If you've been drinking excessive amounts of vodka, and you're around at least one person you don't know that well, do your best not to get into extended arguments about sports.
How sad is it that Chris Rock has decided that there are certain people he won't make fun of? Last night on the (suckass) MTV Video Music Awards, the formerly fearless comedian made a point, at least twice, to say that Eminem is one guy he won't mess with. It's probably because Rock knows his own most recent piece of product, "Head Of State," was a total flop. Any particularly pointy barbs directed at Em would probably result in a comeback like, "yeah, at least I was the best thing in my own movie." (Judging from the "Head Of State" DVD commercials that saturated last night's pathetic broadcast, the funniest part of the flick is probably Bernie Mac as a belligerent vice president.)
This is pretty much what I think of Dashboard Confessional:
When the folks in Washington need an outlet for their righteous indignation, there's nothing better than a screwup at NASA. Space is beyond politics (assuming, of course, that the shuttle program isn't just a front for human cloning, hydroponic marijuana gardening, or prescription drug reimportation), and NASA costs a lot of money to operate. Bingo: All the politicos can find something hard-nosed to say that will sound good on the campaign trail without alienating more than just a handful of voters. (We aren't in the go-go space-fun '60s anymore.) Sure, it's obvious that NASA has serious problems, but there are plenty of other federal agencies that are a mess, and the public explanations of those boondoggles are handled much more delicately by whichever party happens to be in charge. Yeah, I want some safe, reliable bang for my space-buck, but I feel for you, NASA, I feel for you.
The highlight/lowlight of my quickie trip to Chicago was an evening at Fogo de Chão. Damn, the food was good, but my gastrointestinal tract was hurtin' afterward. I consciously avoided any of the stuff that was wrapped in bacon, and I mostly stuck to the marinated beef, but that's like saying someone is a "good" crack addict because he or she only smokes the top-grade stuff. Over the weekend I also learned an excellent piece of un-politically-correct slang: "vinte quatro," which literally means "24" in Portuguese, but usually means "gay" in Brazil. I was told it comes from -- get this -- Brazilian street bingo. The number 24 on the bingo card apparently is accompanied by a rather limp-wristed looking deer. Thus, "gay."
The last time I wrote about Wesley Willis, it was to honor his song "Rock Saddam Hussein's Ass." That was only a few months ago, when in my mind, Willis was the kind of performer who would be around forever. Sadly, it wasn't meant to be. The large, keyboard-playing, melodically challenged and certifiably schizophrenic singer/songwriter died last week at age 40. He had been battling leukemia. I caught his show a few years ago at the tiny Metro Cafe in DC. He loudly asked the crowd if "somebody could come up here and give me a head butt." So I did -- I was probably the only person in the room as sweaty as Willis was -- but he wasn't seeking just one head butt, he was seeking several. They didn't hurt much -- they were the dull, solid kind -- and they all seemed to please him. I jumped down from the stage feeling like I'd really done a good, positive thing, and not just had the minor thrill of being onstage during a rock show. My favorite Willis track? "It's Against The Law," because he simply tells it like it is: "Don't rob gas stations and banks," et cetera.
Yeah, let's get a bunch of people who don't know each other to gather and get all excited about nothing. The whole idea that "flash mobs" are communal is ridiculous. They're an excuse for self-absorbed, self-impressed people to spend a few safe, sanitary minutes with like-minded strangers who have access to similar technology. No fuss, no muss. Boring. Why not try being a freak on your own, without the benefit of a throng to back you up? Or why not do a flash mob in a crime-riddled neighborhood? (Addendum: Blogging is also a self-absorbed, self-impressed activity. But you won't see me cheering in a Books-A-Million about my blog.)
Mark Jenkins' latest online column for the Washington City Paper seems to be stirring up a lot of angst among music-heads in these parts. I've been in north Arlington since 1996 -- the tail end of the county's art/punk/freak salad days -- and I agree with Jenkins' thesis. Northern Virginia is a hellhole of lame, jammy bar bands that sell well to the U.Va. crowd, an institution that owns the distinction of fostering the Dave Matthews Band. That said, I suppose such discussions are akin to Brooklynites complaining about the deterioration of their hood's hipsterness, and I find that whole debate to be annoying as hell. So maybe I'll just stop before the hypocrisy gets too thick.
No offense to "The Daily Show," which never seems to run out of talented smarmy folk, but Mo Rocca is a complete jerkwad, and not in a good way. Need proof? Try to sit through an episode of VH1's half-hour flashbacks on the '70s without having to forceably swallow the canned hipster one-liners that drop from Rocca's pursed little lips. (They label him as a "media gadfly." Barf.) By contrast, Michael Ian Black's dry pseudo-sarcasm is worth waiting for. And it seems like he actually wrote it. (Luis Guzman is hott, too.)
