Thursday, December 30, 2004

On the Large-Scale Loss of Children

So many people want to ignore the news stories, to continue with their holiday celebrations, but to do so is inhuman. Essay writers are starting to intrude into the psyche, to become a catalyst for the conscience, and make us feel the pain that we ought to feel.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of the Tsunami disaster is the loss of so many children, almost simultaneously. Many more in the next weeks wills succumb to injury and disease in the absence of adequate medical care. From In the Loss of Young Lives Far Too Soon, The World Is Gripped by a Special Grief,
in today's Post, Libby Copeland discusses the loss:

The waters rushed in and the waters retreated and at least a third of the bodies left behind were those of children.

In one picture from India, a father carries his son. The son's head flops, the grave worker's arms extend like the arms of Hades to take the child to the underworld. There is no morality in nature; if there were, a parent would never have to cradle his dead child.

Now, on the other side of the world, there are thousands of children being buried in mass graves, or starving and vulnerable to disease from dirty water and dead bodies. It is on a scale too big to imagine, so you think about it small, think about what it does to parents when their future is gone.

It was irrational, Lifton says, but many of those parents felt responsible for their children's deaths. It was their duty to shepherd their own flesh to adulthood. They failed.

Newspapers give two numbers: the number killed and the number of children killed, as if they are separate populations. The Beslan school hostage crisis in Russia: more than 170 children. The Oklahoma City bombing: 19. Columbine: 12.

Part of the reason so many of the tsunami's dead are children has to do with demographics. In most of the 12 countries affected, 30 to 50 percent of the population is younger than 18, according UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund. The agency also cites eyewitness accounts indicating that children had trouble holding onto trees and other stable objects that might have kept them from being swept away. What of the parents who were able to save some of their children at the expense of others? What of the parents who were unable to save any? What of the parents who still don't know?

Safe Shores in the U.S.

Paragraphs lifted from Joel Achenbach's The Tidal Wave That Touches Our Safe Shore, important comments on the U.S. reaction toward the Asian Tsunami disaster (from today's Washington Post):

Sunday afternoon, anyone turning on cable news would have seen two breaking stories: Thousands dead in Asian tsunami, and thousands of Americans delayed at airports. Unspeakable tragedy in Asia, tremendous inconvenience in the United States. Lost children, lost luggage.

Days later, that story from the other side of the world has evolved into something that has vividly placed the concerns of Americans into perspective. There have been other catastrophes around the world in recent years, but this one is of a different order, not just bigger but crueler, a great swallowing of human life, one that devoured children preferentially.

This has our full attention. And we may find ourselves wrestling with some difficult questions. What is the right response to the suffering of people far away? What can we do, what should we do, where do we even start?

And on why Americans suddenly started giving more to charitable organizations days after the disaster:

The holidays have put people in the mood to give, Sherman said, but that doesn't explain the phenomenal response. Another factor, she said, is that the visual images from Asia have unearthed a painful memory.

"It is a little bit of a flashback from 9/11 when you saw the people walking the streets of New York in a state of trauma, looking for their loved ones."

And now suddenly we meet these people, in photographs and videos, and so many of them are dead -- including children, eyes closed, lying on the ground, who in a kinder world would be merely sleeping.

Stanley Hauerwas, professor of theological ethics at Duke Divinity School, said that although Americans are a charitable people, we are also traditionally isolationist. We don't know much about the rest of the world and have little familiarity with the lives of people in places like Indonesia.

"Americans are a very generous people, both among themselves and for others. But they don't have any idea how to be generous. We're protected from the suffering of other lives," Hauerwas said yesterday.

On President Bush's delay in addressing the tragedy:

President Bush, meanwhile, continued to vacation, unseen and unheard through Tuesday, and the world may well have wondered what kind of catastrophe would be sufficient to interrupt the president's agenda of clearing brush and riding bikes. Yesterday morning the president finally made a formal statement and wore a suit and tie to connote that he is on the job, if perhaps 72 hours too late.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Electrelane mp3s

Electrelane is recording the follow-up to their acclaimed 2nd album from this year, The Power Out. According to their website:

Happy New Year


We are currently at Electrical Audio in Chicago recording our third album. It's going really well and we are enjoying being here again. The album will probably be released in mid-May 2005, and after that we will be touring extensively in the UK, Europe, USA and hopefully in Japan and Australia too.

Until then, some riffy, noisy mp3s from their website and from The Wire online:

Gabriel (mp3) from Rock it to the Moon
On Parade (mp3) from Power Out

Blogs Are Forever. Maybe Not Yours, But In General.

Another meditation on the blognomenon, from the Independent.

From "Have you read the one about me?", in the Independent online:

Anyone can keep an on-line diary - and now 4 million of us do. Michael Bywater explores the desire to share our deepest secrets and dullest moments with the world. And why millions more bother to read them.


