clap clap blog: we have moved
Friday, June 20, 2003
Thread on nyhappenings reacting to a mailing for a party at Luxx called WELFARE:
1) "Welfare is not so badass and punk rock a name when you have to feed 3 kids on it. reminds me of that place tenement... BAD IDEA KIDS"
2) "yeah fuks change th name to: SALT MINES"
3) "Pianos is a really shitty name if you're scared by "The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T"."
Ah, nyhappenings. I do find "Tenement" a pretty hilariously offensive name, and I don't think hilariously offensive is necessarily the vibe they're going for.
In fairness, I do know a decent number of hipster kids on welfare, but the fact that they would use it to go to Luxx is perhaps evidence of what the original poster was saying...we all gotta party though!
posted by Mike B. at 4:50 PM 0 comments
OK, a brief Pitchfork mention, but only in praise: they rightly give a 10.0 to the reissue of Glenn Branca's The Ascension. Apparently the remastering is very good, which means I may have to buy a copy to replace my perfectly servicable 1994 News / New Tone CD I got at Other Music a few years ago. Damnit.
At any rate, it's a fucking phenomenal album--the prototype for symphonic noise-rock, and made only with 4 guitars, drum, and bass. Lee Ranaldo plays one of the axes and there's a very cute picture of him bein' all young in the liner notes. It blows your ass away. Go go go.
This, by the way, is being issued by fellow Oberlin grad Dan Selzer's new Acute Records label, distributed by Carpark, who have put out some very good discs by Miss Dinky and Kid 606.
UPDATE: As to the differences between my Italian jobbie and the new version, they seem to be significant. Dan replies to my questioning as follows:
Glad you asked. It differs in many ways. In 1994, the Italian label
New Tone licensed the Ascension. It was mastered from vinyl, the
original tapes being long lost. It never really received proper
distribution in the states, causing it to appear for various
prices(sometimes up to 25 dollars) and for some people to think its a
bootleg. How is our copy different? Well it's the first domestic CD
release of the Ascension, not that that would matter to you, as you
already ownd the Italian CD. What is signifigant is:
A) Our version is remastered by Weasel Walter and sounds considerably
better, louder, more exciting etc.
B) Our version contains a 4 page essay/liner notes from Sonic Youth
guitarist/Ascension bandmember Lee Ranalod.
C) Our version contains a 2 minute quicktime video clip of Glenn
playing solo improv guitar at a 1978 gathering at Jeffrey Lohn's loft
that is just blistering.
D) Our version contains, on the tray card, never before seen color
Robert Longo artwork.
E) Our version will, when selling millions, put more money in the
Acute coffers, giving us the ability to re-release tons more fantastic
music. We are very close to closing the deal on 5(FIVE!) more CDs.
posted by Mike B. at 1:30 PM 0 comments
Updated links; they are now roughly organized by politics stuff on top, music stuff on the bottom. Let me know if I've made any errors or if I left anyone out.
Also, the page seems to be loading quicker now, but the comments are still semi-fucked-up. You can always keep reloading the popup if the form doesn't come up, and it seems like you just need to wait a while after clicking "post comments" for it to register. I'll fix that sometime or other.
Also, I think I'm going to stop talking about Pitchfork for a while--it's getting a bit shrill and boring.
Politics-wise, I'd like to stop criticizing so much and start proposing more possible policies, but I'm not sure that's going to happen. It seems like an admirable goal, though.
Hi to Quo Vadimus readers--there's a bunch of politics stuff on top, and some good music stuff a bit below that. And, er, sorry to Rob for misspelling your site name. Ahem.
posted by Mike B. at 1:08 PM 0 comments
I was sitting there yesterday, wondering how widespread the idea was that Joe Lieberman is unelectable primarily because he is a ("modern?") orthodox Jew; I was guessing "not very" (even though it seems self-evident to me) because folks would not want to be labeled an anti-Semite. "What are you talking about? Jews can do whatever they want!" etc. So I did a Google search and it did indeed only come up with two pages of results (although each of the results stated this fact easily, as if it was self-evident). There was a lefty mention and a conservative leaving comments on a lefty site; a libertarian (?) mention and a comment on a conservative site where Democrats are called "Dimocrats" (haha--get it? It's a play on words! "Dim" means they're stupid! Oh wait, he's talking about me! I'm stupid! Oh no!) and a few other things.
And then there was this. Some sample comments:
- True, American government is already over run with Zionists, but going with the traditional lesser of two evils approach I would much rather have a puppet in office than a straight up Zionist henchman. Lieberman is so pro-Israel that even the American jews don't trust him. His wife is an Israeli citizen who was already traveling around speaking out against the holocaust when he was just running for vice president. Imagine what they could do if they were in charge. I could talk all day about it, but what I want to get to is what can we do to lobby against him. I know virtually nothing on the subject of political lobbying, but I think we need to start opposing him now. Any ideas anyone. One thing I can suggest is for people to start speaking against him to everybody who will listen. This even means to drop your racial platform when talking to the lemmings about this( so as to not scare them away from your stance on this). Many of us in the movement have stopped voting for obvious reasons, but I think this is serious enough for us to renew our voter registration. Anyways, feedback from any comrades in charge would be greatly appreciated.
- Oppose him? I say help vote him in there. His presence in the White House will make it hard for people to deny that America is run by Jews.
