Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Randy Johnson is the best pitcher in baseball

It's the top of the eighth now and the D'Backs are down 1-0 so it looks like another spectacular performance will be wasted - again. (end of the eighth, after an arrogant, stupid batter thought his single was worth two bases).
But this lanky dominator has just blown away another team. He struck out 15, his fourth straight double-digit strike out game. His previous three starts, two losses and a win, were 11, 14 and 14. Four times this year he struck out 14 or more in a game.
His season ERA is 2.71 and opponents are hitting just .189 against him - both tops in the league.
Of course, The D'Backs have scored less than a run a game on average over his past five starts.
If the D'Backs had even a faint notion of what it takes to score runs, Johnson would have 20 wins already, entering September with a good shot at 25 or 26.
He's leading the league in ERA, strikouts, walks and hits per innings pitched, and second in innings pitched, complete games, and tragically, losses.
Only three pitchers in the league have thrown more pitches than Randy.
(Arizona scores on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth, so Randy's not stuck with a loss. Still, that a no decision is all that stands to reflect such a great performance should be a crime.)
He won four Cy Young awards in a row, and while he won't this year, he certainly should.

(And, just because it's such a delightful notion, I thought I'd mention the Devils, I mean Yankees, lost 22-0.)

Thursday, August 26, 2004

50,000 bottles of beer on the wall...

This story seems to be missing the point: The beer thieves aren't looking to sell their 50,000 bottles of beer, they'll be drinking it. I'm sure it won't take more than a few parties to finish it all off. Still, though, I'd get sick of drinking nothing but Moosehead...

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Science 1, Meth 0

Take that tweakers!
Meth Cooks May Be Caught Pink-Handed
WICHITA, Kan. Aug. 21, 2004 — It may fall a shade shy of catching thieves red-handed, but for farmers fed up with methamphetamine cooks filching their fertilizer, staining them pink will do just fine.
Assuming you can discourage thieves you cannot easily catch, a new product called GloTell which is added to tanks of anhydrous ammonia will not only besmirch the hands of those who touch the fertilizer, but leaves its mark on anyone who snorts or shoots the end product.
How freakin' awesome is this... It's like a big screw you to the cretins who steal fertilizer to get high (which in itself is patently absurd).
I'd like to nominate this for the most creative use of science award.

Friday, August 20, 2004

The expert speaks again Or The shame of rarely posting...

Lordy, lordy, Catfish needs to get a-postin’ more.

Busy times lately... no longer able to blame much on moving either, that was three weeks ago.
Been kickin’ it on the new (old?) porch with the General and DJJ, good times all around. The new quote book is getting really foul really quickly, which is again good times all around.
As far as my self-proclaimed blogging topics, though, not too much has grabbed me to write about in particular, so let’s go on a general trip through music, politics, humor, sports and beer.

Music, well, the shows dry up here in the summer and I backed off my interest in seeing the Flatlanders because it’s just real hard to get a Saturday off work. As for new music that’s really grabbed me, well it’s still Modest Mouse and Wilco and Doughty, so no real change over the past few months anyway. With the move I’ve been throwing in some old favorites, picking cds at random off the shelf and delving deep once again into old mixes made by friends... but none of that really seemed all too exciting.

Politics are certainly heating up, but at this point in time there’s little that bears commenting on. I thought about posting on the news that the income gap grew tremendously over the past 20 years, or that the tax burden has shifted from the wealthy to the middle class during Bush’s presidency, or the launch of re-written overtime rules designed to fuck over workers, but all that shit is too depressing. I thought about posting about the disgusting Swift Boat Vets group and they’re blatant, though maddeningly effective, lies, but that’s too disgusting. I thought about posting on the real root of the Kerry campaign’s over-reliance on the Vietnam hero theme and how the incumbent is by nature doing nothing but playing defense against the incumbent, even while the incumbent’s record is piss poor, but that’s over my head really in the whole grand scheme of political analyses.

