clap clap blog: we have moved
Saturday, April 12, 2003
Put me down for appalled, guys.
posted by Mike B. at 11:02 PM 0 comments Links to this post
uh, guys, are you thinking about this at all?
Our friend and yours Tom Ellard, relays the following transcript from a SBS (Australia) broadcast. Most notable is the apparent fact that the only building US troops are actively guarding is...the Ministry of Oil. Ahem. While perhaps not entirely trustful (Rumsfeld--sorry no link--has chucklingly dismissed foreign reports such as this) it does regrettably line up with the official line that Marines are "keeping their distance," a strategy which has its cons (chaos) and pro (no suicide bombings). Today they are, apparently, trying to restore order, but the Iraqi museum was stripped of its artifacts and destroyed within 48 hours. On the bright side, Congress passed a US$79bil war budget!!! Sigh. Anyway, here's the transcript:
"ANARCHY REIGNS IN BAGHDAD
The United States is facing mounting pressure tonight to restore order to
Iraq, with Baghdad a city where anarchy reigns in the power vacuum that's
followed the demise of the Saddam Hussein regime. The joy over his downfall
has succumbed to lawlessness, in which any target appears fair game to the
It's not just government buildings and commercial premises that have been
attacked. The Red Cross has called on coalition troops to protect hospitals
after vital medical equipment was stolen. Museums containing irreplaceable
ancient relics have also been targeted. There's also been more looting at
Mosul in the north. And in southern Basra, British marines shot dead five
looters. Our first report on the chaos in the capital, Baghdad.
Baghdad residents, dealing with a would-be looter, bent on plundering their
homes. He escapes with his life. Caught on the street, this one was killed.
In this neighbourhood, armed vigilantes detain another man. Beaten to the
ground, he was almost shot - tonight his fate is unknown.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Where is the Americans? This is what America wants it to
be? Everybody is stealing and looting from everybody.
It's mob rule now in Baghdad. Saddam's police state has been reduced to a
state of anarchy. In the absence of his feared security forces, and the
ever-present threat of imprisonment and torture, the streets belong to
thieves. Everything is being stripped - unguarded shops and homes,
commercial buildings, government offices, museums - even the city's
hospitals. Stripped bare, the ministry of trade is one of many buildings set
alight. The transport ministry is a gutted ruin. Alerted by the
International Red Cross that its warehouse was being looted, US troops react
ed - too late. Little wonder that the organisation is appealing tonight to
the coalition to restore order. The troops say they're doing what they can.
CAPTAIN JOEL PLENZER, US MARINES: What we've done so far, we've secured
certain key areas around the city, for instance this morning we were able to
turn the International Red Cross building back over to the people that own
it, the UN compound - we secured several other areas like that, hospitals
and things like that we're providing security to - so right now we're in the
transition phase between the regime having control and the coalition forces
fully having control in the city.
Local mosques are also trying to stop the looting. This banner reminds
residents that "looting is forbidden under Islam". But the looters reign and
disillusionment is setting in.
IRAQI MALE: There is no security here. This is not freedom, this. Where are
the coalition forces?
SECOND IRAQI MALE: We need police, police to get safety, security in the
"Everything they're stealing belonged to someone," says this man. "This is
such a shame. It's a sin. If only we could have Saddam to come back. Every
day, we will remember Saddam." At the Al Rashid hotel, one of the city's
landmarks, as looters scrambled to remove everything, troops stood by as it
was systematically carted away - by the tonne. Elsewhere in the city, other
US troops were busy breaking up a statue of Saddam Hussein, removing the
head for a trophy.
CAPTAIN JOEL PLENZER, US MARINES: I've got to show that I was here, that I
was part of it all.
And tonight, while the Ministry of Oil is intact, guarded by US troops,
fires are raging in many ransacked buildings. Some reports say that even the
city's hospitals are now burning."
posted by Mike B. at 11:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Friday, April 11, 2003
Second best word derived from "terreo," after "territory": deterence. It means to both prevent or discourage from acting or proceeding. Interesting that both creating a disincentive and physically blocking someone could be called deterrence.
posted by Gilead at 7:23 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Who says philology isn't fun? The latin root for "terror" and "territory" are the same: "terreo = to frighten." Why, you ask? The answer is in Bouvier's Law Dictionary:
TERRITORY. Apart of a country, separated from the rest, and subject to a particular jurisdiction. The word is derived from terreo, and is so called because the magistrate within his jurisdiction has the power of inspiring a salutary fear. Dictum cat ab eo quod magistratus intra fines ejus terrendi jus habet. Henrion de Pansy, Auth. Judiciare, 98. In speaking of the ecclesiastical jurisdictions, Francis Duaren observes, that the ecclesiastics are said not to have territory, nor the power of arrest or removal, and are not unlike the Roman magistrates of whom Gellius says vocationem habebant non prehen-sionem. De Sacris Eccles. Minist. lib. 1, cap. 4. In the sense it is used in the constitution of the United States, it signifies a portion of the country subject to and belonging to the United States, which is not within the boundary of any of them.
Now, does that mean that administrators who inspire fear to dominate a physical region are terrorists? Interesting derivation, because it lodges the existance of terrorism and territory within the agent who acts to create fear, not in the object of their terrorism. That is, it seems that anyone who provokes fear to rule is a terrorist, not just those who direct their terror at innocents?
Particularly, ahem, frightening is the usage of the term in the United States. A territory is a piece of land held by the government that is not an independent democratic state, but essentially a vassalage of the king kept together through fear.
By the way, the latin "timeo" is the response to terreo: "to fear." But it can (it seems) also mean to be guarded or aware. For instance, Virgil: Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.(Vergil, Aeneid II.49) Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks, even bearing gifts.
For my Classics nerds friends: the conjugations of terreo. Come on' folks, I need to gut-punched on this, because I don't even know Latin.
Otherwise, a lot more on the many words and usages of the concept of fear in the Bible, with a heavy pro-Christian slant.
posted by Gilead at 7:19 PM 0 comments Links to this post
As labor historian David Roediger concludes in his "Wages of Whiteness," even with massive unemployment, poor sanitation, horrific workplace conditions, and frequent panics and poverty, these new whites still dominated and terrorized poor people of color and non-Christians. Wolfowitz and the rest realize that they can get the US to support their weird Christian jihad purely for their own psychological self-satisfaction. It is an old story and an old weapon and these guys know how to use it.
Yeah, and then they elected FDR, who is certainly the closest thing to a socialist we've ever seen in this country. I think psychological self-satisfaction is a pretty slim motive for conducting electoral politics, and it wears off pretty quickly. People were complaining about the American people being racist and small-minded and sheep etc. during the Reagan years, and then they elected Clinton, who, again, is a far sight better than Reagan. They know how to use xenophobic, divisive politics for short-term gain, but if Bush I saw fit to ignore the neo-cons' "wisdom," I have a hard time seeing how their current policy orgy will win them any kind of long-term power. The American people just don't care enough about foreign policy to elect a President on it, especially if said President is ignoring domestic policy as much as Bush is. Clinton himself pointed out in his recent Atlantic interview that W was basically elected on his domestic policy.
I think one weird assumption people are making is that as much as we piss the world off they can do nothing against us except export suicide bombers. Au contraire, goddamn it. I think we are spoiling relations with the EU for years to come, and they're no slouch. There's a lot they can do to us economically if we keep this foreign policy up. It's conceivable that we could reach the point of a low-level cold war with them. Hell, we almost have one now, with Russia seemingly happy to sell to anyone we won't. This can reverberate on domestic politics if it starts hitting people's pocketbooks--we blamed the Japanese good in the early 90's for the recession, but we still voted in a Democrat, you know?
posted by Mike B. at 5:54 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Moral clarity is blurry again in the Bush administration. First disarming Saddam. Then liberating Iraq. Now it's unclear which was the motive: Ari today in the NY Times:
Even though all the reports from Iraq indicate that Mr. Hussein and his coterie are out of power — if not dead, then fleeing or hiding — Mr. Fleischer declined to speculate when the word "victory" might be appropriately used.
