Saturday, June 30, 2007

Destroying the world one happy face at a time

I just watched Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. WOW! What an absolutely amazing documentary. Produced by the team behind OutFoxed (documentary on Rupert Murdoch's Fox News), this movie uses the stories and literal tragedies of real people (not professors discussing regression analyses of tax revenues or even noted Wal-Mart hater Al Norman) to SHOW how Wal-Mart is ruining our economy, our environment and people's lives. I defy anyone not to get outraged when H & H Hardware in Middlefield, OH goes out of business, because this third-generation family-owned hardware store can't compete with the world's largest corporation and it's hundreds of thousands of dollars in government subsidies.

I defy anyone not to have their heart break a little when Jordan Esry cries while talking about her grandfather's grocery store in Hamilton, Missouri going under when Wal-Mart moved in on the backs of more than $1 million in government subsidies. (continued below)

This movie ranks along with Spellbound, Murderball, Capturing the Friedmans and Hoop Dreams as my favorite documentaries. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room could have learned a lot from the Wal-Mart movie, which eschewed too many re-enactments and a really loser score and instead got out of the way and let the people who were hurt carry the movie with their genuine emotions and ideas.

Of course, like anything that pokes at the people in Power, this movie was attacked. John Tierney of the NYTimes (former conservative voice on the Op-Ed page) went Swiftboat on it (I can't take credit for that term, but Jim Gilliam who wrote about the movie for the Huffington Post can.). And I'll agree that the film isn't explicitly clear about when H&H hardware store closed (it was in fact prior to Wal-Mart opening), it also doesn't lie and say that it happened after Wal-Mart opened. But it's not like stats are provided showing a sales loss or even interviews with anyone asking about their shopping choices, so there's no outright decpetion. One thing I would like to have seen included in the film though was comments from Hunter about how some of his own poor decisions also contributed to his closing the store.

Also, in the interests of not getting OutFoxed here's a commentary from the bow-tied --------- (I had included a sharp profanity here on first draft, but decided against it. Not because I know students of mine take a look at this from time to time and not because I've gone soft and orally moral. But mainly because it seemed like NOT the BEST word and a replacement escapes me. DAMMIT.) Tucker Carlson about the movie. He, of course, hated the movie.

To me the two most damning parts of the movie though aren't even the emotional tear-jerkers of smalltown life getting thumped by the corporate monolith. It's the section on parking lot crime (usually caught on tape b/c Wal-Mart has parking lot cams designed to spy on union-organzing employees), which is literally frightening and tragic. And then the section on healthcare and how store managers are trained to refer employees, who can't afford the world' largest company's health plan and have to make choices between feeding the kids and going to the doctor, to get assistance from MedicAid, WIC, food stamps, Section 8, etc. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

So go see the movie. Rent the movie. Netflix the movie. Whatever it takes. Hopefully it will get us out of Wal-Mart. Or watch it on cable:

Starz Cinema: July 25, 11:15am
Starz Cinema: July 25, 8:20pm
Starz Cinema: July 26, 3:14am
Starz Cinema: July 30, 6:00pm
Starz Cinema: July 31, 4:00am
Encore Drama: August 21, 2:20am

Oh yeah, if you need more here's a link to the Los Angeles Times' startlingly enlightening, Pulitzer Prize winning series on Wal-Mart.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Barack, I want to love you, why do you make it so hard

I love Barack Obama as a Presidential candidate. When I felt like our country's liberals only hope to defeat George W. Bush was to out-Karl Rove Karl Rove, his speech about idealism snapped me back into the reality I prefere to live in, one in which respecting freedom and honorable conduct are good things.

But why did he have to do this ...? (Obama ringtones)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Jealousy in a good way

For many years I've believed that to truly know ourselves, we need only look at our environs. Where do we work? What do we do? Where do we live? What do we drive? And most importantly who are our friends?

Well, I consider myself lucky: I work at a non-profit teen newspaper. I teach writing and mentor brilliant young minds. I live in Los Angeles (beach, music). I drive a relatively fuel-efficient, reliable car with a decently comfortable driver's seat. And my friends are amazing and wonderful people. Sometimes a bit too amazing almost.

