Thursday, November 26, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
KXT is public music radio, affiliated with NPR and venerable KERA. It's billed as local, alternative, something completely different from the formula radio rampant on the FM dial in town.
If you have not checked it out yet, you ought to. Lots of local bands (a scene I am just beginning to immerse myself in), which means lots of alt-country, roots rock, Americana, whatever you want to call it. You'll hear some more recognizable stuff as well, but you'll likely get a snoot-full of King Bucks and Old 97s. Which is a good thing, by the way.
In the day of the iPod and Pandora Radio, when XM and Sirius have to join forces to barely survive, you have to ask why we need another terrestrial station at all, much less one aimed at a niche audience (at best) in a town of herd-followers.
I don't know if KXT is going to make it or not. I will tell you I have turned into a P-2 (still a Ticket P-1), and like what I hear. It doesn't sound like anything else on the dial, not even close.
I haven't been this excited about a radio station since the halcyon days of WBCN in Boston!
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
God, what a long strange trip it has been. I have been trudging the road of compulsion, desperation, and redemption for months now. I have reached, if not the end of the road, at least a decent place to stop and smell the flowers.
Thanks to my Dreamy brother, we have picked up some new readers here at little CIT. I guess Bonedome is a bigger draw than we thought. Nice surprise. AH, if it's paying off, you owe CIT a couple of beers. Since the guy who actually earned them is two time zones away, you can pay me next time I venture into the underbelly.
We've picked up at least one other new reader to whom I am very grateful for their patronage. Stand up and take a bow, RJD. Perhaps some of the group will get to know you soon.
So, it's been weird around here for some time. Let the weirdness begone! We've got all kinds of stuff to rail about in these virtual pages now:
- The Cowboys - dead one minute, heroes the next. Not buying it quite yet.
- That little git Ahmadinejad - still crazy after all these years.
- Israel is almost, sort of, nearly willing to slow down settlement building.
- Afghan women set themselves on fire rather than stay in shite marriages? No kidding? Where have you been for like the past 30 years? This isn't news. It's horrible, but it ain't new.
- The War of Terror continues wherever it can. Peshawar, Kabul, Ellis County.
So many hot topics, so little time.
I hope I'm back. I want to be back. I have new motivation to be back. As long as I can avoid an aneurysm and/or a malice-wielding perjurer, I intend to be back.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
“You should be glad that words were the worst things
I ever put in your mouth”
-Better by Bonedome on Thinktankubator
Steeped in the dark reality of dysfunctional and co-dependent relationships – celebrating and reveling in the more painful aspects of love, the giving of oneself to another and the violence therein – Allan Hayslip, long time Dallas, Texas sideman in bands such as Vibrolux, Sixty-Six, Prince Jellyfish, and currently performing in Rock Star Karaoke, pushes himself to the fore with his band Bonedome and their newly released album, Thinktankubator, which Hayslip describes as a “collection of relationship songs clothed in quirky, sad, introspective, and self-deprecating timbers.”
The album opens with the song Sandman, a muddied rocker thick with overdubbed harmonies, Julian Cope overtures, and a sneer, in which Hayslip openly declares his inability to keep any sort of resolve in his decisions in the face of another’s desire. This abdication of power, according to many a paisley sweater wearing prescription writing psychiatrist today, leads to feelings of inferiority and, more to the point in this case, anger, resentment, and mistrust of others. It is in this pot that most of Thinktankubator stews.
The nakedness of these songs is almost brutal at times. This may be a result of the fact that Hayslip has lived through some real heartache in his life and has, through true introspection, been able to channel this destruction into an act of creation – or it may be a by-product of the fact that most of the basic tracking for the album was done in an non air conditioned control room in the heat of the Dallas summer, allowing Hayslip to engineer naked, a fact he seems to take great glee in revealing.
The song I Can Lose You takes the idea of abandonment further and moves it into an interesting discussion about the nature of friendship and the sacrifices of that relationship, with Hayslip playing the convenient martyr in this complex song heavily indebted to David Bowie’s Space Oddity and Ashes to Ashes.
The other exception is my favorite song on the album, Fade Away, a stumpy, thuddy collision between Buddy Holly and AC/DC. Here, Hayslip turns on its head the classic poet pick-up line: “Baby, if you let me lick on you awhile, I’ll write a poem about it and make you immortal.” Fade Away seems to celebrate the transience of existence and notoriety -- that he and his lover are “just two drops in the sea” who will eventually just fade from history. “And it’s okay,” according to Hayslip. While seemingly celebratory of this sort of carpe diem, the song’s ending refrain of “I’m gonna tell you” returns the listener to the ominous tone of the rest of the album, adding another layer of complexity to the message of the song.
While the album does misfire a couple of times, most notably on Slow Jesus Xing and the cringing choral drudgery of Custody Lullaby, the great majority of it is filled with tight, well-orchestrated songs that highlight Hayslip’s song writing ability and his Peter Murphy ispired vocals. The album bodes well for Hayslip’s continued emergence as a front man and it is certainly worth a listen, especially if you’re driving away from your lover’s home for the last time ever, gripping the steering wheel white-knuckled tight, all gacked up on anger and betrayal, and looking for something to say.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Our formerly-red-shoed Rangers have done the near-impossible this season. They have kept us entertained past the start of the regular NFL season. This has never, to my thinking, happened before.
So much to be excited about regarding this team! Young pitchers who throw hard as hell, and who seem to know how to pitch as well. Young position players who can play their positions, hit reasonably well, run the bases (some blazingly fast). A nice mix of veterans to provide some wisdom.
