king, a dolt who failed upwards to greatness. No, history will be much crueler to the rest of us for letting him get away with the damage he's caused.

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10 September, 2007

Punk Rock Monday

Sorry, dr, but (shockingly) the Manhattan, KS scene isn't well-represented on the YouTube. So instead, we'll dip back into some old school punk. The Damned are often overshadowed by the Sex Pistols and the Clash, but they rightfully belong in the vanguard of the British punk movement. And it's hard to find a stage name more punk rock than Rat Scabies.

"Neat, neat, neat"

From 1979, "Smash It Up" and "I Just Can't Be Happy Today"

And a promotional video for the first domestic UK punk single, "New Rose"


Mutually Assured Destruction

In Soviet Russia, sitcom laughs at you:
A drumbeat of anti-Americanism may be coming from the Kremlin these days, but across Russia people are embracing that quintessentially American genre, the television sitcom, not to mention one of its brassiest examples. And curiously enough, it is the Russian government that has effectively brought “Married With Children” to this land, which somehow made it through the latter half of the 20th century without the benefit of the laugh track.


These days, American visitors in Russia could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon some bizarre realm of reruns. Adaptations of two other shows, “Who’s the Boss?” and “The Nanny,” are also popular here.

I hope arms negotiators are keeping tabs on this - we cannot get caught up in a sitcom race, and we must prevent the Reds from unleashing the awesome powers of "Growing Pains" or, god forbid, "Full House."

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Please stop

It was bad enough when John Miller decided to regale with us with 50 conservative rock songs, somehow trying to persuade us that the likes of Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and the Clash were really, underneath it all, purveying music that extolled the traditional virtues and pro-America rah rah that are the bailiwick of the political right. Now I have someone telling me that rock and roll is a Catholic art form?

It's not. Please stop trying to make your religion and politics hip by making bizarre connections to pop culture. And they accuse the Left of being postmodern?

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09 September, 2007

Sunday Night Bambino Blogging

When Mark and Mara visited a few weeks back, we took some time to go down to the National Botanical Gardens. In there, they have a kids area where the young 'uns can dig, water, and generally cause a mess, thus keeping them out of the more manicured areas of the nursery. l'il wobs has always enjoyed gardening, and it seems to bring out his pensive side. Here he is captured in a moment of thought, undoubtedly doing the mental work for his next dastardly scheme:

BTW - Punk Rock Monday is going to be posted a little late this week, as the inimitable ms. wobs and I went to a party tonight. And yes, I know it was just last week that I was posting a "pity poor wobs" piece lamenting my lack of social life. Things change, and it's been a good week.

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08 September, 2007

Color me blasé

Let me summarize our collective reaction to this headline:
Dutchman Offers 'Cure' for Nail Biting

Unless this Dutch "cure" involves the ingestion or inhalation of certain fragrant botanicals known to reduce anxiety, I'd just as soon keep chewing my nails.


Are we all watching the same game?

Because I have les canards up 32-7 over Michigan with three minutes left in the second quarter.

Holy shit!


03 September, 2007

Happy fucking Labor Day

It's Labor Day! Time to roll out the "unions are ruining America" meme!
The companies, hit hard by the slump in sales of trucks and sport-utility vehicles, collectively lost $16 billion last year, and each is undergoing restructuring that includes eliminating tens of thousands of jobs and closing dozens of plants. Auto executives have repeatedly said they must find ways to lower the cost of unionized labor in North America to return to profitability.

This isn't to say that the UAW doesn't have problems. Their bargaining model is highly centralized and far-removed from the organizing model which involves the rank-and-file, and they remain wedded to a model of industrial organization that's no longer relevant with the advent of post-Fordist production, putting brakes on the ability to rapidly change production techniques to meet changing demand.

But to put the responsibility for the lack of profitability on those who are trying to maintain a middle-class life that so many fought for over the last century? Not blaming the overpaid suits who manufactured demand for grotesquely oversized gas guzzlers, and continued to bank on them when the writing was on the wall with regards to higher oil prices? C'mon!