Check out these two links to read about the true joys of music (the response is from a profession graphic design genius who works for the Detroit Free Press as an illustrator and page designer and copy editor. Read: NOT AS A WRITER).

here's the original thing :

and here's my letter (scroll down, it'll be obvious):

Monday, June 25, 2007

What would Jesus smoke?

A student not standing on school property isn't allowed to jokingly speculate about that, according to Monday's free-speech eroding decision. The Supremes ruled 6-3 that a principal was not violating a student's First Amendment guaranteed Freedom of Speech when she suspended him for 10 days because he stood across the street from his school holding up a "Bong Hits for Jesus" banner while television crews filmed the Olympic torch relay.

Was the banner ridiculous/sophomoric/obvious/immature? DUH! But none of those are legally justifiable reasons to curtail free speech. In fact, it's because this exercise of speech is ridiculous and ethically questionable that we MUST defend it. It is not for us to render judgment on the appropriateness of the Bong Hits banner. It's for us to defend his and future students' rights to let people make bad jokes that are really just publicity grabs. It's easy to protect the idea that people should be allowed to say "America is great" and "love one another." But defend flag burning. Defend speech that says the President is wrong. Defend speech that says America is one of the leading human rights abusers in the world because of our President's leadership. Defend "Your God sucks." Defend "atheists should burn in hell." Defend "Bong hits for Jesus."

The First Amendment exists to protect people's rights to be controversial, to argue for things at the top of their lungs that you would spend a lifetime denouncing at the top of yours (to paraphrase The American President). That's why the KKK is permitted to march. Why Holocaust deniers are not categorically thrown in jail in our country. Why Larry Flynt is a multi-millionaire.

It places a heavy burden on everyone to be smarter so that they can develop persuasive, creative arguments for why they're point of view is correct. It means that we must make sure we never forget the Holocaust. We must continue to study it and be horrified. Free speech means that I'll continue to defend someone's right to believe in Creationism despite ALL EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY. The right to believe is my personal gauntlet to be more persuasive, to understand others more deeply, to listen more closely. The First Amendment forces us to make sure people always understand the value of diversity and learn to value intelligence and logic. How is that a bad thing?

Faced with the choice between what is right and what is easy, the Supreme Court blew it. It is the responsibility of a free and democratic society to champion the ideal of dissent.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Muggle blog V (this blog has major spoilers)

Four down to go. I just finished Goblet of Fire and did learn one more thing. Or at least noted something that bears further watching. After Harry returns from the confrontation with Voldemort and Barty Crouch, Jr. tells his tale, Dumbledore sends Snape on a secret errand. What was it? Even Harry speculates about it, given that Harry still doesn't trust Snape without some reservation.

However, I think Harry's suspicions are ultimatley going to be warrantless, even though Snape kills Voldemort in Half-Blood Prince. On Page 651, Voldemort is speechifying to the summoned Death Eaters and he notes that not all are present.

"And here we have six missing Death Eaters ... three dead in my service. One too cowardly to return ... he will pay. One, who I believe, has left me forever ... he will be killed, of course ... and one, who remains my most faithful servant, and who has already reentered my service."

That final person is of course Barty Crouch, Jr., who guided Harry to victory in the Tri-Wizard tournament and turned the cup itself into a portkey.

The "cowardly" person has to be Karkaroff, who fled the Tournmant when his scar burned so brightly. He also rolled on as many as Death Eaters as it took to get out of Azkaban.

The "left forever" must be Snape. As a great occlumens, he'd have been able to get close enough to Voldemort to learn the most-guarded secrets (without his spying role being exposed) and when he spilled those to Dumbledore, do the most damage for the good guys. And in book 6 when Bellatrix interrogates him, his abilities as an occlumens would serve him well. Granted, she probably couldn't get into his mind like Voldemort could, but all practice beating a lie deterctor Costanza style is good.

Shells also noted another clue as to Snape's being a good guy. In her words:

Monday, June 18, 2007

Addition to Muggle Blog....

