Tuesday, November 29, 2005

For quick energy, take Cranberries

I could name many songs or albums I respect on an artistic level but don't particularly care to hear all the time. Sgt. Pepper's is one -- the album redefined what's possible in music, but it's not an everyday listen. Much of Aimee Mann's music can be a wonderful expression of your feelings one day and a dreary listen the next, just as Coldplay's The Scientist is so beautiful and poignant that I would be a miserable wreck if I heard it more than once a week. A lot of prog rock is interesting in its experimentation but not really the sort of thing that pumps you up for a day at work or makes the commute go faster.

It's rare to hear the opposite, a song that is a fun listen but would have to be called an abject failure artistically. I happened to hear one today -- the Cranberries' unusually upbeat ode to drug addiction, Salvation.

Oh, it's a pleasant bouncy tune. It's just a little strange to hear "To all the kids with heroin eyes, don't do it / Don't do it / 'Cause it's not, not what it seems" at a pace and rhythm better suited to a Husker Du outtake or perhaps one of Midnight Oil's more energetic numbers. And then the "a ha ha / a ha ha / a ha ha" after the chorus sounds like they're trying to record Aerobicize with the Cranberries!

Sometimes, lyrics and music are a good fit without being an obvious match. That's my take on Suzanne Vega's Luka, so unfairly derided in one of the VH1 snarkfests by Mo Rocca and company. The cheery setting is all part of the kid's facade of good cheer, hiding the abuse he's enduring.

It's hard to make that sort of argument for Salvation, especially when the horn section takes over. A good R&B kissoff to a cheating lover, maybe. A call for political action, sure. But a plea to come back from the brink of addiction? Only if it's an addiction to sleep, because this is a great wake-up song and a fun listen in spite of itself.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Child-free and rubbing our noses in it

This is a free country, more or less. So no, I don't care if people decide to adopt the "child-free" lifestyle.

What bugs me is the "child-free" attitude.

Here's the thing -- the decision to go without kids wasn't some flash of brilliant insight that you had and we parents didn't. Yes, people who don't have kids have more spare time. They can focus on their careers, their health, their meditation, their personal growth and their sex lives in ways that those of us whose schedule revolves around nap times cannot.

To which I say this: Duh.

It's about choice. Those of us who decided to be parents (and were lucky enough to make it work) gave up that time to do something else we find fulfilling. Child-free folks have the freedom to do what they want. So do we. This is what we want.

If you're child-free (voluntarily, of course), you've made a choice. A valid one. But smarter?

Let's take on some of the arguments from the story I linked above:

There were larger issues too, such as environmental concerns and worries
about an overcrowded planet.

That may be a valid reason not to have five kids. But it's not a reason to avoid having two. That's how many it takes to replace you and yours, and it doesn't even take into account all the people who can't have kids.

Besides, one of the biggest problems facing this country is the economic crisis we'll have when the number of retired people grows so large that younger folk can't make the Social Security and Medicare payments. So in that sense, having kids actually helps to avoid future crises.

Zombie Parents from Planet Zygote

Oh, you poor poor dears. Tired of hearing your former friends babble on and on about their kids? Well, that's what's going on in their lives these days. Has it occurred to you that they might be bored with your endless prattle about your trip to Morocco or your convoluted sex life?

The last bit is interesting:

Forget-You-Nots: DNA-free ways of leaving a piece of yourself here on Earth after you die, like planting a tree, getting a street named after you or donating all your money to your alma mater.

Hmmmm. If you decide to spend some of your surplus free time doing good works, that's sensible. Childless folks certainly have more time for community service and perhaps more money to donate to an alma mater. But if the whole reason you're doing it is to get something named after you, that's a little tougher to defend as a smart and moral choice.

And if you're THAT impressed with yourself, then shouldn't your genes survive?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Songs I wish they had at iTunes

Mostly obscurities I found through my Launch player ...

Midnight Oil, Time to Heal -- I have the essential Oil trilogy of Diesel and Dust, Blue Sky Mine and Earth and Sun and Moon, but I haven't sprung for anything they released as they wound down their career, more or less intentionally. This is the type of song an angry protest band should release near the end of its working life -- an anthem, heavy on the acoustic guitar, looking to a brighter future. Over several brilliant albums, the Aussies told us what was wrong in the world. Only fitting that they wind up with what's right, or what should be right.

