Archive for the 'Culture' Category

If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

What do tea parties, Glenn Beck, Fox News, and the US Chamber of Commerce have in common? All are demonized opponents of the Obama administration, and more popular then ever.

“If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

This seems to be the case, not only for Jedi Knights, but also opponents of the Obama administration (or at least those on their enemies list.)

Cases in point:

Tea party and the 9/12 DC Protest:

Does anyone think these would have had such widespread, and non-partisan support as they have if the Obama administration (and their MSM sycophants) hadn’t demonized and belittled the people attending them.

Glenn Beck

Beck’s indignant critiques of the Obama administration and gloomy outlook on the nation’s financial health have found near-instant resonance. His eponymous 2 p.m. PST program averaged nearly 2.2 million viewers last month — double the number the time slot attracted the previous February and a remarkable amount for the afternoon. That made “Glenn Beck” the third most-watched program in all of cable news for the month, after Bill O’Reilly’s and Sean Hannity’s evening shows.

“I look at the ratings every day shocked,” Beck said on a recent afternoon, sitting shoeless in his Midtown office as snow pelted the Manhattan skyline behind him.

But he believes he knows why viewers are tuning in: “People know in their gut that something’s not right. They’re not getting the truth.”

Fox News as a whole:

The August ratings are out, and once again, the ratings for the Fox News Channel are phenomenal.

Rather than throwing a million pieces of data that every channel is spinning into madness, I ask you to consider just this one: On Sunday night, the third episode of AMC’s highly-publicized and much-discussed series, “Mad Men,” drew an audience of 1.6 million viewers at 10 p.m. when it debuted. Throughout the month of August, Fox News Channel averaged an audience of 2.29 million viewers during every single hour of prime time. And some nights, Bill O’Reilly drew an audience twice as large as that of “Mad Men.”

US Chamber of Commerce:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is on track to exceed last year’s fundraising by more than $10 million, thanks in part to the Obama administration’s decision to target the pro-business group, according to the organization’s president.

President Tom Donohue told that even though a few companies have left the chamber over its opposition to President Obama’s domestic policies, the organization is actually benefiting from its place in the White House crosshairs.

“There are some longstanding members that wanted to step up and help more,” he told The public friction with the White House comes in the midst of a $100 million fundraising campaign for the chamber.

The White House, while claiming that it hasn’t tried to encourage any business to part ways with the chamber, has been cutting the business group out of the loop by dealing directly with member executives. Obama and his aides have criticized the group publicly for its opposition to legislation dealing with climate change, health care and financial regulation.

Another interesting point revealed in the above quote. Unions and community organizing are great, unless they oppose you, in which case it’s fine to just bypass them.


Don Surber notes that CNN’s numbers dropped 68% in prime time during the same period. President Obama’s polling numbers are showing a similar drop. Couldn’t be related, could it. (H/T instapundit)

Thanks for the instalanche… and welcome Instapundit readers.

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Your New Drink

Burbon and Ginger beer. Thank me later reader(s).

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Picture of the Day

This is a statue from outside Denver International Airport.

and Hell followed with him

and Hell followed with him

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The Permission for Resistance

Brief except of a talk at the 92nd Street Y between Salman Rushdie and Irshad Manji, discussing the possibility of reform against extremism in the Islamic faith. Rushdie draws a fine parallel with the experience of the Western left during the Cold War. Specifically, its attempt to create a distinction between their non-existent idealized socialism, and the actuality of a destitute, totalitarian nightmarescape on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

At issue is the extent to which the Western left sought to resist criticism of existing socialism in the name of defending it as an ideal. Commendably, Rushdie has little faith in this project reapplied to Islam, much less as a promise to actualize reform.

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Not only is she a Bonneville record holder, but Leslie Porterfield also used an innovative new skin wrap on her bike. While I would suspect the claims of any company, a personal endorsement such as the following holds weight enough for me. A 3mph gain at top speed with no other change to the bike, that’s incredible.

Where can I get me some of this…

“I had excellent results with the FastSkinz on my motorcycles. Both bikes set records this year. I made several runs on the Honda at the Texas Mile. We had the opportunity to test all weekend, and change bodywork out for comparison. I had a consistent 3mph gain on top speed at the end of one mile.

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I Love Fast Women!!!

I think it’s great that there are fast women in the world. Fast on the 1/4 mile, fast on the Speedway, fast on the road course, and fast on the Salt Flats. If you thought I meant something else, you have a dirty mind.

Let me introduce Leslie Porterfield who holds 3 land-speed records, and is the fastest woman on a motorcycle in the US. 234.197 MPH

234.197 MPH !!!!

That would be really freakin’ fast in a car, and she did it on a naked bike. I first learned of her amazing feat while watching a Discovery Channel program, “Land Speed Records: Bonneville Salt Flats.” What is especially amazing to me is that Leslie returned to the Salt Flats to take the record after crashing at 175 MPH in 2007. She suffered several broken ribs, a punctured lung, and lots of bruises.

