"The only blog we have to fear is blog itself."

Sunday, July 31, 2005

It's all the perspective... 

It's funny to read of emotions running high about geographic slights that I have no connection with:
But WIBW is changing its ad promoting the game after it angered tourism officials in Garden City and Cawker City. Written by staff at the Topeka radio station and approved by the Kansas Lottery, the ad promised a lucky winner two tickets to a Kansas City Royals game and free admission to Worlds of Fun, both in Missouri.

"94.5 Country and the Kansas Lottery considered giving away an intimate rendezvous to Cawker City," the ad said, "but a giant ball of twine just isn't too romantic. So, we decided on a great escape to Kansas City."

It continues: "We also toyed with the idea of a getaway to Garden City, but nobody could actually say that with a straight face," the ad says.

Callie Remschner, director of conventions and tourism in western Kansas' Finney County, isn't laughing. Nor is Linda Clover, caretaker of the ball of twine in Cawker City in north-central Kansas.

"I'm not pleased about it," said Remschner. "We work hard at getting rid of the stigma about western Kansas."

Clover said Cawker City has plenty to offer romance seekers, including a motel across the street from the city's 8,000-pound ball of twine that has hosted newlyweds.

"It's very nice," Clover said. "You'd be surprised."
Sounds, um, charming.

UPDATE: Come to think of it, I sure hope it's the motel that's hosted the newlyweds and not the twineball. Otherwise, that's an awfully weird way to begin a marriage.

"Leap Seconds" 

Why the U.S. Wants To End the Link Between Time and Sun:
Time to change the way we measure time, according to a U.S. government proposal that businesses favor, astronomers abominate and Britain sees as a threat to its venerable standard, Greenwich Mean Time.

Word of the U.S. proposal, made secretly to a United Nations body, began leaking to scientists earlier this month. The plan would simplify the world's timekeeping by making each day last exactly 24 hours. Right now, that's not always the case.

Because the moon's gravity has been slowing down the Earth, it takes slightly longer than 24 hours for the world to rotate completely on its axis. The difference is tiny, but every few years a group that helps regulate global timekeeping, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, tells governments, telecom companies, satellite operators and others to add in an extra second to all clocks to keep them in sync. The adjustment is made on New Year's Eve or the last day of June.

But adding these ad hoc "leap seconds" -- the last one was tacked on in 1998 -- can be a big hassle for computers operating with software programs that never allowed for a 61-second minute, leading to glitches when the extra second passes. "It's a huge deal," said John Yuzdepski, an executive at Symmetricom Inc., of San Jose, Calif., which makes ultraprecise clocks for telecommunications, space and military use.
Although the U.S. proposal would compensate by adding a "leap hour," that would only be necessary every "500 to 600" years.

Despite the practicality of this idea, I have a vague unease with decoupling our time and celestal measurements. I know that if (or when) the era returns in which technology fails and humans have to go back to sextants and sundials, precise time measurement will probably the least of people's worries. I still think it's a bad idea, though.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Carson Canard 

I'm starting to get really sick of the following sentiment:
Johnny Carson's best moments were when his joke bombed.

~~radio host Alan Kabel,
from radio newsletter
"Pollack Media Confidential"

This concept has been repeated ad nauseam. Like from here:
When Carson was funny, he was real funny. But when he bombed on stage, he was even funnier!
And here:
The best part of his monologue was when a joke bombed.
Johnny Carson was a comedic paragon. He was goddamn funny. But he was funniest when his jokes killed.

He, indeed, had tremendous skill at recovery when a joke tanked. But because he could turn lemons into lemonade doesn't mean that the lemons were better than the sweet, sweet apples.

So let's get this straight, people: Johnny Carson was best when he meant to be. He could be good even with less-then-ideal material, but he was by no means "best" when his jokes didn't work. That's just stupid.

Perhaps he was most memorable when he somehow fought his way out of a bad comedic corner, but he was best when he perfectly delivered a well-written joke. Period.


Friday, July 29, 2005

Music Biz Shakekups 

Bodycount: 1
One of Sony BMG Music Entertainment's top radio promotion executives is exiting his post in the wake yesterday's disclosure that the major label will pay a $10 million fine to settle a payola investigation by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Sources say long time Sony alum Joel Klaiman is out at Epic Records where he most recently served as executive VP of promotion since 2004.

Klaiman could not be reached for comment. Sony declined comment.
Bodycount: 2
Heads are beginning to roll following New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s investigation and subsequent disclosure of payola practices between Sony BMG and radio stations.

Archway Broadcasting fired Blake Larson, APD/MD of its top 40 WRHT (Hot 96) Greenville, N.C., on July 26. Larson was cited by Spitzer for accepting a $1,365 laptop computer, $900 in airfare for two and Playstation 2 equipment from a label in exchange for airplay of the label’s artists.
Context below, here.

ConsultantSpeak Lessons 

From a radio newsletter I get, here is a consultant gushing about a client:
"The Mountain," as both stations are called, is adventuresome yet familiar, daring yet safe, and it is very listenable.
Wow, that quote is sensible yet bullshit!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

More on the Clunk 

I was curious to see what, if anything, my fellow broadcasters were saying on the record in the initial round of reportage about Sony BMG's admission of payola practices, so I weighed my web browser's anchor and shot the rapids that is Google News.

In my immediate geographical neighborhood, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette rather quickly heard the deafening sound of silence when seeking comment.
Radio programmers -- both locally and nationally -- treated Spitzer's findings like kryptonite yesterday, underscoring a sense of uneasiness within the industry. Local programmers who did return phone calls on the matter refused any comment. Normally voluble on-air personalities -- such as WXDX-FM disc jockey Alan Cox -- were also not talking. 'That's out of my area of experience. It's out of my loop,' Cox said.
The Denver Post had more luck at getting substantive sentences before the phone line went click, even if those sentences were by a former exec and suggested the "a few bad apples" line recently trotted out about Abu Ghraib.
Radio executives take issue with the word 'pervasive.' 'I can't believe that it is pervasive and prevalent in our industry,' said Steve Keeney, 62, formerly an Infinity Broadcasting vice president and general manager of KOOL 105-FM in Denver. Keeney says radio station owners routinely prohibit payola because breaking the law puts broadcasting licenses at risk. 'There are unscrupulous employees in all business,' Keeney said.
Oneonta, NY's The Daily Star apparently had no problem getting local radio personnel talking. And talking. And talking.
'It's like a form of payola, but usually they can get away with it,' said Craig Stevens, the general manager of WCDO-FM and 1490 AM in Sidney…. Chuck D'Imperio with WDOS-FM in Oneonta said he has been at the station since 1989 and has never seen bribery happen there. 'I've never been asked,' he said Monday. 'No one in our radio station has ever been asked.'

Stevens said larger stations and larger markets are more attractive to music companies. 'The smaller stations are not nearly as important to the recording companies as the bigger cities,' he said. 'They're looking for the biggest bang for their buck....'

