28 April 2005

On a similar note (BR)

Nine Inch Nails are streaming the new record, With Teeth, on MySpace for free. Very nice.

Expect a comprehensive review up here soonish, I used to be all about this band.

Yeah, so what if it's dead? (BR)

Fade-Out: New Rock Is Passé on Radio (NYTimes)

It's all part of a healthy, natural cycle. We're born, we thrive, we get old and weak and die. Then our bodies become the grass. And the animals eat the grass, digest it and evacuate it. And sometimes the animals feel bad or weird or guilty that something so smelly and brown could have come out of them. Sometimes this discomfort drives them to re-eat it or rub it all over themselves.

Americans have this odd relationship with cultural phenomenae that gain institutional status. They feel compelled to protect it, to proclaim it like a clarion call from the rooftops, to build awareness and understanding so that the younger folks can incorporate it into their own, contemporary context. Sometimes we have to learn to let things go. One of those things is rock n' roll music.

It makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE to bemoan the closing up shop of modern rock stations. What's called rock today bears no resemblance to the music that incensed frigid housewives in 1956. It's something else. Wasn't that what the intolerable sub-genrefication of rock was all about in the '90s? "Yeah, we're sort of a grind-blues-chamber-pop band with a no-wave twist." You could argue that rock music's epitaph was written with the bullet that killed Kurt Cobain. After all, since we lost Nirvana, every dominant rock band of the moment seemed like a subtle update of something (or an unapologetic mash-up of several things) that had worked before; Green Day, the Smashing Pumpkins, Korn, the White Stripes, none of these groups did anything daring, blazed any new trails.

There's some great music coming out that still waves the rock flag, but is really just exemplary or clever pop music. The new offerings from Beck, Queens of the Stone Age, System of a Down, the Mars Volta, Nine Inch Nails, even the latest from the White Stripes is pretty bitching, but it's all pop. That's fine, "pop" isn't the plague, just a nice catch-all for radio-friendly hit tunes. And this new, excellent music that just happens to be performed on guitar, bass and drums (augmented heavily by synths and Pro Tools, which are instruments in and of themselves) should remain labelless for as long as possible, before it gets co-opted and copied and turned into trash just like all the other great music produced since World War II. Please, you're going to tell me that a single genre is wide enough to encompass Elvis Presley and Iron Maiden?

Let's allow rock music to die out with any grace and dignity it has left. Don't let it choke on its own tongue. Don't let it become a cause celebre either. All these stations are biting the dust because of an adherence to a rigid musical orthodoxy that's been irrelevant for awhile. For the first time in years and years, a decent-sized array of engaging music is coming from several different communities. We're living in the age of the shuffle button. If I can hear the new dope singles from Fat Joe and Audioslave back-to-back, it means radio is still alive as a medium and I'm happy.

Going After the Man Upstairs (CS)

Check it out, the defense in this case is implying that God renegged on a contract!
I bet it's not the first time that old bastard has weaseled out of one either, which gets me thinking (yeah, i know, this is where the train usually derails.....). Let's sue the sonofabitch for all he's worth! C'mon, if he actually exists, he must be suable in our country. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, not He Who Is Called I Am. Or is this gonna have to be some sort of International law issue (oooooh Scalia will be doubly pissed! With incentive like that, How can we NOT do it?!?!)

27 April 2005

2005 All-Star Picks (BR)

That time of year again folks. Baseball season rules. No home-team bias, just the straight picks and why (stats current as of 4/26/05, 6:00 PM):

American League

First Base: Paul Konerko, CWS (.236, 7, 15)
Not just a smart rotisserie league pick. Konerko (1 appearance, 2002) is a smart ballplayer, fantastic with the glove and an enormous presence at the plate. Since Frank Thomas has taken up semi-permanent residence in the infirmary (I hear it's a pretty bad case of PMS), Konerko has been a godsend. Currently tied for the ML lead in home runs.

Second Base: Alfonso Soriano, TEX (.282, 3, 6)
This is a bit of a sentimental pick for me. If you're wondering who got the better end of the Soriano/A-Rod deal, consider that Soriano (3 All-Star appearances, 2002-04) is faster, younger, more exciting to watch and all at a third of the price. Plus the dude is a dead ringer for 50 Cent.