Next meet, Jessica Zalusky, who won #2 overall in the Central Roadracing Association Expert Championship.

Put Jessica in your prayers, as she suffered a stroke last year. Looks like she’s making a good recovery though.

I think both of these women (in fact all racers,) show tremendous courage when they sit behind the wheel or on top of a motorcycle. There’s always the chance that things will go wrong. And you have to be tough to recover from spills, accidents, or twists of fate.

So, why do I like seeing women in racing? It’s more then just wanting to see a pretty face in the pits and on the winners platform. My wife has done a little bracket racing, and one of the most inspiring things was seeing a little girl tug on her mom’s jeans saying, look, a girl is racing. I think it’s important to open up the possibilities for young women.

Racing isn’t just a mans game.

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Mr Bad Example

Isn’t there an energy crisis or something that we all have to worry about?

Guess, we can just call him “Mr Bad Example,” and be done with it.

The capital flew into a bit of a tizzy when, on his first full day in the White House, President Obama was photographed in the Oval Office without his suit jacket. There was, however, a logical explanation: Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.

“He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.”

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New Chili Pepper on the Block

The Dorset naga:

Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket chain, recently added a new pepper to its vegetable shelves: the Dorset naga. Inhaling its vapour makes your nose tingle. Touching it is painful; cooks are advised to wear gloves. It is the only food product that Tesco will not sell to children. By the standards of other chilies, it is astronomically hot. On the commonly used Scoville scale (based on dilution in sugar syrup to the point that the capsaicin becomes no longer noticeable to the taster) it rates 1.6m units, close to the 2m score of pepper spray used in riot control. The pepper that previously counted as the world’s hottest, the Bhut Jolokia grown by the Chile Pepper Institute at the New Mexico State University, scored just over 1m. That in turn displaced a chili grown by the Indian Defence Research Laboratory in Tezpur, which scored a mere 855,000. The hottest habanero chilies score a wimpy 577,000.

The naga, originally from Bangladesh, was developed commercially by Michael Michaud, who runs a specialist online chili supply firm in south-western Britain. Having spotted it in an ethnic-food shop in the coastal town of Bournemouth, he bred a dependable and much hotter strain and had it tested. “I sent the powder to a couple of labs. They didn’t believe the reading. They thought they had made a mistake,” he recalls. Jonathan Corbett, the buyer who handles (cautiously) specialist chilies for Tesco says that the naga makes a standard hot curry “taste like a bowl of breakfast cereal”.

The article also deals with the reason we like things spicy:

TASTELESS, colourless, odourless and painful, pure capsaicin is a curious substance. It does no lasting damage, but the body’s natural response to even a modest dose (such as that found in a chili pepper) is self-defence: sweat pours, the pulse quickens, the tongue flinches, tears may roll. But then something else kicks in: pain relief. The bloodstream floods with endorphins—the closest thing to morphine that the body produces. The result is a high. And the more capsaicin you ingest, the bigger and better it gets.

I also wonder if anyone has any anecdotes with how recipes and food has gotten spicier over the years/generations. I find myself adding Tabasco and/or jalapenos to almost everything nowadays, and buffalo wings are probably my favorite food. Is it a bad sign that just reading about these peppers literally has my mouth watering?

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Frank Miller’s Geostrategic Theory

Frank Lovece sat down with Frank Miller for Newsday to discuss his upcoming film The Spirit. Toward the end of it Lovece asked Miller about remarks he’d made in 2007 in support of the Iraq War, and offered him an opportunity to clarify/retract. Miller was unapologetic:

Miller: When the U.S. was attacked at Pearl Harbor, we didn’t just declare war on Japan, we declared war on Germany. It was an international fascist effort. And so when I said that the attack on Iraq made sense, it was the same way we had to attack not just Afghanistan. Instead we had to attack the center of Islamofascism.


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Nixon and Kissinger in Watchmen

The newish montage for the screen version of Watchmen, has a fine scene of the Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger characters about mid way through it (video). Looks like they finally found an actor who could do the nose.

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A New Age of Female Masturbation

Lesbian feminist Lily Tomlin once joked that the only reason cretinous men walked upright was to free their hands for masturbation. Fair enough, but the posture of the lady might soon lack for any better purpose. According to a new survey, 92% of British women between 18-30 now masturbate regularly. That’s up from 62% in 1953. And regularity is the key word. Today 2/3rds of British women masturbate more than four times a week. That’s quite a lot.

I suppose you could interpret these results as further evidence of a liberated femininity and/or behavioral equilibration between the genders. Or of course if you’re a social conservative sexually repressed prude, you could lament the finding as evidence of the corrosion of internal moral self-restraint.