When companies use payola and similar practices, Stevens said, it changes the playing field. 'It's completely unfair to the smaller record labels,' he said. Companies have always done promotions, Stevens said, such as giving out free compact discs and similar items to draw listeners. 'Now that money's gotten involved, it's changed the whole thing,' he said. Although payola is unfair to smaller companies, Stevens said, he wasn't sure what the benefit of the crackdown was for the state. 'Was the public losing?' he asked. 'Not really. How does it benefit the state? How does it benefit the taxpayers of the state?' Stevens asked. Although payola isn't common here, it's not unknown, D'Imperio said. 'I've heard about it. We've all heard about it,' D'Imperio said. 'But in Oneonta? No way.'
Whew. Seemingly, the kryptonite has no effect in Oneonta. And Stevens' "it's-unfair-but-no-one's-a-loser" argument is novel, if anything.

Meanwhile, the Dayton Daily News also had decent success at quote-grubbing.
Joe Mullins, 39, owner of country music stations WBZI-AM (1500) in Xenia; WKFI-FM (1090) in Wilmington and WEDI-AM (1130) in Eaton and a broadcaster for 23 years, said he's never been approached by a recording company official offering gifts in exchange for air time. 'If somebody wants to play the game in a big way, you gotta figure they are going to find programmers who can put their songs on hundreds of stations instead of just three,' he said. Jim Johnson, 61, a broadcaster for 35 years and president and general manager of Dayton's WDAO-AM (1210), said the rhythm and blues station's policy forbids employees from taking money and/or gifts from record companies. 'Even offers of complimentary CDs have to be cleared by me before they can be accepted,' Johnson said....

Jeanne DeWitt, who hosts a show on Clear Channel's WLQT-FM (99.9), was a 15-year-old sophomore at Fairview High School when she began her radio career at Dayton's WONE-AM (980) in 1953. DeWitt was still working at the pop music station during the 'Payola' scandals of the late 1950s. 'I can't say I was never approached in a roundabout way about accepting gifts or money to give some songs more air time, but I never accepted an offer because I knew you just didn't do stuff like that,' she said.
The L.A. Times had a quote from one of the parties referenced in Spitzer's document dump.
Donnie Michaels of Miami's WHYI, one of the programmers identified in the e-mails, said he did nothing wrong. According to the e-mails, Sony BMG employees knew Michaels so well that when making a hotel reservation one specified: 'Make sure Donnie is not staying in a room too high, he has a fear of heights.' Said Michaels: 'I was just doing what everyone else was doing.'
Yes, everyone was jumping off a bridge. So it's okay.

The best related quote wasn't from any newspaper, however. It was from one Peter Clemenza in 'The Godfather.'
This thing's gotta happen every five years or so -- ten years -- helps to get rid of the bad blood.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Loud Clunk 

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer today announced an agreement to halt pervasive "pay-for-play" in the music industry.

Under the agreement, SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT, one of the world's leading record companies and owner of a number of major record labels, has agreed to stop making payments and providing expensive gifts to radio stations and their employees in return for "airplay" for the company's songs.

Such payoffs violate state and federal law.
This is the first shoe to drop in a series of shoes, boots, sneakers, and sandals which will likely loudly be clunking down to various floors. It's what Big Label and Big Radio has dreaded for years, and what the little fish (amongst both record labels and radio stations) and consumers (albeit often unwittingly) have dreamed of.

Legalese details can be found here (.pdf), but the much more interesting and sensational reading is here, a portion of the insider documents collected by New York's Attorney General.

What's amazing about these documents is just how brazen and cavalier many people in radio and at record labels were in discussing terms, conditions, and demands of their payola. And while leaving a paper trail to boot!

There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth in many corporate offices over the next few weeks and months...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Leading the Nation in Toothlessness 

Fighting toothlessness in Appalachia:
With a silvery Airstream trailer as a dental office, Dr. Jeff Bailey goes about his work, brightening the often gapped smiles of people in a part of the country with the highest rate of toothlessness in America.

Bailey, one of many volunteers who are bringing free mobile dental care to poor people in the hills and hollows of Appalachia, sees case after case of severe tooth decay and gum disease -- the consequences of sugary foods, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, a lack of fluoridated water, and simple neglect.

"People have a mind-set that if your grandfather and father were in dentures, then you're going to be in dentures, too," the dentist said. "We need to break that attitude."
Yeesh. It's disappointing when people live up to stereotypes about them.

Once Again, Life Imitates The Simpsons 

Life-Sized Statue of Betty Boop Beheaded:
Her ebony hair perfectly parted and saucer-like eyes perpetually staring, the life-size Betty Boop statue became a local landmark on the city's Shore Drive. But Sunday morning, a patron discovered the $1,600 figure a block away from its home in front of Cool & Eclectic Furniture and Fashion — without its head.

Six days later, the head remained missing.

"Without it, she's nothing," said store owner Larry Estes, who filed a police report Friday.
In The Simpsons episode "The Telltale Head," Bart saws off the statue head of town founder Jebediah Springfield, leading to Krusty the Clown's impassioned plea:
There is someone out there in Krusty-Land who has committed an atrocity! If you know who cut off Jebediah's head, I don't care if it's your brother, your sister, your daddy, or your mommy, turn him in! Krusty will send you a free slide whistle, just like Sideshow Bob's!
Meanwhile, back in Virginia Beach,
[Estes] is offering a free store item to anyone who comes forward with Boop's head.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Declare the Pennies on Your Eyes... 

Former PM Sir Edward Heath dies:
Former Conservative prime minister Sir Edward Heath has died at the age of 89.


Sir Edward, a bachelor, was famed for his love of music and sailing, in which he competed at international level.
He loved music, but I wonder if he was a Beatles fan.
Don't ask me what I want it for
Ah-ahh, Mr. Wilson
If you don't want to pay some more
Ah-ahh, Mr. Heath
'Cause I'm the taxman,
Yeah, I'm the taxman.

(George Harrison)

With 1966's "Taxman," Heath and Wilson became the first actual, living people named in a Beatles song. Former PM Harold Wilson passed away in 1995, but ironically, Heath--opposition leader when The Beatles recorded "Taxman"--outlived George Harrison, who died in 2001.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The role of Mr. Roth is now played by Mr. Myers. 


"buy it i'd buy urs" 

Sales pitch by "poet" dj kingsbury [blanket "sic" in force during following quote]:

"i ahve a book of poems out. it is called \"to hear her sing\" buy it i'd
buy urs!"

(found after reading this bizarre rant)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Monkeying with Clock Time 

House proposal to extend daylight-saving time runs into opposition:
It seemed like a simple idea: extend daylight-saving time to conserve energy.

But the proposal, which House members want in the energy bill that Congress hopes to pass, has suddenly run into opposition - from the airline industry, school and religious groups, and even the Energy Department.

