Saturday, December 30, 2006

Last minute grammar/language police

Spot the error:

That Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco will win and win big in the playoffs and finally shut us all up. Oh and that we in the media finally recognize that Doug Armstrong is a far better general manager having never played a game in then NHL then anyone who played but can't manage in today's business environment.

It's in the final sentence, the "then" should be a "than." This is one of my ultimate pet-peeve mistakes, and it was commmitted by my favorite hockey writer:'s (and former Buffalo News scribe) Jim Kelley. Or perhaps by the copy editor who looked at his column.

Dammit, I just found this one:

The Florida Panthers hereby resolve to stop being run like a Dick Chaney hunting party and make credibility, not chaos, their No.1 target. Oh and to free Oli Jokinen from the coaching shackles of Jacques Martin. Finding a way to explain why the four-to-eight week rehab for Todd Bertuzzi is in Week 13 is also on the agenda. Oh and an assistant GM will be onboard before season's end as well (Anybody in Florida got Mike Murphy's phone number?) We could go on, but then even the Internet isn't boundless.

Kill me now and believe me later:

That the St. Louis Blues will be patient not just with the team they have to deconstruct but with the fact that John Davidson knows more about media then he does about team building and that given time both will get to where they need to be.


Happy Almost New Year!

Friday, December 29, 2006

First resolution of 2007

This is the year I delve into the past musically ... Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, The Who, Bob Dylan, Motown's Girl Groups. NONE of those artists are in my CD collection, which numbers more than 400. That's a total travesty.

Btw, there are now two medical products I'd shill for ... Claritin and Icy HOT--this shit rules for lower back pain, though you do smell after application.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rain rain rain

I usually love the rain, especially since I live in a desert. And perhaps one of my all-time favorite sounds is rain on a rooftop. But I hate it tonight, because I want to skate tomorrow morning. Dammit.

Musical bio or How to talk to teens

Occasionally I'm asked how I relate to students or connect with them. I've honestly never really viewed that as a challenge of my job as an editor at a teen newspaper. I've always felt like the editing is the hard part and the layout. The teens ... they're a blast. But if I had to provide a hint it would be to be true to yourself. Teens are smart and they can tell when you're bullshitting them. I usually share with them my thoughts about music.

I created this playlist for a student with the goal of giving her insights into my musical tastes (ergo me) from high school, college and now. I also wanted to introduce her to some great music she might not have heard of. Since she has have struck me as someone with great instincts musically (based on our brief discussions) I wanted to help shape those. Some pithy comments follow the tracks.

Portions For Foxes -- Rilo Kiley -- This is my new fave band. They're the band that makes me feel about music the way I did in high school.

Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken -- Camera Obscura -- One of my fave songs from 06. A great little band from Scotland, where they make such fab music.

High And Dry -- Radiohead
Fake Plastic Trees -- Radiohead -- back to back, these are the saddest songs ever. I'm usually about 1/3 chance of crying while listening to this album (The Bends)

Feed The Tree -- Belly -- a high school pick.

Drawn To The Rhythm -- Sarah McLachlan -- a high school pick. I was really into female artists in HS and Sarah was the first.

The Bleeding Heart Show -- The New Pornographers -- at 2:42 this song kicks into the greatest overdrive.

Born Of Frustration -- James -- a high school pick.

Reason Why -- Rachael Yamagata -- another artist I discovered really only b/c I live in Los Angeles now. I've seen her live 2.5 times. Once was a free show at Amoeba. I count those as half shows. She's amazing and really funny, too.

Poison Oak -- Bright Eyes -- From my fave album of 2005 (I'm Wide Awake It's Morning).

Heart and Soul -- T'Pau -- a song from my childhood. The band's name is a character from the original Star Trek series. It's fun 80 music.

Ageless Beauty -- Stars -- From my second fave album of 2005 (Set Yourself on Fire). Pretty great year that spawns two desert island CDs.

The Skin Of My Yellow Country Teeth -- Clap Your Hands Say Yeah -- they kind of break a lot of rules, the first of which being clear vocals that sound tonal. But wow are they energetic.

Birthday -- Sugarcubes -- HS mike. This is Bjork before she got really weird.

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic -- The Police -- My college marching band did a version of this song. Not nearly as good, though.

Pull Shapes -- Pipettes -- could a song BE any more fun? The English are quite fab at this music thing, eh?

Nightswimming -- Coldplay with Michael Stipe -- as Chris Martin of Coldplay says: the most beautiful song ever. Seeing REM perform this live (finally) at the Hollywood Bowl (not this version sadly) is one of the highlights of my concert experiences.

I Am Trying To Break Your Heart -- Wilco -- Amazing band. A band that seems to appeal to smart people/music snobs. Yeah, I'm a music snob. But I'm not saying anything about my intelligence.

Human -- The Pretenders -- theme song to my favorite prematurely canceled series, Cupid.

Across the Universe -- Fiona Apple -- Beatles re-imagined. It's never a bad time for them, right?

Pure -- The Lightning Seeds -- HS Mike.

From A Million Miles -- Single Gun Theory -- HS Mike. Heard this song on the radio once fell in love with it. This is how a pop band should incorporate world music sounds into their compositions. This is an obscure, now defunct, band from Australia. Even some people at Amoeba have never heard of them.

Under Pressure -- Queen and David Bowie -- Believe it or not, I have a friend who likes Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby, which samples this, more than this song. I am thinking of de-friending him.

Walkie Talkie Man -- Steriogram -- iPod commercial got me into this song.

Why Can't I Be You? -- The Cure -- junior high mike. I was a metalhead, thankfully I found The Cure.

No Man's Woman -- Sinead O'Connor -- This song appears in the Alias pilot. There's never been a better marriage between song and show, and I'm not even a Sinead fan.

I'm Gonna Soothe You -- Maria McKee -- Very underrated, rootsy and bluesy. This is a good rain song for me.

You Ought To Know -- The University of Arizona Marching and Pep Bands -- you said you like Alanis, so I thought I'd actually give you some of my college pep band. I am on this song, btw.

Least Complicated -- Indigo Girls -- the title says it all.

The Boy With The Arab Strap -- Belle & Sebastian -- the live perf of this at the Hollywood Bowl this summer was one of the concert highlights of my life, too. After seeimg them live, I bought three of their CDs on amazon.

A Million Tears -- Kasey Chambers -- one of the saddest songs ever. she's aussie. they also make great music.

Chicago -- Sufjan Stevens -- This album (Come of Feel the Illinoise) was rated Pitchfork's No. 1 album of 05. It's awesome. Btw, his name is pronounced (SOOF-yan). This is another artist who grants you immediate access into the music snob club. I mean that in a good way, as a card-carrying member. :)

Bad -- U2 -- there's no more emotional vocal than Bono singing this song about heroin addiction—not his own.

Red Dirt Girl -- Emmylou Harris -- This is COUNTRY music, not that stuff they played on the now-extinct KZLA.

Carbon Monoxide -- Regina Spektor -- She's Russian. The first time I saw her she was meek almost on stage and blown away seemingly that she had fans and that they knew her music. The third time I saw her she was encouraging singing along.

Political -- Spirit Of The West -- A band from Vancouver whose sound continues to evolve. They're awesome and I love this love song.

Wheat Kings -- The Tragically Hip -- Another Canadian band, this one from Toronto. Growing up near the Canadian border I was really lucky to be exposed to some amazinng stuff from up north.

Someone to Watch Over Me -- Ella Fitzgerald -- It's Ella. She's the best.

Hallelujah -- Brandi Carlile -- show stopper. Not just this perf either. She's unbelieveable live.

Sometimes Always -- The Jesus & Mary Chain -- HS mike song. The Cure rescued me from my metal head days and led me to music like this.

Just A Ride -- Jem -- Thank you KCRW!

If You Knew (Live) -- Jeff Buckley -- Check out our Jeff Buckley review on

From the Morning -- Nick Drake -- He died way too soon. We've also got an amazing review of him on, too.

Another For The Darkness -- Gemma Hayes -- She's Irish. Very beauitful voice and also very beautiful. Entertainment Weekly turned me on to her.

Daydream Believer -- The Monkees -- Some of my parents' music is awesome.

Mornings Eleven -- The Magic Numbers -- there are two brothers and sisters. Pretty cool, eh? Btw, they did a live version of Crazy in Love that knocked me out.

It's a Shame About Ray -- The Lemonheads -- HS Mike.

Here's Where The Story Ends -- The Sundays -- HS Mike, title is obvious, eh? Btw, this is one of the first altrock bands I liked. I was ahead of even the most trendy people at my school when it came to The Sundays. Sadly, they released only three albums.

