Monday, July 20, 2009

Awesome dream. I'm catering a party for a rich lawyer who lives in a shabby mansion atop Red Mt. I'm there setting the bar up, and I overhear a conversation that convinces me that the guests are all mobsters. But now they're suspicious, and they try to kill me by trussing me up and hurling me off the back porch. I struggle free, manage to take one of their guns, and shoot one of them. All hell breaks loose. Pursued by angry mobsters, I flee, wrecking a house and stealing a car in the process. I make it downtown where I and my friend (who of course is Samuel L Jackson) fortify our catering company offices, hold off the attacking mobsters, and save the day, I'm rarely the hero in my dreams; I'm usually the quarry, it was nice to be on the side of the ass-kickers for a change.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Afghanistan has a "Counternarcotics Ministry"? In other news, foxes to offer lessons in poultry security management.
So now I can post to my lame-ass blog from my iPhone. The world trembles in anticipation.
This is a test post.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In Which I Purchase Modern Technology And Am Duly Impressed

You may have noticed that I just got an iPhone. No? Well, now you have, because I'm blogging about it. After having tweeted, texted, emailed, voice-messaged, and talked about it.

I bought the 3G S to replace my old cellie, which was so old that the camera used iodine-sensitive silvered plates and mercury vapor. And man, is my sexy new iPhone awesome. But the feature that has absolutely sold me on it was the one I least expected: using the thing as an e-book reader.

It never occurred to me that I might like e-books. I mean, I have shelves and shelves of real books. I have stacks of books by the bed, by the couch, in boxes in the garage. I like the physicality of books, the smell and the feel of them. I don't like reading on my computer: I'm constantly fiddling with the text size or shifting about to rest a tense neck. So I had no interest in an e-book reader.

Until I accidentally got one.

The first thing I did when I got my new phone all charged and activated and set up was what every new iPhone buyer does: head to the App Store. Scanning the the free stuff, I see the Kindle for iPhone app. What the hey, right? A few moments later I'm browsing the Kindle store, looking at the freebies. Fusty public domain stuff mostly. A fantasy novel about dragons fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. Pass. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Meh, though I feel vaguely guilty for not being more interested in reading it. Then: Conrad. Wodehouse. Chesterton. Well, well. I never did get around to reading Nostromo, it'd be nice to have some Jeeves stories for amusement while stranded in waiting rooms and such, and I lost my copy of The Man Who Was Thursday....

Zoop.

(That's the sound data makes as it flies around, in case you were wondering.)

Neat. That was quick.

I continue futzing around in the App Store: Sudoku! New York Times crossword puzzles! After evaluating the use of the device as a mobile gaming platform (ie, crashing on the couch and doing sudoku and crossword puzzles all afternoon) I remember the Kindle thingie.

About forty-five minutes later I look up from "Jeeves and the Hard-Boiled Egg". It had taken me less than a minute to configure the thing: white text on a black background; large, easily readable type; landscape mode. It weighs less than a paperback: this is what got me. One-handed reading! Go ahead, snicker, and no, I haven't yet downloaded The Story of O. But It's really COMFORTABLE. I never expected that. Reading in bed without a book-light is a life-changing experience.

But more importantly it addresses an issue I have always struggled with: I scan. I read fast and spottily, and though I grasp essentials I am rarely fully engaged with the text in the way a responsible reader should be. The brevity of each screen of text on the iPhone encourages me to read more closely.

Now, we'll see how well that theory works when I read something a tad more challenging than the tales of the cheerfully hapless Bertie Wooster. I just got Bertrand Russell's The Problems of Philosophy, so that'll be the test case. I hear the Kindle isn't necessarily the best e-book reader for the iPhone. So we'll see where this goes. I'm hesitant to actually PAY for e-books, though. I'd like to see publishers develop a model where the e-book version comes automatically with the paper version. That's a publishing model I could get behind: that way I've got the "back-up" for the shelf and the convenience of the e-text. But it seems like there's a wealth of free stuff out there to read in the Kindle format. And that scratches that Pokemon-like itch, too: it's a thrill to zoop a buncha free classics, knowing that they're there in your pocket all the time. Gotta zoop 'em all...

And I find it pleasing to put the highest-tech device I've ever owned to such a low-tech use.

Here's a brief summary of what I DON'T like about the iPhone: surfing the Internet, that fiddly virtual keyboard, the fact that with 3G enabled you can actually SEE the battery charge indicator dropping in real time. Pretty much the same complaints everyone else has.

On the whole, though, it's a happy-making wonder of a device.

UPDATE: OK, I totally snagged the book about the dragons who fight Napoleon.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Run Out And Buy This Immediately

Be the first kid on your block to own Booker T.'s new record "Potato Hole", featuring Neil Young and backed by the ever-lovin' never-better Drive-By Truckers.

Well, you'd be the SECOND kid to own it if you lived on my block. Because I already own it, and am thus cooler than you could ever hope to be. At least for the next few minutes.

I would remind you that it is best if you were to simply follow my directives blindly and unquestioningly. Go buy this album. It's the soundtrack of your summer, you just don't know it yet.

Monday, March 30, 2009

You Know Who Rocks? Vulture Whale, That's Who

I don't go out of my way to promote local music, because 90% of it sucks.

Vulture Whale does not suck.

