Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Frank: A Cold Dark Matter; Trance Fusion

I love the floaty guitar solo in this piece. And I defy you to listen to it--while watching the dolphins' slow, spiraling dance and joyful surfriding--and not feel calmer and perhaps a little floaty yourself.

With Frank Zappa, Ike Willis, Mike Keneally, Bobby Martin, and company.

Bon Weekend, everyone.

(H/T bongolamp)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Conversus Interruptus and Endless Right-wing Blathering: Is MSNBC All Tuckered Out?

It was probably at least a year ago when I e-mailed Melissa about one of her favorite (heh heh) teevee-talkers, the guy she'd poetically dubbed "a penis in a bowtie".

"Tucker is a changed man, M!" I wrote. "No more bowtie!"

Looks like we aren't the only non-fans. To paraphrase Frank Zappa, the price of gas is going up and Tucker's ratings are going down, which fact has not escaped the notice of network suits:

Olbermann's success doesn't mean that MSNBC is banking left. Officials there swear it. MSNBC Senior Vice President Phil Griffin has known Olbermann for more than two decades and says he's betting on his host's personality and sensibility, not his beliefs. It's a question of branding, he says.

"Keith Olbermann is our brand; Chris Matthews is our brand," Griffin says. "These are smart, well-informed people who have a real sense of history and can put things in context."

Clearly, though, the brand is evolving. Conservative Joe Scarborough is being moved to the morning to replace Don Imus. MSNBC opened talks — since aborted — with outspoken liberal comic Rosie O'Donnell. But what about MSNBC's other conservative talk-show host, Tucker Carlson? Is he part of that same brand?

"He is right now," Griffin says.

Tucker's audience--all two of them, and of course they're bloody Florida-based--is hoping to drum up a little support for the unbowed boor. Via TRex, behold the Save Tucker Carlson website:

This decision by MSNBC will silence a conservative voice, part of a move by MSNBC to swing left and become "FOX for the Liberals," dropping any pretense of objectivity or balance. Tucker Carlson is a conservative who brings a tone of civility and his unfailing good-humor to political talk television. Quirky and unpredictable, we love Tucker.

Good humor? Are they referring to Tucker's former costume? And I admit it, I laughed out loud at FOX for the Liberals. As TRex drily notes:

Things I secretly enjoy:

1. When Republicans inadvertently admit that Pox News is a GOP propaganda mill.


Any guy willing to go on "Dancing with the Stars" and treat guests both left and right with spirited but congenial debate should not be purged in some ideological marketing plan.

2. When suddenly the Right's faith in free markets collapses like a federal levee because god forbid, one of their own is actually threatened. (See National Review Online and Lileks, James for further details.)

Guys, I hate to break it to you, but it's got nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with ratings. Tucker is the second lowest rated man in cable news. Only Glenn Beck ranks lower. Surely you see what the Free Market dictates here. He's not pulling his weight. He's just soaking up the television equivalent of welfare dollars. Off. With. His. Head.

Because people who won't pull their weight are just a drag on society, aren't they, Republicans? The way Ah wuz raised, you work hard, take care of your own, and you don't take handouts from nobody.

Someone should tell Mr.-Never-Heard-a-Sentence-He-Didn't-Want-to-Interrupt that it's time to tighten that matching cummerbund.

Also at Shakesville.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

TRex Roars

Go say hello to former Firedoglake Late Nighter TRex over at his new stomping ground. Might I suggest you hurry if you want to catch him while he's still being nice, heh heh.

The Rational Actor's Libertarian Fête

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached.
-- from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

The Rational Actor's Libertarian Fête

Come now, the ever-bitterer winter wind
Reminding one and all what season nears,
And with it come the needs and wants of friends;
The plight--the suffering!--told of distant spheres.
Ah, what is there to do but shake one's head
And wonder at the choices people make?
They knew what they were doing. He made his bed.
Some people want to live life on the take.
I suffered; there were sacrifices made.
The roads I chose have led me to this place,

And all my efforts now will be repaid;

My just desserts spread forth before my face.

Let this be, then, the year we celebrate
At the Rational Actor's Libertarian Fête!

Come in, have drinks; we've everything to please--
Our own self-interest, you'll be glad to know,
Means cocktails that are light on antifreeze
And bread with just the faintest melamine glow.
We're reasonably sure the Champagne flute
Won't leach a cloud of lead into each bubble--
Or Christmas-colored plastic cups might suit?
No need to thank the Chinese for their trouble.
It's quite a spread, when all is said and done:
There's corn--and beans--with tortured DNA;
The Monkfish, I am told, will surely stun;
There's penicillin in the shrimp souffle.
It's doubtful that the roasted pig will kill you;
Though, even then, the hospital will bill you.

Come now, the ever-bitterer winter wind,
Reminding one and all that all are one;
And so the needs and wants of nearby friends,
And suffering humans under a distant sun,
Become our needs and wants--it's all-impacting.
Each dollar saved becomes a lead-laced train
That sickens those too young for Rational Acting.
Each weakened law begets a poisoned grain.
And so the guests of honor at their Fête
May find their appetites are somewhat numb;
They'll hope the howling coming from the gate
Is not The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come,
His corrupted chains of debt stretched through the air,
Borne by toxic winds of laissez-faire.

