Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 6/26/08

Nanci Griffith — "I Wish It Would Rain" (Live, 1988)

I like this performance, although you can hear the harmony better on the studio version.

Eclectic Jukebox

Sunday, June 22, 2008

George Carlin (1937 - 2008)

Man. Carlin was one of my all-time favorite stand-up comedians, as I know he was for many people. I taped one of his HBO specials as a teenager, and watched it more times than I count. His material was good to brilliant, but his delivery was about as sharp as you can get, due to the speed, the faces, the vocal inflection, the shifts. There's a line attributed to both Bernard Shaw and Billy Wilder: "If you tell people the truth, make them laugh, or they'll kill you." Carlin often exemplified that. But even when he was being more silly than deep, he was damn funny. He had a long and impressive career, but boy, he will be missed.

Carlin has too many routines to post them all, but here are several. Feel free to link more. (Oh, needless to say, most of these routines are Not Safe for Work.)

Seven Words:

We Like War:

Voting and Politicians:


A Place for my Stuff:

Baseball and Football:

Modern Man:

Update: skippy and Jill of Brilliant at Breakfast have been doing roundups of the posts on Carlin. I appreciated the insight into how hard Carlin worked, and how kind he could be, from Louis C.K. and
the Sailor at VidiotSpeak. Here's a guy who could have ridden the nostalgia train, but instead constantly developed new material and seemed to get sharper as he got older. It would be really hard to over-praise Carlin's performance skills, his dedication and, well, courage. I agree with Mustang Bobby about Carlin working in the tradition of the Shakespearean Fool, telling truth to power but getting people to laugh at it. It's humor based on truth, and self-recognition, versus solely mocking other people. That is the real deal, it's hard to pull off, and that's why it's so damn obscenely gorgeous when someone nails it. As Steve Benen writes, "I’d seen plenty of stand-up, but I’d never seen someone make an audience think and laugh at the same time, about subjects most comedians wouldn’t dare touch."

Fresh Air did a good recap of past interviews with Carlin.

Blue Gal linked Carlin's very interesting "What I've Learned" piece for Esquire.

Meanwhile, I love Roy Edroso's closing lines: "Like Voltaire, Mencken, et alia, Carlin died out of the good graces of the bullshit merchants. I guess they knew he was driving away some of their customers."

You fucking got that right.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Hey, Democratic Party Leadership

The graphic is adapted from a cartoon by the brilliant John Sherffius.

The line comes from Mike.

I might get one of these made up.

Update: I might substitute another line (not mine, either): "That's okay - I wasn't using my civil rights, anyway."

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

I am Aware of All Internet Traditions

(Click the pic for a larger view.)

For background on this meme, see here, here, here and here - plus many, many other places.

(Boy, that Nietzsche was a heavy cat, wasn't he?)

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Right-Wing Cartoon Watch #30 (4/7/08 - 6/15/08)

The new installment is here! Check out the 30th, long-delayed, super-sized installment of RWCW, covering eleven weeks of election mayhem, skyrocketing gas prices, and um... surely other things happened elsewhere in the world, too?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 6/12/08

Ten Years After — "I'm Going Home" (Live, Woodstock '69)

Eclectic Jukebox

Cascadilla Falls

I've been feeling overdue for a poem. I was assigned an essay comparing this poem to another back in college, and was fond of the last stanza. I found one typo in this version on the web, and still am looking for a more reliable, definitive version, but in the meantime:

Cascadilla Falls
By A.R. Ammons

I went down by Cascadilla
Falls this
evening, the
stream below the falls,
and picked up a
handsized stone
kidney-shaped, testicular and

thought all its motions into it,
the 800 mph earth spin,
the 190-million-mile yearly
displacement around the sun,
the overriding

of the galaxy with the 30,000
mph of where
the sun's going:
thought all the interweaving
into myself: dropped

the stone to dead rest:
the stream from other motions
rushing over it:
I turned

to the sky and stood still:
I do
not know where i am going
that I can live my life
by this single creek.

Post-Postmortem Post

(Oh, great. Not another nomination post!)