I totally forgot to add that I think I found evidence to prove that Snape may be ultimately good. When Harry is in the office with the faux-Moody, faces become clear in the Foe Glass- Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape. It was unclear to me whether the faces became clear because they entered the room, or if they became clear right before they entered the room. Because of the way the foe glass was described as working, it seems that it would only show your enemies. If Barty Crouch Jr.'s foe glass showed those three, one could assume that they're all on the side of good. Devices like these are not fooled by behaviors. I'm open to suggestion on this one. I think I could be wrong.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


R.I.P. Eamon Cannon

Eamon was a former student. A ridiculously talented writer, thoughtful social observer and funny son of a bitch. He died May 23. I haven't learned anymore and haven't been able to. I am just sad to see such longterm potential unfulfilled. But despite my sadness, I am also feeling incredibly fortunate that I at least got to know him for a couple years. Most people aren't lucky enough to meet someone like Eamon.

Here's links to the two stories he wrote for us at L.A. Youth.

Seriously funny.

Tookie Williams didn't have to die.

Be at peace.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I never thought I'd be associated with something this cool // shameless plug

As many of you know, I am the annoying friend who LOVES his job, who literally wakes up and feels lucky to go to do the work that I do every day. I am an editor at a teen-written newspaper called L.A. Youth, the largest, independent teen paper in the United States (circ. 120,000). Every day I talk to high school students about great books, music, powerful writing, journalism and how to read the media. It's pretty amazing, and in a serendipitous way what I've always wanted to do. Back in high school (as I prepared to go off to college) I wanted to become an educational psychologist and work with gifted students. As my friend Amy pointed out, that's what I'm lucky enough to do.

So without further ado check this out to get some idea of my job. And thanks to Spotrunner -- the creative geniuses of awesomeness who put this together.

One of my two favorite movies of the year

I can't imagine loving any movies more than I loved Hot Fuzz (comedy) and Once (drama). Those English and Irish sure know how to create stuff that's sublime.

Here's a "trailer" type thang from Once, set to the "Falling Slowly."

See this movie now. Stand up and vote with your wallets for art, creativity, integrity, love, music, vision, beauty.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Music is the thing

I'm listening to R.E.M.'s "Don't Go Back to Rockville" right now, as I type (literally). This is a GREAT FUCKING SONG. Given that they once made music this melodic and unusual, Around the Sun is practically inexcusable. I know that more than 20 years elapsed between recordings and that with age all our tastes and ideas change, but come on!!

The last line of Rockville is "Don't Go Back to Rockville and waste another year." In this case, I'm not imploring them to try to re-create Reckoning, b/c that's impossible. But substituting "Around the Sun" for "Rockville" in that lyric would work to.

I'm listening to "Little America" now. Soooo good. Peter Buck actually plugged in his guitar and Bill Berry is driving the band on skins.

One more music thing ... my fave blogger is Molly Knight, a writer for ESPN the magazine; she blogs mostly about her travels, dog and music (not in that order necessarily). We have much in common musically (I discovered her while searching for Rilo Kiley stuff), but we've also diverged (as noted in an entry last year). She LOVED "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley, along with basicallly everyone I know but me, and criticized people who didn't. This bothered me. Not in a personal way because we don't know each other, obviously, but yet yes in a very personal way, because like many people I tend to allow my tastes in music to define me in some sense.

When we first meet someone, I think that it's music taste more than TV or movie taste or cuisine preferences that let us know whether this is someone we're going to invest time in. Of course, there are exceptions to this (some of my best friends not only don't love the same music as me, but haven't even heard of most of it and aren't that into music at all), but I'm just saying for the sake of argument here based on a lot of observation.

Well, to get back to the point of this post ... Molly now proclaims her love of Amy Winehouse and her song "Rehab," which is inescapable on L.A. radio. This is another ubiquitous hit (which will live on year-end best ofs) that just doesn't work for me. I'm not sure why exactly but her husky voice isn't working for me. But it's not categorically anything against a woman with some burn in her voice. I LOVE Rachael Yamagata. But also, Winehouse's song didn't do anything in particular for me lyrically and I got annoyed at the very repetitive chorus not hypnotized as many others have been. But that's me. And for those who love that song, good on ya, mates. I wish so much time wasn't spent tearing others down for their tastes in music or just ripping someone to be edgy and too-cool-for-schooly, because indirectly what we're doing is invalidating the emotions of the person who likes said artist, and that's never a healthy thing.

