Thursday, May 29, 2008

There's Possibly a God

Joining the long-line of "actresses" that trade in their (questionable) fame in one medium for an awkward atonal stab at music, Scarlett Johansson released an album of Tom Waits covers last week to charitably middling reviews.

I actually heard the single from it last week on the Current, and despite the fact that she recruited (read: paid enough money to) Bowie to sing some backing vocals, it could most kindly be described as completely boring and lacking of all musicianship. Well, to be fair, the arrangement was fairly interesting, but the "vocals" were just plain terrible.

As someone who fancies himself a bit of a singer (former college music major), it's really insulting when people think that just anyone who wants to can be a good singer. It actually takes work, you know. Just because you don't have to learn any fingerings or hold an instrument doesn't mean there's no talent involved. Good singers work hard for a really long time to become good singers. Hard work, practice, and some natural talent makes good singers. Sleeping with Woody Allen does not.

So I couldn't be happier that in it's first week of sales, the album has moved a middle-level college-act-worthy 5,000 units. To put this is perspective, when Kevin Federline released his terrible, terrible rap album, Playing With Fire, it sold over 6,000 copies in it's first week.

So my great enjoyment of this fact may be a bit of schaden freude, but I hope all future actresses turned singers take note that Mrs. Johansson's experiment failed to break the Federline-line and will stay the hell away from the microphone...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gov't Crackdown Continues

The City Pages reports that the Minneapolis PD and the FBI are "looking for an informant to show up at 'vegan potlucks' throughout the Twin Cities and rub shoulders with RNC protesters" in order to gain insider information and crackdown on protesters. In an interview with an un-named informant, Matt Snyders reports that the local cops and the feds are trying to infiltrate the anti-RNC movement.

Of the two officials named in the story, one was Erik Swanson, a local of the U of M PD and too-big-for-his-britches rep for the FBI's Joint Anti-Terror Task Force. Loyal readers may remember Mr. Swanson as the fella who questioned me in my undies a few years back. Turns out he really gets off on this kind of thing, apparently. But then again, who doesn't enjoy playing dress up and pretending to be a spy? I know I sure did. You know, before I turned 6 and grew up. But hey, not everyone matures at the same pace.

Without going on too much of a Dennis Miller-esque soapboxing rant here, I'd just like to point out that while people often like to laugh at the paranoid delusions of leftists who believe the government is spying on them and out to get them might want to take just a second to read the article. As the old saying goes, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

Oh, and if you're a little annoyed at this illegal violation of civil liberties, Sgt. Swanson's e-mail is, his office phone is 612-624-9560, and his his cell is 612-290-4688.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Don't You Hate Coming Home to Bad News?

Got home from a great time visiting the folks back in Iowa, and was welcomed by a pretty shitty development in local politics. Minneapolis, following Bloomington and likely preceding St. Paul, has recently passed incredibly restrictive measures for staging a public protest. Amongst the new additions to the law citizens must get permit more than 15 days prior to the event (thus eliminating the possibility of any emergency protests) and it gives the police the right to on-the-spot amend any of the provisions of the permit as well as revoke the permit at any time for any reason. Or in other words, to effectively eliminate the possibility of any protest ever taking place that the city of Minneapolis does not want to take place. You know, the government needing to approve all forms of political expression. When the Soviet Union did this, we called it "censorship" and and a "dictatorship," but I'm sure this is completely different.

While this is clearly in preparation for the upcoming Republican National Convention, these laws will be permanently on the books, crippling all forms of political resistance for the foreseeable future. Please take a moment to contact the Minneapolis City Council members and disagree with them, while it's still legal:

Don Samuels:
(612) 673-2205

Paul Ostrow: paul.ostrow@ci.minneapolis.
(612) 673-2201

Diane Hofstede: diane.hofstede@ci.minneapolis.
(612) 673-2203

Barbara Johnson: barbara.johnson@ ci.minneapolis.
(612) 673-2204

Cam Gordon:
(612) 673-2202

Gary Schiff:

Mayor RT Rybak

Thursday, May 15, 2008

And What's Named After You?

It was recently announced that a new rare breed of spider that has just been discovered will be named after Neil Young. Yes, the designation Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi will certainly fill all that shelf space he's been setting aside for Grammys and platinum records.

The same article linked to above also pointed a rather complete Wikipedia list of people with some form of animal or insect named after them. Not surprisingly, every member of the Beatles and the Stones have an insect named after them, but somewhat surprisingly so too do every member of the Ramones and the Pistols. Sadly, though, only two of the Traveling Wilburys have such an honor, thought I expect a big Jeff Lynne fan/scientist to get on that soon.

But even better than that? Four people are listed with a specific type of beetle named after them. They are, in order: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Adolf Hitler. Yep, not making that up.

Orson Welles also gets a major shout out, with four different insects named after him and famous roles of his.

I'm thinking all of this gives me a new goal. No longer do I yearn for out-moded forms of fame like wealth or popularity; no I'm looking for the day when some obscure Ph.D. in microbiology is studying the Legionella wozniaki.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Victory Against T.C. Military Recruiters

Those irascible kids with Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR) are at it again. Fresh off a victory limiting the access of military recruiters in area High Schools, they were featured in a Fox 9 investigation last night. The investigation uncovered (surprisingly) that military recruiters in the Twin Cities are actively and continually lying to children to get them into the army, including one recruiter who "accidentally" told a potential recruit the army would give you $450,000 to start your own small business after service when the number is actually a slightly less $40,000.

