Monday, February 28, 2005

Album of the Day

Asia, by Asia (1982): Some albums suffer from the weight of expectations - they get so much hype that they can't possible measure up. Asia, in 1982, must have seemed like a progger's wet dream, on paper: one long-term member of Yes, one short-term member of Yes, a long-time fixture from King Crimson and UK, and 1/3 of ELP. So what exactly went wrong? Or did anything, really? Did Howe, Downes, Wetton and Palmer ever conceive of Asia as anything other than a prog-tinged AOR band? If not, this album holds up a little better than if you expect a great prog masterpiece. It's not great - don't get me wrong - most of it is above average. They certainly went downhill from here.

Living in a Roe-less World

There was an interesting column in The New York Times yesterday about what the abortion law landscape might look like if Roe v. Wade became a thing of the past. Critics (pro-choice included) of Roe correctly point out that a reversal would not make abortion illegal in the United States, it would only return the issue to the states. The question brought up by the column is what would the status be of state laws regulating abortion that were invalidated by Roe but were never actually repealed (a similar situation exists with segregation laws that are invalid after Brown v. Board of Education but nonetheless remain on the books)? Would they spring back to life as if Roe never existed or would they need to be reauthorized by the state legislature? If they did rise from the dead, would prosecutors actually use them without a fresh statute? My gut tells me that they would spring back to life but probably wouldn't be implemented without lots and lots of litigation, and maybe not even then without some serious political backing.

For more cogent thoughts than my WVU-trained brain can produce, see this post (including comments) over at The Volokh Conspiracy.

Aim Your Gestures Carefully

Chelsea picked up its first trophy of the season this weekend, downing Liverpool 3-2 in the Carling Cup Final. But manager Jose Maurinho missed the victory after being ejected from the match. Seems that after Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard's own goal tied the game at 1-1 in the 75th minute (still turn down $50 million for him?), Maurinho made a gesture towards the Liverpool fans by "pressing his finger to his lips," presumably telling them to shut up. Maurinho's story today is that the gesture was not meant for the Liverpool fans, but for the press, who "speak too much and in my opinion they try to do everything to disturb Chelsea." One problem - the press were actually arrayed at the opposite end of the stadium from the Liverpool fans. Whoops. Might wanna make sure all your targets line-up before you fire off next time, Jose.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Million Dollar Bruhaha (Redux)

A while back, I blogged about the controversy surrounding Best Picture Nominee Million Dollar Baby and it's surprise mercy killing ending. With the furor surrounding the film continuing, I made a startling discovery today. While I was away, Netflix dropped One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in my mailbox. I thought that was a nice coincidence, as tomorrow is Oscar night and Cuckoo won all five of the "big" awards (picture, director, screenplay [adapted], actor, actress) thirty years ago. Turns out there's another coincidence - in the end (yes, a spoiler, but it's a 30-year old flick!), the main character is, basically, euthanized. After Jack Nicholson's character suffers a lobotomy as retaliation for his behavior, another character smothers him in his bed after he is returned to the ward. The killer then busts out and runs off into the sunset.

So, there you go - 30 years before Eastwood knocked off Hillary Swank, Oscar had already rewarded euthanasia. That boat, it seems, has sailed. Leave it to lots of people to miss it.

Bloggus Interuptus

Apologies for the lack of posts last week, but I was away from the Ranch, honing my legal writing skills at a workshop in DC. Unfortunately, the underlying theme of the week appeared to be "go out and be the best advocate you can, but it won't really make a difference, anyway." Oh, well.

I have to say that I really like DC, even if it does suffer from one-area-code syndrome. ;) It's a big city that doesn't really feel all that big. The idea that we have consciously created a space for our seat of government is kind of neat, too. The Fed doesn't share the spotlight with anything else in town. And of course, it's home to the best soccer team in the country.

