Sunday, December 31, 2006


Well, with most of my classmates out of town, and no party invitations in my mailbox, I'm spending a quiet New Year's Eve at home this year. Don't worry about me, though. I'm frying up some chicken, and have a bottle of champagne to crack open at the right moment, and I've been watching football all day, which will continue, of course, tomorrow.

But here at Real Art, things are just swinging! I've been hanging onto some cool Youtube music video links for a while, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to post them. So let's rock out for New Year's Real Art style!

First, a rockin' Gypsy-style frenzy from my favorite frenzy band Gogol Bordello! Click here for some Eastern European punk rock, more specifically the song "I Would Never Want to Be Young Again."

Next, everybody's favorite Sesame Street hipster, Mahna Mahna (a.k.a. Bip Bipadotta), singing everybody's favorite hip Sesame Street tune called "Mahna Mahna." Did you know the song first appeared in a European soft-core porn flick? God, I love the weird irony on that! Click here for Muppet hipness.

There's no beatnik like a Muppet beatnik, if you ask me.

Next, a live performance of the Grateful Dead's "US Blues," taped in 1985, on a tour which I got to see when it came through Houston. It's one of my favorites, with a strong hippie-country twang, one of the things I like most about the Dead. Check it out here.

I got for Christmas the album French Kiss by former Fleetwood Mac member Bob Welch. I had been grooving to his stuff on the radio recently, did a little reading about him, and just had to have what's considered to be his best album. Unfortunately, his trademark fusion of late 70s disco and rock isn't quite as good as the critics might suggest. Not bad, really, but not great either. However, I do have for you videos for the best two tracks on the CD, which are great, and with which you may already be familiar.

Click here for "Ebony Eyes."

Click here for "Sentimental Lady."

You know, not only is this second one great, I would go out on a limb and place it in the all time top five for love songs, right up there with "Yesterday" and others. It just makes me melt whenever I hear it, even when it's the backdrop for a caveman commercial.

And what would New Year's be without some jazz? Here's a great performance of Louisana's own Louis Armstrong doing the Brecht and Weill tune "Mac the Knife." God I love this song!

And how about some classy stuff? How about some Miles Davis playing with the Gil Evans Orchestra? Here's a fantastic performance of a song dedicated to one of America's greatest composers called "The Duke."

And while we're talking about the Duke, and just to up the ante on New Year's classiness, here's the man himself, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, performing the big band standard "Satin Doll." Check it out here (it cuts off during the bass solo, but I think you get enough to get the idea...). Man, if all those dinner jackets the band is wearing doesn't get you into the New Year's spirit, nothing will.

Okay, that's enough for now. Time to go fry up my New Year's chicken! Happy New Year!


Spring soldier's death raises Iraq toll to 3,000

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The death of a Texas soldier, announced today by the Pentagon, raised the number of U.S. military deaths in Iraq to at least 3,000 since the war began, according to an Associated Press count.

The grim milestone was crossed on the final day of 2006 and at the end of the deadliest month for the American military in Iraq in the past 12 months. At least 111 U.S. service members were reported to have died in December.


Three thousand deaths are tiny compared with casualties in other protracted wars America has fought in the last century. There were 58,000 Americans killed in the Vietnam War, 36,000 in the Korean conflict, 405,000 in World War II and 116,000 in World War I, according to Defense Department figures.

Even so, the steadily mounting toll underscores the relentless violence that the massive U.S. investment in lives and money — surpassing $350 billion — has yet to tame, and may in fact still be getting worse.

A Pentagon report on Iraq said in December that the conflict now is more a struggle between Sunni and Shiite armed groups "fighting for religious, political and economic influence," with the insurgency and foreign terrorist campaigns "a backdrop."


Asked about the 3,000 figure, deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel said today that the president "will ensure their sacrifice was not made in vain."

Click here for the rest.

Spring isn't too far from Kingwood, where I grew up. When I was in high school, I went to speech tournaments and one act play contests in Spring. I had lots of friends from Spring when I was in college. I even did a couple of shows for a community theater group in Spring in the mid 90s. Like the death of the marine from Kingwood a week or two ago, this guy's death, moreso than the 2,998 other deaths of US service personnel in Iraq, makes me sad. He could have been me if this had been going on twenty years ago, or any of my high school or college pals. His parents and family could have been mine.

As I and others have observed before, the relatively low number of deaths has much more to do with improved field medicine and evacuation technology and procedures--lots of guys who were simply wounded in Iraq would have been dead in past wars. But that doesn't help the people we have lost. Further, for a better idea of how bad things are over there, consider the more than ten thousand wounded, many of whom are disabled or maimed for life. Consider the thousands, many of whom are still on duty, who are now suffering from the very real ravages of post-traumatic stress disorder, which is often incurable, and greatly lowers the quality of life for people suffering it--ever met any crazy Vietnam vets living in the streets?

This is all a travesty. If only these guys really were fighting to protect our freedom, instead of being pawns in an imperialist grand game--Bush really is twisting the knife when he speaks of their "sacrifice;" it was preordained that their deaths would be "in vain." And it's not even our war anymore. As the article observes, it's all about civil war now, with our troops in the crossfire, with the insurgency itself being downgraded to simply "a backdrop"--with that reality in mind, how on earth can anybody even imagine that this somehow has something to do with fighting terrorists?

The reality is that our occupation of Iraq does nothing but create terrorists by pissing off countless Muslims worldwide.