"Yes, indeed, the regime has ended," Mr. Fleischer said. "But yes, indeed, fighting remains. It is still a battlefield. While the central command and control elements of the regime have been collapsed, there remain pockets of loyalists who continue to fight and present harm for our armed forces."
In response to a question, Mr. Fleischer said the president has always viewed "the mission" in Iraq as disarming the regime and liberating the Iraqi people. "But I'm not going to define for you what the president will later define as victory," he said.
Huh? So when do we leave? When does the Un take on its vital role? When does Iraq have democracy? And what kind sorry-assed bullshit is the President getting to stay quiet now and the decide later and retroactively when this war ends and how it is justifiable?
posted by Gilead at 5:32 PM 0 comments Links to this post
On neocons and electoral politics, Eppy had a great related blog on how limited and thus vulnerable their political power is, considering how singularly focused they are on transforming foreign policy in Palestine, Mesopotamia, and most of South Asia. I have to agree on with his assessment that this is singular obsession and that their neglect of domestic issues -- civil liberties (underming basic privacy and free speech rights), education (starving states of funds to keep public schools running), and health (using a similar strategy to let state aid to the poor, disabled, and elderly wither) -- is certainly a site for vulnerability.
But I strongly disagree with his conclusion. That this makes it easier to win. The Neo-Con Imperialists have tapped into a deep root that has sustained American politics for about two centuries (and maybe more). Since at least the consolidation of slavery and white supremacy, and maybe back to the radical Puritan founding, the United States government, it's well-healed businesses, and, well, terrorist mobs have demanded of working people of all ethnicities -- from English to Irish to Italian to Polish to Jewish -- that they give up their past and become something inexplicable but psychologically enticing: whiteness.
As I note below, this process of assimilation had been a Christianizig and missionary one, rather than a racializing one. As labor historian David Roediger concludes in his "Wages of Whiteness," even with massive unemployment, poor sanitation, horrific workplace conditions, and frequent panics and poverty, these new whites still dominated and terrorized poor people of color and non-Christians.
Wolfowitz and the rest realize that they can get the US to support their weird Christian jihad purely for their own psychological self-satisfaction. It is an old story and an old weapon and these guys know how to use it.
posted by Gilead at 5:24 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Electoral politics matters. The Economist, ever the vanguard of classical liberalism and elite democracy, has an apt if not disheartening evaluation of the political impact of the military victory in Iraq:
...the war has moved the neo-conservatives—neo-radicals is perhaps a better word—from the outskirts of politics to the centre. Led by Mr Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, they have been arguing for the forcible overthrow of Saddam since the early 1990s. They seem to have been right when they said the regime would quickly collapse, and its atrocities would be revealed.
Scary. Neo-cons are in the center. This passage reminds me, though, of Robin Cook's reisgnation speech from the House of Commons after the beginning of the invasion in which he remarked that it was quite peculiar that the regime could simultaneously be a threat to world security and be on the brink of collapse.
Interesting closing: The big question now is whether Mr Bush will adopt their wider hope: to democratise the Middle East.
On that question, look to the lead article in The Independent (a daily), which is strangely way ahead of the Economist (a weekly):
The overriding imperative remains that everything be done to make it clear that the Allies are there for the sake of the Iraqi people – or peoples, if the Kurds are treated as a separate group.
That means restoring order as quickly as possible and then handing over as much responsibility as possible for overseeing the handover to Iraqi leaders and the UN. However, the anti-war countries that met in St Petersburg yesterday cannot simply bicker about the terms of that role from their armchairs in front of CNN. If they want the UN to be taken seriously, they have to take responsibility.
It was cheap but effective of Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld's deputy, to call on France, Germany and Russia to do their bit by writing off their loans to Saddam's regime. It is not unreasonable of the United States to refuse to allow the French a veto over the definition of the UN's role in post-war Iraq.
The other side of that coin, though, is that the anti-war countries are asked to accept whatever role for the UN in Iraq the US is prepared to grant it. However undesirable, that is the reality. It is pointless to quibble, if the US now wants to define the UN's "vital role" as an advisory one. What matters is that as many countries as possible work together to help the Iraqi people, and then to help them take control of their own destiny.
It'll be hard, especially with Bush insisting on the traditional (e.g. from under Saddam's regime) territorial boundaries of the country, so that Turkey will give him all the support he needs. Which means Kurds will continue to get massacred and Shia and Sunni Muslims will be used as pawns by opportunistic (and probably US backed) demagogues.
I mean, I hope not. But do you trust people like George W Bush to create constitutions for other countries that treats oppressed minority ethnic groups with respect and dignity?
The big question now is whether Mr Bush will adopt their wider hope: to democratise the Middle East.
posted by Gilead at 4:55 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Perhaps my favorite passage from the Bechtel-Iraqi oil documents is a memo to Bechtel from their law firm: "I am pleased to advise you that we have retained the Honorable James Schlesinger (former Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Defense, and Director of the CIA) to head up our team. I am confident that having a man of his prestige on our side will redound to the benefit of Bechtel as well."
Indeed. The top man for oil, weapons, and secrets in the US would be quit useful in secretly securing oil in exchange for weapons.
posted by Gilead at 3:59 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Regarding Bechtel, Rummy, Hussy, and "Operation Iraqi Freedom" below. I say one might draw Marxist conclusions from it because the documents demonstrates that a group of people with strong economic motives can allow themselves or actively seek satisfaction of those motives by conspiring with the most insidious people -- like Hussein -- and use supposedly liberatory rhetoric to both cover it up and justify it. The rhetoric is ideology, the documents show the reality.
posted by Gilead at 3:48 PM 0 comments Links to this post
If this doesn't make you a Marxist, I don't know what will. Remember those vague reports about a sturdy young Rumsfeld visiting Iraq in the mid-eighties? I guess he was just there to pimp for Bechtel -- my favorite Bay-area imperialist oil cartel. From what we can see in newly released documents (from a source in the State department perhaps??) acquired by the Institute for Policy Studies with the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network, it seems that Rummy went to talk to Hussein about getting an oil pipeline through Jordan. This was right when that nasty Hussy (is that what I should call him?)was gassing Iranians with "Chemical Ali."
Rummy offered to sweeten the deal with dual-use chemical weapons technology from, yes, Bechtel. Hussein turned him down, though, because he thought the US was dicking him over with absurdly high construction costs -- that and he worried about getting attacked by Israel. Rumsfeld took off. Then he got ready to plot the overthrow of Saddam with his friends at the American Enterprise Institute -- which, as it happens, is financed by the philantrophic wing of Bechtel, the Bechtel Foundation!!!
I must say, these are some pretty sweet documents. Everything from internal business memos to correspondance between the Premier of Israel to highly-placed Reagan administration officials like Edwin Meese, a contemporary of Rummy. Here's the big pdf overview by SEEN and IPS.