Over the course of the last week or so, I've been writing a piece looking back over the whole nomination process from my perspective, focusing especially on all the insanity of the last few months. But it was growing very long, and although I was getting close to finishing it, now I feel like taking a different tact. Here's how the original post opened:

Postmortem Confessional

Or, I fully expect to be able to resume a diplomatic mode fairly soon, but here's why I've been a bit pissed off.

I know a fair number of liberal bloggers who tried to avoid diving too deeply into the fracas between supporters for Obama and Clinton, myself included. When the race was between just those two after Edwards dropped out, I had been planning to link a number of others' posts making the case for and against each candidate, in the spirit of discussion. But right about then, a significant number of blogs just got nastier, and to my eyes, surprisingly irrational. This past month, and the past two weeks, have gotten especially bad. Some people I'd read or linked in the past became increasingly unrecognizable to me. I had some more detailed critiques in the works I shelved because I thought they might be redundant or inflame things — although there are some benefits to being relatively off the radar. Perhaps my timing's awfully bad, especially as I'd have liked to have had this post up several days ago, but I wasn't able to finish it before now. Clinton's speech this past Saturday accomplished much of what her Tuesday speech certainly did not, and I do appreciate it, as I know many folks do.

Kyle Moore suggested an air your grievances day, in the spirit of getting everything out and then moving on, rather than letting resentments fester. Many bloggers have done some sort of version of this, or offered olive branches, all good moves. After trying to play peacemaker most of the time for several months, I found my patience was increasingly strained this past month and found myself surprised by how genuinely upset I was last week. So my apologies in advance. This is a very long, cathartic and self-indulgent post, even more so than usual. Feel free to skim or skip over it all, as is your wont.

I'm going to write from a personal perspective more than usual, because the Rashomon effect has been in full force throughout much of the fracas as well as here in the aftermath. The quality of reasoning, the soundness of arguments and level of respect during the fracas remain issues, especially since there's a great wonky tradition in the liberal blogosphere, but I feel the biggest divide right now is in understanding others' perspectives and feelings.

So I don't need to write a disclaimer after every sentence, let me issue a few upfront. As always, anyone is free to disagree with me. This is my perspective. When I opened my Blogger account, I received a pair of Super Goggles of Penetrating, Flawless Insight, but the funny thing is, the damn things don't always work. I'm writing this in the spirit of airing grievances and moving on. If, in that process, you in good faith feel I still cross an unacceptable line, by all means, leave a comment or feel free to email me.

Rest assured that despite that rocky start, the post was brilliant, you would laughed, you would cried, you would have received a personal epiphany and achieved a new level of consciousness, all aggrieved parties would have had their wounds healed, and I even would have discovered a cure for cancer. Maybe I'll still bootleg parts of it in the future. Admittedly, there's still some part of me that hates those bastard people and their ass faces. But the thing is, while writing the whole damn thing, the political landscape has changed, however slightly, I'm less upset, and I received at least a partial catharsis through writing it. I do trust that overall, cooler heads and kinder hearts shall prevail, despite some legitimate grievances. So I'm only going to adapt and use part of the original post for now:

And Now That I've Smacked You in the Mouth, Can't We Be Friends?

Jack: Maybe he wants to stay. You want to stay?

Homeless Cabaret Singer: Oh, yeah, sure. I just love bleeding in horseshit. How very Gandhi-esque of you.

The Fisher King

I've been writing this in the spirit of airing grievances and moving on. But, if you've actually made it this far, you may be saying, "Hey, blogger-guy with the silly name and the stupid blog name, that's all well and good, and maybe you feel better now, but while I agree with a few (only a few) of your points, there are some things you said that really piss me off, and I was just getting over some of this whole thing, and now I'm more upset!" And if you sincerely feel that way, you're absolutely right.

Let me tell a story, which happens to be true. When Schindler's List came out, I went to see it with two friends. We weren't extremely close, but the film had gotten strong reviews, we had heard some good interviews, and we all wanted to see it. The theater wound up being a packed house.

We all found the film powerful, and came out of the theater a bit in shock. As we walked along, we talked about it a little, but weren't at all articulate because we were still trying to process it all.

A silence. Then, to break the tension, my first friend told a joke, of the funny-but-in-horribly-bad-taste-especially-given-the-timing variety. He laughed nervously.

