Wednesday, October 31, 2007

NFL 2007 Week 8: AFC Edition

AFC EAST: Whoop-dee-doo, the New England Sooners won again. I think running up scores and kicking teams when they’re down is pretty disgraceful. The easy answer is to stop them, but that clearly proven easier said than done. Still, Wes Welker’s celebration in the endzone after going up 42-0 in the fourth quarter should not be tolerated by any professional coach, but it’s clear that Belichick encourages the behavior. I find it interesting that they’ve become the villains of football media when, just three weeks ago, they were still the martyred golden boys of the league. I know from pro wrestling that every good storyline needs a villain, though, and the Pats fit the bill perfectly. I really do hope the Colts beat them, and bad but, if I were to lay money down, it would be on the Patriots. The rest of the division is as bad as ever, though the Bills’ recent performances have given the teams hope that maybe they’ll wind up ahead of the NFC West. In the combined 4-19 record, Buffalo accounts for three of these wins. With J.P. Losman back in the game, I’d say that their two game win streak comes to an end against the desperate Bengals. Is Kellen Clemens the answer to the Jets’ long time woes? Let me think about this…no, there is no way that he’s better than Pennington. Even in a decent performance, he gets ousted, but it looks like the Jets have given up after this move. I’m going to guess that Pennington goes to Miami, since they like to make stupid quarterback decisions. With their entire team decimated, though, Miami looked as good as they have all season. They ran the ball relatively well with a lesser back and Cleo Lemon looked better than Tavarius Jackson, and he’s starting, so how much more can a team ask for…except a win, of course, but good luck with that.

AFC NORTH: Steelers were able to come back from their loss at Denver with a win at Cincinnati, but the Pittsburgh offense is not looking as good now as it has in previous weeks. Heinz Ward has come back from his injury in a big way, and is helping Roethisberger and Willie Parker is still running at a high level, but they just aren’t scoring. They may be third in the AFC, but it’s a distant third. Now the Ravens are vying with the Browns for second place, and it still mystifies me. The Ravens are not a great team, 4-3 is about where I’d have them at this point. The defense continues to overcome their offensive shortcomings, but they are going to be competing against Cleveland for second in the division. They still have both their games against Pittsburgh left, but they have to win both to tie for the division record at 3-3. Cleveland has already split in the division, which should be looked at by all Browns’ fans as a successful season and certainly helps in not giving the Cowboys that high draft pick they gave up last draft. Screwing Dallas is always a step in the right direction. There’s not much to say about the Bengals; they just keep losing. They made the wrong call in kicking the field goal but, for whatever reason, their offense just never kicked into gear this season. A group that talented shouldn’t struggle this much to score, but the internal problems must just be too much to bear. They were doing well when all they signed were criminals. Maybe they should return to that strategy.

AFC SOUTH: One thing you have to respect about the Colts’ undefeated record is that they’re playing in the toughest division in football. They may 7-0, but they are backed up by two 5-2 teams and a hugely overachieving 3-5 team, who could very easily be 5-3. I hate rooting for a defending champion, but go Colts this week. The best scenario would be a 0-0 tie, but that’s wishful thinking; I’ll just be happy with an Indy win. The bloom has started coming off the rose in Tennessee, and Vince Young just isn’t performing at a high level right now. Now that the novelty has worn off of his running abilities, defenses aren’t as scared as they were of him, and he’s started forcing more and more, both in his scrambles and his passes, where he’s hitting none of his targets. Yet, they keep winning. LenDale White has done very well, and surprised many with his own abilities, in spite of his perceived weight problem. He’s hard to stop, and deadly at the goal line. When Young is on, and their underrated defense is performing at its best, this is a very tough team that will make a run at the playoffs. Jacksonville’s going to be looking for the very same thing, but I still don’t see how they’re so good. I didn’t see it last year either, so maybe I’m prejudiced against teal. The Texans appear to be falling away. It’s a shame, but the injuries and that old sack problem are rearing their ugly heads. They’re a better team than anyone could have expected; hopefully, the organization will stick with Kubiak for a few years. More former Broncos running teams!! Go former Broncos!

AFC WEST: It doesn’t really surprise me that San Diego has turned it around like they have. They have too much talent not to win (although I say that about the Bengals and they can’t win a thing). Norv Turner still sucks, and forever will. Given how finicky the Chargers’ organization appears to be with their coaching staff, he won’t be stinking up the division for long. How are the Chiefs 4-3? Besides playing in a bad division, it makes no sense. Larry Johnson’s playing well finally, but he’s been the only change for the better. I guess the division is just that bad. A couple of weeks ago, I purposefully didn’t mention them because they were so far off the radar, now they’re tied for the division lead. It makes me sick. Speaking of being made sick, the Broncos looked pretty bad this week. They are thwarted at every attempt to score with somebody besides Elam. There were two plays that changed that game. A guard knocks the ball out of Cutler’s hands on the 2-yard line, and a garbage hold penalty pull as 60-yard run out of Selvin Young’s hands. If either of these drives ended with a field goal. That overtime crap is moot. Everybody can be happy for Brett Favre and his botox wife, but it was probably the most frustrating loss of the year for an already frustrated Bronco fan. And then there’s the Raiders, who are up to their old tricks again; sucking tricks, that is. After Culpepper’s big show a few weeks back, they haven’t won a game. Things don’t get any easier for them, and they’re ditching a good running back, which doesn’t help so, if nothing else, I can at least take solace in the fact that Denver isn’t the worst team in the division. They’re just really close.

The Dangers of Teaching, Part 8: More Double Entendre Action

You'd think I would learn. Sigh.

Today I was talking about a scandal over homosexuals in Portland in 1912. Basically, a lot of middle-class guys were hooking at the YMCA, parks, and other spots we might think of as typical today.

I was discussing why this was such a big scandal and why working-class homosexuality was treating somewhat differently.

Like usual, I was talking off the cuff and mentioned that it was a big deal because they guys were the "cream of society."

The class totally lost it. Naturally, a witty student asked if they were "up and coming."

At least this blog series gives me a place to keep track of all these incidents.

Random Music Observations (III)

With the firestorm over my previous two installments of "Random Music Observations" having died down, it's time to mix it up again. So, without further ado.....

-Despite all the love he gets (especially from my age demographic), I’m going to say it: I hate Dave Matthews. It’s nothing more than vanilla music for a vanilla generation. (And he most DEFINITELY falls into number 4 from this batch of observations).

-Sigur Rós may be Icelandic fuck music, but it’s great Icelandic fuck music.

-Madonna’s music is overrated. The greatest thing (and I have nothing but respect for this) that she ever did was convincing the world that if she just changed her image from album to album, the music must be good and she must be able to sing well and write well. But musically, it’s David Bowie, only without the really interesting parts.

-Sebadoh’s “The Freed Pig” is a really, really great single.

-The worst crowd I ever saw at a rock show was at a Fleetwood Mac show in 1997. While reunion tours are generally shit, the Mac was fucking great (and I’m not a huge fan, but they still had “it”). Unfortunately, the crowd was absurdly drunk, and there’s nothing quite like seeing (or being forced to see) 40-something drunk women who have put on 50 pounds since college still trying to squeeze into their tiny, leather-and-lace/witch-like Stevie Nicks outfits. Ugh.

Historical Image of the Day




Catherine Spalding, Leader of Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky, early 19th Century

She seems scary enough for a Halloween image

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Don't Remind Me

I am watching my Blazers serve as sacrifical lambs to the Spurs in the opening night game. They were updating Greg Oden and his microfracture surgery. They also managed to mention that Darius Miles is about a month away from coming back from the same surgery.

I had almost managed to forget about Miles. Thanks for the reminder.

Historical Image of the Day



Announcement of the creation of the United Mexican American Students, University of Washington, 1969

England's Obnoxiousness on World Cup 2014

For those who don't follow soccer, FIFA has all but announced that the 2014 World Cup will be in Brazil (as FIFA's president said yesterday, "It won't be in Brazil only if Brazil suddenly stops playing soccer"). This is huge news not just because it returns the World Cup to Latin America for the first time since the 1986 Cup. It also finally breaks the (incredibly stupid) tradition of making Europe host every other cup. Up to this point, it's always been "Europe/another of the 5 continents/Europe/a Second of the 5 continents/Europe...". Getting out of this stupid notion that Europe is the center of soccer (consider how many Africans and Latin Americans alone make up the "European" clubs) is wonderful.

However, not all in Europe are taking the news about the 2014 Cup so well. An article in England's Financial Times yesterday said that, by giving the World Cup to Brazil, FIFA was guaranteeing that 2014's cup would be absolute "chaos". It alleged that corruption and the total lack of infrastructure would completely destroy the World Cup. That would be fine, except that it pretty much doesn't know what it's talking about. It says, for example, that not one of the18 cities in Brazil vying to host some games has a stadium ready. Except that, last I checked, Maracanã stadium in Rio alone just went heavy renovations and improvements in 1950, and holds well over 100,000 people. Likewise, Engenhão stadium, built in Rio for the Pan-American games, holds over 50,000 and is brand new. And when I was in Brasília in July, they were already starting major improvements on the stadium there, turning it from a 30,000 to a 90,000 seat, state-of-the-art stadium.