So I'm going to try very hard when I write about music to share my love of bands that wish other people would listen to, like Rilo Kiley, Stars, Arcade Fire, Gemma Hayes, Tift Merritt or The Pipettes, but not crush other bands or songs. I will of course criticize, but hopefully always abotu something specific, not just blanket "that sucks and all people who like it should choke on their own shit."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Muggle blog IV

I'm 216 pages into Goblet of Fire and thus far two things have struck me. Very early, on page 2, as the tale of the Riddles is being recounted, the book says: "Elderly Mr. and Mrs. Riddle had been rich, snobbish and rude, and their grown-up son, Tom, had been, if anything, worse." On page 3, it says that the accused garderner/groundskeeper Frank Bryce tried to convince the cops that a dark-haired, pale teenage boy was seen around the estate that day.

So, and this could well be my memory failing me (I intend to review Chamber when I get home from Arizona) what's up with all this? Voldemort was Tom Riddle, but I thought that he was an orphan with a Muggle father. Perhaps Book 6 will provide answers, but from what I remember of Book 6 the family wasn't of great wealth. Hrm ...

[Addendum added 6.21] OK, on page 314 of Chamber of Secrets Tom Riddle is talking to Harry and says: "You think I was going to use my filthy Muggle father's name forever? I, in whose veins runs the blood of Salazar Slytherin himself, through my mother's side? I, keep the name of a foul, common Muggle, who abandoned me even before I was born, just because he found out his wife was a witch?"

--So if that's his dad (the abandoner), then who the hell are the Riddles at the beginning of Goblet of Fire, who were murdered? Maybe this is revealed at the end of Goblet or in Half-Blood Prince, but right now I'm feeling confused.

And on page 216, Harry recalls that Voldemort told Lily (his mom) to move aside so that he could kill Harry. Why would he kill Harry before her, when she might be able to defend him or try to stop him? Was this just a let's-have-the-mom-watch-me-kill-her-son thing? Or is this a foreshadowing of there being more to the Potters/Voldemort backstory?

The NYTimes Frank Rich on the Bush mafia

June 17, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

Scooter’s Sopranos Go to the Mattresses

AS a weary nation awaited the fade-out of "The Sopranos" last Sunday, the widow of the actual Mafia don John Gotti visited his tomb in Queens to observe the fifth anniversary of his death. Victoria Gotti was not pleased to find reporters lying in wait.

"It's disgusting that people are still obsessed with Gotti and the mob," she told The Daily News. "They should be obsessed with that mob in Washington. They have 3,000 deaths on their hands." She demanded to know if the president and vice president have relatives on the front lines. "Every time I watch the news and I hear of another death," she said, "it sickens me."

Far be it from me to cross any member of the Gotti family, but there's nothing wrong with being obsessed with both mobs. Now that the approval rating for the entire Washington franchise, the president and Congress alike, has plummeted into the 20s, we need any distraction we can get; the Mafia is a welcome nostalgic escape from a gridlocked government at home and epic violence abroad.

But unlikely moral arbiter that Mrs. Gotti may be, she does have a point. As the Iraq war careens toward a denouement as black, unresolved and terrifying as David Chase's inspired "Sopranos" finale, the mob in the capital deserves at least equal attention. John Gotti, the last don, is dead. Mr. Chase's series is over. But the deaths on the nightly news are coming as fast as ever.

True, the Washington mob isn't as sexy as the Gotti or Soprano clans, but there is now a gripping nonfiction dramatization of its machinations available gratis on the Internet, no HBO subscription required. For this we can thank U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, who presided over the Scooter Libby trial. Judge Walton's greatest move was not the 30-month sentence he gave Mr. Libby, a fall guy for higher-ups (and certain to be pardoned to protect their secrets). It was instead the judge's decision to make public the testimonials written to the court by members of the Washington establishment pleading that a criminal convicted on four felony counts be set free.

Mr. Libby's lawyers argued that these letters should remain locked away on the hilarious grounds that they might be "discussed, even mocked, by bloggers." And apparently many of the correspondents assumed that their missives would remain private, just like all other documents pertaining to Mr. Libby's former boss, Dick Cheney. The result is very little self-censorship among the authors and an epistolary gold mine for readers.

Among those contributing to the 373 pages of what calls "Scooter Libby Love Letters" are self-identified liberals and Democrats, a few journalists (including a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine) and a goodly sample of those who presided over the Iraq catastrophe or cheered it on. This is a documentary snapshot of the elite Washington mob of our time.

