Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Goodbye Mr. Sunshine

As this wonderful vacation comes to a close we're left sundrenched and fished out. One last blast at a wedding in Gainesville should seal the deal and then it's back to the tail end of winter in Chicago. But as Sarah reminds me, when it's pushing 100 and Floridian souls boil out of bodies like teakettles, we'll be enjoying the glory that is a Chicago summer. And on that note, another vacation photo:

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Bad Day Fishing Is Better Than...

Another vacation photo. It'll have to take the place of politics, news or opinionated rants. Cuz we're just maintaining some kinda Margaritaville-esque good vibes and staying the hell away from current events.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Beach Time, Moderate Climes

Life's but a dream. The beach house has no phone, tv or internet. But it does have a boom box and fishing gear and downtown New Smyrna has free internet. We're doing just fine. The humorous, ten year old vacation journal entries will have to wait a few more days. So, in the meantime, here's a pic from one of our night time crab hunting forays.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Time To Get Away

Holy Crap, I'm on Vacation.

It's wonderful. We're at the beach for two weeks of sun, seafood and quiet.

So, in the spirit of all this away from home bliss, I'll be posting pieces of my vacation journals from 10 years ago throughout this next week. The funnier bits of my travels overseas and through the US. Oh, the hilarity.

Join me, won't you?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Abandoned at the Gates

Just as they reach the gates of the palace, Feingold and his censure movement are abandoned by fellow Democrats. (Is it just me or does it almost seem like they’re afraid to kick GWB when he’s down? Jeez, talk about your bleeding heart liberals.) And in a sublime piece of perfect timing, the Daily Show aired a piece last night with Paul Hackett that speaks to that very topic.

Check out some of the excellent commentary about our impotent/inept Democratic party floating around the web today. Molly Ivins is royally pissed. The Existentialist Cowboy ponders their Faustian bargain. Robert Parry checks the rear-view mirror. Maureen Dowd doesn’t know where to turn. Glenn Greenwald hashes it out. Mr. Chuckles makes a prediction. Americablog calls bullshit. Stephen Elliot puts it in perspective while Shayana Kadidal takes it out of legalese. And, finally, David Corn explains their jobs to them.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Thoughts on "The Assassins Gate"

As I’m going back through George Packer’s excellent taxonomic account of our monumental failure in Iraq, The Assassins Gate, and revamping my notes, I’m even more shocked than the first time through. Packer’s invaluable work at reconstructing the pathology of the double-super-secret Bush régime from the roots to the fruits will, I’m sure, become the gold standard of investigative texts from this period of time. It rises above the slew of books that emanate partisan hysteria simply on its preoccupation with pure facts. And unlike the handful of other well-received administration dissection texts, Packer has no particular axe to grind and has put in the hours investigating, interviewing and fact-checking. The book gets very name and date heavy, but it’s entirely to his credit that he keeps it moving at a fast clip and those names and dates never threaten to make the read too abstract and boring.

But it is, after all, the facts that are important here. Though they get equal billing with the scene-painting interviews and anecdotes, the facts are what cut so close; what keep me up at night, trying to keep track of all the lies coming out over the TV and the internet. Through chasing down official documents, reconstructing timelines, and interviewing a massive number of players—both major and minor; Iraqi and American—the truth of the situation emerges out of the litany of perspectives, philosophies, and histories. Packer never pretends to entirely pulled the veil off, but what he gives us is an appraisal of the situation that rises high above the million little sandstorms kicked up by the spinners in Washington. And, sadly, it becomes painfully apparent that most of America is lost in those storms, kept factually blind by an intentionally deceptive government and a criminally complicit media.

Needless to say, I can’t recommend this book enough. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. After reading it, I’m far more comfortable with the altruistic reasons for the US going into Iraq, but far more dismayed, far more enraged by the Bush régime’s willful ignorance, sickening contempt, and overwhelming stupidity. It’s become obvious that theirs is a catastrophic failing of theoretical thinking over empirical thinking. The wide-eyed, GOP, right-wing, ivory-tower thinkers had more power to actualize their theories than any single ideological group in the history of mankind and they’ve completely shit the bit. Think about that the next time Fox News goes after some lone-wolf, powerless lefty professor like Ward Churchill. These sons of Leo Strauss were no sooner given the wheel than they steered this great vessel up onto the rocks.