And Brazil just did host the Pan-American games, which are no small feat. Were things a bit harried as the games approached? Yes. But once the federal government stepped in in February of this year, any charges of corruption practically disappeared, everything was done well, and the games went off without a hitch. And while that was basically the efforts of one city/state and the federal government, the World Cup will have all of Brazil involved.

The Times even nearly says as much, yet is convinced that it will be a disaster. There is, simply put, nothing to support this, and I suspect the English involved at the Times are simply angry that they did not even get considered for the World Cup in 2014 (nevermind that England's soccer authorities didn't submit anything to host the 2014 Cup). As I joked to my wife yesterday, this seems more like a case of soccer-envy - after all, England only won one World Cup, and it was in England, so maybe they just fear that, until it returns, it won't happen again. No matter what the reason, this is just absolutely stupid, selfish, idiotic reporting on the Times' part. No country right now is more deserving of hosting the Cup than Brazil, and I'm thrilled they've all but gotten it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

40% of Americans Have Been Born Since 1989?

The "Talk of the Town" section of the latest New Yorker starts out with a bit about people suffering from Clinton-Bush fatigue after nearly twenty years of people of those families in the White House. Hendrik Hertzberg's piece quotes an AP story saying "Forty per cent of Americans have never lived when there a Bush or Clinton in the White House."

Is this true? Perhaps if you count Bush as Reagan's VP. But even then, 40% of Americans are age 27 or younger? I don't know about that.

I suppose I could go do some research on the matter or something, but do I like a damn scholar?

Historical Image of the Day


Medics treating wounded soldiers, Korean War.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Is There A Game On?

I only ask because in the 8th inning of the likely deciding game of the World Series, the terrible Fox announcers are spending the whole time talking about Alex Rodriguez opting out of his contract and what the Yankees will do.

Anyone But Martin Chavez

Duke City Fix provides the evidence as to why the Democrats have to find ANYONE to run for the New Mexico Senate seat other than Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez. This "Democrat," who was endorsed in his reelection campaign by the Bernalillo County Republican Party, took a gratuitous shot at Tom Udall this week, saying:

“Philosophically, he’s so far to the left,” “I’d rather not have him in the race, but that’s a challenge I’d not shy away from.”

Tom Udall is hardly a leftie. He's the kind of solid liberal that real Democrats like. Martin Chavez on the other hand is a Latino Joe Lieberman.

To make things worse, Chavez openly announed last year that he would endorse Pete Domenici if he chose to run for re-election.

Martin Chavez is awful. He is the worst kind of DLC Democrat. Literally, anyone the Democrats can come up with would be better.

And this is yet another reason that Tom Udall needs to run.

Historical Image of the Day




Workers hooking up electric lines to provide TVA generated power to Tennessee Valley residents.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Harvey Keitel as Jerry Springer in an Opera???

WTF?

Fake Breasts in the Green Zone

Neurotic Iraqi Wife has an amusing unhinged rant about western women in the Green Zone. She is in the Green Zone herself with her Iraqi husband. I quote in part:

All I see around me is shallowness. Shallowness, Old age and Double D boobs. Yup I said BOOBS. The plastic fantastic phenomena seems to have migrated to the GZ. Everywhere I look, I see tight tshirts with headlights sticking out (don’t these people freeze?) and Im a woman mind you yet theyre right there in your face. I cant help but stare, how about those pumped up testosterone male species who in some cases haven’t had “natural” pleasure for the past 5 or 6 months? Im sure their fantasies have gone beyond Angelina Jolie. Get them a small lamb, and they will jump its poor bones. A disgusting and disturbing thought, I know. So yeah, I guess the money everyone is making here is being well invested. Self invested that is.

There is someone I know, A US expat who changed her looks completely. Two years ago, she probably was a size 24UK and now she is down to probably a 10UK. YESSSSSSSSSS. I kid you not. She had an operation. A few months back, she went under the knife AGAIN to remove the excess sagginess that her drastic weight loss caused. She got a completely new set of teeth which cost her $50K or so she said. She “enhanced” the look of her boobs. She plumped her lips. She bottoxed her face. And god knows what else. Look at her now, and she is a different human from what she was before. VERY DIFFERENT. I preferred her looks then. I preferred her attitude then. She was far more friendlier, far more genuine. Alot of people who work here and get that insane amount of money just lose it. They go buy insanely expensive cars and houses and after a few months they run out of money, and guess what? I see them working back in the GZ again!

Now I don't really know what to make of it, but it is interesting to hear the perspective of an anonymous Iraqi in the Green Zone about the Westerners there. Now judging by the rest of her blog, she's not kidding when she calls herself neurotic, but that doesn't delegitimize what she's saying here.

USC-Oregon

I have to comment at least briefly on the USC-Oregon game this afternoon. This is one of the biggest games in Oregon history. A win here and they are legitimate national title contenders, especially since the chances of either Boston College or Arizona St. going undefeated seems remote.

Oregon is favored but commentators are split on the game, as they should be. Everyone is talking about how Oregon hasn't faced a defense like USC. True enough. But USC surely has faced no Oregon either. In fact, they haven't faced anyone worth a damn. Mark May last night projected that USC would hold Oregon to under 21 points. USC might win, but holding Oregon down like that is highly unlikely. I think it will be a tight game with both teams putting up a good number of points. But I have to pick Oregon against a team that lost to Stanford and almost lost to Arizona.

Oregon wins 38-27. USC goes on to lose 4 games this season.

UPDATE--Oregon rocks!!! What a great win. With all due respect to Ohio St., it is fairly self-evident at this point that LSU and Oregon are the two best teams in the country with Ohio St. and West Virginia right behind them.

Historical Image of the Day




Andersonville Prison, Georgia

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lyrad's Random 10

At the time, Mudhoney was my favorite band in the grunge world. They were close to making it big, but never got to the level of Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. They were a sloppy band and their albums were sloppily produced, though that was all part of their schtick and they always seemed like the band having the most fun. What Mudhoney really lacked was a charismatic leader. Before the salad days of Seattle music, most of the members of Mudhoney and Pearl Jam were together in Green River, who released a few EPs during their short tenure. Green River was a very, very good band but Mark Arm, the singer for Mudhoney, also fronted them. When that band broke apart, Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard joined Mother Love Bone, with their golden-throated, soft-faced Andrew Wood, who died of a heroin overdose. They then found the golden-throated, soft-faced Eddie Vedder and the rest there is history. Scraggly ol' Mark Arm and the rest became Mudhoney. No End in Sight is the second track off Piece of Cake, the album promoted when the scene broke. Piece of Cake is catchy as hell, every song is dirty pop blues, and it's stayed the test of time pretty well for me. Still Mudhoney's best work is with Jimmie Dale Gilmore on Buckskin Stallion Blues. The EP is excellent, one of the favorites in my collection. Each artist does Gilmore's "Tonight I Think I'm Gonna Go Downtown," each does Mudhoney's "Blinding Sun," then they join forces for Townes Van Zandt's "Buckskin Stallion Blues." It's awesome; I recommend it wholeheartedly.

1. Mudhoney--No End in Sight
2. Max Bruch--Concerto No.1 in g for Violin & Orchestra, Op.26; 1.Allegro moderato (Masuko Usioda, vn; Japan PO, Seigi Ozawa, cond)
3. Bunk Johnson--Franklin Street Blues
4. Sex Pistols--Something Else
5. Max Steiner--Runaway Blues--from the sountrack to Son of Kong (Moscow SO; William T. Stromberg, cond)
6. Jewlia Eisenberg--Gershom Is Shocked
7. Chris Knight--Hello Old Man
8. Blind Willie McTell--Statesboro Blues
9. Ludwig van Beethoven--Variations (33) on a Waltz by Diabella for Piano, Op.120; 29. Adagio ma non troppo (Arthur Schnabel, pn)
10. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart--Concerto in D for Piano & Orchestra, K.175; 1.Allegro (Sviatoslav Richter, pn; Japan Shinsie SO; Rudolf Barshai, cond)

Horror Films and Kids

This article gives a very good explanation of the horror genre's merit and how it isn't just fodder for sadists to get their kicks. The writer's experiment to see whether he could get his son to feel the tension and fear in old horror films without the benefit of modern special effects or bloodshed was done with a mind to not scarring the child and enriching his film watching experience. In the end, he was correct. Good horror works much more psychologically than visually. Much like Stephen Spielberg inserting sick and/or dead children into his films to force a direct emotional response, those who make horror films that use gore as a crutch with nothing else to hold it up are cheap hacks, the movies they make worth little consideration. At this point, that kind of horror may be the norm, but there are exceptions even in this current climate of so-called "torture porn." Horror has had its gore-fests for forty years (arguably the first, the Herschel Gordon Lewis & David Friedman exploitation gem Blood Feast, was released in 1963) but horror has been around as long as film. The same methods that worked in 1920 are in use today, even if the circumstances and levels of sex and violence have changed with the times.