But one might also suggest that it is an adaptive reaction to a newly hyper-sexualized external society. As Westerners we’ve already voted to live in a constitutionally protected, sexually intoxicated media environment. One which is thoroughly permeated with permissive sexual suggestion at almost all levels. Men and women are being bombarded with sexually stimulating media on a permanent basis, even for the purpose of advertising something as unstimulating as cheeseburgers. Living in this environment could only be expected to enhance the collective desire on the part of people, to achieve sexual gratification more frequently. One might even suggest that immersion in this environment mandates it for a young and largely unmarried demographic group.

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Where have the strong women gone?

I’ve now read my first real “vampire” book.

Okay, so it’s a werewolf book with vampires, but I’m told this is *the* genre these days. Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn. Not bad, not bad in a lot of ways, but past annoying in others and I was thinking of ranting a bit and putting the rant on my blog. You see, I bought the book to get it signed by Ms. Vaughn at Bubonicon this fall despite the fact that I’m not much into the werewolf or vampire craze, and despite the fact that she stated on one of the panels that she really didn’t like people like me, specifically, women who say they aren’t feminists.

Not that I take that personally.


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When the Future is Boring

It seems the marriage of David Pollard and Amy Taylor is heading toward divorce, due to Pollard’s virtual affair with a virtual prostitute, uncovered by a virtual private detective hired by Taylor.

It occurs to me that the key thing William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and the 80s cyberpunk movement got wrong when they were conjecturing about the future of networked data communications, was that immersive media digital communities would be cool, awe-inspiring and practical.

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Oral Nonsex

I recall it being reported at the height of the sordid and tedious Monica Lewinsky scandal, that Bill Clinton personally felt he had not violated his wedding vows because in his view, receiving fellatio did not constitute adultery. Evidently Clinton had researched the topic at some length and found a kind of tortured reinforcement for his perspective in the Bible itself. At the time I thought it seemed a rather instructive example of the essential convenience of Clinton’s morality, as well as providing a further lesson that one can find divine justification for almost anything in scripture if they look hard enough.

But in 2003 it was revealed that the New Hampshire Supreme Court had grown to share Clinton’s view as a matter of law. And today, it seems the idea may have trickled into youth culture, as a survey of students at Montrose High School in Colorado revealed a majority of them didn’t consider oral sex to be sex at all. Which may of course provoke lament from those enrolled in the increasingly pessimistic venture of social conservatism, but causes even more distress for our shared language. That’s because if oral sex isn’t sex, what then should we call it? Fellatio, analingus and cunnilingus are cumbersome and particular words after all.

Having consulted the online thesaurus for advice, some social conservatives will perhaps be pleased to learn that in failing to find a suitable synonym it asks, “did you mean irreligious?” But this of course won’t do for the rest of us.

Taking a cue from the dictionary, we might call it “oral stimulation.” However, this may tend to unnecessarily confound the boundaries between a blowjob and an interesting conversation.

Therefore, I propose the use of “oral nonsex” for its utility in both complying with the children’s liberalized definition, and preserving the capricious nature of public morality for the prize of irony. Also, social conservatives disappointed by the purposes of redefinition itself, could be comforted with a gifted advantage over their adversarsies. After all, anyone contending that “oral sex is nonsex”, has a certain literal and yet ridiculous argument on their hands.

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The Infantile Identity

I tend to take a liberal attitude toward alternative lifestyles generally. Apart from the moral requirement to protect personal freedom, I like to think they do more to enliven the human experience for spectators, than they do to exert the kind of apocalyptic moral corrosion envisioned by the likes of Robert Bork, et al. But there are occasions I must confess, when the alternatives become so silly that even I must shake my head in dismay at the state of things. It happens that the practice of paraphilic infantilism tests my limits for liberal ataraxy quite well.

Thus meet Heidilynn, a fifty year old AB (adult baby) in California, who has intentionally undone his toilet training through a process of hypnosis. Heidilynn lives his life almost entirely as a female infant you see. But after having spent thousands of dollars on adult-sized high chairs, frilly onesies, and related paraphernalia, a moment of lucidity finally struck him: “This is ridiculous.”


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Misfits Halloween Consumerism

I was in the supermarket earlier tonight buying candy and they had a rack of Halloween themed t-shirts. I didn’t notice it at first, but the slogan on each shirt was an old Misfits song. “Ghoul’s Night Out”, “Astro Zombies”, “Die, Die My Darling”, “I Turned Into A Martian” you name it. Pretty damn fine, thought me. Time to kick some Misfits in all its noisy low-fidelity, punk rock glory methinks. “Halloween”:

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Where the Hell is Matt?

This is the greatness of the internet

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Against Galt

Synova wrote a little post that gets halfway to where I would come down on this perennial parlor game of  the John Galt general strike. Sy recognized that to be successful, such a revolt would realistically be a miserable experience for a society, resulting in bloodshed and economic ruin. But she does not depart from Rand in assuming that the eventual outcome would be desirable. I’d advise the ancient wisdom that if the means are clearly evil in a political project, one should become immediately skeptical of the alleged justice of the ends.