And, at the head of it all, the Old-Skool Brother, Ron Washington.
Can it be? It's late Sept and I really should be back in school. Er, no. Not what I meant. It's late Sept and and we are still waxing rhapsodic about the Texas Rangers? We are. This has been the most entertaining baseball season I have experienced since the Red Sox of 1986.
Thank you, Nolan Ryan, Jon Daniels, and the rest. If Big Dumb Tom can sell the team to someone with some dough, next year may be even better.
University of Texas football
I've got the same feeling I had at the start of the season in 2005. Remember, I didn't start to get totally on board until after the Ohio State game that year. This year's schedule holds no similar out-of-conference test, so it will be Oct 17th's annual showdown with Oklahoma before I start to mention the "C" word (not THAT "C" word, you pervert) around here. But the cards seem to be falling into the right places, don't they?
By the way, did you see McCoy complete that pass to Shipley aboard a boat going 45 mph on the telecast this past weekend? Whoever thought that little stunt up needs to be keelhauled. Have you ever tried to stand in a small boat at speed? It ain't easy, and I thought it would not have taken much to knock Shipley right over the side. Maybe he was strapped in or something, but, man, I cringed!
At any rate, this season is off to a good start. That's all I'm saying right now.
Um, oh dear. Uh-oh? Maybe? I dunno.
I missed the opener against Tampa Bay, but it seems like it was a good one. However, I think we're seeing Tampa Bay is one of the worst teams in the league.
The Giants are clearly one of the best, and the Cowboys did seem to have the upper hand throughout the game. But...
But what's up with this Wade Phillips defense? There has been minimal pressure, even when they bring six guys. What happened to the swarming, scary-ass defense we saw at times down the stretch last year? Were Greg Ellis and Kevin Burnett really that important? I will certainly go on record as saying Kevin Burnett is a MUCH more attractive option than Bobby Carpenter. How is that guy still on this team?
The Cowboy defense looked a lot like it did in the doldrums of the Pear-Shaped Football Genius' tenure - unable to make a stop, unable to make tackles, and unable to get off the field when it really matters.
But what's up with Romo? Did he just have a one-game brain fart? Or his inconsistency becoming a consistent? It's feast or famine with this guy - he doesn't have many so-so games. And history is beginning to suggest the bigger the stage, the more likely he's going to toss out a clunker. When do we call it a trend?
The running game looks to be, potentially, something serious. Barber is hurt already, which isn't good. But it seems mild, and I thought the Cowboys could have had 300 yards plus if they had just kept running it.
The new kickoff guy seems to have worked out. The last time a Cowboy reached the end zone off a tee, he was holding a 1-iron, so it was good to see a few kickoffs get into the neighborhood. Still, a punter and two kickers? Wouldn't you really rather have another left tackle on the roster?
And let's talk for just a moment about the colossal, shiny Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, shall we? I absolutely LOVE The Ticket's nickname for it: The Death Star. I hope it sticks. It's perfect. In a world turning more Idiocracy by the minute, the Death Star only speeds us on our way to a Costco world. Sure, its a showplace. Sure, its going to get TONS of positive press. But do we really need 100,000 people crammed into a stadium to watch a football game on the world's largest TV screen? Personally, I am embarrassed by the place. It's too much for me. And it's in Arlington.
That last bit did sound a bit good-old-days-ish, didn't it? Maybe a bit curmudgeonly? Well, too bad. Look at the title bar of this blog, you ninny.
And now that I have managed to disparage both Jerry Jones and my readership, I bid you a fond farewell.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
There's certainly a lot to get to upon my return. College and pro football, the Rangers' improbable season (which may or may not be winding down), Afghanistan, Israel, health care reform, hurricane season.
My gosh, I can hardly wait!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
This is a travesty, and it frankly pisses me off.
We've reminded ourselves, in these virtual pages, of the national mindset back in late 2001 and early 2002. The US had just been attacked and was, rightly or wrongly, staggered and very angry. It sure seemed like more attacks were inevitable, and potentially much more devastating. Suicide bombers in Times Square, dirty bombs in Washington, or pneumonic plague loosed in the nation's transportation system were all seemingly viable, and each was written and talked about by very serious people as very serious threats.
Just imagine you're a CIA operative working in a musty walled compound in eastern Afghanistan in March of 2002. A couple of Delta Force guys drag in what appears to be a high-ranking member of AQ, and it's your job to get real facts, or "actionable intelligence", out of this character. Maybe the CIA's internal grapevine is starting to heat up with talk of plans for the next "spectacular", and everyone from your direct supervisor to the DCI to your Aunt Gertrude in Cleveland is counting on you to turn up the one tidbit that blows the operation open.
You've got this AQ honcho sitting in front of you, maybe with a few cuts and bruises courtesy of the Delta guys, but mostly intact. He's grinning his toothy grin at you, because he's been told that you represent a sick and decadent society which does not have the stomach to fight back. Between smug smiles, he hints about some really juicy info he's got stuck up in his melon, and boy, wouldn't you like to know what it is.
You think about your wife, your daughter, your mom and dad, your first grade teacher, the kids in that third grade class in Topeka who recently sent a pallet of Mach III razor blades and Pop-Tarts to your buddies in the 10th Mountain Division, everyone back home who may be at risk.
Do you use the non-lethal tools you have arranged beside you? The Taser, the jumper cables attached to the Delco Marine battery, the tilty wooden table (aka the "waterboard"), the noisy power drill, etc? Or do you let Toothy the Terrorist continue to smile and say nothing?