Third Base: Hank Blalock, TEX (.250, 3, 9)
Texas has a murderous infield if you're an opposing pitcher. Blalock (2 All-Star appearances, 2003-04) is a pick of mine not just for the All-Star team, but for the Hall someday. Averaged .287, 31, 100 his first two seasons, making only 17 errors last year at the hot corner.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter, NYY (.361, 2, 11)
Even the Red Sox like this guy. Consummate performer, every inch a captain, only 30 years old. Poised to put up MVP numbers this year. Jeter (6 appearances, 1998-2002, 2004) has gotten on base 48% of the time so far in the young season, a statistical anomaly of Barry Bonds proportions. No steroids.

Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez, DET (.353, 2, 10)
Why anybody would give this guy a pitch to hit on the piss-poor Tigers is a noggin-scratcher, to be sure. Pudge (11 appearances, 1992-2001, 2004) keeps gettin 'er done anyway, hitting .334 for the perennial guardians of last place in 2004. Still the toughest dude in shinguards after all these years. A year after being the Tigers' only significant free agent acquisition, team record improved by 29 games.

Outfield: Vlad Guerrero, LAA (.347, 5, 15); Ichiro Suzuki, SEA (.355, 1, 5); Bernie Williams, NYY (.258, 1, 6)
Full disclosure: I was eight years old July 7th, 1991, when I saw Bernie Williams' (5 appearances, 1997-2001) major league debut against the Blue Jays, live at Yankee Stadium. He has top seniority of all Yankees and is the last remnant of a bygone glorious dynasty. He was named to five straight All-Star teams (1997-2001) and is 0-5 in the midsummer Classic. Bernie's best days are behind him but he's a class act, soft-spoken, no-bullshit kind of player, and an absolutely crucial factor to all the success New York's enjoyed in the past ten years. So my vote is a recognition of lifetime achievement more than anything.

Ichiro (4 appearances, 2001-04) and Vlad (5 appearances, 1999-2002, 2004) the mawfukkin' Impaler are two of the five best hitters in all of baseball. Last year hey both enjoyed a couple of the greatest offensive seasons we'll see while we're alive. And we see no signs of regression or cessation in terms of their individual greatness.

DH: David Ortiz, BOS (.277, 7, 16)
First time I've ever voted for a Red Sox. This dude (1 appearance, 2004) destroys everything in his path. DO NOT MESS WITH DAVID.

National League

First Base: Albert Pujols, STL (.311, 5, 15)
If he stays healthy, Pujols (3 career All-Star appearances, 2001-02, 04)will put up career marks to rival any hitter from any era. Ruthian numbers. If he could run, he'd be Willie Mays. Just a joy to observe as a professional hitter. I'd say that Todd Helton would come down to Earth if you got him out of Denver. If I started a team and had the pick of any position player first, I pick Pujols.

Second Base:Craig Biggio, HOU (.314, 2, 8)
Biggio (7 appearances, 1991-92, 94-97) is an ageless wonder, more than just a feel-good nostalgia pick. At 39 he still outperforms colleagues who were in diapers when he started all this gangsta shieeet. Hit 47 doubles for the 'stros last year, and who'd have thought he'd outlast Bagwell?

Third Base: Vinny Castilla, WSH (.359, 3, 12)
Castilla's (2 appearances, 1995, 98) off to such a torrid start as to quell the fears of cynics like myself who wondered if he could hit outside Colorado, where he led the NL in RBI last year. It'd be nice to see a rep from the Nationals in the starting nine, too.

Shortstop: Jose Reyes, NYM (.275, 3, 10)
I'll be honest: the shortstop crop in the National League this year does not excite me one bit. Rookie Clint Barmes is tearing it up, but he's a) a rookie and b) playing in Colorado. This seems like the year Reyes (0 appearances) breaks out of his shell and becomes an impact player and team leader. His production numbers seem like positive signals for things to come, and with the Mets fielding a competitive team this year - attendance is up, too - Reyes might get the visibility necessary to win the baseball electorate. Unless of course, All-Star voting is fixed, like any real election.