We should also be skeptical of the social assumption for Galt, that there is a definable and rigid division among men into a minority of Platonic creative guardians, and an empowered majority of proletarian oppressors and their craven political servants — and that these factions could have accurate self-recognition of their social roles. I would contend that anyone who thinks of the majority of the people as disposable abstracted parasites, under a constitutional order that explicitly derives its governing powers from the majority consent of the governed, is never selling you anything that’s going to arrive in a happy place.


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How to help loose the election, in 10 easy steps…

I was commenting to my wife the other night when we saw the trailer for “Religulous,” just what the Obama camp needs at the moment, something to remind the right, and especially the religious right, why they hate liberals.

Bill Maher jabs his style of comedy into the eye of religions and those that follow them, in his latest film. I’ve not seen anything but the trailer, and it does look like he’s being an equal opportunity ass with this film. I really expect this, fairly or not, to get a lot of time on the radio, and pulpit.

We’re probably going to skip, since we can’t stand Maher.

We probably will go see “An American Carol,” with one of the big reasons being, liberals don’t want you to see this movie.

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40 Years (a Haiku)

It is not so much,
And Time stands alone for a moment.
Fall begins.

8 Falls of the Big Sioux River East View

Cascade Falls, West Virginia

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When They Came for Kenny…

Photos of Russian kids mounting a street protest against the banning of South Park by the state. This is no small or meaningless act.

As daily experience, one of the worst aspects of living under a repressive fascist regime is how utterly boring it is. It is a horrible experience to be a teenager in a society where every radio station plays only opera, and every television show is a boring panegyric to the wisdom of the regime.

This is an intrinsic hostility to youthful enthusiasms too. In more than one way fascism can be described as a permanent war conducted by the state on the innate liberality and frivolousness of youth. Under fascism, something as light-hearted as South Park becomes “extremist propaganda” because the fascist is altogether incapable of understanding the necessary playfulness of entertainment. He feels the driving necessity to infect everything with deep political significance.

It is by such a course that the abolition of free expression induces the characteristically pervasive and perverse boredom of its societies. This does not only affect youth either, as a society robs itself of its own vitality by repressing its youth’s enthusiasm.

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Outer Dark

March for Life pro-life rally in Washington by Brian Long
(photo: Brian Long)

Dr. Andre Lalonde, executive vice president of the Canadian Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is concerned that Sarah Palin’s decision to have Trig, may lead to a reduction of abortions in Canada through positive example.

This is perhaps demonstrative of how different perspectives on abortion can be in the United States on both sides. It is frankly uncommon to see a senior figure among even the staunchest American defenders of abortion rights, argue that a decrease in their exercise would be undesirable. Indeed, such an opinion is more commonly confined to the most extremist fringes of radical feminism, or within the vile eugenics and zero population growth movements.


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Ruining Ramadan in Egypt

My Camel in Giza

Ramadan always means new soap operas in the Arab world. I learned today it also means not even thinking about masturbation. A small thing to you perhaps, but in a repressive sexual society where the curves of the female figure are a matter of imaginative mystery, this is a serious lifestyle sacrifice for young men.

For me, Ramadan always means sharing a cigarette on a dirty floorboard outside Cairo. I’d offered my driver my last smoke in the midst of the holy month when he’d picked me up from a camel train. I’d held it out with an appeal that God was after all merciful. Tobacco is haram, forbidden, during the daylight hours of Ramadan. He’d stared at it for a long time. ‘Western devils and their temptations’ might have been in his thoughts. Finally he said “Yes. But not here.”

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The Sarah Palin Style


Apparently Sarah Palin has become the latest women’s fashion trendsetter. Ladies across the country are flocking to find her rectangular rimless spectacles, created by Japanese designer Kazuo Kawasaki, to achieve that “Sarah Palin look.” Some are comparing the glasses to Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hats.

Well, this is certainly one dimension of Sarah’s success I didn’t anticipate.

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Luck, Good Karma, and Preparing for the Worst

I had a lesson in all three this past Friday (8/29.) As I was riding my brand new Triumph Bonneville (with 2 weeks & 650 miles on it,) to work, not more then 2 miles from my house I had a collision with a raccoon. The short story is that the bike and I are in about the same shape, a few dings, and some scrapes, but salvageable. Currently the bike is at the dealer, waiting for inspection by the insurance agent. The rider is at work, and other then a little pain from his knees, is doing fine.

Read the whole story, and view the gory details below the fold.


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Blog Graphics Retrospective

I was searching for an image on my backup drive today and came across a cache of header graphics I’d thrown together for posts over the years. The diversity of subjects was kind of interesting as a gallery. Here’s a few rather random selections:

The HIV Epidemic:
The HIV Epidemic


Slobodan Milosevic:
slobodan milosevic

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I’ve mentioned before that I lived (in the fullest sense of the word) in Charlottesville, VA for many years in the 90’s. During that time I got to know a great many talented musicians including Dave Matthews. We weren’t buddies or anything but, like many small towns, our paths crossed enough to know who each other was at the time. Dave likely wouldn’t remember me nowadays, but I surely enjoyed his concerts at Trax back then, and I’m always happy to reprise bits of happy moments.