My favorite passage from the report, authored by Jim Vallette, is basically a complete repudiation of the "get rid of weapons" and "liberate Iraq" claims by the Bush administration:
The men who courted Saddam while he gassed Iranians are now waging war against him, ostensibly because he holds these same weapons of mass destruction" said Jim Vallette, lead author of the report. "To a man, they now deny that oil has anything to do with the conflict. Yet during the Reagan Administration, and in the years leading up to the present conflict, these men shaped and implemented a strategy that has everything to do with securing Iraqi oil exports. All of this documentation suggests that Reagan Administration officials bent many rules to convince Saddam Hussein to open up a pipeline of central interest to the US, from Iraq to Jordan
Then Vallette's clincher: In their own words, we now see that for Administration officials, a dictator is a friend of the United States when he is willing to make an oily deal, and a mortal enemy when he is not
Guess he's not our son of a bitch anymore.
posted by Gilead at 3:36 PM 0 comments Links to this post
posted by Mike B. at 3:06 PM 0 comments Links to this post
A guy campainging for Lyndon LaRouche (whose motto could be, "I don't know if I'm leftist or rightist, but I support evil for sure!") handed me a flier with the exhortation:
"Kick out the Leo Straussian Nazis in the administration!"
Now look, guy, I know you're handing out fliers in front of Barnes & Noble and all, but I just don't think a lot of people are particularly familiar with Leo Strauss. Certainly no one knew about him in a third-year class at a hot stuff liberal arts college until our professor explained him, and our reactions were generally along the lines of "Really? People think that?" (Briefly: Straussians are this weird group of academics who are basically anti-enlightenment and think that only a select group of people are predestined to find the hidden meaning of pre-modern philosophy, which they consider the pinnacle of human acheivement, and apply that to modern politics.)
Much as I would like to see "Straussian" become a popular insult, and as good of a peg as it is of the current administration, when your campaign posters claim that you "ARE ELECTABLE!" it may be time to turn to a electoral strategy more closely resembling prayer.
posted by Mike B. at 2:57 PM 0 comments Links to this post
From the NYT article I stole my juvenile pictures from comes this:
Administration officials said last night that the White House was also pursuing plans to broadcast the American network newscasts, in Arabic, on the same airborne transmitter used to show the other programming and Mr. Bush's and Mr. Blair's message today.
I have an even better idea: broadcast the local newscasts. I think that'd be...well, I have no idea if it would be good or not, but it would certainly be hilarious. I wonder what they'd make of broadcasts that lead off with a doctor telling viewers what not to do to your wife if she falls through a glass door (#1: do not remove the huge shards of glass; #2: do not whack her head on the pavement), then segues to three stories about black people killing other black people, then rapidly proceeds to five minutes of the anchors bantering with each other about their children and pets, then a weather report by a guy who continues bantering with the anchors, then sports, especially high-school sports, then a story about people hurting old ladies, then a story about a bear stuck in a tree. I think it'd do wonders for our image abroad.
posted by Mike B. at 12:40 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Arabic text: "I'm a big fat doo-doo head! Does my hair not ripple majestically?"
Arabic text: "Cheeeeeese! Who has taken my cheeeeeeese?"
Ahem. Well, no one expects a blog called "keggers for preggers" to be mature all the time, right?
Feel free to chime in with your own Krazy Kaptions, kids.
posted by Mike B. at 12:26 PM 0 comments Links to this post
"So, uh, Dick, about that Halliburton contract..."
Halliburton subsidiary KBR was awarded the contract to fight fires in Iraq without competition. On the bright side, the US$7bil estimate from before is overheated, and they've only (only!) gotten US$50mil so far. On the dark side, here's the Army Corp of Engineers' justification for the contract:
"To invite other contractors to compete to perform a highly classified requirement" that KBR already was involved in "would have been a wasteful duplication of effort" that would have delayed war planning, Flowers said, adding that the agreement was structured to control costs.
I think the proper analogy for this excuse is that this is a guy named Tony is building your house and he says "Hey, I brought my brother-in-law Marty to do the plumbing, and he's already doing it, so that's OK, right? It'll be cheaper that way, I promise." I guess they knew KBR was the cheapest because they didn't get any lower bids, did they?
posted by Mike B. at 12:16 PM 0 comments Links to this post
where's the "to hell with both of them" booth?
OK, granted it's Iran, and granted it's Shiites, but look at the lead paragraph:
Iraqis stormed their embassy in the Iranian capital on Friday, tearing down photographs of Saddam Hussein but also chanting "Death to America."
I get the sense that the President, with his "moral clarity," gets confused by stuff like this (and like the "How wonderful the world would be without Saddam and without Bush!'' quote below). If we killed Sadaam, and they don't like Sadaam, why don't they like us? Well, because the world doesn't work like that; I might want to be in Elvis Costello's band, for instance, but I don't get to be the keyboardist just because I killed Steve Nieve. (Although that would make music more interesting, I think--maybe indie-rock needs more duels to the death?) The flip side of that, of course, is that some Iraqis who cheered Sadaam can also cheer us, and this raises the possibility that an oppressed people are likely to cheer whoever has the guns at the time.
More broadly, however, let's not forget the Moynihan quote, which seems custom-fitted for our current foreign policy dillema. It should remind us that no matter what our military or even, to some extent, our diplomats do, it might not help America's image abroad. The conservative theory right now is that America's culture of democracy is so strong that it will overwhelm all other cultures; the liberal theory recognizes that the American culture (of democracy, of freedom, of power, of permissiveness) is causing a lot of problems for us and we might not be able to do anything unless we change it, preferably through politics rather than war. Just a thought.
posted by Mike B. at 11:53 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Apple Reportedly in Talks to Buy Universal Music
Subhed: A deal could yield up to $6 billion for parent firm Vivendi and make tech maverick Steve Jobs the most powerful figure in the record business.
Whoa. This is the company that had a "Rip. Burn. Share." campaign a while back, you'll remember, and UMG has been one of the leaders of the copy-protection racket. To say nothing of the iPod. Check this, though:
Defying conventional wisdom, Jobs apparently is betting that music is finally on the verge of becoming a profitable presence on the Internet. Apple has been quietly testing a service that some music business insiders believe could pave the way for widespread online distribution of songs.
Wow. Well...wow. That could solve the piracy problems, couldn't it? We all know that the world's just waiting for a workable MP3 service to come along to kill the free ones, and it seems like if anyone could do it, it'd be Apple. Pretty interesting.
On another note, I wanted to highlight another review that ran the same day as the YLT one, which is a much better model for a negative review, I think: William Bowers' review of Cex's new (and by "new" I mean "6 months old") album. I don't entirely agree with Bowers' assesment, but I think it's generally right-on and far more analytical and encouraging than grumpily trash-happy. The penultimate paragraph sums it up well:
His embarrassing flow suggests the Fresh Prince's early crap, or a pubescent Prime Minister Pete Nice. Only three beats on the album aren't cursory, and even his great backing tracks subscribe, unfortunately, to the dynamics of the indie rock Cex loved, saving their best moments for the choruses instead of rocking the whole time. The "serious" passages are uncomfortably close cousins of Cex's online blogs. The record seems like an aural playbill for Cex's swell live show instead of a stand-alone effort. He's frequently hilarious (the Jesus stuff, the Preparation H ref, the Morningstar corn dog allusion, the smart and party-denial-trolling line about orgasms that make his partner forget Afghanistan), but he seems capable of being much more than a glitch-hop Andy Dick.
This, Pitchforkians, is why people like Bowers best: he doesn't come off like a bitter old queen (joke), but more like a music lover who really wants to see it get better.
posted by Mike B. at 11:45 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Mighty Big Words From a 9 to 5er Imagining Himself As a Noise Band Bohemian.
I think I'm going to stop writing to Pitchfork for a while, since they keep fucking me over, so instead I'll just post my responses here, where they can exist without snarky headlines--or at any rate, without snarky headlines that I don't make up myself.
Anyway, today's installment is a response to their regrettably typically Pitchforkian negative review of the new Yo La Tengo album. (A 6.0, for those of you keeping score.) An astute reader mail today makes some good points about the review (suggesting we think about "where their ever-more-apparent free-jazz affinities fit in" among other things), but I think there are many more salient points to be made about this particular hissy-fit.