But they have no idea of how to deal with snow. Once I hit town Tuesday, the TV news was a twitter with forecasts of an imminent "storm" that would dump inches and inches of snow on the DC area. As the region braced for it's blast of winter, many schools closed - before the first flake fell. In reality, about 2 inches came down, which really isn't enough to phase anyone who deals with the white stuff on a regular basis. And folks living on relatively flat land have no room for complaint.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Album of the Day

Drama, by Yes (1980): This is an album that prompts a lot of discussion amongst Yesfans, as it's the only one under the Yes banner ever released with vocalist Jon Anderson. That leads many to claim it isn't a "real" Yes album and doesn't belong in the catalog with the rest of their work. In my book, if it says "Yes" on the cover, that's enough for me to call is a "real" album. More than that, it's pretty damn good, particularly for a band going through its death throes (by the time 90125 rolled around it was really a different band). Of the six tracks on the album, three are excellent ("Machine Messiah," "Into the Lens," and "Tempus Fugit"), one is better than average ("Does It Really Happen?") and one is at least a little different ("White Car"). Only "Run Through the Light" doesn't cut it, but even then it beats something like "Circus of Heaven" from the prior album, Tormato.

Sometimes, I Just Don't Get "Art"

I've been struggling to grasp the point of Christo's latest work, "Gates," which is strewn through Central Park in NYC. I don't really get it, but at least you've got to give him credit for working on a massive scale. But I really don't get the art of Andy Coppola, who recently "performed" in Richmond:

Coppola is a performance artist who makes himself into 'living sculpture' by
adorning his body with paint and clay or by wearing costumes.

He launched his latest 'performance piece' Feb. 5 by donning a hallucinogenically colorful, head-to-toe outfit made of powermesh (normally used for swimsuit lining) and walking from his South Richmond home to Art6, the downtown gallery sponsoring Coppola's performance as part of its 'Orlando Furioso' show.

The result of his piece? He was arrested. Seems that folks in Richmond were a little freaked out by Coppola's performance and called the police. The cops repeatedly told Coppola to stop, but he refused ("In this piece, I walk looking straight ahead with my arms folded over my chest. And I don't speak."). Finally, after a cop said he would "put a bullet through you," Coppola stopped. He was eventually left to go on his way, but was charged with a misdemeanors for obstructing justice by failing to heed the commands of the cops.

The point of all this?

The 33-year-old artist, a Springfield native who studied sculpture at Virginia
Commonwealth University and now lives in Richmond and Orlando, Fla., said
walking in his costume is part of an ongoing process of 'creating compositions
within the city' to 'reawaken people's views of the environment.'

He likened his appearance to that of 'a flower by a Dumpster -- something that makes you take another look at the space.'

Um, OK. I wonder who's paying for all this?

I Knew This Would Come Back to Bite Them

Even though I am now a full-fledged Netflix groupie, I have nothing against the fine folks at Blockbuster. But when I saw their new "no more late fees," ad campaign, I wondered how long it would take before someone actually read the fine print. Turns out that person is the Attorney General of New Jersey, who filed suit against Blockbuster for consumer fraud. The problem is that Blockbuster didn't get rid of late fees, only the first round of them that you'd pay if you were less than a week late returning your rental (basically the cost of an extra rental). After that, Blockbuster adds a $1.25 restocking fee (no biggy). But if you keep the rental more than 30 days, Blockbuster just bills you the purchase price for the DVD or game, which could hit upwards of $50 bucks.

Remember, folks, always read the fine print!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Album of the Day

Joe's Garage, by Frank Zappa (1979): Not only is this a fine album, but it was particularly timely this morning, in the wake of the House vote to drastically increase "indecency" fines for both broadcast outlets and performers. Frank's tale of obsessive censorship run amok seems particularly appropriate in this red-state times (sadly). Still, there's a lot of really cool music beyond the message, from the insane bass lines in "Catholic Girls" to Frank's graceful guitar solo in "Watermelon in Easter Hay." And, of course, Mary's truism from "Packard Goose": "Music is the best." It sure is.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Album of the Day

Waiting for Columbus, by Little Feat (1978): Following up on the theme started last Thursday with Seconds Out and continuing with At Budokan yesterday (which I listened to out of order - oops), here's another classic live album. Unfortunately, it suffers from the same "cram it on one disc" syndrome that Kansas's Two for the Show did, where the record company snipped a couple of tunes from the LP to make it fit on one CD. I can't remember enough about the LP version my brother had to know if I'm missing anything, but they left "Fat Man In the Bathtub" and "Dixie Chicken," so I have no complaints.

