Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Album of the Day

Electromagnets, by Electromagnets (1998): This is actually rerelease of a 1975 regionally released LP by a band that contained a very young (yet still freakishly talented) Eric Johnson on guitar. The sweet tone and deft technical ability that marks his current work is evident here in the service of some really sweet jazz/fusion tunes. I've said it before (maybe not here), but if these guys were from England instead of Austin, Texas, they would have fit right in with the Canterbury prog scene.

How to Piss People Off (Redux)

Wow, and I thought James Cameron knew how to honk off a crowd. He's got nothing on Kenneth Eng, contributor to AsianWeek, a national publication based in San Francisco. For his February 23 column, Eng decided to write about "Why I Hate Blacks." According to CNN:

In the piece, which appeared in the February 23 edition of San Francisco-based AsianWeek, contributor Kenneth Eng lists reasons why he supports discrimination against blacks, writing, among other things, 'I would argue that blacks are weak-willed. They are the only race that has been enslaved for 300 years.'
Wow, who knew such drivel existed outside the white supremacist loonies lurking in the depths of the Web? In hindsight, however, perhaps the folks at AsianWeek should have seen this coming:
The column was among several written by Kenneth Eng, who has described himself as an 'Asian Supremacist.' Previous columns have been titled 'Proof That Whites Inherently Hate Us' and 'Why I Hate Asians.'
AsianWeek's apology can be found here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Album of the Day

Duke, by Genesis (1980): This was the real turning point for Jesus. The slide from prog pioneers to slick pop band first began with "Your Own Special Way" on Wind and Wuthering and gained steam with "Follow You, Follow Me" from ... and Then There Were Three, a bona fide (if small) pop hit. Duke seems to consciously straddle the divide between the two eras. On the one hand, there's the obvious radio material like "Misunderstanding" and "Turn It On Again" (the latter albeit a radio-friendly 7/4). On the other, there's strong prog elements in the "Behind the Lines" trilogy, "Cul-de-Sac," and the closing mostly-instrumental workout "Duke's Travels / Duke's End." The success of the radio material pretty much showed the band the path they'd follow for the rest of their career. Whether that's a good thing or not is a matter of personal preference.

UPDATE: In the Ground & Sky review, Bob ponders:

Hmmm, an album that mixes prog and pop and is based on the early Genesis sound... hey, could this be Genesis' neoprog album?
I think that's right - a few years before Marillion, IQ, and Twelfth Night would set the genre's boundaries, Genesis showed them the way.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Album of the Day

Drama, by Yes (1980): There is a wedge album amongst the Yes faithful and this is it, for one simple reason - the absence of vocalist Jon Anderson. Although Yes is famous for its ever-shifting roster (only bassist Christ Squire has been a part of every Yes album), Anderson's lyrics and vocals have always been a hallmark of the band's sound. His absence from Drama (Trevor Horn, later turned into a successful producer, handled the vocal duties) leads lots of Yesfans to dismiss the album out of hand. That's a shame because it really stands up against any of the band's post-Relayer work.

How to Piss People Off

Well, give James Cameron credit for one thing - he knows how to make a whole bunch of people really angry. Via this post on the New York Times The Lede blog comes word that Cameron has produced a:

90-minute documentary in which Mr. Cameron, along with journalist Simcha Jacobovici, say they have uncovered the burial cave of Jesus and his family — along with enough DNA evidence to establish, they say, that Jesus wasn’t resurrected and that Jesus sired a son with Mary Magdelene.
Quite the stunner, no? It's not quite that clear cut, as this article in the Toronto Globe and Mail points out:
Although the evidence contained in the film and book is hardly definitive, it is compelling.

Inscribed in Hebrew, Latin or Greek, six boxes -- taken from a 2,000-year-old cave discovered in 1980 during excavation for a housing project in Talpiyot, south of Jerusalem -- bear the names: Yeshua [Jesus] bar Yosef [son of Joseph]; Maria [the Latin version of Miriam, which is the English Mary]; Matia [the Hebrew equivalent of Matthew, a name common in the lineage of both Mary and Joseph]; Yose [the Gospel of Mark refers to Yose as a brother of Jesus]; Yehuda bar Yeshua, or Judah, son of Jesus; and in Greek, Mariamne e mara, meaning 'Mariamne, known as the master.' According to Harvard professor Fran├žois Bovon, interviewed in the film, Mariamne was Mary Magdalene's real name.
So, in other words, the evidence appears to show that a clutch of people sharing names with Jesus and his family were buried together in this tomb. The odds on that group not being Jesus of Nazareth are fairly low (either 1 in 600 or 1 in 42 million, depending on who does the calculations), but it's not as if there's a test sample of Jesus's DNA against which to compare.

Nonetheless, the prospect of disproving the resurrection or buttressing the mythology behind The Da Vinci Code is not sitting well with the faithful. If the comments to this post on Time's blog are any indication (2500 comments - Holy Shit!), lots of folks are pissed off. There's lots of believers taking solace in the idea of Cammeron and his partners in crime (i.e., non-Christians) being sent to hell for their blasphemy (really, the holy schadenfreude is amazing). The cream of the crop is this enlightened discourse:
FUCK JAMES CAMERON HE LICKS HIS MOTHERS PROLAPSED ANUS
FUCK JAMES CAMERON HE LICKS HIS MOTHERS PROLAPSED ANUS
That repeats ad nauseum.

The whole situation reminds me of "Crucifixion Variations" by Lawrence Person, in which scientists have discovered some sort of subatomic particles that, properly studied, allow them to "see" history unfold. The story involves a project to attempt to "see" the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The project administrator is an atheist who hires an old friend who is a born again Christian to run the experiments. When the first experiment shows Christ's burial followed by an empty tomb, the atheist is intrigued and the believer is ecstatic. When the second experiment shows just the opposite, the atheist is still intrigued, while the believer is shattered.

The Thrill of the Chase

Today, the Supreme Court oral argument in a case that presents an interesting Fourth Amendment issue: do the police unreasonably seize someone by using deadly force to stop a fleeing traffic offender? This article from the Christian Science Monitor does a good job of setting up the case. In brief, Victor Harris was speeding on a two-lane road in Georgia when police gave chase. He failed to stop for lights and sirens, hitting speeds of 80-90 miles per hour while fleeing. To end the pursuit, one cop rammed the back of Harris's car, sending it over an embankment. Harris is now paralyzed as a result of his injuries and sued the officer for violating his civil rights (the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures).