I think we all laughed nervously, because it was a bizarre remark, and we were still trying to process our experience watching the film. But my second friend stopped and looked at my first friend, aghast.

My first friend laughed nervously again and said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, it's just that humor is one of my coping mechanisms!"

And my second friend said, "I know, but your coping mechanism is interfering with my coping mechanism!"

And that's it. That's it in a nutshell.

Among people of good will, who generally like each other, perhaps love each other, or maybe just tolerate each other to work on a common cause in a community, it really just comes down to that.

We all have our experiences, and some of them are powerful or overwhelming and not easy to process. We sometimes say or do things we may later regret.

We all have different coping mechanisms. And sometimes, our coping mechanisms interfere with someone else's coping mechanism.

Or, as I prefer to put it: Deep down, in some small way, all of us is an extremely large, bearded, occasionally cross-dressing Jewish man coming out of Schindler's List and making an inappropriate joke.

The world can be cruel. But life is beautiful.

(Edited very slighty for clarity.)

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Friday, June 06, 2008

A Little Dap'll Do Ya

("Hmm. What is the significance of what those inscrutable black people are doing?")

Yahoo was touting this story on their front page, linking to this story, which in turn linked The Washington Post's gossip column.

John Cole had a funny post on this, and Ta-Nehisi Coates weighs in here here and here. I know the gesture, although honestly, I'm not sure I've heard it called "dap." The New York Times describing it as a "closed-fisted high-five" made me laugh. Still, the craziest description has to be this one, that Cole says has since been scrubbed from the Human Events site:

Michelle is not as “refined” as Obama at hiding her TRUE feelings about America—etc. Her “Hezbollah” style fist-jabbing—mouth-twisted anti-American speeches is STRAIGHT from ISLAM!

The thing that cracks me up about all this is the slight anthropological sheen to some of the accounts, investigating the customs of those mysterious black folk. It reminded me of when Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked whether white people could attend Barack Obama's church. But hey, I suppose it's all educational and in good fun, right?

I was given slight pause by the WaPo piece featuring to a 'body language expert.' For a gossip piece, for fun, that's cool, but I don't want to see that kind of stuff in lieu of serious political coverage, and we have some awfully shallow pundits. (Bob Somerby's written that Chris Matthews loves body language discussions.)

On that note, Gawker had a great piece on all this as well:

The standard cultural arbiter of what Real Americans do and what they are like is someone like Chris Matthews. He's a loud, brash Irish Catholic guy, getting up there in age, with an admittedly solid blue-collar history (former DC cop!) who's been in a bubble of wealth and privilege just long enough to make him utterly deluded about the people in this country who live outside the wealthiest enclaves of the Eastern Seaboard. Over the last decade or so, he's come to decide that Real Americans are, basically, Nixon's "silent majority"—aging white men of modest means. Sadly he barely even understands what these modern-day Angry White Men are like, so he's extrapolating from his own time in their circle, decades ago. This is why he is pretty sure he knows that Real Americans drink like this, and hey, no one plays pool anymore!

Yup, that's the same Matthews who apparently thinks African-Americans and college grads aren't regular people.

Still, I must take issue with Monsieur Coates claiming the fist bump, fist tap, respect knuckles, dap, started as a 'black thing,' whatever that means. As if whites would ever appropriate anything from black culture! Obama clearly stole this gesture from another presidential candidate, and I have the video to prove it:

I still don't know why that didn't make the final cut.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Web Ad: Are You Fat?

Are you fat? Who cares? As long as you've got an unrealistic, negative body image, we're happy to take your money! And if you're as massively, repulsively overweight as our model, better hurry! (Don't be scared off by that 'serious inquiry' thing. You're seriously fat. Yikes.)

Better click the ad, and...

Oho! Why do Chinese women stay slim? Hundreds of millions of them, yet they are all slim. I'm guessing the reasons vary quite a bit, but maybe it's any of a number of factors, such as:

a) Genetics
b) Diet
c) Exercise
d) Iron willpower decadent western women don't possess
e) Lack of food due to abject poverty
f) Photoshop

Remember, ladies, given the population of China, one in ten people on the planet is a Chinese woman skinnier than you. Buy our product today!