Self Esteem Can Be Bad (But That's OK)

Today's USA Today has an interesting article about the backlash among parenting and child development experts against phony praise designed to raise kids self esteem. It seems that once those kids got out into the real world, they weren't ready to cope with people criticizing them. Some parents think that the kids weren't buying, anyway:

Sobel, the mother of 16-year-old twins in Sherman Oaks, Calif., says they could tell 'what was real and what was fake,' even when very young. 'I was tired of going to the sports field and seeing moms say, ‘Great job at going up to bat.' It hit me early on that kids could see through inane compliments.'
I'm not sure I buy that. If that's all a kid has ever heard, he or she probably believes it. All that leads to this:
'I often get students in graduate school doing doctorates who made straight A's all their lives, and the first time they get tough feedback, the kind you need to develop skills,' says Deborah Stipek, dean of education at Stanford University. 'I have a box of Kleenex in my office because they haven't dealt with it before.'
I can say that I saw that play out in law school. By definition, most people in law school (or med school or any graduate program) are used to being near the top of the academic heap for most of their lives. But not everybody can get straight As in law school, and some folks take their first B or C (or D - I speak from experience) pretty hard, while the rest of us learn to adapt and move on.

Although the article talks about the affect of all this on GenX, of which I am a part, I don't remember all this hooey when I was a kid. In fact, I have vivid memories of a Little League coach yelling at me while I was at bat that I swung "like an old warsher [not a typo!] woman." Of course he was right (and I knew it) - but I turned out OK in the end, anyway.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

A Blast from the Past

Back in the misty days of the last century, before blogs were all the rage (jeez, I sound like a geezer - get off my lawn, you damn kids!), I had a web page full of random thoughts that I threw up on the Net. It was called, very creatively, Random Thoughts. Due to popular request, I've rescued the RT archive from my old website and set it back up, with fresh internal links for all the entries. It's got 17 entries spanning 1997 to 2002 and discussing various topics, some of which I've blathered about here on the Ranch. In addition, there are links to two "special" entries, a final project I did for a law school class called Pratical Moral Philosophy for Lawyers (don't laugh) and my list of the top 100 musical works (the I owned at the time) of the 20th Century.

All that goodness can be found at the "Random Thoughts Archive" link to your right. Enjoy!

Album of the Day

At Budokan, by Cheap Trick (1979): This is arguably one of the most well-known live albums of all time. It's full of energy, with great performances and lots of screaming fans (in Japan, it appears, everybody is The Beatles). Side 2 is about the best 18 or so minutes of straight-on rock that I own and contains one of my favorite tunes of all time, "Surrender."

Real Stock Car Racing Still Exists (Sort Of)

Over on ESPN's website today, there's an article about the disillusionment that some long-time NASCAR fans have for the current version of the product. In particular, I was struck by this quote from Hershel McGriff, one of NASCAR's first star drivers:

'I kinda wish we could get back to where cars looked more like they do in the showroom,' McGriff said. 'But I doubt we'll ever see that.'
Ah, but Hershel, we do see that all the time, if you look outside of the NASCAR machine. In fact, the US sports two top level "showroom stock" racing series where actual production cars (modified slightly) duke it out on some of the country's great road courses. The Speed World Challenge serves mainly as a support series for the American LeMans Series, with each of its two divisions (GT for the Vipers, Vettes, and Porsches and Touring for the BMWs, Mazdas, and Acuras) fighting it out in a separate sprint race at each track. On the other hand, the Grand Am Cup series, which supports the Rolex Sports Car Series, puts both of its classes (Grand Sport and Street Touring) on the track at once in endurance races, complete with driver changes. And that doesn't even include the countless SCCA, NASA, and other amateur showroom stock series that race every weekend all over the country.