As a result, 4 recruiters in the Twin Cities area have been suspended. A good victory, but the fight is not over. However, we can learn a great deal from this. Foremost, of course, is the fact that desperate recruiters will do or say pretty much anything to get you to go die in an illegal and immoral war. But just as interesting is the way in which folks all over the country have proved it's not hard at all to catch them in these lies. So if you're a young person with a video camera or tape recorder and you're sick of military recruiters sending your friends off to die, why not take an afternoon off and do some under-cover investigation?

In the meantime, you can watch the full segment here

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

In Case You Haven't Seen It...

The great Bill O'Reilly video has been yanked from YouTube, but fortunately, folks are keeping it alive. Check it out here.

The video *(definitely not safe for work)* stars everyone's favorite loofah/falafel salesman during his Peabody (whoops, he meant to say "Polk"...same difference) award-winning days at Entertainment Tonight, that bastion of journalistic integrity.

I won't give too much of it away, but basically it just proves that it's not the spotlight that make O'Reilly a gigantic asshole, but rather that gigantic assholes like O'Reilly search out the safety of the spotlight from which to attack the weak and powerless; assholes, of course, alays being giant cowards.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The long downslide of the best children's writer ever

As The Onion recently pointed out, the holder's of Dr. Seuss' estate are doing a terrible job taking care of his work. I don't need to go on a long rant to point out the obvious problem in continually licensing the works of a man who tried to use simple, old fashioned creativity to teach children about the hollowness of conformity and materialism for giant paychecks, terrible and poorly adapted big-budget movies, and bloated promotional schemes.

Recently, they even cracked down the Lake Elsinore Storm, a minor league baseball team trying to hold a Dr. Seuss night with green-egg-and-ham themed concessions and players wearing red and white stripped socks. In short, a classic minor league ballpark promotion. But the (dare I say it?) Grinches of the Seuss estate shut it down after demanding a $1,000 licensing fee and $4,000 security deposits for officially licensed character costumes, a price pretty much out of reach for a Single A baseball team. After all, the reason they pull these crazy stunts is to generate a sliver of revenue in the first place.

But the bright side is this resulted in the most (and probably only) clever press release in the history of press releases, penned by Matt Dompe, the Storm's director of game operations, and assistant GM Alan Benevides. The press release, in full:

The Padres affiliate, the Lake Elsinore Storm
Tried to put on a promotion that wasn't the Norm
We called it Dr. Seuss Night on our website
But something about that didn't seem right

Dr. Seuss Enterprises didn't see it as funny
They said we could do it but we didn't have the money
They didn't appreciate our publicity ploys
So we have to inform all the sad girls and boys

Through the face of it all we thought we'd persist
Until we were served with a cease and desist
The theme has been cancelled but the game will go on
Perhaps it wouldn't matter if we were in Taiwan

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Sad Day, Indeed

Sue Johanson, the woman Conan O'Brian once referred to as "the MacGuyver of sex toys," is hanging it up this weekend. Johanson's show "Talk Sex" was deliciously surreal, as the septuagenarian delivered straight-faced information on sex toys and sexually transmitted infections, as well as general sex advice.

The show was a favorite of the kids when I was in college. Not really sure why, seeing as it was like being lectured about sex by your kindly grandmother, but then again, maybe that was the appeal...I suppose there's a whole thesis in there about the secret longings of outwardly cynical youth for a kind and comforting guidance through their collegiate sexual experimentation. Or maybe it was just because it was really funny. Either way, it's sad to see her go.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Racial Disparities Persist in Drug Arrests

Human Rights Watch released a new report on the War on Drugs today, and surprisingly, African Americans are still more likely to be arrested on drug charges than their white counterparts, and far, far more likely to be sent to prison.

But you know, they should still be thankful for all we do for them...

Update: Turns out white kids do drugs, too. But note that they only get investigated after a high-profile death on a college campus. It will be interesting to see what kinds of punishments are dealt in this case.

Monday, May 05, 2008

And Abe Lincoln, a White Man, Set Them Free

Many years ago Mr. Show had a sketch in which they were desperately trying to get hate mail. So they were making really offensive racial comments and singing songs about them in order to get that much-needed hate mail. The point of the sketch was to think of the most horribly offensive things they could say and to run with them. So it opened with them having a discussion about the horrors of African slavery, which segued into the fact that Abe Lincoln was responsible for the emancipation of African slaves in America, to which they added "So to our African American friends, we're welcome!"

Now, in this context, it was obvious they didn't actually believe that, and indeed found it greatly offensive to suggest such things. The whole point was that comments like that are so offensive they would guarantee them (rightly) getting hate mail.

But now Pat Buchanan has said the exact same thing, except he's serious. Instead of a joking ploy to get hate mail, he just actually believes that African Americans should be thankful for all that white people have done for them, save possibly that awkward 400-year period where we were kind of still feeling out how our relationship was going to work.

In fact, he doesn't just say that they should be grateful, he says that "no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans." You know, except for the 4 centuries of slavery, the century of legally-enforced apartheid, and the continuing racial disparities in all major health, education, income, wealth, and well-being measures. Other than that, yeah, white people have been pretty good to blacks.

You know, it's getting really hard to make good ironic sarcasm these days when conservatives are literally repeating old comedy sketches about the most offensive statements possible as if they were intelligent insights...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Another Reason to Hate the News

10 days ago, the New York Times reported a large (and illegal) program of Pentagon-backed pro-military commentators that were pushed onto news shows to deliver government propaganda. What's that you say? You haven't heard of this? Maybe it's because not a single major news network has covered it. Apparently an illegal program of government propaganda designed to push us into an illegal war that has killed over 1,000,000 people is just not that interesting.

But you know what is interesting? When Hillary recently challenged Barak to a "Lincoln-Douglas" style debate, this is the photo Fox news used:

Remember, Douglas is the pro-slavery one...