Supporters of extending daylight-saving time - which now begins in April and ends in October - by two months say the additional daylight in the evening reduces electricity demand, especially for lighting rooms....

Some extension of daylight-saving time is likely to be part of the bill, which includes a raft of provisions aimed at spurring energy conservation and production.

The measure now before a House-Senate panel negotiating the bill calls for beginning daylight-saving time a month earlier - the first Sunday in March - and ending it a month later - the last Sunday in November. But the provision's chief sponsors are considering tinkering with the dates to address the criticisms.
The above article doesn't have it, but a Wall Street Journal piece (see here) features the dumb quote of the week: "The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use." ~~Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey.

Umm, Ed, no Congressional fiat will grant anyone "more daylight."

Among the points of opposition:

--the airline industry objects that putting the United States "out of sync with most of the world's clocks" would wreak havoc on its schedules.

--school groups say it would force more children to wait for morning buses or walk to school in the dark.

--an Orthodox Jewish group complains that the idea presents "serious consequences" for Jewish religious practice.

--the International Association of Fire Chiefs has framed a widespread public information campaign reminding people to change the batteries in their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors around Daylight Saving Time. The last weekend in November is too late for the reminder, fire officials say.

--computer systems with automatic daylight savings clock adjustments could be rendered ineffective.

More bad album covers... 

The Boston Globe weighs in with their take on one of this blog's occasional pastimes: highlighting bad album covers. Here are their picks:

Manowar, Anthology (1997)
Village People, Renaissance (1981)
Abba, Gracias Por La Musica (1981)
Mike Terry, Live at the Pavilion Theater-Glasgow (?)
Queen, The Miracle (1989)
James Last, The Music of James Last (?)
Roger, The Many Facets of Roger (1981)
The Playmates, At Play with the Playmates (1958)
Jim Post, I Love My Life (1978)
Devastatin' Dave, The Turntable Slave; "Zip Zap Rap" single (1986)
Tino, "Por Primera Vez" single (1983)
Country Church, Country Church (?)
See the rest of their selections here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Blog Update 

Sidebar links have returned! (thanks to this bloke, from this thread)

The solution is merely a workaround, so the font size has now changed, but I'll monkey around with that later...

UPDATE: I think the font issue is fixed now. Let me know in comments if Mike's Minutiae has, for your browser, returned to as like the days of auld...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Hey, what percent of emerging Iraqi music radio is Western music? 

Why, I'm glad you asked!

Media too free for some Iraqis:
On radio, Western music is limited to no more than 5 percent of total listening time, Mr. al-Obeid said. "We will choose the music that keeps with our social traditions."

Rotten Inside 

Some ideas seem benign and even beneficial, but something rotten lurks below the surface. Or, in this case,

Tired of Prying Off Stickers? Tattooed Fruit Is on the Way:
A pear is just a pear, except when it is also a laser-coded information delivery system with advanced security clearance.

And that is what pears - not to mention organic apples, waxy cucumbers and delicate peaches - are becoming in some supermarkets around the country. A new technology being used by produce distributors employs lasers to tattoo fruits and vegetables with their names, identifying numbers, countries of origin and other information that helps speed distribution. The marks are burned onto the outer layer of the skin and are visible to discerning consumers and befuddled cashiers alike.

A new laser technology for labeling fruits and vegetables, designed by Durand-Wayland, Inc., is being put to work at Southern Oregon Sales, a pear distributor in Medford, Ore.

The process, government approved and called safe by the industry, may sound sinister. But it was designed with the consumer in mind: laser coding could mean the end of those tiny stubborn stickers that have to be picked, scraped or yanked off produce.


In 2002 Durand-Wayland, a fruit grower and distributor in Georgia, bought the patent for a process that etches the price look-up number and any other information the retailer or customer might desire directly into the skin of the fruit. Greg Drouillard, who originally patented laser coding for produce and who now works for Durand-Wayland, said the process permanently tattoos each piece of fruit, removing only the outer pigment to reveal a contrasting layer underneath and make the tattoo readable, even scannable.
Not very sinister, as long as the process doesn't etch too deep and allow the fruit to oxidize. But wait--such a process might bear sinister, umm, fruit after all:
"With the right scanning technology the produce could even be bar-coded with lots of information: where it comes from, who grew it, who picked it, even how many calories it has per serving," said Fred Durand III, president of Durand-Wayland. "You could have a green pepper that was completely covered with coding. Or you could sell advertising space."
There you have it. It's not enough to have supermarket advertising on your cart, on the floor, hanging from the ceiling, and on your receipt. Now your fruit may soon say "This space available" to all advertisers and ad agencies.


Sunday, July 17, 2005

Personal Life, Work Life 

I've always been conflicted about the notion that one's doings away from work can get you fired. On one hand, sure--it's obvious that the Widget Factory is not going to want you around if you spend your evenings promoting "Widgets Are Evil" rallies.

But, on the other hand, shouldn't your personal life be, umm, personal?

Two parables with this theme...

Rapper who applauded 9/11 loses airport gig:
A Houston-based rapper said his decision to call himself the "Arabic Assassin" was meant to stir up a bit of controversy in the music business.

The stage persona — along with some incendiary lyrics in one of his songs — also helped get Bassam Khalaf fired this month from his job as a baggage screener at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

"I thought it was kind of ridiculous. What does my music have to do with my job?" Khalaf said Thursday.

He lost his job July 7, about six months after he joined the Transportation Security Administration as a baggage screener.

"He was fired because of threatening language that undermines the public's trust in the agency," said Andrea McCauley, spokeswoman for the TSA's regional office in Dallas.

According to the termination letter Khalaf received, his songs "applaud the efforts of the terrorists on September 11th, encourage and warn of future acts of terrorism by you, discuss at length and in grave and alarming detail various criminal acts you intend to commit, state your belief that the U.S. government should be overthrown, and finally warn that others will die on September 11, 2005," The Associated Press reported.
And from the ever-growing Blogging Can Get You Fired File...

The New Nanny Diaries Are Online:
OUR former nanny, a 26-year-old former teacher with excellent references, liked to touch her breasts while reading The New Yorker and often woke her lovers in the night by biting them. She took sleeping pills, joked about offbeat erotic fantasies involving Tucker Carlson and determined she'd had more female sexual partners than her boyfriend.

How do I know these things? I read her blog.

She hadn't been with us long when we found out about her online diary. All she'd revealed previously about her private life were the bare-bones details of the occasional date or argument with her landlord and her hopes of attending graduate school in the fall.

Yet within two months of my starting to read her entries our entire relationship unraveled. Not only were there things I didn't want to know about the person who was watching my children, it turned out her online revelations brought feelings of mine to the surface I'd just as soon not have to face as well.


