Saturday, April 17, 2004

The Apprentice

THU at 8 - Bill is chosen as The Apprentice.

FRI at 8 - Bill is interviewed on Dateline NBC.

FRI at 10:30 - Bill appears on The Tonight Show.

SAT at 10:30 - Bill hosts Saturday Night Live.

SUN at 9AM - Bill appears on Meet The Press to discuss his views on the corporate world.

SUN at 9PM - On Crossing Jordan, Bill is in Philadelphia on business. He and Jordan have a brief romance.

MON at 8AM - Bill appears on The Today Show every morning this week. Matt jokes; Katie and Ann fawn. Bill helps them select the "Today Show Apprentice."

MON at 8PM - On Fear Factor, Bill demonstrates is fearless business skills.

TUE at 7PM - Bill guests on Whoopi, where she ridicules his whiteness.

TUE at 9PM - Bill appears on a cross-series Law & Order special event, beginning with L&O: SVU. Bill witnesses a murder.

WED at 9PM - The L&O special continues as Bill appears in court to testify against the murderer.

WED at 11:30PM - Bill appears on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

THU at 7PM - An Apprentice Thursday "Good Bye and Good Luck" SuperEvent begins as Bill appears on an hour-long Friends, where he interviews Joey for an ad campaign. Hilarity ensues. Rachel flirts with him.

THU at 8PM - On Scrubs, Bill flirts with Elliot.

THU at 8:30PM - On Will & Grace, Jack, Will and Grace all flirt with him.

THU at 7PM - Back home in Chicago now, Bill has an auto accident that sends to him County General and ER. Abby flirts with him.

SUN at 6PM - On a special Dateline NBC, Bill talks about his whirl-wind week with Stone Phillips.

SUN at 8PM - Completing his L&O trifecta, Bobby suspects the murder was a plot to cover up some of Bill's underhanded business dealings.

Coming in May Sweeps: Bill: My Trip to the Top, a two-night miniseries.

All times Central.
Print Media Vs. Online Blogging

Bill over at HobbOnline has two great posts about the changing media landscape. (See here and here.) Hobbs talks about some experiences he's had with "old media" types who really don't seem clued in to the reach and speed of Internet blogging. Both pieces are short and well worth the read.

One of Bill's points was about getting referrals. "Dead tree" media -- i.e. newspapers and magazines -- commentators don't frequently refer to each other, nearly as though they operate in a vacuum. Newspapers run each other's stories, but like to pretend they are the only paper in the game. Bloggers live by cross-connection and cross-commentary. It's how we sharpen ideas and refine thinking. What emerges is a wealth of commentary and some very effective ideas. The print process will do the same, but far more slowly, and access to the process is strictly limited.

I have had the fortune to be mentioned in Memphis' two major newspapers recently. The first was an interview for a blogging feature in the Memphis Flyer's Annual Manual. (Thanks Chris!) I was one of three bloggers interviewed. That mention, which excited me no end I'll admit, only garnered a few hits more than usual traffic. Maybe 10 or 20 altogether. Maybe my right-leaning libertarian politics don't appeal to Flyer readers....

I got a nod in Jon Sparks' C.A. Eye feature one Friday, the "Onward through the blog" bit. (Thanks Jon!) I was really excited by this, as I'd hit the Big Time. Half-Bakered was in the daily paper! Well, I was ready for the deluge of hits to come that weekend.... Except it didn't. I saw maybe 20 to 50 hits more than usual traffic over the next few days.

This week, I'm again in the Memphis Flyer! They saw Carol's Wallop Page and used a few of the images in "Fly on the Wall," with some hilarious "art criticism" added. (Thanks again Chris!) It's hard to tell how much this one generated in traffic, as I've got some other things going, but I feel comfortable in saying it was about 150 or 200 hits to Carol's page so far (traffic is steady over there) and maybe a few from there to Half-Bakered! Whoo!

So, all told, my mentions in the local "big time" paper media came to around 200 to mayb 250 hits to Half-Bakered and its satellites.

Yesterday evening, Instapundit made a joke about some Republican morphing John Kerry onto Harry Potter's Voldemort. I took up the challenge and whipped up a graphic, then emailed Glenn to let him know it was up. Emailing Instapundit is purely a "luck of the draw" thing. Whether he'll use your tip or not depends on a lot of things, and if you're a small-time blog like me, it likely won't happen, unless you're pertinent to the stories of the day.

Well, I lucked out. To that post above, he added just this:
UPDATE: Boy, that didn't take long.
There was an embedded link to the Kerry Mockery Page where the image sits, but that was it.

It went up around 7:30PM Friday evening and by the time I logged on this morning, I had 2500 hits to the page. By the end of twenty-four hours, I expect around four or five thousand hits. Given that a lot of folks only surf from work, I expect a renewal of hits Monday morning.

Astonishing. In twenty-four hours, one link from a well-known blogger gave me twenty times more hits than several months of newspaper mentions. That's been an eye-opener. I've really wondered at how few hits getting a mention in both papers (which both boast circulations of half-a-million) generates. Do people not care? Do they forget right after they read the paper? Are most paper readers not Internet aware? (Yeah, I doubt that one too. But if you listen to a radio show like Jim Montgomery's Computer Connection you'll see just how ignorant computer users can be.) Do people not read their papers near a computer and so making the jump is more trouble than it's worth? What is the break between papers and the Internet? Does it have some deeper explanation in how people receive newspaper information versus having to search it out on the Web? Are Internet readers much more willing to go after news and information than most paper readers? In my case, I'd say that's most likely.

As blogs go, Half-Bakered is small fry. I get about 50 to 70 hits a day, when I'm blogging regularly, as opposed to 30 or so during extended breaks. But I have some high-quality readers, no question there! I've attracted the attention and notice of some of the very people I'd always hoped to speak to. But there's always room to grow. I'd love to have around 100 to 200 daily readers. That's my next goal. And a lot more regular commenters. I'd love to have folks email me tips, or to offer ideas.

I've started watching my referrer logs. For months, my two biggest sources of hits were search engines (folks looking for something that's mentioned on the blog) and a DVD review that's linked on a British Asian-movie site. That accounted for around half of my traffic. After that came "unknown referrer," whatever that means, then links from the Rocky Top Brigade or other bloggers.

In the past few weeks, that mix has radically changed. I've started seeing "half-bakered" in the search engine hits. That tells me that folks have heard who I am and are searching for the blog. I'm arriving, as they say. That's a real morale booster, let me tell you. It says that I'm finally doing something right. At least I hope so.

The Kerry Mockery and Carol's Wallop pages are drawing in readers too. Folks are landing there and then coming here. Wonderful. I was hoping for that. Give the people "teh funney" and they will come back. I can do funny.

I'm not seeing links direct from other bloggers and that bothers me. I probably could do a better job there of mentioning other bloggers' stuff, especially RTBers. It probably doesn't help that I've put more focus of late on local stuff and stayed away from national issues. I think it's a good move for me, as I'm still one of a very few voices doing what I do; nationally, I would be one in tens of thousands and there are many people who can analyse and write far better than me. Plus, I'm not lightning-quick with the commentary, which is bad news in blogging. Johnny-come-late and he gets a seat in the back.

You see the kinds of things I think about when it comes to Half-Bakered. It's all about profile, connection and content. I'm pretty satisfied with the direction of the blog now and the slowly rising regular readership. I hope I can keep it and build on it. I hope y'all enjoy what I'm doing. Please let me know. And, I hope the depression doesn't strike again soon.

Back to where we started: Newspapers are facing a huge sea change, not unlike the one that struck the music industry. In this case, it's not about price but about giving people what they want. Blogs and online news are prospering because they do just that. Newspapers are floundering because they are using old business and service models in a new technology environment. Information, as the saying goes, wants to be free. The Internet is enabling that. People want customisation; browsers and blogging allow that. People want to see points of view similar to their own; papers resisted that, focusing on giving people what the papers wanted them to know.

The world is changing. The future is always coming.
WREC Radio Weirdness

Last Saturday afternoon, Ray Steel (sp?) devoted his radio sports show (WREC AM600, 2 - 5 PM) to a whole lot of political ranting, with little sports and few calls. The show usually includes some local politics, but he was talking a whole lot of things. He was in a snarky mood, too. His last hour was devoted to rerunning the first hour, ostensibly so that Steel's listeners could understand what he'd been trying to tell them.

So this week, we got a "Best of Rush" rerun during Steel's slot, with no explanation. Nothing about being sick, or pre-emption, or back next week. Nothing. It's been months since the station ran "Best of Rush" programming.

Did something happen behind the scenes? I tried the WREC website, but no luck. They don't even list programming now. Or is this just a change of the overall schedule being handled really sloppily?

When I made the last update to this blog, I added Carol's Wallop Page over on the upper-left links list. But I screwed up the link and have been sending people to the Kerry Mockery page instead. Oops! I only discovered this by accident and have since fixed it. If y'all happen to spot errors like this, please let me know!

Friday, April 16, 2004

Volunteer Tailgate Party Time

Thomas of Newsrack Blog is hosting this week's Volunteer Tailgate Party, with a big, link-mapped image! Wow! Can't imagine how much work that was to put together. (Your's truly is the little punk on the upper right. Heeheehee.)