There is no doubt that horror works its magic best on children, and the writer has likely made a life-long horror fan out of his child, for better or for worse. The responses that different people have toward horror, which he accurately describes, are reactions developed from an early age. Particular types of horror can effect people differently based on the individual's life experiences. This kid was shown a series of atmospherically-driven horror and specifically not films like Halloween, no matter how good it is, to keep from harming him. Two of my earliest film memories are of The Shining and The Exorcist, and I'd have to guess that I was duly scarred by both of them. Both still hold a lot of power over me, though not near as much as they used to (I now have a lot of issues with The Exorcist, though The Shining's quality has held up well). It is the memory of the effect these movies had on me, now deeply seeded in my psyche, that has always had me coming back for more.

Never have I come out of a horror movie, though, and espoused its greatness based on gore. Never have I said, "That was awesome, it was so violent!" The genres aren't mutually exclusive, but I don't know a lot of honest horror fans who are also fans of Rambo, and those of its ilk. This is because good horror hangs its hat on other things than mere blood and guts. Horror is the only genre that uses real primal instincts and the fear of death, as devices. Comedy is not instinctual, what is funny is taught and learned through circumstances and develops into each individual's sense of humor. We are taught who our political enemies are, there is nothing instinctual in hating the Soviets, so how well can movie like Red Dawn come across now, scary as it may have seemed in 1984. The nuances of a masterful character study is brilliant, but only from the perspective of experience and understanding of the crafts; nothing about it holds instinctual truth. The instinct of survival is paramount in horror, and viewers of any age or maturity level can relate to a character fighting for his or her life. Gore doesn't make horror, fear does. The fear that this kid felt after watching The Lodger (which I have not seen) was built not by shocks and gore, but by atmosphere and psychology. It is these elements, not squirting blood, that will hook him on horror and give him the kind of thrill that no other type of film can deliver.

Comic Blogging

Frequent commenter Bob has turned me on to Dinosaur Comics. Good stuff.

Meanwhile, Joe Mathlete again demonstrates why his discussions of Marmaduke are about 1 million times funnier than the actual thing.

Comics may be a dead art form in the newspapers, but it still has potential on the internet.

Michael Chertoff Sucks

Two days ago, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that he was ignoring all sorts of environmental laws to build a border fence across Arizona's San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.


To make this more absurd, Chertoff actually invokes environmentalism to bolster his point, claiming that immigrants are damaging the environment through their garbage.


Look, I was on the Arizona-Sonora border this summer. I was on multiple ranches immediately on both sides. I saw the trails immigrants use. Is there trash? Sure and it sucks. Is this trash a major environmental problem? I don't know that I would go that far. It does make riparian areas kind of unpleasant. Sometimes they contaminate water through human waste. Is it an equally environmentally damaging as the wall? Uh, no.

No one on the border even wants the damn wall. It exists to make Republicans in the heartland who have never been close to the border feel secure that this will remain a white nation. Even Republicans on the border oppose it. Not only will it do nothing to stop immigration, but it prevents wildlife from travelling along its natural habitats. The US-Mexico border serves as the northern limit of many species habitat, including the jaguar. With environmental protections in Mexico limited, the US land may be necessary for maintaining populations for these species.

Homeland Security has the right to do anything to the environment to do their business. Among the laws HS is ignoring are the Endangered Species Act, the Toxic Waste Disposal Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

And for what? To make white people in Nebraska and Alabama feel better about themselves.


Via Glenn Hurowitz at Grist. Hurowitz has been writing other interesting posts about environmentalism and the border as well.

Erik's Random 10

Normally, I talk about the first artist. But the Blue Ridge Highballers are not a band I know much about. There's just a song by them on the Charlie Poole box set. This is an interesting box set though. Not only do they compile some of Poole's best tracks, but they also show how other bands copied his work and how he copied other bands' work. Usually, I don't much care for this style. For instance, some of those old blues box sets, I think the Robert Johnson set is like this, compiles all the songs in order. This makes for dreadful listening. The archival approach to music isn't fun. But because there are different artists working on these songs, it is a pretty interesting listen.

Also, the Blue Ridge Highballers is a really cool band name.

1. Blue Ridge Highballers, Going Down to Lynchburg Town/Don't Let Your Deal Go Down
2. Peter Rowan, Raglan Road (Dawning of the Day)
3. Eliza Carthy, Breathe
4. Bongwater, Truth
5. David Allen Coe, The Ride
6. June Carter, Sourwood Mountain
7. Jimmy Martin, Sweet Little Maggie
8. Bob Wills, Stay a Little Longer
9. Chris Hillman, I Know I Need You
10. Kris Kristofferson, Shipwrecked in the Eighties

Historical Image of the Day


Hippies.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

John Edwards and Hunting

John Edwards has made the curious decision to release a Hunting and Fishing Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. It's curious because I'm not sure what he's trying to gain out of such a move, but the ideas are pretty good.

Edwards builds on the long tradition of hunters as environmentalists for this. Conservation was a hunting-propelled movement during its early years. The reasons for this have some disturbing racial and gendered components, but the long term effects of this movement has protected both land and wildlife populations. In recent years, despite the efforts of some hunters, the hunting movement has supported the Republicans fairly overwhelmingly, including damaging environmental legislation.

Nonetheless, Edwards lists such key points as:

Provide more paths into the wilderness
Form partnerships to provide local input on public access issues
Protect the Tradition of Responsible Gun Ownership
Clean up America's lakes, streams and oceans
Protect America from invasive species
Help private landowners with conservation
Involve sportspeople in wildlife management

All of these ideas are good. He claims a politically sound position on guns while painting himself as the kind of smart environmentalist I can support.

Right now, Edwards is my candidate (though Dodd is increasingly appealing). Policies like this only help cement my support.

Via Left in the West

Run Tom Run

We should all support this effort to get Tom Udall to run for the Senate in New Mexico.

I'm having a really hard time understanding Udall. I know he has a powerful position on the House Appropriations Committee. But you have so much more power with even a junior Senate seat. Plus, couldn't he negotiate with his party for some good committee assignments.

It's also almost a sure win. He is polling about 16 points ahead of both Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce. Meanwhile, Martin Chavez polls even with them and would make a great ally of Joe Lieberman. To top it off, Udall's district is safely Democratic.

The same here goes for Peter DeFazio in Oregon. At least DeFazio has the excuse of running against an incumbent. Udall has a relative cakewalk into the Senate. For the good of his state, his party, and his nation, Tom Udall needs to run for the Senate.

Just Let the Man Go

Philadelphia police captured fugitive Maximo Jurado, 28 years after escaping from prison on a drug charge.

I'm sorry, but arresting a 75 year old guy for a prison escape in 1979 on what seems to have been a non-violent drug charge seems really stupid. He must have stayed out of trouble for all those years since he never got caught. He's old and clearly non-violent. Must he really spend his last days in prison?

Going to prison for 4-10 years is pretty unjust for a non-violent crime. If it was murder or rape, I'd say throw him back in prison. But for this? Totally wrong.

Negativland's Greatest "Hits?"

Do you like copright infringement? I know I do. Negativland has been working around grey areas of these laws for over twenty years, both aurally and visually, and now they're releasing (on their own, of course) a compilation DVD with a companion CD called "Our Favorite Things." What they make isn't exactly accessible, but they are intelligent, the satire is biting, and they have a sense of humor about themselves and what they do. The second website has some footage included on the DVD. I especially like the Julie Andrews bit, though maybe it's just that I like hearing her sing about girls with blue whiskers tied up with noodles. Who knows, really....

The DVD should be excellent but I'm really excited to hear the CD, which is a cover album by the Detroit a cappella group The 180-Gs. Given that Negativland's recordings are cut-ups, turning these recordings back into a cohesive whole could serve as either a sort of collage in reverse or second generation copyright infringement, I'm not sure which. But this kind of question is Negativland's bread and butter, and I'm pretty excited to see it come out.

Historical Image of the Day



Emilio Aguinaldo

Rio's Governor Sérgio Cabral on Abortion; PSOL Again Reveals Its False Sense of "Equality"

In today's Globo, there's an article in which Sérgio Cabral comes out in favor of the right to abortion in Brazil. Cabral rightfully points to studies that go back to the 1970s that show the undeniable links between birth rates, poverty, and violence, saying that, while he may not approve personally of abortion, he fully believes that not only should it be a woman's right, but that it would help combat the problems of poverty and violence in Rio specifically and Brazil more generally. He goes beyond what many politicians in Brazli (which is generally still extremely conservative on the abortion issue) are willing to say, proclaiming that the option of choosing an abortion is a woman's right, and as such, there should be public facilities that offer such services.

I can't agree more with Cabral on this. Until abortion is legal in Brazil, the growing inequality, poverty in urban areas, and the violence in those same areas will never decrease. This isn't a matter of "kill the poor and things will get better", an argument some "progressives" here claim it is (funny how they don't raise the same point when police invade favelas and kill dozens of people, traficantes or not). Until women have every means available to them for family planning (state-subsidized birth control is just a small step), the situation won't get better. I highly applaud Cabral for his open stance - Brazil needs to confront this issue, and fast.