But I know, it's Labor Day. Blame the worker.



I: Life goes on without me

Seeing these brought on some overwhelming pangs of homesickness. I want to go to parties with friends again. In past Big Life Changes, I was dropped into ready-made communities of common interests: a college dormitory, a city of Deadheads, a graduate program and labor union. All of these made it very easy to form durable, lasting friendships. But being transplanted to a large urban environment where you have to do some work in finding folks with similar interests, it's a new experience to which I'm having a little trouble adjusting. With the little one, it's not like we can just go out and indulge in our predilections.

It's not to say that I haven't met some great people. The people in our new neighborhood are really great, but I haven't made those connections that bridge the gap between "person you hang out with at the pool" to "friend." Similarly, the line of work I'm in, social by its very nature, has afforded me some wonderful new colleagues. But the geographic dispersal makes getting together outside of work a near insurmountable adventure requiring some serious logistics.

So I'm pining for the days when a Friday night meant a party with the ones I love, sneaking into the backyard for a puff, and maybe, just maybe, watching someone get naked and run down the road while we all stood and cheered. I miss being able to call someone and say, "Let's go out for a beer." I need those things. Instead I have urban anomie.

II: The past didn't go anywhere

l'il wobs and I went up to Greenbelt today for an annual Labor Day carnival they hold up there. And while the dilapidated rides and grizzled carnies who run them are certainly evocative of my youth, it was the surrounding community that really took me back.

The DC area, in and of itself, is a powerful reminder of my formative years in Tennessee. The sweet, floral smells,the cacophony of insects (westerners would be amazed at the non-stop noise of the Eastern woods; East Coasters, I imagine, would be amazed at the near silence of the Western woods at night), the lightning bugs and thunderstorms, all bring me back to my days growing up. But in Greenbelt, it was the architecture that struck me.

The part of town we were in was Roosevelt themed - we parked at Eleanor Roosevelt High School, the carnival was held in the parking lot of the Roosevelt Center, and we lunched in the New Deal Cafe. Judging by the name and the surrounding buildings, this particular part of town sprung up in the early 1940s - the same time that my hometown, born of the Manhattan Project, mushroomed out of the red clay of the Tennessee Valley. The buildings were near identical to the original part of Oak Ridge: cinder-block apartments, neatly whitewashed; standardized duplexes separated by tiny lawns; and a bauhaus-style shopping center and plaza that was the focal point of the neighborhood. Not much to look at in term of aesthetics, to be sure, born of wartime scarcity. But it strikes me that in their functional ugliness, these buildings speak to a time of shared sacrifice and common strivings that other architectural idioms lack. Not that (in the case of my hometown) the building of the most horrific weapon devised at that time is exactly noble, but the broader context within which it occurred could certainly be construed as heroic.

On the other hand, it could be nostalgia for an age that never existed.

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Knox Vegas

It's not often that I get to see my hometown (or more accurately, the little city near my hometown) in the news for something other than college sports. But this time, the East Tennesseans in Knoxville did me proud. Wife power, indeed.

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Punk Rock Labor Day

Well, time to clean up the mess after last week...

The late 80s/early 90s was the age of the scene, with music scouts scouring the country to find the next [Seattle, Athens, etc.]. As I'm sure ash would tell us, Chapel Hill, NC was on the cusp of being the "next big thing," but never actually cleared the hurdle set up by record executives. Which is a crying shame, because a ton of great bands were part of that particular scene, chief among them Superchunk.

From 1992, "Precision Auto"

"Water Wings" circa 2000

And a certified Labor Day classic, "Slack Motherfucker"


02 September, 2007


I don't think there's any doubt that one of the driving tropes of presidential politics is the marketing of the candidate as "authentic." Someone like "us" who's able to understand "our" problems. Someone who you could sit down and hash things out over a beer.

I find this particular psychological need of the electorate to be somewhat absurd. The thought that any of the quasi-aristocracy who make up the top tier of candidates are like us is unbelievable to begin with, and the assumption that "authenticity" means that someone is capable of governing has proven to be disastrous. But that doesn't stop candidates and their consultants from trying to demonstrate it.