Sending out an S.O.S….”
*UPDATE: Of course, Cursor has a piece relevant to today's theme:

The Memory Hole unearths reports on the State Department's "almost wholly ignored" Future of Iraq Project, and Raw Story parses National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley's 2005 revisions to a 1997 document spelling out the guidelines for determining access to classified government information.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Photo Post

"All Aboard For Capitol City"
"Architectural Model for the Year 3003 #2"
Newspaper Collage with Watercolors
(Copyright 1999, B. Hoben)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

His Name Is Lost (Updated 3/9)

For various reasons today hasn't been the best day of my life. It started with the dog getting the runs at 3AM (and subsequently needing to go out to poo every hour and a half or so) and went quickly, sleeplessly, downhill.

So cue the music, fire up the TV, because I need diversion.

1) His Name Is Alive, who in 1993 put out one of my favorite albums of all time, the unclassifiable Mouth By Mouth, has finally put out a worthy follow-up to that gem. While last month's Detrola doesn't come particularly close to the greatness that is MBM, it's still a great album in its own right. HNIA's several years of misfires and uninspired releases has left fans like me understandably cautious and skeptical.

The years after MBM did see some wonderful cassette-only releases (later put out on CD) on the band's Time Stereo label, but their big releases on the 4AD label always seemed to be over-reaching concept albums that put more importance on ideas and conceits than on the art itself. Never was this more apparent than when brains-behind-the-curtain Warren Defever turned the entirety of the singing duties over to girlfriend Lovetta Pippen. While technically well-presented and aesthetically lush, Defever's songwriting seemed to play too much to Pippen's distinctive, gospel-informed crooning. While this worked for many fans, many more felt the music's odd mix of styles delivered an air of abstract blandness. In this respect, the whole became decidedly less than the sum of its parts. And, really, it's not to Defever's detriment. HNIA had already become stagnant and a change of direction was probably a healthy endeavor. But the experiment like so many experiments, looked better on paper than in practice and after the disappointing reception of their last two albums, to all but die hard fans, HNIA seemed terminally out of gas.

Four years and a handful of obscure self-released ep's and collector's items later, His Name Is Alive resurface with their best major release since 1993. On Detrola Defever and the rotating cast of singers (all three of HNIA's past songstresses are well-represented here) capture much of the inspiration from their early days without becoming a paean or a throwback. It washes over us with the same breezy unselfconsciousness found on those homemade cassette releases of the early 90's and the same transporting and creepy, pop-song sculptures that made them heroes on Mouth By Mouth and Livonia. But never do the songs feel like a continuation or redo. Detrola very much exists in and on its own. It was a long journey, but His Name Is Alive is finally back.

Toolshed Media is hosting a slow-loading MP3 from the album. Check out: "Get Your Curse".

2) Lost has finally found its mojo this season. After spending much of the year mucking around in its more soap-opera-y sub-plots, it's begun to pick up steam and once again, leave us breathless at every commercial break waiting to see which one of us will compose themselves enough to stand up and holler, "Holy Shit!!!" Fun. Fun. There's been some hinting at the secrets behind the major plot-points lately and some sleuthing fans over at The Fuselage have hit on a few very legitimate leads. Namely, this and this. Yikes. My brain hurts and I'm kinda creeped out. New episode tonight. So grab a bottle of wine, turn out the lights and enjoy. (It's been on off day, what can I say?)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Alaska's Black Gold, Creeping Death

Uh-oh. Why, again, was it a bad idea to open the massive Alaskan wildlife preserve to oil interests? This may have somthing to do with it:

MSNBC is Reporting that there has been an oil spill near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. One industry watchdog says the spill could be the second largest in Alaska history.

(Via DailyKos)

Monday, March 06, 2006

From Apathy to Despair to Redemption

I missed last night's incendiary 60 Minutes report about the torture and death of two Afghan prisoners of the US Army. I didn’t even know anything about it till this morning. Instead, Sarah and I tuned in as the Hooray-for-Hollywood, back-slapping, big-time film awards were being handed out live on the TV. It was a decent affair, I suppose, though, I hadn’t been out to see any of the big titles up for a prize. Host Jon Stewart was smartly funny enough but somewhere between the handful of pathetic music numbers and the MPAA president’s scolding of the movie-loving public for preferring DVDs and home theaters to over-priced, cell-phone-beset, multi-plexes, my interest faded out. I eventually wound up catching the Dirty Jobs marathon over on the Discovery Channel.

