Friday, December 30, 2005

The Fox is guarding the hen house

At one point early on in The West Wing John Spencer's character Leo McGarry was outed as a recovering alcoholic to the press. When the intern that leaked the information attempts to resign Leo refuses to accept it and tells her that she was doing what she thought was right. (I don't remember this episode, but I've been told about it - so pardon if my retelling is off).

This is a great story to lead into the Bush administration's response to the recent spying scandal. First there's the refusal to talk about it, then it was defiantly acknowledged, then my favorite is Dick Cheney saying "Especially in the day and age we live in the President of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired, if you will, in terms of the conduct of national security policy." He is essentially saying that the President acted with powers he should have. Is that not illegal?

So ok - there is a grey area here. Something that probably should be looked into. And today it is announced that the Justice department will be investigating the leak of the alleged unconstitutional acts of the Bush Administration. Going back to The West Wing, that story displayed a remarkable amount of character. Fictional character - but character none the less. If there are illegal acts going on in the White House it is the responsibility of the press and the officials that are entrusted with running this country to admit the wrong doing, address it, and then move on.

"Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam, both during the 1970s, served, I think, to erode the authority I think the president needs to be effective, especially in the national security area," Cheney told reporters traveling with him on Air Force Two. It is funny that Cheney brings up the checks and balances that were instituted after the Watergate scandal as if they were a bad thing. The reason we need the checks and balances are to prevent rogue administrations running amuck.

Why is it that republican administrations are unable to live within the guidelines set by the constitution?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Home for the holidays

I had to wonder why every year I seem to like New Year's Eve more than Christmas and last night I figured out why - New Year's Eve is for friends and Christmas is for family. As much as I beat myself up for not spending enough time with them, last night I was reminded why that is.

Last night I decided to visit my parents house because it was the last day that my brother and his family would be in town - I see them once every couple of years or so, so it was the polite thing to do. The TV was on and so began the search for something that everyone could watch - not too violent, not too sappy, etc. It seemed we struck gold when the 3rd installment of Harry Potter was beginning. At this point my jesus-freak half-brother stated that Harry Potter is what's wrong with this country. My brother is sort of like the father from Douglas Coupland's book Hey Nostradamus!, claustrophobically devout. He believes that Harry Potter and its "devil worship" is the bible to too many kids. To the defense of the rest of my family, we all argued against him commenting on the many evils this world has endured in the name of some god. How many clan members put the hood over their head with one hand because they have a bible in the other?

Any way, the argument quieted down when my brother provided the next nugget of wisdom: the other problem with this country are the gays. For me, all of the mirth and frivolity of the holiday weekend came to an abrupt end. No sense arguing with this level of close-mindedness.

No matter how much you love your family, you didn't choose them. At times it becomes hard to believe that you could even be related. No better support for the argument that we are as much a product of our peers as our family.

Either that or my brother was simply born an ass. Either way I'm glad the long holiday weekend is over.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Best Albums of 2005

What better reason to have a blog than to create 2005 Best of Lists? Note Coldplay’s X&Y is left off because they refuse to get better. It’s not that the CD isn’t a good CD – it is. It’s that there are too many bands doing what they do and doing it better. I’ve included 4 of them on my list below.

My top 6 are essentially interchangeable as far as my rankings go, but this was my best stab.

Note – The Sufjan Stevens, The New Pornographers, Aimee Mann, Spoon, David Mead, Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, Adam Richman, Bloc Party, and Sundayrunners albums are all available on eMusic.

  1. Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine - I combine the version released on the internet and the version released officially as one giant extraordinary cd. Some of the songs are better on the leaked version (“Better Version of Me” for instance) and some are better on the official version (“Thymps” as an example). Either way this is a second straight masterwork for Fiona.

  2. Sleater-Kinney - The Woods - This album is the most inaccessible on my list – if you don’t like SK, then you don’t. Their harmonies are discordant; their chords are crunchy and noisy. But this album manages to do so and make songs that are catchy as all hell.

  3. Michael Penn - Mr. Hollywood Jr. 1947 – This is one of the more layered releases for me this year. While I liked it when I first listened to it, it didn’t hold me the way his last two releases did. To say it grew on me is an understatement. As literate as any Penn release – it takes serious listening to truly hear everything that’s being said.

  4. Kanye West - Late Registration – The man dissed the president and then went on to sell 2 million CDs. The song that I’ll remember from 2006 and a rap album that is a complete listen.