Dubstar, Just a Girl She Said -- Set almost ironically to some dreamy keyboards, this song delivers biting sarcasm sung gently. It's a far better feminist anthem than 99.9 percent of the stuff delivered by shrill lab assistants with acoustic guitars who aren't the Indigo Girls.

Big Country, too many to name -- Eventually, I'll just have to break down and buy Why the Long Face? at Amazon, if only I could figure out which version to get. You Dreamer is a great tale of intervention ("How can someone find me if no one knows I'm lost?"), and God's Great Mistake is a good effort at reclaiming Christianity that rocks a lot harder than you'd expect from Big Country. Or maybe I should get one of their live efforts, where their thunderous sounds comes across even better than it did on their '80s breakthroughs.

Poe, too many to name -- Her concept album Haunted includes the playful Not a Virgin and the creepy title track.

Los Lobos, Peace -- They have the live version, but I'd prefer the studio take, which makes better use of the looping acoustic guitar riff that invites you to sing along.

Melting Hopefuls, She's a Big Boy Now -- Basically making fun of overly butch women. A male singer couldn't get away with it.

Stretch Princess, Freakshow -- She just wants a boyfriend with a brain cell, damn it. And she sounds like she deserves it.

Smithereens -- Come on, guys, I have a lot of old store-bought cassettes to replace. I bought them all once, but I'm not buying it again on CD. Put your 10 best on iTunes, and I'll buy 'em.

Great moments in rock

There's a truck ad these days with a Stereophonics song blaring, "Fiiiind my way! Freeeeee my soul."

It's High As The Ceiling, and it's a good classic rock song -- especially for a song recorded 20 years or so after classic rock died.

The "great moment" is the opening. The first 30 seconds of this one should be in some sort of textbook for how to start a rock song. A couple of guitar effects kick it off, only to be overpowered by a great riff. The vocals kick in, then the drums and bass, and then we're to the part you hear in the truck ad.

Possibly the best 30 seconds of rock in the last five years or so, and it's followed by another 2 1/2 solid minutes.

Well worth the 99 cents I spent to add it to my budding Stereophonics collection.

Things I'm thankful for

1. No one who reads this will care that I ended a sentence in a preposition. It's not even a sentence, actually.

2. My son and all my family.

3. The candidates who ran the most negative campaigns in Virginia ... lost.

4. We have the capability of rebuilding a section of interstate on the fly after a tanker fire. Wow.

5. The Office is still on the air.

6. The BBC still exists, more or less intact.

7. I'm learning to shut off the computer on occasion.

8. Dogs.

9. People around the world who are determined to do good things even as their governments do evil.

10. The Simpsons

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Christmas Carols

Yes, we're already watching them -- The Muppet Christmas Carol and Mickey's Christmas Carol. They're OK, but repeat viewings can get a little tedious.

I think Mickey (Mouse -- in case you were thinking it was Mickey Roarke's Christmas Carol or something like that) does it a little bit better. Mickey's Scrooge is an animated duck with a Scottish accent that gives him a more amusing edge than in most productions. The Muppet Scrooge is Michael Caine, who does his usual professional job but is pretty much the same old Scrooge you'd see in any other adaptation.

It's too bad NewsRadio never had a chance to do a version of their own. Jimmy James would be the best Scrooge ever, and Dave is a ready-made Cratchit.

A Dickens take wouldn't really fit the format of The Office, though Dwight would be an interesting Marley.

Perhaps an ER adaptation with Kerry Weaver as Scrooge, Greene as Cratchit and Romano as Marley. They could bring back the other cast members they've killed off as the ghosts.

Perhaps not a Kids in the Hall version, simply because I don't see where Scott Thompson would fit in one of his Buddy monologues, and I don't think that would stop him.

I'll stop there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Best ... blog ...ever ...

Why? Because it's not real, and yet it's totally believable.

The blogger? Dwight, from The Office.

Sure, it'd be interesting to see Pam blog, though at some point she'd inadvertently reveal her feelings for Jim, and until then, you'd see a lot of frustration between the lines.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Premise Beach

For those who've never seen Brevity is ... wit or its "55 Fiction Friday" feature, this is a good place to start.

Between that and the McLuhan bit, I'm obviously in the mood for some good absurdist escapism.