Not being a viewer of Saturday Night Live since around 1981 or so, I completely missed this clip the one and only time it aired. That's the thing about SNL: they can still be sublimely funny from time to time, but you have to wade through great mounds of crap in order to get to the rare good sketch. Here's what the website Milk and Cookies has to say about it:

"Conspiracy Theory Rock" by Robert Smigel was shown on "Saturday Night Live" during the March 14, 1998 broadcast but edited out of reruns.

The title and the style of the animation are a takeoff on the educational tv series, "Schoolhouse Rock," which was shown as a public service in-between network entertainment cartoons on Saturday mornings in the 1970s. "Schoolhouse Rock" would teach about grammar with a song which asked "Conjunction Junction, What is Your Function?," for example.

"Saturday Night Live" is broadcast on NBC, which is owned by General Electric. GE let them broadcast this cartoon just once. GE also partly owns MSNBC.

What's amazing about this animated short isn't that it's funny, which it is, but that it's very much close to being dead-on in describing the overall corporate news media environment in which our society is currently drowning. Definitely one of those "funny because it's true" things. But then, you've got to wonder why GE allowed it on the air in the first place. GE is a big part of what President Eisenhower once called "the military-industrial complex," and NBC's running of a cartoon that directly attacks the mega-corporation's usage of its own entertainment and news media divisions to sow support for policy that makes use of its war-making products is at the very least confusing. Maybe it just slipped by, which explains why it hasn't been broadcast since it first aired. Maybe it's clever disinformation, "the old double bluff" as CONTROL agent Maxwell Smart might have put it, which kind of makes sense because the cartoon ostensibly seems to be ripping on left-fringe conspiracy nuts. Or maybe it's doing what Noam Chomsky has always suggested the news media should do with him: present far-left views without any explanation or context so that viewers have no choice but to dismiss them as lunacy.

At any rate, lots of weird post-modern ironies going on with this thing. Check it out here, via Throw away your TV.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

McCoy ties freshman TD mark in Horns' Alamo Bowl win

From the AP via ESPN:

Colt McCoy was supposed be a placeholder for Texas at quarterback this season. Now, he's a record holder.

The redshirt freshman who replaced Vince Young turned in another gritty performance with two touchdown passes to rally the No. 18 Longhorns to a 26-24 victory Saturday over Iowa in the Alamo Bowl.

McCoy had been cleared to play just a week earlier after suffering a severely pinched nerve in his neck in each of Texas' last two games -- both losses. He also ran 8 yards on fourth down to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Selvin Young early in the fourth quarter that proved to be the game winner.


Tate was just the opposite, passing for 184 yards in the first half. He played high school football in Baytown, just outside of Houston, and his final college game was his first back in his home state.

Click here for the rest.

Just a few thoughts:

It's been really nice, actually, these last two years since I downgraded my cable tv service to a bare minimum "limited basic." I spend much less time watching shows I don't even really like. However, during football season I've found that I sorely miss having the cable sports channels. That's how I missed this one, having to keep up with it via internet stats and the like. It's just not the same. What really sucks is that I only got to see the 'Horns on tv three times this year, and those were all of their losses.

It's cool that Texas snapped its two game losing streak, but beating a 6-6 team by two points spells trouble next season for my beloved Longhorns. Doctor McCoy is definitely great, and will no doubt be better still next year, but our defense really needs to sharpen up if we're going to make another run at the Big 12 Championship. Yeah, that's right, I'm not even going to let myself think about a national championship. Until we're playing for it, that is.

Finally, even though I didn't actually know personally Iowa's kickass quarterback when he was playing in Baytown for my school's crosstown rival Lee, I do remember how excited everybody was that he was going to be playing bigtime college ball. Some of that excitement, of course, came from the fact, at my school Sterling at least, that everyone was happy that he wasn't going to be beating up on our team anymore. Anyway, Tate's final game being a loss notwithstanding, I'm sure he's going on to the pros and will probably do pretty well there.

Head Coach Mac Brown and QB Colt McCoy bask in their win. (Photo by Brett Coomer, Houston Chronicle.)



Mood midi file here.

Okay, that was fast.

Early Friday evening I made it to 50,000 hits. I've been counting hits here at Real Art since about February of 2003, and in nearly thirteen months I've managed to double the hit total for my first three years. Pretty wild. Of course, this is nothing compared to the big boys like Kos or Eschaton, who count daily hits in the millions, or even the mid-size guys like Rob Salkowitz over at Emphasis Added, who get hundreds everyday. Further, some three quarters of my visitors are coming in on Google and other search engines, often for image searches, so they're definitely not fans--all that reminds me that maybe I should try to soak the phenomenon a bit and post more pictures; you guys like cool and famous paintings? Anyway, the point is that this isn't really that big of a deal. On the other hand, blogging is something of a labor of love for me, so it's nice to sit back and congratulate myself from time to time.

So congratulations to me.

You know, that champagne picture is a bit obscene if you think about it for a moment, which makes my choice for mood music, "Afterglow" by Genesis, all the more appropriate. Well, I guess it won't hurt to sex things up a little--I mean, it's just a bottle of bubbly after all.

I'll celebrate again at 100,000. I wonder how quickly I'll get there?


Friday, December 29, 2006






Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging!


Government watchdogs under attack from bosses

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

During 2006, several inspectors general felt the wrath of government bosses or their supporters in Congress after investigations cited agencies for poor performance, excessive spending or wasted money.

For instance:

—The top official of the government's property and supply agency compared its inspector general to a terrorist, hoping to chill audits of General Services Administration regional offices and private businesses.

—Directors of the government's legal aid program discussed firing their inspector general, who investigated how top officials lavishly spent tax dollars for limousine services, ritzy hotels and $14 "Death by Chocolate" desserts.