As for humor, I have been watching a lot more comedy of late, but I can’t just get away with saying the Chapelle’s Show, Reno 911 and Mr. Show are freaking hilarious. I covered Dodgeball, and Harold and Kumar really just fails to make the cut (not enough weed in a weed comedy).

These days are terrible time for sports, as far as I’m concerned. The D’backs are so far in the damn cellar I’ve stopped even peeking at the box scores. The playoff race is still too far away to reall start heating up. The mildly exciting NBA trade fury is over with, preseason NFL is an enormous crock and try as I might, I can’t give much of a damn about anything in the Olympics other than the long, high and triple jumps. And of course those are shown on the TV for a cumulative five minutes, so is it really worthwhile?

The Olympic competition (to be fair, the Olympics as televised) are such a bummer because it starts with such a great notion - athletes from nations across the world gathering to compete athletically. If that’s the case, why is it so damn boring? The “featured” competitions are always swimming and diving and gymnastics (or the winter counterpart of figure skating) and they just bore the hell out of me. Yeah, it’s incredible how some people can make their bodies do such weird flipping and shit, but anything that depends on a subjective scoring system bothers me. I’m not saying any more these days that they’re not sports (too argumentative), but they depend on some story line and it’s just fake to me. Swimming, well, it’s just a bunch of people swimming and it’s hard to tell who is who, so, well, blah.
But, as a former triple jumper myself (he says, arrogantly), I love that triple jump. And the sprints and a good deal else of track & field. Pretty much all of it but the really long distance events. But the television just ruins it.
So there. That’s the Olympics. And sport.

And beer, it’s your best friend, you drink a lot of it.

Thank you for playing,

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Simplistic nonsense as a badge of honor?

So how does a female (apparently) Asian (apparently) journalist get really famous? By unexpectely pandering to the legion of hacks dominated by white middle-aged men. “Look,” they say, “Now we’re right because one of them thinks so too!”
And her books, the latest one a drool-inducing wet dream for xenophobes nation-wide called “In Defense of Internment: The Case for ‘Racial Profiling’ in World War II and the War on Terror” just sail off the shelves.
Just as her blonde, thinks-she’s-pretty counterpart has done, Michelle Malkin carved her niche by bucking conventional wisdom and giving the Roscoe P. Coltrane crowd a like-thinking supporter, seemingly from the other side.
And boy does Malkin rake her fellow minority journalists over the coals. Oh man, what self-respecting Asian woman could possibly agree with her life-long liberal ideals any more after Malkin shows her the true way? The stupid white men really are right! Who would have guessed?

Anyway, without further mockery, here’s Malkin’s “media diversity test,” with her statements in bold and my replies following:

1. I have never voted for a Democrat in my life.
In just a few elections, I’ve managed to vote Democrat, Republican and Green. Why can’t I make up my mind? Why am I so wishy-washy? Damned independent voter, learning about candidates and selecting the best one for the job. C’mon. Voting a straight party ticket is stupid. We need more independent voters not less. I may not agree with a lot of Jim Kolbe’s positions, but as one of the House’s leading experts in international trade south of the border, shouldn’t he remain office precisely because of his valuable experience?
2. I think my taxes are too high.
My taxes are fine, yours are probably too low. Nyah, nyah. The debate on taxes here is nothing more than a dumbed-down debate on government spending priorities. If you don’t support a certain government program, say Medicare, you’re sure to believe your taxes are too high. But what about the out-of-control pork barrel spending, reaching new heights at the hands of “fiscal conservative” Republican “leaders?” Nobody should really bitch about too-high taxes until this is reigned in.
3. I supported Bill Clinton's impeachment.
What a colossal waste of government time and money, serving as nothing more than an enormous distraction. And it was obvious from the start.
4. I voted for President Bush in 2000.
I’m pretty sure Malkin voted for Governor Bush in 2000, but then again that pre-ordained attitude is telling in right-wing pundits. My own vote in the 2000 presidential election went to consumer advocate Ralph Nader, in hopes of giving the Green Party a permanent slot on Arizona’s ballot. Whoops.
5. I am a gun owner.
I do not own a gun. I do not want to own a gun. I don’t have a problem with anyone who does own a gun, so long as he or she understands it is a potentially deadly weapon and treats it as such. I grew up in the forest with friends who hunted every year, friends who shared venison burgers and deer jerky. I’ve talked with people who have had loved ones murdered by a handgun. This is not a simple issue, not five words simple.
6. I support school voucher programs.
I have yet to hear a convincing argument in favor of voucher programs. Aren’t Malkin’s taxes already too high? Why does she want an entirely new government program? Maybe she would support giving adequate funding to public schools, giving adequate pay to teachers, working on programs to encourage new college graduates to enter teaching, and encouraging experienced teachers to stay and lend their expertise to newer teachers. Maybe not...
7. I oppose condom distribution in public schools.
If demystifying sex through education, rather than demonizing sex through religion indoctrination, can reduce teen pregnancies and halt the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, who loses here?
8. I oppose bilingual education.
I think everybody should be bilingual. It’s a damn shame I’m not. Why discourage people from enriching themselves by learning another language. What Malkin probably means here is that little Mexican children should not speak Spanish in school, but that’s just a guess. That is an incredibly gray area. There have been certain successes shown by English immersion programs, but what is possibly accomplished by encouraging people to abandon their roots and culture?
9. I oppose gay marriage.
I can’t fathom why anybody would give a damn about who marries who. What baffles me even further is the crowd pushing against this is the states rights, no government intrusion, personal freedom conservative crowd. That the constitution should be amended for discriminatory purposes is one of the scariest proposals I could imagine. And never in this “defense of marriage” push is it ever really mentioned how gay nuptials will destroy families, etc.
10. I want Social Security privatized.
I want Social Security, period, but that’s not going to happen. So what I’d really like is for Americans as a society to support those who spent their lives educating and protecting people, toiling away in factories or hospitals or courtrooms, those who built the foundation for today’s society, and not abandon them now for a “free-market” experiment.
11. I believe racial profiling at airports is common sense.
I believe security in airports is common sense. I believe racial profiling in general is built on hatred and vastly unsophisticated assumptions, effectually criminalizing skin color.
12. I shop at Wal-Mart.
I avoid Wal-Mart at all costs. Still, it seems that’s not even possible. Why can’t their employees unionize? Why aren’t they paid a living wage? If there were one Walton heir, he or she would be the richest person in the world, far and away. As it stands now, Waltons occupy five of the top 10 slots. Shopping at Wal-Mart accomplishes nothing more than making these people richer at the expense of their underpaid employees.
13. I enjoy talk radio.
I enjoy music, but I have caught an occasional “Prairie Home Companion” episode. If I may read between the lines for a moment, I think Malkin seems to be saying she enjoys listening to the Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage crowd, whose reactionary rants serve to do little more than enforce in the simple-minded notions of arrogance, racism, sexism and discrimination.
14. I am annoyed when news editors substitute the phrase "undocumented person" for "illegal alien."
I am annoyed at twisting semantics to apply hateful, dehumanizing labels to people who want nothing more than a job, and are willing to risk their lives in pursuit of back-breaking manual labor I would never want to do. I’m especially annoyed at the letters-to-the-editor standby of “What part of illegal don’t they understand?” Illegal immigration is a stunningly complex issue and any attempts at solving problems associated with it must first acknowledge that.
15. I do not believe the phrase "a chink in the armor" is offensive.
I don’t care.
16. I eat meat.
I eat meat. I eat a great many things. I love cheese especially, though I’m not too big on sweets. I drink plenty of water and sometimes even take vitamins. What’s the point of this?
17. I believe O.J. Simpson was guilty.
I thought O.J. Simpson was incredible in Naked Gun. Beyond that, I didn’t for a moment follow that media circus of a trial, though from what I understand a great many people believe the evidence of the case indicates he murdered his wife and that other guy. So?
18. I cheered when I learned that Saddam Hussein had been captured.
Bullshit. I’m calling bullshit here. Actually cheered? No way. Maybe she felt a great surge of near-orgasmic joy, or felt like cheering, but actually clapped and whistled and stuff? Bullshit. Myself, I pretty much said ‘Huh, they got him. Let me read that.’ Oh, then I completely changed my mind and started considering the war an unmitigated success. Not!
19. I cry when I hear "Proud To Be an American" by Lee Greenwood.
That song sucks my ass. That guy is a no-talent ass clown. I also can’t stand “God Bless America” or that song about putting a boot up somebody’s ass. But I think Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful” is as good as it gets. And I think the national anthem of the United States should be “This Land is Your Land,” so I guess it more or less equals out somewhere.
20. I don't believe The New York Times.
Really? None of it? Not even the temperature listing or the Yankees box scores? Wow, distrust runs deep in this one. Malkin’s all-or-nothing take on the Times does little more than indicate how narrow minded the arguments about the “liberal media” really are. The New York Times is widely considered the best newspaper in the United States, if not the best English language paper or best paper in the world for that matter. Sure it has it’s problems. I still find it hard to believe that nobody on the national desk called bullshit on some of Jayson Blair’s nonsense. But then again, WMD existence was reported as hard fact in the Times for months longer than it should have been. Bottom line is it’s a newspaper with thousands of reporters and editors, covering the biggest city in the country. To outright not believe it sounds childish and simple-minded, but hey, Malkin herself seems to think that’s good enough for a conservative pundit, so who’s to argue?