Classic moments in media metacriticism (aka "funny stuff")

XM has added a Canadian-centric comedy channel, which explains why I've just run across an old song by a sketch comedy group called The Vestibules.

The Ballad of Marshall McLuhan (MP3 available here) is a play on the name "Marshall," telling the tale of the media theorist's efforts to tame the Old West. It's the best take on McLuhan since the man himself popped up in a theatre lobby to silence a pretentious academic in Annie Hall.

For those who don't want to download the MP3, here's the punchline (select the text):

And he called out for Marshall McLuhan. He said, 'Marshall, I don't agree with your description of television as a tactile medium in a context of a visual notion of causality.' So Marshall shot him."

Yes, I know -- I'm a geek.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I know you are, but whiskey tango foxtrot?

If you're a hipper person than I, you may already know about the Great Blog Pissing Match of the moment. It's an unlikely faceoff -- Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams vs. biology professor Paul Z. Myers. The topic: Evolution vs. intellectual design.

Well, not exactly. Adams started it by bemoaning the amount of misconceptions in the whole evolution-ID discourse as most of us poor laymen know it. It's not really a brilliant post -- his last three paragraphs couldn't be more misguided -- but somewhere in the mess, there's an interesting point about the difficulty of getting a rational opinion in the midst of an emotional argument.

Dr. Myers didn't take too kindly to this. In a classic case of using a bazooka to kill a mosquito, he mixes sound refutations of Adams' scientific flaws with a few straw man arguments, determined to bring the man down with his blog post. He takes Adams' use of the word "Darwinist" to imply that Adams has adopted the Intellectual Design school's terminology -- after all, anyone who's been following the debate would know that. Then there's this:

Umm, OK…so Adams begs incomprehension. If that's the case, why is he making the argument? I guess because, as he says at the beginning of his essay, ignorance "doesn’t stop anyone from having a passionate opinion." Give that man a mirror!
But did Adams have a passionate opinion?

Well, now he might, but it would be about Myers' reading comprehension skills, not Intelligent Design. His response is both amusing and withering, and he distills his point nicely:
Both sides misrepresent the others’ position (either intentionally or because they don’t know better or because of bias) and then attack the misrepresentation. Therefore, neither side is credible (to me).

To nit-pick, that point wasn't completely clear in his initial post, and he did say a few things at the end of said initial post that would make any rational biologist a little cranky. But both posts make clear that his problem isn't so much with the basic point of evolution but with the hysterics that override rational thought on the matter, and he holds up Myers' post as evidence.

So Myers offers a response that makes you wonder if he took that same all-science, no-humanities curriculum that drove Lazlo to the tunnels in Real Genius. He has five bullet points, all misrepresenting Adams. He follows up the next day, telling all of Adams' "followers" (very few of whom, as far as I could see, expressed even the slightest bit of advocacy in Intelligent Design -- and I'm sure Adams and the bulk of his fans would disavow anyone who did) to get lost. Take a hike. He still doesn't see that the discussion is less about evolution than it is a metadiscussion about the discussion itself, and he accuses Adams of "peddling dumb ideas."

It's really a classic case of two people who think they're arguing opposite sides of a point when, in reality, they're looking at two different bodies of evidence. Myers thinks Adams is being intellectually dishonest because he didn't find the reputable scientists. Adams is saying he found a bunch of stuff that was intellectually dishonest, and Myers isn't helping matters.

But then Adams makes a muck of things himself with a bizarre rant about credibility. To me -- and apparently to several of the people who made comments -- it reads as if no one who studies a topic can be credible on that topic because they will develop preconceived notions. Somewhere in Paris, there's a guy in a coffeehouse spouting post-postmodernist thoughts along these lines, and we can only hope the rioters burned his car last week.

But don't tell Adams that, or else he'll make it clear that you're just an idiot who misunderstood him.

There are two possibilities when someone claims to have been misunderstood. The first is that the listener wasn't paying attention or lacked the power of comprehension to understand it. The second is that the writer didn't explain his point.

So we have someone who didn't understand the initial point arguing with someone who refuses to explain his subsequent points, and they're too busy accusing each other of intellectual dishonesty or cognitive dissonance to see what they're doing wrong, even as those of who have left comments try desperately to slap them back into the sensible world.

