Saturday, April 17, 2004

I Can't Be Everywhere

I'm a little disappointed that I missed this - maybe because it was a Friday...

So Treasury Department "news" releases are coming out with the following statement at the bottom:

"America has a choice: It can continue to grow the economy and create new jobs as the president's policies are doing; or it can raise taxes on American families and small businesses, hurting economic recovery and future job creation."

You can see the Boston Globe article for more. You can look here for more information on the Hatch Act, which prohibits feveral employees from engaging "in political activity while on duty" or "in a government office." They can't even wear a freaking Bush/Cheney 2004 button while at work. This would seem to be a clear violation and apparently the Kerry campaign is pursuing it, but we should ALL be raising hell about this one.

Friday, April 16, 2004

I Am Truly Blessed

Invariably when we're in the car, Jenny Slash asks me to turn the music down. Tonight instead I got "Turn it up - I love that song!" It was Billy Bragg's "The Great Leap Forward". Life doesn't get much better than that!

"So join the struggle while you may - the revolution is just a t-shirt away!"

Two bits of good news (in addition to it being Friday!)...

Item 1 - just found out that NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman is scheduled to speak at Carroll Hall at UNC Monday night at 7:30 - free and open to the public, so I will without a doubt be there!

Item 2 - Air America and WCHL-1360 AM have reached an agreement to air "The O'Franken Factor" and the "Majority Report" (the Garofalo/Seder 9-11pm show). Apparently there were discussions earlier between the two entities, but initially Air America wanted the whole broadcast day. Having just moved back to Chapel Hill from their stint in Durham, CHL wasn't interested in losing their local content. Quoting the WCHL general manager Christie Jones in the Durham Herald-Sun, "We're pleased we can take the two shows we feel that best suit our local audience and still maintain our local presence." I'll admit that I'm still probably not all that likely to listen in - I just don't listen to the radio all that much. But I'm still psyched!


I don't know if it's just around Chapel Hill, but the redbuds have been remarkable this year! I'm not the only one who has noticed - I'm seeing them in uncultivated areas where I've never noticed them before and they're still full of blooms. With the dogwoods and azaleas now fully open and the wisteria starting to bloom, truly nothing could be finer!

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Things I Think About While Running in the Morning (Part 2)

Best concerts (clubs) I've ever seen:

(This is a hell of a lot tougher than the stadium show list - lots more to choose from including many multiples times seeing the Pressure Boys, the Connells, the Fabulous Knobs and many more put on great shows)

1) X - The Pier (Raleigh) - 1983-ish Practically leaned on Billy Zoom's monitor all night - that's some GOOD rock and roll!

2) Pressure Boys with Johnny Quest - Culture Club (Raleigh) - 1984-ish I probably saw the P-Boys 50 times over the years, but I started dancing the second Quest went on stage and didn't stop 'til the Boys were done.

3) New Grass Revival - Rhythm Alley (Chapel Hill) - 1986 I had heard a couple of tunes from one of their albums, but had no idea what to expect. I think Sam Bush, Bela Fleck and Pat Flynn had all won Fret Magazine awards at some point - add Johnny C's gospel-blues vocals and it was freaking awesome. Those guys rocked as hard as any punk band I've ever seen.

4) Fetchin' Bones with Snatches of Pink - Rhythm Alley (Chapel Hill) - 1986 Hope and the gang had gone from opening for openers in the clubs to having their tour reported on in the Rolling Stone in less than a year. SOP was the best I ever saw them and so were the Bones, including a long encore with Rob Ladd jumping on stage and jamming on guitar. Everybody just seemed to be so damned happy to be there, whether they were on the stage or in front of it.

5) drivin' and cryin' - The Milestone (Charlotte) - '86 or '87 I'd only vaguely heard of them at that time (their first album had come out on Atlanta's 688 label) and the club was almost empty when they started. Then about 50 girls from Winthrop College showed up (that's a LOT in the Milestone) and d and c rocked the house. Funniest bit was the lack of a lighting board - their roadie was sitting beside the soundboard unplugging and plugging in the lights over the stage to the beat. REAL high tech!