The issue isn't whether the cops can do such a thing, but when it's appropriate to do so. While deadly force might be appropriate to stop an accused killer or rapist from escaping, can the same be said for somebody who at worst would get a traffic ticket? As the article points out, the argument takes place against the background of hundreds of deaths (not all of them suspects) in such chases each year. The transcript of today's argument can be found here.

Album of Last Friday

Discipline, by King Crimson (1981): Back in the early 80s, as the remaining prog dinosaurs struggled to remain relevant, Robert Fripp put together a new group, which included his former Crimson drummer Bill Bruford, guitarist/vocalist Adrian Belew (fresh from Zappa's band as well as work with Talking Heads and David Bowie), and bassist/Stickist Tony Levin (from Peter Gabriel's band). Originally, it was not called King Crimson, which Fripp disbanded in 1974. But once it became obvious that a known name would easy PR and booking, Fripp relented. The original band name - Discipline - became the name of the album. Joining elements of new wave and world music with complex interweaving guitar lines of the type originally heard in "Fracture" (from 1974's Starless and Bible Black), Discipline became a landmark in the Crim catalog and the ongoing development of progressive rock. An essential part of the genre.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Album of the Day

Different Stages, by Rush (1998): I wrote an fairly lengthy review of this 3-disc set for Ground and Sky years ago (follow the title link) that still pretty much captures my opinion of the set. It's worth it for the full-blown "2112," a live version of "Natural Science," and the archival third disc from the A Farewell to Kings era. However, on thing sucks just as bad as it did back then:

My other complaint, and it is fairly major, is to whomever put together the package for this release. You should be taken out and shot! To begin with, we get one of those flimsy cardboard folders instead of a jewel case. Then you open it to find that the discs themselves don't even snap into place, they merely slide in and out of the folder (just like the LPs of yore!). Finally, the third disc has no real place to call home, only a sleeve that rests within the folded case, which falls out every time I open it.
When bad packaging happens to good albums!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Album of the Day

De-Loused in the Comatorium, by The Mars Volta (2003): This is another one of those semi-popular albums I bought because it was causing critics to throw around the "p-word." In fact, I remember a New York Times article about the band that name-dropped King Crimson and Yes. At first, to be honest, I was not impressed. It was certainly different, dark, and difficult to get into. And I generally like my music complex and dense. But, to paraphrase Spinal Tap, there's a fine line between densely complex and hyperactively twitchy. Having lived with it for a while, it's grown on me, but not greatly. About halfway through it all starts to run together and the nonsense vocals get on my nerves. But for about 30 minutes, it's pretty kick ass.

The Trabi Turns 50

Remember the Yugo? The hopelessly underpowered, ugly as sin, cheap little hatchback from the mid 1980s? If you thought that car was a piece of shit,* you've never heard of the Trabant. The Trabant (or "Trabi" to it's fans) was the East German answer to every small car built on the rest of the planet, and it's getting ready to celebrate 50 years on the road:

The first car rolled off the production line on 7 November 1957 - the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, which the GDR celebrated with its big brother, the Soviet Union.

The Trabant's two-stroke engine could push the car to the dizzying speed of 90km per hour (56mph).
There are over 50,000 Trabant's still on the road in Germany, in all their glory.

UPDATE: I love this line from the Wikipedia entry on the Trabant: "The mechanically simple, easily tuned engine makes Trabants interesting for low-cost rallying." That's high praise!

* Indeed - a convertible example graces the cover of Crap Cars, which my nephew gave me for Xmas a few years back. The Yugo GV finishes behind the Mustang II on the list of worst cars ever.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Album of the Day

Darwin!, by Banco del Mutuo Soccorso (1972): Last week we learned that the theory of evolution was really just religious dogma in disguise, specifically the "alternate 'creation scenario' of the Pharisee Religion." I suppose that makes Darwin! part of the global plot, with it's opening epic "L'evoluzione." If this whole thing is a Da Vinci Code style plot, maybe this Italian prog classic is the stand in for the Mona Lisa. Or maybe not. Maybe it's just a solid hunk of classic symphonic prog. For the record, my opinion of the album has improved considerably since I wrote the review at Ground and Sky.

More on Mitt

In a comment to my post yesterday about Mitt Romney dashing my Presidential dreams, Big Jay from Texans for Mitt Romney said:

You won't find any instance of Romney discriminating against atheists. Don't buy too much into that comment.
I'm sorry, what part of "no God = no president" isn't discriminatory? Romney is categorically excluding from consideration as leaders of this country a group of us (admittedly a small group) based on religious beliefs or lack thereof.

That disappoints me for two reasons. First, it makes me question how firm a grasp Romney has on basic Constitutional principles (leave the First Amendment to the side for a second - how about Article VI: "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."). Second, one would think Romney would be a little more sensitive about that kind of blanket statement given the hurdles he faces as a Mormon running in the GOP primary:
After all, the same bloc of voters -- conservative Christians -- that once found Romney suspiciously liberal on abortion and gay rights does not much like his Mormonism, either. This nice touch of intolerance has got to worry Romney. In recent polls, something like one-third of all voters have said they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate -- and the figure is a bit higher (39 percent) among Republicans. Iowa, where conservative Christians comprise about 37 percent of the GOP electorate, could be trouble.
Getting back to the issue of whether Romney's statement was discriminatory, there seems to be only two ways to read it. He was clearly responding to a criticism from someone of his religious beliefs. By concluding his response with a proclamation that only believers can be President, he is either (a) honestly stating a bigoted and close-minded belief on his part or (b) pandering to the Bible-thumping base of the GOP in order to secure the nomination. Neither one is particularly honorable.