Go and read the selection of posts from a variety of Tennessee's Rocky Top Brigadiers. Every topic and take under the Sun. The VTP is always a good way to find new and interesting blogs.
DVD Review: Tokyo Godfathers

Animation director and writer Satoshi Kon has two previous movies: Perfect Blue and Millenium Actress. Both can be found locally and are well worth your time, especially the powerful, lyrical and startling Millenium Actress. Although animated, neither are kid's movies, but movies that could only have been told effectively through animation.

Kon's latest film, Tokyo Godfathers could have been made through normal film-making techniques, but I suspect it would have been a lesser movie as a result. And once again, just because it's animated doesn't make it a kid's film, though I think older children might love its magical tale.

Tokyo Godfathers is the story of three homeless people. Gin (pronounced with a hard "g" as GEEN) is a middle-aged bum, who claims a crooked bike-race fixer cost him his vocation, and his wife and daughter their lives. Hana is a gay transvestite, neither man nor woman, shunned by all. Miyuki is a teen-aged runaway, gruff and prickly. On Christmas Day in Tokyo, they find a newborn hidden in some trash. They adopt the child, whom they name Kiyoko (literally "pure child") and set off to find her mother.

I said above that the movie is magical, and that it is. But it's an explicitly Christian magic, as the story begins in a Christian service at a food line. Hana claims that God must be watching over Kiyoko and events seem to bear him out. One close shave after another, repeated lucky breaks, strange meetings, all seem to help our heros out.

That's another part of this movie's power. On the one hand, the three are unwashed, smelly, ill-mannered and impatient. The movie doesn't shy from the realities of homeless life in Tokyo, nor from the harsh reactions of the "regular" people around them. All three have secrets and shattered lives, bruised places they don't want touched. None have been cast out; they have all chosen to cut themselves loose from society.

But they are heroes, because they have set themselves a quest and stay with it. They somehow work together and stick up for each other. No matter how humiliated, scared, beaten, or lost they don't give up. Given a choice, they will make sacrifices for each other time and again.

When we first meet them, Gin, Hana and Miyuki all act as a family, if a really shabby and distorted one. It is Hana who starts them out, by taking the child's discovery as a gift from God to honor her desire to mother a child of her own. Gin finds himself in the protector role and Miyuki grumbles at being put out by the whole thing. As the movie progresses and the tension grows, the characters begin to stress out and we find revealed their true pasts and feelings for each other and those they left.

I'm not going to discuss the plot here -- hence no spoiler warning above -- because the course of their quest is definitely not worth spoiling. It's best to go in cold and let things slowly wrap you up, which this movie does quite well. As bleak and screwed up as our godfathers are, as we slowly see underneath their exteriors they are all revealed to be damaged but still-loving human beings, broken but not completely without hope. We learn their pasts and, through the quest, they come to redemptions of a sort.

I will say that the narrative keeps dropping clues and story lines for most of the first hour, only to skillfully retie them to the main story in the wrap-up. Only a couple of them are dropped, but none that matter to our heroes. The godfathers intersect with a lot of people, to meet them again later in surprising ways. Especially pay attention to the people you'll see in photos.

The animation in this film is probably the hard part, after the subtitles (no dubbing available, sorry) for non-Japanimation fans. While the backgrounds are beautiful and gorgeously detailed, and the characters' movements are subtle and realistic, their faces are animated in a Japanese style of exaggeration that may be off-putting to Americans not used to it. It's a technique used there at moments of great emotion, and a long-standing traditional one, but it can look silly to those not used to it. But that, and a certain staticness in backgrounds, are small annoyances indeed compared to the otherwise engrossing art.

Watching the "Making of" featurette (Be sure to watch it, but only after the film as it spoils some surprises.) I was amazed to learn the extent of CGI and computer assistance in the film. Some surfaces and "camera movements" are clearly computerised, but even background detail and still sections were done by computer. I suspect the snow, which is so lifelike and beautiful that it made me cold just watching it, was done by computer. The movie also makes effective use of the multi-plane filming technique, giving depth to long shots that make the city large, the environments real.

This is not the Tokyo of most American films -- gaudy Ginza and bustling crowds -- nor the Tokyo of Lost in Translation, which showed a sleek, wealthy side. This is a city of back alleys, train tracks, lonely streets, and always being on the edge of whatever group of people you meet, always being pushed away. There's a scene where the godfathers wander in a burnt-out home and you can see, in a resonant symbolic way, their own devastated lives. It's like the difference between "tourist Memphis" and Orange Mound.

Back to the animation. Some of the scenes have a bit too many static (i.e. non-animated) elements, and there are places where detail is conspicuously missing. But the characters' movements are a joy to watch. Pay attention to Hana's walk, the hip-sway, and to his hand and arm gestures, the way he runs. Tiny bits of business are taken care of and illuminate Hana wonderfully. His face is square and mannish, his hands too large, his voice awfully deep, his clothes shabby, but his movement speaks for the spirit within. We see young Miyuki at various points in the past six months since she left home and if you're careful you'll notice the change in her shape, telling us of both her bad diet and her maturation. Watching Gin stumble drunk, or after he is beaten up, you can sense the man's flickering, fighting spirit. All of them are distinct and living people. In the final section, with much running and leaping and climbing, it becomes easy to forget they are animated.

Be sure to watch the edges of scenes, some funny and telling bits of business happen there. Watch, too, for the number 1225, as it comes up many times in many guises. Lastly, very late in the movie something falls from a pocket. Look closely at it. There's a joyous joke there if you catch it: maybe God's reward and maybe the setup for a second film. It flashes by so quick it's easy to miss!

This is a movie of small details briefly noted -- an ad in a newspaper, a sigh, a building in a photo, an animal's telling name, pictures on a wall. Throwaway lines come back with deeper meaning. This movie rewards close watching and will easily hold up through repeated viewings.

Oh! Be sure to watch the credits for the loopiest version of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony you will ever hear.

One warning: some gay viewers may be displeased by how Hana is shown and treated. He's called "homo," "fag," and "queer" throughout the movie. This may be painful, but it's consistent with Japanese society, which is much less tolerant of homosexuality, and a reminder of the disgraced state our heroes are in. But, the movie explicitly shows Hana is a person of bruised dignity and the one with the deepest well of love.

At the movie's open, we tend to want to keep these three homeless people at arm's distance. They are smelly, unlikable and screwed up. But as they work their way to baby Kiyoko's mother, their better spirits awaken, begin to fight through the layers of defeat and abuse and pain. We come to side with them and to cheer them on. They become heroes and we root for them to win, to find their redemptions.

It's hard for a movie to begin with bleakness and unlikely protagonists, then slowly work through comedy and drama to a place of hope that isn't false or melodramatic. Three Godfathers succeeds in that task. Highly recommended.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Oliver Stone: Tool Or Fool? Both!

Director Oliver Stone was interviewed by Ann Louise Bardach on the release of his second film about Fidel Castro. His first movie was deemed a suck-up job and shelved. Bardach knows her stuff and decided to show Stone for the buffoon he is. Read it and watch a man get intellectually flayed.
ALB: But Cuba's leader for life is sitting in front of these guys who are facing life in prison, and you're asking them, "Are you well treated in prison?" Did you think they could honestly answer that question?

OS: If they were being horribly mistreated, then I don't know that they could be worse mistreated [afterward].

ALB: So in other words, you think they thought this was their best shot to air grievances? Rather than that if they did speak candidly, there'd be hell to pay when they got back to prison?

OS: I must say, you're really picturing a Stalinist state. It doesn't feel that way. You can always find horrible prisons if you go to any country in Central America.

ALB: Did you go to the prisons in Cuba?

OS: No, I didn't.

ALB: So you don't know if they're any different than, say, the prisons in Honduras then?

OS: I think that those prisoners are being honest.
Stone later claims Cuba isn't a Stalinist state.
Good News For Guys

Word from Britain that you need never stay lost again, if you have a cam-phone:
You are lost in a foreign city, you don't speak the language and you are late for your meeting. What do you do? Take out your cellphone, photograph the nearest building and press send.

For a small fee, photo recognition software on a remote server works out precisely where you are, and sends back directions that will get you to your destination. That, at least, is what two researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK hope their software will one day be used for.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

I'm Famous Again

Got today's Memphis Flyer and guess who is in the Fly On The Wall feature? Mr. Mike and his Carol Chumney graphics! Yeah!

Welcome to the Flyer readers coming here for the first time. Lots of reading for y'all down below. Please note that I'm not a "Libertarian blogger." I rarely talk about LP politics. I'm a capital "L" / small "l" libertarian politically, with strong conservative leanings, but I blog mostly about Memphis politics and media, with some fun stuff tossed in for variety. Read and enjoy, y'all. Please feel free to leave comments, suggestions and brickbats in the comments below or by email. Addy is to the left, at the top.

I moved the links for the Kerry Mockery page and the Carol Chumney Wallop page over to the links list, up at the top. I also updated the whole links shebang once again, adding State Government links.

Hope you enjoy yourselves. Let me know!

Never, ever watch KiKi's Delivery Service, an animated tale about a young girl who learns that with a strong heart, spirit and a purpose in life you will succeed, and Requiem For A Dream, a harrowing, bleak tale of drug degradation, back to back. It does weird things to your head. Trust me on this.
Just A Reminder

[I'm recycling this post from down below, as I'm pimping my Chumney page like a cheap whore. It'll stay at or near the top of the blog for some more days, until I'm either famous or sued. New stuff comes next.]