—Administration-friendly Republicans in Congress tried to do away with the special inspector general for Iraq, who repeatedly exposed examples of administration waste that cost billions of dollars. Among the contractors criticized was Halliburton Corp., once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

—The Pentagon has been making its inspector general use lawyers picked by the defense secretary instead of independently hired attorneys.

"It's hard to believe that the government is serious about policing itself when it's whacking the people who are actually minding the store," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight, a nonpartisan group that tracks government waste and fraud. "These people are our security officers who help guard tens of billions of dollars. It's ridiculous to prevent them from doing their jobs."


Congress created the inspectors general jobs during the post-Watergate era to ensure federal agencies had independent oversight and accountability. The IGs audit how money is spent and also play a critical role in investigating allegations of wrongdoing and protecting federal whistleblowers.

Click here for the rest.

You know, I'm really glad that this made the news, but I'm pretty disappointed that the article's general slant is such that it ignores that Bush has been pulling shit like this for years. That is, this attack on the inspectors general is clearly part of an overall context of White House power expansion, which includes, but certainly isn't limited to, appointing industry sympathizers to key regulatory positions, and levels of executive branch secrecy that would have made Nixon blush. The system of governmental checks and balances enacted by our founding fathers wasn't simply something patriotically clever: the three branches of our federal system are pitted in opposition to one another in order to keep any one of them from becoming too powerful and taking over, which would end democracy as we understand it.

Bush's ongoing power grab is essentially playing with fire in a room full of gasoline soaked rags, and it really pisses me off that the political class and the press refuse to call it what it is.



I'll admit it: I'm not a huge James Brown fan. I mean, I think I've only got like one JB album, and that's just something that I ripped into MP3 format from somebody else's CD. I suppose it's because I didn't really learn how great he was until I was well into my twenties, at which point I was buying almost exclusively jazz albums--I've meant for years to bolster my music collection with bunches of Soul's Godfather, but I've never gotten round to it.

He was great, however, my own indifference as a music collector notwithstanding. It's pretty hard to listen to him without recognizing not only his influence on other musicians, but that he was a genius in his own right. Further, his band was always as tight as a jazz combo, or Frank Zappa, or Steely Dan, in an era when hippie sloppiness was too damned common. They call him "the Godfather of Soul" but without Brown we wouldn't have funk, no Bootsy Collins or George Clinton. Hell, hip-hop, for that matter, would be much less interesting if there had never been a James Brown. And one should never forget what a fantastic dancer he was, either.

But like I said, I've only come to understand all this within the last decade or so. However, that doesn't mean I didn't have JB touching my life before I really knew what he was about. Like this totally bizarre performance of "Living in America" from the film Rocky IV. Or his role as the grooving and singing Reverend Cleophus James in The Blues Brothers. Great stuff that, I'm sure, affected my own personal aesthetic development in multiple ways.

While I'm at it, here's another Youtube JB clip, a black and white television performance of "Sex Machine" segueing into "Soul Power." It's well worth watching, if only so you can see how totally tight and funky his band was back then. You know, he would dock his musicians' pay if they screwed up during performance; obviously, it did the trick.

One thing troubles me, though. Throughout all the rightly deserved media praise JB's getting after his death a few days ago, very few talking heads and reporters seem to be mentioning his song "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud," which is probably the hippest civil rights anthem ever put on record, which makes him unarguably a Real Artist. Anyway, here's a video of a live performance of the song, where JB gets a mostly white audience of youthful hipsters onstage with him to recite repeatedly the phrase "I'm black and I'm proud." You gotta love that.

Farewell James Brown.


Thursday, December 28, 2006


From the Houston Chronicle:

Naps can help you catch up on sleep, alleviate stress

"We're biologically programmed to take a nap in midafternoon," says Max Hirshkowitz, an associate professor at Baylor College of Medicine who also directs the Sleep Center at Houston's Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center. "It's the Industrial Revolution that separated us from siesta, because it was too expensive to shut down big machines in the middle of the day and turn them back on."

Even so, napping gets a bad rap, particularly in the current 24/7 culture.

"In the United States, we have this drive to be busy all the time," says Anne Frey, a dream practitioner and instructor at the University of Indianapolis. "If we nap, we're seen as lazy or trying to avoid something. In part, I blame it on economics. People are so driven for the dollar that taking a nap is considered wasting time."

Click here for the rest.

I also think that the divorce rate, illegetimate births, anxiety, depression, and a whole host of other modern problems also come from our ruthless and dehumanizing system of economics, but that's another story. The point is that I wholeheartedly agree with napping as a way of life, and try to do so whenever I've got the time. I'm just not the same for the rest of the day if I can't get a little shuteye in the afternoon, especially because I'm such a night owl. And it sounds like I've got medical science on my side here. But hey, I'm only listening to what my body's telling me. You should, too.

Go take a nap right now!



I'm sure that pretty much anybody who follows the news knows that our longest living President, Gerald Ford, finally died a day or two ago. As with Nixon and Reagan, the TV news organizations have gone out of their way to lionize the old fellow, running clip after clip, playing up especially his pardoning of his predecessor as an extremely good thing.

Atrios over at Eschaton is all over it:

As we all know, because everybody on the teevee will keep repeating it, Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon was perhaps the wisest and awesomest thing anyone has ever done in the history of presidenting. Never mind that it wasn't popular at the time. Never mind that it set an awful precedent which led to the pardoning of the Iran Contra figures and transformed corrupt Nixonites into distinguished elder statesmen and Bush administration officials.

