Saturday, May 29, 2004

On the Player

I was listening to Uncut Magazine's freebie CD with selections from their top 15 CDs from 2003 for the first time in few months (yes, I really do occasionally listen to music recorded after 1992) and almost had to pull off the road while listening to Warren Zevon's Prison Grove (how do you get that kind of vocal resonance when you're dying of lung cancer?!?). I can't think of any musician deaths that affected me nearly as much as his. I was too young to be too overwhelmed by the deaths of Janis or Jimi or Brian Jones or Jim Morrison or Duane Allman and don't even get me started on Elvis. I cared about performers like Keith Moon and Kurt Cobain, but their self-destructive paths seemed to be destined and while I was saddened and, in the case of Cobain, pissed about all the unheard music that died with him, it didn't affect me all that much. But Zevon...

I don't have a lot of Zevon's stuff in my collection. The hellacious live album from my college days that is unplayable due to the seemingly appropriate beer spills, his collaboration with the Stipe-less R.E.M. (Hindu Love Gods), the Asylum greatest hits and, finally, The Wind. But I can still remember all the words to the parody I wrote in 1980 called Werewolves of Carrboro, the drunken nights singing Mohammed's Radio at the top of my lungs and believing that I'll Sleep When I'm Dead was my own personal anthem (although I was an infant in wild lifestyle compared to Mr. Zevon).

That last statement might mean something - he lived life in a way that he never would have recommended to anyone else, lived it in a way that killed many of the people named at the top of of this post and he fucking survived! It's probably instructive that Keith Richards is another hero and what I've learned from them is not so much to live without boundaries but to know where they ARE - theirs just happened to be way the hell outside of mine.

I obviously didn't know the man - I can only go from what I read and from what was quoted - but I can't imagine anyone facing death (an anything but sudden death) with more humor or more dignity. I can't listen to his cover of Knockin' on Heaven's Door without (literally) crying and laughing at the same time - one final "ain't this fucking great?!" for us all to enjoy. It's a brilliant disc and it manages to not be overwhelmed by all the guests that fought to be on Zevon's final recording. If you don't have it, go buy it. Today. Now.

Additional Note: Also on that disc is Joe Strummer and the Mescalero's Go Down Moses. Joe's death was another one that hit me hard, in different way but still hard. I haven't bought Streetcore yet (I don't buy much these days) but it's at the top of my list - I've heard a few cuts and they are just awesome! I was fortunate enough to see the Clash once (sadly, after Mick Jones was kicked out) and Joe was always for me the embodiment of punk rock. Rock on...

Thursday, May 27, 2004

...while running

Decided to run from Umstead Park up to campus and back rather than in the Horace Williams woods (aka proto-Carolina North). That's Umstead Park in Chapel Hill, not Umstead STATE Park in Raleigh - not much to it really. A baseball diamond on one side of Umstead Road and a parking lot, basketball court, picnic shelter and scuzzy playground between the road and Bolin Creek. The good part is that in the winter when it's still dark in the morning, I can park there and run the sidewalk up to Airport Road and then either head into town or down the Bolin Creek Greenway (which is kinda fun to run in the dark except for the danger of stepping in unseen dog-poo). It's been kinda neat the last couple of runs from Umstead to see a solitary figure on the green area between the picnic shelter and the playground doing her t'ai-chi.

Ran down Franklin Street and could still smell the smoke from the fire at Anjana's from yesterday. It also closed Salon 135 temporarily which is a problem since I'm getting a little shaggy and need to get in to see Jorge pretty DAMN SOON! The fire was apparently accidental, but I hope I'm forgiven for suspecting foul play since Anjana'ss seems to have been going out of business for something like 4 years now.

Dad gets bears on his decks, coyotes in his driveway and boomers in his trees - other than the occasional homicidal owl, I get squirrels. And more squirrels. And even more squirrels. You know, they're just as inclined to run out onto the sidewalk under my feet as they are to run out into the street under my tires. Funnier this morning was the apparently near-sighted chipmunk that must have wondered where the fuck I came from as it tried to dart from one brush pile through me to another one. Man, they've got good brakes! We did have one really cool critter sighting on our way out of town last week, when JennySlash and I both spotted a big damn raptor standing just off Seawell School Road near the woods. After consultation with Dad, we're all pretty sure it was an adolescent Bald Eagle. It didn't appear to be injured, so we could only think that it had either just struck something (and maybe missed) or it had dropped a victim and had landed to recover it. There certainly are eagles in the area and we've seen them flying way overhead, but I've never seen one in the neighborhood that close. Very cool!

In the words of the (real) President

From an address in NYC sponsored by
"In my opinion, John Kerry is dealing with this unfolding tragedy in an impressive and extremely responsible way. Our nation's best interest lies in having a new president who can turn a new page, sweep clean with a new broom, and take office on January 20th of next year with the ability to make a fresh assessment of exactly what our nation's strategic position is as of the time the reigns of power are finally wrested from the group of incompetents that created this catastrophe.