MY husband let her go the following Monday while my younger son and I were attending a Music for Aardvarks class. Even though she had posted entries about how discontented she was with our house and children and must have known there was a pretty good chance I'd read them, she appeared shocked. My husband didn't bring up the blog with her and instead cited other factors for her dismissal. He did not, he told me, care to find himself a character online.
And the Nanny responds:
Contrary to an essay published in the Style section of the NYTIMES, I am not a pill popping alcoholic who has promiscuous sex and cares nothing for the children for whom she works with. Nope. If you look carefully through my archives, instead you will find a young woman in her mid-twenties who decided to work as a nanny for a year while she prepared to enter the next phase of her professional life; namely the life of an academic pursuing a PhD in English Literature specifically focusing on the Late Victorian novel. But for those of you who dont want to comb through the archives, I will offer a refutation of the salacious, malicious, and really quite silly essay written by Ms. Olen.


I think it might be interesting for readers to note the title of her essay, "The New Nanny Diaries are Online." So, I did a little analysis of my blog. And I found that I wrote less than 500 hundred words about being a nanny. And in fact, less than half of those words are about Ms. Olen and her family. In total, I have written over 20,000 words on this blog. Less than 1 percent of this blog is about being a nanny for the Olen family. The New Nanny Diaries? Not at all. Making characters out of my employers? I challenge you to find it. Ms. Olen has chosen to write a malicious and selectively edited essay because writing about bad nannies and blogs is trendy. Its a sad commentary on her self described moniker as "journalist."

Monsters! Monsters! 

I just saw Hurricane Emily described as a "monster" storm (no link yet, though). Wow, that's a descriptor we've never heard before...
Hurricane Dennis: "This thing is going to devastate where it hits. It's a monster Category 4 storm by tonight. It's going to be a huge national story for days to come." (7/9/05;)

Hurricane Ivan: "Panhandle Braces For Monster Storm" (9/13/04)

Hurricane Frances: "Monster storm targets already weary Florida." (9/2/04)

Hurricane Charley: "This is the type of monster storm state emergency officials have been fearing, one that leaves a path of water-and-wind-borne destruction across the peninsula." (8/12/04)

Hurricane Isabel: "Monster Storm Isabel Churns Nearer" (9/15/03)

Hurricane Fabian: "Hurricane Fabian a Monster Storm" (9/1/03)
In a related story, there once was a shepherd boy who was bored as he sat on the hillside watching the village sheep. To amuse himself he took a great breath and sang out, "Wolf! Wolf! The Wolf is chasing the sheep!"

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Live 8: The Op-Ed Wake 

Like its predecessor 20 years ago (the anniversary of which shamelessly passed by without comment in this space--an oversight which will be rectified belatedly), Live 8 has sparked a good, healthy discussion about such an event's purpose and effectiveness, as well as the merits of its underlying goals and, if worthy, what alternative means exist of achieving these goals. Here's one pro and one con view each of Live 8....

All Rock, No Action:
LIVE 8, that extraordinary media event that some people of good intentions in the West just orchestrated, would have left us Africans indifferent if we hadn't realized that it was an insult both to us and to common sense.

We have nothing against those who this month, in a stadium, a street, a park, in Berlin, London, Moscow, Philadelphia, gathered crowds and played guitar and talked about global poverty and aid for Africa. But we are troubled to think that they are so misguided about what Africa's real problem is, and dismayed by their willingness to propose solutions on our behalf.

We Africans know what the problem is, and no one else should speak in our name. Africa has men of letters and science, great thinkers and stifled geniuses who at the risk of torture rise up to declare the truth and demand liberty.

Don't insult Africa, this continent so rich yet so badly led. Instead, insult its leaders, who have ruined everything. Our anger is all the greater because despite all the presidents for life, despite all the evidence of genocide, we didn't hear anyone at Live 8 raise a cry for democracy in Africa.


Don't the organizers of the concerts realize that Africa lives under the oppression of rulers like Yoweri Museveni (who just eliminated term limits in Uganda so he can be president indefinitely) and Omar Bongo (who has become immensely rich in his three decades of running Gabon)? Don't they know what is happening in Cameroon, Chad, Togo and the Central African Republic? Don't they understand that fighting poverty is fruitless if dictatorships remain in place?

Even more puzzling is why Youssou N'Dour and other Africans participated in this charade. Like us, they can't help but know that Africa's real problem is the lack of freedom of expression, the usurpation of power, the brutal oppression.
Jean-Claude Shanda Tonme, writer of the above, is a consultant on international law and a columnist for Le Messager, a Cameroonian daily, where a version of the above Op-Ed appeared in French (the Times translated it themselves to English, so caveat emptor on the translation).

It seems to me that claiming that "us Africans" were insulted by the event and then immediately acknowledging that "Youssou N'Dour and other Africans" participated in Live 8 illustrates that Africans (like all of us) are of differing minds about exactly how best to help people on the continent.

And, from another perspective...

If more aid won't give this girl a better life, what will?
Last weekend, a quarter of a million people dressed in white encircled Edinburgh and hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, watched the Live 8 concerts on TV. It was either the greatest ever expression of popular conscience, or the most monumental non-event in history, depending on your point of view. But while it may not have brought the world closer together, Make Poverty History has certainly brought left and right together – though not quite in the spirit of perfect harmony that Sir Paul McCartney would recognise. When it comes to Africa, they are united in cynicism. Republicans like George W Bush and anti-capitalists like George Monbiot disagree violently on the causes of poverty, but they are as one in believing that aid isn't the solution. Nor do they rate Chancellor Gordon Brown's package of debt relief. Indeed, both rather think that the rich countries should just take their hands off Africa and leave it alone.

The contributors to Arguments Against G8, a radical take on development politics edited by David Miller and Gill Hubbard, say that the conditions imposed on African countries by the World Bank and the IMF make poverty worse by imposing privatisation on vulnerable economies. The Chancellor's initiatives on debt and aid constitute a kind of welfare imperialism, which enslaves the third world by imposing capitalist "conditionality" and turning Africa into a source of surplus value. Now, as it happens, White House Republicans are also profoundly sceptical about Brown's plans for an International Finance Facility. They would rather take the line of business magazines like The Economist, who say that doubling the West's aid to Africa could just make the local economies even more inefficient, create dependency and fuel corruption. So, inactivity is the new action. The neoconservatives say we should do nothing because the market will make everything better. The far left say there's no point in doing anything because it will be corrupted by capitalism. The only solution, according to the left-wing commentator John Pilger, is to turn away from capitalism altogether, like the Latin American movements against "total locura capitalista" (total capitalist folly). And by the way, charity sucks. Make Poverty History is more about salving the consciences of the western middle classes than saving the destitute. Feeding the hungry just props up incompetent governments and makes matters worse in the long term. A lot of aid money, the cynics of left and right proclaim, goes back to the rich countries anyway, in the form of "consultancy" fees, and the salaries of workers in NGOs. Events like Live 8 just allow political leaders like Tony Blair to wear their hearts on their sleeves.