...the blog is here to stay - although it might just have reached the critical mass at which any internet activity ceases to be cool. If you haven't encountered a blog yet, you can't have been on the net. They are everywhere: daily (or weekly, or intermittent) diaries of observations, carpings, epiphanies, happenstance and dull self-examination.

Susan Sontag, Dead at 71

We've lost a vivid mind and voice in Susan Sontag, who died with leukemia yesterday.

Stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Here are examples of what she left behind:

An excerpt from On Photography.

A New Yorker essay, Looking at War

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Pics for Chicks

Sailor Moon

From Girl Power Fuels Manga Boom in U.S., in today's New York Times:

Look out, boys. There's a new kid in town.

Sales of Japanese comics - more familiarly known as manga (pronounced MAHN-gah) - are exploding in the United States, and much of the boom is due to efforts by comic book publishers to extend their reach beyond young male readers. Beyond all males, in fact.

For years, elementary school reading teachers have lamented that the pool of good books for young males is shallow, if not dry, partly because of a lack of male authors. Males have spent most of their reading time in Marvel and D.C. comics. Now,

Even the home of Batman and Superman, DC Comics, created a separate imprint for its manga line, CMX, which began in October.

John Nee, the vice president for business development at DC, said that "the biggest challenge we see is carefully growing the imprint." To that end, CMX has staggered its releases. Three titles began in October, two last month and the next wave will not begin until February. Unlike Tokyopop, CMX plans to dig deep into the past. "Manga has been published so long in Japan and only a successful category in the U.S. for five years," Mr. Nee said. "We haven't even touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of the material available."

Could this lead to a feminization of the comic world, where reading manga earns young males a "girly" stigma? Undoubtedly, Manga will bring more females to comics than Supergirl and Wonder Woman. I don't have a crystal ball, but I think the next 5 years will tell.

Monday, December 27, 2004

mp3 - Sparklehorse with Flaming Lips

I posted several songs from the 2-CD Daniel Johnston tribute album, Daniel Johnston Discovered Covered. I considered not posting anything else from it, thinking maybe this is getting old. It's not. Both of the CDs in this set are enduring, and will give you a lot of mileage. My favorite track changes from one week to the next. Maybe next week I'll post an original Daniel Johnston song, after leaving Michigan, and my lonely CDs warmly welcome me home.

For now, here's Go, covered by Sparklehorse with the Flaming Lips, originally from Daniel Johston's Respect (1985).

Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse)

The lyrics are simple, seemingly a song of encouragement from Johnston, reassuring a friend (you) that you'll find true love or whatever it is you seek: To understand and be understood/is to be free/So I think that you should go/Go on ahead/Take her in your arms and be wed/Go go go go you restless soul/you're going to find it/Go go go go you restless soul/you're going to find it.

But listen to it enough times, and eventually you'll pause, suspecting that Johnston is telling you that you'll find it, because you're not him. He's a wounded soldier on life's battlefield, resolved to stay behind, telling you to carry on. Maybe Johnston isn't capable of carrying joy: Yes, life's a bowl of cherries/You can have as many as you can carry/And someone once said that life is like a cow/But I don't know how that applies.

For all of you who got new guitars for Christmas, the lyrics and tablature are here.

Sparklehorse with the Flaming Lips - Go (mp3)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

mp3 - Routineers

The Routineers are a Dischord band, which you will immediately recognize with the tense opening riffs of Simply Smooth, with Amanda MacKaye on vocals, though you won't really hear her on this track. Yes, she is related to Fugazi's Ian MacKaye (she's his sister), who recorded their self-titled CD in Anacostia, the future stadium site of the Washington, D.C. Nationals.

Routineers - Simply Smooth (mp3)

Happy Holidays

Happy holidays to you, and thank you for visiting our blog this year. I hope you get everything you wish for this holiday season. I'll be out of town until January 2nd, and will be posting sporadically between now and then.

Take care and be safe.

mp3 - The Bravery

Slang n.
1. Excessive publicity and the ensuing commotion
(The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

NME calls The Bravery a killer stroke combination: "a perfect genetic splice of the Strokes and the Killers." Filter says that they "are ready to kick down the doors The Strokes built to join the ranks of contemporaries Franz Ferdinand and The Killers." They're one of Rolling Stone's 10 Artists to Watch.

Their Unconditional EP backs up the hype. Unconditional is a beautifully jacked up love song: "I just want love/I just want something/something for nothing." If Bach did synth pop, his 21st century Brandenburg would sound like Out of Line.

Listen to the EP at their website (launch music player).

Watch the video for Unconditional:
Windows Media

And of course I have an mp3 for you.

