Archive for January, 2004


I Fought The Law

January 31, 2004


Tomorrow during some sporting event or other, millions of American television viewers will see a remarkable Pepsi ad. It will tell them that they can get free music off the internet using codes under the caps of Pepsi products during the month of February. 1 in 3 caps wins.

The whole thing is of course a promotion for Apple’s fantastic iTunes Music Store.

By the way, you can see this brilliant ad right now by clicking here. Don’t say I never gave you nothin’.

UPDATE: This commercial is even better than the one above. Young Jimmy Hendrix faces a choice: Pepsi or Coke. We can all be glad he made the right decision. Check it out!


Broken Music

January 31, 2004

For reasons I can’t fully recall I burned Nora Jones’ Come Away With Me for the car the other day. I popped it in for the first time on my way to work Friday morning, and by the time I was getting up to speed on the Interstate 94 on-ramp Nora was beginning her rendition of Nightingale. I’m not a huge fan of any kind of jazz music and I retain a healthy skepticism toward any artist that becomes too popular too quickly, but somehow her silky but subtly textured album appeals to me. I don’t know whether it’s Nora’s understated vocals or the simple genius of the classic tunes she covers, but I find myself wanting to re-record several of these gems at home. In my mind I’m doing the arrangement with Apple’s new GarageBand software, though I still haven’t received it in the mail yet.

Speaking of music and musicians, I picked up a new book: Broken Music by Sting. I’ve been a fan since the 80’s when I picked up Synchronicity and then worked my way backwards through the entire works of The Police. When I was 15 or 16 Sting in some ways represented my idealized self, the person I thought I might be in a perfect world: smart, literate, famous, talented, rebellious, terrific looking. In reality, the similarities probably began and ended with the facts that we were both bass players and liked to read. Nevertheless, if I were to compile a list of heroes from those days he would certainly be on it. To this day I own every solo record he has ever made (though I found fully half the tracks on his latest release to be virtually unlistenable).

But can the man write? I’m happy to report that he can, and quite well. I’m not even halfway done with is book but I can say that I am enjoying it very much. It is about his life up until his success with The Police. That is, his life before becoming famous: childhood, growing up, first loves, everything. So far it makes for a fascinating read.

I have periodically had the idea that I should expand my reading to include some autobiographies, if for no other purpose other than the fact that I continually nurse the narcissistic idea that I would like to write one, but none have ever caught my interest before. Shouldn’t I, however, force myself to read one or two before attempting my own? On the other hand, perhaps refraining is the precise thing that will enable me to approach it in a completely fresh way.

In either case, I sense a pattern here. Proving once again, like any decent writer should, that life is indeed one big circle, I can now point out that Nora’s record and Sting’s book both inspire me to create something of my own. Hopefully it can rise above mere imitation. But the worst case of all is the one where I do not respond at all. I really need to get some new strings for the guitar and get my GarageBand software. It will be good for me. As far as my autobiography, I think for the moment I will stick to blogging. Although I got an average of 200 visitors a day last month, I have serious doubt about whether the story of my life would hold anyone’s interest for very long. Including mine.



January 27, 2004

It’s been a while since I was good and sick. I’m sure I’ve had a sniffle between now and then, but the last recorded incident I can find is way back in May of last year. In any case, I’m sicker than hell right now and just hope I can get over it quickly and without a visit to my doctor.

I should have known, really. I always suffer for it when I burn the candle at both ends. I’d been simultaneously staying up a little too late last week and also getting up extra early. I was tired. And that’s precisely when those lurking viruses choose to strike. By Friday I felt a tell-tale tickle in the back of my throat. By Sunday night my ears, nose and throat were a seething mass of painful infection.

And I should have decided right then and there not to go to work on Monday. But I hate to call in sick. And besides, it’s often no more miserable to sit at my desk and be sick than it is to sit here at home and do it. So I went. When folks heard my new and extra-special-sounding voice (think Linda Blair in The Exorcist), they suggested I go home. That sounded like a good idea to me so I decided to leave early. But by the time lunch had come and gone it seemed silly to bail out on the day. So I stayed until some time after 3 and then left. I just hope I didn’t make any of my colleagues sick. Sicker than usual, that is.

Believe it or not, after that I had to go to tae kwon do. Not out of stoicism, mind you, but because I have to complete a checklist of techniques by Friday. Each one must be signed off by a black belt. If I don’t complete the list by Friday I won’t be able to test for my black belt candidate rank on February 13th. So I went.