Catcher: Paul Lo Duca, FLA (.344, 1, 8)
Lo Duca (2 appearances, 2003-04) is easily the best hitting catcher in the league. And Mike Piazza is a prettyboy punk.

Outfielder: Carlos Beltran, NYM (.280, 3, 12); Juan Pierre, FLA (.313, 1, 6); Brad Wilkerson, WSH (.360, 3, 11)
In what must be some kind of record, Brad Wilkerson (0 appearances) hit 32 home runs for Montreal in 2004 only to drive in 67. No wonder; the anemic Expos never had anyone on base. Now, with the protection of Guillen and Castilla further down the lineup, Wilky - not your run-of-the-mill leadoff hitter - is thriving.

Pierre (0 appearances) is just his normal self so far this year. After his breakout on the national stage in the 2003 World Series, Juan only went on to collect 221 hits last year, compiling his third 200 hit/100 run/40 stolen base/.300 season in five years at the major league level. Amazing.

Beltran (1 appearance, 2004) will have a big season, and he deserves the distinction of the All-Star starting lineup based solely on his LCS performance from a year ago, but on my ballot, he's just a placeholder for his teammate Victor Diaz, the Mets rookie who's hitting .339, is 2nd in the league in runs scored, has picked up too many big hits already this season to mention, and whose playing time will almost certainly be cut in half when failed investment Mike Cameron comes back from the disabled list. Though New York fans, who don't agree on much, seem to have reached consensus that Diaz is the future and Cameron is not long for Flushing.


26 April 2005

Decisions, Decisions... (CS)

So, my young revolutionaries, how are you spending your May Day??? Well, you'll certainly have your choices....
Is it "Workers of the World, Unite!" ??
Or will it be a statement on that good ol' buzz phrase "Weapons of Mass Destruction" ?
Or maybe you just wanna get high and groove to some toons ("Body painting by RAINBOW GIRL and friends" !!!!)

It's probably not good for any of these organizations that they're all vying for attention on the same day. And I'm sure there will be some voices out there saying how this speaks to how fractured the anti-war movement is (or the socialists and labor movement, for that matter).
But it gives me an idea. Why not organize one huge protest march that's in several parts or streets of the city at once? Y'know, so people can't just turn away and not notice? It'd have to be pretty massive and take a helluva lot of organization and.....
Ok, maybe it's a stupid idea. But whatever. Protesters usually just annoy me anyway. We should just do it like the English (pubs open since sunrise and a red-hot penny in yo' face!)

Fucking silly Brits (BR)

WMD search "exhausted" (BR)

CIA says 'Persistence is futile,' in so many words

Head weapons inspector Charles Duelfer announced yesterday the wrapping up of the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Story from the Tuscon Citizen

God, it feels so good to be right! Not in the political sense, but in terms of correctitude. This wouldn't even be news, because I, along with all my college friends could have told the President this was a lost cause before the war even started, but it has some interesting implications. All those detainees, being held in Iraqi prisons for their intelligence value?

Yesterday, Duelfer said there is no purpose in keeping detainees who are in custody because of their knowledge on Iraq's weapons, although he did not provide any details about the current number. A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ultimate decision on their release will be made by the Iraqi authorities.

Duelfer also said that it was impossible to know whether some actual weapons were smuggled out of Iraq because of "the deteriorating security situation" (whose fault is that?).

But think about this! Before the US-led invasion, ousted President Saddam Hussein provided the UN and US with thousands of pages and hundreds of CD-ROMs attesting that all illegal Iraqi weapons systems had been dismantled. 'There must have been something missing,' said the Administration, 'after all, we know Iraq has these weapons, but they're not in the report!'

Who do you trust?

By the way, we lost our 1,569th brave soldier yesterday. Semper Fi, yo.

I (heart) Paula (BR)

I don't watch the show, so I've no frigging idea who Corey Clark is. Apparently he was kicked off American Idol in 2003 after it was learned he had a rap sheet, including beating up his sister and resisting arrest. Digital Spy has the dude claiming he tapped Paula, which, honestly, doesn't seem like it'd be extraordinarily difficult or thrilling, beyond bragging rights.