Their new record is out on Skybucket Records.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bitch, Bitch, Bitch

I guess I bought tickets online and somehow the local concert promoters harvested my email address so now I get the intermittent update on what Big Shows are soon to be in my area. Today's list was a perfect storm of Don't Give A Fuck:

Nickelback
Coldplay
Kenney Chesney
The Allman Brothers
Def Leppard

Wow. If I sat and thought all day long I couldn't have come up with a list of shows that left me more indifferent.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Watch Some Old Punks Tear It The Fuck Up

<a href="http://www.fabchannel.com/buzzcocks_concert/2009-02-06">Live Concert Video - Buzzcocks</a>

I'd point out a particularly good song, but the truth is the whole show is great. Pete Shelley now looks like the typical punter down the pub, but that snotty adenoidal screech is still in place, the rhythm section is still amazing, the songs still make me wanna pogo. Oh punk rock. When did you become nostalgia?

Whatever. The Buzzcocks rock.

UPDATE: The site hosting this video closes down on March 13. Watch it now while you still can.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

In Lieu Of Content: Some Lists!

Because I am deeply lazy and all I've done in recent days is read comic books and allow my girlfriend to prepare me delicious meals, I have nothing of value to blog about. So I'll fake it like the rest of 'em and throw up some completely random and subjective lists of stuff!


Recent Things I Didn't Think I'd Like But Liked Anyway:

Brussel sprouts
There Will Be Blood
David Bowie, Heathen




Recent Things I Knew I Was Gonna Like, But Ended Up Liking Even More Than I Thought I Would:

No Country For Old Men
Iron Man
Agents of Atlas #1
David Byrne & Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

Recent Things I Thought I Would Like But Ended Up Not Liking At All:

The Dark Knight
Brunch at Cafe de Paris
Getting prescription sunglasses

Recent Things I Really, Really Liked:

WALL-E
Incognito
Atomic Robo
We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen
Eating a reuben at The Diplomat Deli
Don Chambers & Goat, Zebulon

Man, this blogging stuff is EASY!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

I Tried To Like It

... but The Darjeeling Limited has to have been one of the worst films I've ever seen. It was so bad it pissed me off. And I LIKE Wes Anderson movies. Really! I even liked The Life Aquatic.

I could list everything that's wrong with the The Darjeeling Limited, but I won't. You don't have all day. Let's just say that just about every directorial decision Anderson made in that film I took issue with. "Let's have them all stand around looking blank for an hour and a half!" "This film needs a moment of drama! Let's randomly kill off a poor brown child!" "See, they drop THEIR FATHER'S BAGGAGE, get it?"

The worst part is that, as a fan of Wes Anderson movies, I was really looking forward to watching this. Take it from me, folks: this movie sucks! Don't waste your time nor clog your Netflix queue. It comes across as contrived, too clever by half, heartless, soulless, manipulative, and empty. And if that's his POINT? Well, that's even worse, then.

Avoid this film.

Monday, January 19, 2009

How Did I Miss This? Awesome Performance!



Bettye LaVette performing The Who's "Love Reign O'er Me" from the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Further Erosion Of The Fourth Amendment

Remember back when police had to have a reason to hassle folks? Yeah, the good old days of the Fourth Amendment, which protected US citizens from unlawful search and seizure. The "exclusionary rule", under which the fruit of the tainted tree would be thrown out of court -- a way of making sure the cops have all their ducks in a row before breaking down your door.

Those days appear to be gone. Well, going, at least. The US Supreme Court has ruled in Herring vs United States that "evidence obtained from an unlawful arrest based on careless record keeping by the police may be used against a criminal defendant."

Great. That's just what we need: an INCENTIVE for carelessness in law enforcement.

And we can't un-ring this bell. Even with a new administration.

Still, January 20 can't get here soon enough.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

WTF, Christian Right?

OK, this is just kinda creepy.

Man, the God-botherers squick me out sometimes.

Monday, January 05, 2009

I Know This Is Making The Rounds, But...

Click this link for Internet satori.

It's especially good for just leaving open as a background tab and then when you get to that right part in whatever song it is you're grooving to, drop in a little DLR. Awesome.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

From An Email Sent Earlier Today

So a friend uploaded the Hüsker Dü record Flip Your Wig for me to snag and now I'm listening to it through cranked headphones. The song "Divide and Conquer" came on and I had on of those involuntary in-chair rock-gasms where something sounds so good and so perfectly essentially irreducibly RIGHT that it made my whole body shake and left a silver snake of adrenaline crackling up and down my spine. And I thought, this album came out in 1985. Almost 24 years ago. When's the last time a new piece of music has grabbed me like that? Or maybe that reaction is only possible with an old record that you've loved and set aside -- it's been YEARS since I've listened to Flip Your Wig. I long ago lost the CD through either pilferage or poor lending practices. I have it on vinyl, but who knows where that is, and me with no record player to boot. It's not even my favorite Hüsker Dü record -- that'd be New Day Rising. But I didn't need to listen to it: I could summon it up any time I wanted. Or maybe I could summon a ghost of a recollection of what I had felt like as I listened to it with new ears. So maybe hearing it blew the cobwebs out of those long-disused channels, amplifying the experience.

And I keep listening. You know, there are some bad songs on that record. And not good bad -- bad bad. Hackneyed melodies one step above a nursery rhyme coupled with trite pity-party lyrics. All awash in shiny, chiming guitar and heroin-soaked drums that lag a half step behind the beat.

But.

Then comes "Keep Hanging On", a song that kept me alive when I wanted to die, and I can excuse all the precious little songs and feel that rope again, not the one around my neck but the one that dangles at the bottom of the well and is strong enough to grip and climb. Sometimes nursery rhymes are all we have. How's that for a pity party?