You can find my Carol Chumney graphics at the Carol Chumney Wallop Page. If you have ideas or suggestions of your own, send them in! Email addy is on the upper-left of the page.

And don't forget the Kerry Mockery page while you're at it. It's slipped to Number Three in the Google rankings for "Kerry mockery," so let's get those links going and help me get it to Number One!

[Yes, I'm lazy and recycled this post from late last night. Nothing new to add to the same old message, so why not? Besides, you've got lots to read today. Want a refund? There ya go.]
Fear Not Dear Reader

Once again, a volcanic lavafield of posting down below. Lots to read and think about. I don't just provide linkery with an occasional comment, but give you real content for your dollar. Or I would if you paid me a dollar, which you don't, though I wish someone would. Think someone might hire me, pay me to do this? It's a daydream. Maybe I should explore PayPal or something.... Believe me, I work real cheap! Three hundred a week and I could be your bitch!

An addendum to the Gayoso Murder story down below. I didn't mention the woman's name because I don't want her family or friends to Google the news stories and run across my post by accident. It might horrify them. I don't want that. Let them grieve.

Also, the radio has said that it was her stolen credit cards that allowed the police to track the criminals. Doh! Shoulda realised that. I was thinking objects, cash and jewelry, not cards. Instant corrections on the blog, right where you can't miss it. Advantage: blogosphere!

Lastly, after today's marathon I need a breather. No posting tomorrow, unless something in the papers really pops my cork. You've got plenty to keep you busy down below anyway. Well, OK, maybe I'll post something late afternoon so y'all have something for Friday morning.

Anyway, see y'all in a day. Be good or be careful.
From The Bush Press Conference

I watched the President's press conference and it was fine. He got lost in his own words and thoughts a few too many times, but he did fine and came across pretty well for me. Passionate and focused.

I would suggest to reporters that if someone asks a question and the President is firm in not answering it, you shouldn't waste our time by asking the same damn question. Bush got the "Will you say sorry?" question, what, five times? Quit! Ask something else. Heaven knows there are plenty of other things to know.

One thing really struck me, though. When a reporter asked this question:
Thank you, Mr. President. In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?
Bush was cleared knocked back on his heels by the question. He hemmed and hawed for quite a while before he finally essayed a weak answer:
I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it. (Laughter.) [snip]
Clearly, that one hit him between the eyes. It was his chance to inspire without having to apologise

What I wish he'd said was something like this:

"Let me put it like this. Back then, I could give that kind of joking answer and it was fine. But today no-one would dream of joking like that. That's because the world was changed that day, September 11th.

When I came into office, you could ask, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" We really didn't know how bad it could be. The really scary things were just nightmare scenarios in the back of a report in Appendix B. The thought that such horror could happen to us, here, at home, was out on the edges of our worldview.

Until four airplanes slammed into America and three thousand people died in a single morning. Now, we don't ask, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" We know. And we can imagine much, much worse. We can believe it will happen. We know it might happen. Having stared into the abyss, we can now imagine even bigger abysses, much darker places, far larger evils.

That's my regret. That I didn't know just how bad it could be. Couldn't conceive of how big it could be. I inherited a complacent mindset and it didn't occur to us to step outside of it. We truly couldn't imagine just how bad it could be. If we had believed that the worst could happen, really could happen right here, I don't know what might have gone differently. But I'd like to see. I'd like to know. The families of three thousand Americans would like to know.

That's my regret."
True Stories From My Childhood

When I was around five years old, we lived on a very long, straight street. All the backyards faced onto a country club golf course. We weren't allowed to play on their property, but we had an enormous vista of rolling hills, greens, and stands of trees. It was beautiful.

One day, my Mom was in the back yard hanging laundry on the line. I can still see her, forty years later, as she puts up the wash. The sky was that perfect clear blue of an early summer day, before the haze builds up. Only a couple of clouds dotted the sky. I was standing in the back door, watching Mom at work, when I heard this low thrumming noise coming from the sky!

I looked up and there it was -- an enormous UFO! It was hovering right over my Mom. They were going to kidnap her!

How my five year old mind knew this, I don't remember any more. This huge silver object just floating there, that ominous low noise still going. Why didn't Mom hear it? Why wasn't she coming inside?

I started hollering at her, "Mom! C'mon in! Mom! Hurry!!" She ignored me. I started screaming and she told me to quit it.

By now hot tears were pouring down my face and I was screaming as loud as I could, deathly afraid I was going to see my Mom being taken by space aliens. Why didn't she run? Didn't she love us? "Mom!! MOOOOOM!" My little heart was breaking as my lungs burned from the effort. "MOM!!" I can still see it right now -- beautiful grassy vista, trees, Mom and the laundry line, blue sky, puffy clouds and the vast silvery UFO. It's burned into my mind's eye forever.

She told me to go inside and shut up. Why, why? I looked up and saw the silver ship still hanging up there, but slowly drifting away, the thrumming getting fainter as it did. I could make out blue markings on the side, which I couldn't read, but can still see in my memory.

Great Songs

The following is a partial (very partial!) list of some of my favorite songs, with a little on why I love them. Give them a listen.

* "Look for the Good in Others And They'll See the Good in You," The Chills
The Chills are from New Zealand, fronted by singer/songwriter Martin Phillipps. Their sound is quiet, melodic, maybe even a bit wispy. In some ways, it's almost as though Brian Wilson grew up in New Zealand instead of California. This song is the most rocking thing they ever did, and boy is it rollicking! From the start, they hurtle into the riffs like a mad roller coaster. Martin wails over them:
Last week just for a while
I thought I'd found someone at last
The woman in my future was a child from my past
Oh it was cruel of Fate to give me hope --
The first time in two years!
Now I know who all my friends are
And no one really cares.
He also sings of going to the "talent cupboard" and finding it bare. The sadness of the lyrics is belied by the roaring, careening music. The bridge, where the band seems to veer from chord to chord almost by chance, until you realise it was all planned from the start, then strums one chord until the drummer kicks them back into the verse again. is one of my favorite passages in pop. A wild, fun ride.

* "Open Your Heart," Madonna
Yeah, go ahead and laugh. There are only two songs of hers I can stand -- this and "Crazy For You," which is the perfect evocation of "three AM, the bar's closed and you're alone wandering the streets hurting." With a girl group homage to boot.

Anyway, the version I love is the nine minute 12-inch 45 dance remix. Well worth looking for because of the way she and the producer deconstruct the song and then spread things out. It begins with bell-like synths pecking out the main melody, then a bubbly synth creating a bass undertow. This continues until the huge, fat drums slap out the intro to a rhythm workout and then the whole song falls together with some scratched Madonna samples. Wicked. You get a bonus, too. Late into the song, Madonna cries out over the beat, "So...ya wanna go out with me or what? Whatsa matta? Ya scared of me or sum'thin'?" It looks funny here, but in the song it's a kind of bravado.

The music is compelling. It builds and builds to the choruses, where everything plays out in forceful orchestration: synth horns and bells. Only problem is the lyrics. She's asking her guy to open his heart, but she keeps talking about herself as the lock and him as the key! Oops. Still, I can play this one over and over and over again.

* "Broken Head," Catherine Wheel
A majestic, soaring rip tide of riffing. Chiming bent strings call out and the whole band falls into the one chord that's the riff, with a second guitar chattering along around the beat. The song builds and falls, like the tides, a stop-beat chord up taking you between verses and choruses. On a good stereo you almost feel like you're walking around inside the guitars, in a cathedral of roar. Another song I can listen to repeatedly.

* "The Golden Age of Rock and Roll," Mott The Hoople
Seventies glam rock! It begins with a gospel chorus oohing and ahhing over piano fanfare. Then a deep announcer's voice intones, "Ladies and gentlemen, the golden age of rock and roll." The piano starts pumping, and the rest of the band jumps in on a sliding bass dive. Classic mid-Seventies English glam. Lead singer/songwriter Ian Hunter cries and yowls trying to stay on top of the rockandroll madness of the band.
The dude in the paint
Thinks he's gonna faint
Stoke more coke on the fire.
If the going gets rough
Don't you blame us
You 98 decibel freaks, AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!
The production's great and the band's clearly having a good time. Even the gospel chorus gets in a "WOOOOOOOOOO!!" at one point.

I can see the video for this one: Hunter rising up from below the podium in a small black church during the intro. Gospel choir behind him. Band suddenly appears on stage, playing away. The doors blow open, kids on the street here the music and wander in. People drop whatever they're doing up and down the block. Before you know it, the church is full and everyone's dancing like mad, Hunter exhorting them the whole time. At the final suspended chord, where Hunter says, "That's all," the frenzied crowd falls to the floor, exhausted. Fade on a high crane shot.

Yeah, I could make that video.

* "Subways," Urban Verbs
I've blogged on this band before. Washington DC New Wave band from the early Eighties that never got the fame they deserved. This song is the opener on their second album. The drummer clacks his sticks to count it in and the bass player starts a pulsing, grace-noted two note bottom. It's the musical recreation of the clacking rumble of a subway ride! Then comes the chiming guitar, a lot like early Edge (U2) but smaller, warmer, with more sheen.
Every morning I go under the city
Handful of change takes me away from it all
I leave my problems up
on the streets
And ride the subway where it's always warm.
The choruses suspend the bass, with the drummer popping his snare and the guitarist repeating a three-note tattoo, like the train slowing down. It's a cool, subtle song. A sublime song.