And that, to me, is why the blogosphere gives me a headache.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Saturday Night ... CLEAR! ... guh-thunk ... Live

It's all too obvious to watch the current Saturday Night Live and draw a contrast with the 1980s special NBC aired this weekend. The buzz right now isn't good, from the ever-snarky TV Squad to the wholly unwarranted rip from Lance Armstrong's hometown paper.

And it's always in vogue to say it's not as good as it was in the old days. My dorm had plenty of idiots who would wander into our commons room while we were watching SNL, proclaim that it sucked ever since Belushi (John) left, and wander back out, leaving us to enjoy Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks at their peak.

These people are usually wrong. Sometimes, they have a point.

Yet here's what we learn from the 80s special: The show is going to have peaks and valleys. Even good years have bad patches. If you ever happen upon an entire show with the original cast, you know what I mean. Good sketch, so-so sketch, bad drug humor, musical act, bad drug humor, so-so sketch, credits.

Being an SNL fan means taking the bad with the good. It's sketch comedy. The "bad" comes in five-minute doses. It's not like being stuck in a theatre watching Cocktail. Trust me -- I've been there.

All this said, SNL needs a shakeup.

It may be more a question of attitude than personnel. The show this year has been sloppy -- bad performances, uneven writing, technical glitches, etc. They're trying to bring in new cast members, and yet Amy Poehler seems to be on screen for 89 of 90 minutes. (I like Poehler a lot, but her characters run together when she's in every single sketch.)

The new cast members -- even "new" guys who are in their third seasons like Kenan Thompson -- need more time, and that may mean pushing out a couple of the veterans. Horatio Sanz and Chris Parnell are in their eighth seasons, which equals Phil Hartman's tenure. As Hartman's Clinton (or maybe Darrell Hammond's Clinton) would say, "That is wrong. That .. is .. just ... wrong."

(Speaking of Hammond -- I don't mind that he's hanging around for Season 11. As it stands now, they can't afford to let him go.)

Individually, I like this cast. It's just too large, as is the writing staff. Don't have 50 people throwing out off-the-wall ideas in an attempt to make something catch Lorne's eye. Have a smaller group of people who know that what they do HAS to be good.

Forget the "featured player" caste system. Cut four, five, six people from the "main" cast, shove the four featured players into the main cast and make them all contribute.

They still might need a breakout person. No one's going to be lining up to buy the "Best of Will Forte" DVD. (OK, I might, if it's big on Tim Calhoun and light on "The Falconer.")

They'll also need to can a lot of the recurring characters. Debbie Downer was great once, not so good twice. I'm always up for seeing Hammond's Chris Matthews yell back and forth with Forte's Zell Miller, but they can only tap that well so many times. Besides, they may never top Forte/Miller yelling about running up to a tsunami and punching it in the face.

It's tough to say "clean house." They're still putting out a lot of good sketches, like Lance Armstrong's attempt to write a song for Sheryl Crow or the "Good Morning Meth" sketch from the Jason Lee episode. (The skateboarding monologue in Lee's hosting stint is one of the best monologues ever, seriously.) But then again, that was true of the disaster years as well.

Because there's one thing that's always true of Saturday Night Live. It beats the hell out of MAD TV.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

XM in depth: Channel 12

OK, it's been a while since my last entry in the tour of XM's music channels, and I'd better hurry, since I haven't decided whether I'm re-upping my subscription at the end of the year.

On to Channel 12, X Country, which was actually one of my presets at one time but not one I checked out that often. It's modern, progressive country, which includes a fair amount of decent stuff and should be an interesting ride.

Lonesome Goat, Nicotine -- Bluesy, with a rollicking acoustic bass line and shimmering guitar lines. Sounds like they had two distinctly different lead lines in addition to an active bass, so it's a little more chaotic than a typical rockabilly song. Not a bad start.

Poco, Shake It -- This could easily pass for an Eagles song -- vocals even sound a bit like Don Henley. In fact, there is some overlap between the band's personnel and The Eagles' ranks, though in a country-rock band dating back to 1968, that's inevitable. AllMusic.com isn't kind to this 2002 effort, but I wasn't as disappointed.

Derailers, Your Guess As Good As Mine -- Chorus sounds exactly like Achy Breaky Heart. That's unforgivable.