- The most cunning threat to White Nationalists right now is the NEO-CONS. If you think back to the neo-con reaction to Lieberman's selection by Al Gore as his running mate you will recall that the neo-cons were VERY UNHAPPY that Lieberman was on the Democratic ticket opposing Bush. Bush is the neo-con sock-puppet. Takeover of the Republican Party is the neo-con target. A Jew on the Democrat presidential ticket severely hurts both of these neo-con programs. A measure of how determined the neo-cons are to solidify their penetration and co-option of the commanding heights of the Republican Party is the lavish national campaign of "let's be Republicans" seminars and community gatherings that the neo-cons are putting on at 4-star hotels. A typical such gathering of the Landsmen will feature Michael Medved, Richard Pipes, David Horowitz, and Dennis Prager. All of the speakers are pitching the urgent need for Jews to re-register as Republicans, to get active in the Republican party, and to seek out precint, county, and State Republican positions. The money is flowing as these guys are flown all over the U.S. to pitch the new Inner Party tactic. In my opinion the neo-cons see Joe Lieberman as a guy running more on his own ego rather than getting with the Inner Party "program". His presence on any Democratic presidential ticket greatly diminishes the numbers of Jews that can be migrated into the Republican party by neo-cons like Medved, Pipes, Horowitz, and Prager.
- The time when we could have voted ourselves out of this mess is dead and gone. The only way the masses are going to get with the program, if ever, is if evertyhing they hold dear falls apart. Perhaps the best thing to do at this point is to speed up the process. Even though Sharpton and Lieberman are both unelectable, someone of their caliber in the White House would be just thing for that to happen.
- Absolutely correct. Politics is nothing but a spectator sport. As for Jews, Blacks, or whatever other non-white hominid that runs for office, I say more power to them. Worse is better. Lets turn up the heat on this pot as high as it will go. The sleepy white frog needs a wake up call.
So this is a) pretty sickening, but also b) kind of interesting in the parallels--and, oh Lord, you know I'm hesitant to make this one--between these guys and the activist left. Both, for instance, see "their" party as having been "taken over" by a sinister outside group seeking to advance their own narrow interests (the conservative-at-heart moneyed interests of the DLC v. the Jewish neo-cons); both express a disdain of politics as a means of effective action (although thank God in this case for that); and both think that, faced with their impotent position (even if they would never articulate it as such), the best thing might be to give the system a good push in the direction it's already heading so it will crash and can be rebuilt in their own image. It's also very interesting to see this view of the neo-conservatives, because, let's be honest, all of us liberals find it a bit confounding the way Jewish issues seem to be being co-opted by the right, although the anti-Israel rhetoric spewed by some of the activists probably doesn't help. Also both think they have some secret, hidden knowledge about the workings of the government and who is behind it (rich people, Jews and blacks) and thus action is necessary to correct it.
Brr, white supremacists. I think I'm going to go read about puppies for a while or something. Although it is a little weird how nobody talks about militias or these folks anymore, isn't it? Especially with all this Eric Rudolph business going on?
posted by Mike B. at 12:48 PM 0 comments
Harm posts a WaPo story about "white studies" courses at UMASS-Amherst.
Naomi Cairns was among the leaders in the privilege walk, and she wasn't happy about it.
The exercise, which recently involved Cairns and her classmates in a course at the University of Massachusetts, had two simple rules: When the moderator read a statement that applied to you, you stepped forward; if it didn't, you stepped back. After the moderator asked if you were certain you could get a bank loan whenever you wanted, Cairns thought, "Oh my God, here we go again," and took yet another step forward.
"You looked behind you and became really uncomfortable," said Cairns, a 24-year-old junior who stood at the front of the classroom with other white students. Asian and black students she admired were near the back. "We all started together," she said, "and now were so separated."
Fucking white people. See, I would be cheering. "Woohoo! Doin' great out here! Think I'll get me a good job and some great health care and then run the government!"
White studies is an annoying academic discipline--or, more accurately maybe, an embarrassing one. So is American Studies, for that matter, which I was thinking of doing as an independent (second) major in college until I did some research and discovered that they didn't seem to like America...well, at all. Which, honestly, strikes me as weird. If you read the blog, you know I'm not exactly your typical wave-the-flag-and-read-the-Bible patriot, but I am a patriot, and I do quite honestly love America--I wouldn't be this interested in politics and government if I didn't. So no American Studies for me. Apparently it used to be a pretty productive fusion of literary and cultural studies (putting books in their political context in a fairly moderate way, etc.) but now...well, I hesitate to use the phrase "taken over by the whackos," but it does spring to mind. (There was a great article online about this, but I have regrettably misplaced it, and Google ain't helping.)
As for white studies itself, it's problematic. I do actually believe that it would be nice if white people were more aware of the privilege they have as a group and the way this colors social and political interactions, but I want that to happen so maybe we can use what power we have to work towards greater equality and other various bleeding-heart goals. This shit just seems designed to get white people to give up their power, which is a nice idea, I suppose, except that it's a self-selecting program, and since, quite frankly, most people with power will be hesitant to give it up, it ain't gonna work too well.
This is to say nothing about the problems caused by making people feel guilty for being born a certain way--paternalism, misplaced pity, oversensitivity...well, let's just go the videotape:
Chen said Avakian's course made her more aware of how the sense of belonging corresponds to skin color. "I would never not choose to be someone's friend because they are white, but I think it's important to have friends of color," she said...