* "How Can The Laboring Man Find Time For Self-Culture,"
This was for years my "Friday getting off from work" song. Martini Ranch were some cohorts of Devo and you can hear a bit of the Spud-Boys in this. Mostly it's a high-speed, disco-influenced, machine-beat rock song with a solid dance beat. Popping bass, chattering guitars, synths coming in and out. I really love the 12-inch 45 version -- seven minutes! The lyrics were complete goofiness:
How can the laboring man
Find time for self-culture?
How can the laboring man
Find time for self-culture?
I think that it's important that we take some time
Making up rhymes.
I think that it's important that we take some time
Making up rhymes.
Somehow, this song always blew off the barnacles of the work week, left me refreshed and ready to PAR-TAY! I know, I'm a geek.

* "Sleep," 'Til Tuesday
Aimee Mann is an indie darling nowadays, but she fronted this totally New Wave band before that. She played bass and had her platinum hair teased to hell and back; her big bug eyes always looked like she was scared to death back then. They had one big hit with "Voices Carry" and this song comes from the same album.

It sounds a bit like circus midway music, but slowed down. Big, echoey guitar; dramatic bass and drum moves; woozy horn-synth in the background; tinkly keyboards; production is huge, like an enormous gauzy cavern. There's the main melody that Mann sings to and a second melody carried by the keyboards; lurking in the background is a third, different melody, almost like a counterpoint. Mann sings of a lover who is gone and now she can only meet him in sleep; he might be dead, we don't know. It's a haunting tune, but what seals the deal is after the bridge and final chorus the band goes into a spellbinding coda. What had been the main melody is pushed to the back and Mann starts singing new lyrics to the earlier background counterpoint melody! The change is unexpected and doubly dramatic. The keys back down and the guitar, in widescreen washes almost like crying, moves up. Mann closes out the song's final minute with this lament:
Say good night
He's wai-ai-ai-ting.
Say good night
You're not forsaken.
Over and over through the fade. This song can actually bring me to tears. No kidding.

* "Are 'Friends' Electric?" Gary Numan
Yes, the "Cars" guy with the nasal voice and the dorky, jerky electropop. This song was the English hit that got him radio play in America for "Cars."

I've described it elsewhere as a sad, stately carnival of a song. The drummer double-times the high-hat into a sussurus, popping the snare on every other beat, setting a slow rhythm that never changes, almost like rainfall. Bass is mixed up front and is playing a riff almost out of place, jumping up and down octaves. And keyboards, lots and lot of them in vast plains of sound built around a back and forth, three-note riff. Every chorus, the band changes to a two-note riff like a piledriver with keyboard trills. Five minutes long and I love every minute.

Lyrics are the usual Numan alienation stuff:
It's cold outside
And the paint's peeling off of my walls.
There's a man outside,
In a long coat, grey hat, smoking a cigarette....

Now the light fades out
And I wonder what I'm doing in a room like this.
There's a knock on the door.
And just for a second I thought I remembered you.
The fade introduces a new synth sound like a "Whee" sliding up and down the scales. Beautiful, almost druggy, like entering another world.

That's enough for today, kids. More another time.
Shell Game

It occured to me the other day, and I finally verified it today, that the FedEx Forum will hold 2000 fewer fans for basketball than the Pyramid does. [Links on the left. Check it out for yourself, if necessary.] Likely the same for concerts. So, we're getting a smaller but sweller facility for our $264 million (and counting)? Fewer paying fans at every concert, event, etc. Peach. Just peachy. Wonder why that's not being pointed out more....
Just A Reminder

You can find my Carol Chumney graphics at the Carol Chumney Wallop Page. If you have ideas or suggestions of your own, send them in! Email addy is on the upper-left of the page.

And don't forget the Kerry Mockery page while you're at it. It's slipped to Number Three in the Google rankings for "Kerry mockery," so let's get those links going and help me get it to Number One!

[Yes, I'm lazy and recycled this post from late last night. Nothing new to add to the same old message, so why not? Besides, you've got lots to read today. Want a refund? There ya go.]
Matthew Cordaro

One of the candidates for President of Memphis Light, Gas & Water is a gentleman named Matthew Charles Cordaro. His resume mentions that he was President of Nashville Electric Service from 1993 to 1999. I did some checking around at the Tennessean's website, but came up dry except for this story about his stepping down:
Under his watch, NES updated its emergency response plan, replaced an antiquated customer service phone system, moved to 24-hour, seven-day-a-week customer service and streamlined its payroll.
Good news there. MLG&W's customer service has fallen of late. Also:
He has been criticized by the union of rank-and-file NES employees for generous pay packages he arranged for senior management and for other missteps: He once had NES pay $3,000 to have a speech written for him.

Cordaro now makes $186,600 per year, one of the highest salaries in Metro government.
Bad. Very, very bad. What kind of salary will they offer him to come here? And will Ricky Peete try to get Herenton's salary raised to beat it? Again?

There was another disturbing note in this second article, about Cordaro's resignation:
Charles Cook, Nashville Electric Power Board chairman, said he was surprised by the news and that he received notification of Cordaro's departure only yesterday.
If he finds Memphis politics to be unpalatable, will he just drop us and leave Rev. Netters and the MLG&W Board holding the bad?

Googling turned up some stuff worth mentioning. His current gig at Long Island University came with this press release.

And another man up for the MLG&W position is current senior VP and COO William Thompson. Thompson applied for Cordaro's old position at NES when Cordaro left in 1999. Small world!

The Gayoso Murder

I didn't know the young woman, a DJ for RadioPig now Q107.5, murdered in the Gayoso House apartments over the weekend. Her murder seems to have gotten the usual television news sensationalism, of course.

But there are questions. It seems, according to one television news story, that she was murdered Saturday night, but her body wasn't discovered until coworkers found her around noon Monday. She had no friends, not even in the building? That's odd, but not that odd, as I had a friend and neighbor who was last seen on a Thursday and not discovered dead until early Sunday morning. He was the namesake for my cat, Bennie.

The newspaper story says that someone was going around the Gayoso knocking on doors. How did they know this? More importantly, how did he get in? I thought the Gayoso was a gated and keyed apartment building. It looks that way in this picture. Another, less reassuring, view is here. The CA says:
Police said Tuesday she was strangled by a man who slipped past security cameras and key-card stations into the Gayoso House apartments at 103 S. Front.
Note the use of "slipped past" implying no guilt on someone's part. And did no one in the building report some stranger knocking on doors late night Saturday to management? What wasn't done then? There's a gap in the timeline here that screams "elision."

Who let him in and why? Is traffic in and out so high that laxity set it? Did the murderer hit the buzzer, hoping someone would just let him in without question? Did someone hold the door for him, not knowing? This needs to be explained.

Also, according to the paper the murderers were caught within 12 hours of discovering her body:
Items stolen from the apartment were recovered on the street by police, leading to the arrest of a man and woman in Frayser about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.
"On the street?" You mean outside? At a pawnshop? Some snitch saw them and recognised them when police started asking questions? The items were taken on Saturday night and "recovered" on a Monday? Again, where?

The paper also noted the assistance of "federal agents." From what department? Why were they called in? How does an in-home murder rate that highly?

Lots of questions remain. I hope we get the answer.

On related notes: The Gayoso House Apartments are owned by Jack Belz and are a part of the Peabody Place complex. Did the high traffic in that area play a part in the failure of security? You can go to this site to see the apartment rating, which ironically mentions security as a good feature. Lastly, you can learn about the history of the building here.

A lot of questions surround the security in the building and what happened. Some questions about the investigation and solving of the case remain as well. I hope we will learn more in the days ahead. I hope the names Belz and Peabody Place don't deter deeper inquiries and reporting.
Who Are The Haters?

A small Florida weekly, the St. Petersburg Gabber, ran an ad this week from the local Democratic Club that called for death for Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld:
We should put this S.O.B. up against a wall and say 'This is one of our bad days,' and pull the trigger.
They then solicited donations for the Kerry For President campaign. The Democrats and Kerry both quickly disavowed the ad, to their credit. Good for them.

I know that the Republicans had hysterical fits during the Clinton years and were brutal to both Bill and Hil. I know because I was too. When Bush was elected and the tables turned, when the cycle didn't die but went up a notch against Bush, I realised my mistake and retired from the bleeding edge. But I don't recall the kind of rabid death calls we've been seeing from the Democrats since the Florida election circus. Dem berserker hatred since 2000 far exceeds Republican anti-Clinton rabidity, it seems to me.

I'm not saying political campaigning is dirty. It's actually pretty tame compared to some times in our history. It's the attending hate coming from activists that disturbs me. I wish the big media would acknowledge this more, so we can recognise it and hopefully open a serious dialogue on how to change it.

Because I'm getting troubled by it. Partisanship is fine, but not when it interferes with actually running our political processes. Sharp jabs are OK, but not repeated stabbing.

[Note: if the link to the Drudge copy of the Gabber ad goes down, let me know and I'll post it to my site. I saved a copy.]
The Myth of the Racist Republicans?

Chris over at Signifying Nothing has an interesting post on "The Myth of the Racist Republicans." It's a comment on an essay of the same name by Gerard Alexander. It's short and very well worth reading.
Once Again, Who Are The Haters?