After I got home I was really feeling awful and so I wised up. I sent an email to my boss indicating that I was going to stay home and rest today, Tuesday. And so I have. I slept until 9:30 am. With any luck I can spend the day doing email, watching the race in New Hampshire on CNN, and swallowing Advil with hot tea.

My only hope at this point is to wake up tomorrow feeling better. I do not want to have to go to the doctor for this. It’s not that I fear the doctor. It’s that I hate making an appointment, taking off work to go, driving down there, sitting in the waiting room… It’s all just such a colossal waste of time. Here’s hoping.



January 24, 2004

I learned my bitter lesson in 2000. Suffering through the grim years of the Bush W. administration is my pennance. All our pennances. Let us now get to the heart of the issue in 2004: electability.

Confused about who is the most electable? Never fear! Slate has made a handy tool to determine which Democrat is the most electable against George Bush. It’s called Whack-A-Pol.

I played Whack-A-Pol and all I can say is, go Clark! I suppose we’ll see if his candidacy is going to do anything or not by Feb 3. Not a Clark supporter? You should be. Check out what Michael Moore says:

The decision in November is going to come down to 15 states and just a few percentage points. So, I had to ask myself — and I want you to honestly ask yourselves — who has the BEST chance of winning Florida, West Virginia, Arizona, Nevada, Missouri, Ohio? Because THAT is the only thing that is going to matter in the end…

…It is about backing a candidate that shares our values AND can communicate them to Middle America. I am convinced that the surest slam dunk to remove Bush is with a four-star-general-top-of-his-class-at-West-Point-Rhodes-Scholar-Medal-of-Freedom-winning
-gun-owner-from-the-South — who also, by chance, happens to be pro-choice, pro environment, and anti-war. You don’t get handed a gift like this very often. I hope the liberal/left is wise enough to accept it.

Read the entire article here.

UPDATE: Too lazy to read? Watch Michael Moore tell you exactly why Clark is the winning candidate. Click here! (9.2 meg .mpg file).


Spam Comments

January 23, 2004

There are two kinds of people in the world. On the one hand, you have people like the spammer who uploaded over 250 spam comments to yesterday presumably to earn a few pennies in web advertising or something. This type of person thinks nothing of polluting the internet commons for everyone in order to acquire a small personal gain. Its rather like someone who pees in the public pool.

On the other hand, you have people like Jay Allen. Jay is the author of a moveable type plugin that allowed me to identify all the spam comments, delete them, and blacklist the sender. Jay distrubutes his product, mt-blacklist for free. In contrast to the nameless spammer discussed above, Jay and others like him go out of their way to enhance the internet commons. Often without asking for anything in return.

Thanks to the Jay Allen’s of the world. You know who you are.


Weapons of Mass Destruction Program-Related Activities

January 22, 2004

I admit it. I’m a political junkie. And with the 2004 presidential election year underway, I’m flush with cash and the dealer is IN. If you don’t care about politics, I apologize for boring you. If you are a conservative, don’t get mad – leave a comment instead. Now on to today’s rant.

President Bush gave his State of the Union speech the other day. I watched on CNN. After listening carefully to everything he said I have only one question: are you kidding me with this shit? “Weapons of mass destruction program-related activities”? Can someone explain to me what that is? Can someone reconcile this ridiculously vague phrase with the cock-sure guarantees of certain doom we were repeatedly warned about before the war? Why, I myself was just saying to my wife the other day, “you know I’m really glad we found and neutralized those dozens of weapons of mass destruction program-related activities. I can finally sleep at night!” I mean, come on.

And where, I would like to know, is the press on this? Where? Can you for one second imagine what would happen if Al Gore – no, wait – if Bill Clinton had done this? Every media outlet in America would be repeating this phrase every hour on the hour. Here, for contrast, is what the “liberal media” is saying about Bush’s SOU speech over at CNN. Let me see if I get this straight: the president is “tough,” took several shots “across the bow” of Democratic candidates, addressed controversial subjects “head-on,” didn’t move “beyond his base” but isn’t “in trouble for re-election” with 60% of voters in favor of it. No WMDR-PA. No meaningful criticism of any kind.