Clason-Hook said that the class was the only one he knew of that explicitly spoke of whiteness, and that it helped him realize that "other classes, like economics, politics and history, are about whiteness. They are written by and are about white people." ["White. White white white! White." -ed]
He said later that confronting whiteness, day to day, is challenging. "I am racist. It's not on the surface, but it's in me. Day to day I hear racist comments, and people don't even know what they're saying."...
Cairns, who had sailed through the privilege walk, said whiteness studies helped her understand race a little better. "My social group has always been white," she said. "I've noticed that, and I've started to look beyond my group."
Yoinks. Not to, uh, speak for someone else, but if I was black and a white kid wanted to be my friend right after taking a white studies class, I'd either punch him in the face or play a great prank on him, like making him eat a bunch of watermelons and fried chicken to prove he understood blackness.
Sorry, that was very racist of me.
Good lord, am I agreeing with David Horowitz?
posted by Mike B. at 12:25 PM 0 comments
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Senate Committee Votes to Overturn FCC Ruling: The Senate Commerce Committee voted today to overturn a recent Federal Communications Commission raising the national broadcast ownership limit to 45 percent. Under the legislation approved by the Commerce Committee, the cap would be rolled back to 35 percent of the nation's TV households.
The committee also approved a measure that overturned the part of the FCC decision that relaxed rules prohibiting broadcasters from acquiring newspapers in their markets. Under the legislation approved by the committee, the newspaper combos would generally be barred. But under waivers they could be granted in the 60 smallest markets if those mergers are considered to be warranted in the public interest.
Now we just gotta get it through Congress...
posted by Mike B. at 3:09 PM 0 comments
The blog seems to be loading very slowly. This seems to be blogger's fault rather than the comments, as I have tried taking those out, so there's nothing I can do. Just keep hitting reload if you're having problems, and accept my apologies.
posted by Mike B. at 2:22 PM 0 comments
wiping a bit more horseflesh off my toe...
The PF mailbag is good today--one says a lot of what I said, but shorter. (Shorter than me? Never!) There's also a letter about Isaiah Violante's Bill Hicks review, which is nice, because I've wanted to bitch about it for a while. This is the same Isiah Violante who started off a review with a straight-faced Marshall McLuhan quote ("Oh was HE the one that said 'the medium is the message'? I had no idea!") and gives off the general air of being a little bit too proud of being in college and reading books about "politics." The Hicks review is a classic of repeating questionable, knee-jerk lefty rhetoric and sneering at anyone thinking otherwise, coming off like a less articulate Bill O'Reilly (a horrible thing to say about someone, I knew, but check the review and try and tell me otherwise), and generally taking Hicks way too seriously--he lionizes him in a way that I suspect Hicks would find embarrassing, and he takes his proclamations (or, as they're sometimes called, "jokes") as statements of unvarnished truth, which they're not. Hicks didn't even intend them that way, I think. Anyway, how does Violante respond to the letter? Did you say "snottily?" Here's hoping.
Anyway, I mainly wanted to talk here about the Fountains of Wayne review, mentioned a bit in comments below. The Pitchfork review likes it, mostly, although you can pretty clearly sense their repulsion at the popiness of it all. There's lots of backhand slams in there ("disposable," "its obviously short shelf-life," etc.) but the one outright complaint made is more or less here:
Still, Fountains of Wayne are guilty of taking themselves a bit too seriously here, or at least trying to prove their legitimacy, when they should be goofing around.
It seems strange to complain about Fountains of Wayne goofing around, and not a little insulting--"you guys look dumb when you try to be serious, so stick to the yuks, please." It's a problem a lot of "funny" bands face, it seems, when they try and write...well, not even "serious," but just "normal" songs, since jokes are supposed to be excluded from your typical music-product. But it's not like FoW are, I dunno, Atom And His Package or the Dead Milkmen or something (both of which, by the way, I dearly love)--there's so much care put into the music that it's tough to dismiss them as a novelty act (although, again, I love novelty acts, and I think the boys are a novelty act in many ways, but the "serious = good" crowd would have a hard time making that stick with their criteria).
For me, at least, the thing about Fountains of Wayne's humor is that it's not the point of the point of the song so much as one more hook among many--in "Hackensack," for instance, the line "I saw you talking to Christopher Walken" pulls you into the song and serves as the setup for the sadness in the second verse, or the poignancy of the chorus--or a pointer to the gorgeous melody and vocal harmonies. Does this fall into the serious = good formation? Maybe. But while this joke-as-hook scenario is the case in some songs, like all other hooks they eventually fade into the background and lose the "wow!" of their initial impact, but they rarely cease being pleasurable. And in some songs the humor is definitely the point, and it makes the songs far more interesting and complex than a "serious" approach would have--"Stacy's Mom," say, or "Bright Future in Sales" (the latter of which sounds to me like the closest a U.S. band has gotten to Blur's slice-of-life songs like "Stereotypes" or "Parklife" or "Yuko and Hiro"). And in some songs the humor is more in the approach, and again, this makes them far more interesting and rich, like in "Hey Julie" (the opening line of "Working all day for a mean little man / with a clip-on tie and a rub-on tan" isn't strictly laugh-out-loud funny, but it draws the perspective of the narrator very sharply).