While searching for something entirely different, I came across this is a rendition of “Warehouse” delivered near UVA’s campus at (I believe) a former used record store on Main Street. I thought you all might enjoy it:

In less happy news, the saxophonist for The Dave Matthews Band has, tragically, died:

Dave Matthews Band saxophone player LeRoi Moore, one of the group’s founding members and a key part of its eclectic jazz-infused sound, died Tuesday from sudden complications stemming from injuries he sustained in an all-terrain vehicle accident in June. He was 46.


Moore, who liked to wear his trademark dark sunglasses at the bands’ live concerts, had classical training but said jazz was his main musical influence, according to a biography on the band’s Web site.

“But at this stage I don’t really consider myself a jazz musician,” Moore said in the biography. Playing with the Dave Matthews Band was “almost better than a jazz gig,” he said. “I have plenty of space to improvise, to try new ideas.”

Lead singer Dave Matthews credited Moore with arranging many of his songs, which combine Cajun fiddle-playing, African-influenced rhythms and Matthews’ playful but haunting voice.

The band formed in 1991 in Charlottesville, Va., when Matthews was working as a bartender. He gave a demo tape of his songs to Moore, who liked what he heard and recruited his friend and fellow jazzman Carter Beauford to play drums, and other musicians.

RIP, LeRoi.

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All Tomorrows Parties

A treat for Velvet Underground fans, Bud Benderbe reinterprets the seminal alternative band:

More over at Airforce Amazon.

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It Does Exist…

Pragmatists frustrated, idealists vindicated:

Art project by Ed Thompson.

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Ethnostatism Fails

The movement of “ethnic studies” curricula from colleges to public schools, is something that troubles many of us who have experienced such classes in modern times. Ethnic studies programs are often called “multiculturalist,” but since they tend to be monoethnic and extremely political rather than cultural, I prefer the term “ethnostatism.”

In defense of the migration, the claim is often made that improving student self-esteem by submerging them in intensely ideological and highly sectarian programs, benefits overall student academic performance. For opponents the claim is a non sequitur, similar to excusing the political dimension of education in a fascist country, by claiming the students there had good math scores. Ideological indoctrination isn’t validated as worthwhile, even if it did help students do trigonometry somehow.


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Just show him your O face

via Instapundit, we find Tigerhawk making the complaint that the new O salute is discriminatory against those differently-abled people who have lost an arm or hand. He doesn’t seem to have a problem with those who have lost both arms or hands though.

But the solution is simple. Show him your “O face.”

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ASHC is Alan Finch Central

Alan Finch, Helen Finch, Alan Finch
Alan Finch, Helen Finch, Alan Finch the Revenge

Looking over our logs, it’s incredible how much global traffic we get from people searching for information on Alan Finch (August’s #1 ASHC keyword and a top-30 quantity since February). Perhaps a little odd for a blog that tends to focus on American party politics, economic theory and international affairs.

To recap you, Alan is an Australian man who had a double sex-change (first from male to female and then from female to male). He was the subject of a very brief AtW post by myself in February, and thereafter became the source of all this traffic.


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Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn R.I.P.

The impact of this man on the world is not part of the memory of many today. I’ll be breaking out a few of his books this week in his memory. A true Giant has passed away.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose stubborn, lonely and combative literary struggles gained the force of prophecy as he revealed the heavy afflictions of Soviet Communism in some of the most powerful works of fiction and history written in the 20th century, died late Sunday in Russia, his son Yermolai said early Monday in Moscow. He said the cause was a heart condition. He was 89.

He outlived by nearly 17 years the state and system he had battled through years of imprisonment, ostracism and exile.

Mr. Solzhenitsyn had been an obscure, middle-aged, unpublished high school science teacher in a provincial Russian town when he burst onto the literary stage in 1962 with “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.” The book, a mold-breaking novel about a prison camp inmate, was a sensation. Suddenly, he was being compared to giants of Russian literature like Tolstoy, Dostoyevski and Chekov.

Over the next four decades, Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s fame spread throughout the world as he drew upon his experiences of totalitarian duress to write evocative novels like “The First Circle” and “The Cancer Ward” and historical works like “The Gulag Archipelago.”

“Gulag” was a monumental account and analysis of the Soviet labor camp system, a chain of prisons that by Mr. Solzhenitsyn’s calculation some 60 million people had entered during the 20th century. The book led to his expulsion from his native land. George F. Kennan, the American diplomat, described it as “the greatest and most powerful single indictment of a political regime ever to be leveled in modern times.”

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Dissonance Control in Political Paranoia

Bird watcher
(photo: companyink)

After writing about the Ronpaulist fear mongering of Jordan Page, and then reading Lance’s splendid post on the latest contheorist pandering of Glenn Greenwald, a common insight has reoccurred to me: the absurd amount of cognitive dissonance conditional to political paranoia.