So, is it all a waste of time? Should we just give up on Africa? Leave the continent to its own devices? Who needs celebrities anyway? Do they know about Pink Floyd in Malawi? Cynicism is always seductive when it comes to development; and it's not hard to be cynical about the whole G8/celebrity circus. But the danger of the moral defeatism that is now so fashionable is that it induces a moral apathy. In this climate of opinion, inaction by government becomes a virtue, and selfishness becomes an economic creed. We have been here before. During the Irish potato famine 150 years ago, people were saying much the same. MPs in Westminster argued that giving aid to the starving would only make matters worse; that it would be wrong to interfere with the market mechanism by subsidising failing agriculture. Malthusians believed that Ireland was overpopulated anyway, and that a demographic reckoning was inevitable. The right said it was the fault of the Irish themselves. On the left, Karl Marx, who was writing the communist manifesto in the aftermath of the great famine, saw it as a product of emergent capitalism. The famine forced subsistence farmers off the land and into the factories, many of them in England. This created a reserve army of labour and placed pressure on wages. The famine wasn't an arbitrary event; it was all part of the inevitable and implacable process of capitalist accumulation. Mere charity was futile, according to Marxists, and only the overthrow of capitalism itself could prevent such humanitarian disasters. Well, actually, they were all wrong. The consensus of historians today is that the Irish potato famine was entirely avoidable. If the UK government hadn't been so blinded by free-market ideology, it could have mobilised Britain's agricultural surplus for famine relief and lifted the debt of the Irish government. If the British-owned farms in Ireland had stopped exporting grain during the famine, the people would not have starved. But moral defeatism prevailed. As a result, one million people died, two million migrated and the Irish population didn't recover until the 1990s.

It's exactly the same today. The only difference is that there is even more abundance in the world and even less excuse not to mobilise it to prevent needless, pointless deaths from hunger and disease. That, I'm afraid, is the bottom line. It's easy for common sense to be overwhelmed by sophistry when it comes to aid. It is simply a question of logistics: getting food into hungry mouths. Of course, aid won't solve the fundamental problems of the African political economy, any more than it would have dealt with Ireland's reliance on potatoes. Had there been a "Land Aid" in 1846, people might have criticised it 20 years later, much as Live Aid has been criticised for doing more harm than good in Ethiopia. It is alleged that Geldof cash helped prop up a ruinous regime, and allowed the rest of Africa off the hook. In the July issue of Prospect Magazine, the development writer David Reiff accuses Bob Geldof and NGOs like Oxfam of "unwilling collaboration" with a Stalinist regime. But Live Aid also saved a couple of hundred thousand lives. Maybe they weren't worth saving, in the grand sweep of history, but that isn't a moral choice that we have the luxury of making at the point of need. You can't allow people to die because it might improve their future governance.
Thoughts? Comments?

Bueller? Bueller?

Now, this is just plain weird... 

Cocaine traces at EU parliament:
Cocaine traces have been found at the European Parliament in an inquiry by one of Germany's main broadcasters.

The Sat-1 channel sent reporters to take 46 swabs from toilets and other public areas of the Brussels buildings. Nearly all tested positive for cocaine.

A European Parliament spokeswoman said cocaine abuse was not a problem among staff working at the buildings.

A professor who analysed the samples said the amounts found were too great to have been carried in on clothing.

"It simply reflects the fact that cocaine was brought in there," Professor Fritz Sorgel of the Institute for Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research in Nuremberg (IBMP) told the BBC News website.

"The amount was too high and found in too many spots. It shows it was brought in deliberately."

However, he said the results were not so surprising given the widespread use of cocaine in society at large.

As the buildings are cleaned regularly, it appeared that cocaine had been used recently in the places where the traces were found, Mr Sorgel said.

A total of 41 of the reporters' swabs tested positive for cocaine.
What's up with that?

Friday, July 15, 2005


Senators Fight Hidden Sex in 'Grand Theft Auto':
[Hillary Clinton's] legislative proposal would institute a financial penalty for retailers who fail to enforce the video manufacturers voluntary ratings system rules. It would prohibit the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors and put in place a $5,000 penalty for those who violate the law.
Umm, when "voluntary" ratings systems are enforced under penalty of law, then they aren't actually voluntary, are they?

I used to defend Clinton for the same reason I defended Courtney Love: if she was a man, many of the things she's criticized for she would instead be lauded--or at least respected.

But I now think Love is a jackass, to put it mildly. And I'll soon think the same of Clinton with proposals like this.

And I'm not just saying this because the GTA games are freakin' awesome.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A treat... 

...for any readers from the Rochester, New York, area in the late '70s/early '80s.

Duke Jupiter was a Rochester rock band, c. 1973-1986, which always got a lot of play on Rochester radio, especially rock station WCMF. I remember hearing this song in particular quite a lot: Duke Jupiter, "I'll Drink to You" (1981). From vinyl. Enjoy.

Priorities, Priorities! 

An update to my Live 8 thoughts below...

Parents Television Council Complains About "Who The F**k Are You" Lyric:
ABC's Live 8 coverage has generated an indecency complaint, filed by The Parents Television Council. At issue is a performance by The Who during the July 2 Live 8: A Worldwide Concert Event broadcast on ABC Television. The complaint was filed against Allbritton' s WJLA-TV Washington.

The PTC alleges that the ABC broadcast didn't edit the F-word out of The Who's performance of "Who Are You." Specifically, the line in question is the lyric "who the f**k are you," a line that has been aired countless times in its unedited form on radio stations across the nation since its release in 1978.

When asked why the lyric is all of a sudden offensive after 27 years of radio broadcasts, PTC Executive Director Tim Winter told FMQB, "it's a great question," but the PTC is more concerned with television than radio. Citing the FCC's ruling that Bono dropping the F-bomb during an NBC broadcast of the Golden Globes was indecent, Winter contends that even though The Who lyric has been broadcast undedited [sic] on the radio, it "doesn't allow it to violate the law" and he felt that the Live 8 airing was "certainly offensive when it is broadcast to millions of families all across the country at the 8 o'clock hour."
A curse word broadcast at 8:50pm injurious to children? Possibly.

Children hanging on every word Roger Daltry screams out? Doubtful.

Roger Daltry screaming out a barely understandable f-bomb indecent? Not so much.

Paul McCartney bringing out a former Wham! member to sing with him on "Drive My Car"? Rather so.

"A Man of This Statute" 

I foolishly assumed that the head of a state college political organization was receiving, uh, a college education and perhaps knew, um, English:
if I can't accpet your trust in knowing what I am saying holds water then I am going to step down as Chairman of this organization. I am not going to be hastled by Sean with proposturous false accounts against me and stand by and take it. I have already had my fair share of negativity with Sean and simply am not going to be controlled by a man of this statute.
Context found here and here.