It gets better. I flip over to amazon.com and there they are. Every fucking Hüsker Dü record you could ask for. I'd never thought to look. iTunes didn't have them, so why would Amazon? They've been in court wrangling for back profits and who owns what for years, right? But there they are: from Metal Circus and New Day Rising to the Eight Miles High/Love Is All Around (Mary Tyler Moore theme) split EP.

I buy them all.

Revisiting New Day Rising is like going back to my childhood home and finding it much smaller than I remembered. What I had thought of as an uncompromising "punk" record, screamy and spiky and loud, seems so much more melodic, somehow innocent now. All that angst, and beneath the bristling skin of Bob Mould's guitar and impassioned yowls beats the heart of a house cat. An angry, spitting, house cat, but a house cat nonetheless. Yet I'm not dismayed. I'm comforted. Even "59 Times the Pain" seems regretful now, not as strident as it seemed to the angry ears who first heard it in 1985. Bob sings, "All I feel is bitter, and it doesn't make it better" and these days that's worth a rueful smile, not white half-moons of fingernails dug into reddened fists. Is that maturity or resignation? Both, perhaps.

I can't separate the music from the memories, you know? It's more than nostalgia, I hope. Maybe not. The music brings back not just memories but memories of memories: a taste of my first serious girlfriend's lips, bitter with beer and cigarettes; the view from my dorm window; the smell of the library, dust and old leather. Central Park in the snow. Standing in Monet's Water Lilies room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art ripped to the tits on acid, feeling submerged in aqueous pastels.

There are surprises. "Powerline" is a really lovely song: a bass line like a bed of smooth stones over which a liquid wash of guitar burbles and chimes. And "Books About UFOs"! What a blast of pure power pop happiness!

Then we hit "Whatcha Drinkin'" and "Plans I Make": it's this perfect hardcore one-two punch. My legs twitch: I know how to dance to this. My body wants to own these songs. The galloping drums struggling to keep up with Bob's chainsaw guitar, Greg Norton's bass set to subsonic stun, the last song's desperate shouted pleading lyrics occluded by the chaos: "Make plans. Make plans. Make plans."

Such good advice, so sorely unheeded. And the last note soaring up into supersonic nothingness. Beautiful.

From there I move on to "Eight Miles High", a cover of the Birds classic, and one of the great cover songs of rock history. Hüsker Dü's manifesto. Melody via screaming. Beauty through feedback. Everything louder than everything else.

But now my ears are getting tired, and it's all beginning to sound over-familiar. Same old stuff. I'm glum: have I really ossified that severely? Am I stuck in 1985? I try not to be.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Drive-By Truckers Get Some Love (Just A Little Bit)

Robert Christgau, writing in Slate, lists Brighter Than Creation's Dark as his number three record of the year, and "The Righteous Path" as his number nine single. I guess that's a bit of cold comfort, as the record was ignored by everyone else making such lists, including Spin, Rolling Stone, and Blender. He goes on to call DBT's latest "the most underrated album of the year". Christgau's been behind this band since the Adam's Housecat days, and it's good to see that he's still out there trying to get them heard. Especially since I, at least, still consider him the dean of American popular music critics.

link-type thang

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Theory Of Birmingham Food

Imagine a compass.

At the cardinal points are, starting at north and proceeding clockwise, Highland's Bar and Grill, Pete's Famous Hot Dogs, The Bright Star, and Milo's. So you have north-south and east-west symmetry between the two major food groups (which are, of course "delicious high-quality fare prepared with pride and precision" and "delicious cheap-ass fare that's probably deadly somehow").

In every other direction?

An untamed ocean of barbecue.

(This theory doesn't account for Nikki's West, and so needs more work...)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Dear Mayor Langford,

I am sure I am not the first to say BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Here's the (101-count) indictment (.pdf). Langford's only accused of 60-some-odd of them, the rest fall on Bill Blount and Al LaPierre.

This was NOT, by the way, a particularly clever or elaborate scheme. It looks like, reading the indictment, Blount and LaPierre were MAILING GIFTS TO LANGFORD'S OFFICE.

Jesus Christ, guys. Haven't y'all watched TV in the past, I dunno, twenty fucking years? There's SO MANY better ways to bribe people.

Besides, you didn't have to give the Mayor a Rolex! You know the man would have settled for some crack and a new stem! That would have been so much cheaper, and it would have kept that money in the community, you know?

More later maybe when I can think rationally. Right now I can't stop chuckling.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Go Watch Some Cartoons

Here's a link to the complete Fleischer/Famous Studios Superman cartoons, made from 1941-1943. Lovely fluid animation, utter xenophobic racism (Japoteurs! Jungle Drums!), Art Deco flourishes, big red trucks with "TNT" painted in huge letters on the side careening off cliffs... what's not to like? (Found via a link on MetaFilter).

Up, up, and away!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Something To Look Forward To In 2009

Lemmy, the Movie.

Predictions For The New Year

Gazing into my crystal ball, I predict:

(Very Likely)

The economic downturn will continue, consumer spending will dry up, the stock market will sink below 6000, and the GOP will blame President Obama.

The courts will overturn California's Proposition 8, noting that "traditional marriage is between one man and one woman" is a relatively recent historical construct and asking haters to take their heads out of their asses and stop dwelling on a mythical past. Society will not collapse into anarchy.

Rosie O'Donnell's new variety show will be awful and will get canceled after less than 10 episodes.