In other words, if you want to see racing "where cars looked more like they do in the showroom," you've got lots of choices.

This Conviction Brought to You by (Your Company Name Here)

I can sympathize with local prosecutors who have limited resources with which to do their jobs (they have manifestly more than their defense counterparts, but that's for another time), but is seeking corporate sponsorship the right solution? A DA in Texas has accepted a $200,000 grant from Mary Kay to help fund domestic violence prosecutions. While that particular grant is probably mostly harmless, it raises serious questions about other corporate tie-ins. What if a company that gives such a grant turns into (or should turn into) a target of a criminal investigation? Do we run the risk of DAs appearing to have the same quid-pro-quo arrangement going that most of us think most politicians do with their contributors?

At any rate, I figure if it's OK for prosecutors to do this, public defenders should get a little help, too. I'm willing to sell a small portion of each page of the briefs I write - say the upper right hand corner - for a small fee from the right donor. :)

We Shoot 'em, You (Pay to) Care for Them

State and federal prison systems are constantly dealing with the rising health care costs of aging inmates. Sometimes, they will dump elderly inmates back into society rather than incur the cost of their care. But most of the time, at least the prison system isn't responsible for the inmate's condition. The New York parole board released a prisoner this week who has been brain dead since being hit in the head with a projectile fired by prison guards during a prison incident. He was released before his next regularly scheduled parole board appearance and was completely discharged (meaning no more parole). The probable reason? The $1056 per day tab for his medical care, which has now been shifted onto his family.

Update/Mea Culpa: Apparently I was suffering from geographic dyslexia yesterday - this story involves the California prison system and parole board, not New York's.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Album of the Day

Seconds Out, by Genesis (1977): This marked the end of Genesis's classic period (guitarist Steve Hackett left during the mixing of the album), but what a way to go. Disc one contains solid renditions of several cuts ("Fifth of Fifth" in particular), with Collins handling Gabriel's old vocal parts very well. But the real treasure is disc two. A large chunk of that disc is given over to a fuller, richer version of "Supper's Ready" than on Foxtrot. Up next, "Cinema Show" gets a similar treatment. The instrumental second half, in particular, is about the best Genesis ever did. "Dance on a Volcano / Los Endos" bring things to a thunderous conclusion.

Thanks, USA Today

Just what everyone wants for a Valentine's Day gift - notice that they are part of the newest class of social lepers. According to the cover story in the Life section of today's USA Today, as the social stigma of being divorced slips away it's now being ramped us for those of us in (at least) our 30s who have never married. In their words, "if anyone's a pariah now, it's the never-married singleton." Whoopee! And it gets worse: "[a] man on his own is considered more than bad; he's vaguely dangerous." At least that was good for a laugh.

Hey, wait a second - chicks dig dangerous guys right? Hey, maybe this pariah thing ain't so bad.

Did You Try and Bullshit This Week?

Today's New York Times has an amusing article about a retired (stand up?) philosopher who has written an essay titled, "On Bullshit." Of course the Times won't print the whole word, but no such worries here! The first paragraph of the essay shows where it's going:

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry.
I eagerly await the inevitable law review articles that will follow on the legal aspects of bullshit, all of which will confirm what those of us in the profession have known for a long time: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit."

Is You Is or Is You Ain't a Planet?

This Friday marks the 75th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto. Since its discovery by an amateur astronomer, the question of what exactly Pluto is has raged. Five years ago, for instance, the head of the Hayden Planetarium and American Museum of Natural History officially demoted Pluto from planet to merely one more of the ring of comets and other junk at the outer reaches of the Solar system. His reward? "[H]ate mail from third-graders." I vote for keeping Pluto taken down a notch, if only to preserve the accuracy of Holst's The Planets.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Album of the Day

2112, by Rush (1976): 2112, with its side-long title track, was the really the first of Rush's run of excellent late 70s - early 80s albums. It was the first large scale work of theirs that really hung together and became sort of a blueprint for heavy prog-influenced rock for years to come. Side 2 is generally slighted, but it has its moment.