Click here for the rest.

And again from Eschaton:

The important thing was to find out the truth. Our elites repeatedly redefine "getting past it" as "sweeping it under the rug" based on their apparent opinion of themselves as necessary moral and spiritual leaders for the riffraff.

Click here for more.

The reason it was important to find out the truth is because Watergate was only the tip of the iceberg. Actually, all Watergate was is the screw-up that let everybody at the time know just how powerful and corrupt the Nixon White House had become. As Noam Chomsky has observed numerous times, Watergate was almost nothing compared to Nixon's real crimes: the impeachment proceedings were allowed to continue because Tricky Dick had amassed so much power in so much secrecy that the powerful and wealthy elites, the ones our leaders actually represent, got nervous.

Here is a CounterPunch essay going into further detail on that issue.

So Ford really screwed up, destroying any real chances this country had for "healing" after Nixon resigned. Indeed, America's failure to deal decisively with the fallout from Watergate allowed pretty much the same system Nixon played to remain intact, which, obviously, set the stage for the gross abuses of the current White House. I'm not saying that Ford had some sort of deal with Nixon, as many alleged at the time of the pardon. But I am saying that old Gerry gets a cut of the blame for the sad and sorry state the nation is in today.

On the other hand, I've always liked Ford. He really was a "regular guy" President, shunning the anti-democratic Presidential mystique fostered by every President, including Carter, since then. And you've just gotta love the Chevy Chase stuff on SNL. And Ford wasn't really all that conservative by today's standards--of course, given the extremism that passes as conservatism today, a strong majority of old school Republicans would probably rate as closer to moderate.

How I miss the 70s!


Friday, December 22, 2006

Here, Have a Shitload of Cool Xmas Vids!

I'm hitting the road for Houston early tomorrow, so this is going to be my last post until the 27th or so. Until then, I'm leaving you with plenty of time wasting Christmas videos, with both old and recent favorites. My favorites, that is, but I'm sure you'll like 'em, too. So, without any further ado, let's go to the links...

First up, Snow Miser's theme song from Rankin-Bass' The Year without a Santa Claus. Click here for frozen Christmas merriment!

And what would a Snow Miser performance be without hearing from his grumpy brother, Heat Miser? Click here for some stop-action Christmas anger!

Next, a video for the song that RetroCRUSH called "the worst Christmas song of all time," Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime." I strongly disagree with RetroCRUSH, but couldn't help but wonder why all the reasons they offer for it being the worst are pretty much the things I like about the song. Ah well. To each his own. Click here for Paul in a silly Yuletide mood.

And what would a Paul McCartney performance be without hearing from his grumpy brother John Lennon? Click here for a clever posthumous video for "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)."

And while we're dealing with 60s Brit rockers, I might as well hook you up with the Kinks' "Father Christmas," a marvelous latter-day offering from the band, bashing the consumerism that's come to nearly drown out traditional messages of peace and love. Click here for the video.

Remember Billy Squier? I sure do, and I also remember him rocking out for Christmas back in the early 80s with the original MTV VJ's. For me, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the cheesiness, the video holds up well. Click here for Billy Squier's "Christmas Is the Time to Say I Love You."

Here's yet another Brit Rocker, one of my faves Greg Lake of the prog-rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer, insisting, in pleasant song form, that Father Christmas (the English Santa Claus) actually exists! That, and video imagery that suggests that Israelis and Palestinians can make peace, if only they'd celebrate Christmas instead of Hannukah and Ramadan. Click here for "I Believe in Father Christmas."

Ach! Too many Brits for Christmas! But then, I've heard a compelling argument that the Victorian era English pretty much shored up our current understanding of how to celebrate the holiday, what with Dickens and all. Nonetheless, it's time for more Americans. Rolling back again to the early MTV era provides one of my favorite Christmas rock songs, the Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping." I was unable to find on Youtube an actual band video for the song, but I did find an amateur thingy that a teenaged girl made in her bedroom at home, which, once you've seen it and understand what I mean, is somehow appropriate. At any rate, you get to hear the song...

Click here for the video.

How about a Brit and an American together? Everybody loves David Bowie and Bing Crosby! Rumor has it that after they shot this performance of "Little Drummer Boy" they went to a sleazy Los Angeles motel and had gay glam-rock sex for hours on end. Who knew? Click here for some intergenerational Christmas love.

Enough of the music videos. How about some story? How about some scatological humor? How about a little South Park? Click here for the original "Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo" episode in full. Just for shits and giggles.

Howdy ho!

And finally, as a nod to all the other holidays besides Christmas celebrated around this time of year, I give you the classic Seinfeld episode "The Strike Festivus." Okay, I know it's a fictional holiday, but it's well worth watching, especially if you've never seen it. Click here for Festivus.

Okay, that's all for this time, except for this shitty but fun "Decorate a Christmas Tree" site, a very nice time-waster. Okay, now, for real, that's all for this time. Oh, except for the old great Christmas poem, "A Visit from Saint Nick," you know, the one that starts "Twas the night before Christmas..." Okay, NOW, for real, that's all for this time.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a goodnight! God bless us, everyone! Peace on Earth! And all that jazz...




Frankie and Sammy


Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging!



From the Austin Chronicle courtesy of AlterNet:

37th Street Lights

Randy Thompson, a 37th Street resident since 1980, said, "Most years I wouldn't say the [Zilker Park] Trail of Lights is better than ours, but this year it is." Thompson said he opted against putting up lights due to spousal pressure and reported overhearing upset and belligerent onlookers bemoan his lack of lights as well as his next-door neighbor's lackluster illumination effort.