The point is that to complain about the seriousness is meaningless, because the comedy exists side-by-side with the very serious approach they take to their music--this album defines "pop songcraft" to my ears--and, after a while, the "serious" and "funny" lyrics all fade together into one big pop-music melting pot. And, more importantly, I wish more songwriters and critics could realize this (the aversion of the overwhelmingly male rock-crit establishment to anything "cute" is a continual sore spot with me) because it would really open up music to a lot more kinds of expression, and would make it less mopey in general, and I hope we can all see the value in that after a decade of modern rock radio. Ideally it would even make music more constructively political--but that's a subject for another time.
posted by Mike B. at 2:09 PM 0 comments
"Geez, I don't know why people keep comparing us to fratboys:"
The vice president’s chief of staff and national-security adviser, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, wants to be anonymous, but his personality sometimes gets the better of him.
A SLIGHT FIGURE, taciturn like his boss, Libby rarely speaks to reporters. But in April at a White House Correspondents Dinner after-party, he challenged various well-known journalists to drink tequila shots. Most of the reporters got drunk; Libby did not. “Typical Libby,” says Rep. Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio. “He was probably doing every other one.”
Doing tequila shots competatively: cool when you're, say, under 35 and working some random job. Not cool when you're an aide to the Vice-President. (Especially when you look like Scooter.) I like a man who can hold his liquor, but I get a little suspicious of a man who likes to show off how he can hold his liquor. Also, it don't got shit on ottering.
The article is generally a bit misguided otherwise; it tries to blame Scooter for pressuing the intelligence folks to come up with the now-partially discredited WMD evidence, but it doesn't have any particular evidence, and I don't think the question of whether the administration as a whole was desperate to find some info and that the intelligence folks catered to that--at least a wee bit--is really up for debate. Pegging it on an aide is a good way of shifting blame, but it's not really looking like any heads are going to roll for this anyway. This bit, however, is just dumb:
One senior administration official says: “You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. Before 9-11, the criticism was that we failed to connect the dots. Now the criticism is that we did connect the dots.”
You're not damned if you do and damned if you don't--we just want you to get it right, asshole. That's why we employ you. We don't care whether you get it wrong by overestimating or underestimating, because each can be highly problematic in different contexts. We just want you to get it right. Sheesh. This is not unimportant stuff.
posted by Mike B. at 12:56 PM 0 comments
The impact of their flesh against my boot is starting to feel not unlike a rotting horse corpse, but check out the Pitchfork newswire today. A Radiohead item starts off thusly:
To celebrate the release of Radiohead's Hail to the Thief, Capitol Records is pulling out all the stops-- first by announcing the band's U.S. release dates a few at a time, so as to force publications like ours to run two stories on the band in one week; and also by giving away a one-of-a-kind Vespa scooter and tricking-out one lucky Kennebunkport man's Segway personal transporter:
This is followed by, guess what, the pictures of Bush falling off his Segway, which would have been funny, eh, a week ago. It wasn't even that funny then. Now, though, it's...well, here's what I wrote in response:
Dude, that Segway joke was soooooooo funny! You guys could totally write for Leno! I'm serious--you're THAT good!
I hope you stay, though, because I look forward to hearing the Sigur Ros / Joey Buttafuoco jokes you've got planned for next week.
Yeah. It's on the level of late night monologue humor. I'm assuming they'll figure out that I'm being sarcastic, but this has not been the safest assumption in the past.
And yeah, I know I said I was going to stop writing them, but this one's just too good to resist.
UPDATE: They reply: "What, did you fall off of your Segway too?" The wit, the wit! Stay outa the comedy clubs, kids, you'll get eaten alive if that's your best comeback.
posted by Mike B. at 12:04 PM 0 comments
Dude, what the fuck is wrong with Australians?
The unlikely, and dangerous, sport of ottering is largely unknown outside the ranks of its participants. In fact, it is possible that there has only been three occasions on which it has been mentioned in the press.
The secretive nature of the sport may be due to the fact that it is performed by journalists...following the release of the Australian Commonwealth Government budget...The 'standard' otter is performed by sliding down a staircase on one's stomach. The 'double' Otter is the same as the standard, but with a passenger or rider aboard. This method carries a higher risk of injury for both parties. The 'power' otter is assumed to be the same as the 'standard' otter but with a running start.
I really wish they did this in the US. "Get off, Will, it's O'Reilly's turn!"
posted by Mike B. at 12:00 PM 0 comments
Is it weird that when I hear REM's "Stand" I get embarassed for them, because all I hear is Weird Al's parody version, "Spam"? "Geez, guys, why'd you write a cheesy song about luncheon meat..."
I guess that is kind of weird. I listened to way too much Weird Al as a child.
posted by Mike B. at 11:53 AM 0 comments
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't this sound like a newspaper summary of a Simpsons episode?
A Brooklyn elementary school graduation became a scene of pandemonium yesterday when members of an overflow crowd, angered by being left outside, confronted at least one security officer and were hit with pepper spray, witnesses said.
Before it was over, three people were treated at a hospital for burns, parents were circulating a protest petition and 174 pupils from Public School 92 were left with the memory of a graduation at which the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" blended with the blare of ambulance sirens.
I can almost hear Kent Brockman reading that, just after it cuts to him from Moe pushing someone at the graduation ceremony. "The hell we ain't!"
