Thursday, April 29, 2004

Eerie dream

I know this comes from my own subconscious, but damned if I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the Times or Post.
A Department of Defense official, in a press conference with reporters who are pissed at the Pentagon policy against releasing images of soldier’s caskets (and Bush administration’s policy of stonewalling in general), gives them a suggestion: Quit. That’s right, he said, just throw your press credendials over the wall at Dover Air Force Base and walk away.
I don’t know what to make of the dream, other than to say that this politics stuff is embedded way too deep in my brain...
And it’s only April

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Ungrateful prick

I have a hard time finding any respect for Eli Manning and his pop Archie in their steadfast refusal to play for the San Diego Chargers.
This is a sport, a game millions of kids across the nation play, hoping to one day be good enough to make the pros. And when somebody does make the pros, he's paid millions of dollars to do so.
Every professional athlete should feel incredibly lucky to have the kind of natural physical talent to gain incredible wealth from playing a game. And acknowledge that without that talent, you have to actually work a job, making far far less.
Eli Manning would sit out a year if San Diego drafted and then didn't trade him? Insulting. There's a reason the worst teams get the best draft picks.
His brother was picked first in 1998. And lo and behold, not only was he co-MVP this past season, the formerly worst in the league Colts went far into the playoffs.
And Indianapolis is a far worse place to find yourself living than San Diego.
My message to the younger Manning. Shut up and play football, for whoever drafts you and how ever much money they want to pay you. It could be a hell of a lot worse.

The Chargers did draft the arrogant prick Manning, but quickly traded him to the New York Giants. Here's hoping for an ACL tear in training camp and a lengthy McDonald's career for The Idiot Who's Already Made A Legion Of Enemies By Whining About Who Will Pay Him Millions Of Dollars To Throw A Ball.

A different world

Not only am I awake and (mildly) alert long before 9 a.m., but I'm already at work. Swapping for the day shift not only affords me the opportunity to check out Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers tonight, but also a (thankfully) rare glimpse of the World Before Noon.
It's weird, especially on a Saturday. I saw the chief deputy County Attorney jogging (good boy!). The traffic was negligible. The Circle K clerks were different.
But none of that compares to this stunning observation, the real reason mornings are absolutely creepy:
The shadows go the wrong way. It's subtle, but taken all together, west-pointing shadows make everything look just different enough to creep me out. It's like a reverse negative or mirror effect. It's a Tim Burton-looking world, or some bizarro dimension. The worst is a lawn, in which each tiny of blade of grass casts its own wrong-leaning shadow.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Spc. Patrick D. Tillman, 27

"The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Spc. Patrick D. Tillman, 27, of Chandler, Ariz., died April 22, in Afghanistan when his patrol vehicle came under attack. Spc. Tillman was assigned to the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Lewis, Wash."

He wasn’t a hawk. He volunteered. He turned down a $3.6 million offer to play the game of football. He signed up to honestly and nobly serve in the defense of the United States. It’s not something I would do. I don’t believe in war. Maybe it’s a lack of courage. Maybe I take freedom for granted. Maybe I’m only writing about this guy because I’ve heard his name before. Maybe he’s a hero because he played football; because he died in Afghanistan instead of Iraq; because he was in the Rangers. He felt strongly enough about the Sept. 11 attacks to sign up. He didn’t have to. He already had a career. Maybe it’s a tough guy thing. It’s not something I would do. It’s not something George W. Bush would have done.
Is that harsh? Yeah. Is it right? Yeah. There’s fighting a war -- and then there’s pulling the strings on a war. Tillman - and every other soldier - doesn’t have to answer for his motives. George W. has to.

Pat Tillman.
He’s the perfect example of the complexities (and contradictions) of the post Sept. 11 world. Can I support him without supporting the president? Sure. Would he agree with me, or with the president? That’s an easy one. Do I care who he agrees with? Not really.
There are some who’d say I take his sacrifice for granted. That I’m unpatriotic. That a liberal, athiest pantywaist ain’t got nuthin’ on Pat Tillman. True, I suppose.
I wouldn’t walk in his shoes, but I’m grateful he was there. I can pick apart the Military-Industrial Complex with a hundred different arguments and the bigotry of the Christian right disgusts me. But I believe in the nobility of national defense. And I see loving, compassionate activists placing water jugs in the desert for thirsty migrants, in the name of Jesus.
I think Colin Powell lies. But he’s had a brilliant career and made a positive mark on American society for many years.
I believe history will mark George W. Bush as perhaps the worst president in U.S. history, a man whose destructive impulses put the nation and the world in danger. But I’d love to have a beer with him, tell a couple jokes.
I think war is disgusting and ugly. And necessary, at times, in the name of freedom.
I think compassion has a greater place in the world than hate. I think unity is either a cruel myth or a buzzword. I don’t believe in patriotism, but I love my country.