"Heroes" will get canceled at the end of the season, leading to a fan backlash and the show getting picked up by the SciFi Channel, which will then cancel it again because the only reason anyone watches it now is in the hope of seeing some Hayden Panettierre sideboob, and she's too savvy to allow that to happen on basic cable.

The Detroit Lions will take a quarterback in the first round of next year's NFL draft. That quarterback will muddle through three losing seasons, four offensive coordinators, and two head coaches before getting cut. He will go on to be a starter for the 49ers and take them to the playoffs in his first season with the team.

President-Elect Obama's Cabinet members will, as a group, be too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals.

George W. Bush will pardon Scooter Libby on his last day in office. That's actually not a prediction: I guarantee this will happen. Iron-clad, take-it-to-the-bank guarantee.

(Likely)

Sometime in 2009, Jefferson County will go bankrupt. No one will notice.

Sometime in 2010, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford will get convicted of at least one form of financial chicanery involving city funds, non-profits, and "helping the children". He will get a suspended sentence, go on a speaking tour, and start a charity to help the children.

(Long Shots)

Rush Limbaugh will suffer a massive coronary and die while broadcasting. He will be replaced by a talking mule, or perhaps a sentient toaster oven.

Federal drug laws will change to include a provision for medical marijuana, and society will not collapse into anarchy. Sales of brownie mix will skyrocket.

Flying cars! (Because every end-of-the-year prognostication must include flying cars.)

Metallica will break up. No one will notice.

Having a Facebook page will become really, really uncool. Anonymity will be the new black.

A picture of President Obama smoking a cigarette will scandalize the increasingly infantile American electorate.

Saturday Night Live will move to an all-YouTube format, but still will not be funny.

The Atlanta Falcons will put together back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in the history of the franchise.

So, what do y'all predict?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Brief Thoughts On Marvel Comics From An Ancient Fan Returning To The Fold

Fuck DC.

I've nothing against Superman and Batman and Sgt. Rock (OK, I DO have something against Superman, but that's just me, not them, and I've worked through much of it with my therapist, Dr. Luthor). It's just that when I was a kid, DC Comics were white bread in a whole-wheat world. Pale. Filling yet unfulfilling. Lacking depth, lacking complexity, lacking substance.

Marvel heroes were the stuff of my childhood mythos. Spider-Man, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Defenders, the Inhumans, Prince Namor, Thor, Ghost Rider, Moon Knight and even Luke Cage (who I knew as Power Man) and Iron Fist-- these were my comic-book heroes.

Well, it just so happened that about three months ago I happened across the novel Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis. I liked it. It was over-the-top gonzo bile. Right up my alley. Turns out Warren Ellis writes comic books. Who knew, right? (Gimme a break -- I'm an agoraphobic 40-something with a library card, I don't spend a lot of time mulling over trends in the graphic novel industry. I barely know who Neil Gaiman is. I just know that Chris Claremont wrote the good X-men books.).

So I pencilled "Warren Ellis" into my mental notebook and forgot about it.

Then a comic book store opened next to my neighborhood supermarket. And it became too easy to stop in before the weekly shop and... yeah. You comic book people know the rest.

Marvel's Civil War story arc -- wow. And Warren Ellis writing Thunderbolts. Wow wow.

Stepping back into the Marvel Universe was great. All the old familiar faces and places. The Baxter Building! Like what you've done with the place, Dr. Richards! Hiya, Beast! You're certainly looking more feline these days! Oh, there's Hank Pym. What an asshole. Guy can grow to tremendous size, but he'll always be smaller than his inferiority complex.

There were changes, of course. The Sentry? Worst. Superhero. EVAR. Or at least worst-written. I know Marvel heroes are always wrestling with their inner demons, but The Sentry is so paralyzed by indecision that you just want to slap him. And there seem to be some new mutants running around Dr. Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Hulkling? Wiccan? Eh. OK. Whatevs.

But the biggest change I noticed was in the tone of the comics themselves. They seemed... smarter. More knowing. More engaged with the world beyond their covers. Still stuffed with ridiculous amounts of muscle and spandex, still filled with THWACK and BAMF and BOOOOOOM, but somehow more sophisticated than I remember.

Well, actually the BIGGEST change is the price. Comics are no longer cheap! In fact, they're damn expensive.

But I can't help but grin when I go to the comics store and a new comic is in and I know that after I schlep the groceries home I'll have a good half-hour of pure escapist enjoyment...

Plus, that Thor #600 might be worth something someday.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hey Punx Listen Up

The new Dillinger Four record is out, and it's pretty good. In fact it sounds just like an, uh, Dillinger Four record. Having given it a complete if cursory listen, I'd say it's better than Situationist Comedy but not quite as good as Versus God. Which is still high praise, because Versus God is a phenomenally good punk rock record.

But if you like smart, pop-tinged, fast punk rock with shout-along choruses, you'll like C I V I L W A R (caps and spacing their idea, not mine).

*checks band website for tour dates*

They're touring with NOFX?

*sigh*

Oh well, there's no accounting for taste.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hey, Whaddya Know

There's new local music blog called Bham.fm, and so far, it's pretty OK.

Check 'em out.

Maybe we'll see representatives of said blog at the Dexateens show at Zydeco this Saturday.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

In Which I Jettison Everything I've Ever Stood For

Yeah. Blind Guardian is the greatest band in the world.


Look, if you can't appreciate German power metal, then you shouldn't be discussing rock and roll.

*sneaks off to listen to Hammerfall*

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Endorsement

After months of deliberation, I have decided which candidate to endorse for the office of President.