Unfortunately, it won't thanks to people like Chico Alencar, one of Rio's representatives in the Câmara dos Deputados in Brazil and a member of the PSOL. He came out and called Cabral's remarks "nazi-fascistic". Taking that "progressive" stance of saying that such comments are just efforts to kill the poor, Alencar refuses to acknowledge the facts that, until all options are available to women (not just efforts to educate them about birth control, which many Catholic authorities here resist and undermine anyways), the problems will not improve. Alencar (and others) can harp all they want about how this is inequal and an example of "elitist" efforts to kill off the poor, but doing so ignores another very central aspect of society, not just in Brazil, but in other countries - making abortion illegal just makes it difficult for the poor to get an abortion. It is common knowledge here that the middle-class and elites have access to private doctors who can, will, and do perform abortions on unwanted pregnancies for them. So this isn't a matter of inequality on Cabral's part - it's a matter of inequality on Alencar's part, for to deny the poor the right to an abortion that many middle-class and elite women already have is just more stubborn insistence to ignore the real problems.

What is worse, Alencar is another example of the PSOL's false concern with equality. I have only grown angrier and angrier with PSOL since last year's presidential debates, when candidate (and PSOL leader) Heloisa Helena campaigned on a platform of social equality, yet was vehemently anti-abortion, effectively rendering any claims of a desire for "equality" useless (after all, what good is social "equality" if you're not even willing to defend women's equal right in decisions concerning pregnancy?). Alencar is further demonstration of how deep this complete failure to consider equality in all its forms (not just social or class, but gender, too) runs in the PSOL. It's one thing to hide behind his "progressive" concern for the poor to mask his anti-abortion stance; calling it "Nazi-fascist" just reveals how irrational, tragically cartoonish, and false the PSOL's (and many others') concerns for equailty are in Brazil. For all the good that a Cabral does by making such statements, you will have at least 10 Alencar's coming out against it with smoke-and-mirror arguments and baseless (and untrue) labeling. As great as it is that Cabral said this today, Brazil still has a very long way to go on this issue.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

NFL 2007 Week 7: NFC Edition

NFC EAST: It didn’t take the Cowboys long to lick their wounds after the Patriots loss, and they came back strong against the Vikings. The defense kept Minnesota’s offense, what there is of it, off the field and the offense was able to withstand the tough Vikings defense. They started slowly, as they have tended toward this season, but got into rhythm by the end. After their bye, they have three straight division games and, by the end of it, the divisional picture should be clear. Right now, Dallas is the overwhelming favorite, but they’ve been known to fall like a rodeo cowboy off Bodacious. The only other team in reasonable contention with the right now is the Giants, whose “resurgence” is a magic show. Their defense looks great; Osi Umenyiora looks unstoppable, but look what teams they’ve played during this five game win streak. Washington and Philadelphia are in a competitive division that’s always tough, but Washington is really bad and the Philly contest was one of the worst bowling shoes of a game as I’ve seen in a long time. The Eagles’ wretched play had little to do with New York. Otherwise, it’s the Jets (1-6), the Falcons (1-6) and the 49ers (2-4). Pretty impressive, and this week they get the 0-7 Dolphins. Watch their overrating soar even further. The Eagles loss was a surprise and put a nice cap on what was otherwise another poor and inconsistent performance from both of these teams. There is no excuse for allowing Chicago to stay in that game, but they kept getting close enough for field goals and Philly couldn’t capitalize on anything. The Redskins, well, they still suck. After such a huge game from Chris Cooley two weeks ago, they limit his receptions to one and leave it to Clinton Portis and his 18 carries for 43 yards to carry them. They won…barely…but they looked very bad and are not getting better. It’s time to cut bait on Clinton Portis, he’ll never be what he was in Denver and it’s time to get somebody young in there if they insist on staying with a passer like Jason Campbell.

NFC NORTH: Because Green Bay was on bye this week, they didn’t get the opportunity to add to their loss total. They are going to fall apart pretty badly after this week, which is going to cause Favre to come back for another season. How long will the Packers allow their organization to fall apart over the vanity of one man? Favre has looked foolish against the Broncos in the past, and will this coming week again when he enters Denver on Monday in front of Tony Kornheiser and everybody. It’s hard for me to believe that the Lions are 4-2 now, but I guess their wins haven’t come against anybody decent and the division is so bad that they look better than they are (much like the Giants). I question what has changed in Detroit, though, to put them at least one level above a joke. Calvin Johnson is good, but can’t be changing the team that much. Kitna’s weekly spiritual journey through football only makes them look silly. Maybe whoever was paying Matt Millen to sabotage the team stopped sending in the checks. This seems the most likely scenario. The Eagles should be ashamed of themselves for allowing Chicago back in the pantry. The disappointment that is Cedric Benson and the second-rate play of Brian Griese (better than the fourth-rate play of “Train” Rex Grossman though, I guess) should eliminate them from all competition but, like last year’s magical season, they squeak through any way they can. Some would call that fighting spirit. I call it dumb luck. The Vikings really need to rethink who they have at offensive coordinator. Tavarius Jackson is terrible, completing only six passes the entire game. He can run, sure, but if that’s all he can do, they might as well run the wishbone (which I honestly hope somebody pulls out someday). Everything they’ve done on offense has come at the hands of Adrian Peterson who, even in a bad loss to the Cowboys, looked excellent at times. Why is he only running fifteen times a game? They may be afraid of injuries, but he’s hamstrung anyway by not being able to develop a rhythm. If they don’t trade Chester Taylor after this year while he still has a little trade value, they’re crazy.

NFC SOUTH: I would be so happy if Carolina upset the Colts this week, though it won’t happen. If the Colts had the rush defense of last year, DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams would run all over them, but they have a far superior squad this year, at least in that respect. David Carr and Vinnie Testeverde are not the two quarterbacks you want against an undefeated Indy team, but that’s what they’ve got. Barring a complete breakdown or a plane crash on their way to Carolina, I don’t see much hope for them here. Jeff Garcia may not have thrown an interception yet this season, but his fumbling issues killed their team this week. The Bucs defense allowed them only one touchdown in the red zone, but that was enough to take the win. Garcia led the down the field multiple times, throwing 45 times along the way (they have absolutely no rushing attack), but also sabotaged them at key moments. It’s cute that the Saints have now won two games in a row, but last week’s game wasn’t exactly pretty. Brees seems to be stepping back into his normal self, while Bush sucks as bad as ever. They have a lot of problems that need to be overcome, but they’re starting to look like the average team they looked like before the season. The Falcons should be happy with themselves. They may not be able to win a game, or even look like a professional football team, but at least now they can say they have an identity: the worst in the division. I know they were coveting the Saints’ position, but now they don’t have to worry, it’s all theirs. Honestly, I think I would pick the Dolphins or the Rams over the Falcons in a game, though they actually have a win. With the end of the Leftwich experiment, though, at least they can be certain who their quarterback is.

NFC WEST: I can no longer say that the NFC West is the worst division in the league this year. Don’t get me wrong, they’re a really bad group, but the AFC East really takes the cake, with the Patriots obnoxious dominance accentuating their rivals’ atrocities. After the debacle against New Orleans last week, Seattle rebounded with a vengeance against St. Louis, slapping them around like they were playing an old Seahawks team. It wasn’t like they even had a great game. 289 total yards and 4/14 on third down are not exactly things to write home about, but their entire team was able to put together 33 points, a fairly impressive number for a failing team. Arizona made a great try at coming back against Washington, but fell short, which is something they’ve gotten used to. They got everything they could out of Kurt Warner and Tim Rattay, how much can they really ask from one washed-up quarterback and another washout. Without the injury problems, they could conceivably be in first place going into their bye this week, but now they’re just nursing their injuries and hoping for a stroke of luck. Fortunately for both of these teams, luck comes partially in the form of the rest of their division. I didn’t thing San Francisco was going to be the powerhouse everyone predicted, but I sure didn’t expect a complete breakdown. At least Alex Smith is back, or is that actually a good thing? I guess nothing can hurt any more at this point. In St. Louis, Stephen Jackson will finally return, but there doesn’t seem to be much that can save their season at this point. If they win out, they’ll be on the verge of the playoffs, but fat chance of that. There no telling if Jackson can overcome his struggles at the beginning of the year, but at least coming off the injury gives him a fresh chance to try. It’s inconceivable that the Rams’ offense could only muster six points against the Seahawks’ defense, but they played just that badly. I see their losing ways starting to ebb in the coming weeks with a lot of games against marginal opponents, but they’re going to need a miracle to get over the problems with their piecemeal offensive line. Maybe they should call John Kitna to see if he has any special prayers for this occasion.

That's Hardcore

This story mentions Mohammed Abbou, a Tunisian human rights activist.

This man once sewed his own mouth shut while in prison to protest censorship.

Whoa!!!

Smart Waste Management

Not surprisingly, Seattle is leading the way in recycling efforts. They now recycle 44% of their trash, compared to 30% nationwide and aim for 72% by 2025.