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Future Soundtrack for America

The track listing for this album looks incredible.
I heard Mike Doughty's track earlier this summer at Solar Culture and if that sets the bar, these songs will be passionate, thoughtful, literate rock, pop and folk tunes across the board. A great bunch of titles.
Set for an Aug. 17 release, here's the listing:
  1. OK Go : This Will Be Our Year
  2. David Byrne : Ain't Got So Far To Go
  3. Jimmy Eat World : Game of Pricks (BBC evening session)
  4. Death Cab For Cutie : This Temporary Life
  5. Blink-182 : I Miss You (James Guthrie mix)
  6. Mike Doughty : Move On
  7. Ben Kweller : Jerry Falwell Destroyed Earth
  8. Sleater-Kinney : Off With Your Head
  9. R.E.M. : Final Straw (MoveOn mix)
  10. Bright Eyes : Going for the Gold (live)
  11. The Long Winters : The Commander Thinks Aloud (future mix)
  12. will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas : Money
  13. They Might Be Giants : Tippecanoe And Tyler Too
  14. Clem Snide : The Ballad of David Icke
  15. Yeah Yeah Yeahs : Date With the Night (live)
  16. Fountains of Wayne : Everything's Ruined (acoustic)
  17. Nada Surf : Your Legs Grow
  18. The Flaming Lips : Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (live on the BBC)
  19. Old 97's : Northern Line
  20. Laura Cantrell : Sam Stone
  21. Tom Waits : Day After Tomorrow
  22. Elliott Smith : A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free
Also available, now or soon, Rock Against Bush, Steve Earle's The Revolution Starts Now (Aug. 24) and Green Day's American Idiot (Sept. 21), among what I'm sure are many others...