All-Star Shame 

Fox deceives millions during national pastime:
Fox Sports and ***** teamed yesterday to deceive millions of people during the Major League Baseball All-Star game. They did such a good job of it that many of you viewing probably didn't even notice.

As Fox came back from a commercial break in the bottom half of the third inning, many viewers caught sight of a very long, flashy banner draped over an equally ostentatious advertisement.


"Welcome back to Detroit," Buck said. "A lot of banners and signs around the ballpark. No surprise there. Somebody just unfurled a big banner behind left field."


It is, however, one of the most blatant examples of companies trying to pass off an advertisement as reality. Anyone watching the game would have sworn that Buck and McCarver really seemed not to know what was going on. But their ruse was easily discovered once you realized that Fox would never hold its camera on an unknown website and read the URL on air.

"Buck might have been saying that tongue in cheek," Fox Sports spokesman Dan Bell told The Register. "For sure, it was planned. It's not like we didn't know about it. Both parties knew about it."
Advertiser's name "redacted" above. I'm not adding to their covert marketing B.S.

Although product placement within television programs is increasingly common, I cannot fathom how much of it is legal. See, for example:
Sec. 73.1212 Sponsorship identification; list retention; related requirements.

(a) When a broadcast station transmits any matter for which money, service, or other valuable consideration is either directly or indirectly paid or promised to, or charged or accepted by such station, the station, at the time of the broadcast, shall announce:

(1) That such matter is sponsored, paid for, or furnished, either in
whole or in part, and

(2) By whom or on whose behalf such consideration was supplied. (source)
What do you think? Feel free to ask Fox how this practice is legal:

Lou D'Ermilio, Senior Vice President, Communications, Fox Sports
Phone: 212-556-2573
Fax: 212-354-6902
E-Mail: lou.d'ermilio@fox.com

Dan Bell, Vice President, Communications, Fox Sports
Phone: 310-369-6326
Fax: 310-969-9467
E-Mail: dan.bell@fox.com

King of the Breakmongers 

I was just reading some articles relating to the Karl Rove/Valerie Plame/Judith Miller controversy, and one of them was a partial transcript of Bob Woodward on Larry King Live reprinted on Editor & Publisher's website.

I thought it was odd that they included a commercial lead-in at the end of the partial transcript:
KING: We do need our Woodwards.

We're going to take a break and come back and go to your phone calls. Bob Woodward offering to serve part of the time for Judith Miller!
Sheesh, why not also include some of the Levitra ad which likely followed?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Gallagher Watch 

This is a very serious story, and we must parse each paragraph carefully
to make sure we fully understand the implications of what happened. The future of the Republic may well depend upon it.

Fan files lawsuit against Gallagher:
A fan who was smacked by comedian Gallagher during a performance has filed a lawsuit, claiming he was severely injured.
This, of course, suggests a powerful, Hulk-like Gallagher or a weakened, frail fan. The frail fan theory is boosted by the fact that he's a "fan" of Gallagher, suggesting an atrophied brain stem at the minimum.
In the complaint, Edwin May III said he was struck in the head by Gallagher after he became agitated at a May 27th show.
"He became agitated"? Gallagher or May? This is important to determining who's at fault, who felt their safety threatened, and who has exceptionally limited emotional faculties.
The complaint filed by Edwin May III in Clark County District Court on Monday follows a decision last week by prosecutors not to file misdemeanor battery charges against the 58-year-old comedian.
Well, that was expected. We all know that prosecutors nationwide are in the pocket of the ruthless entertainment mogul Gallagher. Please recall that the man travels with an oversized mallet.
In the lawsuit, May said Gallagher became agitated during a May 27 show at the Riverside hotel-casino in Laughlin and struck him on the side of the head, damaging his hearing and inflicting extreme emotional, physical and psychological harm.
Okay, now we see that it was Gallagher himself who became agitated. And I certainly have tremendous empathy with this lawsuit; anyone bitch-slapped by Gallagher has clearly suffered enormous psychological harm. They are instantly a laughingstock.
Gallagher, whose real name is Leo Anthony Gallagher, couldn't immediately be reached for comment. The comedian has said he struck May as part of his act.
This is part of Gallagher's new "shit where you eat" act, attempting to alienate the few people who haven't caught on that the Sledge-O-Matic bit was officially tired back in 1989.

Also--what's this "real name" nonsense? "Gallagher" is not an alias; this phrase should probably read "whose full name is Leo Anthony Gallagher...."
May is seeking a minimum of $80,000 in damages plus lawyer's fees from Gallagher and the Riverside resort, which is named as a co-defendant.
The Riverside resort is probably protected legally. I'm sure they had large signs as patrons entered the theater proclaiming "Caution: audience members might be struck, kicked, or bit by performers." That's pretty standard nowadays.
Hotel officials have said they fired Gallagher after the Memorial Day weekend incident, though the comedian says he quit.
Yeah, well, we can't always listen too closely to Gallagher. Someone stole his raccoon hat recently and he declared on his website that he's upset about it because "this robs others of laughter." (I kid you not--scroll down, highlighted in yellow)
Gallagher is best known for smashing watermelons with a sledgehammer.
No, Gallagher is best known for being a hack who writes childish comedy like this song lyric: "Everybody's talking 'bout Janet's Superbowl breast/She's brown, who found that dot on her chest?" (also from his website)


Monday, July 11, 2005

First Deep Throat Revealed, Now This? 

Trotsky murder weapon may have been found:
One of history's most infamous murder weapons, the ice pick used to kill Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, has apparently resurfaced after being lost for decades.

The revelation comes just weeks before the 65th anniversary of Trotsky's assassination on August 20, 1940.


The ice pick is in the possession of Ana Alicia Salas, whose father apparently removed it from an evidence room while serving as a secret police commander in the 1940s.


She said that Alfredo Salas, who retired in 1965 and died in 1985, had been granted permission by superiors to keep the ice pick to put in a "museum of criminology."

He withdrew the pick from the museum and kept it among his personal possessions after someone tried to steal the artifact from a criminology display.
To see a brief re-enactment of Trotsky's murder, check out this anti-communist comic book produced by the Catholic Church in 1961.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Storm Essentials: flashlights, bottled water... and recliner? 

Okay, I admit it. I'm a Hurricane Junkie.

Well, that's not entirely true. I'd more accurately describe myself as a big fan of media coverage of breaking news events. It's just that hurricanes are generally the only large-scale breaking news events where you know very clearly in advance when the news will break. So I try to monitor coverage, local if possible, of such events.

Which I did with Hurricane Dennis. The radio station I was listening to via the internet was running commercials during their coverage, which is rather unusual. Most stations dump their commercials when breaking news warrants wall-to-wall coverage, partially because serious hurricanes require passing on a lot of information to listeners but mostly because advertisers may balk when the invoice comes due since a mandatory evacuation order tends to thin out the audience.

Unless, of course, advertising is sold with a pre-arranged agreement about running during such an event, or if the commercial is intended to run specifically because of the hurricane.