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Eclectic Jukebox 6-5-08

I've featured this one before (and it's a gas to play), but Roy's most excellent post provides the spur:

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE VENOMADE. Let's see how they're reacting to Obama's speech at National Review's The Corner. First up: Greg Pollowitz.

U2's "Beautiful Day"... is playing at the Barack Obama rally. No Americans write music Obama likes?

Ooooh, the pickings are gonna be mighty slim. K-Lo:

John McCain seriously needs some of these screaming girls behind him.

Good luck with all that. The rest of Roy's post is great, too (natch), but boy, I'm looking forward to kicking these folks' asses in November. Ain't no time like the present to get started!

Eclectic Jukebox

Monday, June 02, 2008

(Scared) Armadillos in Their Trousers

Continuing our recent discussions of those brave cowboys of the junior high lunch room and other bold hawks, it turns out Atrios declared last Friday Thomas Friedman’s Happy ‘Suck On This Day!’ in honor of the fifth anniversary of that infamous bit of appalling pundit bravado. John Amato of C&L has a good post rounding up many of the reactions.

Don the mustache of understanding, and all shall be revealed! You can relive all the excitement here:

I've taken on pundit idiocy on the war earlier and will again soon enough, although many bloggers have written in depth on these issues. There are many reasons we went to war with Iraq needlessly, but one of the key reasons it was possible was because of useful idiots like Thomas Friedman, who really, really should have known better. It's truly pretty depressing that for an influential American pundit who actually knew something about the Arab world, going to war really boiled down to:

Hey, you Arabs! Tommy F is one badass muthafucka!!!

It's also sad he's still rich and influential.

Moving on to the Bushies, there's Doug Feith expounding on assholes and opposition to torture. As usual for his ilk, Feith ignores that some of the people he advocated torturing were innocent, not that he'd be morally upright even if all of them weren't. But, truly, we've entered a surreal world where even Brecht, Kafka, Bulgakov, Terry Gilliam and Orwell might say, "I can't top the irony of that one."

Oh, and since Republican hacks and other right-wingers are attacking Obama's qualifications as commander in chief, let's stop by and take a look at our draft-dodging, frat-boy preznit:

Personally, I think it's a good thing for a president to have a sense of humor, but not when people are dying as a result of his decisions, and not when it's to dodge serious questions (one of his favorite tactics). And while we've certainly covered Bush's recklessness, ignorance, and swaggering machismo, this is among the most appalling incidents, from Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez' book (emphasis added):

Among the anecdotes in "Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story" is an arresting portrait of Bush after four contractors were killed in Fallujah in 2004, triggering a fierce U.S. response that was reportedly egged on by the president.

During a videoconference with his national security team and generals, Sanchez writes, Bush launched into what he described as a "confused" pep talk:

"Kick ass!" he quotes the president as saying. "If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal."

"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!"

A White House spokesman had no comment.

Shocking, that. Tom Engelhardt also has a good piece on this incident.

As with Tom Friedman and his ilk, there are many reasons we went to war with Iraq needlessly, but a decisive factor was Bush's lack of character. Bush was so vain, incurious, insecure and immature Bush officials were able to push him or egg him on beyond his already prodigious capacity for reckless action and horrendous judgment. Pathetically, a lot of the war for the friggin' President of the United States was just Bush trying to say:

Hey, you Arabs! Dubya is one badass muthafucka!!!

I agree with the very last part, anyway.

Don the mustache of understanding, put on the cowboy hat of the faux, draft-dodging cowboy, and ye shall know that these bold, swaggering men who have never gone to war — but are relatively untroubled to send others to their deaths — have armadillios in their trousers. To call them colossal pricks might be too magnanimous, but "tiny scared rodents sheathed in armor" seems about right. And in a weird way, minus any wit or charm, this scene sorta sums up the entire Bush administration's approach to national security and "the global war on terror":

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Doonesbury, 5-29-08

(Click for a larger view.)

Taking one of the most despicable of many despicable moves by the Bushies, making ya laugh, but in a way that highlights the dark absurdity of it all and doesn't making light of human cruelty... Damn. Look at what Garry Trudeau does in just four panels. Brilliant.

The official site is here.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)