Kerry should not tie his own hands by offering overly specific, detailed proposals concerning a situation that is rapidly changing and unfortunately, rapidly deteriorating, but should rather preserve his, and our country's, options, to retrieve our national honor as soon as this long national nightmare is over.

Eisenhower did not propose a five-point plan for changing America's approach to the Korean War when he was running for president in 1952."

"We desperately need a national security team with at least minimal competence because the current team is making things worse with each passing day. They are endangering the lives of our soldiers, and sharply increasing the danger faced by American citizens everywhere in the world, including here at home. They are enraging hundreds of millions of people and embittering an entire generation of anti-Americans whose rage is already near the boiling point.

We simply cannot afford to further increase the risk to our country with more blunders by this team. Donald Rumsfeld, as the chief architect of the war plan, should resign today. His deputies Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and his intelligence chief Stephen Cambone should also resign. The nation is especially at risk every single day that Rumsfeld remains as Secretary of Defense.

Condoleeza Rice, who has badly mishandled the coordination of national security policy, should also resign immediately.

George Tenet should also resign. I want to offer a special word about George Tenet, because he is a personal friend and I know him to be a good and decent man. It is especially painful to call for his resignation, but I have regretfully concluded that it is extremely important that our country have new leadership at the CIA immediately."


Man, I'm glad we voted for this guy instead of that schmoe that was running against him in 2000...

Happy Anniversary, guys!

Lex and Ann are celebrating 14 years of wedded bliss! Send 'em some love!

I do have to show you folks the effects of marriage on my boy, though - see the before and after pictures below:

The picture on the left dates from around 22 years ago, the one on the right I liberated from his homepage. Note that while he seems much more in focus, his head has shrunk tremendously from its prior size. I credit Ann with both of those changes - it is for the reader to decide whether those changes are positive. His face also now seems to be covered with some sort of fungoidal growth which is only partially offset by the rather attractive tumor that seems to be growing out of his left shoulder. That would seem to be a wash, so all in all, it would appear that Mr. BlogontheRun has greatly benefited from his life as a married dude.

Compulsory Voting

Had a very interesting IM conversation with my friend Jeff in Australia last night, during which he mentioned compulsory voting in Australia. After my "say what?!", we had a bit of back and forth over the concept. Being a Democrat in a state widely seen as firmly in the Bush camp and one in which continued partisan/legal wrangling over redistricting means that if we have a primary at all it won't be 'til, like, October or something, I'm feeling pretty damned marginalized. I keep reading about all the money that the campaigns are throwing into media buys already - well I haven't seen a Kerry or Bush ad in months (which should probably make it clear that any serious discussion of John Edwards as a potential veep candidate is ludicrous - they've written off NC). So the idea of compulsory voting is very interesting. Did some quick looking early this morning and found this:
History of Compulsory Voting in Australia:
o advocated by Alfred Deakin at the turn of the century
o compulsory enrolment introduced in 1911
o compulsory voting first adopted in Queensland in 1915. Federally it was introduced in 1924 on the basis of a Private Members Bill
o compulsory voting has become a distinctive feature of the Australian political culture.

Arguments used in favour of compulsory voting:
o voting is a civic duty comparable to other duties citizens perform eg taxation, compulsory education, jury duty
o the educative benefits of political participation
o parliament reflects more accurately the "will of the electorate"
o governments must consider the total electorate in policy formulation and management
o candidates can concentrate their campaigning energies on issues rather than encouraging voters to attend the poll
o the voter isn’t actually compelled to vote for anyone because voting is by secret ballot.

I haven't really given much thought yet to how I think such a system might change the political landscape in the States (fodder for a follow-up post) but I absolutely agree with the idea of voting as a duty. It seems to me that when voting was restricted to a very small minority of the people, it was seen as a duty by those people (and yes, often a means of retaining power) and a privilege by those who had no vote. Now it seems by many to be a burden or hardly worth the bother. But what if you had to?

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Photoshop fun (and making art CLEAN AND SPARKLY)!

I don't know if you guys have all seen the Worth 1000 website with the daily contest for Photoshoppery goodness - this one is hysterical. Ashcroft would be proud! If you've been to the North Carolina Museum of Art, you'll have seen my favorite painting there (it just doesn't look quite like this!) -

Thanks (again) to BoingBoing for this one...

Jon Stewart - William & Mary commencement speaker

Got the link from Drezner's blog - a sample:
Lets talk about the real world for a moment. We had been discussing it earlier, and I…I wanted to bring this up to you earlier about the real world, and this is I guess as good a time as any. I don’t really know to put this, so I’ll be blunt. We broke it.

Please don’t be mad. I know we were supposed to bequeath to the next generation a world better than the one we were handed. So, sorry.

I don’t know if you’ve been following the news lately, but it just kinda got away from us. Somewhere between the gold rush of easy internet profits and an arrogant sense of endless empire, we heard kind of a pinging noise, and uh, then the damn thing just died on us. So I apologize.