Big Day @ the Supremes

Regular reader(s?) will recall my discussion of two Supreme Court cases of recent vintage - Blakely and Booker - that changed the language, if not the real landscape, of federal sentencing. The confusion wrought by those two cases has reached the Supreme Court again in the form of Rita v. US and Claiborne v. US. The issues in the two cases, generally speaking, deal with the place of the United States Sentencing Guidelines in a system where they are supposedly only "advisory." This article from today's New York Times does a pretty good job of setting out the issues in advance of today's oral arguments. You can find transcripts of the oral arguments from the two cases here and here.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Mitt Romney Says I Can't Be President

I've switched over to CNN's The Situation Room for a second to see a piece on GOP Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. Romney's religion - he's a Mormon - is shaping up to be a major issue in his primary campaign. On the show, we have a video clip of Romney responding to a heckler at a weekend appearance. The heckler says to Romney "you're a pretender . . . you do not know da Lord."* To which, Romney responds, after chuckling good naturedly:

Let me offer just a thought, and that is - One of the great things about this great land is we have people of different faiths and different persuasions. And, uh, I'm convinced that the nation does need to have people of different faiths, but we need to have a person of faith lead the country.
Well, gee, I guess I'll just have to disband my nascent Presidential exploratory committee, won't I? Although I'm not a Republican and have no real right to barge into their primary, I was set to defend him against the attacks from other religionists who for some reason claim Mormonism is too goofy than their own peculiar mythology. The central tenets of Mormonism are no loopier than any other sect, after all.

But you know what, Mitt, buddy - you're on your own. As a smart Mormon kid on TV once said, "you've got a lot of growing up to to do, buddy. Suck my balls."

UPDATE: Here is a news story about the event from the Lakeland (Florida) Ledger. And here at Crooks and Liars, you can see the video of the event.

* Listen to the clip - it sounds like the heckler is a Superfan! This exchange happened at approximately 4:33 pm on the East Coast. I'll throw up a link if I find it online somewhere.

His Mixtape's a Masterpiece (Reprise)

Last month I blogged about the bust of leading hip-hop mixtape artist DJ Drama in Atlanta. He and his cohorts were arrested for copyright violations, basically for using copywritten material from other artists to make mixtapes without permission of the copyright holders. Yesterday's New York Times Sunday Magazine had a more in-depth article about DJ Drama, his case, and the entire mixtape phenomenon (which, not being a fan of hip-hop, I know nothing about). The record industry is schizophrenic about mixtapes, with agents/A&R guys using them as a tool to boost their artists' profile, while the suits see them as illegal uses of material for which royalties need to be paid:

Ted Cohen, a former executive at EMI Records who now runs a music-consulting business, told me that the raid was typical of the music industry’s 'schizophrenic' approach to promotions; a label’s marketing department wants to get its artists’ songs in front of as many people as possible, even if it means allowing or ignoring free downloads or unlicensed videos on YouTube. But the business department wants to collect royalties. 'It is a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing,' Cohen said.
What seems clear is that the industry's hands need to do some talking, particularly when they run right past civil legal remedies and bring in the local cops to bust the place like it was an operational meth lab:
Late in the afternoon of Jan. 16, a SWAT team from the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, backed up by officers from the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office and the local police department, along with a few drug-sniffing dogs, burst into a unmarked recording studio on a short, quiet street in an industrial neighborhood near the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The officers entered with their guns drawn; the local police chief said later that they were “prepared for the worst.” They had come to serve a warrant for the arrest of the studio’s owners on the grounds that they had violated the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, or RICO, a charge often used to lock up people who make a business of selling drugs or breaking people’s arms to extort money. The officers confiscated recording equipment, cars, computers and bank statements along with more than 25,000 music CDs.
Given the force deployed to secure their arrest, DJ Drama and crew should at least count themselves lucky that nobody ended up dead.

What'll They Do Next, Ban Balzac?

Yesterday's New York Times had an article about the latest scourge to ravage the fragile little minds of the nation's children - the word "scrotum." The word appears in The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron, which won the 2007 Newbery Medal for children's literature. In what smut-minded way has Patron used this offensive prose? Well:

Yet there it is on the first page of 'The Higher Power of Lucky,' by Susan Patron, this year’s winner of the Newbery Medal, the most prestigious award in children’s literature. The book’s heroine, a scrappy 10-year-old orphan named Lucky Trimble, hears the word through a hole in a wall when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.

'Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much,' the book continues. 'It sounded medical and secret, but also important.'
This has led to several school librarians across the country refusing to stock the book (traditionally, a Newbery Medal is a ticket straight to the shelves of school libraries). All because Patron had the temerity to use an anatomical term to describe part of a dog's anatomy. In the middle of this freak out, at least someone is maintaining a level head:
Pat Scales, a former chairwoman of the Newbery Award committee, said that declining to stock the book in libraries was nothing short of censorship.

'The people who are reacting to that word are not reading the book as a whole,' she said. 'That’s what censors do — they pick out words and don’t look at the total merit of the book.'
Are we that uptight in this country?!? Have we come to the point that nobody teaches their kids what naughty bits are actually called? Sadly, it appears so. Earlier this month, a woman in Florida complained that a local theater was promoting The Vagina Monologues by actually putting the name of the play on the marquee. She was moved to complain when her 9-year old niece asked her what a vagina was. According to the theater manager, the woman was offended that she had to answer the question. The theater briefly, and in jest, changed the sign to promote The Hoohaa Monologues!

They've come for the scrotums, they've come for the vaginas. Can even Balzac be safe in 21st Century America?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Of Jihadists and Samurai

We were supposed to have an autocross today. Alas, with today's weather, this event went the way of our January event - it was cancelled. And guess who the event organizer was for both events? Oy.

With a free day on my hands, I decided to work through some of the DVDs that have stacked up on top of my TV. I ended up watching two films that couldn't be more different than each other, were made 50 years apart, and were both excellent.

First up was United 93. When this film first came out, I was uncertain whether I wanted to see it. Not because of the subject or the potential emotional impact, but because I was afraid that the subject and the hype might overwhelm director Paul Greengrass's skills and lead to a bad film about a topic that deserves the right touch. The glowing reviews convinced me that I wanted to see it, so it was slipped into my Netflix queue.

It is, as most reviewers wrote, a powerful film. Surprisingly, to me at least, the parts on the ground - where the FAA and military trackers try to figure out what's going on the morning of 9/11 - are as gripping as the bits on the plane. In fact, an entire film just focusing on the ground forces figuring out what's going on could probably be made. Still, what choked me up the most was the scenes of passengers calling their loved ones moments before they knew they were going to die.

Greengrass's decision to tell the story in real time, with largely unknown actors (and, in some cases, the actual people involved), reinforces the everyday nature of the day and the everyman qualities of those involved. Unlike the typical disaster flick, we learn just about nothing about the passengers on the plane (which, as Roger Ebert points out, is exactly what we would have known about them had we been on the plane.