Answer that question honestly. Would you really have moral qualms? Really? If yes, perhaps you're a better human than I am. Inflicting some fear, pain, and confusion on my friend Toothy seems a lot more morally defensible than not getting the plans for "Operation Black Death" out of the guy who, for all I know, cooked up the plan from the start.
So, here we are, eight or so years down the road. Nothing of consequence has occurred here in the US. Sure, AQ and their franchisees have spun up the scoreboard a bit in places like the UK, Spain, Bali, Iraq, Saudi, etc, but those places are far, far away. It's been quiet here. Why? Maybe its because AQ isn't as tough as we thought they were. Maybe it's because the 101st and the 10th Mountain Division did their bit in Anaconda back in 2002. Maybe it's because our fictional CIA operative gave ol' Toothy the good news with the business end of the Taser, or read him his horoscope while he was strapped to the tilty table.
I don't know why things have been quiet domestically since Sept 2001, and neither do you.
My point is this: We were all scared, some more than others - sure, and we were all pretty sure we had reason to be scared, back in the early Aughts. Our elected government (please, please, please don't bring up Florida and the 2000 popular vote - that got settled by our system, like it or not) reacted to the most devastating attack ever successfully mounted against American civilians in an American city by taking the gloves all the way off. Our fictional CIA operative had official sanction from the highest levels to do whatever necessary to get his subject talking.
To go back now, from the safety and holier-than-thou high ground of 2009, and threaten to prosecute our fictional CIA operative and his real-life counterparts, is so mind-bogglingly cynical, so transparently political, and so unfair as to simply take my breath away.
Look, I am a fan of Obama. I voted for the guy and would do so again tomorrow. But that does not mean I give him and his team a free pass, especially when they try something as disingenuous as this little stunt.
Dang, I'm madder than I thought I was!
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Hilarious. Best comedy since Superbad. Better than Knocked Up and 40 Year Old Virgin. Easily earns "instant classic" status. We'll be laughing over this one for years.
Everyone in it is great. Bradley Cooper is as instantly likable as he was instantly unlikeable in Wedding Crashers. The seemingly omni-present Ken Jeong (the outrageously uptight OB/GYN in Knocked Up) shows up again and reveals a lot more than his comedic timing. Heather Graham does well with limited screen-time. Mike Tyson completely recaptures his pop-culture cool factor with a single word: "Niiice!"
The Hangover is not for everyone. There is more male nudal frontity than female, and none of it is attractive in the least. The gross-out factor is very high, with at least 3 on-screen, very realistic chunk-blowing incidents bringing groans from the full house. The language is off the charts, with more f-bombs per dialog line than anything since Pulp Fiction.
If you can fight through all that, along with a boat-load of boys-will-be-boys-especially-in-Vegas cliche, you will love this movie. I laughed throughout and am still laughing two days later. That's all I need to know.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tom, you are my hero (well, you and Big Al). You make so much sense, suggest such brilliant solutions, and generally agree with me on almost everything. I would like to formally submit my application to join the "Tom Friedman Mentoring Society". I may also get a "Tom Freidman is My Hero" t-shirt to go along with the "Al Gore is My Hero" shirt already in my closet.
Not kidding about the t-shirt. The sentiment happens to be true; I am a supporter of We Can Solve It and Repower America, but the shirt itself is a good way to start an argument in good old suburban North Texas.
At any rate, My Other Hero Tom wrote in yesterday's NYT about the current state of the jihad. Did you notice the radical Islamists are losing the War of Terror? Well, they are.
As Tom so deftly points out, everywhere the the Beardy Boys have taken charge (Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Gaza, Lebanon, Iran, etc), they have brought with them total economic stagnation (if not outright retreat), lowered standards of living and education, unnecessary and unwanted violence, repression, etc etc etc. And now we're seeing militant Islamists lose elections (Lebanon, Iraq) or steal elections (Iran). The Paki middle class is tired of bombs in the streets of Peshwar and have withdrawn support for the Taliban and foreign rebels causing trouble in the Northwest.
The bad news is that the US' friends in the Arab world, those shining examples of secular, progressive, populist democracy like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are not really "winning", despite their medieval rivals' decline. This lack of a better idea is what keeps the jihadists in business, albeit in a much more limited capacity.
Go read the op-ed, along with everything Tom Friedman has ever written. The man's a genius.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
If you don't know what I'm talking about, drop me a line and I'll share the whole story.
In the meanwhile, back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Thirty-plus years down the road, the scare factor has pretty much worn off. They sure do rock, though.
BTW, I think this is from the BBC "Today" show from 1976, which would mean the guy on bass is Glen Matlock. Sid Vicious didn't join the band until a few months later. His presence made the band way rougher, way more edgy, and way more dangerous.
From MSNBC today: The ultra-orthodox Jews of Jerusalem have been rioting for days, burning trash, blocking streets, and generally making royal a-holes out of themselves. Their issue? They are pissed that authorities have arrested a Hasidic woman who has been starving her 3-year-old son.
The boy is hospitalized. His weight is, according to doctors, 15 pounds. This is a three year old kid. Fifteen pounds.
The unnamed mother, apparently mentally ill, has been caught on video at the hospital, disconnecting the kid's feeding tube. She claims he's ill, and she has nothing to do with it. Her Hasidic neighbors believe her and have used the excuse to go nuts against authorities.
The Hasidim are also still pissed at the more secular mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, for planning to open a parking lot near the Old City on Saturdays.
I know, right?