25 April 2005

A Scandal and a Shame (BR)

I'm not one to advocate for required reading, but a piece in today's New York Times comes close. Every American should be incensed, outraged, furious, (more synonyms) at the outright betrayal of our fighting men in Iraq and squandering of our tax dollars. We were promised an "affordable endeavor" that would "not require sustained aid". We were told Iraqi oil would pay for our adventure. Andrew Natsios, director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), promised - a week before "major hostilities ended" and our mission was "accomplished" - that the total of US taxpayer contributions to reconstruction would be a paltry $1.7 billion. These people should all be arrested and put on public trial.

DID YOU KNOW? Without much more fanfare than a 3"x3" story on page 17 of your local newspaper, Congress last week passed a supplemental spending bill for operations in Iraq to the tune of $81 billion, pushing the total cost of the war past $300 billion. Attention Conservatives: they will continue to shovel this "limited government" idiocy only as long as you continue to swallow. CNN story

DID YOU KNOW? Our troops are still fighting an insurgency in Iraq with inadequate and obsolete armor, in many cases forced to improvise vehicle protection out of scrap metal while holding it in place with bare hands. Read first-hand accounts from our undersupported marines here, thanks to the New York Times.

Support our troops? Pfffft. Every once in a while, the adminstration offers us a stark and honest view of what they really think of our armed forces. If the Bush administration - now stacked, by the way, exclusively with ex-draft dodgers and career politicans/social architects and virtually no one with significant military experience under his belt - takes such a withering view of the US soldier, they should all step aside and let someone with respect for the uniform and fitness for command lead the way.

Where's all this money going?

In Honor of Free Comic Book Day (CS)

The issue of gay marriage isn't exactly near and dear to me from a self interest standpoint. I myself am not gay and of my gay friends I don't know any that are remotely entertaining the idea of marriage (to my knowledge). But for some reason it's an issue i get worked up over sometimes. Why? Well putting the totally absurd argument over the "sanctity of marriage" aside, as an argument of states rights versus federal rights, I don't see why this shouldn't qualify as a basic civil rights issue that should apply to any citizen under the constitution. It's a debate I won't particularly get into right now, as I would like to get to the inspiration of this post.....this panel from the latest issue of Ex Machina (a comic of DC's Wildstorm division) that particularly spoke to me:

Ex Machina Issue #10, Mayor Hundred

I don't mean for that panel to speak for the comic as a whole either. Ex Machina itself is a fantastic book and I think, personally, the best monthly out there right now. The art is good and the writing is excellent and it's even up for several Eisner Awards (essentially the Oscars of Comic Books). Plus, it's pretty cool and interesting that the hero of the story happens to be the mayor of New York (he just happens to have the ability to control machines, but he's promised the government he wouldn't use it anymore). In the same way that it'd probably be more fun to have a wise cracking Martin Sheen as our president than the stumbling, sputtering GW Bush, seeing Mayor Hundred do his thing makes you realize how shafted we are with Mayor Mike. But with a book like this, at least we can dream of a better alternative.
So if you're into a great story that incorporates history, politics (especially that of New York City), science fiction, and/or the idea of where a hero fits in to our society, I'd highly recommend picking up The First Hundered Days and getting started there. You can order it here or, better yet, support your local comic book store.

"You buy it, you......OWN IT?!?" (BR)

From Engadget:

...a French court has ruled that adding anti-copying mechanisms to a DVD violates the rights consumers have to make private copies of media that they’ve bought and paid for.

Someone actually sued an entertainment company for damages relating to his inability to copy media and won. You mean once I buy something, I'm free to do what I want with it?

Only in America. Or...in this case, France.

Cruising for what? (BR)

RawPrint has posted some fascinating documents regarding fake journalist Jeff Gannon (nee James Guckert) and his highly suspicious access to the President and the White House over the past two years. Thanks to RawPrint, and U.S. Reps Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and John Conyers (D-MI) for taking advantage of FOIA. Gannon, an ex-marine turned homosexual prostitute, has served a similar role as White House press corps rep for GOPUSA, a fair, balanced and objective news outlet aimed at eliminating political dissent forever and ever. Amen.