Leading off with the unbearably indie-snob question, "Can there exist a fate worse than mediocrity for a band that's had a taste of greatness?" one can only respond that, well, sure there is--a band can try for greatness and fail, or find themselves unable to overcome their technical or personal limitations in the service of the song, or get the product of their labor shelved by a major label, or have their lead singer commit suicide, or come close to greatness only to fall short because of a bad drummer or singer or producer, or get screwed over in the mix or mastering, or, fuck it, have their tour bus go over a cliff. There are far worse things that can happen to a band than mediocrity since, among other things, mediocrity is only temporary, but it's indicative of the particular indie-rock school of groupthink that we think mediocrity is the worst thing ever, since, I guess, we're deeply distrustful of things too many people like, even if they like it because it's good, so when it goes bad we can say, "See? It was never that good in the first place!"
Sigh. OK, let's take a few paragraphs here.
Summer Sun is pleasant, if nothing else, but that's such a loaded word for an album that clearly aspires to (and ought to be) so much more than it accomplishes. At least if the album had been completely wretched, it could have been dismissed as an unwitting experiment or some such foolishness. But it ain't, and that's the shame of it all; Summer Sun consistently reaches a height of disposability so static and homogenous that it simply must be dispersed over an hour's worth of music.
Let's follow the logic: if an experimental indie band had made an experimental album, it would be an "unwitting experiment," rather than, say, more of the same. But if they make something that's a departure from their signature sound, it's...disposable? Because it's pretty? I'm not following here. (All this, and I'm not even mentioning the unquoted final sentence of the paragraph, which implies the death of a band from one album.)
It hurts to write that, but pipe the breezy, wistful blue skies of "Let's Be Still" through tinny elevator speakers, or the sound system of your local Wal-Mart, and it's nothing but indie-muzak. Call it a natural progression from And Then Nothing's moody, twilit explorations of texture and atmosphere, but progression or not, last year's instrumental The Sounds of the Sounds of Science had more creativity and dynamism in a single track than the entirety of Summer Sun, and that was a score to fucking nature documentaries-- never the most fertile ground for inspiration.
The tone of the last sentence reveals the author's mood here, one alluded to by the reader mail quoted above: the phrase "fucking nature documentaries" (insert stamping foot here) sounds more like...well, more like something you'd post to a blog than something you'd revise a few times and publish in a music publication. It does seem a lot like he hasn't listened to the album very much, but regardless, the comparison to Sounds is an echo of the far more fair-handed review in the Onion which posits Summer Sun as a kind of b-side to the creepy pessimism of the Nuclear War EP. It just seems very, very strange to say that YLT is dead because their last two albums sounded kinda the same when they've put out two other things in between that sound very, very different. As for the elevator music charge, I've heard some pretty fucking great songs coming from the celings of big-box stores. As someone who worked at a KFC for 2 years and got to listen to muzak for 8 hours a day, trust me, I'd love to hear Summer Sun coming out.
The band seems to like Summer Sun, and judging from the show I saw during the Hanukah run, they can still be really, really loud. That's good enough for me not to declare them dead. The reviewer says, "For a band that once thrived on its stunning eclecticism, as well as a masterful assimilation of moods and styles, to produce an album that's merely pretty is tragic," but I can think of a whole lot more tragic things, and depriving yourself of joy for aesthetic reasons is pretty high on the list.
Down with tragedy! Up with comedy! Down with pants!
posted by Mike B. at 11:36 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Thursday, April 10, 2003
Is anyone else, besides me, Al-Jazeera, and some un-embedded British journalists like Robert Fisk, a little skeptical of the authenticity of some of the reactions of the Baghdad citizenry to the invasion of US Marines? I mean, these are the descendents of people who have been invaded so many times by so many people that I'm sure they can fake it for the cameras and the rifles in order to survive? As Robert Fisk writes from, I think, a bombed out hotel next to the half-fallen statue of Saddam Hussein:
For even as the marine tanks thrashed and ground down the highway, there were men and women who saw them and stood, the women scarved, the men observing the soldiers with the most acute attention, who spoke of their fear for the future, who talked of how Iraq could never be ruled by foreigners.
"You'll see the celebrations and we will be happy Saddam has gone," one of them said to me. "But we will then want to rid ourselves of the Americans and we will want to keep our oil and there will be resistance and then they will call us "terrorists". Nor did the Americans look happy "liberators". They pointed their rifles at the pavements and screamed at motorists to stop – one who did not, an old man in an old car, was shot in the head in front of two French journalists. [snip more gruesome examples]
And so last night, as the explosion of tank shells still crashed over the city, Baghdad lay at the feet of a new master. They have come and gone in the city's history, Abbasids and Ummayads and Mongols and Turks and British and now the Americans. The United States embassy reopened yesterday and soon, no doubt, when the Iraqis have learned to whom they must now be obedient friends, President Bush will come here and there will be new "friends" of America to open a new relationship with the world, new economic fortunes for those who "liberated" them [snip the Israel stuff].
But winning a war is one thing. Succeeding in the ideological and economic project that lies behind this whole war is quite another. The "real" story for America's mastery over the Arab world starts now.
The military campaign may be short, but this occupation is the quagmire. These people are patient.
posted by Gilead at 5:55 PM 0 comments Links to this post
In the frat-boy named"Syria and Iran Must Get Their Turn", The American Enterprise Institute, a primary incubator of the Bush-Rumsfeld-Cheney-Wolfowitz foreign policy, says the two countries are up for a whooping, since the preordained "an American success in Iraq [has] fatally undermine[d] the authority of the tyrants in Damascus and Tehran." Rumsfeld and Cheney and others are talking about the necessity of invading, with Wolfowitz the most bold. Michael Ledeen criticizes everyone besides them and Bush, from Richard Haass to Henry Kissenger. At this point, it seems that the likely alternative to neo-conservative foreign policy is straight-up old-school realism. But that nearly destroyed the West, as well, during the Cold War, and resulted in yucky things like right-wing coups and human rights massacres throughout the world.
On a more historical level, this administration almost has a pre-19th century view of politics. It's a Protestant Zionism not seen since maybe the first of the 1800s when the United States sought to consolidate its power over Amerindians and Africans by placing outside the bounds of humanity through a creepy process of racialization that combined Roman imperial mythology with pseudo-scientific Teutonicism and Puritan "chosen people" exceptionalism. Before this merger many disparate historical components, the people the West chose to exploit were pretty much kept in chains by masters who claimed they were heathens beyond redepemtion. However, as Africans started becoming Christians a new system had to be devised. Thus race and white supremacy.
Through an conjunction of events that, I'm sure, everyone from academics to demagogues to folk artists will be trying to figure out for centuries, it seems that the system of racialization is not working well enough now that we've crossed the Bridge into the New Millenium and Seinfeld was canceled.
This adminstration and its coterie of imperial scoundrals have invoked a exclusive religious fundamentalism that hasn't had this much military and economic thrust for about 500 years. I think it's why most of "old" central Europe, and the British public, is so opposed to war (and why they invented Lockean liberalism, even if it doesn't work very well). They know the wars of ideology of this century and have an historical memory of the religious wars fought on their soil in the Middle-Ages that left millions of corpses strewn bloody and rotten across their continent. Perhaps that is why they don't want to invade Mesopotamia.
posted by Gilead at 5:41 PM 0 comments Links to this post
"The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself."