This is something Christopher Hitchens explored quite adeptly last year at the “Four Horsemen” chat with his three fellow atheist luminaries, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris (, skip to 8:17). In a response to a point by Dennett, Hitchens argues that the stress of cognitive dissonance is the inevitable state deriving from belief in political unreality, and furthermore, that this condition exists and persists on purely survival grounds (seems true in miniature too).

I’d add that it’s the compartmentalism that political paranoia necessitates in an open society that is the most conspicuous betrayal of its essential cynicism. Something especially apparent when you run into it face to face.

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Jupiter Unveiled

A simply stunning series of pictures of Jupiter and its moons. Lots more at the link.

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Finally! Car Blogging!

I am co-bloggers Keith and Josh will be thrilled to know that Vanity Fair now has a gay car blog.

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Don’t piss off the wordsmith

It isn’t just that this is funny-or so devastatingly literate, profane and lovingly crafted- and all over the removal of the indefinite article “a”. Nor is is just that Giles is so absolutely correct to be so exercised over the removal of the indefinite article “a.”

What I find so wonderfully amusing is that it is so perfectly English. I can’t imagine an American writer producing anything like it. Lileks comes the closest, but still, very American.

Hat tip: Guy Herbert

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And You Think the Housing Market is Tough?

OyJewish wedding!

Just as the economy is headed to recession, the shidduch system is in crisis mode. Or so the rabbis moan, noting the surplus of women eager to marry and the corresponding shortfall in the quality and quantity of available Jewish men. It’s not that there are more Orthodox women than men out there; experts instead attribute the shortage to the broader sociological trend of postponing marriage, which works to the disadvantage of women looking for spouses their own age or just a few years older. Men who are 30 will date women as young as 18 and may turn their noses up at dating any woman past the age of 25. The 20% or 30% of women who  don’t get hitched right away begin to worry they’ll be left out in the cold for good.

Sensing this shift of power, mothers of sons who remain in the matchmaking system increase their demands: Any prospective daughter-in-law must be a size two, or a “learner” son must be supported indefinitely by the girl’s parents. For men, “it’s a buyer’s market,” says Michael Salamon, a psychologist and author of “The Shidduch Crisis: Causes and Cures” (2008). “And the pressures of dating are creating all kinds of social problems, such as eating disorders and anxiety disorders. It’s frightening.”

Part of the problem is the increased number of “serial daters” who, as Ms. Fishman says, are “shopping for perfection.” When Mr. Ostrov runs workshops, he asks male participants in their early 30s how many girls they have dated. “One hundred seventy-five is not an unusual number,” he says. “Dating” in these cases usually ends after just one or two meetings with each girl.

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Surreal Video of the Day

Feist, the glorious female vocalist from Broken Social Scene who went solo and got in an iPod commercial, recently made an appearance on Sesame Street:

I don’t know if it’s creepy or not, but it is most definitely surreal. And awesome. I wish I had learned to count like this.

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Did We Ever Escape the Nineties?

Yo Yo, a flash in the pan empowered-but-sexless female rapper (try selling that today), got her big break by teaming up with Ice Cube on her 1991 debut Make Way for the Motherlode. Why, here she is, being so early-90’s empowered.

Unfortunately, she was overtaken by Salt ‘N’ Peppa, and later Missy Missdimeanor Elliott, and now the kaleidoscopic variety of rapper-sluts that pollute our previous cable music channels… like how Flava Flav fell from being an outspoken and effective voice for black frustration at their marginalization to spawning atrocities like Flavor of Love and I Love New York. Something is missing, somehow.

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Ellas Otha Bates, R.I.P.

Bo Diddley Rock & Roll lost one of it’s brightest and most penetrating stars yesterday, even if one of the least well known. The founder of the jungle beat heard in too many songs to count over the last 50 years succumbed to heart failure at his home in Archer, FL, at the age of 79.

Bo Diddley was a musical innovator who helped forge the sound and contributed to the style of rock ‘n’ roll. He sported a trademark fedora, played an iconic square-shaped guitar and from it he extracted a deep, rusty reverb and a peculiar playing style that influenced generations of players.


“He was by far the most underrated of any ’50s star,” says producer Phil Spector. “You listen to those (reissued box sets) and the rhythmic invention, the consistent high quality of imagination and performance, the excellence of the writing, the power of the vocals – nobody else ever did it better or had a deeper, more penetrating influence.”

Perhaps no guitarist was more influenced by Diddley’s sound and style than ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, who carries on Diddley’s tradition of strange-looking instruments and full-bodied guitar riffs with prickly solos.

Gibbons called Diddley “the ‘artiste.’

“He was the man who constructed the sound we all grew to revolve around,” he said. “And a vision of simplicity delivered through effortless expression and sense of humor. Many times, Bo made a point to say, ‘I’ll always be around,’ and we know he will.”