This is the kind of leadership the whole nation needs. There is no reason to not recycle most of our trash. The technology is there to deal with it. Yet, recycling around the nation has stagnated. Despite climate change and despite four decades of a strong environment movement, a lot of Americans simply could not care less about the environment. I know that it my house, which is split up into 4 units, we were provided with 4 recycling containers. I am the only one who has touched one.

Historical Image of the Day



Jesuits preaching to Native Americans, 1600s

Sentence in Dorothy Stang's Murder upheld

I've written about Stang before. She was the former American nun who fought for the poor to have access to land in Brazil and who was murdered last year. Yesterday, in a re-trial, a judge upheld her murderer's sentence of 27 years:

In a retrial, a judge in Belém sentenced Rayfran das Neves Sales to 27
years in prison for the shooting death of Dorothy Stang, an American nun and
rain forest defender, handing down the same punishment as in the first trial, in
2005. (NY Times)

There's nothing particularly alarming in this retrial - they are mandatory in Brazil for all sentences that are 20 years or more (maximum sentence in Brazil being 30 years). Still, it's good to see the judge uphold Moura's sentencing. Moura's defense that he shot her out of "fear and rage" is not a legitimate defense of murder, and it's good to see the judge not bow into whatever local political pressures may have existed (and there may not have been many by this point - I just don't know).

I Can't Suspend Disbelief Quite This Much

This new Steve Carell movie, "Dan in Real Life" looks pretty lame. Whatever, so do lots of movies.

But in this movie Carell hooks up with Juliette Binoche.

I'm sorry, but I can't go there. It's not that Carell is that unattractive or anything. But Steve Carell is Steve Carell and Juliette Binoche is Juliette Binoche. There is no way in hell I can accept any situation where the two of them get together. I have enough trouble imagining them in the same film.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I'm Not That Desperate...At Least Not Yet

Like most young academics, I am desperate for a tenure track job.

So how does that position at the American University in Iraq look?

Ask me in a year.

NFL 2007 Week 7: AFC Edition

AFC EAST: It’s official: the Patriots are changing their name to the New England Sooners. Running up the score against Miami in the first half is one thing but, after the game was already in the bag and they put Matt Cassel in, who promptly threw an interception, they put Tom Brady back in to run the score up even more. In this utter rout, backups threw three total passes and there’s no reason for this. Somebody can say that “they’re just running their offense,” but I’ve heard that before and it sounds like Barry Switzer talk. Boomer Patriots. In the end, it just makes me feel bad for Miami. Not only were they the victims of a curb stomping at the hands of New England, they also lost Ronnie Brown for the season. He was all they had, and now they’re left with Cleo Lemon. I suppose that it would be fitting for a Dolphins team to go 0-16 to balance out the undefeated season, but I’d still like to see them punch New England in the face on their second meeting. Buffalo’s matchup against the Ravens was one ugly contest. The two teams were a combined 8 out of 28 on third down, wretched. Marshawn Lynch is still looking good and Lee Evans finally started playing which allowed the Bills to score on the Ravens, whose inept offense couldn’t catch up to a three-legged dog chasing its tail. Chad Pennington had a totally reasonable game in the Jets’ loss to the Bengals, but will likely be benched anyway. I’ve never been much for Pennington, but I also know that a team’s failures are rarely attributable to one person and blaming the QB for the Jets is wrong. Kellen Clemens won’t be lighting up the scoreboard any time soon and the fickle Jets fans will be booing him soon enough.

AFC NORTH: The Steelers have only given up 76 points this season, but nearly half of those points came in their loss against the Broncos last week. They didn’t play that bad, and came back at the end to tie it up for a little while, but Denver shut down Willie Parker and forced Roethisberger to throw, which is deadly against the Broncos. Two interceptions and a few mistakes cost them the game and, possibly, their status as the third best team in the AFC, given how much they were uniformly expected to win. The Ravens remain in 2nd place because they couldn’t beat the lowly Bills. As usual, the defense did its best to win, but their inept offense can’t pull the team out of any kind of bind. Hopefully, the organization realizes how poor the offense is and quits thinking that quarterbacks like Kyle Boller are starting material. They also need new receivers and an offensive line, but Willis McGahee is pretty good, so they have one thing to build on. The Browns’ bye last week gave them one extra week where people still think they’re decent. Once they lose to the winless Rams, people will start having a little more perspective on this team. The return of Stephen Jackson will mark the beginning of the end for Cleveland. Cincinnati finally broke their four game skid against a fairly pathetic Jets team. I wouldn’t expect them to continue this success against the Steelers next week, but they looked like a cohesive team again. Unfortunately, for as talented a team as they are, one man is taking the blame for their lack of cohesiveness. Chad Johnson is a great receiver, but has no bearing on one of the most porous defenses I’ve seen in a long time. Way to go Eighty-Five, way to stop the defense from performing with your selfishness.

AFC SOUTH: The NFL’s toughest division hasn’t gotten any easier for anybody. The Colts are clearly the best in the division, and proved it with their drubbing of Jacksonville, but the rest is completely up for grabs. They are undefeated, but won’t stay that way for long. The division rivals are too solid for them not to rise up. There’s no doubt who will win the division, but any of these teams could be an easy wild card. Jacksonville faltered just about as much as they possibly could last night. The loss of David Garrard seems a devastating loss (I can’t believe I’m writing that) for an offense that can’t get a running game going. Quinn Gray, who is apparently in his fourth year though I’d never heard of him, really doesn’t have what it takes to lead a team. Reportedly, the Jags are on the lookout for a veteran quarterback, but I’m having a hard time coming up with a possible candidate. Jake Plummer, maybe? Houston and Tennessee played an excellent game of football, even though both teams showed a lot of weakness. I love when kicking records are broken; it’s the only time kickers get lauded for their play. Eight field goals in one game is ridiculous and is really telling of Houston’s defense. Had Vince Young been in the game, it would have been a different story, but the Titans’ defense really showed some huge holes when they allowed the Texans to nearly break a record of their own: the biggest fourth quarter comeback in history. They were close, but Rob Bironas was just too solid on Sunday to miss.

AFC WEST: The Broncos won! It’s cause for celebration. They even beat a good team, though they had to do it by Jason Elam’s leg again. Every win this season has been decided this way, but a win is a win. Really, they played their best football of the season. They shored up their run defense, kept the penalties and mistakes to a minimum and didn’t allow a million yards on special teams so, sure enough, they won. They certainly didn’t look perfect, but if they can look this good every week, they still have a chance to turn it around. The Chiefs and the Raiders sure played a suckfest of a game. Larry Johnson has finally started playing, and Dwayne Bowe continues to surprise, but Damon Huard and their line is still terrible. It looks like the magic has worn off Duante Culpepper. The Raiders would love to bench him, but at least they’re being smart enough to not throw Jamarcus Russell in to early. Unfortunately, Josh McCown is not ready to return and Andrew Walters is a nobody, so their hands are tied for now. Is there anybody who has dropped from the penthouse to the outhouse so quickly as Culpepper? Three years after being the next big quarterback, he may not be able to get a job next year, through no fault except injury. The Chargers seem to be the team of old, but they are going up against a Texans team that has proven that they can score quickly, even if it’s with Sage Rosenfels. This will not be a cakewalk for them, and I predict they will, once again, have a losing record. GO BRONCOS!!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Cleveland Collapses.....Again

I'm pretty much too despondent to write very much write now, even though I saw this coming (my wife kept saying, "I think they're going to win tonight", but I said since Saturday night, "Boston's got this thing wrapped up" - I really loved and appreciated her optimism, but as a lifelong Cleveland fan, I knew better). Overall, as time passes, I'll be happy with this season, considering everything that actually went wrong for Cleveland:

-two of our five startes on the opening day roster didn't make it the season (Cliff Lee & Jeremy Sowers)

-despite the flops this year of Jesse Barfield, Andy Marte, David Dellucci and Trot Nixon, callups Asdrubal Cabrera, Franklin Gutierrez, Rafael Perez, Jensen Lewis, and Aaron Laffey were unbelievably important in the second half of the season, and even Luis Rivas looked REALLY good in his few at-bats as a September callup.

-pitching was great, between our top 3 starters (even Paul Byrd got 15 wins), and the bullpen, while an adventure with Borowski, looks good with who we have for the future, especially Betancourt.

-the Tribe won 96 games despite Hafner and Sizemore having what is for them a terrible year in production.

But for the love of all that's good in the world.......if you'd told me we'd make it to the ALCS just two have our two top starters, Travis Hafner, Rafael Perez, Victor Martinez, Betancourt (last night), and several other players not show up for the series, stinking up the joint in ways previously inconceivable to the foolishly-hopeful Cleveland fans (like Charlie Brown with the football, somehow believing that this time was for real), and the fans who don't need any more suffering (thanks guys, but we already have the Drive, the Fumble, the Shot, Jose Mesa, and the NBA finals this year, not to mention the Buckeyes with Florida) something else (the 3-1 year, with "The Case of the Missing Aces"), well, I would have honestly passed. I bear no personal ill will to my Boston fans, but as a collective, they can go to hell (along with all the other cities that have won something in my lifetime - I'm looking in your direction, Philadelphia) - you have the Pats, you had the Celtics in the 80s, and you have this. Again. Meanwhile, it's been 60 years now (and counting) for the tribe, 53 for the Browns, 40+ for the Cavs, and no end in sight......