Phil Lee, A Night in the Box -- This ode to having sex in a trailer has some solid guitar work, even if it's a little too easy to picture people line-dancing to it. Gotta like a guy willing to admit his place "smells like socks." Guess he knows he's a good enough guitarist to make up for it.

Staid Cleaves, Breakfast in Hell -- Supposedly live at XM, and it sounds pretty good. Mostly simple vocal with strummed acoustic guitar and some lead guitar that's subtle in the verses before unleashing a couple of tasteful breaks. The lyrics try a little too hard to tell a sad tale of hard-working people down on their luck.

Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, King of the World -- Rivals Bon Jovi's mid-80s work in terms of fitting cliches into a song. (Thank you, ancient Rolling Stone review ripping Slippery When Wet.) Mercifully short.

Robert Earl Keen, Tom Ames' Prayer -- At first, I thought this was Tori Amos' Prayer, which would have been interesting. But this one is intriguing on its own merits. One verse compares praying to begging, and I have to admit that's how some denominations sell it. (I won't name them because I don't want my comments to turn into a nasty theological debate.) The fiddle trades solo licks with the low strings of an electric guitar, and everyone involved can play.

Neal Coty, Tainted -- It opened like Weezer's overplayed Beverly Hills (surely they have better songs than that on this release?), and Coty sounded like John Waite at his pre-emo worst on the bridge. Add the line "it was my heart you were screwing," and you have a train wreck.

Hal Ketchum, Don't Let Go -- Straight out of the '40s in its corny stop-start action and insincere vocals, but overproduced like it was straight from the Meat Loaf catalog. The backup chorus chants "Oooo-eee" and "Awww, shucks!" The guitar riffs are boring by any standard. Another recipe for disaster.

Steve Earle, Once You Love -- Not one of his best. It's a mid-tempo ballad with plodding tom-toms and dreary steel guitar.

Dave Alvin, King of California -- Strange one. A slow song built on fast acoustic picking. It's at its best when the lead guitar and drums kick in. Sadly, they drop back into the background most of the time. The pieces of a good song are there. I wonder if Alvin would consider taking another shot at recording it.

The Flatlanders, Whistle Blues -- As you can guess from the name, it's a little cliched. A few neat twists, like the ghostly effects, but not enough to make this worth a second listen.

Daddy, Cold Chill -- A mid-tempo effort with some strong riffs and a slow, menacing bass line. Not a bad way to end.

I can listen to this stuff. Still not looking forward to "Hank's Place," which is next.

ER: Child cruelty

Upon watching the opening of Thursday night's ER, I hurled a stream of profanity at the screen and swore I'd never watch again. An agitated man carries a little girl out of a restaurant as they have the usual parent-child banter that you only hear on ER when you know, for one reason or another, that relationship as they know it is about to end.

Yes, ER loves to kill and otherwise inflict brutality on children, but they hit a new low tonight. A bunch of police cars pulled up, and the guy -- still carrying the kid -- wasted no time getting in a shootout with them. He ran sideways -- still carrying the kid -- while bullets flew back and forth. One cop got hit. Inexplicably, an ambulance drove up, though no one had been injured or shot before the guns opened up -- apparently, they have psychic dispatchers in this hospital. The cops fire away at the guy -- did I mention he was still carrying a kid? -- until he falls. He's hit in the head. And oh, here's the shocker ... the kid is also wounded. Did I mentioned that he was carrying her?

Once upon a time, when ER doled out afflictions upon families, it did so with great respect. The classic early episode, Love's Labor Lost, focuses on Dr. Greene's efforts to save a pregnant woman and her new baby. He only succeeds halfway, and it's crushing. A few hundred episodes later, they're just getting lazy. Now they have kids getting hurt because the Chicago police apparently don't realize that you don't just fire away like the poor kid in Pulp Fiction who tries to take out Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta when ... yes ... there's a KID in the way!

I've been frustrated with this show for a while. I've kept watching because I still care about some of the characters and actors. I love Maura Tierney and Parminder Nagra from their previous work, and I enjoy it when the show lets them show off their comedic skills. Goran Visnijc's Luka was at one time the most compelling character on TV, a man of great conscience who spilled his guts to a call girl in Chicago in between trips to Africa to help the sick, cleanse his soul and almost die in one of the best episodes of TV I've ever seen. But for the past couple of years, the number of kids they've killed, orphaned or forced to interact with Scott Grimes has been so high that it turned into farce.