  5. Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise – I was afraid of this CD when I first read reviews, but it is epic. It is not folky – but it will appeal to those there. It’s not rocking, but the production will appeal to those that like indie rock.

  6. The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema – From the first song this is the catchiest CD of the year. Careful – hooks all over the place.

  7. Doves - Some Cities – Example #1 of a band better than Coldplay (in 2005). So many great songs on this album that I shake my head when I listen to it.

  8. Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm – Doesn’t hit me the way Bachelor No. 2 or I’m With Stupid did, but I find myself humming songs from TFA all the time.

  9. Spoon - Gimme Fiction – Example #2 of a band better than Coldplay (in 2005). If this band was British I bet everyone would know their names.

  10. Death Cab for Cutie – Plans – Example #3 of a band better than Coldplay (in 2005). The O.C. cred scared me away. They’re more substantial than that.

  11. David Mead - Wherever You Are – This 5 song EP would be top 10 if it weren’t 5 songs. That said – I like this release better than Indiana.

  12. Elbow - Leaders of the Free World – Final example of a band better than Coldplay in 2005. I think this may rate higher as I listen to it more, but I just got it.

  13. Arcade Fire – Funeral – More of the 80’s redux but done with more competence than style. Ignored in the revival of the 80’s sound but to me they’ve done the best at creating their own sound as opposed to rehashing others.

  14. The Decemberists – Picaresque – Quirky and excellent. I heard this album in January and it has sort of faded for me – still a standout.

  15. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm – Another 80’s sounding band. Not the bad 80’s stuff. Good and catchy.

  16. Adam Richman - Patience and Science – Infectious. Maybe not the most substantial release of the year, but fun to listen to.

  17. Sundayrunners – Sundayrunners – No one talks about this CD at all and that makes me think they need better marketing. Call me.

Working can get you fired

Great article on Yahoo about a Chicago workplace consultancy that has put together a list of workplace horrors. In a year when my former employer fired my friend Ryan without warning for comments he made on his blog. I'm glad to see that there are people out there willing to call out idiotic management decisions.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Snack attack Motherf@$&%er

If you haven't seen the SNL music video Lazy Sunday starring Chris Parnell and Adam Samberg then please do yourself a favor and watch it. This may be the funniest video this year.

Note: Lazy Sunday has been removed because NBC is run by douchebags. Sorry - the video is available for $1.99 on iTunes or for free on the crap NBC website (as long as you're running Window's IE).


Lazy Sunday on iTunes

Merry Christmas Motherf@$&%er's!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sad commentary

Yesterday I loved the intelligent design ruling that came down during the day and couldn't wait to turn on the news to hear more - the fake news that is, the Daily Show. How disappointed was I that it was a repeat? It's telling that the best commentary comes from a fake news source.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Eugene Levy bites it too?

I like Eugene Levy. He was brilliant in A Mighty Wind and I even liked in the first American Pie. But he consistently in the worst movies - as mentioned before Cheaper by the Dozen 1 and 2, The Man, Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry met Lloyd and maybe the worst of them all - Bringing Down the House. So why am I surprised to see him in American Pie Presents: Band Camp? Straight to DVD is always a good sign for a movie.

Well he's laughing - all the way to the bank in his Mercedes.

Friday, December 16, 2005

RIP: John Spencer and Richard Prior

So sad to hear John Spencer of The West Wing passed away today. At 58 he was way too young. He was always a favorite actor of mine from his days on LA Law. I was looking forward to Vice President McGary. I wonder how they will address it.

In my malaise I didn't give props to Richard Prior last week. Richard Prior made it cool to curse. Thank you Richard - I wouldn't be able to get through a day without your contributions.

Fiona Apple in Philly (Tower Theater)

Last week Friday I was luck to see Fiona Apple at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby. She ran through most if not all of the songs from Extraordinary Machine and When the Pawn... and the hits from her debut Tidal. I love the fact that there all these young people there listening to what has to be considered a throwback singer. It's almost as if she's a jazz singer but not quite.

I never have great "special guest stories" (I did run into Warren Zevon once at a Freedy Johnston concert - had a conversation with him and didn't know who he was until Freedy called him up on stage) but ?uestlove of the Roots joined Fiona for a couple of songs including my fave "Limp". Those are the the things that make attending concerts priceless.

She was so good, I wish I had seen both shows last week. Of course then I would have to of put up with concert goers two days in a row and that may be too much to ask.

For Sale: Xbox 360 - $19,000

I wonder if anyone would buy it?