More information about my selection is available here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

In Which I Do Not Write A Blog Post

OK, I've been playing Fable II, and it's fair-to-middling awesome. It's definitely FUN, and that's the primary goal of a game, right? I intend to put together a spectacularly ruminative comparison of Fable II to Fallout 3, but I won't get my grubby little hands on Fallout 3 until Monday at midnight, and then playing the damn thing will take a hundred hours or so, so that post may be some time in the making. I know it's not really fair to compare and contrast a light-hearted fantasy RPG with a gritty, shooty post-apocalyptic RPG, but I'm going to anyway, and damn the consequences.

It seems like there is a fundamental difference in design philosophy between Lionhead and Bethesda, and illuminating that difference sheds light on what games are and how they do what they do... that's vague to the point of irritation, but I can't quite put my finger on what I mean... I'll have much more (MUCH MORE) to say next week after playing Fallout 3.

Suffice to say for the time being that Fable II is a mechanism for linear story-telling (deep but narrow), whereas Oblivion was a mechanism for constructing narrative (shallow but broad).

That's not quite it, either.

Oh well. I'll blather more next week. Now I'm off to defeat Lucien and buy Fairfax Castle for my bride-to-be, Jemma the Whore (she was the only cheerful, good-natured raunchy bisexual I could find in Bloodstone. What?).

Friday, October 17, 2008

Poor John McCain

You sold out everything you believed in to be President, and now you're going to lose. You hired the people who pilloried you in South Carolina, you kissed the rings of the far-right fundy fatcats you'd always loathed, you repudiated every progressive stance you've ever taken to make yourself palatable to the fanatical wing of your party, and you're still going to lose. You chose a running mate based solely on her ability to rile up the mouth-breathers, and she went out and drove the final nails through the heart of your campaign. You're going to lose. It's not even going to be close.

Now you won't be the President, and you won't have the solace of knowing that at least you were true to yourself.

You were an honorable man, Senator McCain. You were the candidate that free-thinking lefties like me used to look at and think, "Eh, he's the best of a bad bunch." What happened?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Investment Advice: Short Sell Heroin Futures

According the BBC, half of the world's heroin supply is missing. There seem to be two main theories as to why this is: either some countries are drastically under-reporting their rate of heroin use (Russia? China?), or someone somewhere has a big fucking warehouse stuffed full of pure heroin.

I propose a third possibility: in the same way that the people in charge of big trading companies seem to be able to magically make billions of dollars disappear, the people in charge of big heroin operations are magically making thousands of kilos of heroin disappear. Stockpiling it all in one place makes no sense -- too much risk, not much upside. But spreading it around makes more sense -- no one would have enough to hedge against the global market, but everyone involved would have enough to insure continuity of supply in case of, say, a major US offensive against opium growers in Afghanistan.

So get your money out of the heroin market now! Invest in safer commodities like LSD and ecstasy -- much lower production and transportation costs, plus much, much easier to stockpile (a suitcase instead of a warehouse, say). And in this new age of tight credit, it's the intangible costs that'll bite you in the ass.

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's About Time

Maybe now we'll see a little accountability in the folks running our state prison system.

This!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Are The Democrats That Timid, Or Simply That Well Bought?

This (like many things) pisses me off: the Democrats are going to roll over and allow the moratorium on offshore drilling to expire next week. WTF, guys? Are y'all truly so craven that the big bad MINORITY PARTY is gonna give you a swirlie that you simply gave in? Or are you just another set of bought-and-paid for tools of Big Oil?

Is there a single person in the United States of America who can both walk and chew gum simultaneously who believes that expanding offshore drilling now will have ANY effect on short-term oil prices? If so, who the fuck are these people? They're either lying or retarded or both.

And this would have been a great moment for a bit of political theater. The Dems could have brandished alternative energy proposals, accused their colleagues across the aisle of stifling American entrepreneurial innovation, alluded to the growth of the technology sector under previous (Democratic) administrations, made hay with both the high-tech sector, the manufacturing sector, and the greens.

But they caved.

What's the thought process there? "We must be seen to be doing SOMETHING, even if it's the wrong thing!"

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not necessarily OPPOSED to more drilling. Fuck ANWR, drill away, I don't care. But don't set in motion a DECADES-LONG process and tell me it's gonna bring back the days of $2.50/gal gasoline.

How many nuclear plants could we bring on line in that same time frame? How much more efficiency could we build into the national power grid in ten years?

The simple fact is drilling for oil brings high-paying blue-collar jobs to eastern coastal states that vote Republican. Make of that what you will. I am, again unsurprisingly, disgusted by the whole thing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Queers RAWK

Joe King might be the only man left in America who understands punk rock.

OK, y'all calm down, I'll wait.

The Queers make PRETTY SONGS and they make them defiantly, and they reference the Beach Boys, and they don't apologize to you, to me, to anyone. They make gritty bubblegum that you'll sing along with whether you want to or not.

I think that's Punk As Fuck. So do they.

They took the Beach Boys and the Ramones and they smashed them together in a confessional, ironic, knowing way.

Joe King's sister's a novelist. At least memoirist. Look it up. The fambly ain't dumb.

Go see this band at the Hi-Note Lounge next Friday. It will make you a beter person, like Jesus and tofu.

O RLY?