Are the powers that be at ER simply heartless scum? I think not. I think they're modern-day Caligulas, so entranced by the orgy of sex and violence they've created that they've become bloated and incapable of the simplest moral judgment.

Mmmmm, yes ... put another child in the crossfire. It's so delicious when the parents weep. And let's hire some name actors and watch them suffer. And have the good-looking Croatian man have sex with the girl from Freaks and Geeks ... people think of her as young, so it'll be just that much more devious. How delightful ...

Maybe I should check out that Lost show, except that they seem to be killing people off now, and the whole reason I didn't start watching in the first place was that it seemed so depressing. Sure, Caine in Kung Fu was left wandering aimlessly as well, but at least he occasionally had a chance to kick butt.

Deconstructing Sarah

Good article in Slate on Sarah Silverman and the way she walks the fine line between skewering our prejudices and confirming them.

I also want to state for the record that I had a crush on her long before people realized who she was.

(Thanks, Lex)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The new new media

I was having an IM discussion with a once and future colleague, and I was looking for a way to express the way I feel about the decline of traditional journalism and the rise of the wild and lawless Internet, along with other unconventional communication. And I wanted to tie into that the sophisticated attacking style of today's politicians.

Fortunately, she said it for me:
i'm not sure the dichotomy is snarky v sober -- i think what we've lost is the authoritative voice (yeah, so we've heard) but we haven't got an idea of what to use in its stead. if we were educated to have a great capacity for critical thought -- i mean this as a culture -- we might have some idea what to do with all these new voices and the passing of the old ones (to whatever extent that's truly happened). as it is, we're sitting in a giant sandbox with no shovels or pails. it's not pretty. either we figure out some alternatives or we continue as we have recently -- everyone just throwing sand at everyone else

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

We're Number 4! We're Number 4!

Are the news media the biggest weasels in the country/world? Nope, that would be politicians -- ironically, by a landslide. No. 2? Nope, lawyers. Surely we're No. 3? Actually, no, this has been a bad year for oil executives.

So we journalists slide in the door at No. 4.

So sayeth Dilbert.com

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Why I hate politics

1. Political ads say this to me: "This country is full of morons and governed by cretins." Among the attack ads we've seen in this political season -- a candidate for attorney general is lambasted for voting in favor of a gas tax increase. Let's review: He's running for attorney general. Though we're starting to think of our government as a multiheaded imperial entity, it's actually an organization of clearly defined roles.

We've also seen our local nice-guy delegate ripped in a series of last-day direct mail garbage (can someone give me a spam filter for my damn mailbox?) accusing him of, among other things, not sponsoring legislation on day laborers in the neighboring county. This was somehow tied into something about how he isn't keeping us safe from al-Qaeda. I don't know -- I glazed over, balled it up and threw it in the trash. It's slick paper, so I don't know if I can recycle it, and I'm afraid to burn it.

They run these ads because the only way to get our fat, lazy asses to the polls is to make them think they're keeping America safe from the horrible monsters they're running against.

I just saw three of these suckers in a row during one ESPN ad break. I'll have to stop watching live TV in October and go all-DVR, all the time.

2. Yes, I'm a journalist, and I believe most accusations against the media are overblown or just plain wrong. But sometimes, yes, reporters' blind spots and their inability to think outside their limited social circles can catch up with them. Also, we're bloodthirsty -- when we think a public figure is wounded, we're like sharks. No, wait -- hyenas. Yeah, hyenas.

That would explain the last two months of political coverage. Yes, we know Bush isn't doing well these days. But at what stage have we gone overboard? Today's Washington Post offers part 38 of its series on the sudden decline of the GOP by concluding that the party is in severe trouble in the 2006 elections. I had to check the calendar to make sure I hadn't fallen into a blissful coma for a year. Nope, still 2005. That's a full year and an entire campaign season of negative ads to change everyone's minds.

But that apparently hasn't occurred to the Post, which apparently is responding to wingnuts' accusations of liberal bias not with a reasonable logical response but with, "Oh yeah? Watch THIS!" It's a good thing we haven't reached full multimedia status in journalism, or Post.com's home page would pair the headline "GOP set for big losses" with an audio clip of Nelson Muntz's "HA-ha!"