A couple of weeks ago, The Daily Kos, the top Democratic weblog, posted a statement in the wake of the first Fallujah murders calling the men who died "mercenaries" and saying, of their deaths, "Screw them." You can go to my Kerry Mockery page and read his whole statement; it's in a graphic about halfway down the page on the right.

He got blasted by the blogosphere. At first, he disappeared the page, but not before legions of bloggers had already saved it. Kos was called on his dishonesty and was forced to take down the page altogether, but not before Kos posted a mealy-mouthed not-quite apology. But the damage was done and many Democratic blog and web sites (including the John Kerry official campaign site) delinked him.

Well, today comes more hate from the Daily Kos, this time from a co-blogger of his named Soj. This post has a standard PR photo of Secretary of State Colin Powell with the caption, "Yes suh! Yes suh! Right away suh!" She calls him an "Uncle Tom." Soj has an extremely long post that includes a lot of excerpts from various testimony and briefings Powell, has given in support of her contention that Powell is doing nothing for "his race" and is in fact sending many young black men to die because he is a shill for a "crooked regime." She makes the false claim that the Army is disproportionately black, and some more outlandish claims as well. It's unfortunate, as she does have some good things; they got shadowed by her stupid opening move.

The page is still up and unaltered as of 9:45AM CDT. Read the lengthy comments and you'll see that Soj is nearly unanimously panned by her Democratic and liberal peers. She makes some noises about not communicating well and being misunderstood and "falling into the 'merc' trap," but never apologises.

On her own site. Soj now has this to say:
Well it looks like I created a "semantic bomb" yesterday with my post about Powell being an "Uncle Tom". Here is the post and attached comments from the DailyKos website....

Anyway, I apologize to anyone if they felt the term "Uncle Tom" was offensive. My primary goal was to raise awareness of the incredible efforts Powell has put forth in promoting the Bush and neocon agenda. Everyone from Richard Clarke to General Shinsheki (himself an ethnic Georgian) have realized what a mistake serving Bush is, why can't Powell?
Notice she doesn't apologise for what she said, but for how you felt about it. Her claim that "everyone...realized what a mistake serving Bush is..." is just stupid on its face.

Make sure you go down in the Daily Kos thread, as there's yet more racist offense! Someone posted a graphic showing Condoleeza Rice in a WWII-era women's uniform with the logo, "I'm Fighting For WHITEY!"

Apparently, having cornered the market on fighting racism, Democrats now believe that race hatred is their playground. Can you even begin to imagine the firestorm something similar to this, done by a Republican, would cause? I really want to post something like that, say Ted Kennedy in a rare photo with blacks (I know it's rare; I went searching for some. I had to give up!) with something offensive just to see what kind of reaction it gets.

You can bet that it would be picked up on by the big media, which passed on the first Kos dustup and I would wager will also pass on the second, even though it now establishes a pattern at Daily Kos. Thanks to Rev. Don Sensing, of One Hand Clapping, for his post on this. You might also watch Instapundit during the day. He hasn't posted on it yet, but I suspect he will and will flood the zone with links.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Just A Reminder

You can find my Carol Chumney graphics at the Carol Chumney Wallop Page. If you have ideas or suggestions of your own, send them in! Email addy is on the upper-left of the page.

And don't forget the Kerry Mockery page while you're at it. It's slipped to Number Three in the Google rankings for "Kerry mockery," so let's get those links going and help me get it to Number One!
Radio, Television and Censorship

Howard Stern and the massive fines being levelled against Clear Channel by the Federal Communications Commission have brought radio and television censorship into the national debate again. Unfortunately, most folks don't know what they're talking about.

The Communications Act of 1934 gave the Federal government the right to manage the airwaves. It was derived from the Communications Act of 1927, which defined the airwaves as a community good under the control of the government, which was explicitly given the right to run it in the common interest.
The content of any programming could not have "obscene, indecent, or profane language." Otherwise anything could be programmed, though the Federal Radio Commission could take into consideration programming when renewing licenses. A forerunner of the "equal time rule" was stated in section (18) of the Radio Act of 1927 which ordered stations to give equal opportunities for political candidates. The act did vest in the Federal Radio Commission the power to revoke licences and give fines for violations of the act.
Licenses came from the Radio Act of 1912, which wasn't an effort to control content but merely a war-time measure to keep the airwaves clear and know who was broadcasting. It was seen as a reasonable measure for an exploding technology in a time of war. Does that sound familiar?

The government soon found that it merely could issue and sometime deny licenses, but its hands were tied. The government asked for reasonable extensions of the Act to give it some regulatory muscle. Again, sound familiar?

That led to the CA of 1927, which suddenly codified and regulated a whole lot. But it too proved not enough, and with the explosion of radio networks and the introduction of television, the broadcasting companies and radio manufacturers asked for the government to step in to help control the chaotic situation. So, the modified CA of 1934.

And that's how things have stood ever since, up through modifications to the CA34 in 1987 and then in 1998. Radio and broadcast television have statute laws that say explicitly what cannot be done: "obscene, indecent, or profane language." That law has stood innumerable Supreme Court tests; in fact, much of the CA34 was shaped by Supreme Court challenges to the CA27.

The fundamental thinking then was that turning on a radio or television, which is in the house (and later car), invites anything being carried on the airwaves into the house. Radios and televisions might be found anywhere or brought into public view anywhere. With cable, you had to buy the cable, have it installed, and then buy the channel package. The thinking was that this was different, although it's a slender difference indeed. That difference has also withstood Supreme Court challenge. I haven't heard yet if subscription radio (Sirius or SM Satellite Radio) would be under the same standard as cable television and dish.

So, modern viewers who look at television, broadcast and cable, as the same thing are uninformed. Legally speaking, they are not and haven't ever been. The FCC does have a clear and solid right to control content in "the public interest." Folks who don't like that can try to have the law changed.

Unfortunately for them, that's terribly unlikely. Most of the legislation and regulatory work of the FCC is by and for the media companies, telephony industry and the electronics companies. They all have vested interests and financial security based on the status quo, and the ability to influence Congress to regulate in their favor.

Short answer? You're screwed. Things are what they are and aren't likely to change. Gradualism got us here. What began as a reasonable effort to make sure that early radio hobbyists and inventors didn't walk all over each other, and to make sure emergency stations were always manned to prevent tragedies like the Titanic ushered in government oversight. Light touch grew heavier, as the government found that it couldn't conduct oversight without some teeth to bite with. Then came an exploding new technology and business, with all the market chaos you'd expect. Everyone wants someone to do something, so they turn to government and give it absolute control. Then begins the long tug-of-war to control the controllers.

What shouldn't have been government-regulated becomes a government property. It was the same with automobiles. Why do you need a license to operate a car? Who "owns" the roads? Why is that? We're seeing it happen with the Internet. Think I'm kidding? Look closely.
We're Number Three! We're Number Three!

Social policy organisation Partners for Livable Communities has released a study intended to recognise cities doing things right (in their measurements), to encourage other cities to emulate their policies (liberal social progressivism). Called America's Most Livable Communities, there are four categories, and in "Regions" (i.e. multi-state urban areas) Memphis came in Number Three! Yay team!

Any sign of Nashvegas in any of the four categories? Nope.

In your face, Nashville!
Dinner Of Champions

Tonight I had beef cubes cooked in hoi-sin sauce, drizzled with cheddar cheese. OK, smothered in some leftover Cheez-Whiz. Steak fries with ketchup. Yummmmmmm.

Ketchup is still a vegetable, right?
Rock And Roll

This year is the "Fiftieth Anniversary of Rock and Roll," at least here in Memphis and in the world of semi-official institutions and retailers. Whatever. Memphis makes a big deal because we have Elvis, the trump card of all trumps. But the subject can, and should, be open to debate.

An excellent case can be made that Louis Jordan, the jazz musician, was the true father of rock in 1947, with his recording of "Ain't That Just Like a Woman" or Roy Brown in 1946 with "Good Rockin' Tonight." The term itself, rock and roll, has been around since at least the Thirties. The whole post-war Forties was spotted with music a modern listener would find indistinguishable from the certified rock and roll of the Fifties. You can also make the case it was Bill Haley's seminal "Rock Around the Clock." Nick Tosches wrote a great book on the subject, The Forgotten Heroes of Rock and Roll.

Whatever way, there was a burgeoning music rising out of the black community with the help of white radio disk jockeys into the larger white listening audience since 1950. Maybe they were false starts, or the right music in the wrong context. Maybe it was black faces, as Sam Phillips presciently noted: "If I could find a white man who sings with the Negro feel, I'll make a million dollars."

Maybe trying to find that exact pivot point, that moment of conception, is pointless?
You See? I Told You

I've blogged a couple of times on events happening across the country that, taken individually, aren't that odd but which add up to an ominous picture. There are moves being made by the Federal government, the Army and the Selective Service that pave the way for the reintroduction of a military draft.

Presidential candidate Ralph Nader (remember him?) has also noticed and brought the subject into the national debate. I'm telling you that if President Bush wins a second term, you'll see overt action on this within two years.

Also notice how Nader has all but disappeared since he announced? The Dems have two approaches to Nader: slash him for being a spoiler and refuse to talk about him to keep his media profile as low as possible. Don't think there's some media complicity with the Democratic effort to pretend Nader doesn't exist?
A Bold Experiment

I rag on the Commercial Appeal pretty hard, but they deserve. With great power comes great responsiblity, give light and the people will find their own way, neutrality is not a pick and choose philosophy, and all that.