With the Hasidim, if you're not exactly like them, you are against them and, more importantly, against God. They will go to almost any lengths to impose their beliefs on everyone else. Sound familiar?
The Hasidim, Haredim, Chabad-Lubavitchers (call 'em what you want - there are differences, but not significant ones in my eyes) have become the enemies of Israel. Their growing ranks, and growing political clout, are making compromise with the Palestinians increasingly difficult. They also make the rest of Israel's (and the world's) Jews look like idiots. The Hasidim are the source of most of the ugly stereotypes which exist regarding Jews. They are as intolerant, close-minded, and self-righteous as any takfiri Muslim fundamentalist, and are, in their way, just as divisive and dangerous as any jihadist organization you care to name.
I hate these guys. I wish I had a suggestion for what to do about them.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Interesting timing on a couple of Internet items the other day.
Numero uno is Goldman Sachs’ quarterly financial reporting. Apparently the second quarter of calendar 2009 was a veritable bonanza for the button-down types at Goldman. The largest remaining investment bank on Wall St reported revenue of $13.8 billion and profit of $2.7 billion. This represents a staggering 65% jump in profit over the same quarter in 2008.
The MSNBC article linked above cites all sorts of nice, up-and-up reasons why Goldman continues to rack up the bucks despite the current environment of gloom and doom. Gutsy trading strategies and sharp employees are cited, along with billions in taxpayer money (all now repaid) and the death of most of the competition all contribute, according to the article.
Maybe so. But maybe there’s more to it.
Twenty-first century gadfly, and walking advertisement for the benefits of routine dental checkups, Matt Taibbi is back in the pages of Rolling Stone, administering a smack-down on Goldman specifically, and investment banks in general. He levies the charge that Goldman has been behind, or at least right in the middle of, every major market manipulation since the 1930s. More recently, Taibbi tells us, Goldman has engineered the DotCom bubble, the housing bubble, and last summer’s commodities (read: gasoline) bubble.
In the past, I have rejected Taibbi’s rants as paranoid, conspiracy-theory baloney. In retrospect, I’m not so sure I wasn’t wrong about that, at least in part. The guy does his research. Yeah, he makes some leaps that I have trouble following, but he makes it sound plausible.
I had, in fact, only been somewhat taken by The Great American Bubble Machine (the Goldman piece), right up until Goldman reported results the other day.
Co-inky-dink? I dunno. Read Taibbi’s article and you decide.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Its still down to who you listen to regarding causes and exactly who has done what to whom. However, it's safe to say the indigenous Uighurs (Muslims with ethnic and religious ties to other Central Asians like the Tajiks, Kyrgyz, and Kazakhs) and the relatively-recent immigrant Han (the majority ethnicity in the rest of China), who have been sorta grinding up against each other for years, and not in a good way, have finally blown off a lot of steam. Mob violence seemed to rule the streets of Urumqi, the capital city of the province, earlier in the week. State media reports 150+ killed, thousands arrested, and who-knows-how-much property damage.
The images coming out of Urumqi this week are some of the scariest you will ever see.
This first YouTube clip is not for the faint of heart. Lots of blood and bodies; you get some sort of sense early in the clip of the chaos of the street. I'm not sure where this comes from; the text on the screen looks to be Korean, but I am no Asian language scholar. Anyone with any more info, please chime in:
From MSNBC, a recap of sorts:
The Beeb, always the best bet for international news from obscure places, has this bit of reportage from Quentin Sommerville, a good, kilt-wearing, caber-tossing Jock sent off to the far reaches of Asia. If you troll through the BBC site, you'll find a good deal more from wee Quentin and others.
We've mentioned the ethnic situation in Xinjiang here before. It's not at all clear whether ETIM or any of their fellow Muslim travelers are involved here. Certainly, they are in the neighborhood and watching closely, if nothing else. This sure looks spontaneous, but it's impossible to tell anything from 7000 miles away and no access to anything other than general media reports.
The question I've got is how did it start? Perhaps street protests are routine in Urumqi. A name being tossed about by the Chinese as a possible instigator is one Rebiyah Kadeer, a rather vociferous Uighur critic of the Chinese. Ms. Kadeer has spent some time in the Chinese clink, and is currently in exile in the US. Hard to see how she's encouraging mob violence from the other side of the planet, but they said the same thing about Khomenei in the 70s and look how that turned out.
The violence looks like it's been shut down by a massive influx of state security forces - everything from riot-shotgun-toting police to what appears to be platoons of People's Liberation Army infantry. However, the underlying tensions aren't going away any time soon. Given the People's Republic's usual ham-fisted manner with its own civilians, especially the minority groups, along with Xinjiang's importance both as an oil-producer and a buffer against the really scary Muslims in Pakistan, don't expect the Chinese to scale back the influx of Han or yuan any time soon, and don't expect this to be the last time you see violence in the streets of Urumqi.
The official party line from the Chinese government makes all the right noises as far as the domestic audience is concerned, and actually represents a signficant departure from the normal internal and external news blackout we've come to expect from Beijing. Worth a look:
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Friday, July 03, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The armed thugs who claim to be the government of Burma are, apparently, about to charge Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, along with her two live-in maids, with harboring a US national secretly in Suu Kyi's lakeside home for two days.
The Golden Land is full of nutty stories, but this is one of the nuttier I can recall.
It seems a John Yettaw, which may be a vaguely Burmese name, although I could be quite wrong on that, who is from the US, swam the lake to reach Suu Kyi's home. He stayed in the home for two days, and has since been arrested, although not charged. US diplomats were able to visit him, but haven't spoken publicly about the case yet.