-Daniel Patrick Moynihan
posted by Mike B. at 5:19 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Taking a break from the (ahem) sophisticated political commentary, allow me to highlight an important political story and then giggle at it. Apparently the NYPD was collecting data on peace protestor's previous political activity but has decided to stop because, well, because it's pretty much unconstitutional. Here's the announcement:
"After a review, the department has decided to eliminate the use of the Demonstration Debriefing Form," Michael O'Looney, the department's chief spokesman, said in a statement. "Arrestees will no longer be asked questions pertaining to prior demonstration history, or school name. All information gathered since the form's inception on Feb. 15 has been destroyed."
You've got to be kidding--the name of the spokesman for the NYPD is Michael O'Looney?! That's amazing.
Or maybe I'm just a little loopy right now. Anyway.
posted by Mike B. at 4:15 PM 0 comments Links to this post
The creator of Cat and Girl, a very good comic, lives at my subway stop, it seems. It also seems she was grumpy and did a study justifying her hatred of hipsters.
Thing is, it doesn't really hold up under her standards of purity and it's pretty standard issue hipster self-hatred--I mean, what, should the white kids be unemployed and live in New Jersey instead? She says there are "residential areas and communities that exist totally independent of anything around them save the subway line," but this is really only true at Morgan and maybe Montrose. Everywhere else along the L (like where friend George lives) the "hipsters" are often side-by-side with the "noble brown folk." And "the closest decent supermarket is 2 stops away"? Well, sorry miss priss, but if you want to walk, there's one four blocks away on the other side of Bushwick. Sheesh. I mean, the Morgan Ave stop is only a three-minute walk away from huge housing projects. Allison does a good job of representing the abivalence of being a hipster in C&G, but not so much here.
Her methodology, too, is questionable--the count of how many hipsters get off the train will vary wildly depending on where you're sitting on the train--but perhaps she accounted for this. Still, I think the whole point of this fairly obvious phenomenon is that paying $500 a month in rent and $80 a month on unlimited metrocards to get to the places where you run your errands is a lot cheaper than paying $1000 a month to live in a place where "a decent supermarket" is right downstairs.
I guess I'm a wee bit stung by the bit about "9 to 5ers imagining themselves as noise band bohemians" (naw, I imagine myself as a yuppie, but my salary won't sustain it--where are my coke and hookers?) but, well, you know. I suppose I myself take a weird pride in counting how many white people are still on the train when I get off, and it's usually very few. Oh well, I'm a horrible person.
posted by Mike B. at 1:11 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Hey, so remember that whole "no political skills" thing I was talking about? Check out the New York Times today. The news analysis is entitled A High Point In Two Decades of US Might but it actually comes off far more pessimistic than that. They bring up Woolsey's "World War IV" canard again, and contrast the scenes of jubilation plastered on US television against items like this:
On Arabic-language television channels, however, commentators made much of the fact that it was not Iraqis but American marines, using a cable attached to a tank-recovery vehicle, who actually brought down the big statue. Hoping not to send a politically clumsy signal, the marines quickly stowed the American flag they unfurled at first and replaced it with an old Iraqi flag.
Oops. Also, the Financial Times reports that a militia force backed by US Special Forces is terrorizing an Iraqi town. Not good.
Perhaps most notably, though, we have our first suicide bomber in Baghdad. Wait, I thought they were supposed to be happy?
Finally, your friend and mine Tom Ellard sends the following observation:
"Last time I looked there was Saddam on a horse. Now there's a US Army
Wish I had seen the the card for the change over.
IRAQ TV REGRETS TEMPORARY DELAY WHILE WE SWITCH IDEOLOGIES."
posted by Mike B. at 12:51 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
I swore I wasn't going to post again today, but I can't resist this little bit from an interview with Roseanne Cash. Apparently it runs in the family:
Q: What do your kids think of you?
A: [Laughs uncontrollably.] What a loaded question to ask a mother! Actually, my daughter Chelsea answers my fan mail. And she came across some really rabid hate mail. And she's not supposed to do this but she wrote one of them back and said, "If you ever talk to my mother like that again, I'll hunt you down." [Laughs.] She said, "I'm not peaceful like she is."
And I said, "Chelsea, oh my God, you shouldn't have done that. You didn't say you were going to kill him did you?" She said, "No, I just said I'd hunt him down."
For some reason I find the thought of Johnny Cash's little granddaughter beating the crap out of some conservative country music fan incredibly wonderful.
posted by Mike B. at 6:26 PM 0 comments Links to this post
As a result of several bizarre and unforeseeable contingencies -- such as the selection rather than election of George W. Bush, and Sept. 11 -- the foreign policy of the world's only global power is being made by a small clique that is unrepresentative of either the U.S. population or the mainstream foreign policy establishment.
Great, great article in Salon about the neo-con movement that's much meaner that what I'm used to seeing. The author makes a lot of astute points, like about the neocons' connection to Likud philosophy and techniques (apparently they got future Iraqi overlord Jay Garner to sign a letter approving of the IDF's conduct in Palestine in 2000, which isn't worrisome at all, is it?), how Powell got snowballed into his little UN-minding corner of the foreign policy establishment (Cheney headed the transition team and stacked the administration's deck with hardcore neo-cons, especially in deputy positions), and how exactly the movement evolved from anti-Stalinist Trotskyites into what we see today.
Most important, though, is the point that they are not representative of anything approaching the mainstream. The author uses a British comparison at the end, but a good leftist American comparison would be if ANSWER started dictating who was going to have positions in the new Kerry-Chomsky administration. So this implies both further bitching about their legitimacy, and a hope: a centrist Democratic candidate with a vision and a will to stand against some of their extremist positions can have a chance in 2004.
So here's what I'd say the DNC right now: first thing is you have to realize that the administration's policies are not in the American mainstream. You can show me any poll you want about how many people support the policies, but the reality is that they just support the way the policies have been presented. Attacking Iraq? Revenge for 9/11! Cutting dividend taxes? Giving the taxpayers a break! Gutting civil liberties? Protecting us from terrorism! They are very good at this. But here's the thing: from all indications, it's the only thing they're good at politically. Certainly you can stack up the blunders over the war, PATRIOT, Enron, etc., and given half a foothold by the press, Ari Fleischer's technique of "just fucking lying" is going to break down. So what we have to do is be better at that than them, and we have the advantage of actually being right. But it's important to look at Iraq and see that one of the reasons we got blindsided by it was that it wasn't like welfare or education or Israel, because it wasn't even on our radar. The left didn't have a good response to Iraq for a while because it just wasn't an issue for us. So we need to find those chinks in the GOP's armor--the issues they don't care about presently but other people do--and play them to the hills. Then we need to start chipping away at the public perception of their key issues, and then we can win.
posted by Mike B. at 5:43 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Donald Rumsfeld smiling. Brr.
posted by Mike B. at 3:47 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I have to go make some binders now, but incidentally: France and Germany say, "Hey, remember Israel?" Bush will presumably put his hand exaggeratedly to his ear and reply, "What's that? I thought I heard something. Was that the wind? Or was it those two certain countries I used to be friends with?" He will then smile smugly and go play catch with Donald Rumsfeld.
Fareed Zakaria's new book apparently makes the blindingly obvious (but sadly misunderstood) point that the reasons so many post-Cold War democracies have "failed" is because an election does not democracy make; a Constitutional democracy is incomplete with "the rule of law, the rights of free speech and religion and the protection of minorities." Hopefully everyone will learn this lesson, finally.
Maureen Dowd talks about the increasing signs of perpetual war. The Times's David Sanger reported that when a Bush aide stepped into the Oval Office recently to tell the president that the hard-boiled Rummy had also been shaking a fist at Syria, Mr. Bush smiled and said one word: "Good." Eek, I just got a chill.