Honorable Mention: Guadalcanal Diary (Cat's Cradle), Violent Femmes (Cat's Cradle), The Brains (The Milestone)

(and just so you don't think there's nothing new to compare to, the Pietasters show at the Cradle almost made the list, as did the Ben Folds Five show from a couple of years ago. So there!)

I'm a little embarrassed...

...that I nearly coffeed my keyboard when reading the AP story on the new Levitra ad campaign.

"In this point in time, we are pleased with our performance," Nancy Bryan, vice president of marketing for men's health at Bayer, said of Levitra. "We've done an impressive job in our launch. This is not a sprint."

Okay, so sue me - I can still be a little immature at times.

Death of Television

With "Angel" starting its end-run last night and with "Karen Sisco" relegated to USA for whatever remains of new episodes, I started to write about how all broadcast television sucks now and that I'll be turning the TV off. But I realized that I really can't make that statement as there are probably some show, like "Alias" or "West Wing" or "24" that are excellent TV that I'm just not watching. I don't count sitcoms - you can miss a few weeks then watch an ep and pretty much know what's going on (and regardless of which show, see bits that were done on "I Love Lucy"). It's been since "Sportsnight" that I actually scheduled around a sitcom (and it was more a dramedy). For hour-long dramas though, there have been a few shows since "The X-Files" that were worth me changing my life around in order to see them. All three of Joss Whedon's shows were among them, as were "Glory Days", "Karen Sisco" and "John Doe". Note that other than "Buffy" and "Angel", none of them made it through a complete first season. So I pretty much give up. There are still lots of movies at Visart that I haven't seen, basketball games that haven't been played, reruns of "Newsradio" that I haven't seen in awhile... and maybe I'll try to catch up with "Alias", except I'd hate to be responsible for getting it canceled!

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Things I Think About While Running in the Morning...

Best concerts (large venues) I've ever seen:

1. U2 - Kenan Stadium - 1983 First show on the War tour, cold wet spring day and Bono doing a soft shoe on a scaffolding 25 feet above the stage while breaking into "Singing in the Rain" during "Electric Co". On that day, he had more moral authority than the Pope.

2. Talking Heads - Carmichael Auditorium - 1983 Just an amazing show - you didn't really expect "joyous" from them if you discovered them in the early days, but that's the best way to describe the bulk of the show.

3. David Bowie - Madison Square Garden - 1983 (a DAMN fine year!) "Serious Moonlight" tour and Lex was able to get tickets for an added third show. I am forever in his debt. Stands out even more after seeing him on the retched "Glass Spider" tour a year or two later.

4. Little Feat - Carmichael Auditorium - 1978 The first concert I went to after coming to UNC - weeks before Lowell George's death. Kind of the flip-side to the shows in number 5 - no show, all go - made the gym feel like a 400-capacity club.

5. Emerson, Lake and Palmer (1977) and Queen (1978) - Charlotte Coliseum I group them together because they were both the best positive examples of arena rock "back in the day" that I can recall. Between the lighting, pyrotechnics and staging of both shows and the outright showmanship of Keith Emerson, Freddie Mercury and the rest, you definitely felt like you got your money's worth!

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The Exorcist... with bunnies

Once again Neil Gaiman's blog comes through with the goods - this time it's this little bit of Flash. As the poster said, "I can't seem to stop watching..."

Clive Stafford Smith

Most of us have used the Internet at one time or another to track down whatever became of people they went to school with. It's been very cool to see how successful many of my friends and classmates from college have become and to renew acquaintances with some old mates. But there is probably no one that I'm prouder of having downed a few pints with and gotten slaughtered at "301" by than Clive Stafford Smith. It was only recently that I found out that Clive (awarded an OBE a few years ago) has been one of the world's foremost legal opponents of the death penalty for the past 20 years. It's worth a google to find some of his writings and interviews - he has been amazingly effective in defending poor and indigent people, the ones that can't afford the lawyers that are often able to keep wealthier defendants off of death row. I can't imagine a more thankless calling, but - if you believe that the state has no more right to kill people than anyone else does - I also can't imagine a more necessary one. With the increasing evidence that - through bad or inexperienced lawyers, tainted juries and evidence withheld (sometimes illegally) by prosecutors - we have put innocent people to death, Clive's work should be seen as even more vital.