Like the scripts for "The Sopranos," the letters are not without mordant laughs. Henry Kissinger writes a perfunctory two paragraphs, of which the one about Mr. Libby rather than himself seems an afterthought. James Carville co-signs a letter by Mary Matalin tediously detailing Mr. Libby's devotion to organizing trick-or-treat festivities for administration children spending a post-9/11 Halloween at an "undisclosed location." One correspondent writes in astonishment that Mr. Libby once helped "a neighbor who is a staunch Democrat" dig his car out of the snow, and another is in awe that Mr. Libby would "personally buy his son a gift rather than passing the task on to his wife." Many praise Mr. Libby's novel, "The Apprentice," apparently on the principle that an overwritten slab of published fiction might legitimize the short stories he fabricated freelance for a grand jury.

But what makes these letters rise above inanity is the portrait they provide of a wartime capital cut adrift from moral bearings. As the political historian Rick Perlstein has written, one of the recurrent themes of these pleas for mercy is that Mr. Libby perjured himself "only because he was so busy protecting us from Armageddon." Has there ever been a government leader convicted of a crime — and I don't mean only Americans — who didn't see himself as saving the world from the enemy?

The Libby supporters never acknowledge the undisputed fact that their hero, a lawyer by profession, leaked classified information about a covert C.I.A. officer. And that he did so not accidentally but to try to silence an administration critic who called attention to the White House's prewar lies about W.M.D. intelligence. And that he compounded the original lies by lying repeatedly to investigators pursuing an inquiry that without his interference might have nailed others now known to have also leaked Valerie Wilson's identity (Richard Armitage, Karl Rove, Ari Fleischer).

Much has been said about the hypocrisy of those on the right, champions both of Bill Clinton's impeachment and of unflinching immigration enforcement, who call for legal amnesty in Mr. Libby's case. To thicken their exquisite bind, these selective sticklers for strict justice have been foiled in their usual drill of attacking the judge in the case as "liberal." Judge Walton was initially appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan and was elevated to his present job by the current President Bush; he was assigned as well to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by the Bush-appointed chief justice, John Roberts. Such credentials notwithstanding, Judge Walton told the court on Thursday that he was alarmed by new correspondence and phone calls from the Libby mob since the sentencing "wishing bad things" on him and his family.

In Washington, however, hypocrisy is a perennial crime in both parties; if all the city's hypocrites were put in jail, there would be no one left to run the government. What is more striking about the Libby love letters is how nearly all of them ignore the reality that the crime of lying under oath is at the heart of the case. That issue simply isn't on these letter writers' radar screen; the criminal act of perjury isn't addressed (unless it's ascribed to memory loss because Mr. Libby was so darn busy saving the world). Given that Mr. Libby expressed no contrition in court after being convicted, you'd think some of his defenders might step into that moral vacuum to speak for him. But there's been so much lying surrounding this war from the start that everyone is inured to it by now. In Washington, lying no longer registers as an offense against the rule of law.

Instead the letter writers repeat tirelessly that Mr. Libby is a victim, suffering "permanent damage" to his reputation, family and career in the typical judgment of Kenneth Adelman, the foreign-policy thinker who predicted a "cakewalk" for America in Iraq. There's a whole lot of projection going on, because to judge from these letters, those who drummed up this war think of themselves as victims too. In his letter, the disgraced Paul Wolfowitz sees his friend's case as an excuse to deflect his own culpability for the fiasco. He writes that "during the spring and summer of 2003, when some others were envisioning a prolonged American occupation," Mr. Libby "was a strong advocate for a more rapid build-up of the Iraqi Army and a more rapid transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis, points on which history will prove him to have been prescient."

History will prove no such thing; a "rapid" buildup of the Iraqi Army was and is a mirage, and the neocons' chosen leader for an instant sovereign Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi, had no political following. But Mr. Wolfowitz's real point is to pin his own catastrophic blundering on L. Paul Bremer, the neocons' chosen scapegoat for a policy that was doomed with or without Mr. Bremer's incompetent execution of the American occupation.