One important thing to keep in mind, however, about United 93 is that it is a work of historical fiction. Not in the way the conspiracy theory jackasses in the IMDB comment say (none of it really happened, the plane landed in Cleveland, etc.). But in the details that lend the story much of its dramatic weight. Aside from the basics - the plane was hijacked, the passengers fought back, and the plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field. It is not a documentary, even though it sometimes feels like it.

And that was before lunch.

After lunch, I finally took the time to work through Akira Kurosawa's 3.5 hours epic The Seven Samurai. The girlfriend got me the new super-duper Criterion Collection version of the film, with the movie and extras spread out across three discs. It includes a restored print that looks beautiful, for a black and white flick made in 1954. The movie tells the story of a small village besieged by bandits that recruits seven ronin (samurais without masters) to protect them. Sound familiar? It was remade for American audiences in The Magnificent Seven (cue theme music!). It is a truly epic flim and very operatic in a way - lots of sacrifice. Not everyone is dead in the end, but nobody really comes through the fight unscathed. Not the emotional impact of United 93, to be sure, but a brilliant example of a filmmaker at the height of his craft.

Memo to Darrell Waltrip

I'm watching the end of the Daytona 500. Darrell Waltrip has been going on and on about what an amazing race it is because so many cars are within a second or two of the leader - running in the big packs they form at Daytona and Talledega. Hey, Darrell, it's not amazing - it's the result of a ruleset that includes yellow flags tossed out like candy, "lucky dog" passes, and restrictor plates that keep any one car from being meaningfully faster than any other.

Yutz.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Mystery of the Missing Delegate

To paraphrase The Doors (badly), politics are strange, politicians are stranger. That’s true on a national level – think Mark Foley, William Jefferson, or Jim Traficant, just for starters. On a local level, things can get even stranger. Consider the strange case of West Virginia House of Delegates member Ron Thompson.

Thompson was first elected to the House in 1994 and retained his seat in every subsequent election (House seats are up every two years in West Virginia). He is one of five delegates representing the 27th District, which includes hunks of Raleigh and Summers counties in the southeastern part of the state.

What makes Thompson’s case particularly mysterious is that he’s been AWOL for nearly a year - since the end of the Legislature’s 2006 session in March. He did not appear at any interim meetings through the rest of the year and was not in the Capitol when the Governor called a special session on tax reform back in November. Even odder, nobody really seemed to notice.

2006 was an election year, of course, and Thompson had to make his way through both primary and general elections. He did with flying colors. There were 10 Democrats on the primary ballot in May, with five spots in the general election on the line. Thompson led the slate, garnering almost twice the number of votes as the sixth-place runner (i.e., the first alternate). Six months later, Thompson came home third in the general election, just behind fellow Democrat Rick Moye.

Thompson managed this feat without ever really campaigning. According to the Beckley Register-Herald, Thompson “passed up public functions and photo-ops and spent a mere $600 on his race.” In the past, Thompson has hardly been a shrinking violet. The same newspaper article notes Thompson’s “usually high profile” and notes that he was “always a fashion plate in the House of Delegates.”

Had Thompson made some appearance post-election, the whole story would have disappeared as a footnote to modern political apathy. A story of a cynical incumbent who knew he had to do nothing more than put his name on the ballot to secure another term at the Capitol. But Thompson has never materialized. That 2006 special session was called by the Governor just two days after the general election. But Thompson didn’t appear.

With a new year came a new regular term of the Legislature. Thompson was still AWOL. This time, however, someone did take notice. With a new session of the Legislature came the swearing in of all the legislators, when they took the oath of office. A member who refuses to take the oath can be booted from the House. If nobody knows where Thompson is or when he will appear, how can he take the oath?

The need to act fell to the new Speaker of the House, ironically also named Thompson (tho’ no relation to Ron). Speaker Thompson managed to make contact with the wayward Thompson after the session began. Thompson informed the Speaker (via phone and letter) that he was seeking treatment for a “medical problem” and planned to take his seat on February 5.

But the 5th came and went, with no sign of Thompson. His fellow Delegates from the 27th District could not contact him. The Speaker punted the issue to the Rules Committee, which passed a resolution declaring the seat vacant. The full House passed the resolution the next day, in an unprecedented move. No member had ever been booted out for failure to appear. The last member kicked out came in 1970, when a Delegate who was also a state employee had to be excluded following the passage of a constitutional amendment barring state workers from serving in the Legislature. Beyond that, House researchers had to go back to the Reconstruction era, when former Confederates were denied seats for failing to take the oath.

That should have been the end of the story. The process for replacing Thompson had started and the seat should have been filled. But, alas, there is one further twist to this tale. After the House voted to boot Thompson out, the House received a letter from a Beckley psychiatrist stating that Thompson had been unable to fulfill his duties, including taking the oath of office. In addition, the Beckley media spied Thompson on his way to court, apparently for a mental hygiene hearing, indicating that there is some question regarding Thompson’s mental faculties.

Acting on this new information, the House first decided that it had the power to rescind its earlier order expelling Thompson and then voted to do just that. Thompson is still a member of the House, although it’s unclear when, if ever, he’ll actually appear at the Capitol (the Legislative session is only 60 days long, after all).

So, as it stands now, the votes of Raleigh and Summers counties are still short one Delegate, for reasons that aren’t altogether clear. Equally unclear is whether they have anything to complain about. After all, Thompson’s AWOL status was known during last year’s election and he was overwhelmingly voted in. Maybe next time an incumbent disappears without a trace, the voters might ponder whether they should seek representation elsewhere.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Album of the Day

Danger Money, by UK (1979): UK had a brief but explosive existence. It was originally a four-piece prog super group (think Asia without the suck) featuring Bill Bruford (ex of Yes and King Crimson and fresh off working with National Health, IIRC), John Wetton (post-Crim, pre-Asia), Eddie Jobson (from Zappa's band), and the relatively unknown Alan Holdsworth. Their first album was a mix of frantic prog and fusion, with extensive use of the new Yamaha CS80 polyphonic synth by Jobson. And it's very good. But, there was trouble in paradise. On the ensuing tour, a riff developed between Bruford/Holdsworth and Wetton/Jobson over the level of improvisation the band should undertake. As a result, Bruford and Holdsworth took their balls and went home (to collaborate with Jeff Berlin and Dave Stewart in Bruford's band).