The Bravery - Out of Line (mp3)

Ignoring Paris

LLoyd Grove, writer of Lowdown, the New York Daily News gossip column, is quitting Paris Hilton cold turkey.

From this morning's story, We'll Never Have Paris Again:

Even a gossip columnist has limits.
Paris Hilton has finally abused mine.

Over the past five years - without any discernible talent, education, scruples, manners, modesty or underpants - the pretty blond great-granddaughter of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton has waged a terrifying campaign for world domination.

The arc of Paris' "career" - from rich, witless party girl to rich, witless party girl with a hit television show - is an insult to the American sense of fairness: the idea that you get ahead by working hard, playing by the rules and acquiring a skill of some sort.

Paris has bothered with none of the above, and yet society continues to reward her with money and fame.

It can't be said more eloquently than that, can it. More:

Make no mistake: I plead guilty to having been one of Paris' enablers - encouraging and even celebrating her silly ways through countless boldface mentions.

I admit that Paris and I have been snared in an ugly web of mutual addiction: She to all the lurid ink, me to all the pointless drama.

But on the "Today" show this morning, I'm planning to announce my New Year's resolution: going cold turkey. No more Paris Hilton.

The announcement is a done deal. But that's not all...on the Today show, he also suggested that he may resolve to drop one annoying celebrity at the end of every year. Who's on the bubble for 2006? Lindsay Lohan.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Queen's Engrish, Butchered

Jazz83 has some ridicurousry funny signage that you should look at now.

Images from

Google Search: Sermon Powerpoint

Powerpoint has been the primary medium of communication in the business world for a long time now, and has recently become ubiquitous in religious communication. Sermons are outlined in powerpoint, eliminating the need to follow along in scripture, songs are displayed on slides, so we can save trees by getting rid of hymn books, and disturbingly, if you are a pastor, you can download sermons from other sermons and use them as your own.

I wondered, if He were among us in flesh today, would Jesus (or any other religious leader) use powerpoint in His sermons? Would He have a laptop, a projector, a screen, and someone to click the mouse when He says "next" in a modern-day Sermon on the Mount?

Anyway, I googled "sermon powerpoint" and wasn't surprised to get 48,600 results.

The movement of powerpoint haters may be growing faster than that of powerpoint users. The search "hate powerpoint" begins with the article, "Edward Tufte doesn't hate PowerPoint, he hates the culture that spawned it."

mp3 - Mendoza Line

I don't do twang as much as I used to, whether it's country, bluegrass, alt-country, alt-bluegrass, whatever. It seems that every year I listen to even less than the year before. The Mendoza Line, of Athens, GA, is one of the few twangy bands I've listened to this year, maybe because the twang on this year's LP, Fortune, is more embellishment than centerpiece. It's a solid album; the songs are catchy and spirited, the solos are inspired, and well, they're just so likeable. This track, it's a long time (but it moves quickly), is a pop-rock gem featuring Shannon McCardle sounding a lot like Liz Phair at her sassiest.

Mendoza Line - it's a long line (but it moves quickly) (mp3)

Top Ten Myths About Assisted Suicide

From Spiked Online.

Myth #6:

This is all about 'dignity'.

What sort of dignity? Right-to-die campaigners condemn the lives of the disabled as bereft of dignity, apparently associating dignity solely with control over bodily functions. According to this definition, if someone loses their bodily 'autonomy', they no longer have human dignity. In my mind, dignity comes from bearing up under suffering we meet throughout our lives rather than letting it destroy us, and from facing fears rather than caving in to them.

The Baseball Stadium Myth

So last night FOX preempted the Simpsons rerun to show the announcement of baseball coming to DC. If you are lucky enough not to live in Washington you may not know about the long-running and extremely boring saga of DC trying to get a major league baseball team again (they lost the Senators 30 years ago).

City leaders promote public financing of baseball stadiums by claiming that the new stadium will attract business and create jobs. Is this true? I had heard of some cases where the city ended up losing money on the deal, but I had assumed that other teams had ended up making money for the city. My own team, the Baltimore Orioles, for instance, have been very successful with Camden Yards. So I looked them up and guess what?

All publicly financed stadiums have lost money for their cities.

Even my beloved Camden Yards! Johns Hopkins study, PDF

Having a major league team does have benefits. It contributes to area pride and it's great for families to take their kids to the ballgame. Camden Yards is gorgeous, I'm a lifelong Orioles fan and to me it's worth the about $15 a year the stadium deal ends up costing each Baltimore household. But the benefits are quality-of-life, not economic. Maybe if I didn't care about baseball and my kids were going to crumbling schools I'd be pissed off.

Just an FYI so that if this issue ever comes up in your city or state, you know what you're getting into.

You wouldn't know it by the way the press blindly reports the "new business and jobs" claims, but there's a ton of economic analyses of how these stadium deals have worked out for cities. Here's a decent basic summary by the CATO Institute.