Of all the Libby worshipers, the one most mocked in the blogosphere and beyond is Fouad Ajami, the Lebanese-American academic and war proponent who fantasized that a liberated Iraq would have a (positive) "contagion effect" on the region and that Americans would be greeted "in Baghdad and Basra with kites and boom boxes." (I guess it all depends on your definition of "boom boxes.") In an open letter to President Bush for The Wall Street Journal op-ed page on June 8, he embroidered his initial letter to Judge Walton, likening Mr. Libby to a "fallen soldier" in the Iraq war. In Mr. Ajami's view, Tim Russert (whose testimony contradicted Mr. Libby's) and the American system of justice are untrustworthy, and "the 'covertness' of Mrs. Wilson was never convincingly and fully established." (The C.I.A. confirmed her covert status in court documents filed in May.)

Mr. Ajami notes, accurately, that the trial was "about the Iraq war and its legitimacy" — an argument that could also be mustered by defenders of Alger Hiss who felt his perjury trial was about the cold war. But it's even more revealing that the only "casualty of a war" Mr. Ajami's conscience prompts him to mention is Mr. Libby, a figurative casualty rather than a literal one.

No wonder Victoria Gotti denigrated "that mob in Washington." When the godfathers of this war speak of never leaving "a fallen comrade" on the battlefield in Iraq, as Mr. Ajami writes of Mr. Libby, they are speaking first and foremost of one another. The soldiers still making the ultimate sacrifice for this gang's hubristic folly will just have to fend for themselves.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Muggle blog III

Three things stood out while re-reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (which is amazing to read while listening to Arcade Fire's Neon Bible CD).

First, on page 204, as Cornelius Fudge is talking to Madame Rosemerta, Hagrid, and Profs. Flitwick and McGonagall he says that "not many people are aware that the Potters knew You-Know-Who was after them." As Shelley brought up in an e-mail to me, it seems like a revelation about the Potters life post-Hogwarts should/must be coming. Since Harry has been so integral to Voldemort's plans, I'm forced to wonder whether James and Lily might have been people he tried to recruit at some point.

Secondly, on page 213, as Harry is having a nightmare about Black (whom at this point he believes to have betrayed his parents) he notices that Peter "Wormtail" Pettigrew resembles Neville. Throughout the series Neville is referred to as being meek, unconfident, "weak" in skills and as a character who orbits around Harry, Hermione and Ron. I also know that in Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore notes how Neville has some parallels to Harry. At one point he wasn't sure if Neville was the Boy Who Lived. Bottom line here, I think that Neville will have an important role to play before the series concludes.

Finally, on page 427, Dumbledore notes that since Harry ordered Lupin and Black to spare Pettigrew's life, Pettigrew would be indebted to Harry forever. That owing one's life to another "creates a certain bond between them." And that he's "... much mistaken if Voldemort wants his servant in the debt of Harry Potter." At this point, I don't remember whether this has proved salient/relevant already in the later books. But I don't believe that it has, at least not in Goblet or Phoenix.

And one more thing ... what's up with Crookshanks? Clearly a super-intelligent animal. It "communicated" with Sirius while in Padfoot form. I wonder ...

Friday, June 08, 2007

A new reason to live to see 2008 or red pill/blue pill

Click me and you'll find the cure for everything.

Happy Friday!

Click me and you'll be scarred for life.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Bear Down and feel free to dance like an idiot

Led by record-setting pitcher Taryne Mowatt, the Arizona Wildcats women's softball team won it's 8th NCAA Division I championship Wednesday. I've definitely never been prouder to be a Wildcat!! (She threw more than 1,000 pitches these past few days!!!) And next year we're soooo gonna miss Caitlin Lowe (no errors in her four-year career) and Kristie Fox, who've done Arizona more proud than most anyone ever.

But the coolest thing is that these amazing women athletes make that cheesey NCAA commercial, which features athletes from all sports talking about how they're going pro in things other than sports, ring so true. Watching their games with the coordinated cheers, unbridled enthusiasm and genuine joy and love, I can't help but almost feel like I truly missed something by not being an athlete. Then I'm fortunate enough to remember that I did share something similar in the University of Arizona marching band. Yeah, that sounds almost chicken-soupy, but I was known as the Asian Rug and got torn a new one by my band director in front of 250 other people. There's nothing softcheese about that.

Go Cats!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wish I had been there ...