I think it was another Simpsons character (or two) who put it best: "When will people realize -- democracy DOESN'T WORK!"

In defense of Lucy

Because I have a small child, I've watched It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown roughly 35 times in the last two weeks.

Sometime around the 30th viewing, it occurred to me that Lucy is actually a more complex moral character than we usually think. Here's why -- while trick-or-treating (or "tricks-or-treating," as they say it), Lucy asks for more candy for her blockhead brother, Linus, who is in the pumpkin patch ... well ... you know the story.

Charlie Brown, on the other hand, knows perfectly well that his little sister also is in the pumpkin patch. Does he ask for an extra piece of candy for Sally? Noooo.

Yes, I know, as our little one says of Charlie Brown, "I gottoo ROCK!!!" But we have to ask this -- are the rocks in the trick-or-treat bag a kind of karmic payback for the fact that he isn't looking out for his little sister? Or, if he had asked, would he just have a bunch of extra rocks?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

How "The Colbert Report" can sustain itself

The Colbert Report has been renewed for a full year, but I'm not sure if that's good news. In its current form, it can't sustain itself. It's brilliant at times, but it's difficult to maintain Colbert's overblown parody persona. The interviews are awkward, and the banter between full-fledged bits is uneven. (Best review I've seen along these lines is in Slate, though Wikipedia is remarkably current.)

Ideally, they'd retool. Ditch the interview unless they happen to find a guest who can play along; the best so far, believe it or not, was astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson. Extend the parody by letting him argue with other fake pundits.

Given the quick renewal, that retooling may not happen anytime soon. Or it could happen gradually, like the phasing-out of the mean-spirited correspondent segments that are less prominent in Jon Stewart's Daily Show than they were in the Craig Kilborn era. (Stewart for Kilborn -- that has to be the best cast upgrade since Jill Hennessy replaced Richard Brooks on Law & Order.)

But that retooling will need to happen sometime, and I've figured out how, courtesy of today's news. It seems that CNN has pushed Aaron Brown out the door in favor of a puppy dog. Oh, wait, that's Anderson Cooper.

So when Colbert decides to give the show a makeover, don't do it quietly. Make it very public. Issue a pompous press release announcing that Colbert has been replaced by his twin brother. Have the original Colbert storm off the set. Have the twin play more of an Anderson Cooper mold. Then send him to Aruba to search for that missing girl for three months.

(Unrelated Comedy Central note: A documentary with Sarah Silverman, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford and Zach Galifianakis? OK, you've got me, even if I think Patton Oswalt is grating at times. Yes, I want to see that.)

"No one told me there'd be boasting!"

One problem I have with hip-hop is that I have little interest in people telling me how great their guns and/or sex lives happen to be, whether in reality or in the fantasy world they're selling to themselves and then to their audiences.

I'm also not a country fan, though I've talking about it a lot lately.

So I'm at a loss to explain why Big & Rich's Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) is my current iPod favorite.

It's funny, of course -- on some levels, it almost works as a parody of hip-hop (something about a couple of deep-voiced country guys tinkering with the rhythm and singing about "bling-blinging" strikes me as really amusing). It also has some great guitar work.

Big & Rich still feel the need to strike country poses. They ain't tradin' their beat-up trucks for your Escalade because brand loyalty is everything in the NASCAR and Nashville worlds. (Not sure why this didn't occur to me until now, but I guess they're not trading in their Chevy for a Cadillac-ac-ac-ac-ac. So just as Sweet Home Alabama answered Neil Young's Southern Man, is this the answer to Billy Joel?)

Every once in a while, there's a song that has just the right mix of humor and a strong beat to break out of its genre. Twenty years ago, we'd be talking about Dead or Alive's You Spin Me ... Today, it's this. Perhaps a sociologist somewhere would like to comment on these two songs as a denunciation of androgyny and reassertion of traditional male roles, but I've done enough analysis here. It's just a fun song that doesn't insult your intelligence or lack of dancing ability. Can't have too many of those.

UPDATE: "Big" is now a daddy.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Attn: Michael (DWS)

Remember how we were talking about out-snarking the snarkers at VH1? Someone beat us to it with a wickedly funny I Love the Aughties, in which the usual suspects wax snarkoquent over tragedies from 9/11 to Katrina.