Everything in its Right Place

Go here and watch Brad Mehldau perform Radiohead's Everything in its Right Place. Don't tell me he ain't feeling it. He looks like Tori Amos playing with menstrual cramps. While you're there, you'd be missing out if you didn't also check out the videos from the lovely Bebel Gilberto and the equally lovely Erin Bode.

Sin City Trailer

Here's the trailer for Sin City.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Winter Fiction Issue

The New Yorker Winter Fiction Issue has stories from Ian McEwan and Pulitzer Prize winner Edward P. Jones, a Personal History from A.M. Homes, a Reflection from W.G. Sebald, a review of "Spamalot" by Dave Eggers, poetry by Simic, Szymborska, and Edward Hirsch, and letters from Robert Lowell to Elizabeth Bishop. It also has "Dick Public," a graphic "Situation Comedy" by Chris Ware, author and illustrator of Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth.

From "Dick Public:"

Joseph Epstein Disses Bloggers

From Saturday's Wall Street Journal, Joseph Epstien, in his article "Blog, Blague, Blog," says:

After admitting all the successes of bloggers in politics and journalism in recent years, I myself remain a bit of a blogophobe. My problem with blogs is, to stay within computerese, a RAM problem. RAM is, of course, random access memory, denoting how much information one can store in one's computer, or, in human terms, in one's brain. Those little gray cells, as Inspector Poirot likes to call them, are dying off in impressive numbers in all of us; and do we wish to spend many of them reading blogs, in which a large percentage of the material cannot be relied upon, and lots more of which is beside any possible point? Well to remember that the French word blague, pronounced the same as blog, means to talk chaff, to hoax, to humbug.

and finishes with:

All success to the best of the bloggers. But, as the Jews of Russia used to say about the czar, so I now find myself saying about them: May they live and be well, but not too close to me.


Love your rock music played hard, with balls? The Moaners are two ladies, but they got more balls than a record store full of hipsters. If you like the Kills, you'll like the Moaners. Their LP, Dark Snack, will be out on 25 January, 2005.

Moaners - Heart Attack (mp3) from

Monday, December 20, 2004

mp3s - Moving Units

The Moving Units have generated some serious buzz for some months now with their Dangerous Dreams LP. They're another one of those snazzy new 80's dance-y new wave throwback bands. Are we getting bored of these indie dance-rock image bands influenced by Duran Duran, Talking Heads, Gary Numan, and/or Devo yet?

Nope, not yet. Not when they sound good, and these guys can flat out play. Maybe in the next six months, they'll all blend into the same heap of clutter, like a decaying pile of dead disco, only to be miraculously resurrected by hip kids in another 20 years.

I Am (mp3)- from Epitonic
Between Us & Them (mp3) from Insound
Available (mp3) via
Scars (mp3) via Ending East
Unpersuaded (mp3) from

Watch the video for Available here.


Here's an exercise in futility: Go to your local bookstore, pick up Blankets, the graphic memoir-novel by Craig Thompson, and read the first 20 pages. Then try to put it down before you get to page 100. You might not even be able to put it down at that point. You'll feel the gamut of emotion laid out in illustration--insecurity, infatuation, love, fear, guilt, confusion, loneliness, you name it. It won't just remind you of how you felt at this certain time; you'll feel it in your gut, presently, because he draws you back into scenes from your own life. That's the best I can explain it. You'll have to pick it up and try the above exercise and see for yourself. If you were in the "in" crowd back in school, or if you never questioned the things you were taught or told, you might succeed in the exercise, because you just won't "get" the book.

You can preview some of Blankets here.

Here are a couple of scanned pages:

Thursday, December 16, 2004

mp3 - Luna

It's that time of year that every blogger, magazine, organization, and association releases their "best of" or "worst of" lists for the year. Best 10 CDs, best 10 TV shows, best 10 movies, worst 10 dressed. Not this cat. My brain doesn't rank. I enjoy looking at others' lists, though, and nodding in approval or shaking my head in disbelief. I'm glad that a lot of the "best of" lists for music include Luna's "farewell album," Rendezvous. It's an album that flirts with you with warm, inviting harmonies and subtle gestures here and there. Like the best Yo La Tengo or early Velvet Underground material, nothing is overdone. The more time you spend with it, the more it slowly reveals itself to you, and your attraction grows.

Here's Cindy Tastes of Barbecue, a sweet, intimate tune that reminds me a little of Sweet Jane.

Luna - Cindy Tastes of Barbecue - mp3

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

mp3 - Lhasa

I put up a post about Lhasa de Sela a few months ago, but didn't post any mp3s. I'm making up for it here. This song is in French, and wouldn't sound right in any other language. It starts off with some dusty brass and percussion, then her deep passionate voice and guitar turn this spare song into an exotic confession.