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Bruce on Nightline

To follow on the last post, Ted devoted Wednesday's program to the "star-studded gallery of musicians" on the Vote for Change tour and the "heady mix of entertainment and politics."
Excerpts from the Bruce interview:
TED KOPPEL: Bruce, let me put it very bluntly ... Who the hell is Bruce Springsteen to tell anybody how to vote?
This is my favorite question.
I thought it would be.
First of all, I don't even tell anybody anything. You know, you ask people to think about things together, you know.
Second of all, it's an interesting question that seems to only be asked of musicians and artists, for some reason, you know. If you're a lobbyist in Washington, you're a business guy. Well, shut up and do business. Stay out of public policy, you know. Nobody complains about that. These big corporations, right, you influence the government your way, right? Labor unions influence the government their way. Farmers influence the government their way, right?
Artists write, and sing, and think, and this is how we get to put our two cents in, and we do it right in front of people, not in secret meetings behind closed doors. We let people know what we think….
I don't know if people go to musicians for their politics. I doubt that they do, you know, but you can rally people to think on serious issues together, and that's what we're trying to do.
This is clearly not the way you felt most of your professional life. Most of your professional life you have very carefully — you've spoken out about a lot of issues …. But you've never gone partisan on us, at least not that, not that I was aware of.
Well, I've always felt I was partisan to a set of ideals, and that was my job, you know, whether it was economic justice, transparent government, how do we treat our weakest citizens, say, in foreign policy, when did we decide that it's all right to risk the lives of our very bravest young men and women? You know, I've written about these things for 25 years.
I stayed a step away from partisan politics because I felt it was always important to have an independent voice. I wanted my fans to feel like they could trust that …
You build up credibility, and you build it up for a reason, you know, over a long period of time, and hopefully we've built up that credibility with our audience. And I have an audience that's Democrats, Republicans and everything else, you know. And I think there comes a time when you feel, all right, I've built this up, and it's time to spend some of this.
And I think it's one of the most critical elections of my adult life, certainly. Very basic questions of American identity are at issue: who we are, what do we stand for, when do we fight ....
I want to say basically I feel that, as a nation over the past four years, we've drifted away from I think very mainstream American values. I think that in the question having large tax cuts for the richest one percent. Hey, that's great, you know [for] corporate bigwigs, wealthy, well-to-do guitar players, but we've also watched services get cut, after-school programs for people that need it the most, we've watched rollback on environmental regulations, and a foreign policy that I think put at risk the lives of the very bravest young men and women under what ended up to be discredited circumstances.
What I do believe is I believe that John Kerry and John Edwards — I don't think they have all the answers, but right now for the problems we have, I haven't seen anybody who does ….
I want to know whether you think this is going to hurt you …. It's a lot of concerts, a lot of cities. And to put it bluntly — it's a late night broadcast — you're going to piss a lot of people off.
Oh, yeah.
That's for sure. We who are about to be lambasted, salute you, you know?
Is it going to hit you hard? ...
... I think you have a bond with your audience, and it's very particular because you've put your fingerprints on their imagination. It's really intimate. We've done it for a long time ….
I think for a percentage of my audience, this may feel like a severance of that bond, you know. But basically I feel like the relationship is more complicated than that, you know, that we're one, but we're not the same, you know ….
Basically, I would hope that I'm going to clarify some of the things that I stand for, and that clarification enriches my relationship with all parts of my life. I welcome everybody to our show, and I would always want everybody to feel, you know, to always feel welcome.
I must be prescient or something...

Overall the message is finally sinking in to a lot of people: This election has big stakes. Have a stake in your damn future and put a stop to this terrible administration.