Gannon's resume includes feeding President Bush questions with snappy answers included, proving that even Republicans know our commander-in-chief is dumb as any Texas-educated rock, to wit:

Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid was talking about soup lines. And Senator Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there's no crisis there. How are you going to work – you've said you are going to reach out to these people – how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?

Guerilla television: The White Dot (BR)

The Guardian (UK): Anti-TV Guerillas wield their new zapper

The last week of April is Turn Off Your (Motherfucking) Television Week. So turn the motherfucker off. Except for The Shield. And The Daily Show. And 24. And...alright, just leave it on.

From today, a group of anti-TV guerrillas, as scathing as the poet about the influence of the small screen on society, plans to liberate people from its irresistible grip. They will be using a recently launched gizmo called TV-B-Gone to take direct action against television sets in public places.

The glorified remote control, about the size of a key ring, will switch off most television sets within a 45ft radius within 60 seconds.

Would that some humans came with similar devices.

23 April 2005

Run the bums the F-U-C-K out. (BR)

Time to break this geriatric non-team down and start over

It was electrifying, gratifying. It was October, 1996, I was thirteen years old, glued to the carpet in front of the television. An entire childhood and proto-adolescence of baseball fandom reached a glorious peak, as five ounces of rawhide and red lace fell into the glove of second-string third baseman Charlie Hayes, ending my hometown New York Yankees' eighteen-year championship drought, and I brimmed and buzzed until Christmas.

Nearly ten years later, the most successful, profitable, and storied sports franchise in the history of the world are unwatchable. The reasons are multitudinous.

In the rush to mollify disgruntled fans and attract new ones after the 1994 players' strike fiasco, the bigs at MLB made a conscious decision to emphasize the big, sexy offensive aspects of our National Pastime. As our sports, culture, and politics seem to prove and re-prove every day, Americans don't dig nuance, intricate strategy or slow builds. The team owners, for their part, realized that bloated player salaries are part of the modern fan's interest in the game, the business aspect, as well as interpersonal beefs between players and other players, players and management, management and other management. Everything would be used to sell the game except the game itself.

For all his boisterous public castigations of his team (not that they haven't deserved it so far this year), Yankees owner George Steinbrenner does not give a shred of a fuck whether his team wins. He is in the business of selling tickets and tees and bobbleheads. Of course profits are buoyed by a winning team (Championship gear - speaking of, I wish they'd sell the losing team's championship merch, too, you know, the swag they have on the ready before the series starts so that the merchandising aspect of either outcome is covered, who wouldn't love a 1986 Red Sox World Champs bumper sticker?), but moreso by personalities. This may be why the franchise of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and Mattingly would keep a fat, roided-up dick like Jason Giambi (.235, 3, 5 in 16 games) around, even with the controversy and zero-production.

What happened? The Yankees didn't fit the "Evil Empire" epithet when Red Sox GM Theo Epstein said it. In 2002, five of the nine Yankees starters were high-producing, homegrown talent. Three of the other four (excepting Giambi) - Raul Mondesi, Robin Ventura, and Rondell White, were fairly conservative pickups who didn't knock anyone's fence down. Compare it to today, where the three natural-born Yankees in the starting nine are Jeter, Posada and Bernie Williams - and Bernie's almost certainly in his last year as a starter. Since 2002, the Yankees organization has practically eliminated player development from its vocabulary. A plethora of promising young players, Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, Brandon Claussen, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro, Nick Johnson, have all been pimped out to teams eager to get rid of some payroll bulk in the form of stars who are near the ends of their respective careers, underproductive, or cause problems in the clubhouse.

The problem is not the Yankees having the highest payroll in baseball. Someone has to. The 1996 Yankees also had the fattest budget in the Bigs. But the difference between the Yanks' 1996 payroll of $61.5 million and the next-highest payroll that year (Baltimore) was only $6.4 mil (to put this in perspective, do-nothing reliever Steve Karsay will make $6 million even this year), 11% more than the Orioles. In contrast, the Yankees' current budget figure of $205 million (a 333% increase over the 1996 numbers, meanwhile check out the inflation stats for the past ten years), a truly filthy $84 million, or 40% more than the Red Sox, who rank second.