Irony alert: I didn't include my favorite song on the list ... (so here's a lyric)

"They say California is a recipe for a black hole
I say I've got my best shoes on ...
ready to go ..."
--Rilo Kiley "Pictures of Success"

Monday, December 25, 2006

Pa rum pa pum pum

Though I did not watch It's a Wonderful Life this year, let it not be said that the spirit was not in me.


Friday, December 22, 2006

The Internet + YouTube has given me the greatest Xmas gift in the history of history

I've been to 67 concerts in my life, including the biggest names like U2, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, The Who, R.E.M., Coldplay, Radiohead; and at the coolest venues like The Troubadour and The Hollywood Bowl and the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall; and been really up close in tiny clubs to people like Nellie McKay, Rachael Yamagata and Amy Millan. And I even got to see Debbie join Rilo Kiley for Lost in Your Eyes, which is my single fave concert moment ever (fave band + first real musician crush = bliss). But I still wish I could have seen this one.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

If you hate tall things or just want to laugh

I've been way remiss in not passing along this highly amusing trailer for next summer's indie darling blockbuster. This guy (my good friend El D) is going places.

Why heroworship is unfulfilling + some wicked great writing

One of the best albums of the past few years is easily Arcade Fire's Funeral. The Montreal outfit's emotionally probing lyrics, multi-layered arrangements and five-alarm live show has jolted the rock scene with a vigor and urgency. And listen to them give interviews and they seem like class lads and lasses.

But then there's this instance of mis-speaking (er, writing) from the Arcade Fire Web site, as posted by lead singer Win ...

Hello everyone…
Our record is done and mastered!
It’s called Neon Bible
We have probably worked harder in the last 3 months then ( THIS SHOULD BE "THAN") in the rest of our lives combined, but we are all really proud of the results.

I can’t wait for you to hear it…
Intervention will be available for download sometime soon, with the profits going to Partners in Health’s inspiring mission to bring free health care to the people of Haiti.

merry Christmas



Dammit. I am still going to devour the Neon Bible and love it, but ...

Now for something completely different ...

I think talent might be the most attractive thing in another human being. I don't just mean attractive in the "Can I buy you drink/Been here long?" kinda way, but as in I prefer being the company of talented/intelligent people. And as a former newspaper reporter, dedicated reader of and writing teacher of students, I swoon for great writers. Recent discoveries of Molly Knight's blog and Whitney Pastorek's "Chart Flashback" column on make me realize that perhaps there is somone out there with good music taste and super snarky (who might even like sports in the case of Molly). Btw, I think I already found this person in Kirsten Dunst, but more on that in a future entry.

In the meantime, a sample of the amazing writing talents of Whitney Pastorek ...

4. ''Oh No,'' Commodores
I've listened to this song four times in a row now, and I never want it to end. This song is absolutely gorgeous. Those strings! That piano line! Lionel's voice, for once not dripping with cheese or all up in my face about how I have to dance right now! I wish I hadn't been 6 years old when it came out so that my superhot-and-sorta-dangerous boyfriend and I could have slow-danced to it in a 7-11 parking lot as it played over the radio in his truck. I wish it could have been the last song at my junior prom. I wish I were in danger of ever getting married, because then I could dance to it in a big floofy white dress. Alas, none of these things will ever come true. And thus, I must just sit here in my office, staring at the picture of George Clooney tacked to my wall, and cry some silent tears. Oh... no. That refrain, in all its harmonious glory, makes me melt. A

To read this whole column click here.

Marching band + Theoretical physics = ????

The nerdiest thing in the history of history right?

Click here to read about and watch the UC Berkeley marching re-enacting the Big Bang as conducted by UC Berkeley astrophysicist George Smoot. This clip was shown at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Just when I think I'm, something pulls me back out -- ALSO, BEST SONGS OF 2006

Today, I swear to God I was going to blog blog blog about why Kirsten Dunst should perhaps be my wife, the worst concert fans ever, the worst airplane seat mates ever, being really old and way too old to use "party" as a verb, but then our Web site went to the string (theoretical physics reference) of hell. I spent most of my Monday (beginning around midnight) communicating with our hosts about how they fucked us.

So instead of reading and blogging, I was watching my computer waiting for it to boil. I didn't do laundry, didn't grocery shop (maybe i'll lose a few pounds this week), but did manage to see my favoritest Michiganer in the universe, buy her dinner and take her to the airport. Wow, she's got a nice life, eh? Joke, joke, joke. If any of you actually visit me in Los Angeles, I can promise similar treatment.

OK, gotta get some sleep and stuff for the battle begins again tomorrow. If I win perhaps I get to see Apocalypto or maybe I'll just start my Netflix membership.

Btw, check this out:

Arcade Fire-"Intervention"

It's guaranteed to blow your mind. If it wasn't officially going to be out next Feb. it would have likely made best of 2006. OK, it wouldn't have but only because I already did it and oh yeah, here that is:

1. Sukie In The Graveyard Belle and Sebastian The Life Pursuit
2. Headsfull Amy Millan Honey From The Tombs
3. Falling Slowly Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova The Swell Season
4. An Old Familiar Scene Elf Power Back to the Web
5. I Was Watching You Rosanne Cash Black Cadillac
6. Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken Camera Obscura Let's Get Out Of This Country
7. Pull Shapes Pipettes We Are The Pipettes -- I defy anyone to find a more fun song than this
8. Gold Lion Yeah Yeah Yeahs Show Your Bones
9. I'm Not The Only One Asking Mindy Smith Long Island Shores
10. Dream Priscilla Ahn E.P. -- someone sign her now
11. When Jack Killed Mom Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins Live at the 9:30 Club 10.15.06 -- this is my favorite song of the year and ironically not from my fave album of the year, which was her album Rabbit Fur Coat
12. The Greatest Cat Power The Greatest
13. Summer In The City Regina Spektor Begin To Hope
14. Gray Room Damien Rice 9
15. To Go Home M. Ward Post-War -- Neko Case appears on this song and ergo this list
16. Not Ready To Make Nice Dixie Chicks Taking The Long Way
17. All The Way Down The Cake Sale The Cake Sale
18. Little Lover's So Polite Silversun Pickups Carnavas
19. Sister Jennifer O'Connor Over The Mountain, Across The Valley And Back To The Stars
20. Snakes on a Plane (Bring It) Cobra Starship, The Academy Is..., Gym Class Heroes, The Sounds, and The All-American Rejects Snakes on a Plane Soundtrack

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I love the Internet and my last name

Back when I wanted to be a rockstar (8th grade) I had definite plans to change my name. How many metal guitarists had such an "ethnic" sounding last name? My name of choice was going to be Vandezorn. A "V" and a "z," now that's metal. Well, many years later I don't even know how to play guitar, so I'm obviously not in a band. And also in the interim I've grown to appreciate my Sicilian last name. I rooted for the "Fricano" who ran for office in New York State and am always amused when I find another.

So here's the latest find ...

Fricano's Pizza in Western Michigan. They will deliver a frozen pie. I think I have to try this.

Season's greetings!

Friday, December 15, 2006

He buys, he scores!

Went to the Los Angeles Kings-San Jose Sharks game Tuesday night at Staples Center. As Scott and I finished our free Domino's we walked by a souvenir stand. Scott took a quick peek at the lapel pins to see if any were worth adding to his collection. They had some decent ones but he passed. While he was assessing those I noticed the collection of team pucks and immediately looked for the Sabres, in part to note whether the new logo would still piss me off.

After a couple seconds, no Sabres. Huh? We're only the best team in the Eastern Conference and arguably best team in the league? And since this is L.A. I knew they weren't sold out of them. But then at the top (where they belong) I did find the Sabres ... it's just that it was the old logo. YAY!!

"Excuse me," I said to the sales associate. "Is that the Sabres puck that you're selling?"


"How much?"


(giddyness. It has become my mission to collect memorabilia with the non Barney Rubble-hairpiece logo.)

He crouches down to grab the puck from the case behind him. He hesitates when he opens the Rubbermaid-type container. I'm nervous, because I know that his stash has the new pucks. I wonder whether the display case puck will be for sale.

"We have different ones," he says as he turns and rises.

"Well, I want that one," I reply as I point to the one in the case. I can't imagine why it would be a problem, but still ...

"Sure thing. Same price."


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Still got some 716 in me

That's the URL for a site about Buffalo architecture, check it out. The site's kind of amateurish but the content is kickass.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mike, you're barely alive ...

Too many concerts this week mean late nights and no energy to blog. Coming up (i hope), worst concert goers, worst part of flying, needy fock fans, too old for tequila shots, how close is too close at a concert, is Kirsten Dunst the girl for me?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Shoot me now

I just spent part of my work day reading career advice for Britney Spears. I apologize a thousand times over to my students.