But this time, the Commercial Appeal is taking a big, bold step and they most definitely deserve some applause. They are going to blog the Beale Street Music Festival!

That's one huge undertaking. They will set up a central blog open to any(registered)one who wants to contribute posts, and only minimally edit the contributions (largely just eliminating profanity and libel). This will be one very interesting read.

You can go to Jon Sparks' CA blog to get the details.

Way to GO, CA.
Fine For Thee But Not For Me

Sunday's Commercial Appeal had a story on Germantown's experiment with traffic cameras that I've already commented on (see down below). I already pointed out some practical objections.

Today's Commercial Appeal editorial is on that story. It always takes a couple of days for the paper to catch up like this. The demands of the editorial process and the slowness of print media, dontcha know.

It's sad to see the CA blandly agree with a blithe dismissal of the very important issues at hand. Privacy concerns? Well, they've already been washed away in a sea of previous violations, so what's your worry? Problems with incorrect identification or no identification of violating autos? Eh, "imperfect." Extra cost to the City in an era of sqeaky-tight budgets? Not to worry -- it's "a small price to pay."

If that's the case, let's offer this idea, which I overlooked in my post below. How about we hire a whole lot more officers and flood the streets with them? Would that still be a "small price to pay?" The problem we have now is that cops turn a blind eye to minor violations because they must focus their time on the big crimes. Drivers know that. If we have more officers on the streets so that we can focus on all violations, that changes the environment. It also has the distinct side-effect of reducing overall crime, because more officers will be out on any given shift. That's an idea we can try now, without the need for study and with a high likelihood of immediate benefits. It's the Giuliani "quality of life" approach and it works.

Speaking of giving up rights, let's ask the Commercial Appeal if they would mind a few, minor, limitations to their rights. Nothing big. How about, all editorials must come signed, so we know for sure who wrote them? That's no big deal. And why not print corrections in the same section and on the same page as the original error, so it bears equal weight and notice to the mistake? That's just a tiny thing. Do you think the Commercial Appeal would have a problem with that?

I thought so.
Free Choice?

I don't usually read Commercial Appeal columnist Wendi C. Thomas. She is too general in her topics and too lightweight in her approach for my tastes. But the headline of her Tuesday column caught my eye: (S)paying addicts ignores hard stuff.

She pastes activist Barbara Harris for paying addicts for either sterilising themselves or getting long-term birth control. Harris practices social policy at the hardest-nosed level -- cash economics.

Thomas seems most miffed that Harris looks at humans as animals, which in fact we are. Folks like Thomas who would like to turn a blind eye to that reality are part of the problem. We are animals, and losing sight of that leads to social policy set by idealists and utopians that quickly becomes disconnected from reality. The basic principles are unquestioned, but "eugenics" has become a taboo topic since World War II. Like it or not, we need to find some level of looking at ourselves that way.

Thomas makes the mistake of claiming that Harris is saying humans are pets. Harris looks at how we treat pets, and our livestock, then looks at how we treat ourselves. What we know is best in the animals we are guardians for is also what's best for us. Harris offers a choice to addicts, one they are free to decline. Heck, Thomas could offer addicts more than Harris to get them to decline, if she wanted. Nothing's stopping her, as nothing stops Harris, as nothing is stopping the addicts.

She's miffed at Harris giving addicts her own money up front, but apparently has no trouble with society taking money from all of us to give to addicts when they have children that become wards of the State in one form or another. Is Harris' direct-action approach worse than Thomas' palming off the problem on the "government?"

Thomas also does a dirty thing:
A disproportionate number of Harris's clients are black or Hispanic, but this isn't about race.
She could've snipped that sentence from her column and it would've been true. But she stuck it in, and by introducing the topic she has raised it in her readers' minds. Dirty, dirty pool

Thomas chastises Harris for being on "the wrong front in the war on drugs," which is ludicrous. Harris is in the war on population growth, especially women (and men) who will bring children into this world automatically at a deficit in their journey. Thomas needs to rethink herself.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Monday Meme

I've always wanted to start one of these. Help me out by copy-and-pasting the following to your own page and then answering.

Be honest: What five words describe you that your friends would agree with?

My answers:
Holy Crap!

Well, I've been busy this weekend. There's lots and lots of reading down below, including three very long posts. That should keep y'all busy for a while.

Just a reminder, too, that the Carol Chumney Wallop Page is now up. She thinks the Memphis Flyer was rude? Hahahahahahahahaha.... Feel free to spread the word and to borrow the graphics if you want.

I have errands to run Monday, so posting may be light, but then there's a whole lot of reading ahead to keep ya busy. Enjoy!
Cover Songs

A while back Say Uncle posted a list of some of his favorite songs. I meant to do something with that, but the idea got lost for a while. Today I want to make that up.

Please note that my definition of "cover" is pretty lax. I'll even consider an artist rerecording the song, if they find something new or play it substantially differently. And my tastes in music tend to the obscure, so bear with me. The list will have the covering band with the song and the name of the original artist in quotes after.

In no particular order:

* "Don't Fear The Reaper;" Oingo Boingo (Blue Oyster Cult)
I love the BOC; they are one of my all-time favorite bands, hands down, even today. They're still out there touring and recording new stuff! Oingo Boingo are OK. I always thought them just as herky-jerky sounding as (singer/songwriter) Danny Elfman's movie soundtracks. But this is a nicely reverential version that still manages to sound like OB. Their lead guitarist slightly reworks the signature riff and the band works in some feedbacky noise at the end that suits the mood.

* "Neon Lights," Love Tractor (Kraftwerk)
Love Tractor was an instrumental band from the Athens, Georgia, scene that produced REM and the B-52s, who got the limelight. LT was part of the second tier of artists from around that time, along with Pylon; good, but never broke through. LT tackled this Kraftwerk song as Beatle-esque raga rock, with lush guitars and dreamy production, transforming the song's original sterility and coldness into something warm and human. Many folks who hear this -- and know Kraftwerk -- will be deep into the song before they recognise it, which shows just how good the original song was, to have survived the shift, and just how well it was reinvented.

* "Like A Hurricane," Roxy Music (Neil Young)
Neil's original is all quiet fury, sustained swirling energy; prototypical American guitar rock. Roxy Music were the quintessential English glam/art rock band whose catalog of songs takes in a huge breadth of styles. Their version is just as powerful, and as swirling, but in a very different way. It's also reverential, because lead singer Bryan Ferry is a stylist who knows to respect the song. And it's a great workout for Roxy guitarist Phil Manzanera, who shines.

* "A Forest," The Cure (The Cure)
Can a band cover themselves? In this case, Robert Smith redoes this song in a live version that blisters. The original version was from the band's mondo-depresso era, the Faith and Pornography albums. It was dank and claustrophobic and, in the context, hopeless. On a double-pack 45 a couple of years later, they released a live version. This production was airy and open and Smith used a flanged guitar that emphasised strumming. The guitar playing by the end is all strumming and phasing and it sears your brain. Nothing hopeless here.

* "Purple Haze," Mahogany Rush (Jimi Hendrix)
What if Hendrix had state-of-the-art recording technology from the late Seventies when he recorded this classic? Imagine how much more powerful this song would be. Well, Mahogany Rush was led by Frankie Marino, a Hendrix worshipper. He even learned to play guitar with his other hand -- and upside-down and backwards like Hendrix -- just to be like The Master! They recording a completely note-for-note version of the song that takes everything you love about the original and makes it sound more contemporary. Hard to explain, you have to hear it. Powerful.

* "1969," The Sisters of Mercy (Iggy and the Stooges)
The Stooges were a Michigan band from the Seventies who were all about Raw Power. Loud, primitive, primal, carnal. Guitar worship mixed with punk icon and source, Iggy Pop, fronting the band in naked fury and lust. The Sisters of Mercy were a late Seventies Goth band; in fact, they helped lay much of the archetype for what Goth later became: sepulchral, deep singing; gloomy subjects; lots of black outfits and smoke on stage. The Sisters didn't have a human drummer, but a machine called Dr. Avalanche, which they used to great effect in their songs. Their version of the apocalyptic "1969" turns Raw Power into whipsnap precision. Rather than the Stooges being hurtled along by energy and anger ("It's 1969, OK / There's war across the USA"), the Sisters are being ping-ponged by outside forces. It's just as powerful, but in a different way.

* "The Passenger," Siouxsie and the Banshees (Iggy Pop)
Same as what I said above about the Igster, although this album comes from his collaboration with David Bowie (!). The song is all about the alienation of driving aimlessly through a decaying industrial city. In the Banshees version, Siouxsie, a vocalist of limited but enormously stylish range, mimics Iggy, but the band redoes the song in a very English kind of way. Faithful, but ornate. It's like the difference between actually driving through the industrial wasteland and watching an arthouse movie of driving through the industrial wasteland. But it's a very, very good movie.

* "Ring of Fire," Wall of Voodoo (Johnny Cash)
Voodoo is another of my all-time favorite bands. If you've heard "Mexican Radio," that's them. It's unfortunate that this was their one-hit wonder because, although that's exactly how they sound, they were so much more. Ennio Moriconi spaghetti-western soundtrack music from a futuristic Twilight Zone. They recorded this early in their career and played it in concert all the way through. It begins with a deep pulsating drone, then Marc Moreland's guitar, hot-miked and all cheesy Western, plays the riff. Front man Stan Ridgway then sings the lyrics in his trademark voice. Wisecracking irony in flesh. Even being sincere, his nasal voice still dripped with it. Spare, spellbinding version that ends in guitar feedback.