"The Arizona Cardinals today announced the plaza surrounding the perimeter of the new Cardinals Stadium, scheduled to open in 2006 in Glendale, will be named 'Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza.'"

It says here that the new stadium should be named for Pat Tillman.

Sen. John McCain:
“I’m heartbroken. So many of us are. We grieve over the deaths of all of our young Americans who have died in Iraq, especially those from the state of Arizona, but Pat Tillman represented what’s finest in America because he left a very comfortable and rewarding lifestyle after 9/11 in the belief that he needed to fight for his country and fight against his enemies and that’s how he left us. We will honor his memory and we know that he will serve as an example and hero to every young American, in Arizona and across the nation.”
“Pat Tillman has entered the list of Arizona and American heroes. He epitomizes everything that’s magnificent and noble about Americans. He left a comfortable lifestyle, a bright future after 9/11 and defended his country. He died combatting the very same people that were responsible for 9/11 and I think that young people in this state will be reminded of his heroism for 100 years.”

I think the senator is right.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004


‘Spose people really are obsessed with dissecting top or best whatever lists, or they wouldn’t keep a-comin’. Here’s a new twist: the 50 worst songs ever, from Blender Magazine.
“We Built This City” and “Achy Breaky Heart” land on top -- and truthfully with good reason. They suck, they’re awful, they’re painful to listen to... But the thing is, I know damn near every song on the list.
It’s weird, they all were enormously popular at one point in time. I’m from the generation in which nearly everybody can still rattle off at least the first verse of “Ice Ice Baby” -- on command and laugh hysterically at doing so. And so songs like “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” are naturally going to be stuck in my head forever, just as the Brady Bunch theme and various commercial jingles.
Largely these awful songs are summer hits - fun, catchy and mostly harmless. And for some reason they have this weird island/tropical vibe -- “Kokomo” and “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”
The 1990s selections follow the inevitable backlash of nonsensibly high charting songs. 4 Non Blonds, the Rembrandts, Spin Doctors, Deep Blue Something, Meat Loaf, Right Said Fred, Crash Test Dummies... none of these songs are truly that bad, but they were ubiquitous and unnecessarily so.
Then there are the songs that are pure slop -- bad enough to be criminal: Celine Dion. Clay Aiken. Bete Midler. These people should all be shot.
I’m not too sure why “The End,” “We Didn't Start the Fire,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “The Sounds of Silence” make the list. They’re not the best songs of those artists, but surely there have been worse songs. For starters, I’d add “Mmm Bop” and “Macarena” to the shit list, plus everything Britney Spears has ever recorded.
I’d draw an interesting parallel between the craptastic songs on this list and the current slate of reality television. People make fun of themselves for having liked this music, but they did, one day, at some level, actively choose to listen.
My only hope is that Donald Trump, Paris Hilton, that chick who dated Fabio and whoever the hell won Survivor will one day be rightly skewered like this. Near instant fame for no real reason has its inevitable backlash. Reality TV will go down, it will be a shameful mark on American tastes... or I’ll be the last holdout, viewed as some snobbish elite because I could’t get down with shameless midget dating games and plastic surgery contests.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


Go and see The Ladykillers. Absolutely. It’s ridiculous.

“Madam, We must have waffles! We must all have waffles forthwith! We must think, and we must all have waffles, and think each and everyone of us to the best of his ability.”
“Not to beat a horse that, if not dead, has been flogged to a point of being mortally wounded”
“You brought your bitch to the Waffle Hut?”


“You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don't wanna know about it, believe me. Hell, I can get you a toe by 3 o'clock this afternoon... with nail polish.”
“Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.”
“What the fuck are you talking about? The chinaman is not the issue here, dude. I'm talking about drawing a line in the sand, dude. Across this line, you DO NOT... Also, dude, chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature. Asian-American, please.”
“Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”
“Phone's ringing, Dude.”
“Well, Pete, there are all manner of lesser imps and demons, but the great Satan hisself is red and scaly with a bifurcated tail, and he carries a hay fork.”
“Or, if not smithies per se, were you otherwise trained in the metallurgic arts before straitened circumstances forced you into a life of aimless wanderin'?”
“We thought you was a toad.”
“Those boys desecrated a burning cross!”
“I'm not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work, there, Lou.”
“However, just at the moment, I have drinking to do. Why don't you stop by my bungalow, which is number fifteen, later on this afternoon, and we will discuss rasslin' scenarios and other things lit'rary.”
“Biology and other peoples' opinions conspired to keep us childless.”
“There's right and there's right and never the t'wain shall meet.”
“Well could you describe the jammies?” -- “I don't what is damn jammies looked like... they had Yodas and shit on them.”
“We figured there was too much happiness here for just the two of us, so we figured the next logical step was to have us a critter.”

among the Coen’s best-ever lines.