For people who think the automobile has been killing America slowly, an article like this isn't much of a help. It's one thing to explain to Americans that gridlock and sprawl can be reduced by improving public transportation and designing better urban spaces. It's another thing to say, "hey, check it out! New Yorkers don't like to drive cars!" Yeah, as if the rest of the country is saying, "ooh, I would just love to be like a New Yorker." (The unrelated journalistic subtext is that the Washington Post occasionally runs an article that screams, "Washington is the most powerful nation in the world, not New York. Look at those silly outlanders." Meanwhile, anybody who watches "Friends," "Sex And The City" or "Seinfeld" reruns knows that New Yorkers don't drive. "The Sopranos" do, though.)
Y'know, this week I sucked and sucked and licked and sucked on my Snuggle Bear toy, and I couldn't get the eyes to come off. I realize I'm about a year too late to add my voice to this debate, but I did do a lot of sucking and sucking and licking to my Snuggle Bear.
Is it just me, or has Subway cloned Posdnous for its Sherman and Herman ads? (annoying .asf video file from AdAge.com -- it might play better if you do "open link in new window") The company's press release (.pdf -- also annoying) about the new black Jareds says nothing about a cloning procedure. For the uninitiated, Pos is the skinny De La Soul member. And for the record, I tried to find information on Sherman and Herman that was in just plain ol' HTML. No luck.
If you care at all about how your government manages important information, you should check out Steven Aftergood's Secrecy News. He usually pulls no punches, and that's why reporters love to quote him. Check out this nugget from today's e-mail:
CIA FOIA CHIEF KATHRYN DYER RETIRESAftergood goes on to discuss about how it wasn't all Dyer's fault, because she was merely implementing a policy she didn't create. But he adds that Congress has recommended that intelligence classification procedures be revised. He ends with this:
Kathryn I. Dyer, the Information and Privacy Coordinator at the Central Intelligence Agency, quietly retired last month. As the public face of CIA's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program, Ms. Dyer became the object of considerable frustration, anger and resentment from dissatisfied FOIA requesters. If you wanted CIA to "neither confirm nor deny" some piece of information, she stood ready to assist. And if you had years to wait for an uncertain reply, or needed your request for fee waiver challenged, she could also provide services of that kind. But if you were looking for a prompt, straightforward response to even a simple request for a specific, unclassified document, you were in the wrong place.
Secrecy News called the new CIA Information and Privacy Coordinator, Mr. Robert T. Herman, to ask how, if at all, CIA FOIA policy might now change. As one of his first official acts as chief CIA FOIA officer, Mr. Herman did not return the call.[Addendum: In a subsequent issue of Secrecy News, Aftergood corrected some of this information: "CORRECTION RE: KATHRYN DYER
My body cried for mercy last night. It was one of those Sundays when my internal organs collectively said, "OK, dude, we're gonna polish off these toxins, and to do that, we gotta raise your temperature a little bit and make you slightly delirious." It's been years since I had a week in which I drank, at a minimum, the equivalent of a sixpack every night. Anyway, it was all the fault of Musikfest, as has been the case in many other years when I've spent time in Bethlehem in August. I came to the following realization: There's a reason why Pennsylvania produces its fair share of weirdo outsider artists and brain-fried wiseass musicians. It's because of sights like this (that's a Peep and the Chicken Lady) and this (that's a pair of pros at the East Coast Polka Championships) and this (that's Quasar the 20th anniversary Musikfest wizard) and this (that's Ian Anderson of the supremely washed-up Jethro Tull, a concert I chose not to attend) and this (that's Quasar again -- he gets more disturbing as one's intoxication levels rise). I mean, if you're a 6-year-old kid, and that type of thing is just part of the background noise of life, it's gonna take its toll.
Most of my "spa" week in Pennsylvania has involved sleep, beer, minor errands, a newspaper or two, and "Gödel, Escher, Bach." (Yeah, I'm actually reading it. If I could finish "Underworld, I can finish GEB.) On my way back from the corner store today, two kids turned onto the street. One was about 12, maybe 13, with a buzzcut, at the age where he probably just started wearing AC/DC T-shirts. The other boy looked to be about 9 or 10. He was riding a cheap mountain bike and wearing glasses. The older kid, who was merely walking and not wearing glasses, noticed a flat, wet squirrel carcass in the street. Ding -- an idea was born. Noticing me (and thus having an audience), he peeled the dead squirrel off the street (he called it a "rabbit" instead of a squirrel -- oh, the wonders of our educational system) and threw it at his companion. It hit the younger kid square in the ass, with a thwack. The young'n started screaming "goddamn you" and dropping F-bombs. The older kid got the brilliant idea to pick up the carrion and make another attack, but a faint glimmer of common sense must have taken hold. I could see the dim light in his eyes: that was funny, but this is a smelly, dead squirrel, and it's probably covered in nasty germs. He stopped before he was able to get the squirrel off the street again. "That's probably not a good idea," I said as I passed by. Such a killjoy. The world needs heavy metal fans -- I didn't want him getting sick or anything.