* "That's When I Reach for My Revolver," Catherine Wheel (Mission of Burma)
This song was part of a group of "secret cover tracks" on a Catherine Wheel CD. CW were an alt-metal band from England in the mid-Nineties. Neither heavy metal or hard rock, but very, very powerful and very, very smart. Their record company tried to slot them in with grunge, but they aren't that either. Guitar-based, loud but with a superior control of their dynamics, thoughtful and intelligent lyrics. A great package that never caught on, sad to say. Mission of Burma were a Boston punk-ish band that never got much notice, but were hugely influential on later bands. Angular, experimental, also loud (They gave their guitar player tinnitus!), and not afraid to confound their audience. "Revolver" is a melodic and melancholy song about pent-up anger ("That's when I reach for my revolver / that's then it all gets blown away"), that goes from quiet verses to bursts of soaring riffery in the choruses. The Catherine Wheel version is note-for-note, but they bring their trademark power and dynamics to the song, along with far superior production values to the indy original, to make it soar.

* "Ever Fallen In Love," Fine Young Cannibals (The Buzzcocks)
Many of you will have heard this, back in the Eighties. Smooth singing over a lush mid-tempo track. The original though was a high-velocity punk rock song! Really! The Buzzcocks were often compared to the Ramones, who were their direct inspiration, but had far higher pop smarts and melodic sense. This is another example of how genius songwriting means a song can be redone in almost any way and still sound great.

* "Bela Lugosi's Dead," Until December (Bauhaus)
Bauhaus were another archetypal Goth band. This was one of their earliest hits. More on them next. Until December was a San Francisco "gay, metal disco band" as their front man once described them. Their live version of the Bauhaus song is reverential and respectful in the extreme, yet outdoes the original in almost every way, especially when turning Peter Murphy's arch delivery into Andy Sherburne's near-mumble. UD recorded this live and the sound is exactly like being in a dripping cave while langorous vampires entertain you. Chilling.

* "Ziggy Stardust," Bauhaus (David Bowie)
Bowie's song was from the Spiders From Mars period. Mick Ronson's guitar absolutely makes the song, a lament about the collapse of a man and a band. Bauhaus almost single-handedly founded the Goth image and style: mannered vocals, sterile production, cold feel. The Bauhaus version is a near copy, even to Peter Murphy's Bowie-worship vocals. But the song is recorded loud, really loud, which makes it fun to crank up.

* "Jump," Aztec Camera (Van Halen)
Everyone's familiar with Van Halen's pop masterpiece. But Aztec Camera, an English band, reinvented it with a light acoutic guitar sound, changing the title command from an imperative in the original to a wry, friendly suggestion in their version. Well worth seeking out. Again, more proof that great songs are great no matter what.

Wow, this was not only longer than I expected, but I'm sure I'm forgetting things here. I've thought about this off and on for a while, but never made notes, dammit. I'll come back to it later this week.

I also mean to do something about obscure songs and bands you really ought to seek out. Later, though.
An Interesting Choice

Sunday was Easter Sunday, yes? Memphis is a Bible-toting town, yes? Large numbers of Christians here, yes?

So why is it that the only front-page reference to Easter in the Commercial Appeal on Sunday was a corner-right, small story about an addict for whom Easter is special? No big headlines, nor photos, nor mentions, nor church stories, on the front page, the inside A2 page, the front page of the second A section, the Metro front page, or any of the specialty sections? Even in the Editorial section, the Sunday Discussion was about the Grizzlies, not any Easter-related topic. Neither of the in-house columnists mentioned it.

Only the story noted above and a picture of a couple of party girls with Easter bunny ears on the Central City Appeal section front page.

It's as though for the folks at the Commercial Appeal, today was nothing special. I'm certainly not suggesting a conspiracy here, but the astonishing lapse is telling. Of what, I'm not sure I want to know. Still, I was rather surprised to spot it, and I'm an atheist!
Someone To Watch Over Me

The City Council is considering traffic cameras as a way to slow down or stop folks who run red lights in Memphis. The article looks at how an experiment in Germantown is working out.

I'm not so sure about traffic cameras, but I am conflicted here. If the City could afford to place an officer at every dangerous intersection all day, to hand-write every ticket, no one would object and many would hail the move. But make that officer a machine and suddenly it's Big Brother. Flood Beale Street with officers and while some might call them party poopers, few would ultimately mind. But put a handful of officers in an office watching a bank of monitors hooked to cameras all over Beale Street, and suddenly it's a police state. It's only a tool, like handcuffs, tasers, clubs and guns. So, it's not the tool so much as it is the usage of it, I think. More properly, the potential for abuse and the likelihood of over-reliance to the point of laxity.

Still, the article makes some points worth taking a deeper look into:
In Germantown, the first city in Tennessee to experiment with the technology, red-light cameras have been used to ticket violators since September2002.

Andy Pouncey, an assistant city administrator in Germantown, said crashes at one intersection - Germantown Road and Wolf River Parkway - have decreased 26 percent since 2002.

At the other intersection - Poplar Avenue and West Street - the number of accidents has remained about the same, although traffic counts have increased.

Pouncey said the number of accidents also has declined at some of the town's other major intersections, which he considers a "residual" benefit of posting signs warning of video enforcement without telling drivers which intersections have the cameras.
Hmmm. Andy, maybe you should consider other things before you leap to conclusions here.

If you saw a drop in violations at every intersection, maybe you're seeing an overall reduction, a change in behavior, not associated with the cameras. Not terribly likely, true, but it must be considered and looked into. Alternatively, if putting up signs gets the same net result as putting up cameras, then logically it would be as effective and much less expensive for Germantown to use signs only. Or to rotate just a few cameras through different intersections anonymously and rely on signs elsewhere. Or put up fake cameras all over? Or some combination of these ideas?

Just a thought.
From October 2002 through September 2003 the cameras recorded 8,919 violations at those two intersections.

That total excludes emergency vehicles with lights flashing, cars in funeral processions and cars that legally entered the intersections before the lights changed red.

Germantown police wrote only 5,525 tickets based on evidence recorded on the cameras.
The error rate, or exclusion rate depending on how you want to look at it, is 38%? That's not good.
Germantown Police Officer David Bennett, who reviews the cameras and decides when to mail out citations, cited various reasons a violator might not be ticketed. For example, a driver's license plate might not be legible because of sunlight glare, a license plate frame or a trailer obstructing the camera's image.
Obviously, I would put a sheet of something glare-inducing over my license plate then. Saran wrap, thin plastic, clear spray paint. Saves me a ticket from the machine.
The car in the photo might not be the same type of vehicle shown on the license plate registration information.
Wouldn't that be a legal violation anyway? Wouldn't they investigate?
Germantown pays Nestor $15,946 monthly to maintain the cameras, which record only violations moving east and west on Poplar and north and south on Germantown Road.

Ticket revenue generated at the two intersections isn't enough to cover the monthly fees. Pouncey said the city's total deficit is $23,645 for the first 15 months the cameras have been in operation.

"That's the cost of doing the business of saving lives,'' Pouncey said. "If you're successful, you're losing (money). That's a fact. There's no way around that."
Jeezus, what half-baked thinking! Germantown could reduce their speed limits to 40mph all over town and save lives, too. Or station officers at every intersection all day long. Want to bet they'll consider that?

And let's look at the math. The per violation cost for the cameras works out to $1.79; the per ticket cost is a bit more at $2.89. The cost of the cameras for the 15 month period comes to $240,000. Germantown ended up paying $24,000 out of pocket -- the difference between ticket revenues generated and leasing costs. So, that means approximately $40 per ticket? Is that what the fine is in Germantown for the violation? Will the City there consider raising the fine to make it operate in the black? It's happening in other cities all around the nation, as they come to see these cameras as easy revenue generators.

Another way of looking at these cameras and their costs is to take the $240,000 cost and divide by the number of tickets. The total number of tickets issued a day is twenty; almost one an hour for both intersections. (Does that compute with your experience driving out there? It seems low to me, in terms of violators.) Is that even vaguely cost-effective?
[ACLU of Tennessee's] Weinberg said the time lag between when a violation is recorded and when a citation arrives in the mail is also problematic for those trying to defend themselves....

Tickets are mailed to the owners of vehicles recorded on camera, regardless of who might have been driving when the violations occurred, Weinberg noted.
No shit. In poorer Memphis that will be a real problem, where several people can share a car and friends frequently borrow. Imagine the difficulties of being working poor, being forced to take off from work for a court appearance and losing income, having to get documentation from friends or employers to prove you didn't drive the car sufficient to please a judge and then having to pull together the notarised paperwork to present at court.

Not to mention all the wasted court time and all the dumbass, lying jokers who will try to plead innocence without any supporting documentation, thinking they're on People's Court. It won't help our already choked court system, that's for sure. Will that extra expense and lost revenue from the judicial side of things be taken into account? I don't think the number of dismissed tickets was mentioned in the story and that should be a factor to consider.

So, needing more investigation, I'd say.
He Said It!