Ironically ("I don't believe in destiny / or the guiding hand of fate . . ."), I ran across this article today discussing the 100th birthday of Ayn Rand, whose Anthem was the inspiration for "2112" (Rand's novella has a happier ending, tho'). Her work influenced a lot of other earlier Peart lyrics, including "Something for Nothing" from this album and "Anthem" from Fly By Night.

Free Speech Covers The Unpopular and Unhinged, Too

It's often said that everyone is in favor of free speech as long as the speaker is saying something they agree with. The recent hullabaloo about a University of Colorado professor's essay about 9/11 proves that point fairly well. Three years after his long, rambling and occasionally incoherent piece was published in a local newspaper (I actually read it, but I lost the link), the right wing has mobilized behind calls for him to be demoted or fired from his position at the University.

For what it's worth, most of his arguments are half baked and proceed from faulty assumptions. He goes way to far in equating WTC workers with Nazi bureaucratic functionaries, too. But the underlying theme of his screed might have merit: that, basically, we as a nation brought 9/11 upon ourselves as a result of our long-term foreign policy in the Middle East. Karma, in other words, turned around and bit us in the ass. It's an incomplete theory, but considering that it was written the day of the attacks admit recurring choruses of "why would anyone do something like that," it has some value. At any rate, it certainly is his right to say it and the right of everyone else in the country to disagree with it.

Should he be fired for it? Of course not. For one thing, the essay itself was delivered out of class and thus the right wing talking points of "captive" audiences is misplaced. Similarly, he appears to have written as a private citizen, not a mouthpiece or representative of the University (nor even using his credentials as any sort of endorsement of his views). So the question really is whether he should be fired for exercising his constitutional rights outside of his employment. Obviously, he shouldn't.

He Who Laughs Last . . .

Remember the two guys in New York who were arrested for "disorderly conduct" after telling lawyer jokes while standing in line outside the courthouse? Thankfully, those prosecutions have dead ended. Charges against one man were dropped, while the grand jury (after hearing from 23 witnesses!) refused to indict the other. Good for them. Nobody should be labeled a criminal for giving my profession some very well deserved scorn. I wonder if they feel any different now, after the efforts of their own attorney (who took the case for free)?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I Guess It's Better Than a Riot

Sports fans celebrate victory in different ways. In some major cities, a big win is cause for a riot of some scale. In my college town of Morgantown, big victories (or defeats - it really didn't matter) are an excuse for students to take furniture from their homes and set it ablaze. And for one Welsh rugby fan, it was cutting off his balls.

Yes, you read that right. The (probably - hopefully - drunken) Welshman told mates in a bar that he was so sure world champions England would beat Wales in the Six Nations match last week that, "[i]f Wales win I'll cut my balls off." True to his word, after the 11-9 Wales win:

Huish went home, severed his testicles with a knife, and walked 200 yards back to the bar with the testicles to show the shocked drinkers what he had done.
Damn, that's dedication.

Album of the Day

Katy Lied, by Steely Dan (1975): While Pretzel Logic has my favorite Dan tune ("Any Major Dude"), Katy Lied is my favorite album of theirs, mainly because there's not a weak track in the bunch. And Fagan's improved piano outro to "Throw Back the Little Ones" is the perfect way to close the album.

Thanks, Brad

As the US prepares to take on Trinidad & Tobago in the first game of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying tomorrow afternoon (set your VCRs/TIVOs), goalkeeper Brad Friedel announced his retirement from international play. Brad, who played in the Olympics and three World Cups for the US, wants to focus on his club career with Blackburn and spend any down time with his family and fledgling business interests. In addition to his US exploits, Brad was named best keeper in the English Premier League in 2002-2003. Thankfully, the US is deep at keeper - and now I'm one spot closer to getting into the squad before Germany 06. :)

Thanks, Brad.