It's best to read through to the end, where you get to the part about the pregnant lady getting maced.
posted by Mike B. at 7:29 PM 0 comments
In regards to the riots in Benton Harbor, MI: the article here (though not so much the one on CNN.com right now) makes it sound like the crazy black people just went nuts when the officers happened to chase this guy who happened to crash and die.
What they don't mention is that Benton Harbor, in addition to being 91% black, is one of the poorest communities in the nation (see unemployment stats here--yep, 27%!), and lies across the river from the predominantly white, pretty affluent lakeshore town of St. Joseph (2% unemployment in the link above, and a median family income of $51k in 2000 versus Benton Harbor's $17k in 2000). There's a good summary of a book written about this particular division at the Christian Science Monitor site, and it's worth pointing out that one of the things sparking the riots is the issue of police extending chases from St. Joe into Benton Harbor and the problems that causes.
If you have a fairly affluent town populated by people of one race situated right next to a really poor town populated by people of another race, you better be real careful in your race relations, or--well, or you're going to have riots. I think it's clear the police department, despite the "Gee, what did we do?" attitude expressed in the AP article, has a least a small bit of the blame for this, and while I'm not exactly the kind of person who's going to be pro-rioting (I'm barely pro-marching), it's hard to resist the "Well, duh" reaction in this case. While you can certainly blame the residents for the violence, you're gonna have to put that 27% unemployment rate on someone else, and I can't help but think, being the bleeding-heart liberal that I am, this statistic reveals perhaps another cause of the rioting.
In other words: don't pay too much attention to any report of the riots that doesn't mention St. Joe. It's a good third of the story here.
More on this later, perhaps--gotta do work right now.
posted by Mike B. at 6:16 PM 0 comments
There's an essential article on the Atlantic's site describing the process by which then-Governor Bush decided to deny clemency to all but one of the record number of people put to death in Texas during his term. He bases this on an examination of the recently-obtained memos authored by current White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales:
Gonzales's summaries were Bush's primary source of information in deciding whether someone would live or die. Each is only three to seven pages long and generally consists of little more than a brief description of the crime, a paragraph or two on the defendant's personal background, and a condensed legal history. Although the summaries rarely make a recommendation for or against execution, many have a clear prosecutorial bias, and all seem to assume that if an appeals court rejected one or another of a defendant's claims, there is no conceivable rationale for the governor to revisit that claim. This assumption ignores one of the most basic reasons for clemency: the fact that the justice system makes mistakes.
A close examination of the Gonzales memoranda suggests that Governor Bush frequently approved executions based on only the most cursory briefings on the issues in dispute. In fact, in these documents Gonzales repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.
(from a post by Leah at Eschaton, who appears to be the only sane one posting during Atrios' vacation)
posted by Mike B. at 5:06 PM 0 comments
It's not as funny as the Jerry Garcia condolences line story, but it's still pretty funny to read Steve Albini talking about whiffleball. (Bob Weston's self-referential / deprecating post is pretty hilarious, too.)
I bet on whichever studio has more equipment "from Abby Road, man."
(via Quo Vadius, which is really quite good, i.e. it links no less than 5 interviews with David Lee Roth)
posted by Mike B. at 3:28 PM 0 comments
While we're talking about music:
I've been digging Giant Sand a lot lately, particularly the songs "Shiver" and "Temptation of Egg." They're poppy and vaguely country while still being really weird, with a great sense of melody and hooks, but, as I say, weird. I know I'll be into Calexico if something clicked in that direction (they seem like a kind of American Dirty 3, and violins and southwestern sounds are my secret pleasures), but regrettably it has not happened yet. Also, Giant Sound has way too many albums. I do own and quite enjoy (on an occasional basis) the collaboration the Calexico folks did with some French loungey people called abbc. Good stuff.
Re: Coloma, I am informed that their website is now in English. You should go listen if you have not already.
I'd swear there was a third thing, but it has flown from my mind like so many mosquitoes.
posted by Mike B. at 1:20 PM 0 comments
Saw Mogwai last night at Irving Plaza and they were quite good and quite loud. Some of the new album stuff in particular sounds really powerful and varied. They were much better than when I saw them last year at Warsaw when people talked through all the quiet parts, although Doug Mosurock assures me this is due to Warsaw's shitty sound system, which is doubtless true. Still, whoever thought I would be praising Irving's system? I guess it's OK if you stand back a bit. Some very loud moment which rocked me back on my heels. Mmm.
Some nitwit in the front kept waving this monkey puppet / doll on a stick, and at one point Stuart grabbed it and said, "Monkeys have tails, which is what differentiates them from apes. See, you learn new facts at a Mogwai concert. I'd like to see that at a Sigur Ros show." Everyone laughed. (Many people also laughed when, after the cheers for the beginning of "Xmas Steps" died down, I yelled "boo!") (No one really laughed when I yelled "You smell like pussy!" earlier though. I blame that outburst on my brain. No idea WHAT it was thinking.)
Japanther opened, and while they clearly hadn't played a hall that big before (they admitted as much) they amused me quite a bit and were nicely poppy in a kind of early Deerhoof way, and I'd like to see them in a small place. Very silly and noisy. They should get a full time drummer, though.