Referencing the Commercial Appeal story above, Blake Fontenay the writer says:
In an increasingly complex and dangerous world, Memphis City Councilman Myron Lowery believes people are willing to trade some privacy to feel safer.
Further down, Lowery says the following:
"The average person is probably photographed no less than seven times a day, going to the gas station, the bank, major office complexes,'' Lowery said. "Most people realize cameras are part of everyday life."
OK, a) get this man out of government fast, before he gives away anything more of mine; and b) someone get this Benjamin Franklin quote to him right away:
They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security,
deserve neither liberty or security.
Someone point out to Mr. Lowery that "the gas station, the bank, major office complexes," are private property, meaning that there is a process through which the government must go in order to view what I'm doing! Government-owned and -leased cameras are very different. I'm sure if I asked to have video cameras at every meeting Mr. Lowery attended at which it was possible City Council business was discussed, he would feel quite differently indeed.
Punk Rock

Another story on conservative punk rockers today. I wrote about this before, but this article manages to get a lot wrong, mostly in propagating liberal political values.

The story contains the writer's opinions and quotes someone:
Punk musicians on the left, however, argue that although punk rock has championed anarchy and scorned the establishment, its roots were always more radical left than conservative right.

"Punk rockers want change in society - that's what punk rock is all about. That's the exact opposite of conservative," said Mike Burkett, also known as vocalist Fat Mike for the band NOFX. "Conservative punk is really kind of an oxymoron."

Burkett is the founder of, an unabashedly anti-Republican Web site composed of punk bands, record labels and fans that seeks to organize youth punk rockers. The site has a specific goal: to mobilize more than a half-million punks to kick Bush out of office in November, said Scott Goodstein, political director of

"It's supposed to engage and enrage punk voters to take a stance," Goodstein said. "We're doing our part to make people understand that the Bush administration is out of touch with what's going on in our lives."

I'm old enough to remember when there wasn't even any punk rock. When the New York Dolls, with their heavy makeup, androgynous appearance and spandex flashy clothes were considered gay as all hell and regularly got beat up. Long before hair metal made it fashionable and popular.

I was in high school in the mid-Seventies and was deeply into music. At the time, that was mostly British rock and progressive rock (though not Yes, for some reason). I was also an Aerosmith and Kiss fan long before anyone I knew had even heard of them. One of my brothers and his friends used to come listen to what I was playing and joke, "We want to know what we'll be listening to in a couple of years." OK, they weren't joking.

I first heard about punk from a magazine called Trouser Press, a bible of independent and obscure British music. They were picking it up from early Patti Smith, Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, Devo, the Dead Boys, Pere Ubu and the Ramones. Many of you just read that list and had a "huh?" moment, didn't you? But that's how diverse the very earliest punk was -- small bands across the East Coast and Midwest rediscovering the joys of simple songs played with enthusiasm, if not competency. These were folks who placed a premium on just getting up there and playing, over the technical proficiency that was the standard of the day.

There had been scattered antecedents: Suicide, the New York Dolls, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the revival of Sixties garage rock. A generation was coming of age that was stifled by what had come before and the template that was laid over them. Radio of the day sucked pretty bad -- lots of California rock, "soft rock," singer-songwriters and pop. Disco was just bubbling up. (BTW, I actually did love a lot of disco. Get me started on the seminal influence of German technocracy and Donna Summer's "I Feel Love," which is one of the most awesome songs ever. But that's another post.) There had long been a pendulum in radio that swung between pop and rock; it was ready to start another swing at this point. (This swing has gone on in rock and roll since the beginning. Today, we're in a pop phase and nearly ready to swing back to rock. We just came out of a rock phase -- grunge. There's also another, seperate pendulum related to the influence of black music with pop & rock, but that's another post.)

The big media completely ignored this bubbling up for the longest. I was a semi-regular reader of Rolling Stone and a rabid reader of Creem. The latter magazine was quicker to catch on, but they still lagged Trouser Press by a long shot.

Anyway, Britain's two major music mags, NME and Sounds were always on the lookout for the next big trend, in order to hype the bands and fill up pages, and attract readers. They heard about the Ramones in New York coming to Britain for a tour in late '75 or early '76 (can't remember exactly as I type this) and played up the "new punk rock sound" big. When audiences, mostly art-school college kids, went to see this band they were stunned to discover just how primitive, raw, unglamorous and basic they were. These goofs were big American stars, as their music mags said? Scores of kids across the nation said, "Oy! I can do that!" and did.

Within months, bands were popping up like weeds -- Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, the Clash, Wire, Joy Division, the Damned, the Jam, and a thousand more. It's one of the most amazing things since...well, since the British discovered American blues in the Sixties and sent us the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stone, et al. But where in America the growth of punk was organic, coming up spontaneously and individually in small pockets often unaware of each other (like the slightly-behind West Coast scene), in Britain the Ramones were the archetype that all started from. Short simple songs, boisterous enthusiasm over technical polish, and direct lyrics spoken in the everyman language. The scruffy apparel that seemed plucked randomly from all over the fashion landscape was a British innovation, where their art school roots made image a necessary component of the band. In America, there was little concern with clothing. Look at pictures from the early American era and you'll wince at how dorky most punks of the day looked, versus their flashy British cousins.

Within a year, Britain's music scene had been transformed.

Back in America, it was slower going. Major labels still were slow to pick things up, though I remember buying the first Cheap Trick and Ramones albums together in Spring 77. The magazines began to take their cues from Britain. What in America was a diverse and sprawling scene was called punk, but for most in the press the British version was the true punk. Back here, punk diverged into two strains: punk and New Wave. Punk kept the scruff and the attitude; New Wave was its more flashy cousin. Blondie and Talking Heads, though originally as punk as anyone, found themselves drifting into the New Wave category.

All long in America, punk was apolitical. It was far more about the generational shift, rejecting previous received values and finding your own. The world that punk came from was apocalyptic, consumerist, pre-determined; punk was a reaction against all that. There was a real sense then, nearly fogotten nowadays, that nuclear war was a very likely thing and we'd all die soon. So we might as well die laughing and dancing our asses off! The precise dynamic that launched rock and roll in the Fifties was at work in the birth of punk in the Seventies, and would come again in the Nineties with grunge.

Britain was a more complicated case. Class politics play a huge role there, and punk rock for them became much more rejectionist and "lower classes putting the finger up the upper classes." Thatcher was trying to privatise the socialist system and was bitterly hated, as the young felt they were having something taken from them. Race riots began to happen in mixed neighborhoods, which thoroughly frightened Mr. and Mrs. Average Briton (even though the non-white population of England was less than 5% at the time!). When the punk youth came along, looking like some nightmare vision and trashing the very social order that most Britons stood for, they provoked a far more hysterical reaction than American punks did. At least until the more violent and in-your-face California punk rockers came along in the early Eighties.

Remember, punk rock came about in the post-Nixon and Jimmy Carter years. Days of hippie protest were waning and such trappings of druggie loserdom came to be mocked by punks of the day. Same with the escapist disco culture. Reagan wasn't seen politically so much as socially -- the reassertion of old, rejected values meant to stifle the creativity and freedom of youth. It wasn't until the advent of the Dead Kennedys that punk became overtly political and the Left became welded with punk rock.

Look around in the catalogs of early American punk rock and you just don't see many political songs. There are some political critiques masked under metaphor, but nearly no direct statements. American punk rock was markedly politics-free, even to interviews. The second wave of American punk was pretty much the same: next-generation New York, Athens, the larger Midwest and Ohio scenes, the glorious explosion finally in California. Heck, the original article I mentioned above talks about the Ramones, but of the hundreds of songs they wrote, a mere handful concern politics at all.

Even British punk from the late Seventies was largely apolitical, mostly being anger at the Government, the stifling social order and the ruling classes. The Clash would be a major exception, of course, and not the only one. But even there, you'd find a lot more bands like Crass, who were flat-out Marxist anarachists, than you'd find regular pro-Liberal sympathies.

I can't speak to the punk rock of today, as I stopped listening to music that devotedly in the late Eighties. I can tell you about its roots, though, as I was there and paying attention. Record stores used to love to see me, as it wasn't at all odd for me to drop $40 to $100 on music every visit, especially on the more-expensive import stuff. Punk rock marked a decided turn in my musical taste, which perusing my record collection will clearly show. It still informs me today. I much prefer music like the Vines, White Stripes, YeahYeahYeahs, and those kinds of bands, even neo-revivalists like the Hives and Interpol, to post-grunge, numetal, rap-metal and what's called heavy metal today. (Though I do like some of it. Don't get me wrong.) Give me short, simple, fast, clever, and catchy as all hell, any day of the week. I like music that lifts me up and makes me want to bounce around.

Punk rock was the joy of playing, of just getting up there and banging out your songs. It morphed into New Wave, became successful and hit the mainstream alongside disco. Music became pop again, more a celebration of the artist and singer and song than the sheer exuberance that is rock. Formalist versus protean, if you will. Then grunge came along and it was punk for the next generation. Grunge was quickly absorbed by the mainstream this time, in marked difference with the reaction to punk. Now it's the era of boy bands and pop idols again.

Punk is the sense of reinvention and rediscovery, blowing off the rocco artifice that always accretes to get at the pure heart of music: joyful expression of the exuberant energy of youth. It's not the music industry category. It is just around the corner, always, waiting to be reborn.