Is Mathew Broderick Involved With This? had an interesting article today about a five-day series of war games being conducted by the Air Force focusing on space-based resources. Not in-space combat, but making effective use of satellites (and dealing with their absence) and the like during a hypothetical 2020 war on terrorism. The article sets the scene:

The classified tabletop war game, the third focused primarily on space, involves 250 military and civilian experts from about 20 federal agencies, and officials from Canada, Australia and Britain, all gathered at the isolated base on the plains east of Colorado Springs.

The game will pit friendly "blue" forces against enemy "red" forces, including state and non-state actors, some wielding weapons of mass destruction . . ..
So, does the Air Force provide the six-sided dice and the chips?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Album of the Day

Red, by King Crimson (1974): If In the Court of the Crimson King announced the arrival of prog to a broader audience in 1969, than Red is the thundering conclusion to the genre's golden age (at least commercially). Red was the last album from Crim in the 70s and was made as the USA lineup was in its death throes. Ironically, it included return performances from Ian McDonald and Mel Collins - sort of a 70s Crim all star effort. It was a hell of a way to go out. In addition to the long-time concert staple "Red," the album's finale, "Starless," is my favorite 12 minutes of Crim ever. An emphatic closing statement for the first epoch of prog.

The New Ten Commandments - Now 40% Slimmer!

Gregg Easterbrook had an interesting column in Friday's Wall Street Journal that makes an interesting proposal to settle the public display of the Ten Commandments debate: strip them down to the six specified in the New Testament. That would eliminate most of the overtly religious ones and leave you with (I'm paraphrasing): don't kill, don't steal, don't like, don't pooch someone other than your spouse, don't talk back to your parents, and be nice to each other. It's an intriguing idea - would the fundies accept a list of moral commands that didn't reference God in order to have them displayed in public?

Million Dollar Bruhaha

Disclaimer: I have not seen either Million Dollar Baby or The Sea Inside (they're both in my Netflix queue), but I'm going to spout off about them anyway. Spoilers ahoy!

After taming down the Super Bowl to nearly G-rated levels, apparently the right wingers in the culture wars are now going after tragic endings to major motion pictures. Various pundits, wayward film critic Mike Medved included (next time some Hollywood type pipes up about some issue, I don't wanna hear anything about their "qualifications" - who appointed Medved a valid social critic?), are attacking the Clint Eastwood film Million Dollar Baby (and, less so, the Spanish film The Sea Inside) for "promoting" assisted suicide. One of the main characters in Baby is paralyzed from the neck down and asks another person to help her die. After much soul searching, he does just that. This pisses off a whole range of people, from the fundies to the disabled-rights folks, who cling to the mantra that life, any life, is worth living, regardless of the wishes of the person actually living it.

While Medved and his ilk no doubt view this as 0ne front in the broader "pro-life / pro-choice" debate (as this Chicago Sun-Times column argues), folks like Not Dead Yet argue that the film promotes the convenience killing of the disabled. Granted, I haven't seen the film, but as I understand it the character who dies in the end makes her choice perfectly rationally. If that's the case, than I can only think that NDY and similar organizations are looking for cheap publicity. Nobody seriously argues anymore that there are groups of people who, because of their disability, should be euthanized. That idea went out with the Nazis. The issue seems to be whether a competent human being has some right to control her own destiny. In that case, it's none of NDY's (or Medved's) business what she and those around her does.

Life is not the same thing for everyone. Some people are so wrapped up in the wonder of it all that they would never think of killing themselves or "giving up" if faced with a disability. Others, however, who have lived with the pain and grief of their own disability may think differently. And it's not anyone else's place to tell them what they feel is wrong or that life (as the activists conceive it) really is worth living. As much as cliche would like to differ, you can't really walk a mile in someone else's shoes. When it comes to these kinds of very personal choices, the only person who can completely comprehend the enormity of the choice is the person making it. Maybe we need a refresher course on John Stuart Mill in this country?