Here's a letter making the rounds among some conservative Christians these days. This is what passes for political discourse. If you don't find this almost as chilling as an Osama Bin Laden video, then we are living in different universes:
Dear friends:

Barack Hussein Obama has taken the nation by storm. From obscurity, with zero executive experience, or much of any kind, he has vaulted into the position of Presidential frontrunner. It is stunning. On the surface, it appears attributable only to his eloquent oratory and his race. But an invisible factor may be a strong spiritual force behind him, causing some people to actually swoon in his presence.

I have been very concerned that he has publicly said that he does not believe Jesus is the only way to heaven. This makes both the Bible and Jesus a liar, and it means that Christ has died in vain. A person cannot be a true Christian who believes that there are other ways of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life with God. Only Jesus has paid the price for that.

Therefore, there is, indeed, another spirit involved. And this spirit has come into our national life like a flood. Last week at Obama’s acceptance speech, that spirit exalted itself in front of a Greek temple-like stage, and to a huge audience like in a Roman arena. Omama was portrayed as god-like. His voice thundered as a god’s voice.

At the end, Democratic sympathizer Pastor Joel Hunter gave the benediction and shockingly invited everyone to close the prayer to their own (false) gods. This was surely an abomination, but it was compatible with Obama’s expressed theology, and Hunter’s leftist leanings.

God was not pleased.

And God says, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19).

Enter Governor Sarah Palin. With incredible timing, the very next day, Sarah Palin also appeared out of nowhere. Her shocking selection as John McCain’s running mate stunned the world and suddenly took all the wind out of Obama’s sails.

We quickly learned that Sarah is a born-again, Spirit-filled Christian, attends church, and has been a ministry worker.

Sarah is that standard God has raised up to stop the flood. She has the anointing. You can tell by how the dogs are already viciously attacking her. But they will not be successful. She knows the One she serves and will not be intimidated.

Back in the 1980s, I sensed that Israel’s little-known Benjamin Netanyahu was chosen by God for an important end-time role. I still believe that. I now have that same sense about Sarah Palin.

Today I did some checking and discovered that both her first and last names are biblical words, one in Hebrew the other in Greek:

Sarah. Wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac. In Hebrew, Sarah means “noble woman” (Strong’s 8283).

Palin. In Greek, the word means “renewal.” (Strong’s 3825).

A friend said he believes that Sarah Palin is a Deborah. Of Deborah, Smith’s Bible Dictionary says, “A prophetess who judged Israel…. She was not so much a judge as one gifted with prophetic command…. and by virtue of her inspiration ‘a mother in Israel.’”

Only God knows the future and how she may be used by Him, but may this noble woman serve to bring renewal in the land, and inspiration.

Jim
The author of the letter is Jim Bramlett, a stooge for Pat Robertson, and a purveyor of recordings of angels singing. I shit you not. Well, damn. I'd link to it, but mysteriously all the links to the singing angels have been pulled since I started working on this post. Funny, that. You'd think you'd want folks to hear that beautiful, heavenly music.

So it seems certain segments of the Froth Squad have anointed the divine miss Sarah the best thing since, well, Old Testament justice itself. Or maybe they're scared they'll lose the elction and they're scrabbling for every deluded moron's vote that they can find.

I mean, I couldn't write that bombastically if I'd been huffing paint all day -- and believe me, I've tried.

Monday, September 15, 2008

RIP, David Foster Wallace

David Foster Wallace (DFW) is dead by his own hand.

I'm not his biggest fan. I didn't like everything he wrote. I thought Infinite Jest was way too long and self-indulgent and navel-gazing. I thought much of his writing worked as literature in the same way that a good close-up magician works: it's all a trick, but you're dazzled nonetheless.

I tried to read Everything and More and I was baffled by the math. He made me not just feel dumb, but KNOW dumb: I was the kid with his nose pressed to the window of the bakery, the dog staring at the pointing finger.

He hung himself. I wonder if he left a note. I wonder if that note had footnotes. I wonder how many miles of verbiage his act of desperation will generate. I wonder how many more people will kill themselves now. If that mind, that beautiful machine, that culmination of nature and grace -- if THAT mind can't take it, what are the rest of us supposed to do?

It would be easy to say he aimed too high. That would excuse us all for aiming lower. It would be easy to paint his as a cautionary tale -- hubris, over-intellectualism, the danger of youthful success. That would excuse us all for the failings of our ego. It would be easy to say he was depressed.

It's harder to think that that fine mind looked ahead, sensed the patterns in the weave, and made a rational decision. I don't believe that. I don't want to believe that. I'll wear this body down to a nub before I'll give in. We all tell ourselves that.

Fuck you, DFW. You were a genius. A polymath humanist trying to make sense of it all, or at least to dissect it into such discrete parts that others could admire the assemblage. But*

*this space left deliberately unfinished.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Shunning The Stupid

There's an interesting set of articles up at The Chronicle of Higher Education with the delightfully terse titles "On Stupidity" and "On Stupidity, Part 2". The first is a review of several books which collectively makes the argument that:
Americans, particularly those now entering college, have been rendered "stupid" by a convergence of factors including traditional anti-intellectualism, consumer culture, the entertainment industry, political correctness, religious fundamentalism, and postmodern relativism, just to name [a few].
While this smacks of "round up the usual suspects", the author makes the case in Part 2 that pedagogy has trailed technology, and so a teaching emphasis on using electronic tools effectively and intelligently can offset some of the damage done by young people's absorption in the medium. It would be nice to think so, wouldn't it?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sexy Science Webcams Are Waiting For You!