"It's unfair that we're somehow responsible for entertaining the city of Austin," said a 37th Street resident of four years who asked not to be named for fear of darkening relations with neighbors. We'll refer to that source as Rudolph. "The story ended last year. You can observe what happened now that the people who started the tradition aren't here any more," Rudolph said. "It's not the new people's fault that they didn't buy into the lights, they simply saw a house that met their needs." Many of the new homeowners are professionals who come home late and rarely socialize with neighbors, he added.

While the new folks can't be held responsible for upholding the tradition, "We're trying to get the community kicked back in," Rudolph said. The famously intertwined displays had always been dependent on kinship, camaraderie, and bonding on the street – an effort for neighbors, by neighbors. "All the characters involved didn't necessarily like each other," he explained, "but we got along and could stand in the street together and have some beers."

Click here for more.

Years ago I lived on 35th street for a few years, which is just a block over from all the now missing hooplah--yeah, yeah, I know; it's very weird that there is no 36th street between 35th and 37th, but what can you do? Indeed, I moved into my Hyde Park neighborhood apartment right around the time that the whole thing was starting to take off. When I first saw it in December of '88, I was like, "Wow! This is a Christmas orgasm!" And that's what I've called it ever since, the Christmas Orgasm.

No, I'm not kidding. These people have gone fucking nuts on Christmas lights for years and years. Here, check it out:

Click here for more Christmas Orgasm pics.

It was incredible to just cut through from the back of my apartments and end up in what amounted to a real live Emerald City in only moments. It was like being on LSD. Actually, there were a few times that it really was like being on LSD, but enough about that--I've said too much already. The point is that the Christmas Orgasm was flamboyant evidence of what makes Austin so unique. That is, the 37th Street lights weren't something put together by some corporation or entertainment company out of New York or Los Angeles: they were created and maintained by average ordinary Austinites for no other reason than that they wanted to do it. The Christmas Orgasm was a magnificent manifestation of honest and authentic human culture, no plastic about it.

And now it's gone, apparently thanks to gentrifying yuppies who are too caught up in their careers to participate in a cherished neighborhood tradition, something else for which we can blame the corporations.

You know, a lot of Americans can't seem to get their hands around why the destruction of New Orleans, and the possible non-return of many of its citizens, is such a terrible thing. "They'll rebuild eventually. It'll be better than before with new people," they say. Well, yeah, that's true. But many of those New Orleaneans who can't or won't return were just like the people who used to live on 37th in Austin: they were the backbone of a totally unique local culture, an island of honesty and creativity in an ocean of artistic apathy and prefabricated cultural swill. And that's something one can never understand if one hasn't ever personally experienced it.

I often fear that the vacant and meaningless way of life in the suburbs is going to drown us all.

Farewell, Christmas Orgasm. I hope you return someday.


Thursday, December 21, 2006


From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Miss Nevada USA fired over racy pictures on the Internet

Miss Nevada USA was stripped of her title Thursday after racy photos of her appeared on the Internet, pageant officials said.

Some of the photos show Katie Rees, 22, kissing other young women, exposing one of her breasts and pulling down her pants to show her thong underwear at a party in Tampa, Fla.

"Katie Rees has been relieved of her duties as Miss Nevada USA 2007," said Paula M. Shugart, president of the Miss Universe Organization, which owns the Miss USA pageant and others.

Rees' dismissal comes two days after Miss USA Tara Conner was allowed to keep her tiara when she admitted underage drinking at New York bars and agreed to go into rehab and undergo drug testing.

Click here for the rest.

So, just to make sure I understand the sense of morality in play here, underage drinking and illegal drug use are forgivable; partial nudity and lesbian kissing photos uploaded to the internet, however, are unforgivable. Well, okay. I mean, the Miss Universe people have a perfect right to do whatever they want with their representatives; it is, after all, a business. But this event so utterly fits in with what I'm seeing as a major heating-up of right wing anti-sex forces that it's hard to ignore. Don't get me wrong; Donald Trump is no sexual Puritan himself, and neither is NBC, but it seems to me that they're running scared in terms of trying to manage an anticipated reaction from the sex police. On some levels, I can't say that I blame them--they're trying to make money, and scandals hurt the bottom line.

On the other hand, this is totally fucked up. The former Miss Nevada has a perfect right as a human being to sex up her life, and even to show her freak side to the entire world via the internet, if she so desires. It doesn't matter what sort of contracts she's signed: it's bullshit, both individually and culturally, to demand that anybody must put aside sexual self-expression while on their own time. It's bullshit, too, that the Miss Universe pageant lives so in fear of anti-sex forces that they include such a clause in their standard contract. All this does is bestow legitimacy on their Victorian crusade.

You know, I could conceivably get behind some kind of reprimand for the drunken Miss USA, especially if she kept on showing up for gigs while soused. That's not unreasonable. But this thing takes me back to the whole Vanessa Williams debacle back in the mid 80s. She got screwed, too, and it's really pissing me off that our culture seems to have not moved forward a single inch in over two decades. Goddamned right-wing Christians.



From Media Matters for America courtesy of Eschaton:

In a December 18 column headlined "Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always A Muslim" and posted on her website, right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel argued that because Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) middle name is Hussein, his late, estranged father was of Muslim descent, and he has shown interest in his father's Kenyan heritage, Obama's "loyalties" must be called into question as he emerges as a possible Democratic presidential candidate. In the column, Schlussel asked: "So, even if he identifies strongly as a Christian ... is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim, who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father, and who is now moving in the direction of his father's heritage, a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?" She ended her column by asking if Obama becoming vice president instead would be acceptable. Answering her own question, she wrote: "NO WAY, JOSE ... Or, is that, HUSSEIN?"