Rock 'n' roll, it's about time

Atta boy, Bruce:
Bruce Springsteen is excited to announce his participation in the Vote for Change concert tour. Between October 1 and October 8, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will perform at five Vote for Change concerts, sharing the bill with R.E.M., and Bright Eyes with a special appearance by John Fogerty (see dates below).
Vote for Change is a loose coalition of musicians brought together by a single idea—the need to make a change in the direction of our country. We share a belief that this is the most important election of our lifetime. We are fighting for a government that is open, rational, just and progressive.
"I felt like I couldn't have written the music I've written, and been on stage singing about the things that I've sung about for the last twenty five years and not take part in this particular election," said Bruce Springsteen.
Artists participating in Vote for Change have merged their energies and talents to focus on states that are expected to have the closest race in the presidential election this fall. This unprecedented effort will include approximately 34 shows in 28 cities in 9 battleground states over the course of a week.
These concerts will feature Babyface, Jackson Browne, Bright Eyes, Dave Matthews Band, Death Cab for Cutie, the Dixie Chicks, John Fogerty, Ben Harper, Jurassic 5, Keb' Mo', John Mellencamp, My Morning Jacket, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt, R.E.M., James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and more. These and other artists will appear on separate bills on the same night in selected cities around several battleground states.
Get ready for more right wing nonsense about entertainers shutting up and entertaining and staying the heck out of politics.
Face it, the list is full of honorable, charitable folks who have been peace activists and led various social charges, some for decades.
Artists who stand up for their society should be praised, or at the very least not chastised for speaking their minds.
I can only hope they'll change a few minds along the way.
Bruce's inclusion here is especially noteworthy. He spent his artistic career tied to his blue-colar roots - not as some badge of honor to be thrown about as defense for buying a new mansion, but in a far more substantial way.
Nearly every song the Boss has ever written is an artistic exploration of one of the most central American experiences: the hopes and dreams, failures and struggles, truly the lives, of the blue collar folks and the working poor. They're songs about people and experiences, hot summer teenage nights, first cars and first loves. Songs about reckless youth, and its consequences. Songs about factories closing and divorce, tears from wrinkled eyes. Songs that touch a nerve with so many, many people that rock 'n' roll star, or songwriter, don't even come close to describing him. Hero might be the best way to describe him, or idol perhaps.
Last week's Democratic convention thrust him into the political arena once again as Kerry walked out to "No Surrender." Twenty years ago a rather clueless Ronald Reagan had mined the same album and for some strange reason decided "Born in the USA" was an anthem in support of his re-election campaign.
That the plight of the disillusioned, forgotten and discarded Vietnam veterans could be coopted for the same trickle-down bullshit that in part put them in such dire straits is absurd enough to have discouraged Bruce from any public statements forever.
But there he was just weeks after Sept. 11, leading the nation's healing effort with the stark, uplifting "My City of Ruins," a song itself written about his deteriorating hometown. "Rise up," sang Bruce, gospel-style, in perhaps the most pure, unpoliticized message anyone has ever had about one of America's darkest days. It wasn't about rallying around the flag, or the president, I think most people were simply rallying around the idea of America as one community, a united people.
And Bruce gave popular music's first solid, thoughtful examination of the aftermath a year later. This was no boot up anyone's ass, no tear-jerk (and knee-jerk) country ballad.
Aptly titled, The Rising gave thoughtful Americans one man's depiction of the changed landscape, the "Empty Sky," but was at its heart and core mostly an artwork rooted in themes and messages of healing, redemption, love and peace.
Meanwhile, George W. Bush was marching to war in Iraq, confident that the changed landscape as he saw it gave him the right to launch an ill-advised, ill-planned, widely opposed war against a soverign nation, under premises described most charitably as dubious, and worse (though far more accurately) as outright lies.
It's only fitting that Bruce, whose fans are so numerous and devoted that the Boss could sell out any venue in the world, step up now. Bruce represents that silent majority of Americans who hate politics because it's an awful festering mess of egos and back-scratching, scandal and stunning ineptitude. If people want a leader, they must be sorely disappointed with Bush.
It's not as simple as Bruce saying he doesn't want Bush in office again. If it were that it would simply show how shallow mass American culture has sunk.
Take Bruce's statement as an urging from an old, trusted friend, because that's who he is. For 30 years he's just been someone who could brilliantly distill the common experiences of so many people into profound thoughts on the nature of life far greater than any individual. This isn't some celebrity endorsement, this is advice from an American hero and I hope it catches like wildfire.
Closed minded right-wing criticism is enough to affect upstart chicks from Texas, but I'd be damned if there's a more widely trusted voice in America than Bruce Springsteen.