More importantly, the '96 Yankees were a team of men with character who played hard, emphasized fundamentals, and won the World Series. Brown, Sheffield and Rodriguez, as talented as they are, aren't fit to carry the jocks of players like Boggs, Cone and O'Neill, who belonged to a different, and objectively better era of baseball. Looking into the dugout last year after game seven of the LCS, I didn't see a teary eye, a single head buried in hands, nothing like that. Either the 2004 Yankees knew they deserved to lose, or just didn't care.

So it's not just spending money. It's spending money idiotically. At least trading for Kevin Brown allowed the Yanks to dump 2003 World Series goat Jeff Weaver (for whom the Yankees traded Lilly, an effective lefty starter in the vein of Jimmy Key, something they could use today), but they still have to pay this worthless, moody bum $15.7 million and change this year no matter how many five-run first innings we have to sit through, no matter how much physical abuse he inflicts on himself for his own mound impotence. Alex Rodriguez can be counted on for nothing more than putting up solid-looking numbers by season's end and striking out with men on base when a hit is needed. The jury's still out on Randy Johnson. An ineffective bullpen (at least Tom Gordon only gets $3.75 million to blow leads) has unduly bloated his ERA, but the opinion seems to be that the Unit has lost a little summin-summin on his heater. Which isn't to sneeze at a 96-mph fastball coming from a lanky monolith, but whatever he's got left, he doesn't have a hell of a lot of it.

The bright side here is the opportunity to cut a lot of this dead weight after '05's end and invest that money in scouting and player development. Latin America, Southeast Asia and yes, even some enclaves in the United States are overflowing with young baseball players who would sell their mothers to Alpo for a chance to play in the Bronx. Find those kids and harness their skills, but also teach them small-ball and humility, and again make this franchise great, instead of a great big joke.

it speaks! (CS)

So this is where i put in MY two cents as to what the hell this thing is all about. Well, I guess that's exactly what it IS about. Our two cents. But why? Why should a couple more schmucks throw their hat into the ring in this big ol' blogosphere? (and someone please kick my ass for using that word)
Hey, i'm with you guys, Sometimes i even have to question the validity of the internet as a forum at all. For one thing, we're talking about a space where a goddamn typo can become the popular lexicon. But even more damning, the internet is absolutely inundated with these things, blogs, commentaries, journals, websites, jeez everything. So why us? ....well i dunno, why the hell not?
The internet (and watch out folks, because here comes the eloquence) is really this big silly place full of big stupid. But hey, does it really matter? Is it really anything to get so worked up over? It's all about dialogue (healthy, we hope) and if you want to hear from us, then we want to hear form you too. Brendan summed it up better than i could with "a world that does really belong equally to all of us" ... to whcih i might add, for better or worse. So, I think we just want to enjoy the ride. And hopefully by coming around here you might enjoy it once in a while too. Peace.

22 April 2005

Extreme Makeover (UM)

There's an interesting trend in television these days: shows about makeovers. You know what I mean: shows where shabby houses, cars, and people are re-done so as to make them more attractive. And they have trendy "urban cool" names, like Pimp My Ride, Pimp My House, and Pimp My Wife.

Invariably, the "before" picture is a mess. Particularly the people. Some are just plain; others are just plain ugly. But after copious amounts of surgery, exercise and couture, they emerge to their shocked and amazed families as now being.... presentable, I guess.

I've watched a few of these shows, involuntarily (by being in the same or adjoining room), and in none of these cases would I consider the "after" version of these people to be desirable except perhaps to someone serving life in prison and even then, only if the made-over person was waving a pardon.

What message is being conveyed here? Assuming, of course, that there is a message at all (and there is some type of message in virtually anything that becomes popular in our culture). Well, message number one is that appearances are everything. So if the '60s weren't already really over, they are now no longer just dead: their corpse has been exhumed, incinerated, and its ashes flushed down the toilet.