Click here for more.

And this Schlussel pundit-person isn't the only one jumping on the smells-Muslim bandwagon. The Media Matters piece lists something like nine more instances of corporate news media robots either directly stating or implying some kind of connection between Obama and Islamic extremists, and I think it's safe to expect a whole lot more to come. Obviously, this is extraordinarily trashy and wrong, nothing but bullshit below the belt mud-slinging, worse, even, than the kind of shit they threw at Kerry because it has massive overtones of racism.

You know, I don't even like Obama. As far as I've been able to tell, he's just too conservative, too religious, for my tastes, much more of a scolder than a man who can inspire a nation--I mean, this is all on a sliding scale, of course; he's waaay better than pretty much anything the Republicans are going to be offering up in '08, but for what I want out of a Presidential candidate, he doesn't really fit the bill. But who knows if he's even going to get the nomination? I suppose the conservatives think they know, so here I am having to defend a candidate I don't like. But, what the fuck, this smear attack is just fucking awful. I'd be condemining this shit even if it was directed at a Republican.

One further thought: if Obama seems too Muslim to be President, does that mean that the people making this "argument" disagree with Article Six of the US Constitution which states that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States"? It sure sounds like that's the case. Bunch of fucking anti-American fuck-heads.


Who Wrote the Bible?

A very cool and respectful Bible documentary from Britain's Channel 4:

The answer to 'Who wrote the Bible?' turns out to be complex. For a start, the Bible isn't a single book, but contains 66 separate books which were collected over something like 1,200 years. Christians and Jews have usually been careful to say that the scriptures weren't delivered from a passing cloud, but were, they believe, written, edited and compiled by human beings under the inspiration of God. Even so, what Robert Beckford discovers on his biblical road trip is much more complex than anything he learned in Sunday school.

Take the Five Books of Moses, which open the Bible and include the world-famous stories of the creation, the Garden of Eden and Noah's flood. Known in Hebrew, the language they were written in, as the Torah, these books contain the foundations of Judaism and Christianity. It turns out that the Books of Moses weren't written by Moses at all, but by four anonymous writers, each with his own particular view to promote. These writings were only brought together when an Israelite king found them useful to promote his political agenda, many centuries after the time of Moses. Says Beckford: 'King Hezekiah turned the Bible into a party political manifesto for monotheism. He definitely knew something about spin.'


There have been many TV programmes that have tried to bury the Bible – but this is no hatchet job. We get a clue about this when we see Robert Beckford at the tomb of Christ, inside Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre. As he stoops to leave the tomb, he wipes tears from his eyes. 'I was really moved by the experience,' he says. 'I am a Christian; I believe in the teachings of Jesus, so to be in a holy place, contemplating life, moved me.

Click here for more on the program.

Of course, I say "respectful" because Beckford treats his subject matter with the reverence of a believer, but he ultimately concludes, and deftly illustrates, that the Bible cannot possibly be taken as literal truth: for some parts of Christiandom, like my former denomination the Southern Baptists, such a point of view is tantamount to blasphemy. I guess it all depends on your point of view. But this really is good stuff. I really love the documentary's assumption that, even though we know for sure that the Bible is far more allgorical, far more mythological, than it is historical record, there is still a great deal of important human meaning contained within its covers. Of course, the skeptic in me says that there's lots of meaning in Greco-Roman mythology, as well as the tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, or Spider-man for that matter, but that doesn't invalidate the point.

Actually, given my own past association with Christianity, I found this show, which debunks even while it finds deeper truth, to be somewhat inspiring, almost as though it gives me permission to love the Bible again, to stop viewing it as a document of ideological hatred.

Go check it out here, courtesy of Throw away your TV.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Most Americans have had premarital sex

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

More than nine out of 10 Americans, men and women alike, have had premarital sex, according to a new study. The high rates extend even to women born in the 1940s, challenging perceptions that people were more chaste in the past.

"This is reality-check research," said the study's author, Lawrence Finer. "Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades."


Even among a subgroup of those who abstained from sex until at least age 20, four-fifths had had premarital sex by age 44, the study found.

Finer said the likelihood of Americans having sex before marriage has remained stable since the 1950s, though people now wait longer to get married and thus are sexually active as singles for extensive periods.

The study found women virtually as likely as men to engage in premarital sex, even those born decades ago. Among women born between 1950 and 1978, at least 91 percent had had premarital sex by age 30, he said, while among those born in the 1940s, 88 percent had done so by age 44.

Click here for the rest.

You know, after yesterday's post about the horrors of freak dancing, it's almost as though I'm favored by God for this study to have dropped in my lap like this. It really does prove my point: the mainstream American culture is, and has been for many years, extraordinarily pro-sex, and all attempts to get people to stop having sex are utterly doomed to fail. Indeed, I think that as long as we have advertising and mass entertainment, we're going to be a pro-sex society, and if you want to take those industries down, you might as well be trying to destroy our entire understanding of business. But I digress. What's important about this is that, even though everybody's doing it, we have an educational system, numerous state governments, and the federal government all operating in a different reality. They're trying to roll back the clock, which is impossible, but along the way they're fucking up real people's lives. All this abstinence bullshit, all these anti-condom lies, the suppression of the morning after pill, and on and on, all this crap gives people STDs, gets people pregnant when they don't want to be. Instead of playing like it's the Victorian era, our leaders ought to get down to the business of making government more sex-friendly. 'Cause what we have now is truly fucked.