The 63-year-old Suu Kyi, who has been under detention of one form or another for most of the past 20 years, has been rumored to be in poor health lately. According to her doctor, she suffers from dehydration and low blood pressure. Who knows what that really means.
There's some conjecture by the Beeb that this is an effort to put Suu Kyi away until after next year's "elections", which is as good an explanation as any. Suu Kyi pretty much is the opposition, such as it is, and locking her up where no UN or Western representatives can get a look at her would certainly prevent her from making any public noise.
Still, this represents something of a departure for Than Shwe and his minions. Up until now, they've been treating Suu Kyi with white gloves. They allow her no freedom, but they have resisted the notion of tossing her in the clink or any other drastic actions. They have to know that this is going to make some headlines in the West (not to mention spark the ire of certain bloggers, which I'm sure has them quaking in their Buster Browns), but since when has that stopped them from doing anything? Locking Suu Kyi up this far ahead of the elections makes sense, in their little dinosaur brains, in that it will have faded from attention by the time it matters.
In the pantheon of near-hopeless to hopeless situations, lost causes to causes well on their way to lost, from Zimbabwe to Gaza to GM, Burma has a place of honor: The spot on this little planet of ours furthest from any sort of hope at all.
Friday, May 01, 2009
The anchor realizes whats up towards the end, but his stumbling through only makes it funnier.
Such a giggle!
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I have been an Olbermann fan since the days of the Big Show on ESPN. While I disagree with a lot of his politics, I really like the guy to this day.
Now, he has taken another step up in my estimation.
After Sean "Windbag" Hannity said on his TV show that he'd undergo waterboarding "for charity", Olbermann has stepped in and offered $1,000 per second that Hannity can withstand the treatment.
No response from Hannity.
Everything I have ever read from people who have been subjected to waterboarding tells me that, regardless of your training, experience, general level-headedness, or toughness, it is terrifying. Your body believes you are drowning. I believe it is torture. Whether it's effective or not, I really have no idea.
I would LOVE to see Hannity do this. Put up or shut up, you blowhard. Hell, I'm in for $10 per second (I don't make the coin Olbermann does) to the charity of Hannity's choice.
C'mon, Sean, Put your kiester where you mouth is!
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Swine flu has taken hold in Mexico, killing upwards of 70 people (and many more if you believe on-the-scene comments on BBC) and spreading to a variety of other spots around the globe. The Mexicans are in a tizzy, the CDC is on alert, but I'm not sure if the bang matches the hype.
I certainly don't mean to trivialize the deaths of 70 or more people. However, I suspect snake bites take out more than 70 people per day on this lovely little planet of ours, and I don't see hordes of slithery little bastards on the front page of MSNBC.
I am intrigued by the flu story. A few things that pique my interest:
1. The rapidity of the spread, both in the population of Mexico City and the amount of geography covered by more recent cases.
2. The reported genetic structure of the virus, which seems to combine DNA from pig flu, bird flu, and people flu. Viruses are constantly mutating, and this may be all in a day's work for a virulent gene, but it sure strikes me as odd.
3. The out-of-nowhere-ness of the whole thing. Maybe this sort of thing happens, on a smaller scale, in the world of infectious diseases, and we just never hear about it. Whatever the case, I have never heard of anything like this, or presented in this matter, before.
I certainly don't want to be alarmist, or sound paranoid, or make more of this than it is. However, my little Tom Clancy-inspired brain can't help but ping on the thought that there's maybe more to this than we know.
Just suppose the Iranians, or the NKs, or someone else who has a ton of resources and a healthy dislike for the West in general and the good ol' USandA in particular (there's a lengthy list, yeah?) wanted to f**k with us in a big way? That part is not too far-fetched, right? There's no shortage of groups who would like nothing better than to go tinkle in our breakfast cereal.
Here's where I fear I am veering off into black helicopter-dom:
How hard is it to splice together your own virus? Obviously you're not doing it with a couple of test tubes and an Easy-Bake oven - it would clearly take the resources of a nation-state or the equivalent, and it's not the sort of thing you do in a cave in South Waziristan. But it can probably be done.
Next, if you were going to try to clandestinely bio-bomb the US, wouldn't Mexico be a great place to start? Especially if you had something really virulent and really easy to spread amongst humans? I mean, it's not like the security services in Mexico are in the MI-6 league, right? And its not like the US really has a grip on the border, right?
So, a couple of things are really wrong with my little hypothesis. One - Mexico City, which seems to be the epicenter of this thing right now, isn't right on the border. Tijuana, Juarez, or Matamoros seem like better places to start. Next, this virus, at least right now, doesn't seem to spread all that effectively - the cases which have popped up in the US and Canada (and elsewhere) seem to be less serious than those down south.
I'm sure there are about 20,000 other things wrong with my thought. I'm no scientist. I'm just a guy who reads too much, has a healthy dose of historical Jewish paranoia, and some well-earned 21st century skepticism.
I'm reasonably sure I am barking at shadows here. But I have to admit it popped into my little melon right away...
I caught Schindler's List on HBO last night. It was certainly not the first time I've seen it, as it is required viewing for any Jew over the age of about 13 - it may have been incorporated into the Bar Mitzvah process, and if it hasn't, it should be.
This was probably the fifth or sixth time I sat thru Spielberg's masterpiece, and with this level of familiarity, I noticed some new things this time around.
Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler is pitch-perfect throughout. He has the physical presence to portray a man who will, alone and without hesitation, enter the gates of Auschwitz to pull "his people" back from the abyss. He completely sells the transformation of Schindler from womanizing snake-oil salesman to great, compassionate, righteous human - a man who starts as all flash becomes substantial enough to comfort with a gentle kiss the traumatized Jewish maid/punching bag of a concentration camp commander; a man who begins the film with no significant visible morality is, by film's end, capable of such moral clarity and strength that he is able to turn his back on everything he had professed to be interested in and care only for the victims he sees around him.
Casting Neeson was a masterstroke.
The rest of the cast is equally exceptional. The music is perfect. The little use of color in the film is perfect. Sets, continuity, staging, photography - all exactly right.
All this is to point out the perfectly obvious: Steven Spielberg is the greatest maker of movies in the history of movies.
Schindler's List is clearly his masterpiece, and, given the subject, may be the greatest movie ever made. Add to that his other spectacular success - Saving Private Ryan, ET, Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark (Indy in general), I could go on and on and on - my God, what a talent.
Sure, AI gave me a headache. Catch Me If You Can and 1941 were trifles (but entertaining trifles), and I'm still not sure what to make of Minority Report. No one hits a home run every time. Except Pixar, but that's another story - call me when they match Spielberg in longevity and production, and we'll compare notes.
I said to myself a number of times during last night's viewing, and have repeated it a number of times since: How fortunate are we to be around to see this guy's work as it happens.
The great news is he shows no signs of losing grip of his powerful gifts. Nor does he show any inclination to stop doing what he does so masterfully.
Thank you, Mr. Spielberg. Here's hoping you spend many more years embellishing your record as the greatest ever at what you do.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
I ran across this photo and was instantly intrigued. What the heck is it? A huge stadium in the midst of paradise? Some Bahrainian sheik's summer getaway?
Unfortunately, its nowhere near as cool as either of those things. Instead, it is a concrete dome which shields a crater and soil left over from H-bomb tests in the 50s.
Sex offender found nude, self-mutilated; bit tip of own penis off: cops
Much has been written about the pirates of Somalia, so I'm not going to rehash any of the recent news (other than to pass along an emphatic "well done" regarding the most-impressive marksmanship clinic put on by the SEALs last weekend). Instead, I'd like to point you at some back story that I hadn't seen before. Perhaps you have not either.
So, let's get one piece of business out of the way straight off: Some, perhaps most, of the "pirates" we are reading about lately are nothing more than thieves, hooligans, gangsters, etc. A sizable percentage of these guys are lowlifes in the truest sense of the word. The jerkoffs who are attempting to hijack ships loaded with food and supplies bound for Darfur and other African disaster areas are the worst kind of parasites. Nothing I am about to discuss applies to these cretins. These types deserve a Special Forces love-tap, and you will never hear a peep from me beyond "Bravo, boys".
However, there are some Somali "pirates" who do not fit this description.
Did you know (I did not) that, at about the same time Somalia's last true government collapsed in the early 90s, mysterious ships began dumping barrels of waste into Somali coastal waters? Turns out this "waste" was from European hospitals and power plants, and was medical and nuclear.
You read that correctly: Persons unknown were dumping nuclear waste into the water off Somali beaches.
Not surprisingly, the populace in the area started to get sick and have malformed babies. The 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami washed hundreds of barrels of this crap onshore, where more pronounced radiation sickness began to occur.
This was not the only indignity thrust upon Somali coastal dwellers.
As you might suspect, a major local industry is fishing. Coastal Somalis feed themselves from the ocean, as do coastal dwellers the world around. In the past 20 or so years, with no government to assert sovereignty over Somalia's territorial waters, Euro fishing trawlers have been illegally clearing the sea out (thanks, U2), leaving greatly reduced fish stocks for the locals. Needless to say, this threatens the livelihoods, and the lives, of said locals.
Local Somalis started going out in speedboats to dissuade the Euros who were illegally dumping or illegally fishing, or to collect a "tax". Hence, the emergence of "pirates".
Now, it's clearly devolved from there. A bunch of dirt-bag opportunists have co-opted what was a pretty legitimate activity on the part of the locals. The current situation has much less to do with real grievances, and much more to do with a bunch of thugs looking to make some quick cash.
That doesn't invalidate the original activities, though.
I had no idea. I'm thinking maybe you haven't heard this stuff either. So here it is.
Just another public service from your friends here at CIT.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I have gone on record many times in my support of the legalization of marijuana, and just about everything else, so I won't go off on rant here. Instead, I will point you to a story on the San Francisco Chronicle's site, where you will find the following gem:
"The mayor will have to hash this out with public health officials," press secretary Nathan Ballard said. "It's the mayor's job to weed out bad legislation. And to be blunt, this sounds pretty bad."
This, my friends, is genius!
Monday, April 13, 2009
I should have got to this yesterday, but its still worthwhile.
I'm sure you ALL joined me on Saturday night on ESPN-HD, as my beloved Boston University Terrier hockey team hit the ice against the Miami (OH) RedHawks in the National Championship game. If you were so inclined, you saw one for the ages.
BU held a 1-0 lead for a good chunk of the game. But a series of mistakes late in the 2nd and into the 3rd allowed Miami to grab a seemingly-invincible 3-1 lead. After Miami's third goal at 15:58 in the third period, I actually said, "Well, that's it. Church."
I just needed to have a little faith.
A furious 6-on-5 which started with more than 2 minutes left resulted in two goals, both scored with less than a minute left. I almost knocked the lamp off the side table after the second.
And off we go to OT.