I suck.

I confessed to my best friend ever that I had done this and asked her to shoot. She told me: "I don't know. but I'm sure it caused you pain. It was kind of funny."

Horrifyingly, I agreed it was kinda funny. The admission of that has made me feel even worse. I could so do this for the rest of my life.

Ho-Ho-HoOH MY GOD you pissed on me

From Reuters news service:

A third of all Santas reported having been wet on by a child, the survey said.

Merry fucking Christmas!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fell in like with a blogger

It's been a LONGASSMOTHERFUCKING time because I was back at the parental unit's domestic shelter giving thanks that my country's government was based on exploiting and wiping out with disease, the native people's of this landmass. Or in an entirely less pretentious not-trying-too-hard-way I don't blog in Buffalo.

To the point (not too buried) ... I found a blog that I think I am going to dig on. It's music and sports and randomness, which sounds very much like another person I know (me). It doesn't seem near as political as mine, which is cool, because politics usually makes me hate other people. So here she is ... MollyKnight. She's way cooler than me, btw, she writes for espn the magazine, has met Jenny Lewis and Rilo Kiley (and talked to Jenny about her duet with Debbie Gibson, which is how I even stumbled across this blog), and she has her own domainname to host her blog (and a cooler mod'ed template).

Real entries coming again this week ...


P.S. Joanna Newsom later today (technically)!!! yayness!

P.P.S. I am literally not warm right now. I live in Los Angeles. I am going to be skating along Venice Beach on Dec. 25 wearing shorts and a t-shirt. this is me NOT fucking complaining. I am loving using the F-word lately.

Monday, November 27, 2006

"I was fired for singing too much ..."

Sorry, that subject line is from a line in the episode of NewsRadio that I'm watching.

Everyone in Red Sox Nation needs to pray to whatever god they believe in that the Orioles step up and sign JD Drew. This will be the best "loss" in the history of history.

Ohm ...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The end of civilization? Like seriously ...

O.J. Simpson, criminally acquitted accused double murderer (subsequently found liable for wrongful death of his former wife and her friend) has just published a book called ... "If I did it," in which (according to published reports) he describes how he would have committed the crimes, if he had in fact done them.

This might be the most despicable thing I've seen or heard of in many years. As much as I oppose the war in Iraq and have skewered the President for lying to lead us into war, I believe deep down that there was a moral calculus behind his decision, one based on an idealism and him stubbornly refusing to acknowledge facts that didn't mesh with his moral certainty. This book though just makes me sick and angry that justice and ethics seem like such vanishing concepts.

Shame on O.J., and the publisher. Part of having virtually unlimited freedom of the press is demonstrating taste and honor in not always using it. Nevertheless, I'll defend ReganBooks' right to publish it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hot stove

If the Red Sox sign J.D. Drew I am going to puke and may have to become a Pirates fan. This guy is Chris Gratton—übertalented, heartless, underachieving, soft piece of crap. We need a bat, especially if Manny goes away, but puhlease, bringing in clubhouse infections that aren't just lockerroom floor crabs ... that's beyond the beyond.

Too much sports

Friday night: Sabres win in overtime against the Florida Panthers, a game in which they had to come from behind yet again.

Saturday afternoon: Arizona shocks the college football nation and defeats #8-ranked California 24-20. A second consecutive homecoming win. A second-consecutive win over a ranked opponent. Hope restored.

Saturday night: The Sabres dispatch the hated Philadelphia Flyers, 5-4 in OT (again). And again, they had to come back from a defiict in the third period. Edge maintained over Rich and the 215.

Sunday afternoon: The Buffalo Bills hang with the undefeated Indianapolis Colts, but fold in the end when the usually relaible Rian Lindell kacks on a 41-yard field goal. DAMMIT.

Sunday night: Arizona kicks off its basketball season, with a loss (93-90) to UVa, opening its new state-of-the-art arena.

And there's yet another Sabres game Monday night. Another game in Carolina against the defending Cup champs, who shuttled off our 2005-06 playoff coil in seven games. I hate them.

This entry doesn't have much point, per se, other than to provide evidence for my emotional fatigue.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


12:37 a.m., Nov. 8. A few days ago the widely held belief was that Harold Ford Jr. would not win his Senate race in Tennessee, thereby keeping the post-Reconstruction South without an African-American senator dating back to the Civil War-ish Era. Yay, America's celebration of diversity. But I digress. When the newspapers and Web sites started reporting this I figured the Dems could take the House, but that the Senate was probably out of reach. With Ford needing a miracle, that meant the Dems had to take Montana, Missouri and Virginia, three states that are certainly not Dem. strongholds and that had contested seats held by Republican incumbents.

Well, Tuesday night my pessimism was proved premature. Claire McCaskill has seemingly won Missouri. Jim Webb is in the lead heading into the recount in Virginia. This race is extremely close (fewer than 7,000ish votes), but I'd rather be in the lead before the recount starts than coming up from behind. And in that liberal petri dish of Montana, Jon Tester is leading Republican incumbent Conrad Burns. However, is reporting that there's already a recount underway in Yellowstone County in Montana so results won't be available until 5 a.m. PST. Again, I'd rather be in front going into the recount than looking at the other candidate's ass.

Overall, I'd say that Americans have spoken, as they did in 1994, that they can see when absolute power corrupts absolutely. That they know when a war isn't being won. That they want government officials to also be leaders and the definition of leadership includes honesty and honor. That the Constitution still matters, a heluva lot more than a flag or a fire.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Revolution 2006! Pt. II

9:59 p.m. First local update. Prop. 85, which would have required doctors to inform parents if female minors wanted an abortion, is losing right now 52 to 48 percent, with 26 percent reporting. It's a small lead at this point, but given Cali's liberal leanings, I'm feeling good. I'm also drunk with the Dems Vaderlike win in the House elections.

Senate looks dicey at best, James Carville spin aside.

Congrats to Nancy Pelosi, future House Speaker, and Kirsten Gillibrand, who unseated John Sweeney in the Saratoga region of New York State. And go Rahm Emanuel, who kicked as leader of the DCCC.

Now the guy we really need to make it happen is Jerry McNerney, whose got an early lead against Richard Pombo, the guy who hates the Earth.

Revolution 2006! Pt. I

8:19 p.m. Most perfect election night movie. Brit Hume of Fox News Channel just called the Democrats as taking over the House by winning the seat vacated by disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Fox News announcing that their party is out in the House. AWESOME.

The Senate isn't gone, but hopes are slim.

Revolution 2006? Pt. IV

7:22 p.m. The Dems appear well on their way to taking the House. But not in nearly as convincing a fashion as Newt Gingrich in 1994. He was a rockstar back then (until Connie Chung sandbagged his mom on national TV), and no House Dem appears ready to assume that mantle--at least not yet. According to the Los Angeles Times momentumometer, the GOP has lost 28 seats. That's almost double the 15 the Dems had to gain to win.

In the Senate, alas it appears a dark road. Tennessee, gone. Virginia appears gone, if by the slightest of sure-to-be-challenged-(and-probably-unsuccessfully) of margins. Missouri's Claire McCaskill doesn't appear to have enough human-loving, Rush Limbaugh-haters in her state to win (unless St. Louis ballots are among the unreported). Montana, won't matter if those others go down. Maryland, looks back in the fold, but again the whole not mattering thing.

Revolution 2006? Pt. III

6:26 p.m. According to the Los Angeles Times momentum tracker the Dems stand to gain 23 seats in the House and two in the Senate. That's enough for one half of our bicameral legislature, but not the other. Nevertheless, I am feeling good about the trendlines in the House races.

The biggest snag I see thus far, according to, is in the Senate with the race between Virginia Republican incumbent George Allen narrowly (50-49) leading Jim Webb. As cool as it would be to win control of the House (more teeth for Henry Waxman and a female speaker of the House most likely), I find myself really wanting the Senate. Having the more dignified upper house would seem to be more of a mandate that independent and centrist voters are sick and tired of the current regime's infuckingcompetence.

The gorilla of democracy is on the hunt for the bamboo of vulnerable Republican incumbents ...

Revolution 2006? Pt. II

5:29 p.m. The Los Angeles Times already has a gauge up on its homepage. Trendlines are preliminarily positive for defenders of liberty. Um wait, everyone thinks that they do that. Dems looking pretty good so far with a net gain of 10 in the House and two in the Senate. I am wanting to celebrate but busy at work and also gunshy about prematurity ...

I confess that this is the one night a year I miss not being at a daily newspaper. Election night is fun. There's shitty catered food, everyone, including glass-office editors, works that night. And you're part of a crowd of news junkies who know the substance and lack thereof, behind the petty complaints, the hope and expediencey veiled by the cliché-filled victory speeches and the bitterness underneath the empty concessions.