Lhasa de Sela - La Confession (mp3)

Nirvana v. Pearl Jam

Legal Fiction has a great post about Nirvana and Pearl Jam. If you ever felt like Nirvana appealed to your gut feelings while Pearl Jam's songs appealed to your brain the post may explain why.
Nirvana started with an emotion – pain, anger, angst, sadness – and worried less about concepts. Many of their lyrics were essentially nonsense. Pearl Jam (even though Vedder could sound angry) started with a concept and tried to squeeze emotion out of it. In the end, even though Nirvana’s lyrics didn’t make much sense, they resonated more deeply with people because they were a more direct expression of emotion.
I disagree that Nirvana's lyrics were "nonsense", though. I think it's more accurate to say they were stream of consciousness. Listening to them as a teenager, they reminded me of the stream of consciousness literature we were studying in school at the time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

mp3 - Guy Davis

Every once in a while the soul hungers for some traditional acoustic blues. You'd have difficulty finding someone better than Guy Davis to fingerpick and slide your troubles away. Here's Pay Day, from his brilliant 2004 LP, Legacy.

Guy Davis - Pay Day (mp3)

Kids and Parents Today

Michael Dirda reviewed Huck's Raft, by Steven Mintz, in Sunday's Book world. From the review:

Unlike us, the young have yet to squander their lives. So we lay into them, hoping to rescue the apparent yahoos from their downward slide and somehow transform them into what they really ought to be -- which is roughly ourselves, but better, smarter, richer. Sadly, we grownups can't help these shameful desires. To feel proud of one's children -- this is the drug that every parent hungers after. Only when the kids start to disappoint our expectations, as must eventually happen, do we settle for wanting them to be merely happy.

...children of the past did possess something lost to their descendants of today: freedom. Once kids were allowed to ride their bikes all over town or idle away the summer in daydreams; they could fail a course or even a grade, and no one got overly excited about it; they might even make serious mistakes and find themselves pregnant or working on the line at Ford rather than studying lines of poetry at college. But now, in our test-driven, increasingly regimented educational system, we forthrightly aim to leave no child behind, which means that we leave no child alone...Little wonder that teenagers complain they are bored, with nothing to do. But when have they ever done anything for themselves?...

Our challenge is to reverse the process of age segmentation, to provide the young with challenging alternatives to a world of malls, instant messaging, music videos, and play dates. Huck Finn was an abused child whose father, the town drunk, beat him for going to school and learning to read. Who would envy Huck's battered childhood? Yet he enjoyed something too many children are denied and which adults can provide: opportunities to undertake odysseys of self-discovery outside the goal-driven, overstructured realities of contemporary childhood... (book excerpt)

Mintz notes that Cornelia A.P. Comer, a Harvard professor's wife, complained in the Atlantic Monthly that the younger generation "couldn't spell, and its English was 'slipshod.' Today's youth were selfish, discourteous, lazy, and self-indulgent. Lacking respect for their elders or for common decency, the young were hedonistic, 'shallow, amusement-seeking creatures,' whose tastes had been 'formed by the colored supplements of the Sunday paper' and the 'moving picture shows.' The boys were feeble, flippant, and 'soft' intellectually, spiritually, and physically. Even worse were the girls, who were brash, loud, and promiscuous with young men." This was published in 1911...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Juana Molina mp3s

What to serve up with your Federico Aubele Gran Hotel Buenos Aires, you ask? The perfect complement is Juana Molina, an Argentine singer-songwriter with a soft whispery-smooth voice. For those of you who like your clean acoustic guitar chords played with a wee bit of very subtle electronica. Ideal anti-stress music for your drive home during rush hour.

Find these mp3s at her website:

From 3 cosas (2004):
No es tan cierto
Tres cosas

From Segundo (2000):
El desconfiado

From Rara (1996):
En los días de humedad

mp3 - Mr. T Experience

I had to retire my MTX "Nein Danke" t-shirt recently. It was tragic, almost as devastating as the day I had to retire my Sonic Youth orange yarn doll tee. I feel guilty about throwing it away. I imagine it's cold and entangled in a pile of rotting food, used condoms, and jagged can lids. I should have burned it with dignity.

I bought it in Denver in 1996, the year they released Love is Dead, at the Snakepit. It looked like this, except it was green:

At least I still have some of their CDs. I don't listen to them as much as I used to, but yesterday, Love is Dead demanded a play. It was the least I could do.