The top tier of Dems (again) seem to be lacking in any sort of authenticity. In fact, on the left, the only candidates who do seem genuine are Kucinich (an authentic New Age vegan liberal) and Gravel (an authentic cranky old coot). The top tier of the GOP doesn't fare much better - a mayor who seemed to hold his cool on one horrible day (but pretty much fucked everything else up), a governor whose positions have changed as he's re-focused his ambitions, and a former senator from down south who's, well... an actor.

Which leads us to Mike Huckabee, who, for the moment, seems to have had the media tag him with the authentic label. Now, not in a million years would I cast a vote for this guy, what with his social conservatism and advocacy for the harebrained f41r +@x. But I have to admit that after reading this, I like him as a person just a little bit more:
Former Arkansas governor and now presidential candidate Mike Huckabee sounded almost indignant last week describing how police in his home state charged Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards with reckless driving back in the 1970s. When Huckabee met Richards last year, he righted that perceived wrong by pardoning the rock star. Cynics accused Huckabee of giving the famous special treatment, saying he wouldn't pardon the average citizen. To which Huckabee responded: "No, I wouldn't. . . . But here's the deal: If you can play guitar like Keith Richards, I'd do it for you."

Should Huckabee shoot the moon and actually win, you can bet I'll be practicing my "Street Fighting Man" licks.

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Sunday night bambino blogging

l'il wobs first true love (beyond his parents, of course) is elevators, which he indulges himself in, any chance he gets. Unfortunately for us, that means lots of rides in the elevators at Metro stations with their not-so-subtle stench of urine. Yesterday, I decided to take the boy to the biggest, baddest elevator in town.

The last time - the only time - I went to the top of the Washington Monument was twenty years ago when I was an awkward twelve-year old. At that point in time, you waited in a line that snaked around the base of the obelisk for a couple of hours. Living in more refined times, they now issue tickets for specific times, thus relieving you of the need to spend all day in queue. Unfortunately, there's a limited number of tickets the National Park Service issues everyday, and they were out by the time we got there. So no ride for l'il wobs. He was, of course, disappointed, but he sucked it up for the picture.

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More pros/cons

ms. wobs and I don't have the cleanest language. We're not excessive in our swearing, but we don't bat an eyelash at dropping the f-bomb when it's appropriate. It's something of which we're oftentimes not even aware. Unfortunately, l'il wobs has picked up on some of our more creative phrases. We're not trying to exacerbate the situation by scolding him, thus providing him with a forbidden pleasure guaranteed to push our buttons, but we are trying to broaden his palette with some milder words. He's slowly acquiring the vocabulary of a Depression-era sharecropper from Smyrna, GA.

Pros: Language prodigy that he is (and that's not just parental bragging), l'il wobs always uses his swear words sparingly in the proper context and fashion.
Cons: He's a fucking dadgum three-year old.

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01 September, 2007

For uncle

Here's some crunk we can all get behind:

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Stick to the sports

I'm watching the Tennessee v. California game (Go Vols!). Some of you may know that there's a tree-sit going on outside Memorial Stadium in Berkeley to prevent the University of California from cutting down a grove of oak trees to make way for a $125 million athletics center.

How does the crack ABC commentary team of Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit handle it? Aside from the predictable "only in Berkeley" yucks, Herbstreit is amazed that there are people actually living in trees! Meanwhile, Musburger goes on a vitriolic tirade about how the university has pledged to plant three trees for everyone they cut down, which should more than satisfy those aging hippie treehuggers, so stick that in your goddamned peace pipe and smoke it. And I'm almost quoting Musburger verbatim.

I'll politely request that the ESPN/ABC sports squads kindly refrain from the political commentary. You're kinda ruining my football game.

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Pros: If Appalachian State (they of the HOT! HOT! HOT!) can take down Michigan, there's hope for our beloved Ducks.
Cons: My god, will the Wolverines be pissed next weekend.

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