Most of the spots I heard on this particular Pensacola station were from insurance companies, brand-management-type messages of the "we're here for you in times of crisis" sort. But I heard one that just seemed amazingly odd to me.

Here's the copy:
(folksy female voice) Hello, this is Ginger with La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery in Mobile and Pensacola. Okay, we are open. And, this weekend we'll be open. And yes, we're boarding up our windows--just in case. So if you're going to ride out the storm, we want you to be comfortable!

Think about that chair you're in. Is it comfortable? Is it really comfortable? Well, did you know a new recliner will fit in your car? Along with your generator!

Well, during this time, my boss said we can sell our recliners cheap. Select one of the new fabrics. So many colors to choose from. We can have that loaded, and do your paperwork, and have you ready to go in ten minutes or less! So at least you can sit and enjoy that chair and ride the storm out.

We'll stay open up to the storm. So be really, really careful and safe. And we'll see you there. And that's La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery. Mobile and Pensacola.
Unbelievable. Yes, so when the next Category 4 is heading your way--in between grabbing that plywood to board up your windows, and making sure you know where the nearest shelter is located, better swing by and pick up a recliner! 'Cause nothing beats having one more projectile in your house should the hurricane rip part of your roof off!

That's exactly why I love media coverage of breaking news events. It brings out the best--and worst--of everyone involved.

(and in case you don't believe me, here's audio [.ra] of the commercial)

The Road to Cell Is Paved With Good Intentions... 

Cellphone Numbers Overtake Land Lines:
The number of mobile-phone users in the U.S. surpassed the number of conventional land-based phone lines in the second half of 2004, the government said Friday.

By the end of the year, there were 181.1 million cellphone subscribers, compared with 177.9 million access lines into U.S. homes and businesses, the Federal Communications Commission said in a biannual report.
As a Selective Luddite, I do not have a cell phone. But I did want to mark this milestone, so I looked up early reports on cell phones to see how things have changed. I almost forgot that 15 or more years ago, the units were rarely described as "cell phones"--it was usually the full "cellular phones," or "car phones" since the bulky devices were mostly for automotive use (ironic, given the current trend towards restricting car use).

Anyway, here's a flashback courtesy of a 1989 issue of Design News:
One drawback of current cellular phones is that those installed in cars leave you out of touch when you're out of the car. Many have horn alerts, which do little more than alert the neighborhood, since the caller usually has hung up before the phone's owner can get to the car. So-called transportable units are bulky and hard to deal with when conducting business. Now, a Milpitas, CA, firm has a solution. The Communicator I from Advanced Cellular Technology, Inc., plugs into a cellular phone unit in the car and communicates on RF frequencies with a hand-held receiver about the size of a pocket calculator. When a call comes in, the receiver buzzes, and the owner can carry on a full-duplex conversation. Sales manager Henry VanHouten says the unit supports many, but not all, current cellular phones, and will sell for $195 when it hits the market this month.
"Horn alerts" for car phones? I don't remember that at all. I suspect the feature was so monumentally unuseful it died a quick death in the marketplace.

And this "Communicator I" add-on device sounds like a cordless phone to reach your car phone. In retrospect, it makes the manufacturer's name--Advanced Cellular Technology--sound laughable. But I suppose one must judge a technology for how it suits its times, not how odd it sounds 16 years later.


There have been some handwringing stories in recent years bemoaning the stratospheric amount of student cheating. The following story may describe the chicken or the egg to the apparently high amount of dishonest students.

Allegations of fake research reach new high:
Allegations of research misconduct reached record highs last year - the Department of Health and Human Services received 274 complaints, which was 50 percent higher than 2003 and the most since 1989 when the federal government established a program to deal with scientific misconduct.

Chris Pascal, director of the federal Office of Research Integrity, said its 28 staffers and $7 million annual budget haven't kept pace with the allegations. The result: Only 23 cases were closed last year. Of those, eight individuals were found guilty of research misconduct. In the past 15 years, the office has confirmed about 185 cases of scientific misconduct.

Research suggests this is but a small fraction of all the incidents of fabrication, falsification and plagiarism. In a survey published June 9 in the journal Nature, about 1.5 percent of 3,247 researchers who responded admitted to falsification or plagiarism. (One in three admitted to some type of professional misbehavior.)

"I cheated on my metaphysics final in college. I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me." ~~Woody Allen

The People's Extreme Sports? 

Skateboarder Clears Great Wall of China:
Daredevil skateboarder Danny Way rolled down a massive ramp at nearly 50 mph and jumped across the Great Wall of China on Saturday, becoming the first person to clear the wall without motorized aid, an event sponsor said.

Way botched the landing on his first attempt but then successfully completed the jump across the 61-foot gap four times, adding 360 degree spins on his last three tries, sponsor Quiksilver, Inc. said.
I thought this was a hoax story, especially when I read this line:
A crowd of several thousand people, including China's ministers of extreme sports and culture, gathered at the Ju Yong Guan Gate.
"China's ministers of extreme sports and culture"??

Friday, July 08, 2005

Let It Bee 

Church Has 1 Million Bees, Honey in Walls:
One could say that St. Mark United Church of Christ is bee-deviled. The church in Clarion County, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh, has been infested with bees in its walls for about seven years. The church tried an exterminator and that didn't work. Now the problem has gotten so bad that honey oozes through its walls.
Also in the article: the person hired to remove the bees has been stung "more than 100 times this week."

Fun job.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Nuggets of American History II 

Lincoln's 'death' maskAbraham Lincoln was reportedly the first U.S. President to have an "image" of his voice preserved, probably using a device called a "phonautograph." This novelty didn't actually reproduce sounds, but merely created a crude image of a soundwave on a paper cylinder. A story on modern attempts to preserve old recordings claims,
Unconfirmed rumours abound that Abraham Lincoln even made a recording during the Civil War in 1863.
Unfortunately, the fragile cylinder which held this "recording" (if it existed at all) has never been found.

Rutherford B. HayesThe first President to have his voice actually recorded in a reproducable medium was perhaps Rutherford B. Hayes in 1878:
In April of 1878 Edison went to Washington D.C. to demonstrate for Congress the workings of the wonder of the age, the phonograph. There was a great demand to see and hear the phonograph, for no one could understand how it worked. Thomas Edison even performed a private demonstration for President Rutherford B. Hayes at the White House.
It's likely that the President would personally participate in such a demonstration. Hearing one's own voice would be quite the novelty in 1878--even more than the photograph (then still a burgeoning medium), since paintings and even mirrors previously allowed one to see one's image, but nothing was analogous to a recording of one's voice.

Benjamin HarrisonIf such a recording of Hayes was made, however, it remains unknown. According to the Vincent Voice Library at Michigan University, a wax cylinder recording c.1889 of Benjamin Harrison is "believed to be the oldest known recording of any U.S. President." You can hear the 30-second recording here at the Vincent Voice Library.