In other words, when it comes to rock music, if you don’t know Bo you don’t know Diddley. Eric Burden and the Animals offered the best testament to Bo’s prophetic words:

R.I.P. Ellas Otha “Bo Diddley” Bates.

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Cheap Sunglasses: ZZ Top and the Price of Fame

Previously posted on, now with political addendum at the end.

The concept of the price of fame is usually applied in the sense of the personal cost to the famous, from the relatively mild annoyance of not being able to go out without being recognized, to the deep existential crises and insanity of megastars like Kurt Cobain and Michael Jackson. You could certainly argue that Kurt and Michael would have been crazy anyway, but clearly becoming famous was not healthy for either of them.

But there is another cost of fame that is a little harder to pin down, because it’s the cost that is charged to a band’s account of cool points when the band gets too famous. In some contexts, this cool-points account might be called “indie cred” or “punk cred” or (more generally) “authenticity.” I’m sure there are specific equivalents for jazz and metal and klezmer and so on, but it all comes down to the same thing.

If you are an indie kid or a hipster of any stripe, or have spent any time around hipsters, you have experienced or observed the phenomenon of the band that gets too famous for its original fans to tolerate, as if the band’s quality is dependent upon its obscurity. Of course that’s objectively ridiculous, but music fandom is no science, and people naturally enjoy music for more than its purely musical qualities. So it’s understandable why a fan might grow bitter at the object of his (gendered pronoun intentional—it’s usually guys who do this) affection’s success. Now he has to share with a bunch of bandwagoneers who weren’t there during the lean times and who can’t possibly understand what made this band really great. That’s a bit of a caricature, of course. Sometimes when a band gets famous the quality of the music really does decline, sometimes via intentional changes (the “sell-out”), sometimes because the band has started to run out of ideas, and sometimes because the band has plenty of new ideas but they aren’t very good.

With that groundwork laid, I want to posit a kind of weird argument: that ZZ Top is an underrated band today. Yes, that band that is enshrined in the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, the one that played to packed stadiums and sold multi-platinum heaps of records. That band that played a Super Bowl halftime show with James Brown. I realize that the concepts of “underrated” and “overrated” are thrown around a lot, usually meaning “this band is way too good to be so obscure” or “this band isn’t good enough to be this popular.” That’s not really what I’m interested in. Instead, I’d like to talk about ZZ Top’s critical reputation and its lack of currency or buzz among contemporary hipsters, and to argue that ZZ Top is (critically) underrated precisely because of their MTV-era success.


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War, Peace, and Reconciliation

Some thoughts from Hal Moore on war, peace, and reconciliation. Hal Moore

When the blood of any war soaks your clothes and covers your hands, and soldiers die in your arms, every breath forever more becomes an appeal for a greater peace, unity and reconciliation.

From face-to-face combat to arm-in-arm friendship — unity was restored by our efforts to come together. I implore our great leaders on “the many days after” Memorial Day to advance this most worthy of causes for peace and unity. People and nations rise above their differences only through effort, through trust.

Without trust, unity is beyond reach and restoration. With trust, unity is within reach and preservation. We must reach out to others in order to preserve the freedom we hold dear. We are each called to bear witness to the ideals of liberty. When we treat others with the respect and friendship that true liberty engenders, they will be brought into that same liberty.

When the heartbeat of one soldier stops forever, the heartbeat of our nation should accelerate, driving us to ensure that this life was not sacrificed in vain. That racing pulse should rouse us to seek, at all costs, better ways to understand, forgive and deal with our differences. Reconciliation should always be our objective.

We owe our dead and their survivors no less! We owe our children much more! We owe our children’s children even more! Let us pay our debts.

God bless America.

And God bless the men and women who serve her everywhere, past, present and future.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day this weekend, and remember those who’ve sacrificed for the liberties we have.

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Pressing the Flesh

Robby and I got back to our roots a few weeks ago, garage band roots that is. We went to see the Fleshtones. Robby shared his thoughts over at Last Fm. I figure they belong here as well. First, my verdict. Maybe the most fun band ever live. Yeah, click the links, go listen to the music.


Since forming thirty-plus years ago at the dawn of the punk era in New York, The Fleshtones are not only still together, but they still bring the Super Rock party to whatever bar they play in. It’s the same classic lineup they’ve always had, except for their “new” bass player Kenny (who has only been with the band since 1992).

Last night at the Spanish Moon, an embarrassingly small crowd of about 40 (which coincidentally seems to have been the median age of the audience as well–I saw lots of old friends from my Here Comes a Regular years) showed up for the masters of garage rock; many bands that count on lots of audience interaction might have felt deflated by the sparse crowd and come out flat. Not The Fleshtones. They don’t depend on a crowd to show up stoked, they instead always create the audience they want, enticing people to the front of the stage, frequently foraying out onto the floor of the club, constantly dancing, playing the whole time. It’s infectious. I don’t like to dance much, but The ‘Shtones have a way of loosening the locks on my joints.