But here’s the good news. You fix this thing, you’re the next greatest generation, people. You do this—and I believe you can—you win this war on terror, and Tom Brokaw’s kissing your ass from here to Tikrit, let me tell ya. And even if you don’t, you’re not gonna have much trouble surpassing my generation. If you end up getting your picture taken next to a naked guy pile of enemy prisoners and don’t give the thumbs up you’ve outdid us.

We declared war on terror. We declared war on terror—it’s not even a noun, so, good luck. After we defeat it, I’m sure we’ll take on that bastard ennui.

The whole thing is definitely worth a read (and I would suggest putting your coffee down before doing so because you will ruin that nice keyboard of yours if you don't).

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"Ghost Town" website a hoax? Well, maybe...

I'm sure by now most of you have seen the "Ghost Town" photo essay from a "hawt Ukrainian chick on a phat bike (TM)" and her rides through Chernobyl. It's still out there at this address. I got the link from Dad, who got it from Slashdot (and there is NOTHING weirder about this whole thing than finding out that my dad reads Slashdot!) I sent it off to Lex at Blog on the Run and so on and so on - this is how stuff gets around the Internet. So in reading Neil Gaiman's on-line journal this evening (and if you weren't, why not?) I ran across this:
Chornobyl "Ghost Town" story is a fabrication TOP
e-POSHTA subscriber Mary Mycio writes:

I am based in Kyiv and writing a book about Chornobyl for the Joseph Henry Press. Several sources have sent me links to the "Ghost Town" photo essay included in the last e-POSHTA mailing. Though it was full of factual errors, I did find the notion of lone young woman riding her motorcycle through the evacuated Zone of Alienation to be intriguing and asked about it when I visited there two days ago.

I am sorry to report that much of Elena's story is not true. She did not travel around the zone by herself on a motorcycle. Motorcycles are banned in the zone, as is wandering around alone, without an escort from the zone administration. She made one trip there with her husband and a friend. They traveled in a Chornobyl car that picked them up in Kyiv.

She did, however, bring a motorcycle helmet. They organized their trip through a Kyiv travel agency and the administration of the Chornobyl zone (and not her father). They were given the same standard excursion that most Chernobyl tourists receive. When the Web site appeared, Zone Administration personnel were in an uproar over who approved a motorcycle trip in the zone. When it turned out that the motorcycle story was an invention, they were even less pleased about this fantasy Web site.

There was also a link to a Canadian Urban Exploration Resource site which had the full text of the rebuttal above as well as a bunch of forum entries from guys whose biggest gripe as best I can tell is that hawt chick is MARRIED.

I'm kind of amused by this, given the vast amount of absolute disinformation on the Web. If you believe the anti-Ghost Town posts, they're really saying that she rode her bike TO Chernobyl, not THROUGH it and that her journey through the town was as part of a little tour that anyone can do and she doesn't really have special access and her dad really isn't a scientist. Well, okay, so she spiced up the story a bit and maybe staged a couple of the photos by putting a couple of things together that weren't in the same frame, but... she did really go through Chernobyl. The pictures really are of Chernobyl. She really is a hawt chick with a big bike. I mean we're not exactly talking Jayson Blair invention here and she's not a flipping reporter anyway.

The main reason I can see for the kind of reaction I'm seeing is a) some guys who feel like they should have known better had one pulled over on them and b) hawt chick is MARRIED! I say get over it - I thought the whole website was pretty damned disturbing and moving and well done (and yes, she is hawt!) and if she and her hubby really do put together a book I'll be tempted to buy it. Yeah, she sweetened her story a bit but that doesn't change the impact of me seeing pictures of Chernobyl and being bowled over by both the vastness of the destruction (both seen and unseen) and the fact that we really never knew much about what actually happened. I'll admit to being gullible - I have to check and snopes on a daily basis just to stay sane - but this one just doesn't bother me all that much.

Things I Think about while Running

One of the downsides (and there are not many) of watching lots (I mean LOTS) of old sci-fi movies is that when a big-ass tick jumps off a leaf onto the back of your neck, not only do you think about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever - you also have to consider the possibility that it's really an alien tick-like creature that is now burrowing its way into your spinal column in order to take over your body as part of its plan to control the world.

I've really gotten slack - need to run more often.

Question for some of you writers and/or English majors - was it ironic last night that the movie that ABC refused to preempt for the Preznit's speechifying was called "A Beautiful Mind"? Or just sort of amusing?

Sometimes throwing songs onto the MP3 player in random order can produce some pretty cool sequences - "88 Lines About 44 Women" followed by the Romantics' "That's What I Like About You" works really, really well.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Happy Birthday, Daddi-o!

Greetings and felicitations to my dad, who turned 64 (oops, was I not supposed to say that?) today!

Here's an undated file photo recovered via the Freedom of Information Act from the CIA from when he, myself and my brother-in-law were apparently Cuban revolutionaries, although I really only remember Che and lots of rum...

Happy Birthday, Dad!