'The Real America,' Redefined

Courtesy of the Daily Kos, the Washington Post's liberal guy, E.J. Dionne, declares victory:

It wasn't all that long ago that Democrats and liberals were said to be out of touch with "the real America," which was defined as encompassing the states that voted for President Bush in 2004, including the entire South. Democrats seemed to accept this definition of reality, and they struggled -- often looking ridiculous in the process -- to become fluent in NASCAR talk and to discuss religion with the inflections of a white Southern evangelicalism foreign to so many of them.

Now the conventional wisdom sees Republicans in danger of becoming merely a Southern regional party. Isn't it amazing how quickly the supposedly "real America" was transformed into a besieged conservative enclave out of touch with the rest of the country? Now religious moderates and liberals are speaking in their own tongues, and the free-thinking, down-to-earth citizens in the Rocky Mountain states are, in large numbers, fed up with right-wing ideology.

Click here for the rest.

Personally, I think it's a tad bit early to declare victory for liberalism, especially because what now passes for liberal is often just a rehashing of old-school conservatism, and, consequently, what passes for conservative these days is simply traditional right-wing extremism. Further, if liberalism is now victorious, it's only due to happenstance; that is, conservatives did it to themselves. Contrast that with the triumph of the conservatives back in 1994: they were organized and on a mission; the Democrats still haven't quite figured out what hit them. Today's liberal "triumph" has very little to do with the Democrats as a party and more to do with regional and internet activists pushing them to take advantage of a narrow window of opportunity. In other words, the Dems have stumbled into power.

Like I said, it's waaay too soon to call the US a liberal nation.

But I think it is fair to say that America has been recently revealed as not conservative. I know, I know, the right wing for years has been screaming that conservatism is mainstream and all that but they were as wrong as Dionne is in proclaiming the nation to be liberal. My take lately is that Americans are pragmatists: they want the state to function effeciently; they want social services but believe people should work for a living; they want security but not global dominance. For some fifteen years or so the American people have chosen Republicans, believing that they could achieve these goals better than the Democrats, who had, admittedly, become soft and bloated after decades of power.

But just because we now know that the Republicans don't have the answers doesn't mean that everybody thinks the Democrats do. For now they're the only other store on the block, so they're necessarily going to get our business. If I were a betting man, I'd say that there's a fifty-fifty chance that the Republicans are able to reinvent their image enough to get some wins by November '08. I mean, I hope not, but the Democrats really do have some pompous morons running the show, and they really look like easy pickin's in the long term.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Stop the music, please — freak dancing over the top

From the Houston Chronicle op-ed page, some syndicated columnist freaks out:

Freak dancing must be stopped.

Freak dancing is not new. It has been appalling chaperones for several years now. What has changed is that it's no longer a limited phenomenon. It is showing up in high schools all over the country, and even in the tender middle-school grades.

What is freak dancing? Well, it's a representation of anal sex set to hip-hop music. The boy makes thrusting moves at his partner's rear. Sometimes the girl hikes up her skirt to facilitate contact. And if she's feeling athletic, she may assume the doggy-style sexual position, bending over and putting her hands on the floor. One variation has two males surrounding a female and rubbing at her front and back. Other names for this dance are "grinding," "the nasty" or just "freaking." For further reference, consult MTV.

This is not a case of only the bad kids doing something. Intense social pressure can drag down even carefully raised adolescents. Teri Poff, the principal at Capital High School in Olympia, Wash., told a local newspaper that students report "feeling coerced into inappropriate dancing."

Tar me as one of those cranky ladies who says things like, "This time they've gone too far." But this time they've definitely gone too far.

Click here for the rest.

Okay, this is just laughable. Indeed, I'm laughing right now.

Given the media environment in which we live, which is utterly drenched in sexual imagery, it comes as absolutely no surprise that today's teenagers would behave in a seemingly more sexual manner than my peers did when we were teens. That is, it's waaaaay too late to worry about freak dancing, which is only a result of where the mainstream culture is at the moment--if you want to stop freak dancing, you've got to take on Big Media, and stay at them for a couple of decades, while at the same time waging a massive PR campaign in hopes of replacing these devil-spawned sexual attitudes with something more Puritanical in nature. You know, you've got to change the culture. In other words, this columnist should shut the fuck up because nothing constructive can come of opposition to teens simulating sex on the gym floor. Unless you count the soothing of conservative righteous indignation, but really, who gives a shit about that? They're just going to get mad about something else, anyway.

Frankly, I don't even see that there's actually anything about which to be concerned. I think some anxiety would be in order if these kids were actually having sex at school dances, but that doesn't appear to be happening in any significant numbers. Speaking of sex, as far as I know, the overall numbers on teen sex, real sex I mean, are about the same as they were when I graduated high school twenty years ago!!! In other words, there's just no problem. All freak dancing does is give teens some much needed fun and excitement while pissing off authoritarian adults, which is always a noble pursuit.

If these moronic Puritans were actually concerned about the sexual health of teenagers, they'd end their foolish support for "abstinence based" sex education, roll up their sleeves, pick up a dildo, and demonstrate for as many teens as possible how to put on a condom.

I'm so sick of these people's shit.