If you're plain and unattractive, that equals unhappiness. The "before" men and women aren't just plain. They're miserable. But let's not bother exploring the reasons for their unhappiness. The cure, obviously, is to become more attractive. Let's forget about the fact that many very attractive people commit suicide all the time. That would distract from the show's message.

Your unhappiness, says the subliminal message, is like a worn-out sofa or a dented fender. The cure is as close as a scalpel. After all, what's the difference between surgery and repairing sheet metal? Of course, surgery carries with it a risk of death, but why be so darned negative? There's a whole room full of fat ugly relatives waiting to gawk and fawn over you at the end of the show.

Let me also point out parenthetically that the subjects of these shows are complete unknowns. Inherent to the program's interest and watchability is the unspoken premise that we, the public, have any reason to give a shit whether these people become beautiful or die on the operating table. But none of the viewers question this premise. So the producers have bet correctly on this issue.

Anyway, after being "pimped," the renovated beauty is presented to her family, whose eyes open wide as if a tsunami were coming right at them, and then there's the hugs, the tears, etc. My God, Cynthia! Your face! Your tits! The hump that's gone from your back! I could actually be seen in public with you now!

But what if the newly-pimped beauty is still unhappy, after the cameras are turned off and everybody goes home? You're not going to cure a lifelong self-image problem in 30 minutes. But really, who cares? In the words of Billy Crystal as Ricardo Montalban, "It is more important to look good than to feel good."

Who in their right mind would agree to be featured on national television as a person so unattractive that they need an Extreme makeover, have every bodily flaw presented to the world in closeup while they stand in their underwear, and then show the whole world the surgical procedures necessary to remodel your pathetic face and body? In the adult film industry, at least, one could do some "fat" or "ugly" niche videos and get paid for it.

Conspicious for their absence are any TV shows that concentrate on one's personality. You know, like transforming somebody from a shallow, greedy moron into a multi-dimensional, caring, sensitive individual. Let PBS try that shit during sweeps, we'll be inhaling KFC to American Gladiators vs. The Real World No-Holds-Barred Cage Match, thankyouverymuch.

So here we are, five years into the new millenium, almost four post-9/11, and the evolution of our collective spiritual development has brought us to this level of enlightenment: it's what's on the outside that counts. And beyond that lies the constant threat of massive destruction by a sinister and fanatical foreign enemy bent on wiping out our way of life.

It's like the 1950s without the tail fins.

-Uncle Meat

Oh fiddlesticks... (BR)

And so it becomes slightly more unsafe to be a pirate on the digital seas...

Canadian ISP to Name Music Swappers

Alright, the internet very much resembles a saloon in a gold-rush-era frontier town. Pimpin', ho'in', bootleggin' and immodest language abound, yes, we know. Corporate types know it's only a matter of time before they plead their case to the right judge and eliminate 'net privacy forever. Complicit ISPs will help a lot, too. From Slashdot:

Videotron, a Canadian ISP, will not be fighting the request to turn over the names of music swappers to the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA). According to a lawyer for Videotron, producing the identities of Internet users alleged of wrongdoing happens so regularly that they believe that it is justifiable to hand over the names of people who share large volumes of songs on-line.

The article goes on to say that Canadian law prohibits the release of file-swappers' identities without a court order, so this is just a voluntary move by Videotron. Why get all bent out of shape, then, when we all know that the biggest impediment to intellectual piracy in Canada is polar bears knocking down power lines?

Well, recently, the UN has been moving to draft conventions to regulate the internet. The United Nations, if you didn't know, is a global organization whose mission it is to promote peace, democracy and good feelings all over the world. Interesting measures to this end include putting Syria and China on the Security Council, naming Cuba to the Human Rights Commission. The UN was also the brainchild of Alger Hiss, a government official and Soviet double agent during World War II. But I digress. UN meddling and domestic pandering like 1998's Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which essentially puts US police powers at the direction of the entertainment industry, will spell the end of freewheeling, laissez-faire internetting, once a digital copyright case is tried before a conservative court.