Afterwards, me and Kristie got McFlurries. Mmm. I think you're going to hear a lot more pretty, noisy, delay-ridden jamming from us at some point in the future. I forget about that sometimes when I get really focused on the pop songs, but we have produced some really excellent songs together in that vein. Of course, ideally I'd figure a way to mash those all together, but give us a while.
Incidentally, did you know there's a band called Moogwai? Weird.
posted by Mike B. at 12:36 PM 0 comments
The Justice Department has issued guidelines on racial profiling which say, basically, "Don't do it except for when it comes to terrorism and national security, which are apparently the same thing now, when you can do it sometimes. But not too much." The guidelines are non-binding.
It's a tricky subject to comment on for we lefties, since our (semi-understandable) kneejerk reaction is to say "Bush did it! It can't be good!" Still, I definitely don't agree with the ACLU spokesperson who said: "This policy acknowledges racial profiling as a national concern, but it does nothing to stop it...It's largely a rhetorical statement. The administration is trying to soften its image, but it's smoke and mirrors." Well, I dunno. For a JD with this bad of a record on civil liberties, this might almost be more effective than it would be (well, was) under Clinton or someone. Sure, it's non-binding, but eh. You want to try and push an anti-racial-profiling thing through Congress?
I can understand why your reaction to this might be something like "Prohibiting racial profiling except for terrorism investigations is like prohibiting drunk driving except for alcoholics." But forsooth, hold your ass on a second. Let's look closer. Let's look, instead, at where it does prohibit racial profiling: drug investigations and traffic stops. So maybe a better way to summarize the policy would be: no racial profiling for blacks, hispanics, and Asians, but for Arabs and Muslims, it's OK.
Of course this is a wee bit problematic, but then again, it's also non-binding, so it's hard to get that worked up about it. And I think almost everyone does support racial profiling in terrorism investigations, whether they know it or not: every time you say something like "They patted down my gran at the airport, does she look like a terrorist?" this implies, of course, that there is a certain type that looks like a terrorist, so let's at least be honest about that. There are lots and lots and lots of problems with the way we're currently pursuing anti-terrorist efforts, prime among them the fact that we seem to want to take our model from, gulp, Israel, but until someone comes up with a better model of enforcement than being extra-careful with young male Arabs traveling alone on a one-way ticket, we're going to have to go with that admittedly unjust strategem.
So sure, kind of an empty gesture, but also not exactly something worth criticizing--it's at least a reasonably positive empty gesture, and it gives us something to hold them to. Maybe it would even be worth opening a dialogue on what exactly the exceptions should be for terrorism. I think I believe Bush when he says this has been in the works for 2 years anyway--while there are Republicans that are racists, he's clearly not one of them--but it may be worth pointing out that the terrorism exception is probably a recent addition.
posted by Mike B. at 10:53 AM 0 comments
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
So remember how I was worried about the impeachment thing?
As Chief Wiggum would say: Ah, crap.
posted by Mike B. at 5:01 PM 0 comments
Looks like Brent hasn't been reading the blog (and why would he?) because, once again, he's responded to some legitimate reader mail in a pretty wack-ass way. The letter writer, one Eric Jensen, makes a fairly reasonable objection to Brent's Metallica review, i.e. that maybe a publication like Pitchfork shouldn't be wasting space on telling its readers the unsurprising fact that Metallica sucks now.
Hey Brent, leading off a Monday morning issue with a blast on Metallica was brilliant. Who's next on the mainstream chopping block, Puddle of Mud? PepsiCo? Wal Mart? Adam Sandler?...So Metallica sucks, huh? Thanks for yelling fire in a building that burnt down 15 years ago.
A bit harsh, maybe, but respectful, too, and making some reasonable points. Brent's response? Well, it's just weird. You should go read it in its entirety, but let me take it point-by-point.
1) Brent initially defends himself by saying that Metallica is worth covering because they're an important band. This is true. However, the letter was not criticizing the publishing of a review of Metallica; it was criticizing the writing and publishing of a Captain Obvious pan of Metallica. So the point is sort of moot.
2) Brent gives the following reason for writing the 0.8 dis:
It was entirely possible, in theory, that Metallica did make a return to their thrash years. After all, that's what literally EVERYONE has been saying. If Metallica is such an obvious low target, I hope you're writing Spin, NME, Entertainment Weekly, Blender, AMG, Rolling Stone, Dotmusic, Amazon, et al to complain of their raving over the album. I believe AC/DC reviewed the album for E! Online, as it claims St. Anger to be "all balls." The reviews have been so obnoxiously positive, that, as a writer with an outlet, I felt there was a need to offer another opinion.
So, in other words, he wrote a reactive review, and like he told me about his White Stripes review, he skewed it lower because it was too high elsewhere, he felt. But in giving this justification he seems to be willfully ignoring the main complaint in the original letter, i.e. that it was a pan published in Pitchfork. The people who read PF probably don't get their opinions from any of the sources he lists above (except maybe the NME, and you can never trust them about mainstream white American stuff anyway), so if he wanted to counteract those reviews, he would have been far better off publishing it, well, almost anywhere else. Publishing it in Pitchfork simply reifies the standards of the community, i.e. that Metallica sucks, and it becomes just more indie-rock circle jerking. While it's true that, say, Rolling Stone probably wouldn't publish a negative Metallica review due to its, um, "relaxed" upmarket critical standards (i.e. "selling good = sounding good") but hopefully Brent grasps that trashing Metallica in Pitchfork isn't a whole lot more noble than praising it in Entertainment Weekly.