Wetton and Jobson carried on, with fellow Zappa alum Terry Bozio joining on drums. This, their second and last album, stripped away many of the jazzier elements of the first album and is more firmly rooted in the prog genre. As a result, lots of people look down on Danger Money as a lesser UK album, which is not very fair. It's certainly different than the first one, but it's still pretty good, particularly given what else their contemporaries were doing at about the same time (Love Beach anyone?). "Carrying No Cross" is a great track and the other five all have something to recommend them.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Album of the Day

The Crane Wife, by The Decemberists (2006): Two months ago, I'd never heard of this band. Then, suddenly, they were everywhere. This album was all over the various "best of" lists for The Onion AV Club, with mentions of the "p word" - progressive rock - that you usually don't find in mainstream music reviews. Then I found a review of the album at the Dutch Progressive Rock Page that was equally glowing. My curiosity piqued, I picked the album up at Borders next time I was there. And, while I wouldn't have put it on the top of my best of 2006 list, it's very very good, particularly the title tracks (three of them spread over 2 parts of the disc), the 12-minute "The Island - Come and See - The Landlord's Daughter - You'll Not Feel the Drowning," and "When the War Came." Arty pop all the way through.

Attack of the Porn Pop-Ups

Last month jedi jawa had a post about the dangers that lurk on the Net if you misspell a URL. If you're lucky, such a slight mistake might make you laugh, blush, or curse. If you're a 40-year-old substitute teacher from Connecticut, it could mean 40 years in prison.

This article
at MSNBC tells the basic story of Julie Amero. One day, while substitute teaching in a Connecticut middle school, Amero had another full-time teacher log her onto the classroom computer so she could check her Email. After doing that, Amero left the room. When she returned, several kids were clustered around the PC, which was displaying a host of pop up ads, many for porn websites. Amero had been told not to unplug the computer and, as an unskilled PC user, didn't know how to deal with the pop ups. She shooed the kids away and sought help from other teachers, who provided none.

Eventually, parents found about what happened and raised a stink, leading to a prosecution of Amero for "injury or risk of injury to, or impairing morals of, children." Amero turned down a plea bargain that would have led to probation, partly because expert analysis found the cause of the pop ups - the machine was infested with spyware, adware, and cookies. That's not surprising, since the defenses on the machine were outdated, at best. Going to trial proved to be a mistake - Amero was convicted on four counts, with a possible punishment of 40 years in prison (although it's unlikely she'll get anywhere near that much).

The case is percolating through the blogosphere, particularly the techie sites. The experts have contributed dueling posts to one blog, for instance. Another online tech site provides this breakdown of the case, which is less positive of Alero's case. He raises a good point which is troubling me:

Julie Amero logged in to look at her AOL mail and, about six minutes later, either she or one of the students visited various websites about hair products or hair styles. Now one can reasonably ask why Julie was checking e-mail, or for that matter surfing the web while she was supposed to be teaching. In fact, she spent most of the day logged on to the Internet – not just logged on, but actively surfing. And why were her students allowed to be surfing Internet websites about hair styles? In fact, Julie Amero had been reprimanded for not paying enough attention to the students and instead just web browsing while in class.
It's hard to get a full picture of the case. Amero's supporters make a convincing case that she's been railroaded, probably to cover up the lax IT department of the school. They also take shots at her attorney. But it's unclear exactly what went on at trial. The MSNBC article represents that Amero's expert testified about the spyware and such, but other reports suggest that procedural issues prevented the expert from testifying fully. How much deference do we have to give to the 6-person jury that heard the evidence (whatever was presented) and convicted this woman?

Regardless, the Amero case is an object less in the dangers of the wild that is the Internet.

Random Science, Tech, and Law News

Three completely unrelated items that I'll throw together because I can:

  • Wired magazine has a blog devoted to law and tech issues called "27B Stroke 6." It looks interesting on its own, but anything named after a form in Brazil deserves some love.
  • We all know that Intelligent Design is just a rebranded version of Creationism. But did you know that the theory of evolution is actually a rebranding of the "alternate 'creation scenario' of the Pharisee Religion?" So says a leader of the Texas legislature, who wants to stop teaching evolution (surprise surprise).

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Love in the Ruins

Jeez, even on Valentine's Day love can't catch a break in the Fourth Circuit:

Case: United States v. Love

Holding: 97-month sentence for manufacturing methamphetamine affirmed.

Date of Opinion: 14 February 2007
Nice to see somebody in Richmond has a sense of humor and/or irony!

Well, That Might Explain Things

My favorite soccer team in England is Leeds United. They caught my attention back in the 90s with runs deep into the Champions League with a fair lack of big name stars. Unfortunately, the guys they did have cost way the hell too much money and the team sank deep into debt when they didn't recreate their success in Europe. Players were sold off and the team tumbled from the Premier League. The finances were righted and last season it looked like the team was headed in the right direction. The team, propelled by US international Eddie Lewis, finished 5th in the Championship (the second level of English soccer, despite the name) and qualified for the promotion playoffs before falling 3-0 to Watford (also powered by an American, Jay DeMerit) in the final. This season, they were favorites to secure one of the top two spots in the Championship (and the automatic promotion to the Premier League that goes along with them), or return to the playoffs at the very least.

Things, to put it mildly, have not turned out as planned. As I write, Leeds sits in 24th place in the 24-team Championship - dead fucking last - and in serious danger of being relegated to the 1st Division (aka, the 3rd level of English soccer - don't ask).

What could make things go to hell in a hand basket that fast? How about sabotage! OK, it's probably more than that, but according to the BBC, someone in the team leaked the starting lineup to Crystal Palace before the two teams played last weekend (ironically, Leeds actually won the game 2-1). Manager Dennis Wise apparently knows who it is and will leave him out of the side permanently from now on. You know things are bad when your own players are selling you out!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Album of the Day

The ConstruKCtion of Light, by King Crimson (2000): This is a bit of a weird album. The first of this four-person version of Crim, it contains some consciously backwards-looking material (a nod to Starless and Bible Black's "Fracture" and another installment in the "Lark's Tongues in Aspic" series) with some very 21st century sounds and textures. Some of those work and some, well, are better left behind. For example, The whole V-drum thing irks me, because it sounds so synthetic (which might be the point - I'm just not a fan). On the other hand, the title track(s - why it's divided in two parts I have no idea) and Belew's lyrically driven "The World's My Oyster Soup Kitchen Floor Wax Museum" are really cool and deserving additions to the repertoire. This lineup's follow up, The Power to Believe, is better on the whole.