Mr. T Experience - Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba, from Love is Dead (mp3)

The Crusades & Positive Violence

Stolen paragraphs from a New Yorker book review of “The First Crusade: A New History” (Oxford; $35), by Thomas Asbridge, and “The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople” (Viking; $25.95), by Jonathan Phillips:

In its original meaning, a crusade was a Christian holy war, and in that sense it was a contradiction in terms. Christ’s whole teaching was to love thy neighbor, not kill him. But, like everyone else, the early Christians had enemies, whom they needed to fight on occasion. So the Church fathers went to work on the doctrine, and by the eleventh century it was agreed that in certain circumstances God might not only condone war but demand it. Of course, there had to be an important cause...

In 1095, he [Pope Urban II] went on a tour of France, and one afternoon in Clermont he gave a sermon calling on Christians to journey to the East and reclaim the Holy Land. “A race absolutely alien to God,” he said, was defiling Christian altars, raping Christian women, tying Christian men to posts and using them for archery practice. None of this was true, but it had the desired effect...

Faith may have inspired the Crusaders, but not for long, Runciman said: “High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed, enterprise and endurance by a blind and narrow self-righteousness; and the Holy War itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God...”

…historians…could not understand, though the evidence was there, “how intellectually respectable the Christian theory of positive violence was” to the medieval mind. Positive violence—what is that? Just what it says: the idea that killing is virtuous...

Urban, in preaching the First Crusade, offered them a solution. He called upon them to kill, and told them that on this occasion it was not a sin—indeed, that it would win them remission of past sins. By the Fourth Crusade, participants were guaranteed absolution of all confessed transgressions—in other words, a ticket straight to paradise...

So a great, ancient civilization was destroyed, in the name of God...

And if I have noticed certain resemblances between the Crusades and the war in Iraq—the exaggeration of the threat, to get the war going; the enormous financial cost to the attacking country; the mixture of idealistic and commercial motives; the surprise of finding that the liberated may not thank you, indeed, may attack you—Asbridge and Phillips have surely also noted the parallels...

Sunday, December 12, 2004

AFI Movies & TV Programs of the Year

AFI's Movies of the Year:


AFI's TV Programs of the Year:



Friday, December 10, 2004

No iPod

Yeah, I won nothing at the Holiday Gathering.

But I feel good about my contribution to humanity.

Holiday Gathering

I'll be late or never with the regular posts today. I have to go to our "Holiday Gathering" and give to charity so I can try to win a 40G iPod. Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

mp3 - Oneida

Inside My Head (mp3) is from Oneida's new EP, Nice: Splittin' Peaches. It's organic electronica, in the tradition of...nothing, really. It's some sort of trash-noise pasted psychedelic rock, perhaps a little Beck influence in here, but without the blues/folk edge. Listen closely; each noise is meaningless when isolated, and some are plain harsh and grating, but in the context of the song, they become components of harmonies and melodies, and the overall effect is hypnotic and relaxing.

Wes Anderson Interview

Heather Havrilesky interviews Wes Anderson at

From "Wild Wes:"

...even die-hard fans will find themselves in stranger territory than ever before with "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou," from the wildly unpredictable story to the seriously strange little baby-blue short shorts worn by Willem Dafoe. As we follow Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) on a nonlinear adventure to find the mythical jaguar shark, it's clear that all of the usual Anderson elements are here: the perfect ironic retro fashions; the disaffected, borderline flat acting; the unexpected splashes of bright color; the infectious soundtrack.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Donnie Darko 2-CD Reissue

It's a UK import, with songs not on the original score. It's not the Director's Cut soundtrack, as 'Til Tuesday's Voices Calling is absent, but still worth a listen.


mp3s - Okay

Marty Anderson is Okay. Well, really he's brilliant...his one-man band is named "Okay." Okay's debut double album, Low Road and High Road, is due out in March 2005. "Now" is a subtle pop reminder that you are not in control, and there's not a whole lot you can do about it. It begins with some strummed chords reminiscent of a Yo la Tengo progression, and his raspy, yet inviting voice. Then there's an octave-hopping guitar melody that dances around the strummed chords, and then suddenly, the song gets really interesting. "Compass," an mp3 posted on Okay's website, is a melancholy meditation on the confusion of loss.

Okay - Now (mp3 from Low Road)
Okay - Compass (mp3 from High Road)

Life Aquatic Soundtrack Track Listing

Mark Mothersbaugh put another eclectic mix together for the Life Aquatic. The track listing is here.

Long Live Rock

From Long Live Rock - a poem by John Foy in The New Criterion:

Electric guitars, I thought, would redeem
the dying I endured behind machines.
But that redemption never came to pass.

On War

I stole these sentences and paragraphs are from "On War," a review by Chris Hedges in the current New York Review of Books (Dec. 16th).