And finally, a remarkably well-written Reuters piece entitled Arabs Watch Hussein's Demise in Disbelief that covers a lot of ground, like about how it would have been better for America if they had gotten Sadaam to surrender instead of killing him, and how "many Arabs liken the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip." Ooh, there's that chill again. The closing bit is classic:
Fahd Saleh of Saudi Arabia expressed equal dislike for President Bush and Saddam. "Saddam is a terrorist but he's not alone. Bush too is a terrorist but Saddam is weak and Bush is strong. That's why he has won, because no one opposes a strong person," said the 33-year-old Saudi government employee. "How wonderful the world would be without Saddam and without Bush!''
posted by Mike B. at 2:55 PM 0 comments Links to this post
excursions into the hive mind
I have a subscription to Newsweek (shh!) but since I end up getting all of the news day-to-day on the web, there's usually not much urgency to read it. I try and keep up and kill one before the next arrives, but lately I've been a week behind, which has actually been very interesting--in a certain sense they're totally irrelevant by that point, but from another perspective it's actually kind of useful to apply the CW of 10 days' ago to the current events. So it was interesting to read the "We're going to war! Awesome!" issue when everything had gone to shit, and it's interesting now to read the "Everything's gone to shit!" issue (4/7/03) when we just took Baghdad. Certainly it's a pessimistic, slightly paranoid tone that sounds weird in the mainstream press when there's not a deafening echo of it, and I get the sense that the skepticism of Fareed Zakira's excellent cover story a few weeks previous ("Why America Scares the World" or something like that) was carrying over. I'm sure this week's issue will be peaches and roses again, but it's interesting to read in this context.
For instance, there's a good sidebar about how Bush and Blair are confab'ing about the peace, but they also seem to be "talking past each other" with Blair's message contradicting Bush's, as I mention below. There's also an article about the world press' coverage of the war with a focus on al-Jazeera, resulting in this key tidbit:
So it's not surprising that the way is playing poorly for the United States even in countries whose governments support it. "The trauma is unimaginable," writes the Indian daily Asian Age. "The suffering acute." The Mirror, a London tabloid, juxtaposed a grinning President Bush next to a distraught Iraqi woman amid the rubble with the headline: HE LOVES IT.
There's also some good al-Jazeera stories about them running Rumsfeld's briefing beside footage of an Iraqi girl in a hospital bed, which would be horrible if it weren't so reminiscent of Fox News. The US has seemed to treat the network and its representatives with some deference, however.
On the lighter side (whoa, can't believe I just said that) there's this bit from an interview with Jerry Haleva, "Hollywood's favorite Sadaam double":
No problems going out in public?
Well, I was in DC when I noticed two Russian cabbies were giggling. One said, "I'm very sorry, but my friend and I think you look like somebody who is not very nice." And I said, "It's OK; I play him in movies." His eyes widened and he said, "You've played Joseph Stalin?"
Ah, nothing funnier than a Stalin joke, is there?
posted by Mike B. at 2:52 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Jason sent this to me, but seems too busy to post, so I shall do it for him.
"So this is really fucking scary. Besides trying to make the Patriot Act permanent in its entirety, a bi-partisan bill proposes the following:
The Kyl-Schumer measure would eliminate the need for federal agents seeking
secret surveillance warrants to show that a suspect is affiliated with a
foreign power or agent, like a terrorist group.
This would mean that now you don't have to have any foreign connection to have a secret warrant issued against you with a very low standard of proof, if any."
I'm pissed off about a number of things here. First off, there's no reason to even be debating removing the sunset provisions on PATRIOT because they don't come up for two and a half years; to hear that the bill is co-sponsored by D-NY Charles Schumer and is coming up now because of "political jockeying" and "appears to have given [Congress] the chance to move on the issue much earlier than expected" is just bad for my blood pressure An anon Justice Dept. fella says: "The Patriot Act has been an extremely useful tool, a demonstrated success, and we don't want that to expire on us." Not surprising that the rabbit doesn't want to see the garden fence repaired anytime soon.
As for the new secret surveillance standards, if someone's planning to blow up a bomb or hijack a plane, that's an actual crime-crime there, right? So you wouldn't really need to associate them with a terrorist organization to get the wiretap authorization. Or is there something I'm missing about federal law enforcement regulations? Maybe it's just a jurisdiction issue transferring powers local police have to the FBI? Anybody know?
posted by Mike B. at 1:35 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Meanwhile, 24 Hindus were massacred in Kashmir. And this is another reason why the US's conduct in Iraq matters: when we give Muslims more reason to suspect holy war, terrorists can capitalize on that in ways we have absolutely no control over.
posted by Mike B. at 1:17 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Just to be clear: Baghdad liberated, yay good.
OK. Now let's check this out:
The advance of U.S. troops into Baghdad is proof that early criticism of the war's plans was misguided, Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday. The war is "one of the most extraordinary military campaigns ever conducted," Cheney said, speaking to the annual convention of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. "With every day, with every advance of our coalition forces, the wisdom of that plan becomes more apparent," Cheney said. He dismissed critics as "retired military officers embedded in TV studios."
Dick. Dick, Dick, Dick. Honestly, were you not listening to the criticism or are you just willfully misinterpreting it again? (And does this man have no political instincts whatsoever? Gloating two hours after a partial victory?) The criticism of the military campaign was not about whether we'd win the war; it was about how many soldiers and civilians would die. Taking Baghdad does nothing to negate that criticism.
Criticisms also under discussion include the diplomatic handling of the situation, the feints towards Syria, the "Axis of Evil" rhetoric, the faking of WMD evidence, etc. (Speaking of which--if Sadaam really has WMD, why hasn't he used them yet? Have we captured them all? Where are they?) Oh, and the post-war governemnt and the UN. Speaking of which:
Cheney said he expected the United Nations, as well as war opponents such as France, to have humanitarian involvement in the postwar efforts in Iraq. However, the key role in the reconstruction of Iraq and the creation of a new Iraqi government "has to reside with the U.S. government," Cheney said. "We don't believe that the United Nations is equipped to play that central role. It will play a very important role, but I think the central role will reside with the coalition," Cheney said.
So "the coalition" can do it, but "the UN" can't? Well, still stickin' to the party line, I guess--see commentary below.
posted by Mike B. at 12:19 PM 0 comments Links to this post
reasons why anger doesn't always work #2,204
In Monday's and Tuesday's Daily Howler, the guy there (I refuse to call him "Socrates" for reasons you can perhaps guess) helpfully exposes the limits of the approach he's taken, which can broadly be called the limits of anger as a political tool. I won't deny that the Howler is sporadically brilliant--in a one-month span, for instance, they ran a great recounting of the Gore "earth tones" "scandal" and a powerful attack on the press' conduct at the President's pre-war news conference with a nice little dis at the bottom of the Boston Globe's attempt to smear John Kerry (although God help us if he gets nominated)--but he uses the wrong tool here and ends up doing more harm than good.
Michael Kelly was the former editor of The New Republic, editor-at-large of The Atlantic Monthly and a columnist for the Washington Post, and he was recently killed in Iraq. He had gone there out of a sense of duty, he said, to use the opportunity for access which had not been provided in GWI--a war in which he had made a name for himself, according to the initial obits. The death was widely covered because he was the first American journo to die in the war, and was also a fairly well-known writer. The usual press remembrances followed, and they were understandably positive in tone. Now, there were certainly some problems with Mr. Kelly--he was a tireless, unfair and self-serving critic of Al Gore, and his mentorship of Stephen Glass, the writer later shown to have wholly concocted his stories (most notable on the cyberweb was one hilariously stereotypical article about "hackers"), is certainly questionable. Nevertheless, the fact remains that he just died and those surviving him are probably still a little bit raw. The Howler's tone is as over-the-top as always, more appropriate for someone who had personally run up and punched them in the face than a recent casualty of war ("As we noted yesterday, we think Rosin’s comment, if true, is stunning. Our jaws hung open all day long as we pondered what Rosin had said."). It all culminates in this bit:
Don’t ignore the role of that "sprawling house by the sea with the wraparound porch" which popped up in Rosin’s column. We don’t have the slightest idea why individual scribes think or act as they do. But as a group, young scribes know that extremely rich material rewards now await those who do well in their profession. And young scribes know another thing too: They know that those wraparound porches go to those who don’t challenge the conduct of the insider press corps. Almost surely, that explains why many young scribes have so little to say about their own cohort’s frequent misconduct. As we have noted many times in the past, many bright young scribes do excellent work on policy matters—but are strangely silent when it comes to the work of the press. They said nothing about the borking of Gore—and they said nothing about Michael Kelly’s excesses. (Did you ever see them challenge Chris Matthews?) Now they tell us that Kelly was a hero. Guess what? Some day, such scribes will have wraparound porches of their own, on the side of their own sprawling houses.