Watch the beginning of the end of the world as the first beam circulates in the Large Hadron Collider LIVE September 10 (from 9:00 to 18:00 CEST) at CERN's website: clicky

Of course, there will be no danger of spontaneous black hole formation or sudden presence of Combine shock troops because they won't actually start the smashy-smashy until later this year and the facility is not located at Black Mesa. This is just a preliminary lap, a warm-up. Physicists hope that by colliding ever smaller particles with enormous amounts of energy they'll find the Higg's Boson, or top quark, the particle that (we think) imparts mass to other particles and that sounds like the name of someone in a horizontally-striped shirt with a parrot on his shoulder. A secondary goal is to provide employment for physicists everywhere, as well as giving them a sweet place to crash while they're in Switzerland. (See whut I did thar?)

SCIENCE!

Edited 9/09/08 to correct description of Higg's boson.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Support Palin as VP? Read this first

This letter was written by a Wasilla, AK resident who is quite familiar with the woman who would like to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. Thought-provoking for conservatives and liberals alike.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Why I Play Video Games

"When a man cannot get what he wants in one world, he finds it in another." -- Voltaire

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's Like A Dream Come True!

Drive-By Truckers AND The Hold Steady together in concert!

W00t!

Saturday, November 1 at The Tabernacle in Atlanta! Tickets on sale now! I just bought mine!

Art Imitating Life Imitating Art

I been reading the novel Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra, because it's a mix of several of my favorite things: a doorstop of a book; a novel of modern India; a crime thriller; and a cinematic, fast-moving, plot-driven epic.

So it came as a surprise to find that one of the book's characters was just gunned down by police in New Delhi.

Bunty, it turns out, was a real-life criminal of some stature in India. In the novel, a character named Bunty is second-in-command to the head crime boss, Ganesh Gaitonde. In the author's notes at the end of the book, Chandra coyly thanks those people who made the book more realistic but whom he'd prefer not to name. Hmmm.

I'm sure there's tons of subtext here that I'm not picking up on: perhaps every reader with a connection to India knows who Bunty is (was) and using his name in the novel is an in-joke that elicits knowing chuckles from the better-informed.

But seeing news of the death of a novel's character in the actual news was jarring to me. It was like hearing that scientists have captured the creature from the black lagoon or something. I hope Chandra will write about it on his site.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Yo, Wandering Druid: Your Captcha Don't Be Workin' In Safari

This is what I would have posted as a comment on the latest post at The Wandering Druid of Tranquility if his captcha were working:

I never post to Eve blogs. I barely read Eve blogs. I even more rarely undock my freakin' ship and do anything in Eve anymore besides pay for it every month because, hey, $15 is peanuts and some day I might actually play the game beyond logging in and setting skills (oh yeah, once I undock, I should be SO uber).

But I had some down time and had to log in to set a skill anyway so I figured what the hey, I'll run a mission. Jumped in the ol' Caracal and puttered out to do a LEVEL TWO mission that I've done APPROXIMATELY 18 BILLION TIMES BEFORE.

It was touch and go. I had to warp out and rep twice, and the last time the rats were chewing structure before my frantic key-hammering had any effect. I was in a 0.5 system with 30-something people docked. (Yeah, I'm a carebear. Screw you.)

I did the same thing you did -- holy crap, why's my connection so slow? I'm running Eve on a Mac with intermittently wonky cable internet service, so I figured it was on my end. Nope, it wasn't me.

I didn't bother filing a petition. I figure I ended up completing the mission and didn't lose the ship (God forbid -- another Caracal might break the bank /jk). But it reinforced my antipathy toward actually participating in the meat of the game. I can't imagine what the lag is like in fleet combat.

They'll still get my money, because they're the only MMO that's even vaguely interesting. Unfortunately, they're becoming more frustrating than interesting.

I mean, come on. I WASN'T EVEN ENGAGED IN 1-ON-1 PVP, and the lag was vicious. That's unacceptable.

I feel your pain.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hey, Check This Out

All three of my loyal readers (OK, the two loyal ones and YOU, the shifty character in the corner) are hereby encouraged to check out a few new (to me) sites that will help you get your rage on:

Electicker is a site with an astounding amount of aggregated information crammed onto it about the upcoming US Presidential elections and PoliticalFilter is a MetaFilter knock-off (with better design -- sorry, Matt) for posting political links that the membership can then yell about.

Both of them were highlighted on today's Big Big Question, yet another site with MetaFilter connections -- it's run by MeFi moderator cortex.

*extends grasping hand* OK, guys, I pimped your sites -- pay me now!

I Hate The Comments On Al.com

In the Birmingham News today, the lead story concerned a terrible mass killing that happened in north Shelby County. Five men were found with their throats slashed. There were few details reported in the dead-tree edition, so I went to al.com to find out more.

Sure enough, like any good news website, they had more information. The men were all Hispanic, and they had no identification on their corpses. The bodies were taken to the state crime lab in Montgomery. FBI, US Marshalls, ABI were all getting involved to help solve the crime. So far, so good. Then I made the mistake of reading the comments following the updated story.

I've got to leave this state.

Reading those comments is like being smacked in the face with a wet Klan robe. The level of racism, bigotry, and sheer stupid hatred expressed therein was dismaying, to say the least. I won't repeat what was said. You can read them for yourself if you choose.

But if that's the level of intellect (among the people who actually bother to read the paper, don't forget), then this state is doomed and we deserve whatever we get.

I'm dismayed, disgusted, and saddened.

I guess I should have expected it. But DAMN, y'all. We can do better.

Monday, August 18, 2008

This Is A Test Post. It Is Content-Free.