The vanquished know war. They see through the empty jingoism of those who use the abstract words of glory, honor, and patriotism to mask the cries of the wounded, the senseless killing, war profiteering, and chest-pounding grief. They know the lies the victors often do not acknowledge, the lies covered up in stately war memorials and mythic war narratives, filled with stories of courage and comradeship. They know the lies that permeate the thick, self-important memoirs by amoral statesmen who make wars but do not know war. The vanquished know the essence of war—death. They grasp that war is necrophilia...

...the words of the vanquished come later, sometimes long after the war, when grown men and women unpack the suffering they endured as children, what it was like to see their mother or father killed or taken away, or what it was like to lose their homes, their community, their security, and be discarded as human refuse. But by then few listen...

War is presented primarily through the distorted prism of the occupiers. The embedded reporters, dependent on the military for food and transportation as well as security, have a natural and understandable tendency, one I have myself felt, to protect those who are protecting them...the reporting, even among those who struggle to keep some distance, usually descends into a shameful cheerleading.

Those who cover war dine out on the myth about war and the myth about themselves as war correspondents. Yes, they say, it is horrible, and dirty and ugly; for many of them it is also glamorous and exciting and empowering...

The reason wars should always be covered from the perspective of the common soldier or Marine, as Wright does, is that these foot soldiers are largely pawns. Their lives, despite the protestations of the generals and politicians, mean little to the war planners...

Physical courage is common on a battlefield. Moral courage is not. Those who defy the machine usually become its victim.

Combat has an undeniable attraction. It is seductive and exciting, and it is ultimately addictive. The young soldiers, trained well enough to be disciplined but encouraged to maintain their naive adolescent belief in invulnerability, have in wartime more power at their fingertips than they will ever have again. From being minimum-wage employees at places like Burger King, looking forward to a life of dead-end jobs, they catapult to being part of, in the words of the Marines, "the greatest fighting force on the face of the earth."

These Marines have learned the awful truth about our civil religion. They have learned that our nation is not righteous. They have understood that there are no transcendent goals at the heart of our political process. The Sunday School God that blesses our nation above all others vanishes in war zones like Iraq...It is why they feel distance and anger with those at home who drink in the dark elixir of blind patriotism, and absorb mythology about themselves and war.

But these veterans will also miss war...They will miss the brief, unfettered moment when they were killer gods and everyone around them fighting a common enemy, and facing death as a group, seemed fused into one body.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

List-weary in Washington

Peter Carlson, the Washington Post’s Magazine Reader, seems to be sick of lists, especially Rolling Stone’s “Greatest-Of.” In an article section from yesterday's paper titled "For All Time's Sake":

A panel of distinguished savants -- including Joni Mitchell, Ozzy Osbourne and Jello Biafra -- voted for their favorite songs and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young tabulated the votes. And the greatest song of all time is (drumroll, please) . . .

"Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan!

Following close behind are "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones, "Imagine" by John Lennon and --

Wait a minute! Hold it right there. Didn't Rolling Stone do this same thing last year?

No, it just seems that way. Last year, Rolling Stone published "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time."...

...All of this raises some questions: Is Rolling Stone becoming a nostalgia magazine for aging baby boomers? Or is rock-and-roll a dying art form that isn't producing new music worth writing about? Or both?

Surely RS could find a better way to waste as many pages as they did on the top-however many of whatever lists. If they must do lists, how about a list of 500 great songs you never heard. Maybe stick a sampler cd of 20 songs in there, with a web link to the other 480 downloadable from their website. Now there's an issue worth my money.

Y: The Last Man Author Brian K Vaughan - Blog & Interview

BKTV (the blog) is here.
Also, the Annotated Y: The Last Man???, from, a site that provides notes on comic book series.
(links via Bookslut)

The insightful interview is on his Vertigo series, Y: The Last Man, is here.

Monday, December 06, 2004

mp3 - Anne Summers - No Fun (music for the proud slacker)

I ran into Anne Summers singer and guitarist Andrew Pontano in CDepot in College Park, Maryland, years ago. He told me to bring as many friends as I could to their show at the Black Cat that weekend. I regrettably never made it myself, and apparently, not enough people made it or bought enough of their records to keep them around. And so another hard-working independent-label band with good material disappears into that void that lies beyond the bargain bin.

No Fun is the tenth track from their first album, "the dandy." The lyrics perfectly capture the desire to sit and rot, forced upon us by the cold, short, lethargic days of winter:

Why don't you leave me alone
I'm in no mood for you this evening
Don't you call me on the phone
Leave me alone
God, you're getting old
And boring

I don't want to see a movie
Or go dancing, I'm too tired
I just want to sit at home
And watch the game
Drink a couple beers
And get loaded

Ant that's about as deep as these boys get on this record. But then, that's exactly the point. So here it is, my gift for the determinedly unmotivated:

Anne Summers - No Fun (mp3)

Nirvana Bassist to Highest Bidder

Krist Novoselic really sold out this time. Himself, that is. On E-bay. What's next...will we be able to buy Courtney's Love?