Think blue ...

Revolution 2006?

4:16 p.m. Still at work of course, but already dug around for my first peek at leaked exit poll results. I don't even want to type anything given how early it is. There's not enough salt in the ocean to compensate, not after 2000 and 2004 (Kerry was in a comfortable lead based on early polls).

In addition to the battle to retake the House and Senate, I am urgently waiting to see whether South Dakotans will savagely curtail personal liberties and ban virtually all abortions in their state and whether we in California will face a more incremental, though very significant, step toward eroding Roe v. Wade protections with Prop. 85, which would require doctors to inform parents when minors wanted abortions.

Thx to the wonders of tech, I'll be finding out via text message about South Dakota. Planned Parenthood had a system that allowed you to sign up for results to your cell. Nice. I hope.

Fingers remain crossed.

Monday, November 06, 2006

California moment

What do a Tony Robbins informercial and Seinfeld have in common?

They each use Venice Beach as a setting. I, too, use VB as a setting. Almost every Sunday I inline skate along the bikepath from Venice Beach north through Santa Monica. It's a world-famous route that has appeared in countless movies, music videos and television shows.

Well, I forgot it also appeared here ...

Btw, I'm embarrassed to say that after I clicked that link I watched more than half before looking away.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Who am I? A fan of The Who (finally)

Seeing The Who—a band that did its best work before I was born—Saturday night made me want to invent a time machine, so I could have been alive when they owned the airwaves.

Going into the show at the Hollywood Bowl, I wasn't a fan, per se, of the legendary band (as I am say Rilo Kiley) but I know my pop music history well enough to respect and be thankful for the contributions Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon and John Entwistle made to the music I adore now. As we walked out I wondered what happened to music in the last 25 years that distilled out the fierce, rebellious anthems of rock n roll.

Dave and I entered to the overloud, bad 80s metal jams of some band we never learned the name of, only sad b/c I want to hate them in the future and it's hard to hate a nameless band as it is to hold a ghost. Thankfully the band's set consisted of seemingly two really long instrumental jams so they weren't on stage that long.

As the anonymous openers left the stage, the middle-aged, almost 100 percent white audience filed into their seats at the Bowl. As a 31-year-old this is the first concert I've attended since moving to Los Angeles four years ago in which I was in the lowest 25 percent agewise. It was also the whitest environment I've been since moving here, too. And I've spent time in Ventura County! A woman in front and to the left of us, who clearly could have been my mother's slightly younger sister, was telling the people behind her that she was planning to stand. (warning signs going off in my head, and they would be justified.)

By 8:30 The Who takes the stage. WOW!! Roger comes out in blue jeans, black t-shirt and khaki colored button down (unbottoned). His hair is close-cropped befitting a 50+ year old rocker. Right away the audience is delirious. Songs like Won't Get Fooled Again, Who Are You? (The CSI theme song to those who need the assist) have the crowd members reliving their youth (and the kids in the audience perhaps getting a glance at whom their parents were many years ago).

For those who don't like singalong crowds, this would not have been your show. I am usually OK with it, provided no one is belting lyrics at the top of his/her lungs and they can at least reasonably not suck vocally. In our case, the proximal crowd satisfied these conditions. The only thing the crowd couldn't do worth shit was clap with any semblance of fucking rhythm. As you can tell, this IS a huge pet peeve of mine. The worst offender was in fact the woman in front and to the left of us. If you could divide the beat into irrational numbers, she would have found a way to clap on them.

But beyond the minimal requirements of acceptable singalongs, I actually enjoyed the crowd members' voices. There was such joy in their singing. Perhaps they remembered when they stood up to the man; believed that being young and liberal was the only way to believe; re-tasted the optimism of their youth? I don't know, but I didn't want to allow my cynicism anywhere near this concert. Also, they mostly stayed out of the way during See Me, Feel Me. Ruining a quiet song like that would have forced me to kill someone.

So after like a half-dozen or so anthemic oldies to charge up the crowd, it was time to indulge the "reason" for this tour—the new album, Endless Wire. Bad idea. They played the five-song mini-Opera (Pete still hasn't outgrown those). We were bored. Even their most diehard fans took this opp to hit the head or concessions. The worst part was that each song literally got worse. Luckily, since these songs were a five-song series the entire thang took just like 18 minutes. And we were soon able to resume the causing-people-to-enter-the-juvenation-machine phase of the concert.

In the next batch of classics we got My Generation, Behind Blue Eyes and finally, Baba O'Reilly (teenage wasteland). Btw, you haven't even approached irony until you've watched two guys in their late 50s (or early 60s) singing the words "Teenage Wasteland" to an audience of about 16,000 people all basically their age, who is singing along. Despite my observation of the ironic, and Daltrey's straning on the vocals it was also a supercool moment. It was also the moment that sparked envy.

A song like Baby O'Reilly: " Out here in the fields/ I fight for my meals/ I get my back into my living/ I don't need to fight/ To prove I'm right/ I don't need to be forgiven ..." has such an rebelliousness and anthemic melody that I was just swept. Why can't music today do that? U2 certainly creates anthems of hope, but the revolutionary edge was lost by the boys from Ireland years ago. And I'm not sure they ever had it to the degree that Pete, Roger, Keith and John did.

[btw, I'm doing the band and everyone a favor and not reviewing Mirror Door or Mike Post Theme. The one new song I didn't mind was Man in a Purple Dress until ... ]

After a solid, energy-filled 90 minutes the show was finished. Btw, Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura, take a lesson from Mick and Roger about stage presence. As we waited for the encore, we tried to figure out which major songs had we not yet heard. I predicted "I Can See for Miles" and Dave predicted "Pinball Wizard," which we both realized we should have guessed first.

Well they came out with Pinball Wizard, which absolutely smoked for the almost the entire 10-minute version. Along with several other songs, they vamped and jammed a little tooo long here. But oh well, Pete can still light his guitar on fire so no complaints. Talent is sooooo admirable/seductive (to listen to).

They closed with Tea&Theatre, a new song, that was actually quite brilliant. It was just Roger and Pete, playing acoustic guitar. A spare coda about remember, regret, loss, achievement and revelry to the musical revolution they made.

Altercate the man

Those of you not using Firefox as your browser get on board. It rules. Way more secure than Internet Explorer. There's tabbed browsing, which I think they developed like five years ago, and which IE is finally implementing in 2006 with IE7. Btw, a fried has already downloaded IE7 and has a bug to report. NICE.

But if you get Firefox and if you ever listen to music be sure to download Foxytunes. It's an add-on that incorporates a music player control board into your browser window at the bottom. It syncs with iTunes and most other players (like WMP or Pandora) and shows the song and artist, allows you to go forward and backward through your library, play, stop, pause, adjust volume, mute. It's awesome.

Holy crap!

I haven't posted since Monday, granted I posted three times Monday. Um, a bunch of concert reviews are coming--the Who, Regina Spektor, and mini-reviews of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Sufjan Stevens.

I am quite tired and feeling chubby. OK, enough of this pointless post, which I promised I'd try to avoid.

Good news ... there's a steam coming. Think progressively.

R.I.P. Virgil. :(

Monday, October 30, 2006

The latest edition of why newspapers matter

The Los Angeles Times is in the midst of an amazing, heart-wrenching story about a couple's struggle to become parents. A couple of gay men who want with all their hearts to become fathers. The stories tell of their extreme emotional and also financial reaches to attain this. It's incredibly gripping. You can read it here.

Another nod to the Times' Steve Lopez, who on Sunday continued his amazing tale of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a former Julliard string player who has been homeless essentially for a many years because of schizophrenia. It's been a roller coaster of joy and pain to read, and I'm sure even more emotionally volatile for Lopez to report. You can read it here.

Keep the presses rolling!

Grammar police

A few months ago, I deputized myself as a part of the Irony police promising that this blog would point out misuses of the word "irony" or "ironic." Well, thankfully since donning my badge, I've had just one or two irony-abuse entries.

However, I need to add another. "Then/Than."

See this example from ...

Question: Being a Giants fan I have very mixed feelings about Eli Manning. What's your take?
Green: I think he continues to get better. I think Eli's foot mechanics and throwing mechanics are much better then last season. I think he is doing a better job of reading the defense and taking what the defense is giving him. I think he is on target with the way he is progressing each season.


Fell in love with a girl ...

This is from someone who wrote to John Buccigross's NHL column on His response is below in itals.


I just had to respond to that letter from ex-hockey fan Mark. You said "the girl of your dreams would never take you away from hockey." Exactly.