During one alcohol-fueled night of silliness, we assigned each other ministry posts for the government we were sure we would collectively form one day - as I recall, Clive became the Minister for Double-Barreled Unhyphenated Last Names. So to Minister Stafford "No hyphen" Smith - we raise a glass to you! You get my vote as the best of us!

Unintended Consequences

News and Observer lead story today - Triangle will Join Bad Air List.

The Triangle's air, fouled by exhaust from cars and trucks, violates a new stricter federal ozone standard that goes into effect that day. The new benchmark is based on measurements of pollutant concentrations over an eight-hour period, replacing a more lenient one- hour standard.

The designation will bring a new focus to efforts by business and government to promote cleaner-burning fuels, ride sharing, commuting at off-hours and even allowing employees to work from home on bad ozone days.

Given the continued focus of many of the companies in the Triangle on moving jobs offshore, I can't imagine all that many people being willing to admit that they can perform their jobs perfectly well from home. Kinda wonder if offshore initiatives haven't spelled the end of voluntary telecommuting, at least for now.

Monday, April 12, 2004

On The Tube

OK, why the hell did nobody like "Lake Placid"? What did all the critics have against it? As I read the reviews, they all pretty much hated it, but it seems like every one was for a different reason. They seem to have trouble figuring out whether it was horror, comedy, spoof or homage and decided that their lack of ability to discern the answer to that question meant the filmmakers didn't do a good job. Well, hey, maybe the movie was all of those things! I mean, you've got cute-as-a-bug Bridget Fonda, gruff but lovable Bill Pullman, a big-ass alligator, Oliver Platt as the rich eccentric shark gator expert that brings his own boat helicopter to the party, a big-ass bear-eating alligator, Brendan Gleeson doing his best Alan Hale, Jr. imitation and the kid that played Natty Gann all grown up and really nicely filling out a deputy uniform. And best of all, sweet dotty old Betty White swearing like a drunken sailor - how can you not love a movie that has Betty White delivering lines like "Thank you, officer fuck-meat!" and "You're all cocksuckers!"? She'd make Kevin Smith blush! Frankly there ain't nothing wrong with this movie, except maybe that Oliver Platt doesn't get eaten. To paraphrase Mr. Briggs, Tony-Bob gives it an A-! Check it out!

The Mind Boggles

This article in the Durham paper caught me by surprise (and I thought I had long since stopped being surprised by the strength of the gun lobby and the idiocy of the people that let such legislation stand). To quote from the article (I haven't looked up the actual statute):

It is not illegal in North Carolina for convicted felons to carry rifles or shotguns in their vehicles. Nor is it illegal for them to keep as many guns as they like in their home, as long as the weapons are not fully automatic.
When enacting the statute against the possession of guns by convicted felons, N.C. legislators inserted this clause: "Nothing ... would prohibit the right of any person to have possession of a firearm within his own home or on his lawful place of business."

In addition, the law makes it OK for convicted felons to drive around with guns having barrel lengths of at least 18 inches and overall lengths of 26 inches or more. That includes rifles and shotguns.

And even if a convicted felon takes a rifle or shotgun out of his vehicle and walks down the street with it, he could be prosecuted only for "going armed to the terror of the people," a misdemeanor. The maximum punishment would be four months in jail.

Under federal law, it is "illegal for convicted felons to possess any kind of gun anywhere, including in their home" so it apparently depends on who does the prosecution? Weird (and frightening).

Sunday, April 11, 2004

The Blind leading the Stupid

It's been asked many other places in many other ways, but somebody's got to tell me why President Sock-Puppet has an approval rating of higher than zero! The evidence that he and his cabinet knew something big was coming in the fall of 2001 and not only did nothing about it but in fact deemphasized counter-terrorism efforts should be enough to impeach him (at very minimum to get a cabinet level official or two canned). But frankly what has always been more disturbing to me is that after the in-your-face proof that 9/11 offers that the world has changed, they continue to act as if it's 1989. And people still defend him and his policies. And people (fewer and fewer each day, thankfully) still say they approve of him. I guess we get the leadership that we deserve - if that's the case, as a people we apparently have a collective IQ of about 7.

Kevin Drum's entry today sums up the ridiculousness of the White House position on the August 6 Presidential Daily Briefing.