Broken Social Scene is a collective of amazing Canadian artists, including Amy Millan of Stars, Emily Haines of Metric and Leslie Feist of herself. Anthems for a seventeen-year-old-girl is an bitchin' song, I think their best. They performed it at Lollapalooza in Chicago last summer. Based on virtually every review I found it was THE HIGHLIGHT of the festival, and an especially rare occurence since all the members are pretty much never available to play together. Well, after nearly a year of searching here it is (apologies because this takes a LOOOOOOONNNNNNGGG time to load even with high-speed Net):

Used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that.
Used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that.
Used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that.

Now you're all gone got your make-up on and you're not coming back.
Can't you come back?

Used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that.
Used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that.
Used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that.

Now you're all gone got your make-up on and you're not coming back.

Bleaching your teeth, smiling flash, talking trash, under your breath.
Bleaching your teeth, smiling flash, talking trash, under your breath.
Bleaching your teeth, smiling flash, talking trash, under your breath.
Bleaching your teeth, smiling flash, talking trash, under my window.

Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.
Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.
Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.
Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.
Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.
Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.
Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.
Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.
Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.
Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.
Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.
Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.
Park that car, drop that phone, sleep on the floor, dream about me.

Park that car, drop that phone.
Park that car, drop that phone. (dream about me)
Park that car, drop that phone.
Park that car, drop that phone. (dream about me)
Park that car, drop that phone.

Used to be one of the rotten ones and I liked you for that.
Now you're all gone got your make-up on and you're not coming back.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Muggle blog II

Just completed Chamber of Secrets and feel like I haven't had any great insights. But there was one section that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. When Harry is in the chamber talking to the corporealizing ghost of Tom Marvolo Riddle I read something that at least warrants tracking in Book 6.

On page 314 Riddle says that his father was a Muggle who abandoned his mother before Voldemort was born, because dad found out that his the mother was a witch. He also notes that his closest friends at school were already calling him Voldemort. I am wondering if these friends heirs are the Death Eaters we know now. Will all this be tied together?

When Dumbledore and Harry dive through memories in the Half-Blood Prince, will what Riddle said in this passage correspond to what Dumbledore has surmised?

Also, Dumbledore used to teach Transfigurations ... what can he change into? I don't remember if that has been revealed and if so, what it was? Is it possible that Dumbledore is NOT entirely dead?

Bear Down

The University of Arizona, with its probably least-talented and thinnest roster since I enrolled in the fall of 1993, has advanced to the final series of the Women's College World Series. Beginning today they face the University of Tennessee and arguably the best pitcher in collegiate softball history. Monica Abbott is the NCAA career leader in wins, strikeouts and shutouts. YIKES!

But this team didn't enter the tournment as the No. 1 overall seed by accident entirely (though it was a bit of a surprise). They have the BEST coach of any college sport in the country in Mike Candrea. Seven championships in 15 years in what is an increasingly nationally competitive sport and in the most competitive conference in almost any college sport. At any point during the season, about half of the Pac 10 (which doesn't even have 10 softball teams) is ranked in the Top 12. And here's a great quote that shows the team members' hearts:

This anecdote from the Arizona Daily Star explains everything:
Nothing exemplified the Wildcats' must-win approach Sunday better than the third inning of the first game.

Washington's Ashley Charters was caught stealing at second. When she slid into UA shortstop Kristie Fox, her cleat caught in Fox's stirrup — and Fox appeared to push her to the ground.

"I apologized. I wasn't going after her to hurt her," Fox said.

But Fox knew what was coming. When she ran into the dugout at the end of the half-inning, Fox told teammates Caitlin Lowe and Chelsie Mesa that they needed to get on base — "because I'm about to wear it," she said.

Fox was hit in the knee by the first pitch from Danielle Lawrie. Fox didn't retaliate, but ran to first.

It was similar to Saturday night's game, when Lowe collided with DePaul pitcher Tracie Adix at home plate. Adix barked at Lowe for the rough treatment.

"I personally never would mess with Kristie Fox," Mowatt said. "On this team, if you mess with one person, you pretty much have all of us there to back it up.

Given their heart, I just cannot pick against them even though they're facing a pitching juggernaut.

Go Cats! Don't know that I've ever been prouder to be a Wildcat sports fan.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Arcade Fire at the Greek Theatre -- Concert Review

It's been said that one can only know the feeling of being in love when one is actually in love. Maybe that applies to the explosive synergy created by combining the passion, talent and joy at an Arcade Fire concert.