And if you’re substantially bored, check out imdb for a ridiculous string of comments applying “waffles” to other classic movie lines and characters. “Say hello to my little waffle” and “We don’t need no stinking waffles” are among the funniest ones.


No Orpheum. No Rialto. No Wilco.
Few things hit Catfish as hard as news of this nature.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Dylan 2

It doesn’t sound 40 years old. It doesn’t seem 40 years old. The sound is crisp, clear, loud and perfect; the attitude is joyous and playful, yet at times frantic and at times haunting.
If Live 1964 really is 40 years old, it must’ve been way ahead of its time. Gee, really? Dylan ahead of his time... that’s so... expected.
Only Dylan -- two years into a recording, writing and performing career unmatched by anybody -- can astound and impress even beyond such high expectations.
The credit is to the performer, to be sure, but first I have to mention and thank whoever it was who unearthed those recordings, remastered and cleaned or whatever the hell else he or she did. From a purely sonic level, it is as high-quality as any live recording I’ve ever heard.
Halloween 1964, New York’s Philharmonic Hall. Bob Dylan, four albums down and many more to come.
Among the greatest joys of listening to the album is the enthusiasm that Dylan brings, even on “Don’t Think Twice,” that I’ve never quite heard come across. Known for wildly changing his songs in a live setting, Dylan had clearly started reinterpreting even in those days. On “Don’t Think Twice,” he adopts a sing-songy shout, nothing acidic about the tone of voice but just a greater urgency in being heard.
“Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues” is the folk-protest movement’s greatest satire and it’s a shame the song has barely been heard. Dylan’s take on the red scare is more along the lines of pointing out its ridiculousness, rather than cowering from its wide-sweeping grasp. Did he really think the red-hunters were mostly a joke? Their motives and tactics certainly seem laughable, but scary if not in precision in effect.
One of the absolute bonuses of an 1964 Dylan live recording is getting to see the early gems, like “To Ramona” and “I Don’t Believe You,” holding their own up to the glorious classics. With a catalogue as large and varied as Dylan’s, songs inevitably fall through the cracks and the rediscovery is thrilling.
“Mama, You’ve Been on My Mind” appears on just the Bootleg Series, first the 1991 box set and then the Rolling Thunder set released in 2002. Each version different, each beautiful and energetic and never (before or now) on the mainstream radar. The tone of the song is a perfect analogy to the arc of Dylan’s career. The song ends with an equally sly and heartfelt “I'd just be curious to know if you can see yourself as clear / As someone who has had you on his mind.” It’s late-stage puppy love and as Dylan’s career progressed, he hit pure infatuation (the remarkable Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde), heartbreak (John Wesley Harding) and depression (Blood on the Tracks).
But this set is young, vital, unjaded Dylan. He must have known he was important, but I doubt he could even imagine he’d be a legend, an icon.
Joan Baez joins Bob for four songs, trading whoops-we-messed-up-the-words wails to wide laughter. They’re not perfect, but they’re at once flawed and exquisite in harmony.
He giggles, he messes up, he babbles and it’s all engaging to hear. This is folk Dylan, not rock ‘n’ roll Dylan or the pain-in-the-ass Don’t Look Back Dylan. He’s in-between, so far unencumbered by stardom, and still enamored with Woody. He picks, plucks, strums and blows the harmonica -- and he has fun. The music is fresh and powerful, but mostly light enough still to spark a chuckle.
This isn’t a concert that truly defined any era of American music; it didn’t break any barriers; or cast turbulence in its wake. No guitars were set on fire, Shea Stadium wasn’t full, 500,000 people weren’t there, no Hells Angels induced deaths, not even a “Judas.” This is simply great songs, performed with passion and love by a man on the cusp of greatness. And it’s all the more interesting because he turned greatness into icon, into legend.