I tracked down the 60 Minutes piece this morning. You can get the entire report on their website both in video and transcript. It’s about as nauseating as you’d expect. Scapegoating is so IN these days, it seems. And as this administration begins to tank, and more and more evidence surfaces about torture being a cross-agency policy (even an extra-agency policy as there’s been plenty of non-military contractors involved), we’re gonna be seeing plenty more finger pointing and “a few bad apples” speeches. Get ready.

The sickening, end-justifies-the-means, moral-ebola type thinking behind this “information gathering initiative” (aka: torture) has made us no better than our enemies. As a nation, we have become lost in the wilderness*. As our own fear eats us alive from the inside out, what dignity have we left? What claim to morality can this generation possibly make again? Where we were once the shining city on the hill, we’re now the crack house on the block; armed to the teeth and too tweaked to not be afraid of our own shadow, let alone anyone else’s. Indeed, in every way, we’ve become no better than those who wish us harm. And if that's the case, then just what are we fighting for?

Well, shit. Here I sit nearly catatonic. Nihl obstat everything. If only for a few moments. If only cuz that’s how I feel just right now.

And as that Nothing passes, I’m left thinking of the future, redemption, change. Too big to chew on right now. So, let’s take the easy way out. Let’s bring this whole post full circle.

In less than two weeks, the film V for Vendetta will be released. I’m a HUGE fan of the graphic novel. My brother gave it to me for my birthday about ten years ago. And I can’t thank him enough. The book resonated with me emotionally, spiritually, intellectually as it has with so many of its fans over the almost two decades since its first, serialized release. (See the reviews and promo items for a plot summary if you like.) By all accounts, the film treatment has done the book justice for the most part. The heavy political and philosophical implications and questions remain intact if a little more submerged than in its previous form. I find it encouraging and inspiring that politically subversive cinema can still reach a mass audience in this age of institutionalized capitulation to the powers that be.

There. Ending on an upbeat feels much better.

*Yea, yea, I'm well aware of the various Central American ops in the 80's. The election-rigging, the dictator-propping, the death squads. And before that, of course, there was Vietnam and before that Sen. McCarthy, and before that Manifest Destiny, and so on and so on. Nothing exsists in a vaccuum and there's nothing new under the sun. I know. But, like I said, it's just the way I feel right now.

Friday, March 03, 2006

P.S.A. - Roaming Hack

Roaming Hack
There is a little known secret about your cell phone contract that your wireless service provider doesn't want you to know. You can cancel whenever you want without paying a termination fee.

(Via Slickdeals.net & Digg.com)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Essential Viewing/Reading

The Katrina briefing tape is now all over the place . It of course comes as no surprise to many of us that Bush knew about the impending doom all along and that the governmental failure was of a far more complicit nature than they claimed. I guess the only question that remains is whether Bush's abject lack of leadership was due to his fetid indifference to something that wasn't part of the PNAC mission-plan, or whether it's just another example of his administration's ivory-tower theorizing turned to stone-cold turd matter upon hitting the ground in the real world.

In any event, it's another chance to see how every time the curtain does manage to get pulled back, and we're allowed a glimpse at the inner workings of the Bush regime, the first sight is always some example of their rank incompetence and cronyism. With that kind of insight, one really begins to understand the reasons behind their passion for secrecy. Now, if only an administration video would surface where someone desperately yelps, "We've got to protect our phony-baloney jobs, gentlemen," ala Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles. That might finally spell it out clear enough for the remainder of the deluded American public and those impeachment hearings various people keep mumbling about might actually gain some momentum.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Phone It In, Bry

Busy at work and still a little hung-over after after a late night with a giant bottle of sake and the task of making cd compilations for our impending Florida vacation (where we don't intend to leave the beach all too often). So this one's all via Cursor:

* News. Corp. puts money where mouth is, and Rep. Henry Waxman writes to Florida Governor Jeb Bush, that "e-mails from Mr. Brown ... provide the first confirmation of your involvement in the award of this contract and the first details of your contacts with Carnival and FEMA.''

* An all-you-can-drink Martinifest -- organized by Clear Channel Radio -- reportedly turned unruly at the Milwaukee Art Museum, as drunken guests "accosted artworks" and climbed onto a sculpture, "grabbing the boobs, and ... taking pictures with a cell phone," according to one witness.