On a somewhat related note, Roger Ebert takes issue with critics who have given away the ending of Baby in order to condemn it. While he makes some excellent points about the difference between characters doing what makes sense to them versus what we want them to, I'm not sure I agree about the spoilers. Maybe it's because I do must of my movie viewing on DVD months (or years) after a film is released and, therefore, find it hard to avoid spoilers. But a really good film should still touch you, move you, or provoke you whether you know what happens going in. Why it happens, and what motivates the characters to do what they do, is infinitely more important.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Album of the Day

Kansas, by Kansas (1974): American prog frequently gets slammed as either derivative of what went on overseas or as living in an unholy union with AOR/Arena Rock. I suppose both criticisms could be fired at Kansas, although neither would be really fair. True, their debut album came out the same year as the prog biggies in Europe were hitting their peak (last Gabriel-era Genesis album, last great Yes album, last King Crimson album for seven years), but it's hardly a cheap rip-off in terms of style. And while there are some more straight forward rockers here, the last half of the album (from "Journey from Mariabronn On") are top -notch prog.

Preach On, Brother Gene

One of the guys I used to work with sends out a daily Email with a quote or saying of some kind. It's usually funny and occasionally profound. I thought today's blurb was the latter (and particularly ironic given the impending death of Enterprise):

We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes. -- Gene Roddenberry
George Carlin rants on a similar theme, but I think this sums up things quite nicely.

I Guess Didn't Work For Him

An ex-con, with a history of sex offenses, must have thought he found a treasure trove of available men when he stumbled upon a website full of pictures of guys, complete with home addresses. He contacted a couple of the guys and made a date with one of them - even showed up early. There was only one problem - the website in question was the California sex offender registry. Not only did that mean that the quality of men involved was less than spectacular, but it meant that the ex-con, as a sex offender himself, committed a crime by accessing the site. He was arrested when he showed up for his date.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Album of the Day

Au Dela du Delire, by Ange (1974): I nominate this one for Album of the Day because it is the only disc I own from a French band. It's actually pretty good, at least musically. Mellotron-drenched symphonic prog with lyrical guitar playing on top. Unfortunately, the vocalist sounds like he has a permanent head cold and is always in danger of coughing up a chunk of lung.

Don't Let the Door Hit You In the Ass on the Way Out

Soon-to-be ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft has been letting fly with some parting shots as his time in office winds to a close. Of particular interest was this gem about the Supreme Court's recent decision in Booker:

In his remarks to reporters and in a speech earlier in the day, Ashcroft also criticized a Jan. 12 Supreme Court ruling that sentencing guidelines for federal judges are advisory, not mandatory. Without stricter guidelines, Ashcroft said, prosecutors will lose leverage over suspects and judges are likely to hand out more lenient sentences.

The ruling, Ashcroft said at the Heritage Foundation, is 'a retreat from justice that may put the public's safety in jeopardy.'
This conveniently overlooks the fact that, as Doug Berman over at Sentencing Law and Policy pointed out, Breyer's remedial scheme from Booker is basically what Ashcroft's DOJ argued for! Some people are just never happy.

Iraqi Post-Election Skepticism

To Dubya's credit, the vote over the weekend in Iraq seemed to go very well, although there were still some places where people simply couldn't vote (just like Ohio). But before we proclaim it a total success, we should consider a similar election from our past. Yes, it's the V word again - Vietnam. As this article from UK's The Guardian explains, post-election press after the 1968 South Vietnamese election was just about as good as the press has been this week about Iraq. And we all know how well that little experiment turned out. I hope history won't repeat itself, but the cynic in me is betting on it.

Album of Yesterday

Selling England by the Pound, by Genesis (1973): This is another one of those albums I'd take with me to a desert island (if I had sufficient notice and a CD player handy). Selling is the pinnacle of Genesis's golden age, with all five members in fine form. "I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)" was their first "hit," while "Firth of Fifth" and "Cinema Show" went on to become long-term concert staples. The one track lots of people don't like, "The Battle of Epping Forest" (which tells of a gangland battle in typically surreal Gabrielish terms), I still really like. I'll even forgive Phil for "More Fool Me." :) Classic from beginning to end.