One thing I have to say, though, is that if the president intended to come across as “bold,” he did it. Bold is exactly how I would describe this speech, but I definitely do not mean it in a positive way. What other word can you use to describe a speech that goes out of its way to defend the noxious Patriot Act as well as attempts to justify the whole war over WMD’s with WMDP-RA’s? He conceded nothing. Didn’t give an inch. He, in fact, threw his most astonishing failures in everyone’s face and claimed they were successes. Bold, indeed.

A cynical part of me wonders, however, if that’s not what America wants. A “bold” leader. Forget the facts. Forget sensible policies. Forget national security. Forget the economy. Forget everything. As long as someone can stand at the podium and sound sure of himself we’ll be okay.


Iowa Caucus Results

January 20, 2004

Random thoughts about last night’s results in Iowa:

I like Howard Dean well enough, but his electability has worried me from the start. I would not relish seeing him devastated by Karl Rove in the general election. He’s Northeastern, no military experience, his record on gay civil unions will mobilize the Evangelicals against him, he appears to hate Bush which won’t play well to swing voters. On the other hand, his straight-talking style has a certain appeal, as does his genuine status as a Washington “outsider.” In the end, however, I don’t think it would be enough to get him elected. I’m honestly glad to see him vulnerable after Iowa. At least it’s clear that the Democratic party has other candidates to choose from. Dean isn’t “inevitable.” Also, one wonders where all the “new voters” were when it came time to support Dean. The theory is that he doesn’t have to rely so much on moderate swing voters in the general election because he’s mobilizing an army of new voters. If that’s so, where were they? Could we count on a similar performance in November against George Bush? The thought is worrisome. Still, there is something genuinely unique and special about the Dean campaign. Especially the fact that it seems to have an actual grass roots base. (As opposed to the rhetorical grass roots base claimed by every other campaign in history.) I’m excited about the Dean campaign’s use of the internet as an organizational tool and about the fact that a lot of people have a greater sense of participation through it. Win or lose the nomination, I think there’s something of great value to be learned here. We may be studying the Dean campaign for many years hence, citing it as the starting point for the internet playing a larger role in American politics.

I like John Kerry. He strikes me as presidential. He seems to have a spine. His policies are quite as acceptable as any of his rivals and his military record will have appeal in a general election. Still, one wonders about other things. He’s a Washington “insider” if ever there was one. Many will see him as part of “the problem” rather than the solution. He has a long voting record for the likes of Karl Rove to sift through looking for ammunition. Plus he’s a wealthy North-easterner. So he’s definitely got liabilities to go along with whatever appeal he has.

John Edwards. I barely knew he existed before last night when I saw him address his supporters after the results came in. Souther accent. I like his message of two Americas. I hear he runs a positive campaign. Unfortunately he’s also an ex trail-lawyer who will no doubt be painted as “another one of those damned lawyers” by conservative spin doctors. Besides, nice guys finish last. He’s one to watch in any case.

Joe Lieberman did not compete in Iowa. Joe Lieberman is not an actual Democrat as far as I can tell. If he were to get the nomination I would only vote for him because he would be running against George Bush. But hell, I would vote for Bob Dole if he were the only person running against George Bush.

Kucinich who? seriously, this guy is too liberal to be elected. Simple as that.

Dick Gephardt wasn’t going to be president anyway. His service to our country has been long and distinguished. But he’s no president. He’s a legislative deal maker: very useful, but not very presidential. Plus his big appeal was with unionized blue collar workers. The Democratic party just doesn’t look like that anymore. The influence of this constituency is waning. He could never have won anything on that. Anyway, he’s out now.

Wes Clark didn’t compete in Iowa, but it bodes well for him that Dean has had his “inevitable” status taken away. I’m fascinated by Clark, actually, and the main thing I’ll be watching for in New Hampshire is a strong showing by him. I hope he does well. I just cannot see a down side to this guy as a candidate. His policies are as likable as any of the others. Add to that, he’s got no political record for the opposition to tear apart, but he does have credibility as a leader, being a retired four-star army general. He’s not a privileged rich kid. From a single-parent family he did well in school, graduated top of his class at West Point. Was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford. Was captain of the debate team at West Point. Is a decorated Vietnam combat veteran. Won the war – and the peace – in Kosovo against Slobodan Milosevic without losing a single American life. Is a Southerner from Arkansas. Again I ask: where’s the downside of this guy? He would have tremendous appeal to moderates, undecideds and anyone concerned about matters of national security.