D.N.T. 11/25/07

Also at Ezra Klein.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday Frank: The Today Show Interview; 1992

I believe this was FZ's last broadcast interview. He seems far quieter and (somewhat) more introspective than usual, telling interviewer Jamie Gangel that it was of absolutely no importance to him whether or not people remembered him--that he realized people like Reagan and Bush spent a lot of money to shape and cement their legacies, but he didn't care how, or even if, he was remembered. (Ironically, Frank was referring to Bush I, though of course he could just as easily have been talking about the current one, the mere thought of whom makes this Zappaphile shudder to imagine what Maestro would have to say about, ah, all this.)

How did he feel about the label "eccentric genius?"

"Eccentric, yes. Genius, maybe."

It's hard to watch this interview, especially the part where he demonstrates his then-groundbreaking work on the Synclavier, and not feel profoundly cheated--you always wonder what sort of brilliance Frank would be turning out today with the incredible technology we have now. It's hard to watch this interview and not wish he were still here, speaking out, shaking things up, and reminding us what being a real artist--a real American artist--is all about.

Happy Leftovers Day and Bon Weekend, everyone.

(H/T rohmer50)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving--How About Some Cheesey Comestibles?

A classic Monty Python sketch, and one of my personal favorites. With the brilliant John Cleese and equally wonderful Michael Palin.

On behalf of Robert and Sons One, Two, and Three, let me wish my readers a delicious Thanksgiving holiday and a relaxing afternoon off (one hopes, one always hopes).

Cheers and Bon Appétit,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

NY Jets Fans: Desperate to Score, or At Least See What Women's Breasts Look Like

What an appalling story. Oh, I'm quite familiar with the notion of people drinking and getting wild at football games: after all, I graduated from the University of Florida. (Although lately, that place is arguably more famous for Tasing students who mouth off at speaking events, and most recently, we learn, for shelling out $40,000--that's about $100 Canadian for you readers in the Great White North, unless the exchange rate has shifted even further southward since I last checked--to a disgraced ex-Attorney General for the privilege of having him bring Federal-caliber slime to that which is already a remarkably sleazy swamp.)

This, however, is yet another example of institutionalized misogyny at its most bald-faced: an entire section of the New York Jets' stadium--Gate D--would seem, these days, to be a de facto Girls Gone Wild audition, with raucous male fans using language that underscores the points Melissa made earlier today. Meanwhile, the team's security guards stand around, doing little if anything to put a stop to the situation, just smoking their cigarettes and detaining (and confiscating tape recorders from) any reporters who dare to ask questions about the outrage:

At halftime of the Jets’ home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, several hundred men lined one of Giants Stadium’s two pedestrian ramps at Gate D. Three deep in some areas, they whistled and jumped up and down. Then they began an obscenity-laced chant, demanding that the few women in the gathering expose their breasts.

When one woman appeared to be on the verge of obliging, the hooting and hollering intensified. But then she walked away, and plastic beer bottles and spit went flying. Boos swept through the crowd of unsatisfied men.

Marco Hoffner, an 18-year-old from Lacey Township, N.J., was expecting to see more. Not from the Jets — they pulled off a big upset over the Steelers. He wanted more from the alternative halftime show that, according to many fans, has been a staple at Jets home games for years.

“Very disappointed, because we’re used to seeing a lot,” Hoffner said.


Throughout halftime, about 10 security guards in yellow jackets stood near the bottom of the circular, multilevel ramp, located beyond the stadium’s concourse of concession stands and restrooms. One of the guards was smoking a cigarette; many fans do the same during halftime on the giant ramps, which are located at each corner of the stadium. Another guard later said they were not permitted to do anything about the chants at Gate D because of free speech laws. Yet when a reporter tried to interview two security guards after halftime, he was detained in a holding room, threatened with arrest and asked to hand over his tape recorder.


Such fan behavior is not uncommon at other sporting events in the United States, like Nascar races and the infield at the Kentucky Derby. There was even an infamous undressing in the National Football League’s marquee event: during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, a “wardrobe malfunction” exposed Janet Jackson’s right breast before a worldwide televised audience.

But the Gate D tradition at Giants Stadium apparently is unique to Jets games; the Gate D ramps are comparatively empty at Giants games. Perhaps forlorn Jets fans, who have rarely had a winning team to support, are seeking alternative entertainment on game days.

Ah, that explains it: those poor, disappointed little fans are just looking for some breastly comfort to soothe their tortured loser souls. Yeah, right.

(H/T Lisa in Baltimore)

Also at Shakesville.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Frank: Sharleena; Barcelona, 1988

Such a wonderful Frank solo in this one. (Plus, Ike Willis is wearing a t-shirt that Robert will undoubtedly want for Christmas.) Enjoy.

And from the bamboozy wilds of Ruskinistan, let me welcome myself back to regular Friday Frank postings and wish my lovely, patient readers a delightful evening.

And of course, a very Bon

Bon Weekend, everyone.