After half a period of overtime, which the Terriers dominated, although the RedHawks got off a few shots which nearly stopped my heart, BU's Colby Cohen launched a wrist shot at the net. It bounced off a Miami player and dropped like a dying quail over the goal-tender's shoulder without him ever seeing it.
I scattered couch cushions all over the place as the BU bench emptied, Miami players sank to the ice in tortured disbelief, and (no doubt) 400 beers and other drinks were raised inside T's Pub on Comm Ave.
What a game! What a win! We may not have football, and most of our other teams may be spare to fair, but hockey is always big-time, and very good, at Boston University.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
First, I feel compelled to point out how chopped up the video is. I'm relying on the supplied sub-titles, and overlooking a great many, obvious edits. Is this thing REALLY as inflammatory as it appears? I don't know. We know this isn't much of a break in the normal tone of Hamas' "cultural education" agenda - any "culture" which can spawn a kids character as evil as Farfour, the martyred, hate-spewing Mickey Mouse ripoff, is certainly capable of staging a play about Jews drinking blood.
Second, I notice that the turnout for the play is not exactly SRO.
I'm not really sure what it is that we're seeing here. It may be something very different from what it appears.
But maybe its exactly what it appears to be. It is Hamas. It is Gaza.
At any rate, watch this little jewel and decide for yourself.
Monday, April 06, 2009
State Trooper, "Did you know you were speeding?"
Husband, "He asks if knew I was speeding!"
State Trooper, "Let me see your driver's license."
Husband, "He wants to see my driver's license!"
The State Trooper looks at the address and says, "So... you're from the Bronx? I once met THE MOST AWFUL WOMAN there."
Husband, "He says he knows you!"
April again, and a new baseball season is upon us. There are differences between April 2009 and Aprils of the recent past. I think there's reason to hope for a reasonably entertaining and satisfying season.
I can say this on April 5. Will I be saying the same thing on June 5?
So, what is different? Some minor stuff, and one critical, critical element. Allow me to elaborate.
I like this infield. A lot. The addition of ultra-prospect Elvis Andrus at SS, accompanied by Mike Young's move to 3B, and what should be a settled arrangement at 1B, solidifies things defensively. None of these guys are Tinker, Evers, or Chance, but, if the hype is to be believed, Andrus has a chance to star in his own poem and the whole bunch ought to improve over last year's butcher shop. The law of averages nearly ensures steadier fielding after last year's anti-clinic, right?
Offensively, the infield should be set for a pretty good, if not spectacular year. Young, Kinsler, Davis, and Saltalamacchia ought to produce some hits.
The outfield is OK, I think. I don't know that Andruw Jones has much left, but Rudy seems to think he's got plenty. I am still not sure if Rudy Jaramillio is Batting Cage Jesus or the most overrated dude to ever apply pine tar - if he's so great, how come this team hasn't hit with men in scoring position since the Clinton Administration? Either way, he seems to get some respect around the league, and if he says take a look at Jones, we probably ought to wait until at least early May before we run him out of town.
The biggest change, the biggest difference between today and the last 5 or 6 Opening Days is the state of the pitching staff. No, Walter Johnson and Cy Young have not returned from beyond the grave to don Ranger blue and red. We can look forward to mostly the same guys who have spared us to death over recent campaigns. However, for a change, we did not see a catastrophic injury in spring training. Shockingly, the Rangers start the season with the entire staff on the active roster.
This is a near-miracle. I mean, really. Not Parting of the Red Sea (how timely, yeah?), but pretty amazing.
Does this mean Millwood, Padilla, McCarthy, et al are going to throw strikes? No, that remains to be seen. But the fact they're available at the start of the season is beyond encouraging.
All in all, despite the 50-degree chill in the air (and the freeze warning for tonight - alas for my newly-planted snapdragons!), I would like to be fighting traffic on Collins today in an effort to catch me some Opening Day festivities!
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Friday, April 03, 2009
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
A couple of tidbits regarding the disaster known as Detroit MI have caught my eye lately.
That Detroit has been in decline for decades is certainly not news. Back in the 80s, an effort at urban renewal, centered around Renaissance Center, bloomed in the downtown area, but nothing much came of it. Years of job losses, political corruption, mismanagement, and general decay have left the city an urban wasteland of epic proportions. While there are still affluent suburbs aplenty, the core is a disaster unequaled in the developed world.
A series of photos of abandoned buildings of all sorts was published recently published as a Time magazine photo essay. The only clean-up done in some of Detroit's once-stately hotels and other buildings has been done by looters. The pictures, taken by a couple of French photographers, are haunting.
But, out of this blight, something is emerging. A small group of artists have bought badly distressed housing for ridiculously low prices ($100 for a house and land?) and are renovating, wiring up to solar power, planting gardens, and making something out of less than nothing. It's reminiscent of the reemergence of Manhattan's SoHo and TriBeCa neighborhoods, where the avant garde began squatting in abandoned warehouses and factories and, over years and years, turned blight into a trendy, popping place-to-be.
We've seen similar efforts right here in Dallas - the West End, Deep Ellum, and Exposition Park spring to mind immediately. The degree of success has varied, and the long-term viability of all these areas is still somewhat in question, but the attempts have been made.
Will the same thing happen in Detroit? Hard to say. There are obvious, huge distinctions - as bad as SoHo was, it was still mere blocks from Midtown, which never decayed to the same extent. The devastation in Detroit may well be too far along to reverse.
Nevertheless, it is fascinating to watch an area die out, and few hardy souls attempt to bring it back.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Dad, you might be interested in this one.