The Beginning of PreCrime?

Just like something out of Minority Report - this article from UK's The Guardian details recent developments in brain scan technology that allow scientists to actually read someone's mind to see what they intend to do. Amazing, really:

The team used high-resolution brain scans to identify patterns of activity before translating them into meaningful thoughts, revealing what a person planned to do in the near future. It is the first time scientists have succeeded in reading intentions in this way.

* * *

'Using the scanner, we could look around the brain for this information and read out something that from the outside there's no way you could possibly tell is in there. It's like shining a torch around, looking for writing on a wall,' said John-Dylan Haynes at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany, who led the study with colleagues at University College London and Oxford University.
The possibilities this research unlocks raise some real questions about personal freedom, crime control, and the like.

Another Side of Valentine's Day

As some folks scramble for that perfect last-minute Valentine's Day gift (and others of us continue to recover from our early observance last weekend), consider that it is not only a big business day for florists and chocolatiers. It's also a big day for private investigators. Why? Because, as this story from the Charleston Gazette explains, Valentine's Day is a good day to catch cheaters in the act. Apparently, those involved in dangerous liaisons are slaves to the calendar!

A Word from Carl Sagan

Following up on yesterday's post about faith v. science, today's New York Times has an article about a soon-to-be published book by the late Carl Sagan that touches on the issue. It's drawn from a series of lectures Sagan delivered in 1985 in Glasgow. The book was put together by Sagan's widow and partner, Ann Druyan, who was motivated to dig out the lectures because of the recent rise in the influence of religious fundamentalists in the sciences. The lectures were originally intended to be the basis for a TV series, a sequel to Cosmos, to be called Ethos.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I Am Not Making This Up

So, you're a die hard NASCAR fan who is none to happy with the arrival of Toyota in the top-level Nextel Cup series. Something about them Camrys not being "Amurican" enough (in spite of the fact that they are, for the most part, made in the United States, whereas the Ford & Chevy competitors are built in Canada and Mexico and Chrysler is owned by Germans). So you start an anti-Toyota group and come up with a website. You need a clever name, of course, so you think long and hard and come up with Fans Against Racing Toyotas.

For those of you who missed it the first time, that organization is called:

Fans Against Racing Toyotas
Something makes me think these guys are about to meet the proverbial windstorm.

Album of the Day

Chasing the Dragon, by John Wetton (1994): How does someone with so much talent and history (King Crimson, UK, Roxy Music, etc.) produce such a lackluster collection of tunes? This live album (recorded in Japan, naturally) covers lots of Wetton's career, from the proggy heydays with Crimson to arena-rock success with Asia to his solo work. But it's all so lifeless. The older proggy tunes have been neutered - UK's "Thirty Years" gets cut off halfway through for Asia's "Only Time Will Tell," while Crimson's "Starless" ends before the instrumental workout that is the piece's signature. That I could live with if it sounded like Wetton and band actually seemed excited about playing this stuff, but they don't (even the Asia and solo stuff has some merit, after all). Only two years later, Wetton was much more interesting as part of Steve Hackett's Tokyo Tapes project, so maybe this album just caught him on a bad night.

When Science and Faith Collide

Today's New York Times has an interesting article about Marcus Ross. Ross was a doctoral student at the University of Rhode Island who wrote a 197-page dissertation about:

the abundance and spread of mosasaurs, marine reptiles that, as he wrote, vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era about 65 million years ago.
While that's probably a fascinating subject for geoscientists, it wouldn't normally warrant national news attention. What makes Dr. Ross's situation interesting is that he is an avowed young-earth Creationist. In other words, while he put together a polished dissertation about the planet 65 million years ago, he personally believes the planet is "at most" 10,000 years old. Does that make Dr. Ross a lesser scientist? Can anyone adequately compartmentalize their beliefs in the way he does? Did he go through the motions of getting a real degree from a real university as a way to bolster the credibility of his version of Creationism?

Talk About a Growth Industry

One of the larger disgraces of our current justice system is the privatization of the jail/prison system. If there's anything that should be the province of the Government, with its attendant Constitutional restraints, it's locking up the citizenry. But, the genie is out of the box and it's thoroughly profitable:

Corrections Corp. of America, which operates prisons and detention facilities, said Thursday its fourth-quarter profit climbed 37 percent, as inmate populations rose and new contracts went into effect.

Quarterly earnings rose to $32.2 million, or 52 cents per share, from $23.4 million, or 39 cents per share, during the same period last year.
Does either political party have the cajones to cut off the flow of cash to this new industry? I seriously doubt it, but I'd like to be surprised.

Album of Last Friday

Car Caught Fire, by The Bears (2001): The Bears originally formed in 1985, between Adrian Belew's first stint with King Crimson and his successful solo album Mr. Music Head. The band broke up when the label disintegrated. The band reunited in the late 90s and produced this album and a follow-up live album and DVD. The band's forte is catchy yet quirky power-pop, infused by Belew's signature guitar work. It's a testament to the band's talents that Belew's solos should sound out of place, but don't (nor does Robert Fripp's appearance on one track). Very cool stuff.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Album of the Day

Calling All Stations, by Genesis (1997): When the Banks-Collins-Rutherford Genesis reunion was announced, I wondered whether any material from this album would make it into the set list. It is, like Drama in the Yes catalog, viewed as something less than a “true” Genesis album by a lot of folks because Collins isn’t on it. That’s a shame, because there is some good material on here. It’s not a great album – anything with “Shipwrecked” on it can’t be great. And there is a good amount of fairly low-impact material. On the other hand, “Alien Afternoon,” “Uncertain Weather,” and “One Man’s Fool” fit right into the epic pop-prog tradition of the late Collins era (think “Domnio” and “Driving the Last Spike”).