I just signed up for Twitterfeed, and I want to see if the doohickey is properly affixed to the whatchacallit.

There is nothing to read here, please move along.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Heh

Editorial headline in today's Birmingham News: "Troy King wants to end cockfighting".

What's the matter, Troy? Tired of staying up at night greasing your zipper?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Lazy Sportswriter Pun Alert Countdown

Here at Bitter Old Punk Central, we're now monitoring the intartubes for the first reference to the New York Bretts.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: We have a winner.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

It's Almost Football Season!

Congratulations to Birmingham native Andre Tippett for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Also, HOF congratulations to Darrell Green, a real class act, one of my all-time favorite players, and probably still one of the fastest men on the planet.

Yay, football!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Not To Say I Told You So, But...

I started this blog as a reaction to the absurd state-mandated brainwashing I had to go through following a conviction for misdemeanor possession of marijuana. I had to go to twice-weekly piss tests and "counseling", I had to attend AA/NA meetings, I had to do 30 days in jail.

The jail I didn't mind so much. The biscuits and gravy for breakfast every Friday morning were much better than those served at Shoney's. I picked up roadside trash, lost some weight, got a tan. It was the stupid fucking counseling sessions that really got my goat. I was told, over and over, in the solemn terms usually reserved for those speaking from a pulpit, that I was a Marijuana and Alcohol Addict, and I Needed Help to Stop, because Addiction is a Disease.

Prove it, I said. The DSM-V, the manual psychiatrists use to diagnose mental disorders, has removed "alcoholism" as a disease diagnosis. Instead, it lists "alcohol abuse" and "alcohol dependence" as different diagnoses. About marijuana addiction? Eh, not so much. In fact, it specifically states that there have been NO studies showing marijuana to be physiologically habit-forming. This didn't stop the sad-eyed hand-wringing by the counselors, who were convinced I was going to Hell doomed to die an addict.

I bitched, I moaned, I threw hissy fits and tantrums, I raged and railed against the dying of right reason in a pseudo-clinical setting.

My interrogators counselors were not pleased. I was not willing to accept Jeebus, I was not willing to kowtow to pseudoscience, I chose not to play. I followed the letter of the law in order to get through the damn thing without getting additional charges thrown at me or getting more deeply embroiled in the bureaucratic nightmare of drug court, but in our group meetings, I let my feelings be known.

I was in Denial, I was solemnly told. Doomed! Doomed! The ONLY way to solve my Addiction Problem was to Submit to a Higher Power, to go to Meetings, to Follow the Program. To Admit my Powerlessness.

Bullshit, I said. The counselors wrung their clammy hands and regarded me sadly.

Well, whaddya know. Turns out all that claptrap they were selling was just that.

Don't get me wrong -- addiction treatment is the right thing for many people: junkies, tweakers, pill-poppers, wet-brain long-term drunks. But it turns out (SPOILER!) that most people figure this stuff out on their own. Amazing! People shape up when they're sick and tired of being sick and tired! And many of them do it without state-mandated brain-washing!

Of course, the massive treatment industry consisting largely of marginally qualified sanctimonious hand-wringers will roll right over this study, because they want to keep their jobs and they're unqualified to do anything else.

But it's nice to be right once in a while.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go light a spliff, eat a baby, and sell my soul to Satan.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Troy King's Wide Stance

Well, it looks like our notoriously prudish state attorney general may be less of a prude than we had believed. Rumors are swirling that Troy King, he of the sex toy ban and the anti-gay rhetoric, has been booted out of his home after his wife found him canoodling...with another gentleman. This is still merely a rumor, and so for the moment Mr. King is assumed to be as stalwartly hetero as John Wayne and Hitler, but should it turn out to be true, then it's another data point supporting my theory that cognitive dissonance is a necessary precursor to success as a right-wing politician. I mean, this is the guy who wrote this hateful screed to the student newspaper while in law school:
The time has come for the majority to rise from its figurative slumber. The picture on the front page of Monday's issue of The Crimson White looked like the front page of Sodom and Gomorrah News the day before those cities were destroyed. I and a majority of the students were appalled not that these students would pose for this picture, for we have seen that the homosexuals in America will do anything to grab a headline but rather I am furious that this paper would sacrifice its journalistic integrity for a tabloid-esque reporting! It is indeed sad that America has fallen to the point where she will condone any type of deviant, immoral activity in which a group desires to participate. However, perhaps even more compelling evidence of the perversion of America is evidenced not only by the fact that this story was published in the newspaper but rather that it was graphically depicted on the front page.

The existence of the Gay/Lesbian alliance on this campus is an affront to the state of Alabama, its citizenry, this diversity and its students. However, it is also an outrage to compel those students with both moral and religious objections to the activities and ideas espoused by this organization to contribute money, via student fees, to subsidize these activities.

One has but to look at the forces which the controversy has united--from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Organization of Women to the Queer Nation just to name a few--to clearly see how corrupt a cause this truly is.

The argument can often be heard that what goes on in the bedroom is private. However, it is flawed reasoning to attempt to justify the gay movement in America today on this basis, for they have taken sex from the confines of the bedroom into the streets, the evening news, and now even the front page of the newspaper.
Boy, it would suck to be so filled with denial and self-loathing. I imagine Troy King is thinking, "I'm not queer! I just like having sex with men!" If the rumor is true, that is. I have to admit to a frisson of anticipation at watching this sordid story unfold.

Hypocrite, hypocrite, hypocrite.