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bring Neil Young's "Time Fades Away" to Disc

Now, this is a petition I can get behind. It's an online petition trying to get Young's classic 1973 live album Time Fades Away. Up to now, it's only been available in bootleg form. I happen to have a bootleg, and it's some of the best live stuff Young ever did. Touring in the wake of both Harvest and Danny Whitten's death (the death that, together with Bruce Berry's, spawned the immortal Tonight's the Night and On the Beach). Allegedly, fans who paid for the shows at the time were expecting to hear "Heart of Gold" and "A Man Needs a Maid". Instead, they got loud, rocking songs like the title track, "The Bridge", and "Last Dance". Additionally, the death of Whitten (who overdosed after the band fired him rehearsing for the tour, allegedly with the money Young gave him personally to clean himself up paying for the heroin that would kill Whitten) gives an emotional force not like that in any other Young album - yes, Tonight's the Night has the depressing abandon of the event, and On the Beach has the cold isolation and fear of the outside world, but they were still in the studio. Time Fades Away has Young & company dumping it all out on the stage to very confused crowds.

Young has his detractors who say his stuff is too spotty and that you just gotta let Neil do what Neil does (I'm not one of those detractors, but I do agree that not all of his stuff is not for everybody). However, Time Fades Away is, simply one the best and most important live albums that nobody's heard, and the importance of its release is astronomical, so it can reach a broad generation of casual Young fans and music-lovers alike. So please, take the 30 seconds it takes (with no spam e-mails to follow), and sign this petition.

Burma Supporters

There are many reasons why it is so difficult to exert pressure on the Myanmar government. China and Russia protecting them in the UN is a major reasons. Their resources in an increasingly resource-scarce world give them tremendously leverage. The knowledge that the world is ultimately going to do nothing, no matter what they do to their people, is quite the ace in the hole.

But Than Shwe and his military government also have significant powerful support among U.S. allies. For instance, former Japanese ambassador to Myanmar, Yoichi Yamaguchi, has come out in favor of crushing the democracy movement. Yamaguchi makes all sorts of ridiculous claims, such that economic growth has led the nation's people to trust the government, never mind that economic issues are at the core of the recent uprising and the government has nothing to build trust, unless trust can be built from the end of a baton.

But the larger issue is that such dissenting voices undermine what little moral sway the rest of the world does have over Burma. Somehow, it seems fitting that Dick Cheney or some other high-ranking Republicans would have a stake in supporting the Burmese government. They seem like a Republican's kind of regime.

A Last Word on the Yankee Defeat

Alex Massie at The New Republic is overthinking the effects George W. Bush had on the New York Yankees defeat. He compares the Yankees ways to those of the Republicans, showing all kinds of useful parallels between their respective evils. The direct link between Steinbrenner and Bush is particularly interesting.

But in reality, the reasons the Yankees have not won a World Series during the Bush Administration is that God has simply decided that a Bush Administration and a Yankees World Series champion would be too much evil in the world. The apocalypse is not ready to happen, not for another 12 months anyway.

Historical Image of the Day



Elijah Muhammad

Mister Trend's Random 10

Like Lyrad with the Pixies, there's little I can say about Pavement that hasn't already said, and I also came to them rather late. I only first heard of them via the t-shirts that were abundant among the "altnerative" crowd at my school (I was one of the quiet, strange-but-studious kids who viewed high school as time served for getting to do something as cool as college in the future), but none of my few close friends personally listened to them, so they were just another one of the bands I'd heard of but never heard (up there with the Jesus Lizard and Helmet). For reasons I don't even remember, in my late college years I finally got around to checking them out (it was probably when Malkmus was starting his solo career, which I didn't find that interesting, so I decided to see what he had been like beforehand). Suffice to say, when I heard "Slanted and Enchanted", I was floored, and couldn't believe I'd spent about 7 years never listening to it. I checked out the rest of Pavement's stuff too, and while it's all good, I gotta say that "Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain" (which this week's seventh song is from) is my favorite. Of all the bands that were huge in the 90s, Pavement somewhat strikes me similar to the Breeders, in that they were lumped in with "grunge" when they had virtually nothing to do with it (part of the unfortunate "alternative = grunge" phase of the early 90s). Anyhow, I may have missed out on Pavement the first time around, but their first two albums are as good together as the first two albums of any band out there.

1. "I Got Stripes" - Johnny Cash
2. "Cut You Loose" - T-Model Ford
3. "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" - Ma Rainey
4. "Where Can I Change My Clothes" - Bukka White
5. "Nothing Man" - Bruce Springsteen
6. "It's Nobody's Fault But Mine" - Blind Willie Johnson
7. "Cut Your Hair" - Pavement
8. "Le Rendez-Vous" - Manu Chao
9. "Yusef's Mood" - Yusef Lateef
10. "Chove Chuve" - Jorge Ben

Another Human Rights Trial in Argentina

In the wake of the von Wernick guilty sentence last week, Argentina has begun its trial against Héctor Febres, a former military officer charged with the kidnapping and torture of four people during the "Dirty War". In the wake of the Wernick trial, and even the U.S.'s deportation of Ernesto Guillermo Barreiro, another participant in the Dirty War, in April, this is ntohing but good news. Obviously, when twenty-four years have passed since the end of a state that killed as many as almost 30,000 of its own people in a 7-year period, you will not be able to charge and convict everybody involved, simply because many of the participants have died without seeing justice (and even former president Jorge Videla only remains under house arrest after his life-sentence was pardoned by Carlos Menem, a pardon that has since been struck down but led to little in the way of justice). Still, the fact that Argentina continues to go after those who were involved sets an important standard, letting militaries in Argentina (and perhaps elsewhere in the world) know that impunity is no longer a guarantee for human rights violators, be it low-ranking officers or former presidents.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

RIP--Deborah Kerr

Scottish-born stage and screen actress Deborah Kerr died today at 86 years old. While her name may not hold the weight it once did, she was a fantastic actress who had a presence and a skill that holds up better than many from her time. Her performance of Anna in The King and I is definitely her most famous role, and she is very good, but my favorites are as Sister Clodagh in Black Narcissus and as Hanna in John Huston's great Night of the Iguana. She was nominated for six Oscars over the years, but never won, though was given an honorary award in 1994, twenty five years after leaving the industry. The prim demeanor of her characters masked a smouldering fire underneath, shown in her famous beach scene with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity was extremely hot for the time. For as big a star as she was for two decades, it's too bad how unrecognized she is today. At least now TCM will make her star of the month and expose people to a good number of her films.

NFL 2007 Week 6: NFC Edition

NFC EAST: While no longer undefeated, the Cowboys are still the best team in the conference. New England badly exploited their defense, showing flaws in their armor that other teams will take advantage of, but their offense performed better than most have showed that, if the offense can be neutralized, the defense is vulnerable. What really killed Dallas in the end were penalties, though. There were a number of first downs stolen by mistakes, and all of this could be corrected. What it comes down to is that teams are going to have to play perfect football to contend with New England, and Dallas made just enough mistakes to beat themselves. The Giants are nipping at Dallas’ heels, though. After horrible showings in their first two games, they have steadily come on and now contend very closely for second in the conference. I’ve never been an Eli Manning supporter, but he’s done a very good job managing what seems, at least on the surface, to be a pretty lackluster offense. They’re making it work, but their schedule doesn’t hurt. They get San Francisco this week and should have no trouble taking the game. If Dallas fails, which we all hope they do, they’ll tie the division up. The inconsistent Eagles barely beat Jets, and this is really showing the character of this Philadelphia team. Outside of one outing, they’ve done only just enough to win if their opponent fails to show up but, if they do, the Eagles can’t take the heat. It seems more and more likely that McNabb will not be with the organization come ’08. It was a very good game, but the Redskins couldn’t pull the victory out from the Packers. Jason Campbell is really coming into his own, showing himself as both a passing threat and a scrambler. Chris Cooley, in spite of his blatant anti-Asian name, is definitely the best player that nobody’s heard of. He made tough catches, ran hard and blocked well, and has been getting better every time out.

NFC NORTH: The Packers defense saved Favre on Sunday or, more specifically, Charles Woodson saved Favre on Sunday. He turned what was otherwise a very poor game for the Packers and turned it into a win. 1 of 3 in the Red Zone? 56 yards rushing? These are not the statistics of a 5-1 team and, indeed, they have no business in the position. If the rest of the division wasn’t so bad, I’d say they were in trouble, but they’ll make their way to the playoffs by the sheer bad play of their division opponents. The Vikings played well and, I think, are coming around. They really aren’t going anywhere with Tavarius Jackson, who looked about as poor coming back as he did before the injury. Adrian Peterson, on the other hand, is looking like the second coming of Eric Dickerson so far. Nothing has been able to stop him except for Brad Childress, who still insists on running Chester Taylor more than Peterson. Any concern about injury has to be addressed when Peterson gets injured because, right now, they need to think about winning games. With over 600 yards so far this season (playing half time), he is the winning edge that Taylor is not. Devin Hester added another return touchdown to his record and the Bears added another loss to theirs. The Bears actually played really well and it became a true shootout in a points-ridden fourth quarter. It was a good game where the defending NFC champs just couldn’t pull it out against a mediocre team. The Lions get Calvin Johnson back this week, which should spur on an already high-powered offense that had better be on point. The Buccaneers’ defense has come on very strong and will be a good test for their Jesus fueled opponents. It won’t take a lot of prayer to overcome Tampa’s offense, though.