Other early Presidential voices which can be heard include an 1892 campaign speech by Grover Cleveland, an 1896 campaign speech by William McKinley, and undated speeches from Teddy Roosevelt, William Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. (all accessible here)

(adapted from previous posts here and here)

This Quote is an Annual Tradition 

As John Adams excitedly wrote home to his wife Abigail,
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding Generations, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this time forward forever more.
Of course, he was writing about July 2--the day the Declaration of Independence was actually approved--but who wants to quibble?

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to enjoy a shew.

(quote from Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History by Fawn M. Brodie)

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Quotes from the best musical of all time, '1776' 

JOHN ADAMS: I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace; that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a Congress!

And by God, I have had this Congress! For ten years, King George and his Parliament have gulled, cullied, and diddled these colonies with their illegal taxes! Stamp Acts, Townshend Acts, Sugar Acts, Tea Acts! And when we dared stand up like men, they have stopped our trade, seized our ships, blockaded our ports, burned our towns, and spilled our blood!

And still, this Congress refuses to grant any of my proposals on independence, even so much as the courtesty of open debate! Good God, what in hell are you waiting for?

JOHN ADAMS: Franklin did this and Franklin did that and Franklin did some other damned thing. Franklin smote the ground and out sprang George Washington, full grown and on his horse. Franklin then electrified him with his miraculous lightening rod and the three of them-—Franklin, Washington and the horse—-conducted the entire Revolution by themselves.

BEN FRANKLIN: Those who would give up some of their liberty in order to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

JOHN ADAMS: This is a revolution, dammit! We're going to have to offend somebody!

JOHN DICKINSON: What's so terrible about being called an Englishman? The English don't seem to mind.

BEN FRANKLIN: Nor would I, were I given the full rights of an Englishman. But to call me one without those rights is like calling an ox a bull: he's thankful for the honor, but he'd much rather have restored what's rightfully his.

Nuggets of American History I 

In December of 1811, the Mississippi River flowed backwards.

It was the result of a rare earthquake in the middle of the continent, along the New Madrid fault in southeastern Missouri. According to Maine geologist Martitia Tuttle, the New Madrid fault has had major events roughly every 500 years for the last 2,000.

In 1811, this earthquake caused fearsome upset to the Mississippi:
Collapsing banks were nothing new to boatmen along the Mississippi (River); to them, the mighty river seemed to be continually involved in reshaping itself. But in this first series of shocks, witnesses saw acres of riverbank at a time crash into the channel in huge columns, raising swells seven or eight feet high that rose up like a wall in the middle of the stream, swamping boats and beating furiously against the banks. Because of this fierce wave action, many survivors reported that the Mississippi's current had for a time reversed - in other words, it had actually run backwards.
Experts seem to disagree as to how long this apparent current reversal was in duration. Archeologist Dr. Robert Lafferty of Mid-Continental Research Associates states that it was "a pretty short phenomenon," suggesting only minutes. But University of Memphis Geologist Michael Ellis told NPR several weeks ago that the event happened "for a few hours."

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A few Live 8 notes... 

Bob Geldof called out to the London crowd shortly before the Live 8 finale, "Ladies and Gentlemen, have you ever seen anything like it in your lives?"

Ummm, yes.. 20 years ago. And, frankly, better.

Okay, it was cool that U2 and Paul McCartney belted out "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" at the start of the show to make the connection ("It was twenty years ago today...") that Live 8 comes at nearly the two-decade anniversary of Live Aid.

But it was very telling that U2's anthemic high point in 2005 was "One" with its use of the question mark as its predominent puncutation, contrasting with the band's career-defining 1985 performance apex of "Bad"--a declarative anthem using the exclamation point as punctuation of choice.

Unlike Live Aid, which was easily explainable and very direct in its origin--people are dying, give money to help them--Live 8 was much more of a question mark. Umm, Sir Bob? You want us to do what exactly? March to where? Or just text-message who, and demand what?

One can therefore forgive Sir Paul for crying out "Do you wanna get back? I wanna get back!" during his performance of--duh--"Get Back" (although one must note that McCartney's entire Live Aid/Live 8 oeuvre includes nothing post-Beatles).

So the past is the predominent musical touchstone for Live 8--but a rather jumbled past with the puzzle pieces not quite fitting snugly together, in a way that would have brilliant if it was intentional.

Like when Robbie Williams in London kicked off his set with Queen's "We Will Rock You," while earlier in Berlin, Green Day did a version of "We Are the Champions" (with frontman Billie Joe Armstrong frighteningly nailing Freddie Mercury intonation of "Neeoah time for losers..."). But such purposefulness was doubtful.

At least the Pink Floyd reunion was brilliant. Gilmour and Waters may look like the aging Kevin Tighe and Randolph Mantooth from the TV series Emergency! but, man, can they still play. Gilmour is still a guitar hero, and Waters looked relaxed and enjoying himself. Breezing through Dark Side of the Moon's "Breathe" and "Money," the title cut from "Wish You Were Here," and The Wall's "Comfortably Numb," it made the whole day worthwhile.

To its eternal shame, MTV cut away from the Pink Floyd reunion.

Perhaps the cable network was a little jumpy twenty years ago during Live Aid--with Alan Hunter narrating annoyingly over part of Elvis Costello's otherwise great solo version of The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love"--but it was downright A.D.D. during this go 'round (with emphasis on the "disorder"). It's as if the channel was pissed that they actually had to play some of that "music" that's in the network name instead of the usual diet of reality game shows, corporate promotion, and musical lip service.

Interestingly, ABC's highlights show edited the word "shit" from Pink Floyd's "Money" yet kept intact the "who the fuck are you?" line from The Who's "Who Are You" at 8:50pm. ABC is also to be shamed, however, as they cut away from Pink Floyd's "Money" before it ended.

Although the Floyd reunion generated heat, apparently no one could generate enough excitement to induce Kenny Jones to reunite with The Who. Zack Starkey plays drums for The Who these days, leading one to question whether any new album should be titled Who's Left? Townshend looked like a French vintner and Daltry looked somehwat surprised to be there, like if Willie Aames was somehow cast in a hot new sitcom.

But, hey--in Philadelphia, Will Smith brought out a drum line while shouting "that's what I'm talkin' 'bout!", as if some dude on a tri-tom somehow punk'd the whole world. So who can critique anything within Live 8 when it gets this surreal?

At least Joan Baez wasn't at this one, blurting out "This is your Woodstock!"

And, at least, there was some cause in mind and not just a shameless bid for nostalgia-fueled commerce (that was your Woodstock, Joan). As Bono said, "We can't fix every problem, but those we can, we must."

So from now on, let's all encourage Paul McCartney never to perform only the coda to "Hey Jude" as a cheap ploy for an all-star singalong.

After all, we can't fix every problem. But those we can, we must.

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