Speaking from experience -- and my husband will vouch for this -- instead of taking you away from hockey, she'll get you Rangers tickets for Valentine's Day so you could see Gretzky play before he retired. She'll watch every game of the Stanley Cup playoffs (Bourque going for the Cup was a compelling story, especially living in Boston). She'll listen to you patiently, at midnight, when you get back from pickup hockey -- late because the kids get the better ice times, which is as it should be -- as you describe the sweet goal you got, low, stick side. She'll start ordering the NHL Center Ice package for you, watching all the games and understanding what offsides and backchecking are. And finally, she'll start playing the game herself -- goalie if you're really lucky -- so that you'll always have at least one net filled at your scrimmages. (Besides, what better marital therapy is there than firing slap shots at your wife?)


I just filed for divorce and am now hitchhiking to Minnesota.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A good thing big and small

I just watched the highlights of the hockey game between the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Islanders on yahoo! And regardless of score or whatever, it's good to see Ted Nolan behind an NHL bench again.

Republican stocking stuffers

U.S. Constitution toilet paper ... endorsed by President Bush and Vice-President Cheney for its ability to wipe away their bullshit lies about protecting freedom.

and order now and we'll thrown in U.S. Constitution Mad-libs, what dictators with a sense of humor use to strangle the rights of individuals, or just TORTURE them.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Good friend and fellow former childhood Amherster, Kevin, is returning to college ... at 34. To become a physics major. He's decided to blog all about it. He's one of the smartest guys I know (and a hockey, beer and Tragically Hip fan) and a damned good writer. Check him out at

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Gift horse meet nothing

The Buffalo Sabres are 8-0 to start the new season. It's been such an amazing ride that I shall enjoy until ... For a while I was nervous and doing the Buffalo fan thing ("jeez I hope they stop talking about us because it'll jinx us" or "the guys will start believing their own hype"). But then I realized that reacting like that is chickenshit. A champion has an air and a directed focus and given the Sabres start (in the wake of heady pre-season predictions), they've got it, too.

So game on to all comers. I'm gonna enjoy this.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

For the record (Lost spoiler included but the text is white)

my theory about tonight's appearance from Desmond ... desmond traveled forward in time 108 minutes, which is how he knew about locke's speech. i don't know why he's naked. my joke theory to that specifically, is that a la terminator, one cannot time travel with any clothes on. but seriously, here's why i do think he time traveled. this show is all about duality: science/faith; black/white; old lives/new lives; electromagnetism (has to do with all radiation, which can be particles and waves, physics 101) so why not space/time continuum stuff? i know it's amping up the sci-fi aspects, but JJ is back this year (granted carlton wrote tonight's ep).

Btw, a dog has been barking. I hope s/he quiets down. It's after midnight, but not in a Clapton way.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Why you're going out of business!!!!

Tower Records. Famous for it's name, but perhaps more famous for ridiculously over-priced CDs, usually $18.99 per new disc. Well, they're liquidating and having the requisite Everything-must-go sale. Things are discounted 10-20 percent the lowest ticketed price, so that means a whopping $4 off of a $19 CD, meaning Best Buy is still cheaper.

I wonder why Tower is disappearing?

Buy from indie record labels directly!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Soundtrack for the Revolution 2006

It took until I moved to Los Angeles to really love the political process and so with Election Day less than a month away here are two playlists to get you ready to take back democracy. I really wanted to publish mine on iTunes but even though I think all the songs are available, except for this version of Rockin' in the Free World, it wouldn't register but like half of them.

My Soundtrack for the Revolution:
1. Anarchy In The U.K. — Sex Pistols
2. Fight The Power — Public Enemy
3. Fortunate Son — John Fogerty (live)
4. Master Of War — Pearl Jam (covering Bob Dylan)
5. Take It From The Source — Spirit Of The West
6. A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall — Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians (covering Dylan)
7. It's A Hit — Rilo Kiley
8. Not Ready To Make Nice — Dixie Chicks
9. Rockin' in the Free World — Indigo Girls w/ K's Choice (live)
10. Mosh — Eminem
11. Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) — Pink Floyd
12. When the President Talks to God — Bright Eyes
13. The Rising — Bruce Springsteen
14. Philadelphia — Neil Young
15. City Of Blinding Lights — U2
16. It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine) — R.E.M.

Dave's view ...

1. The Star Spangled Banner (live at Woodstock) - Jimi Hendrix
2. Gimme Some Truth - John Lennon
3. Down In The Flood - Bob Dylan
4. In The Flesh - Pink Floyd
5. Dance Like A Monkey - The New York Dolls
6. 16 Military Wives - The Decemberists
7. Fingerprint File - The Rolling Stones
8. Born In The U.S.A. (live acoustic version) - Bruce Springsteen
9. Battleflag - Lo Fidelity Allstars
10. God's Gonna Cut You Down - Johnny Cash
11. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding - Elvis Costello
12. Electric Avenue - Eddy Grant
13. Monster Hospital - Metric
14. The Man Who Sold The World - David Bowie
15. Illegal Alien - Genesis
16. Families - Neil Young
17. When The Tigers Broke Free - Pink Floyd
18. Wake Up - Arcade Fire

Raise a drink to re-earning our position on the moral high ground by honoring and respecting other countries, not torturing people, being active stewards of the Earth and by combatting domestic and international hypocrisy.

Vote (democrat)!

Teaser for the next entry

Saw Sufjan Stevens Monday night at the Wiltern. The show was the most unusual concert I've ever been to. And I mean that in the best way. His vision is so unique and his show was distinctly sublime in complexity or orchestration and sound. Or perhaps, in what other circumstance could a man wearing colorful plastic bird wings stand on a stage playing a banjo absolutely command the emotions of 2,000 hipper-than-thou Angelenos?

I also saw Kirsten Dunst, very cute in person, and Danny Devito, whom I towered over. Coolest thing, he gave me an unsolicited nod upon our making eye contact. Cool.

Scary world we live in

The North Korean government appears to have successfully (depending on one's definition of the word) tested an atomic device Monday.

It's been a while since I just dumped a story verbatim into my blog, but the L.A. Times story analyzing years of botched diplomacy is soooo good that I figured why bother trying to interpret this, since I'd only mess it up. This is one of the reasons that newspapers are great. I hope that the Los Angeles Times does not lose its well-deserved spot among the world's best newspapers.


Diverted Attention, Neglect Set the Stage for Kim's Move

Up until 2001, North Korea's nuclear program was largely under seal and monitored by the U.N. What went wrong?
By Barbara Demick
Times Staff Writer

October 10, 2006

Little more than four years ago, the North Korean nuclear weapons program was largely under lock and key, the threat seen as a fleeting crisis of a previous decade.

North Korea's main nuclear center at Yongbyon, 60 miles north of Pyongyang, was monitored 24 hours a day by U.N. surveillance cameras. International inspectors lived near the site. Seals were in place over key nuclear installations and a nuclear reactor at Yongbyon was gathering dust.

So what went wrong?

The story of Monday's announcement of a nuclear test is one of failed policies, neglect and missed opportunities by the Bush administration and its predecessors.

It is also the story of how a cagey dictator, Kim Jong Il, took advantage of the United States' entanglement in Iraq to advance his nuclear agenda.

"When you start the debate about 'Who lost North Korea?' " said Scott Snyder, a North Korea expert with the Washington-based Asia Foundation, "there will be many places to lay" the blame.

North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung, well aware that the United States had considered using nuclear weapons in the 1950-53 Korean War, first began a nuclear energy program in the 1960s with help from his patrons in the Soviet Union. His son, the present leader, accelerated the program in the early 1990s, and the Clinton administration grew concerned.

In 1994, the United States struck a deal known as the Agreed Framework, under which North Korea agreed to place its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon under a U.N.-monitored freeze in return for energy assistance and help building light-water nuclear reactors, which are harder to use for military purposes.

Relations warmed somewhat, and in 2000 then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright traveled to Pyongyang to meet Kim Jong Il. Normalization of relations appeared imminent.

All that changed when George W. Bush became president. Bush quickly made public his loathing for Kim and the regime. Republicans were particularly scornful of the agreement to give energy assistance to North Korea and looked for ways to void the pact.

The opportunity presented itself during the first visit by a Bush administration envoy to Pyongyang in October 2002. Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly was told by a North Korean official that the North was cheating on its nuclear freeze obligations by conducting secretive research into highly enriched uranium. As fuel for a nuclear weapon, highly enriched uranium is an alternative technology easier to keep hidden than a plutonium-based program, which requires a reactor such as the one at Yongbyon.

The Bush administration moved hastily to punish North Korea by cutting off shipments of fuel oil that had been pledged under the Agreed Framework.