On Wednesday, May 30, the seven (official) members of Arcade Fire (plus other contributors) managed to create a metaphorical roof over an open air venue just so they could obliterate it. The only thing that makes that hyperbole (that isn't) even more amazing is that they've done this each time I saw them.

The first time was at the Hollywood Bowl two summers ago when they opened for David Byrne and played such a strong show that they instigated a spontaneous pit on one of the terraces separating the upper levels (where we were). It was a 200-person jumping amoeba of joy. The ushers let it happen, because there was no fucking way to restrain that kind of combustion. Just let it burn itself off, which it did peacefully.

But this time I luckily scored pit tickets, which ultimately created a vibe that I was at a roofless Troubadour seeing the biggest band in the world in a tiny club. As an aside I love these cats who now call Montreal home, because pit tickets were available only on show day beginning at 6:30 p.m. virtually ensuring that only fans were in the pit (not brokers or people connected to them).

During the set, which opened with Keep the Car Running (a song that made sure no one started the show sitting down, stirred the salivating audience into a frenzy and amazingly served merely as a starting point for the show's energy), Win Butler's wife RĂ©gine Chassagne frequently locked eyes with those of us in front and seducing everyone in the pit with her snake charmer eyes and unbridled grins that said "Everytime you go crazy, I'll top it. Wanna play?" She even quasi-posed for cameraphone snaps.

The other coolest fucking thing about being that close ... I could hear stuff without mics, like certain vocals, most of the percussion and even knew when to pay extra attention to catch the clarinet and french horn. Btw, I think everyone save for Win and the violin and viola performers played about a half dozen instruments. Even with 12 years of clarinet and passable saxophone and trumpet, I couldn't join the band.

Being up that close, I got to watch a cameraman getting nearly pile-drived (look that up on Wikipedia to get the Paul Orndorf WWF reference). He seemed to love every second of it, smiling as if knowing that this was the best part of his job. I jealously watched a front-row-of-the-pit fan snag a drum stick that flew into the pit. And since I didn't want to be the pit fan with no energy (see KCRW benefit show every year), I ultimately injured my wrist from clapping too hard and too much (literally. I had to wear a wrist brace for the last two days at work).

A large multi-instrumental band like Arcade Fire, with band members who run around stage ready to smash anything as percussion, is virtually guaranteed to light the place afire with its fast hard-rocking songs like No Cars Go, Tunnels and The Well and the Lighthouse, which all tore through the audience. But songs like the moody My Body is a Cage turned into a mass heart-breaker as Win melodically cried "My body is a cage that keeps me from dancing with the one I love, but my mind holds the key."

The only disappointment was ironically enough, Intervention, which is an early favorite to be my favorite song of the year. For some odd reason this song came off flat. It might have been that the audience expected more so when the band didn't ignite immediately they were dulled and when the band didn't see us start eating ourselves immediately they lost the fire. So the amazing synergy they seem to feed off of failed us all.

Ultimately though, for a show to leave me or anyone sighing in awe for an entire drive home and even now days later, it has to close strongest. And this one did.

During Power Out they blew us away. Urgent might be one of the most overused words in the music critics' lexicon, but I defy anyone to find a more immediate feeling record from the last 10 years; a song that grabbed you and told you music as we know it is about to change the way Power Out did when it hit the airwaves. The girl in front of Dave turned into a fuzzy-topped pogo stick as the drums led the collective racing heartbeat.

And then things got really interesting ... Win lowered himself into the pit as crowd members were slapping fives on his sweat-soaked back and then he crawled over the railing and literally rushed his way back to the very back of the theater. At that point the other band members called for him to "come on down" (two members went to a The Price is Right taping earlier that day and wore their yellow name tags).

He did and then the stage turned into a maelstrom of sound as everyone just hammered away on their percussion, tore through the strings on their guitars, shredded their violins or blasted their brass until ... emerged from the chaotic cocoon, Rebellion, which sounded better than at the Bowl.

Finally, they closed with Wake Up, which in the best way didn't turn into too massive a sing along. The crowd's energy would have overwhelmed the soundsystem, which was honestly not quite up to the task (at least not for the pit, occassionally vocals sounded muted). But with a crowd so hypnotized they wanted to make sure they heard the band's melodic screams of catharsis.

Wow. I try not to become over-the-top guy, but this show was that fucking good.

Here's one sample ...