In Which I Knock Clarence Darrow

The girlfriend gave me a calendar – one of those page-a-day things filled with little factoids. In this case, it’s all legal stuff – dumb crooks and lawsuits, excerpts from to-dumb-to-make-up transcripts, etc. The entry for today was a brief quote from Clarence Darrow. As a criminal defense attorney, Darrow is one of my heroes. He was a champion of the accused, the paradigm of the lone attorney standing between the power of the state and an individual (or two). His work with the ACLU doesn’t hurt, either.

That being said, I have to disagree with him on this:

The only real lawyers are trial lawyers, and trial lawyers try cases to juries.
There are two ways to read this. One is to assume that Darrow was addressing a group of trial attorneys and wanted to emphasize that a good trial attorney doesn’t look to settle a case or plea it out. S/he lives for the battle, the crossing of swords that happens during trial. He may or may not be right about that – sometimes a plea is the best thing for the client (whose best interest is the guiding light of counsel), but if your first instinct is to avoid trial, you’re not much of a trial lawyer.

The other reading, however, is what grinds my gears. If Darrow was directing this comment towards all lawyers (or a non-legal audience), it rather arrogantly dismisses a huge swath of the profession from the title of “real lawyer.” Most lawyers never see the inside of a courtroom, at least in the traditional sense. Jury trials are increasingly rare, in both criminal and civil cases, so there is less opportunity to engage in the kind of trial-by-combat in which Darrow thrived.

Even attorneys who litigate, in the broadest sense, don’t appear before juries. I’ve practiced since 1999 and never stepped in front of a jury. Plenty of judges, from state magistrates to family court judges to federal appellate judges. Jedi jawa’s practiced almost as long and has focused on administrative proceedings. And that doesn’t include the scores of lawyers who work outside of courtrooms of any sort, but provide invaluable assistance to clients big and small, public and private.

So, I guess what I’m saying, is that Darrow comes off arrogant and narrow-minded if he meant to elevate trial lawyers above the rest of the profession. I hope that wasn’t his intent.

The Land of Oz

Ever wondered how our overcrowded prison system got that way? What kind of people it cranks out on the back end? What life is like on the inside? Let Sammy L’il Shiv explain it all.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Album of the Day

Bring on the Night, by Sting (1986): Last week I was praising artistic risk taking, and Sting's post-Police solo project certainly involved risks. Before he slid slowly into adult contemporary malaise, he put together a band of young jazz guys and produced some of the best art-pop/jazz outside of Steely Dan. The studio album that resulted, Dream of the Blue Turtles, is good, but this -disc live set is outstanding. The new tunes work better live than on record and the old Police tunes, reworked to fit the skills of Marsalis, Jones, Hakim, and Kirkland, are great.

Criminalizing Bad Taste

When the whole Aqua Teen Hunger Force fracas erupted last week, I figured - just on a gut level - that the authorities were overreacting by charging the two guys involved in putting up the displays for placing a hoax device. Today over at FindLaw, Scott Moss comes to the same conclusion after a more detailed look at the statute in question:

The criminal law the prosecutors cite declares it a felony to'"place any hoax device ... with the intent to cause anxiety, unrest, fear or personal discomfort to any person.' It defines 'hoax device' as one 'that would cause a person reasonably to believe … [it] is an infernal machine[,] ... [a] device for endangering life or doing unusual damage to property, or both, by fire or explosion....'

In other words, the prosecutors have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants -- two guys hired by marketers for a cartoon show -- actually intended to create a bomb scare by putting up those light boards. The prosecutors also have to prove that reasonable people would've thought the light boards were bombs.
Moss concludes, quite reasonably, that the state is going to have no chance of proving intent in this case.

On the other hand, how can you not like a statute that talks about "infernal machines?"

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Album of the Day

Brain Salad Surgery, by Emerson, Lake & Palmer (1972): Over on the WV Blogger's Board, I picked Yes over ELP in a "best band" matchup because I think ELP is the most inconsistent of the big 70s prog bands, capable of brilliance and pure crap within the same album (hell, sometimes in the same side!). Brain Salad Surgery is probably their most consistent work and the best (ever though I prefer Trilogy on the whole). Most of the album is devoted to the epic "Karn Evil 9," so big is takes up more than one side of the old LP. The rest of side one is decent enough filler, but not really spectacular. I've never been a huge fan of "Toccata," for example, although it was probably one of the earliest extensive uses of synthesized percussion.

The Truth About An Inconvenient Truth

With the latest proclamation on global warming last week and the hotting-up of the 2008 presidential campaigns, Al Gore and the film An Inconvenient Truth are in the headlines again. Detractors (and fans, for that matter) talk about AIT as being "Al Gore's movie." That's simply not true. The main creative force in film is the director - s/he's the one who has final say on what goes in the film, what stays out, and the meaning of the final product. To a lesser extent, the producer(s) play a similar role. In either case, the subject of a documentary does not fill that role. In the case of AIT, it's director Davis Gugenheim's film. Yes, it is a documentary about Gore's book of the same name and his promo tour for it, but that doesn't make it "Gore's film."

Compare this situation with Michael Moore's film The Big One, a documentary of the promo tour for Moore's book Downsize This!. In that flick, Moore is (as he always is) the star, director, and driving force of the movie. It is about Moore and his views, crafted by him to make the impact he wants. Gore was surely on board with AIT and hoped it would help spread his message. But that just makes him a helpful documentary subject, not the director/producer.

Sanford & Son In Space?

When we think about what the Earth looks like, most of us conjure up something like this*:


A brilliant blue-green marble, shrouded by clouds, set against the black of space. Sadly, it doesn't really look like that, as there is an increasing amount of junk orbiting the planet. This junk is the debris of fifty years of space exploration, from disabled satellites to jettisoned rocket sections. Aside from aesthetic concerns, all that crap poses a real danger, as this article in the New York Times explains:

For decades, space experts have worried that a speeding bit of orbital debris might one day smash a large spacecraft into hundreds of pieces and start a chain reaction, a slow cascade of collisions that would expand for centuries, spreading chaos through the heavens.
This has taken on new relevance after China's successful demolition of an aged satellite as part of a weapon test a few weeks ago. That event produced at least 800 separate pieces of junk, perhaps as many as 1000. In and of itself, that won't produce the collision that scientists fear, but it makes such an event more likely.

* This image was taken from WP Clipart, a collection of public domain images optimized for use with word processors, but equally applicable to web use. It's worth considering the copyright status of any images you might put up on your blog. After the issue came to a head over at DailyKos, someone put together a diary with a great collection of public domain and Creative Commons pictures you can use.