Within weeks, the North Koreans put tape over the surveillance cameras at Yongbyon and broke the seals on their nuclear installations. By New Year's Eve, the U.N. inspectors were escorted out of North Korea.

The Asia Foundation's Snyder said the Bush administration was justified in its actions. It was also evident that Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan had been helping North Korea undertake a highly enriched uranium program on the sly. The Clinton administration, Snyder said, was sloppy in not following up on tips as far back as 1998 of North Korean efforts to procure uranium technology.

At the same time, the United States ended up in effect throwing away a deal that had kept the more immediately threatening plutonium production facility at Yongbyon in check.

"We wanted to catch them cheating. We focused on moral indignation at the expense of our national interests," Snyder said.

Once the U.N. inspectors were gone, North Korea wasted no time. By mid-2003, it had repaired its mothballed nuclear reactor and cranked up the reprocessing plant where weapons-grade plutonium was extracted from spent fuel rods.

The United States issued shrill warnings to the North Koreans, but they sounded increasingly hollow given the entanglement in Iraq. The North Koreans continually appeared to be calling the United States' bluff.

And if the Bush administration expected the removal of Saddam Hussein to deter Kim Jong Il from forging ahead, it was in for a disappointment. The North Koreans said they needed nuclear weapons to prevent the United States from exercising the doctrine of preemption on their territory.

"We're not like Iraq or Yugoslavia or Afghanistan. We can defend ourselves," Kim Myong Song, a North Korean guard at Mt. Kumgang, boasted to The Times last year.

North Korea trumpeted each and every step toward completing its nuclear weapon. Its news service declared it had reprocessed fuel rods into plutonium. The regime said it had a "nuclear deterrent" and warned repeatedly they it would conduct a nuclear test.

Usually regimes develop weapons of mass destruction in secret. North Korea's boastfulness led analysts to speculate that perhaps this was Pyongyang's cry for attention from Washington.

Yet as North Korea plowed ahead with its nuclear program, the Bush administration refused to meet directly with its adversary. Instead, it insisted on a rather clunky diplomatic initiative known as the six-party talks. Basically, the U.S. said, it would not meet with the North Koreans unless China, Russia, Japan and South Korea also participated.

Donald Gregg, a U.S. ambassador to South Korea under Bush's father and now head of the New York-based Korea Society, said the crisis could have been averted if the current Bush administration had talked to the North Koreans directly. He visited Pyongyang in late 2002 and brought back a written offer from the North Koreans to negotiate one-on-one.

"We were told at the White House that the offer would not be accepted as it would be 'rewarding bad behavior,' " Gregg recalled. "The basic problem is that Bush & Co. see diplomacy as something you give to a country as a reward for good behavior … not as a tool to be used which may bring better behavior on the part of an antagonist."

The six-party talks created an environment in which differences between the United States and the other parties began to loom larger than the North Korean nuclear problem itself.

The North Koreans were able to cleverly exploit the unpopularity of the war in Iraq to sow discord. In light of the United States' failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, China, Russia and South Korea all began to publicly question the U.S. claims about evidence of a highly enriched uranium program in North Korea.

In late 2002, South Korea elected a left-of-center president, Roh Moo-hyun, who appeared to place rapprochement with North Korea above his country's historical alliance with the United States.

While giving lip service to the Bush administration's efforts to isolate North Korea, the South Koreans continued sending food aid, fertilizer and building material north of the demilitarized zone.

Gi-Wook Shin, director of the Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University, said the failure to prevent the nuclear test was collective in that the United States and its allies could not come up with a common policy.

"The main lesson we have learned from this over the last four years is that U.S. policy cannot succeed alone," Shin said. "Without the United States, South Korean policy will fail. Without South Korea and the others, United States policy will fail."

In July, when North Korea test-fired a series of missiles over the Sea of Japan, South Korea briefly suspended humanitarian aid, but quickly relented.

U.S. efforts to get robust action from the United Nations were opposed by China and Russia and ended with a watered-down resolution of condemnation.

That opened the door for North Korea to go even further.

Just three months later, North Korea announced the test that it said had "brought happiness to our military and people."


Demick was until recently The Times' Seoul Bureau chief. She is currently on leave teaching at Princeton University.



The nuclear club

World leaders expressed concern that the list of nations with deployed nuclear warheads (2006 estimates) may soon include North Korea.
Country Warheads
Russia 5,682
United States 5,521
France 348
Britain 185
China 130*
India 50*
Pakistan 60*

**Israel does not acknowledge being a nuclear state.

Source: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A moment of silence for a death against freedom

I regretably had not even heard of Anna Politkovskaya before reading the beginning of this story, which can be found here. But I know that this is a sad day for all people who believe in free speech and a horrific day for those who cared about Anna Politkovskaya personally.

October 8, 2006

Journalist Critical of Chechen War Is Shot Dead

MOSCOW, Oct. 7 — Anna Politkovskaya, the veteran Russian journalist and author who made her name as a searing critic of the Kremlin and its policies in Chechnya, was found dead on Saturday in her apartment building, shot in the head with a pistol, the authorities and her colleagues said.

Ms. Politkovskaya, 48, was a journalist with few equals in Russia. She was a special correspondent for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and had become one of the country’s most prominent human rights advocates.

In recent years, as the Russian news media faced intensifying pressure under the administration of President Vladimir V. Putin, she maintained her outspoken stance. And she became an international figure who often spoke abroad about a war she called “state versus group terrorism.”

She was a strident critic of Mr. Putin, whom she accused of stifling civil society and allowing a climate of official corruption and brutality.

She was found dead by a neighbor shortly after 5 p.m. A Makarov 9-millimeter pistol had been dropped at her side, the signature of a contract killing, Vitaly Yaroshevsky, the deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta, said in a telephone interview.

“We are certain that this is the horrible outcome of her journalistic activity,” he said. “No other versions are assumed.”

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Game on

Quick hockey predictions:

Least surprising development: Flyers won't be good when it matters.

Most over-rated team by national writers/experts: Dallas Stars. They'll barely make the playoffs, if at all.

Second-most-overrated team by national writers/experts: Ottawa Senators. They'll be very good in the regular season, but the departure of Chara will be huge for a team that is already puss on the backline. And they didn't import any heart.

Prepare for the hangover: Edmonton will miss Pronger and Spacek on the blueline bigtime. I hope I'm wrong about this one.

End of an era: Colorado. No Tanguay. No Blake. Older Sakic. Who's even in net?

Don't write them off yet: The Red Wings may have borrowed Fred Taylor's groin for a goalie, but Datsyuk and Zetterberg are primed to lead the team. Shanahan will be missed more than Stevie Y on the ice (especially the PP).

Ridiculously even better?: Alexander Ovechkin. He'll score more than 60. Sid the Kid will win his first Ross trophy. Ryan Miller becomes a Vezina finalist.

Keep playing the Tragically Hip: Toronto Maple Leafs. The closest they get to the Cup this year is listening to 50-Mission Cap.

It's gonna happen: Sabres and 900,000 other people in WNY will drink from Lord Stanely's Cup! and I'm partying with Scotty Bowman!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The funniest quote of the year (non-George W. Bush-makes-me-wanna-stab-myself-in-the-eyes-variety)

''It gets a little surreal when you're judging the quality of a nut hit. We have an old guy at a piñata party who gets hit in the crotch, which was funny, but the look he does to the camera puts it above and beyond. And we say, 'Oh, now it's 80 percent funnier!' We know there's no real formula.''
~Mike Palleschi, writer for the last six years on America's Funniest Home Videos as quoted in Entertainment Weekly

P.S. yes, i've just been waiting for an excuse to put Bob Saget in my blog.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I hate morality

I am stealing this from Sports Illustrated's Peter King, who noticed this in the New York Times:

Disturbing Newspaper Story of the Week: From page A9 of Saturday's New York Times, a report datelined Frisco, Texas, about a 51-year-old art teacher named Sydney McGee who was suspended for taking 89 students on a field trip to the Dallas Art Museum ... after the parents of one of the children complained that the child had been exposed to nude art. Never mind that, according to the Times, more than 500,000 students have gone on field trips to the same museum and passed by similar art over the past 10 years. McGee's contract will not be renewed, according to the paper. Aside from being dumbfounded, I have these simple hopes: that McGee sues the Frisco Independent School District for several jillion dollars, wins, and embarrasses the lords of said district into resigning.

What the fuck is happening in this country?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sweet dreams are made of this

I read today that the weather lacked a willingness to be bridled into cooperating. Nevertheless, the shepherds ultimately accomplished most of that which was on the checklist. Apparently though, they've been forced to ruminate, though, on the long-term future of the endeavor.