To describe the specifics of their stage show (jumping up on the bar, the semi-choreographed stage moves, guitarist Keith Streng’s high kicks) makes it all seem cheesy and cliched to someone who hasn’t seen them live. Believe me, I’ve seen bands that do all that exact stuff, and they come off cheesy and cliched, like they’re aping the rock star moves they’ve seen. (For example, The Cynics. Nice records, but posers live.)

It’s hard to say exactly how The Fleshtones pull it off, except to conjecture that it’s because they’re not ACTING. They are rock stars in every way that matters, and professional entertainers to the core. It’s not so much that they do things differently from other down-and-dirty bar bands, they do everything that’s already been done better. The only other band of this genre that I’ve ever seen put on a show in their league was The Lyres.

The music, in itself, is competent guitar-and-farfisa garage rock, not significantly different from hundreds of other bands of this type. Listen to their records, yes; but they’re really all about the live show, the bright kinetic energy of which is all the more amazing considering they’re really kind of old. I mean, I first saw The Fleshtones in Baltimore about 1990; they had already been together about a decade and a half at that point. That show was 18 years ago, which is the same amount of time that passed from The Beatles‘ first singles until John Lennon’s shooting. And here we have the ‘Shtones, still bringing it to the stage with the same energy and enthusiasm they had back when I was a kid.

When they last played Baton Rouge, it was 1983. Singer Peter Zaremba promised to be back in another 25 years. “Tell your children,” he urged us. “Tell your children about The Fleshtones.” I would add to that, if you have children, don’t let them see The Fleshtones before you do: trust me, you’ll be embarrassed. And younger folks, don’t skip seeing them because you think they’re old. You’re right; they’re old. But you are guaranteed to have a good time at a Fleshtones show. You’ll leave sweaty, and tired, and grinning.

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Shooting Oneself in the Foot

Never underestimate the power of a politician to overestimate their power, especially in an election year.

Just as the signs are trending towards a “permanent” majority for Democrats, one of them has the bright idea to poke a sleeping bear.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, has introduced a bill that would allow the FBI to keep background check information on approved gun buyers for 180 days.

Since 2004, records of firearm transactions must be destroyed within 24 hours after those transactions are approved. (Prior to 2004, the FBI retained the records for 90 days.)

Second Amendment supporters strongly oppose the retention of lawful gun sale records, seeing it as a step toward creating a national gun registration list. When the National Instant Criminal Background Check System began running at the end of 1998, the FBI said it would “not be used to establish a federal firearm registry” and that all information resulting in legal firearm transfers would be destroyed.

I can already anticipate the pleas from the usual suspects (NRA, GOA, 2nd Amendment Foundation, etc) coming in the mail.

The last thing the Democrats ought to be doing is riling up those rubes in the heartland who are clinging to their guns and religion. The 2 things they hate most are people trying to take away their guns or religion, which is probably why most of them cling so dearly to them.

Next thing you know they’ll be pushing to pass an “assault weapons” ban.

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Beware the Believers

Heh, a response to Richard Dawkins and the unbelievers amongst us. Right or wrong, arrogant condescension does not go unpunished.

Hat tip: D.A. Ridgely

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Yuri’s Night

A worldwide celebration is happening tonight. Yuri’s Night!

The local arts organization I am a member of, Art Mob, is supporting our local version. Unfortunately Art Mob’s sight is having trouble, but the temporary site can be found here. I just spent the afternoon at a juried art competition and art walk we organized, “Smock Paper Scissors.” It was raising money to support the arts programs for Baton Rouge’s new Autonomous Schools Network. My job was to take students around to all the exhibits, discuss the art, engage the artists and students, etc. Great fun, the kids were wonderful, the artists eager to discuss their work and art with the kids.

To find your own version of Yuri’s night:

Yuri’s Night is like the St Patricks Day or Cinco de Mayo for space. It is one day when all the world can come together and celebrate the power and beauty of space and what it means for each of us.

You can go here. If there isn’t one, it isn’t too late to start an impromptu one. Ours will be at a local alternative bar downtown, Redstar. I am attached to the place because the jukebox is fantastic (The lovely lady pictured at the Jukebox is certainly a consideration as well.) I think it is the only place in town that I can count on being able to play the Stooges. Sometimes you just need to hear Search and Destroy while you are out drinking beer.

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What’s wrong with Iraq War Movies?

I’m often guilty of seeing connections between things that others seem to think make no sense at all. So bear with me and then tell me what you think.

The New York Times review of “Stop-Loss” explains the failure of Iraq themed movies in this way, “The commercial failure of last autumn’s crop of high-profile Iraq-themed movies — Paul Haggis’s “In the Valley of Elah” and Brian De Palma’s “Redacted” among them — has hardened into conventional wisdom about the moviegoing public’s reluctance to engage the war on screen.”

We’re tired of the war. We don’t want to hear about it. But does that even make sense?


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