Look, guy: I won't argue that the press corps doesn't have a tendency towards herd mentality, and that may even be because, as you intimate in this piece, that it's so they can end up with Kelly's nice house, rather than, say, because of deadlines or editors or something else less sinister. But I don't think that sort of groupthink is what's in action here. I'm sure some of the people who wrote these pieces actually hate Kelly as a writer, and sure, that means they're lying through their teeth. But that's what we do when people die: we lie. We say we loved them and they were flawless human beings and that we never wished them ill a day in their life, because we do not want to hurt people who are still alive. Colleagues do not criticize other colleagues upon occasion of their death not because they have a Machiavellian need to get ahead, but simply because it's not nice (troubling as the concept of "nice" to some people) to be the guy in the corner yelling "He wasn't so great! He disagreed with my political views!"
I'm not saying that we should never speak ill of the dead--certainly Nixon deserved a far harsher treatment than he got--but try and read between the lines here a little. A writer's memorials are not his legacy, his writing is, and Kelly's will be there for everyone to hate and love long after he's been buried. If you're trying to actually change the press' behavior, yelling at them about saying nice things about a dead colleague is not going to help the situation, and is going to be a convenient excuse for them to tune you out. People don't seem to understand that speaking "the truth" won't do any good unless people listen, and "the truth" (sorry to keep putting it in quotes, but often "the truth" seems to mean "my particular political ideology" which is frequently libertarianism) doesn't have some mystical power to command people's attention. If people are not doing what you want them to do, they almost always have reasons to do it beyond imperfect information, and so instead of getting mad and yelling at them (a technique that only really works for children under 8) you have to give them a reason to do what you want. To put it another way: politics always matters.
Whoof, but look at me getting all angry. Better calm down, eh?
posted by Mike B. at 12:05 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
Who knew there'd be a day I'd be praising Vice Magazine, but whether intentionally or not, their fashion section this month is unusually touching. They take an 18-year-old kid from Virginia waiting to be called up and take photos of him in his army gear like it's a regular model shoot. Interesting without being condescending or glib, I might be totally misreading this, but I chose to take it straight and I liked it. Especially the last photo where they have him wearing a thrift-store T-shirt that says "America Don't Worry - Israel Is Behind You," which is interesting because it's clearly originally meant to be, as one poster put it, "fucked up, and yet clever," but for a soldier in the gulf it's a real concern.
posted by Mike B. at 6:49 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Great interview at the Onion AV Club with the White Stripes. Y'know, having read a little bit through the AV Club's book of collected interviews, and having read the site regularly for a good 4 years now, I've come to really appreciate their style of interviewing. You can go through, say, Pitchfork's archive and it seems like half the time they piss off their subjects--which is fine--but the Onion seems very good at not antagonizing their subjects and prodding them in useful directions and really letting them speak for themselves, which can be very good. Jack, for instance, gets to explain the whole "death of the sweetheart" notion in much more restrained and expansive terms than he has before. The explanation always used to seem kind of hostile rather than sweet, and it's hard not to think that's the interviewer's fault. So it's nice to see that here, even if he does get into quesitonable "wigga"-hatin' territory.
Anyway, there's a bunch of other good stuff, like Jack helpfully comparing Meg to Ringo (in a positive way! Really!) and finally, for me anyway, explaining the reason why such a "back to basics" band named its second album after a European high-art design movement: Jack ran an upholstery shop. Lots of cool stories in there about that, too.
posted by Mike B. at 6:34 PM 0 comments Links to this post
this self-governance thing is starting to look like scripted improv
Two wire stories, conveniently in order on Salon's home page right now, catch my eye.
The first (and important) one is headlined British put sheik into power in Basra. Basically, after surrounding the city for almost two weeks and (probably) killing "Chemical Ali" in an airstrike, British forces took Basra Monday and are now establishing it as an administrative and public-relations beachead. (That doesn't sound British at all, does it?) And so, in keeping with Blair's public comment, they're trying to establish an Iraqi-led local government. The sheik is "a tribal leader" and "a local figure, not an Iraqi exile."
The sheik indicated that he could draw on some members of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's ruling Baath party who were not implicated in oppression of the local people, Vernon said..."We have ascertained that he is worthwhile, credible and has authority in the local area, particularly with the tribal chiefs," Vernon said. The sheik will form his committee as he sees fit, "and we will take him at his word on his judgment."
Of course, the elephant here is the UN. This article repeats the claim, relayed almost everywhere else in the Western media as far as I can see, that Bush/Blair say that "the United Nations would have a role in all aspects of postwar Iraq, from aid or helping to set up an interim authority until elections could be held." Unfortunately, the New York Times disagrees, saying "Mr. Bush described that role [for the UN] as largely humanitarian and advisory rather than one central to overseeing the country and eventually establishing a new government." It's sad enough that allowing the UN to help with humanitarian aid is more than we'd been expecting, but of course not having them oversee the governmental transition willfully ignores their prime benefit: neutrality. (Not that they're actually neutral, of course, but they're sure regarded as a whole lot more neutral than the US or Britain.) It's nice that the Brits are putting the sheik in Basra since folks to have a better view of their intentions, but they only look better in relation to the US, not a hard feat at this point, and the fact that the US hasn't done anything to openly encourage Iraqi self-governance yet is only going to make America's plans for a post-war Iraq look worse and undermine future efforts in that direction. So we're still waiting and seeing, and signs are somewhat improving, but the reality doesn't necessarily seem to be a lot better.
The other story is headlined Study: Fat kids rank quality of life low which has to rank up there with "Stupid People Do Badly on Tests" for obviousness. The use of "fat kids" rather than "overweight children" is also a bit weird. Basically, it says that fat kids (ergh!) are as unhappy as kids undergoing chemotherapy are. Wow.
This is all a bit too depressing to comment on now, and I have work, so more later.
posted by Mike B. at 3:18 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Once again I nearly give in to Daily Show Porn and call the cable company right fucking now. It's painful--every few months someone (the Onion, the New Yorker, the NYT, etc.) will write an article about Jon Stewart or the Daily Show and they'll run an excerpt and I have to tie myself to a chair to stop from calling and ordering. I watch it whenever I'm home and I just can't stop laughing.
Anyway, the Salon article features two excerpts, and I'm going to quote one here at length because it's just indescribably perfect:
Stewart: What should the media's role be in covering the war?
Colbert: Very simply, the media's role should be the accurate and objective description of the hellacious ass-whomping we're handing the Iraqis.
Stewart: Hellacious ass-whomping? Now to me, that sounds pretty subjective.
Colbert: Are you saying it's not an ass-whomping, Jon? I suppose you could call it an ass-kicking or an ass-handing-to. Unless, of course, you love Hitler.
Stewart [stammering]: I don't love Hitler.
Colbert: Spoken like a true Hitler-lover.