Hobgoblin English Ale and Jenny Lewis's Rabbit Fur Coat CD, which I am confidently saying right now today will be my favorite CD of 2006.

"I'm as sure as the moon rolls around you
That I could be happy ..."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The end of freedom as we used to know it

Two weeks ago, I blogged in deep respect and admiration of four Republican senators—Linday Graham, Susan Collins, John McCain and John Warner—who voted their consciences and stood up to the Bush administration and its endorsement of Executive Branch torture. Then the last few days happened. The Republican Senate leadership "negotiated" with the Bushfacists and gave away habeas corpus, oversight, international goodwill, ... and emerged with a "compromise" that preserves the Bushfacists rights to do whatever the fuck they want, toture whoever they want, answer to no one and further endanger American lives (especially those of soldiers serving overseas in conflicts), and let's not forget try to terrify American citizens in the name of calling people who think cowards.

Today the Senate voted to laydown and take it up the ass from Dick Cheney and Co, apparently they want to show enemy combatants that you can still take it up the ass and keep a good job in the United States.

Click here to see whether your favorite Senator voted for President Torture or for democracy and human rights.

Here's what the New York Times said, far more professionally and eloquently than I just did.

September 28, 2006

Rushing Off a Cliff

Here’s what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans’ fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws — while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.

Republicans say Congress must act right now to create procedures for charging and trying terrorists — because the men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks are available for trial. That’s pure propaganda. Those men could have been tried and convicted long ago, but President Bush chose not to. He held them in illegal detention, had them questioned in ways that will make real trials very hard, and invented a transparently illegal system of kangaroo courts to convict them.

It was only after the Supreme Court issued the inevitable ruling striking down Mr. Bush’s shadow penal system that he adopted his tone of urgency. It serves a cynical goal: Republican strategists think they can win this fall, not by passing a good law but by forcing Democrats to vote against a bad one so they could be made to look soft on terrorism.

Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.

These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

•There is not enough time to fix these bills, especially since the few Republicans who call themselves moderates have been whipped into line, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to have misplaced its spine. If there was ever a moment for a filibuster, this was it.

We don’t blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

So what kind of music do you listen to?

One of my former students, who just started college at UCLA, asked me how I respond to that question about musical taste. And that of course started me thinking about how often I've been asked that question, especially in college and high school ...

Here's what I came up with:

Ahhhh, yes, one of the MOST popular questions in college.

Well, if there's one answer I hate getting (and have even started pre-emptively telling people not to answer) it's "well, my taste is really eclectic." That's so gutless. It means, I'm embarrassed that you won't like my taste, and ergo me, so I'm not going to answer. I get where that answer comes from, because I used to give it myself. And in most cases, as it was in mine, it's honest. But it's soft honest, as it also was in my case. In high school I listened to alternative rock almost exclusively: R.E.M., U2, Sarah McLachlan, Curve, Spirit of the West, Belly, Pearl Jam, etc. These were bands that you'd find on the Alternative Nation on MTV (back then they had an alt-rock show every Mon-Thurs at midnight) and/or on CFNY (an alt-rock radio station from Toronto).

Of course I had other things that I listened to that I felt earned me the right to answer "eclectic." I listened to a fair amount of classical music, some musical theater and I owned Legend (Bob Marley's greatest hits). I rarely listened to it though. So I didn't want to seem like narrowcast high school alt-rock kid and instead wanted to appear to be an "individual" so I answered "it's really eclectic" even though it really wasn't.

So, I suppose that I should get around to actually answering your question ... sorry aboot that. I tend to digress at any opportunity to talk about myself.

My new thing is to name my favorite bands by situation (I sorta pick and choose which of these I list, otherwise my answer is pretentiously long and off-putting):

Fave album this year: Rabbit Fur Coat by Jenny Lewis
Band I've listened to the most in the past year: Rilo Kiley
First favorite band: R.E.M.
Favorite female artist: Rachael Yamagata (I always note that my taste tends to lean toward female solo artists and male groups)
Favorite new artists: The Pipettes, Jennifer O'Connor
Favorite artists that my parents listen to (not named the Beatles): Emmylou Harris and Allison Krauss
Favorite non rock genre CDs/artists: The Dixie Chicks, West Side Story, ABBA, Madonna and Cyndi Lauper
Guilty pleasures: Spice Girls and early Britney Spears
Songs that make me: sad (a million tears by kasey chambers), dance (pull shapes by the pipettes), dream (pictures of success by rilo kiley), wistful (nightswimming by REM)
Best concerts I've ever been to: U2, R.E.M., RiloKiley, Coldplay, Rachael Yamagata, Damien Rice, Belle and Sebastian, Arcade Fire, Tift Merritt, Sufan Stevens (for some of them)
Tour I most wish I could have seen: Radiohead in support of The Bends

Other things that I really love: Avenue Q soundtrack, The Firebird Suite by Stravinsky, Me and Bobby McGee by Janis Joplin, No Doubt (except for Retun of Saturn), the Smashing Pumpkins, early Pearl Jam, early Metallica (pre Black album, which was actually titled Metallica), lots of 80s one-hit wonders, Janet Jackson's early solo career, The entire Thriller album, college marching bands/drum corps, Stars.

to do it quickly ...

Desert island CDs: Takeoffs and Landings, The Bends, Achtung Baby, Automatic for the People, 12:00 Curfews, RENT soundtrack, Happenstance, O, Faithlift, I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, Funeral, A Rush of Blood to the Head, The Roads Don't Love You, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Tambourine, Barricades and Brickwalls, Set Yourself on Fire, Get Behind Me Satan ... with the understanding that this could change tomorrow.

or the really quick answer to what i listen to ...

"Indie rock" (which, btw, has become the new "alternative.")

Ironically, though this question is often asked as a way to pre-judge whether someone will "fit" into your group of friends, my college friends and I had very little in common musically. As did my Albany friends. High school, Syracuse and Los Angeles are the places where I've flourished musically, especially Los Angeles.

The other irony is that now that I've carved out this long, drawn-out, complicated answer, I could legitimately answer "ecletic." I've actually added Rock en Español, Latin Jazz, way more muscial theater, bluegrass, more legitimately country country, and good pop and punk to my alt-rock catalog.

This question definitely made me think!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Looking for "Good" reading ...

So I just subscribed to this new magazine called "Good," for young progressives and a review will be coming soon. But I am really hoping that this magazine makes it. My track record of supporting new magazines hasn't been good ... see Bleach, Brill's Content and Talk (which actually kinda sucked).

With the birth of this magazine, the dawn of (Google's for-profit philanthropic arm), Nicholas Kristof's and Steve Lopez's columns, and my students at L.A. Youth I am feeling more optimistic about the world.


Magazine Heir Makes Good

Ben Goldhirsh proves earnestness can be cool

September 23, 2006

EARNEST MIGHT NOT YET be the new ironic, but, at least in certain quarters, it's giving it a run for its money — quite literally. The new, generously endowed magazine Good, which launched earlier this month, bills itself as "a free press for the critical idealist." Its founder is 26-year-old Ben Goldhirsh, an Andover Academy/Brown University graduate, unapologetic idealist and a perennial wearer of jeans and Rockport hiking boots. The staff, which works primarily out of a bungalow in West Hollywood, includes a notable number of Brown alumni as well as 23-year-old recent Harvard grad Al Gore III, who serves as associate publisher.

Residing somewhere between the earthy sincerity of Mother Jones and the no-nonsense aridity of the Economist (Goldhirsh told the New York Times that the Economist was the one magazine he reads, "but it's almost like an assignment"), Good may be Generation Y's attempt to cut through the fabled cynicism of its Gen X predecessors. As described in an article in West magazine, Good offers "a hipster take on the world of energy, organic food, sweatshop-free fashion, politics, indie culture, do-gooder business and green living." No Nicole Richie updates here.

Goldhirsh is the son of the late Bernie Goldhirsh, who founded Inc. magazine, which he later sold for a reported $200 million. Good's subscription fees — $20 for six issues — go to a list of Good-approved charities of the readers' choosing. The World Wildlife Fund, Teach for America and the progressive-minded venture capitalist firm Ashoka are among those on the lineup. As of Friday, Good's Web site reported nearly $120,000 raised from close to 6,000 subscriptions. Meanwhile, the staff and contributors need not worry about their paychecks. Goldhirsh already has put $2.5 million of his own money into the enterprise and plans to invest $10 million more over the next five years.

Whether Good will last five years — or even one year — is anyone's guess. But what ultimately may be most telling about this undertaking is the way 1960s activism and post-Letterman, post-grunge slackerdom are forming a hybrid culture. The message: Give back. As for the medium, it carries the advantage of having some very deep pockets — even if they're in an old pair of jeans.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I gotta move to Europe

Berlin has an openly gay Mayor, who recently won re-election in a walk and who is considered one of the few stars of the German political scene. He drinks champagne out of women's pumps at parties, he's on the splash page of I want Klaus Wowereit in this country, or at least for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to get some similar adulation.