3) In the same paragraph that he says "I felt there was a need to offer another opinion" he says "I wasn't commissioned to hate the album." This is mostly not true; he admits as much. Pitchfork didn't have to run the review, and he says he set out to write a negative one. So there you go. If he wanted to do a debunking or response to some of the other reviews, he was free to do that; indeed, if Pitchfork published response reviews regularly, this might be way more honest as a critical technique. But nope.
4) Brent says the writer "can't call us elitist," but the writer did no such thing. If anything, he's praising Pitchfork's normally high standards, and criticizing this review for not living up to them. Certainly the word "elitist" appears nowhere in the letter, unless my eyes are broken again.
5) Brent finishes with the accusation, "I don't remember you writing in response to my Destiny's Child review." This is misplaced for a whole host of reasons, but here are a few:
- It's the equivalent of one of the dumbass reader mail folks who write in saying "Well Pitchfork liked X but not Y so why are your standards inconsistent?" Dismissing a reader's opinion because you did not know his opinion in the past is just as logically silly as complaining about a review written by X by comparing it to one written by Y and accusing someone of inconsistency. There's no inconsistency there, just a facile comparison.
- It asks for the kind of constant indie-snob sellout policing that presumably Brent despises (although I'm beginning to have my doubts), since according to this scheme the only way a critic could take you seriously is if you constantly criticize him. Clearly not true.
- Metallica and Destiny's Child are apples and oranges. Metallica has been around for 20 years or so; Destiny's Child for 4ish. (I am too lazy to check dates.) Metallica's old stuff is loved by indie kids but their new stuff is ignored; Destiny's Child still maintains a reputation skewing good among Pitchfork's likely readers. So the complaint the letter voiced would not, in fact, apply to Beyonce.
Sounds like Brent read the letter like he wanted it to read ("you guys sold out!") rather than like it actually read ("your standards seem to be declining as you seem overeager to publish some rather easy and obvious pans purely for entertainment value").
The point of all this (besides complaining about Brent and Pitchfork's editorial decisions some more) is to point out why I no longer actually write letters in to the site: they treat their letters page like the "hate mail" section of Bonzai Kitten. Clearly they get a lot of dumb illiterate wackos writing in, but I bet most publications do, quite frankly, and they don't publish 'em, by and large. If Pitchfork wants to take that tack, as they clearly do, they can't then publish the intelligent, well-written criticisms side-by-side as if they were the same thing. Harper's gets some pretty intelligent criticisms of their articles, for instance, and they don't publish them all with insulting banners and snotty responses, because, quite frankly, sometimes their articles are wrong. It would be nice to see Pitchfork admit this.
But I'm not holding my breath.
posted by Mike B. at 4:03 PM 0 comments
The New York Times publishes an update on Gitmo based on the accounts of some released detainees.
Now, I'd just like to do some interpretive damage control before my fellow wacky leftists get out of hand with this. (Not that it'll do much good, I know, but...) First off, let's just keep in mind here that these are not the reliable sources, on either side, so maybe we should take all of this with a few grains of salt.
More importantly, though, I think we have to differentiate between the detainees' physical treatment and their procedural treatment / legal status. They are different issues and we need to maintain separate and, I think, opposing judgments on them.
Their physical treatment, it now seems clear, is not something I think we should be too concerned about. Everyone seems to agree that there were no beatings, and while they weren't exactly living in the lap of luxury (or Florida white-collar prisons), we have to remember that these were not nice men. At the very least, they actively supported a regime that was not, shall we say, soft on the women-killing issue, the Taliban. Most were trying to kill American soldiers, and in the worst case some are actually Al-Qaeda agents. (And don't give me the "they were defending their homeland" line--if there's any army I'd expect you to go AWOL from, for moral and/or self-preservation reasons, it'd be the Taliban's.) These guys aren't the domestic detainees picked up for decidedly non-violent immigration violations--they're killers who have no problem stoning women to death, and we really have to remember that before we go complaining too loudly about them only having half an hour of exercise a week. I'd love to live in a world where neither of those things happen, but given the choice, I'll go with the harsh sunlight any day.
But, you ask, what if they're not killers or Taliban supporters or Al-Qaeda members? Well, that's where the procedural stuff comes in.
On a certain level, the outcry about Gitmo has been prompted by a certain naivety about the way we get a lot of our intel and about the treatment of war prisoners worldwide--this is not, I don't think, particularly harsh treatment compared to that of most other countries. But now we see it not only happening here, but also happening with, as the article points out, "Canadians, Britons, Algerians and Australians, and one Swede." This scares people, understandably so, especially in conjunction with the other various scary rumblings coming out about civil liberties in the last two years. It's a weird combination of alarmist and naive--well, hell, from the conspiracy theory point of view they could always do this to ordinary Americans, but an Al-Qaeda member with Canadian citizenship is still a long, long way from an American student protester--but if we're getting that reaction here, imagine the reaction elsewhere. If the U.S. is to be a beacon of justice and democracy to the world, maybe it's not the best thing for our support of freedom in the Islamic world to be seen to be ducking international law. While our disdain for the International Criminal Court is, unfortunately, starting to look smarter and smarter, this doesn't excuse us from long-standing standards of justice like the Geneva convention.