Designer Babies (Redux)

A couple of months ago I wrote about a story in the New York Times discussing the possibility of people with certain disabilities using prenatal genetic screening procedures to select children who shared their disability - i.e., that would "look" like them. Along those same lines, today's Times has an article about the increasingly sophisticated means of allowing couples to select the sex of their child. Right now, these methods are expensive and not available to your average couple makin' babies the "old fashioned way." Eventually, however, the technology will be more prevalent and cheaper, raising issues similar to the earlier article - Do prospective parents have the right to pick boy or girl like an option off a restaurant menu? If they do, should they? Should they give any consideration to wider societal impacts (i.e., if everybody has only girls or only boys, demographic problems quickly evolve)?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Album of the Day

Bloom, by Eric Johnson (2005): File this one under "better than I remember it being." EJ is a hell of a player and a considerable songwriter. Unfortunately, he sometimes drifts a little too far into light pop/adult contemporary fare for my tastes.* That feeling is accentuated because the tracks are divided into three sections on this album, with the rockier stuff in the first group. Maybe some mixed song selection would have helped things.

* Full disclosure - so do I, sometimes. Some bits of tunes I've cobble together make me a little queasy upon further listens!

To Cite or Not to Cite?

Over at Concurring Opinions, Dan Solove asks the not-so-musical question, "when is it appropriate to cite to Wikipedia?" Although I know some people have a problem with Wikipedia, it seems to be fairly accurate, at least for non-controversial topics. I wouldn't cite it for a massively critical piece of evidence in an argument before a court. But, sometimes, you just need a cite for something tangentially relevant but not super important. I don't think I've ever used Wikipedia in a brief, but I cited Mapquest directions before to show the distance between two addresses that, while commonly known to the parties and trial court before which the issues was first argued, surely weren't know to the judges in Richmond. If the mileage was off a little bit, it wasn't really important - it was just providing some context. Similarly, I can see good uses for an occasional Wikipedia cite used in similar fashion.

UPDATE: The comment by Christine Hurt over at Concurring Opinions brings up a valid point - we in the legal world are addicted to citations (I can usually cull half the length of a law review article in WestLaw form just by not printing out the endnotes). As long as we are, Wikipedia can be a good source of "common" knowledge.

My Canadian Doppleganger?

Probably not, but while poking around today I did find a link to an actual factual Infinity Ranch. It appears to be in Alberta, Canada and specialized in breeding horses. So if you're in the need for a horse (the working kind, not the racing kind, it appears), check 'em out.

Don't Eat the Yellow Snow

From the BBC comes a disturbing meteorological story from Russia. Seems that snow has been falling in the Omsk region that includes "[o]ily yellow and orange snowflakes." The picture in the article tells the tale - a large snow drift piled up against a building looks like it's been piddled upon by an even larger husky. No indication yet if this has anything to do with fur trappers (strictly from commercial), the blessed Saint Alfonso, or anyone named Nanook.

Album of Last Friday

Big Swing Face, by Bruce Hornsby (2002): I like it when my favorite artists stretch out and explore new territory. I like Alex Lifeson's Victor solo project precisely because it doesn't sound a whole lot like Rush does ("Promise" excepted). Same with Marillion's This Strange Engine (which, oddly enough, has a Rush-esque track, "An Accidental Man"). Why do I mention this? 'cause Big Swing Face sounds like nothing else Bruce Hornsby did before or since. The piano's been plugged in* and the noise and the funk have been brought in. The results are uneven but, at times, brilliant. "The Chill" and "This Too Shall Pass" are classics.

* In the liner notes, Bruce notes that he "plays Baldwin pianos (but not much on this record)."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Album of the Day

The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life, by Frank Zappa (1991): The story of Zappa's last (1988) touring band is legendary. After putting together a big band full of top quality talent (including a young Mike Keneally, taking over the Steve Vai "stunt guitar" role), the group only made it through some gigs in Europe and the American east coast before it imploded.* The rest of the tour was cancelled, thus is was, literally, the best band most people never heard in their lives. The group was, however, well documented on CD, with three albums (covering 5 discs) representing the doomed tour. This 2-disc set is devoted to older Zappa material and a few oddball covers.

* More details can be found in Keneally's tour diary.

Number One in the Hood, Gee (But Not Boston)

Wow, how tightly wound do people in Boston look today? The city virtually ground to a halt yesterday because of the discovery of what authorities thought were some type of terrorist bombs. They weren't, of course. They were guerrilla marketing props for the upcoming Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, featuring a Lite-Brite* lookin' thing displaying a pissed-off Moonite giving people the bird. Now the two guys who set up the displays - 38 of them around town - have been arrested and charged with, among other things,"placing a hoax device."

I know nothing of Massachusetts law, and the authorities in Boston are certainly pissed, but I can't stretch the definition of "hoax" far enough to include this stuff. A hoax is when someone makes a false claim of some dangerous condition in order to produce fear. A bomb threat is a hoax. Movie promotional materials (perhaps somewhat poorly conceived) are not a hoax. Prosecutors disagree:

Assistant Attorney General John Grossman called the light boards 'bomb-like' devices and said that if they had been explosive they could have damaged transportation infrastructure in the city.
Yeah, and if ifs and buts were candies and nuts . . .. Seriously, is this the best they've got?

In the end, there's an enormous amount of face-saving that the Boston authorities need to do here. Why?
Turner said the devices have been in place for two or three weeks in Boston; New York City; Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; San Francisco, California; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
So, not only did several other major cities deal with the Meatwad Menace without going apeshit it took Boston's finest 2-3 weeks to uncover the menace in the first place!

* Am I the only one who thinks it's hilarious that the Lite-Brite entry at Wikipedia has a subsection entitled "Method of Fun"?

This Is Just Creepy

I deal enough with child pornographers and related folks in my line of work that your garden variety pedophile story doesn't really phase me. This article, however, freaks me out a bit. It details the discovery of a person enrolled in an Arizona school as a 12-year old boy who was actually a pedophile posing as a child. Not just that, he lived three other men in a sort of pedophiliac colony. There's no real good idea exactly what the point was of having one of the men pose as a child and it doesn't appear that any kids were actually victimized. Still, it's just damn freak.

Also freaky - the name of the town in which this took place was Mirage, Arizona.