NFC SOUTH: While it’s impressive that Jeff Garcia hasn’t thrown an interception, the mere five touchdowns isn’t so much. The Bucs can’t score and, if their defense can’t defy heaven above, they will be handing the Lions another win. With the entrance of washout Michael Bennett, that side of the ball isn’t looking up. The defense is keeping them in the game, though, and I predict that they’ll take Detroit, based on the Lions’ general crappiness. Vinnie and the Pants? It doesn’t have the same ring to it as Vinnie and the Jets, nor does it reflect Elton John so well, but it’ll have to do. At his age, to even be able to read the playbook is impressive, let alone win an NFL game. Good for him, and good for the AARP, although I think he might lose some of his benefits for being back in the game. I can’t imagine that he’ll continue to see the same kind of success, but he’s a funny novelty for a team that will quickly be on the decline. I can’t believe that Joey Harrington has been benched for Byron Leftwich. Leftwich has proven absolutely nothing in his career, and Harrington has played some of the best football of his own in these last few weeks. Last week, the Falcons lost because of crucial dropped passes, something Harrington has no control over. He throws a better pass than Leftwich and I can’t imagine that the receivers will have an easier time now. They are a failure, and their confusion about what to do with their team without Vick is ridiculous and amateurish. The organization should be ashamed. Hey! The Saints won! How special. Actually, Brees finally looked like his old self, but this isn’t saying a lot given how the Seahawks are playing right now. Reggie Bush actually had a decent game and it’ll be funny to see if the media starts crowning Bush again, despite the talk of his “disappointment.” No, media, you’re right, Reggie Bush sucks.

NFC WEST: It’s hard to say if this western division is worse than its AFC counterpart, but it’s pretty close either way. The Seahawks are on a serious decline. Alexander is playing poorly, Hasselbeck isn’t where he’s been in recent years and the receivers are as ineffectual as ever. They lost to the winless Saints last Sunday, can they manage to do it again against the Rams? Their fate is in their own hands. When Arizona is looking like the class of the West, you know you have problems. A lot of it is in their schedule but, much like Carolina, their quarterback rotation is screwed up and any strides they’ve made will be negated. Tim Rattay and Matt Hasselbeck’s loser brother Tim is not what anybody would call a star tandem. Edgerrin James is nearing the end of his career and won’t be able to carry the load. Arizona is finished. Speaking of finished, there isn’t a team playing worse football right now that San Francisco. They are horrible in every aspect of the word. The Giants will slaughter them and their three game losing streak will extend to four. The Rams actually has a chance against Seattle this week but, without Steven Jackson, they are incredibly hamstrung. If Bulger ever comes on and they don’t force all the load onto Brian Leonard, who isn’t very good, they’ll be able to score. The Rams will be my big upset pick of the week. They’re primed for the win.

Torre Gone

So Joe Torre isn't coming back. While many people saw this coming, I doubt they saw how it would come - with Torre turning down a performance-based contract. Quite honestly, I don't blame him. Given how he spoke when it became public that Steinbrenner didn't think he'd bring him back if the Yanks won the ALDS, it was pretty clear how hurt he was by that whole mess.

Even with a lifelong hatred of Yankees (the consolation when I was being raised on Indians baseball in the 80s was that, even though the Indians sucked, so did the Yankees, so it was alright), I could never quite even build up anger towards Torre. He was always a class act, and he always dealt with Steinbrenner's clownery far more gracefully than any human being should be expected to deal (I also love the rumor, probably true, that Steinbrenner was resentful of the fame Torre got, feeling the Boss deserved at least some of Torre's attention).

Several of my friends and I have been dying for him to get fired the past several seasons, but not out of any ill will towards Torre - quite the opposite. We were (and some still are) very strongly of the opinion that, in many ways, Torre's presence helped the Yankees win more games than maybe they should have. I have no problem in saying that he probably got the Yankees farther than they belonged a lot of the times in the last several years, given that they weren't so much a team as a bunch of guys on a team. Torre was getting heat when they started poorly this year, and although it killed me to see them come back from .500 at the All-Star break, a not-insignificant part of that probably rests on Torre's coaching. He certainly wasn't the greatest manager ever, and some of his mistakes were very poor decisions indeed, but given the player-situations he has had to deal with the past few years (Steinbrenner's collection of 1st basemen/DHs that overloaded both positions, the relatively vacant bullpen), I'm not even sure all of his mistakes were his fault. In other words, I'm not sure he inordinately made more mistakes than most other managers, and I suspect he made fewer than a lot of managers, past and present.

It will be interesting to see how things go next year, whoever is in the seat. Regardless of who does (or doesn't) come back next year in terms of players, I suspect the Yankees may drop some (and I really really dream they will drop some) - I think Torre's presence is really going to be missed now that he's finally gone. Time will tell, certainly, but this will be.....interesting....

More on the Brazil-U.S. Cotton Case

A couple months ago, I wrote up Brazil's complaint before the WTO about U.S. cotton subsidies. This week, the WTO decided in favor of Brazil, ruling that the U.S. subsidies indeed did have negative effects on cotton production in Brazil and West Africa, and that the subsidies violated trade agreements. While the U.S. hopes to appeal, I, like Randy, hope this is the end. The policy is stupid and damaging, and, as Randy points out, makes the U.S. an even greater hypocrite in the international community for insisting that "free trade" is the only viable economic path in the world while relying on subsidies that limit the long-term planning and investment, essential parts of free trade systems of economics. We simply can't push free trade on Latin America (and elsewhere) while trying to exempt our own farmers from such policies. Again, hopefully this will end now, but it's certainly good to see Brazil and Africa win on this one.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NFL 2007 Week 6: AFC Edition

AFC EAST: My wishes did not come true, but it’s bittersweet. While I’m disappointed that the Patriots had to win, I am happy that the Cowboys lost. The Pats’ offense is clearly a superior system, and Belichick and company do a really good job adjusting to defenses in a way that is unmatched anywhere else in the league. That they already have a 3 ½ game lead on second place in the division is completely ridiculous. I think there’s just barely over a 0% chance that they’ll go undefeated, but it’s going to have to be a stroke of luck or a complete New England meltdown for it to happen. Hell, it could even happen on Sunday, against the 0-6 and seriously desperate Miami Dolphins who appear to have given away their season. Trading Chris Chambers to San Diego will allow Ted Ginn some much-needed experience, but is a move that shows little faith in their present squad. Granted, San Diego gave Miami more than Chambers was worth, and a second round pick is potentially very lucrative for the Dolphins, so it might wind up working out for them, just not this year. It gives Cleo Lemon, who did really well last week, even less to work with and the revolving QB in Miami will likely continue. Up north, a healthy J.P. Losman has lost his starting job to Stanford’s finest for at least the next few weeks until they realize that neither player is worth very much. Chad Pennington’s job looks again to be in jeopardy; that big 109 yards passing isn’t making him any friends. Kellen Clemens isn’t turning anything around though, so I don’t know why they’d bother to bench him this season. They have the chance to beat a really down and out Bengals team on Sunday. If they lose, and if Pennington doesn’t light it up, we may be seeing our last looks at Pennington with Jets.

AFC NORTH: The 4-1 Steelers are coming off their bye healthy, happy and ready to smack the Broncos around in Denver. With Heinz Ward and Troy Polamalu back, both sides of the ball are strengthened and, unless Denver has taken care of the run defense issues, Willie Parker will have a monster game. The Ravens’ record makes them look a lot better than they are, based almost entirely on their schedule. This week, they get the Trent Edwards “led” Bills, which should take them to 5-2, but they played such a bad game against St. Louis last week (and still won by 19 points, though the Rams are a whole different level of bad) that Buffalo, if they are able to put points on the board, could easily win beat them. There’s no reason the Bengals should be in the state they’re in and, even if they are ruining their playoff chances, I think they’re going to start turning their game around this week. At home against the Jets is the perfect place to start, Rudi Johnson’s back and, in two weeks, Chris Henry should return to the team. With all this in place, they should finish strong, even if all that means is a low draft pick. How is it that the Browns are 3-3? In no conceivable way are they a .500 team, but with the arrival of Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards as stars and the extremely unlikely event of decent play from Derek Anderson, there are probably a lot of people who would rank Cleveland above Denver and Cincinnati, which is unconscionable to be. I can’t imagine that this will last for the final ten games but, going into their bye, the collapse will have to wait at least another week.