Dylan 1

I’ve felt that it was damn near my duty to post about the new Victoria’s Secret commercial for days now, so here goes.
Frankly, being a big fan of both underwear models and Bob Dylan, I think it’s incredibly cool. Beyond that, though, the reaction is rather muddied. The first reaction is a hearty Why? Why did Dylan do this (speculations to follow), but moreso, why did Victoria’s Secret recruit the (not-too-pleasantly) aged folksinger to hawk join a beauty in hawking bras?
It’s a juxtaposition on the oddest level. It was odd enough when the company’s add campaign simply featured the song.
To be sure, it’s a talk piece. Some of my favorite reads on the subject have been Slate (which links to the add), the Seattle Times and Pitchforkmedia, which led off a review of the new Bootleg series album with its own analysis:
“My favorite thing about Bob Dylan's Victoria's Secret commercial is the (not so farfetched) possibility that there are viewers in America who won't recognize Dylan's smarmy mug, and, incapable of sketching a line from his figure to the song playing in the background, must contend with an otherwise preposterous cameo, a wrinkled, peculiar-looking man nonsensically interrupting the provocative struts of an underwear model selling prepackaged titillation. Without the proper context, it's impossible to know that the weathered face peering awkwardly at the camera once hocked his very own brand of shockingly alluring taboos, as furtive and dangerous as pink satin bras and lace-edged panties.”
Apparently, Dylan gave a newspaper interview in 1965, when he slyly said the the biggest temptation to selling out came from “Ladies undergarments.”
When it comes down to Dylan’s motive, my best guess is sort of a mixture between mild boredom and a resurgence in Dylan’s drive to simply weird people out. And why not?
With Modest Mouse (Nissan), the Who (Hummer), and Nick Drake (VW) all in surprisingly tasteful auto commercials and Moby’s quest to deliver Play to television one track at a time, television advertising has changed remarkably. For one thing, while still annoying, ads are more artful in general. I can’t figure out for a second how that sells more product, but ad agencies seem to be reaching for the creative (ie. that Office Space-esque Burger King campaign).
And what is “selling out,” other than an over-used, ill-defined term used only to decry performers. Is taking money for playing music selling out? If so, then everybody always has sold out. I understand that advertising a product is a different beast, but quality music beats that damned obnoxious Chevy “Wrap it up, I’ll take it” jingle any day of the week.
When it comes down to it, the Victoria’s Secret commercial is eminently watchable. It’s curious, to be sure, but it’s not particularly surprising or troubling. It’s just another curveball from the greatest chameleon in American music. Sure it’s not as monumental as going electric, or going acoustic, or going Christian. But just as Time Out of Mind and Love and Theft show his music is as good as ever, an over the top haunting image in a Victoria’s Secret commercial shows he’s as unpredictable as ever.

Sunday, April 11, 2004


Catfish Vegas, now comin' at ya wireless style. I just got the capability to go mobile - free wireless card.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Opening day

Matt Williams and Jay Bell tossed out the first pitch(es) at BOB today. And not to the catchers, to Finley and Gonzo. It was beautiful - two early franchise heroes, the pair whose home-plate embrace epitomized the World Series title - kicking off the new season.
It’s a smooth shift, from the NCAA championship last night to the Diamondbacks first game today. And let’s hope the first inning is a good indication of the rest of the year. Johnson gets out of a bases-loaded jam with a strikeout. Gonzo homers, with two outs. That’s the value of Richie Sexon. Last year Gonzo never would have gotten a pitch to hit with two outs. But with Sexon on deck, Gonzo homers. Outstanding.
But with just three hits on the day, a victory was too much to expect.
Perhaps the biggest worry is Jose Valverde, the hard-throwing youngster nicknamed Papa Grande. In the closer role for now, Valverde gave up three runs in the ninth, putting the game out of reach.
Gonzo’s second homer, in the ninth, was a sad moot point.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

A medium pace or gently?

I saw a two-man guitar/vocal combo cover the foulest of Adam Sandler and Tenacious D down at Bison last night. Hillarious.
Few things are funnier than faux serious music with dirty words. This isn't layered, well though out comedy, it's not slapstick. It's nothing more than foul language disguised as a love ballad. And it's great. Both tunes got big time props from the patrons.

And down goes Duke

Nothing is nicer in college basketball than when Duke loses. And rare are the moments I become a UConn Huskies fan.
But the Blue Devils are the Yankees, are the Lakers, are the Cowboys of Troy and Emmitt. They're arrogant, machine-like winners. They're damn good, but they're smug - as if victory is their birthright. They're efficient and appalling in what they expect - and how they expect to be treated. They're sleek progress, shiny condominiums atop bulldozed meadows. They win. A lot. But each time they fall the sport gets better.
Dick Vitale can blow this one out his ass. He's a worthless, obnoxious little troll who's somehow made a career out of being a Duke fan. Analyst - yeah right. His geeky slogans are mind-numbing.
I hope Monday's championship stacks up to the down-to-the-final minute semis. Bless Okafor and Bynum for playing like they love the game.


How specialized can these online polls get? This one could only interest regular readers of the Times opinion page and the blogs that feast on the columns.
I gotta say it's a bit scary how quickly I rushed to find out I was...
"Bob Herbert!
You're not the most sparkling writer, but one of the most solid and selfless on the Op-Ed staff. You focus on New York politics, the poor, race issues, and civil liberties. You like to quote others, and rarely place yourself in your columns. You keep it real. Seriously."

Go play Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?
Also check out all results.
(via Pandagon)