It also doesn't help our vulnerability to charges of injustice when the guilt or innocence of the prisoners is never formally considered--if they have done monstrous things, which I've no doubt most of them have, why not detail it? And, moreover, why deny them counsel for so long? While I recognize that an uncertainty about their fate can be useful for interrogation purposes, I hope any citizen with a civic conscience would agree that any information gleaned from leaving a person in legal limbo for a year is probably priced too high. We can all agree that a year without a lawyer is too long, right?
posted by Mike B. at 1:55 PM 0 comments
Monday, June 16, 2003
William Safire thinks that the bill overturning the FCC rulings can get passed! Which is way different from what we've been hearing lo this last month or two--"Oh it's a fair accompli, there's nothing we can do, the FCC is just going to bully it through and no one will pay attention or care." Oops. 750,000 pieces of mail later, democracy can be cool sometimes.
posted by Mike B. at 6:17 PM 0 comments
SCOTUS has (thankfully, y'ask me) ruled against allowing the broad, forced use of antipsychotic medication to get defendants fit to stand trial. It was 6-3; the oppositon sez:
In a dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas, said that the ruling would allow some criminal defendants "to engage in opportunistic behavior" to thwart prosecutions.
Look, guys. (Sandra? Say it ain't so!) I'm sure there are some Jim Carrey or Farreley brothers movies wherein a normal Joe gets diagnosed as crazy and then uses this as a blank check to engage in all kinds of anti-social behavior, but--trust me on this--if you're diagnosed with schitzophrenia or a delusional disorder, and are unmedicated, you really don't have the presence of mind to think, "Wow, I'm crazy, I can kill that guy and nothing will happen to me!" I suppose this thought may occur, but only as, well, a delusion.
Maybe these folks should be medicated, but to do so to make them competant to stand trial when they weren't lucid at the time of the offense seems, well, a bit unjust, and sounds like the court agrees with me.
posted by Mike B. at 5:38 PM 0 comments
The Antic Muse listens to Limbaugh and brings us the following tidbit, spoken by an African-American economics professor named Walter E. Williams:
If you don't pay taxes, why should you have the right to vote? For example, I don't hold any shares of General Motors stock, so should I be voting on what happens in General Motors? No! ... If you don't pay taxes, maybe you should not vote on at least financial issues. Or maybe you should get one vote for each dollar in taxes that you pay.
Yes, you just read a quote from a black college professor proposing a poll tax. It boggles the mind, doesn't it? And this isn't out of the blue: he's written a paper saying much the same thing. I won't get into just how blinkered the reference to a poll tax is, as the muse covers that nicely. I also won't delve into the almost as mind-boggling idea that running the government like a corporation would be a good thing (weren't most white men screwed over by their corporate bosses, or did I miss that part of the country song?) as it's been covered elsewhere and better.
I do, however, want to slice 'n' dice the reasoning he's specifically using here. In the paper, he starts from a thought experiment about what would happen if non-stockholders were allowed to vote on corporate boards (always models of democratic republicanism) and concludes--surprise--that it's not a good idea, and then he exteeeeeeends that reasoning to the government. Here's the condensed logic:
People who have little or no stake in General Motors can be expected to behave differently than those who do, simply because their decisions are less costly to them - others bear the cost of their decisions...From a moral point of view, we might ask just how fair is it to allow those who pay little or no taxes to use the political process to decide how much taxes others should pay?
Oh dear, where to start? First off, the thing about politics is that it's not economics--the raison d'etre for a state isn't profit, but the collective welfare of its citizens. It is, in fact, a separate realm from economics, intentionally insulated, although the two do of necessity interact on a regular basis. So while it's true that a non-stockholder voting on the board of General Motors might impair its profits, it's not true to say that allowing someone who pays "little" taxes to vote will impair the general welfare of the citizenry.
Saying that the "moral" point of view would see a wrong in allowing the poor to vote for a representative who then vote for a measure that would benefit the poor and slightly impoverish the rich is similarly questionable. (Thomas Friedman might see a wrong, but he's hardly the voice of morality, don't you think?) It implies, for instance, that the rich simply materialized their wealth from the sky, whereas it did come from somewhere, and that perhaps the moral thing when you have a lot of money and other people have very little is to perhaps give them some so they can feed their families. This is not to imply that wealth acquisition is immoral, but neither are social welfare programs. Government, like social welfare programs, exists as a collective enterprise that compels everyone to give because we all know that we probably wouldn't otherwise, but we do need firefighters and schools and hospitals and, yes, health care and food if we can't afford it on our own. I know a certain branch of economics gets uneasy at any scheme involving collective action, but I think the fact is that any government is going to involve collective decision-making--there's no reason to have a nation otherwise--so without abolishing government entirely (no comment) I think it's something we're all going to have to collectively deal with.
It's all coming a bit close to the old saw that liberals are simply mercenaries who mobilize the dumb masses in order to victimize the rich for their own benefit. If this were true, of course, we'd see Democratic administrations in which the rich toppled and the poor feasted in the streets. Well, let's see--FDR, definitely not; JFK, nope; LBJ, nope; Carter, not so good for the economy, but the poor weren't doing all that well themselves; Clinton--uh, definitely not.
These kind of arguments appeal to a third-grader's conception of justice and should be laughed out of the building upon appearance. They also base themselves on a model of democracy half a step above mob rule.
posted by Mike B. at 3:45 PM 0 comments