Stewart: Look, even some American generals have said that the Iraqis have put up more resistance than they were expected to.
Colbert: First rule of journalism, Jon, is to know your sources. Sounds like these "generals" of yours may be a little light in the combat boots, if you know what I'm saying.
Stewart: I don't think I know what you're saying.
Colbert: I'm saying they're queers, Jon. They're Hitler-loving queers.
Stewart: I'm perplexed. Is your position that there's no place for negative words or even thoughts in the media?
Colbert: Not at all, Jon. Doubts can happen to everyone, including me, but as a responsible journalist, I've taken my doubts, fears, moral compass, conscience and all-pervading skepticism about the very nature of this war and simply placed them in this empty Altoids box. [Produces box.] That's where they'll stay, safe and sound, until Iraq is liberated.
Stewart: Isn't it the media's responsibility in wartime ...
Colbert: That's my point, Jon! The media has no responsibility in wartime. The government's on top of it. The media can sit this one out.
Stewart: And do what?
Colbert: Everything it's always wanted to do but had no time for: travel, see the world, write that novel. I know the media has always wanted to try yoga. This is a great time to take it up. It's very stressful out there -- huge war going on. Jon, hear me out, it was Thomas Jefferson who said, "Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach."
Stewart: Stephen, Stalin said that. That was Stalin. Jefferson said he'd rather have a free press and no government than a government and no free press.
Colbert: Well, what do you expect from a slave-banging, Hitler-loving queer?
See kids, this is why we watch TV. And the more we watch TV, the more shows you'll have like the Daily Show.
So, uh, anyone wanna buy me cable? You can come over and watch anytime, especially if you live with me.
posted by Mike B. at 12:23 PM 0 comments Links to this post
like cave-in, but not shitty
Taking a brief break: Nick Cave & Da Bad Seedz are going to tour on Nocturama after all! Bitchin! They're only playing Roseland in NYC, but I would brave that crappy, crappy venue to see him. Anybody else? Of course, I really want to see him solo (!) in the Tate (!) but alas, I cannot. Sigh, I miss London sometimes. Well--OK--often. Shh.
Eep, now I want to listen to "Babe, I'm On Fire" real bad. Have I mentioned that's the best fucking song ever? It is. Maybe I'll make a more cogent argument for it later.
posted by Mike B. at 10:37 AM 0 comments Links to this post
So the Pitchfork letters page today is exactly the same as yesterday's, except with the response from Brent removed. Luckily, I saved it below so it's still there to read. Do I know why they removed it? No I do not. Any theories? I'm sure it was just, uh, an editorial thing.
Oh, and Brent never e-mailed me back. I'm still kind of confused, but that's OK.
Anyway, lots of work piled up this morning, but more later on Radiohead and activists, though probably not at the same time.
Tuvans, Liz, Tuvans. Regardless of the name, that's a good idea. My favorite non-blog response to the "worst song" thing so far, from the severed-heads list:
"Bagpipes are a bad joke invented by the Romans that the Scots never got."
I prefer to think they got it all too well.
posted by Mike B. at 10:18 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Monday, April 07, 2003
mike, doesn't that orchestra need those throat singers who can sing 2 notes at once?
it also seems to be lacking a didgeridoo.
i am currently battling a vicious cold for Total Skull Domination.
posted by Elizabeth at 9:38 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I am currently listening to a song that was intentionally constructed to be the worst song in the world. Here's the theory:
The most unwanted music is over 25 minutes long, veers wildly between loud and quiet sections, between fast and slow tempos, and features timbres of extremely high and low pitch, with each dichotomy presented in abrupt transition. The most unwanted orchestra was determined to be large, and features the accordion and bagpipe (which tie at 13% as the most unwanted instrument), banjo, flute, tuba, harp, organ, synthesizer (the only instrument that appears in both the most wanted and most unwanted ensembles). An operatic soprano raps and sings atonal music, advertising jingles, political slogans, and “elevator” music, and a children's choir sings jingles and holiday songs. The most unwanted subjects for lyrics are cowboys and holidays, and the most unwanted listening circumstances are involuntary exposure to commericals and elevator music. Therefore, it can be shown that if there is no covariance—someone who dislikes bagpipes is as likely to hate elevator music as someone who despises the organ, for example—fewer than 200 individuals of the world's total population would enjoy this piece.
Coincidentally, I was just listening to the Butthole Surfers' "Kuntz," and really, if you lenghtened that to 25 minutes and threw in some product placements, that'd probably qualify, too.
Anyway, the whole criteria file is here and includes lyrics, which are almost as hilarious as the song itself. They also attempt to make the most likable song possible. Find the worst song here, and the best song here. Come to think of it, the Boredoms would probably qualify for "worst song" too, wouldn't they?
Oh, if those links don't work anymore, e-mail me and I'll host 'em somewhere else. Well worth experiencing. It's amazing.
ps It's also the worst goddamn children's choir I've ever heard.
(thanks to Fluxblog)
posted by Mike B. at 1:28 PM 0 comments Links to this post
who gives a fork
So before the last letter in the Pitchfork / White Stripes saga (see below) I mentioned that on Thursday, the day after the review ran and I wrote my first letter, they were running three not-so-cogent critical letters on the mailbag page, and not mine, which was weird but fine. Then on Friday, as usual, they had that weird "Tell us what your favorite X is!" feature in the mailbag. Then today, they ran my letter and a letter from some guy bitching about the critical letters from Thursday. I presume they chose to run those back-to-back because mine had the subject line "'You Suck! White Stripes Rock!' letter #3,381" which could look like I wrote it considerably after the fact, even though I did, in fact, write it the day the review ran, and meant it in a self-depricating, "Just another bitch" kind of way. Well, OK. But then there's this weird thing in the third slot:
A response from Brent DiCrescenzo.
Are you nuts?
Brent DiCrescenzo is back in the game. Wow. I don't think any of you (I refer to all who wrote any sharp comments on Elephant's review) understands who he is. I'm afraid most of you don't even care for what Pitchfork is, you just consider it "another site with some music reviews"... Ugh.
Ok, to put it straight:
This man is a GOD. To see his name again at the front of the most amazing music site ever is a blessing. To read his interpretation of White Stripes music is a miracle. To know that you can still hope for more of his essays in the future is another miracle.
If you start any of these foolish discussions of him being a "good" or a "bad" critic once more, I'm going to kill. Watch out then and try exploring his genius someday. Take John Lennon's Imagine review for starters.
So is there some joke I'm not getting here? Did he have a life-threatening disease and we didn't realize it? And why is it in the third person if it's a response from Brent? Regardless, he responded to me that "I'll be reviewing more often for sure!" so it seems clear my comments did not wound him to the quick or anything, and it also seems weird to have that bit about not respecting Pitchfork when I say things like it's "a major force in the indie scene" and write its editors and writers reasonably lengthy letters--although, when you get right down to it, it kinda is just another site with some music reviews, so check yourself there, kids. I certainly didn't make any claims about Brent being a bad critic in general, just that it was a bad review, and that maybe the editorial decision to give the review to him was a questionable one. It also seems weird to complain about the debate when Brent said that, as of receiving my first letter, it was only the second criticism, and the "positive letters are far outweighing the negative." Hmm.
Anyway, I guess I'll e-mail Brent, but I am kinda cheezed off that they chose, as usual, to misrepresent the letter by putting it out-of-context and without the exchange that resulted from it, which I (heck) thought was pretty interesting. But maybe I just woke up grumpy on a Monday. With that assumption, I'm suspending the extremely grumpy rant I composed on the subway to work this morning in favor of this more moderate post, but maybe I'll bitch more later. I don't want to get all Dave Eggers on it, though.
posted by Mike B. at 10:34 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Sunday, April 06, 2003