Just a little hint to any moron that buys an Xbox for anything more than list - in six months Xbox 360s will be like assholes, everyone will have one. In a year or so the price will drop - they always do. Add to that the new Playstation and Nintendo machines are on the way and you have to wonder why anyone would pay $1,000 for one of these machines.

Friggin morons.

Steve Martin blows the big one

I've railed about the fact that it seems that every movie made is a sequel, tv show redux, or a book made into a movie. The original screenplay is a lost art. Case in point - Cheaper by the Dozen 2 - this movie apparently sucked the big one - still there's a sequel? How many bad movies do Steve Martin and Eugene Levy have to make? These fuckers are making movies just for the check.

How about having a modicum of self-respect guys.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Amazing Race: Family Edition over - THANK GOD!

In the words of the Weavers - THANK THE LORD! (those that watch The Amazing Race understand).

First off - I love the Linzes, am happy they won, but in no way would they have competed in a normal race. They made too many mistakes and only their tenacity brought them through. That said - they're were one of the most likeable groups they've ever had on TAR. As for the Weavers - well for one hour each week I had someone I hated more than Dubya. The fact that they were in the final three and were as universally loathed as they were made for some tense TV watching in this house.

The final three teams were so lackluster that the end was welcome. The end of TAR 7 was so fulfilling and suspensful, I was hoped that this race would propel TAR to even greater races. Oh well.

The Amazing Race 9 is coming in February. Let's hope that the producers get back to good old fashion racing (you know where people do things, some people fall behind, some get ahead, etc.) If so I can put this sorry race to the far reaches of my mind.

Justice vs. Vengeance

First off I won't argue that Stanley "Tookie" Williams was redeemed, evil, or any point in between. That is not my point here. I don't know whether or not he did what he was convicted of. I don't know if he deserved clemency. I'm not even sure what guidelines there are (or if there even are guidelines) to grant clemency.

I've never supported the death penalty for the plain fact that it is impossible to support it. Here are my beliefs re:the death penalty and why it needs to be abolished.
  • If someone close to me were to be murdered - I'm pretty sure I'd want those responsible to be wiped off this planet. Maybe I would have the strength to forgive - but if I didn't it probably would be understood that my response was emotional. This would be a base, human response. I've always thought that the government should be in the business of negating the base responses of it's people. The government does this all the time - for example, most people would rather not pay taxes (base human response), but the government collects them anyway. I want my leaders to be rational; doing the right thing even if it is opposed to the popular thing.
  • There are all sorts of arguments about the fairness of the death penalty and to me it boils down to this: if there is any subjectivity involved then there is always going to be room for bias. The only way to get rid of that bias is to give everyone that commits murder the death penalty - no 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degrees - just death. No death penalty for the scary black man and then 20 to life for the cute mom who just had a bad day - death for both. That would make it fair wouldn't it?
  • The justice system is inherently unjust. If you have the money to do so, you can make all sorts of charges disappear including murder. O.J. Simpson did. Claus Von Bulow too. Money buys the best defense and without money you get what you pay for.
  • People make mistakes. I've made them, you've made them, but most importantly prosecutors, police, lawyers, and witnesses make them. The Innocence Project has successfully had 164 prisoners exonerated most often because of mistaken identity. And with the justice system loathe to admit mistakes, I am 100% certain that there have been innocent men and women executed. With the sometimes sad history of the justice system in this country - the fact that we continue to use a penalty for which there is no turning back from is amazing.
It's a shame that our country aims to be a beacon to the rest of the world but can be so far outside the accepted practices of a civilized society. We argue against China's human rights abuses. Invade Iraq to remove a rogue dictator from leadership. But when it comes to our own policies we don't have the strength or guts to end the unjustness of the 19th century system we employ.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Really Bad Santa Banner

A friend sent me this banner for busted tees. It's profane and probably sacrilegious - and funny in a very, very bad way. I laugh knowing a lump of coal is coming.

(I only report the news, I don't make it)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Things I don't understand about women #12,659

So today I decided to buy a pretzel, I'm 3rd in line, and the woman at the front is paying her $2.08 but is holding up the line to find that 8 cents exact change. In the time it took her to find the exact change, the cashier rang up the 2nd person and myself.

What is the fascination with exact change? I never walk around with change - when I come home every evening, I empty whatever change I have into a jar, in 10 months I have $200 found money.

So here's a request - stop holding up the line trying to find rogue pennies.

(This post was written to a 70/30 seriousness-to-sarcasm scale)