The Great Wilonsky posts on Unfair Park today regarding a late entry into the AFI International Film Festival (to be held in Dallas in a couple of weeks): A forgotten film by documentarian Frederick Wiseman, shot in 1983 and entitled The Store.
It turns out that Wiseman produced a four-hour doc on Neiman Marcus in it's heyday.
Now, this is of some note on general purposes. Neiman Marcus was, for many years, Dallas' major redeeming feature. As much as, and probably more than, that stupid TV show, NM symbolized the glitter of Dallas, and put it on the international map. This film captures NM towards the end of the "We Have a Marcus (Richard) In-House" years, before the company was bought, and watered down, by General Cinema. In those days, everyone who was anyone in this town did a stint as a salesperson or assistant buyer in the joint. As such, The Store is worth seeing by anyone and everyone who lived, or who wanted to live, in Dallas in the halcyon days of the mid-80s.
But there is more at work here than general purposes. In 1983, the elder Curmudgeon (Curmudgeon Emeritus, if you will) was at the height of his long run as NM's Executive VP of Just About Everything At One Time or Another, and yours truly was indulging in a bit of shameless nepotism, working in various menial, but highly educational and entertaining, positions in the underbelly of the company.
So, one would think that a lot of folks either he knew, or I knew, or both, would make an appearance in this one.
I doubt I'll make the show (it's on a Monday afternoon), but I might check it out on video...
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Saturday, March 07, 2009
The anti-Israel Master Race in Sweden took to the streets today, battling police in an effort to interrupt an Israeli-Swedish tennis match.
A tennis match. What, they couldn't find a rhythmic gymnastics competition to disrupt?
The far left in Scandinavia is truly amazing. Blessed with a nearly homogeneous population, a wonderful little Socialist paradise of a welfare state, and a work ethic that makes the Australians look like Tom Peters, the Swedes (and the rest of the blonde-and-blue Nordics) are usually amongst the first to start pointing fingers at "injustice" wherever they can find it. I can only assume this is to assuage their feelings of complete impotence on the world stage. I mean, really; who the hell cares what Sweden thinks?
Here's an idea: Give the world something more useful than Ikea and Haagen-Dazs, and maybe we'll drum up some interest in your point of view. Oh, wait, I forgot Volvo. You got me there. I'll shut up now.
I don't know why the pointy-headed liberal Euro gets such a rise out of me, but they do, and without fail. Let's relocate Sabra and Shatila and a few of the other craphole-where-the-Arabs-dump-the-Palestinians-so-they-don't-have-to-really-deal-with-them camps up north, and then lets see what they have to say.
Friday, March 06, 2009
Zimbabwe's Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, and his wife, Susan, were involved in an auto accident earlier today in a rural part of the country. Susan Tsvangirai was killed, and the PM was injured.
Details are sketchy, but it appears a large truck was involved. According to the BBC, the driver of the truck was asleep at the wheel.
On the surface, this event has all the hallmarks of an authentic, tragic accident. Zimbabwe's decrepit road system, rampant drunk driving, and non-existent law enforcement make traveling by car moderately less risky than swimming laps in a pool of battery acid. Huge wrecks and fatalities are all-too-common on rural roadways, especially those in the more-densely populated eastern half of the country.
However, given Mugabe's track record, the "accident" angle cannot be taken at face value. That Tsvangirai himself was in the car at the time of the wreck makes everything about it suspicious. Mugabe and his vile, violent cronies stand to gain from this sort of unfortunate "accident", especially if Tsvangirai had been killed. He was not, but the loss of his wife of 30 years (and mother of his six children)is nearly as good from the ZANU perspective. Tsvangirai is, no doubt, personally devestated. There's every chance this blow causes him to leave public life entirely.
I hate to be cynical, but it's a mistake to put anything past Mugabe.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
More on (pun intended) the Citigroup debacle in a recent Economist article.
The gist of this one is that Citi was too big to manage. Anyone who has worked there could tell you that much. Whilst inside the belly of the beast in the early 2000s, it occurred to many of us that there was no way anyone could keep track of the behemoth wrought by Weill. With 300,000+ employees, operations scattered literally to the four corners of the world, languages, cultures, banking laws, customs, technologies, currencies, and controls of every stripe imaginable, Citi defied the imagination.
I went for months at a time without talking to anyone outside the company. Between our cash processing at Citibank in Delaware, our umpteen acquired portfolios in probably 20 states, our IT in NYC, our foreign operations in Canada and Puerto Rico, our nun-with-a-ruler auditors crawling over the entire operation like ants, and management EVERYwhere, I spent days, weeks, months on interminable conference calls, fighting for my little projects, fending off intrusive managers looking to validate their positions, auditors more concerned with methods than results, and an aversion to risk at all levels which bordered on psychosis.
We got very little actually done, but burned calories and brain cells at suicidal rates. Any minor success was often chalked up to the "even a broken clock is right twice a day" theory, rather than any talent or skill on the part of the victorious party.
It's no surprise to me that all sorts of illegal and bone-headed shenanigans were going on in the brokerage and mortgage lending areas. I submit that these are only the illegal and bone-headed shenanigans which came to light. Many more were occurring in less-sensitive areas or by crooks or bone-heads less ambitious or more skilled in covering their tracks.
Morale inside Citigroup, at least amongst those I worked with directly, was horrible and beaten down back in the days when Citi was a money factory. Now that the red ink is flowing in Zambezian torrents and the axe is swinging indiscriminately, I'm sure it's as much fun as a Dickens-era garment factory.
Thank the sweet, clean Maker of Us All I got out of there when I did!