(H/T bongolamp)

Morning Drive, Boys' Selection: David Bowie; Dead Man Walking

I've done it before--for the first ten years of life as a mother of one, then eventually three school-aged children, I battled the murderous traffic that lies between my rural outpost and their school in Tampa--but I have to say, getting back into the routine of a 50-minute commute to their school, this time in Saint Pete, is killing me proving, well, exceedingly stressful shall we say.

For this sort of medium-long road trip, you need entertainment and distraction (and no small quantity of caffeine, and a good radar detector). It's very important to only keep your favorite CD's in the car, too: that way, you can say to Son One, for example, Here, choose something good, and no matter what he selects, it will invariably make you happy as you wend your way through the chugging dump trucks and swerving SUV's stretched out before you as far as the eye can see.

This morning, as we approached the Sunshine Skyway, the normally glassy Tampa Bay was roiling like a pot of soup on high flame, and the winds whipped around us as we ascended. People were slowing down--probably because strong winds can make you feel as though you're losing your steering--but it was okay, because Son Two had chosen one of my all-time favorite-favorite Bowie CD's, and this was the track that was playing:

As soon as I heard that wonderful big guitar sound and thumpy bass, I knew I was going to sit down at my computer the minute I got home and dig through YouTube until I found it. Voilà! Not only did I find a clip of Dead Man Walking, but it's a recording of the very David Letterman episode on which I'd first heard the song, back in the late 90's. Bonuses: the exquisite Liv Tyler, who sweetly introduces David Bowie and then pantomimes a classic Wayne's World We Are Not Worthy bow. And then there's Maestro Bowie himself, who kisses Liv's hand and then grins as she kisses his in return.

Oh, and how badly do I want that Alexander McQueen frock coat that David's wearing? Almost as much as I want bass player Gail Ann Dorsey's outrageously gorgeous evening gown.

Also at Shakesville.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

This Blog's Reading Level

(My journalism and P.R. professors would shake their heads at such woefully and willfully unmarketable skills; contrarily, my high school English Honors teacher would smile ever-so-slightly, hand the thing back to me, and tell me to work even harder, because the English language is beautiful. And because if something is worth doing, it's worth doing well.)

Click here to find out your blog's reading level.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Frank: Burnt Weeny Sandwich; 1969

Part I

I'm back, and so is Friday Frank. This wonderfully strange film short is the perfect way to begin the new season, I think. Parts Two and Three are below. Enjoy.

Bon Weekend, Everyone.

Part II

Part III

(H/T bongolamp)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Today in Bathtub Government: Connecting the Aquadots

Good grief, I take a week off to move house, and all hell breaks loose in the world of imported toys, imported describing most if not all of the toys you'll find on store shelves.

I was going to attempt a gradual re-entry tomorrow, but after reading about the little plastic art-toy dots that turn into a potentially lethal date rape drug when swallowed, I thought, I can stand by no longer.

If you'll indulge me, let's go back a few days. It came to my attention that Consumer Product Safety Commission chairwoman Nancy Nord is in trouble, this time for allegedly accepting thousands of dollars worth of free trips from the very industries her agency is supposed to regulate.

I wrote about the CPSC and Ms. Nord recently; so did Weboy, who said:

Well, Nancy Nord is the Acting Head of the CPSC because the head of the CPSC resigned rather abruptly summer a year ago and Bush has done nothing to replace him (the CPSC has a three person directorate; with the party of the President essentially controlling the majority) since March, when he tried to appoint the former head of The National Association of Manufacturers (you know, people who might not like the CPSC) in his place. And why did the last guy resign, you ask? Oh, you know... to go work for a law firm that advises clients on how to... you know, avoid having to deal with the CPSC.

Now we hear that a popular Chinese-made art toy called Aquadots that made it into stores and homes all over the country--apparently escaping notice by the CPSC--is seriously poisonous:

The problem is scientists said the beads contain a chemical that the human body metabolizes into the so-called date rape drug gamma hydroxy butyrate. When eaten, the compound made from common and easily available ingredients can induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death.

Think the two stories are related?

No budget for testing; a chairwoman seemingly under some sort of directive to refrain from asking Congress for money to hire more inspectors and testing personnel; the same chairwoman accepting gifts from the industry she's supposed to be policing and holding accountable. The only surprising thing is that worse and more widespread incidents have not occurred--certainly there's little standing in the way of this ceaseless flood of cheap and toxic imports. The problem isn't new. I've been writing about it for over nine months now, and I wasn't the first to do so, either.

Yesterday, The President outlined what has been done to address the problem thus far:

Last year the United States imported nearly $2 trillion of goods through more than 825,000 importers -- and the vast majority of these imports are safe. Unfortunately, in recent months Americans have seen imports from toys to toothpaste to pet food recalled because of safety concerns. My administration takes this problem seriously. So in July, I issued an executive order establishing the Interagency Working Group on Import Safety. I asked this group to review the problem, and to make recommendations for actions that we can take to address it.

In September, this working group issued a report recommending that we change our strategy to ensure the safety of our imports.

Recommending that we change our strategy to ensure the safety of our imports.