Google Search: "Moral Values"

If you watched the post-election coverage this year, you were told that G.W. Bush won again due, in large part, to a large turnout of conservative voters who proclaimed that "moral values" is the most important issue to them. If you are a conservative, perhaps you thought to yourself, "Yeah, moral values, that is why I voted for Bush. This country is headed in the wrong direction and we need a good church-going president to keep us on the right track." If you're a liberal, you wondered exactly which moral values Bush has that Kerry lacks: honesty? compassion? humility? tolerance?

Recent articles in the New Yorker (and the Washington Post have pounced on the "moral values" issue. In the Post's "The Anatomy of a Myth," Dick Meyer asserts, "It's a neat theory -- but wrong. How it came to be regarded as the real story of Bush's victory is a fascinating and sobering example of journalism's quest for freshness and surprise."

The moral values question came to the forefront in exit polling, which Louis Menand, in his New Yorker essay, "Permanent Fatal Errors," reminds us, were "a fiasco." Recall that they embarrassingly predicted Kerry as the winner in a landslide. Menand also suggests, "...polls that ask people why they voted for a particular candidate have usually been regarded with a heavy drip of saline solution--not because people do not tell the truth but because they often don't know the truth."

Twenty-two percent of people polled stated that moral values was the issue that mattered most in deciding how to vote for president. Bush pollster Jan Van Lohuizen, of Stanford, stated, "...if you give people a list of seven and you ask them what's their top concern and the highest number is twenty-two, that means there is no concensus. It means that there was no one issue that drove the election."

Still, according to a Pew report, "The survey findings parallel exit poll results showing that moral values is a top-tier issue for voters. But the relative importance of moral values depends greatly on how the question is framed. The post-election survey finds that, when moral values is pitted against issues like Iraq and terrorism, a plurality (27%) cites moral values as most important to their vote. But when a separate group of voters was asked to name ­ in their own words ­ the most important factor in their vote, significantly fewer (14%) mentioned moral values."

Also, "those who cite moral values as a major factor offer varying interpretations of the concept. More than four-in-ten (44%) of those who chose moral values as the most important factor in their vote from the list of issues say the term relates to specific concerns over social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage. However, others did not cite specific policy issues, and instead pointed to factors like the candidates' personal qualities or made general allusions to religion and values."

As I sat thinking about moral values last night, I Googled the phrase. Here are the results. The 20th hit is from a "Global Values Survey," conducted by the The Institute for Global Ethics at the State of the World Forum's annual meeting in San Francisco in 1996. Of 272 international participants surveyed, the 15 moral values listed were ranked in the following order of importance:

Reverence for Life
Preservation of Nature
Social Harmony
Respect for Elders

This list is obviously not all-inclusive. But what "moral values" do abortion and gay marriage fall under? I see abortion falling under "reverence for life," if one believes that life begins at fertilization. But gay marriage? That's more a biblical value. If you're a fundamentalist Christian, your moral value is likely to mirror the biblical value, and so you vote for Bush; but if you're not, you moral value of "Tolerance" may guide you to vote Democrat.

The divide in this country is not between a party or a group that has moral values and a group that does not; it is more a divide between groups with differing moral values.

As it was, as it is, as it will be.

I think you'll find that the global list of values correspond to character traits. What a great wishlist for an American voter looking for a morally upright leader. Hang on to it for the next election. Maybe there will be a candidate whose character reflects the values you hold dear. More likely, you'll have to vote for the candidate that strays less from those values.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Music Video - House of Flying Daggers


If you don't click on the "Wow," I pity you for missing a gorgeous spectacle.

See more HOFD stuff here.

Friday, December 03, 2004

mp3 - tremulous monk

This song has an opening couplet of a spare nine words that say so much: When you gonna choose/To sparkle like your shoes. Don't let the light plinking pop sound fool you. The lyrics are simple, but the message is poignant. This song is a bearing of the heart, an expression of caring, and the best way to do that is with simplicity and sincerity. God, I'm starting to sound like Beavis & Butthead's hippie teacher.

From Tremulous Monk's January 2004 album of the same title.

Tremulous Monk - Sparkle Like Your Shoes (mp3)

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


I like to imagine the Patron Saint of trash art rock looking in the mirror, early in the morning, or in a drunken stupor, singing this song to himself.

This is a Beck B-side that you can get on Stray Blues. For all of you who, like me, are suffering from Beck withdrawals. Is that new album really coming early next year? What the hell is it going to sound like??

Beck - Totally Confused (mp3)

Charles Douglas streams

Joey Santiago plays guitar on Charles Douglas' album, Statecraft. The RealAudio streams here are the catchiest songs I've heard all day. But then, it is only 12:10 AM.