Our only hope is that the naturally bureaucratic and corrupt nature of these institutions will, as it has in most other areas of law enforcement, prevent anything from seriously getting done. Perhaps all we need is a fifteen-second INTERPOL warning on our browsers, a la VHS tapes.

Microsoft sashays around workplace discrimination bill (BR)

Microsoft Comes Under Fire For Reversal on Gay Rights Bill (nytimes.com)

The New York Times reports in its Friday, April 22nd edition that Microsoft withdrew its support for a bill pending in the Washington State Senate that would have expanded discrimination protections for gays in the workplace.

Microsoft, which already offers health benefits to gay employees and their partners, is feeling the heat because the bill failed to pass the Senate - by one vote. The company declares itself officially "neutral" on the matter - though MS softened its stance after meeting with Dr. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of the Antioch Bible Church, located just down the road from corporate headquarters in Redmond.

For a man who makes a living speaking in public, Dr. Hutcherson displays a marked discomfort with the English language, as evinced by this paragraph from the Times article:

Dr. Hutcherson, who has become a leading national critic of same-sex marriage, said he believed he could have organized a widespread boycott of Microsoft. He said he told the Microsoft executives, "If you don't think the moral issue is not a big issue, just count the amount of votes that were cast on moral issues in the last election."

I have an issue with someone who uses the word "issue" three times between a capital letter and a period. Issue issue issue. What are moral values? What does the modern moralist think about blowing people up? What's $300 billion divided by 150,000 dead bodies? And how come Desperate Housewives plays so well in red states? We don't even not need to get into the double negation.

More to the point, exactly how much of a threat does a local pastor pose to a software concern that enjoys a 90% market share throughout the goddamn galaxy? Is a nation that can't even figure out how to block pop-up ads or keep its credit card information to itself going to learn Linux in protest to Microsoft's stand on gay discrimination? Methinks Mr. Gates picked the wrong occasion for diplomacy on this one.

Wellcomm y'all. (BR)

Settle in for a bit, cause we've got some shit to discuss.

Because we're already five years into the third millenium and all these wonderful trappings of the information age, that we were promised would make us safer, saner and cleaner, are slowly being co-opted for use against us, to allow unseen entities to look over our shoulder at every moment and gradually press us into mental serfdom. Because the "independent" mass media asks only the initial question and accepts whatever lie it gets in response, just glad to have someone important to talk to. Because Ben Affleck's opinion was actually solicited during election season. Because the "independent" online media is now tripping over itself to gain acceptance from the mainstream, which considers it fringe and marginal at best.

We're expected to assume our questions answered. Poking and probing at the how and why of our world is intensely discouraged. But what makes it all work? Who holds it all together, and how? These sorts of queries seem antiquated, relics of the days of natural philosophers who didn't have Blackberries in the pockets of their pantaloons. Is it even worthwhile to muse about this stuff? If there were a critical flaw in the organization of all this chaos, would your knowledge of it make a difference, could you, or even a group of people, do anything about it?

After the Vietnam war, social scientists noted a sort of institutionalized apathy among the masses, particularly among younger Americans. This popular feeling that you're fucked no matter what you do by forces beyond your control has only been exacerbated since then, and most are perfectly happy to count themselves as informed after twenty minutes of CNN absorption. We have, so far, dropped the ball on the internet as a populist medium, but a lack of federal regulation, thanks to some sympathetic court rulings and its inherently amorphous and borderless nature, has suspended the web within the redemptive grasp of any forward thinkers capable of realizing its potential.

So here's Whippersnapp, an online news, commentary and discussion site aimed at reigniting a popular interest in the world at-large. The great Craig Savino and I are your chaperones, and we're putting it all on the table. Politics, music, sports, cinema, art, literature, philosophy, sociology, online culture, sex, ethics, technology, television, food, business, we fucking relish it all, the substantial and the superfluous, because it's part of a world that does really belong equally to all of us. We think that by reporting and then asking any and all questions that come to mind, we can attain and then distribute a truer understanding of what occurs on this crazy-ass planet.

With your help, we'll ask the unasked questions and cut the bullshit. Thank you and welcome and enjoy.