Viva la Deutschland!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Which amendment is first?

Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams were sentenced to 18 months in jail today by a federal judge because they refused to testify who leaked grand jury testimony to them in the case regarding steroids, BALCO and Barry Bonds.

The Constitution was trampled today because a the government cares more about the letter of the law than the spirit of the country which that law founded and protects.

Thomas Jefferson spun in his grave like a turbine in Niagara Falls today because two underpaid newspaper reporters could do their job a gazillion times better than probably dozens of government investigators looking into the steroids/BALCO/Barry Bonds case.

Two hardworking over-aged idealists protected their integrity and honor today because they believe in the value of a promise.

Two families were ordered by the state to endure 18 months of worry, fear and heartbreak today because the government decided that the most fundamental right of this nation's history should take a backseat to cover-your-ass law enforcement.

Refusing to cave in to governmental intimidation, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams were sentenced to 18 months in jail today for protecting their confidential sources in the government's case against regarding steroids/BALCO/Barry Bonds.

In defiance of law, but in line with their personal integrity, two reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle refused to name their sources for grand jury testimony from the BALCO case earning and 18-month jail sentence.

I'll have more to say soon and I'm sure that I'll cite others who are far better with words than I am.

But should this country continue down this road of persecuting the truth seekers, it shall be a black matter for us all.

Disagree with me, and I'll defend you to the death

That's what the First Amendment is about. Today kicks off Banned Books Week. So to prove I'm not a terrorist, buy something like this to celebrate your freedom and be the coolest looking liberal out there.

Btw, happy autumnal equinox.

Fell in love with a song

In this blog I've pimped Rilo Kiley more than any other band, because they've made me feel about music the way I used to feel about it in high school. SCRATCH THAT. They've made the way I used to feel about music in high school pale compare to how I feel about it now.

So here's some lyrics to one of the band's songs, ironically, not my fave, just what I'm listening to now ("Teenage Love Song"). It's transportive ...

We were teenagers the first time we met
You were so famous, I couldn't resist
I was your girl then, that's what you said
When you kissed me, kissed me, kissed me

I gave you sweet love, boy, you said it was nice
It was my first time, we did it just twice
Went out for some sodas, when will you return?
But you dissed me, dissed me, dissed me

I went away for reasons disclosed
You broke my heart man, oh you didn't know
But now I'm back to see you again
Did you miss me? miss me? miss me?

We were teenagers the first time we met
You were so famous, I couldn't resist
I was your girl then, that's what you said
When you kissed me, kissed me, kissed me

Oh Davey, why did you leave me
All alone when we went all the way?
But maybe someday Davey
We'll be together for more than a day

I still love you and always will
All those motel rooms, you fronted the bill
I am not bitter, I want you to know
Got yours comin', I've seen it before

So now we're standin' so damn close
You've been in rehab, you think I don't know
I just remind you of yesterday
Places forgotten and friends passed away
But if you want me please won't you say
So I can dis you, dis you, dis you, dis you, dis you
And go away

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Find me the good news

The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday noted that 60 died in Iraq the day before and U.S military commanders said that troop drawdowns shouldn't be expected until Spring 2007 at the earliest. But as sad as those headlines are, they're nothing compared to this story.


No One Dares to Help

The wounded die alone on Baghdad's streets. An offer of aid could be your own death sentence, an Iraqi reporter writes.

September 20, 2006

Because this account of daily life in Baghdad reveals where the writer lives, his name is not being used to protect his safety. He is a 54-year-old Iraqi reporter in The Times' Baghdad Bureau.


BAGHDAD — On a recent Sunday, I was buying groceries in my beloved Amariya neighborhood in western Baghdad when I heard the sound of an AK-47 for about three seconds. It was close but not very close, so I continued shopping.

As I took a right turn on Munadhama Street, I saw a man lying on the ground in a small pool of blood. He wasn't dead.

The idea of stopping to help or to take him to a hospital crossed my mind, but I didn't dare. Cars passed without stopping. Pedestrians and shop owners kept doing what they were doing, pretending nothing had happened.

I was still looking at the wounded man and blaming myself for not stopping to help. Other shoppers peered at him from a distance, sorrowful and compassionate, but did nothing.

I went on to another grocery store, staying for about five minutes while shopping for tomatoes, onions and other vegetables. During that time, the man managed to sit up and wave to passing cars. No one stopped. Then, a white Volkswagen pulled up. A passenger stepped out with a gun, walked steadily to the wounded man and shot him three times. The car took off down a side road and vanished.

No one did anything. No one lifted a finger. The only reaction came from a woman in the grocery store. In a low voice, she said, "My God, bless his soul."

I went home and didn't dare tell my wife. I did not want to frighten her.

I've lived in my neighborhood for 25 years. My daughters went to kindergarten and elementary school here. I'm a Christian. My neighbors are mostly Sunni Arabs. We had always lived in harmony. Before the U.S.-led invasion, we would visit for tea and a chat. On summer afternoons, we would meet on the corner to joke and talk politics.

It used to be a nice upper-middle-class neighborhood, bustling with commerce and traffic. On the main street, ice cream parlors, hamburger stands and take-away restaurants competed for space. We would rent videos and buy household appliances.

Until 2005, we were mostly unaffected by violence. We would hear shootings and explosions now and again, but compared with other places in Baghdad, it was relatively peaceful.

Then, late in 2005, someone blew up three supermarkets in the area. Shops started closing. Most of the small number of Shiite Muslim families moved out. The commercial street became a ghost road.

On Christmas Day last year, we visited — as always — our local church, St. Thomas, in Mansour. It was half-empty. Some members of the congregation had left the country; others feared coming to church after a series of attacks against Christians.

American troops, who patrol the neighborhood in Humvees, have also become edgy. Get too close, and they'll shoot. A colleague — an interpreter and physician — was shot and killed by soldiers last year on his way home from a shopping trip. He hadn't noticed the Humvees parked on the street.

By early this year, living in my neighborhood had become a nightmare. In addition to anti-American graffiti, there were fliers telling women to wear conservative clothes and to cover their hair. Men were told not to wear shorts or jeans.

For me, as a Christian, it was unacceptable that someone would tell my wife and daughters what to wear. What's the use of freedom if someone is telling you what to wear, how to behave or what to do in your life?

But coming home one day, I saw my wife on the street. I didn't recognize her. She had covered up.

After the attack on the Shiite shrine of the Golden Dome in Samarra in February, Shiite gunmen tried to raid Sunni mosques in my neighborhood. One night, against the backdrop of heavy shooting, we heard the cleric calling for help through the mosque's loudspeakers. We stayed up all night, listening as they battled for the mosque. It made me feel unsafe. If a Muslim would shoot another Muslim, what would they do to a Christian?

Fear dictates everything we do.

I see my neighbors less and less. When I go out, I say hello and that's it. I fear someone will ask questions about my job working for Americans, which could put me in danger. Even if he had no ill will toward me, he might talk and reveal an identifying detail. We're afraid of an enemy among us. Someone we don't know. It's a cancer.

In March, assassinations started in our neighborhood. Early one evening, I was sitting in my garden with my wife when we heard several gunshots. I rushed to the gate to see what was going on, despite my wife's pleas to stay inside. My neighbors told me that gunmen had dropped three men from a car and shot them in the street before driving off. No one dared approach the victims to find out who they were.

The bodies remained there until the next morning. The police or the American military probably picked them up, but I don't know. They simply disappeared.

The sounds of shootings and explosions are now commonplace. We don't know who is shooting whom, or who has been targeted. We don't know why, and we're afraid to ask or help. We too could get shot. Bringing someone to the hospital or to the police is out of the question. Nobody trusts the police, and nobody wants to answer questions.

I feel sad, bitter and frustrated — sad because a human life is now worth nothing in this country; bitter because people no longer help each other; and frustrated because I can't help either. If I'm targeted one day, I'm sure no one will help me.

I was very happy when my eldest daughter married an American. First, because there was love between them, but also because she would be able to leave Iraq, and I wouldn't have to worry about her safety day after day. She left last year.

If you had asked me a year ago whether I would consider leaving Iraq, I would have said maybe, but without enthusiasm. Now it's a definite yes. Things are going from bad to worse, and I can't see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Four weeks ago, I came home from work. As I reached my street, I saw a man lying in a pool of blood. Someone had covered him with bits of cardboard. This was the best they could do. No one dared move him.

I drove on.