AFC SOUTH: The Colts are not the team they were last year, but they are still an excellent team that is coming off their bye week a whole lot healthier. They’ve still been able to win pretty convincingly through their injuries, though their opponents haven’t been the best, but a healthy Colts team will be that much more powerful. They could easily be the next team to fall this week though; Jacksonville has proven to be the same kind of tough, unsung team they were last year. Their punishing defense and the quality (if unspectacular) play from David Garrard have overshadowed the lack of rushing attack. They put on a big show last week, making this game a good story. I’ll predict that they’ll lose, but will also expose some holes in the Colts’ game that future teams will be able to use to beat them. The Titans without Vince Young is not a pretty picture. There appears to be a good chance that he is sitting this week, giving the great Kerry Quitter (how this guy still has a job is beyond me) the start he’s been waiting for, the start that’s going to show everyone he is a big tough player, not the quitter that everyone knows he is. Too bad for poor Kerry, he’s going to go down big time to the Texans, whose much-improved defense will massacre a team that is decidedly below average without their star QB. The Jaguars clawed the Texans’ faces off last week, but I think Houston will be looking for revenge in the name of the Titans. Even if they don’t win and they begin to slide back to their old ways again, it’s easy to say that this is already the best season in the franchise’s history, so they can always hang onto that.

AFC WEST: I’m thrilled…just thrilled that the Chargers got Chris Chambers. That’s so great for them, wow, good for them. Unlike the team that traded Chambers to them, the Chargers are not giving up on this season, unfortunately. They’re going to continue to struggle, since Norv Turner still sucks, but with the addition of a threatening wide receiver, they look more like a playoff caliber team. It’s the best thing that could have happened to the division…totally. The last two weeks, they’ve really come on against the Broncos, and then the Raiders last week. The Raiders, like Denver before them, were down from moment one and San Diego’s rushing attack was too powerful at that point to overcome. The Raiders will really need to improve their own running game if they’re to have a shot at all in the division. 53 yards off 23 carries does not cut it and, though Culpepper seems to be returning to normal, at least a little, nobody will take them seriously until they do. It’s disappointing that Larry Johnson is starting to come on this year. Like Tomlinson, I was hoping for historically bad performances, but my joy was short lived. They got very lucky to beat a badly underachieving Bengals team. This week will be gutcheck time for both the Chiefs and the Raiders, both of whom need this win badly. The winner will be taken somewhat seriously as second-tier behind San Diego; the loser will be in the lowly ranks of teams like the Broncos. Hey, at least Denver didn’t lose last week. Nothing is definitely better than a loss. If there’s any team that needs a win right now, it’s the Broncos. They have a tall order in the Steelers, though, who are looking as good or better than they looked in their Super Bowl year. Denver really needs to find a way to neutralize Willie Parker or it’s going to be a sad, sad day at a mile high.

Costa Rica and Debt Forgiveness

In an unprecedented gesture, the U.S. government has forgiven Costa Rica's $26 million debt. Even more stunning is the reason the debt was forgiven: environment. Because Costa Rica met conditions the U.S. imposed in areas like drug enforcement (I also wonder if last week's approval of CAFTA may have been a part of this, given that, last week, it barely passed after the U.S. had vaguely threatened to not renew trade agreements and other agreements set in place if CAFTA failed , and the timing does seem a little convenient in that regard).

This debt forgiveness is nothing but good news. That it is the largest debt the U.S. has forgiven is nice, but the real importance here is on the environmental initiative. Costa Rica has already been working hard at protecting its environment, setting up a broad protection system since the early 1990s (these efforts have included setting aside and protecting national parks, refusal to rely on more hydroelectric power that would flood forest areas, and preservation for private ecotourism enterprises). Obviously, Costa Rica stands to gain greatly from this, for they are re-diverting that 26 million to protection efforts in places like Tortuga on the Caribbean coast and the Osa and Nicoya penninsulas on the Pacific (I have traveled to the latter, and while there are areas of protection, Nicoya in particular is desparately in need of these efforts - it was the only time I saw slash-and-burn farming in Costa Rica when I lived there). I can only hope that there are many more agreements like this in the future.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Film Review--Darjeeling Limited

Wes Anderson’s films are all essentially the same. I have no problem with this, but there has been a fair amount of criticism laid on him for that fact; they say that he has no range. Darjeeling Limited will change nobody’s minds about Anderson but, for the kind of film he makes, this new offering is as pretty and as pleasant as any. This story of sibling bonding begins with eldest brother Francis Whitman (Owen Wilson) who, after nearly dying in an accident, brings his two brothers Peter and Jack (Adrian Brody and Jason Schwartzman, who also co-wrote with Anderson) to India to reconnect with each other and their individual spirituality. Each brother has his quirks and each has something to hide from the others, including the real nature of the trip, regardless of the close quarters of the Darjeeling Limited, the cross-India railway that begins their adventure.

The plot meanders from here and it becomes a road movie, like most, more concerned with the reactions and growth of the characters than the actual places they visit. As this in itself, Darjeeling Limited is fantastic. Wilson, Brody and Schwartzman are very convincing, each at once loving his siblings but unspeakably frustrated by them. They are all good actors, with Brody doing an especially good job as the middle brother, both in age and in confidence. I hadn’t seen him in a comedy and, as I generally am with his performances, I was very impressed. Wilson and Schwartzman are veterans of working with Anderson and they keep the tone consistent with his other work. Angelica Houston has a brief role as the trio’s mother and is as ineffectual and effective in the role as she was in The Royal Tenenbaums. As one of only two female roles in the film, though, the addition feels a little bit token, though not so much as Amara Karan, who plays Rita, a pretty train stewardess who Schwartzman screws in the bathroom, which is about as far as her character goes. As token as the character may seem, though, she is central to the movement of the story but has no relevance to it once that part is done. It’s too bad; she’s a charming actress who does very well with what she is given. It is just her first film, though, so she may get more meaty roles in the future.

The overall tone of the film from a certain perspective, unfortunately in addition to the above issue, comes off like some kind of Paul Bowles style colonialism. Three rich white guys travel to poor brown India to reclaim some false sense of spirituality that they wish actually existed, when they actually just exploit the locals. That it was filmed on location adds an air of realism to both the exploitation and the film itself. However, much like a lot of Bowles stories for me, the beauty of the craft outweighs what I find to be a reprehensible philosophy. It’s put together with meticulous care; from the drapery and wallpaper to the clothing and luggage everything is placed for a particular purpose. The music is presented the same way. Electing, as always, to work with a pop music compilation soundtrack rather than a composed score, Anderson is able to control the emotion using tricks that viewers, and especially his hipster fans, can associate with through they music they listen to. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the style of song that he uses, but it’s an effective method that works well in the films. While all this control can make his films seem sometimes overbearing and heavy-handed, it also puts a stamp on them that makes the films easily recognizable as Wes Anderson’s alone and this, in our brand conscious world, is extremely important in setting him apart from the pack. Like him or not, he makes what he wants and what he makes is completely unique. It’s hard not to respect a filmmaker for this.

Spinach

Not the bane of my existence.

Grading

The bane of my existence.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Peanuts, Charles Schulz, and Women

I haven't been a Peanuts (the comic strip) fan since I was about 7. However, Charles McGrath's book review of David Michaelis' biography of Charles Schulz is fascinating. Apparently (I at least never knew this), Schulz was moody, often depressed, and seemed like less than a cheerful person a majority of the time, and I never realized that the male characters of Peanuts were bits and pieces of Schulz himself, while the female characters were based on women in his life. To wit:

"Peanuts” was almost transparently autobiographical. There really was anunattainable Little Red-Haired Girl. Her name was Donna Mae Johnson, and shejilted Schulz in July 1950; he nursed the rejection, along with all the other slights he suffered from wished-for girlfriends, for the rest of his life.Charlie Brown, wishy-washy, disillusioned, but also secretly ambitious, was theartist himself, of course; and so were Linus, the oddball; Schroeder, meticulousand gifted; and, above all, Snoopy, with his daydreams, his fantasies, his senseof being undervalued and misunderstood. Violet, with her mean streak; and Lucy,bossy, impatient and sarcastic, were all the controlling, withholding women inSchulz’s life, especially his mother and his first wife, Joyce."

That's certainly a less-than-charming perspective on women, and given Peanuts' readership, it must have been at least somewhat influential, , as have many other comics that I'd never considered as anything more than virtually-never-funny (think Margaret in "Dennis the Menace" or even Suzie from the beloved "Calvin and Hobbes", though she was a far more complex version of the "girl who studies hard and hates fun" model. Plus, Calvin and Hobbes was great).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Historical Image of the Day



Populist cartoon, Houston Daily Post, 1896

Why I Generally Hate Travel Writing

This review of São Paulo is an example of everything wrong with travel sections: cultural imperialism, the "the world is my playground and I can't be inconvenienced with things like poverty", the "I'm here to see how the rich live" narrative, the "the third world is dirty and ugly" meta-narrative, "other class-cultures are crass to me" (the complaint about graffiti, which, from having seen it personally, is quite well done and artistic), the complete ignoring of social and economic problems while simultaneously trying to find the best "values" possible...it has it all. I don't love São Paulo, but this article is just as offensive, ridiculous, ignorant, and neo-colonialist as they come.