In honor of freak dancing, I'm posting some appropriate Snoop Dog lyrics:

G Funk Intro


This is another story about dogs
For the dog that don't pee on trees, is a bitch
So says Snoop Dogg, get your pooper scooper
Cuz the ni$$a's talkin shit
Aroof! [echoes]

[Verse One: Rage]

I'm sippin on Tanqueray
with my my mind on my money and my mouth in the ganjahy
R-A-G to the motherfuckin E
Back with my ni$$a S-N double O-P
[Dre] Yeah, and ya don't stop
Rage in effect I just begun to rock
[Dre] I said yeah, and you don't quit
[Snoop] Hey yo Rage would you please drop some gangsta shit
I rock ruff and stuff with my Afro Puffs
Handcuffed as I bust bout to tear shit up
Oh what did ya think I, could never think I
Would be the one to make you blink out, I catch you like Inca
Never will there ever be another like me
Um you can play the left, cuz it ain't no right in me
Out the picture out the frame out the box I knock em all
Smack em out the park, like A Friendly Game of Baseball
Grand, slam, yes I am
Kickin up dust and I don't give a god DAMN
Cuz I'm that lyrical murderer
Pleading guilty, you know for my skills I'm about to be
Filthy large, Rage in charge
You know what's happenin don't try to play large
this ain't no Rerun, see hun, don't ya wanna be one
A cover, word to wreck ya, cause I never get my vocals
I'm loco, close to Constatanople, uhhh!
I'll make 'em go coo-coo for my Cocoa
puffin stuff, aiyyo Snoop, you're up
Let these ni$$az know that ni$$az don't give a fuck!

[Verse Two: Snoop Doggy Dogg]

This is just a small introduction to the G Funk Era
Everyday of my life I take a glimpse in the mirror
And I see motherfuckers tryin to be like me
Every since I put it down with the D-R-E


Foamin at the mouth and waggin his tail
Searchin through the yards with a keen sense of smell
Lookin for the business in heat
And when he find it he'll be sniffin her seat
We travel in packs and we do it from the back
How else can you get to the booty?
We do it Doggystyle, all the while we do it Doggystyle
Yo motherfuckin hoes!!!
He fucked the fleas off a bitch
He shaked the ticks off his dick
And in the booty, he buries his motherfuckin bone
And if there's any left over
He'll roll over and take a doggy bag home

Damn, that Tanqueray is talkin to a ni$$a
I ain't bullshittin, one of y'all ni$$az gotta get it
Man I got ta piss
Breath test?

WWSD: what would Snoop do?

In your face, you anti-sex assholes!


Torture Is Now Part of the American Soul

From AlterNet:

The results are much as you would expect. As National Public Radio reveals, 10% of the isolation prisoners at Pelican Bay are now in the psychiatric wing, and there's a waiting list. Prisoners in solitary confinement, according to Dr Henry Weinstein, a psychiatrist who studies them, suffer from "memory loss to severe anxiety to hallucinations to delusions ... under the severest cases of sensory deprivation, people go crazy." People who went in bad and dangerous come out mad as well. The only two studies conducted so far -- in Texas and Washington state -- both show that the recidivism rates for prisoners held in solitary confinement are worse than for those who were allowed to mix with other prisoners. If we were to judge the United States by its penal policies, we would perceive a strange beast: a Christian society that believes in neither forgiveness nor redemption.

From this delightful experiment, US interrogators appear to have extracted a useful lesson: if you want to erase a man's mind, deprive him of contact with the rest of the world. This has nothing to do with obtaining information: torture of all kinds -- physical or mental -- produces the result that people will say anything to make it end. It is about power, and the thrilling discovery that in the right conditions one man's power over another is unlimited. It is an indulgence which turns its perpetrators into everything they claim to be confronting.

Click here for the rest.

I'm still totally amazed that the US now gleefully supports torture. Of course, as the above linked essay implies, we've gleefully supported torture my entire life and longer--the reason I didn't really realize this until recently is because when we're doing it to US citizens we don't call it "torture;" we call it "prison." I continue to be at a loss for words. A simple condemnation doesn't seem to be nearly enough. I could speculate as to why we're now a totally immoral nation on par with, say, the Uganda of Idi Amin, or the Gestapo, but that's obvious: 9/11 scared Americans so much that they're willing to publicly support absolute evil in order to make themselves feel safer. And really, that's the only possible upside of torturing people; it makes Americans feel good--it is well known to psychologists that torture, especially the kind we're using, is wildly unreliable as far as intelligence-gathering is concerned.

But then, listen to me going on like this.

For some reason I feel compelled to explain why torture is so totally wrong. I shouldn't have to do that. It's completely self-evident that torture is an act of absolute evil. Beyond worrying about the moral decline of our nation's soul, I should also be worrying about why so many Americans are so fucking daft that they just accept this shit.

How is it possible that torture is now acceptable and desirable among Americans? This, more than anything else, truly makes me afraid that our civilization will soon collapse.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

School extends suspension of posterior painter

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

A high school art teacher suspended for moonlighting as a self-proclaimed "butt-printing artist" will apparently have more free time to work on his cheeky creations.

Stephen Murmer was told last week that he was being placed on paid administrative leave for five days from his job at Monacan High School after Chesterfield County school officials became agitated over his unique brand of artwork.


Outside of class and in disguise, Murmer creates floral and abstract art by slathering paint on his posterior and pressing it against canvas in the manner of a stamp.


Earlier this week, she said teachers were expected to set an example for students through their personal conduct.

Click here for the rest.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like this guy's kind of doing a performance art thing, wearing a mask, and painting with his butt publicly. Sounds a bit silly, if you ask me. But that doesn't matter. Like all good art teachers, this man is an artist in his own right. What he's doing is clearly for artistic purposes and therefore legitimate. Punishing him in any way at all for this is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Frankly, in spite of the fact that I think butt-art is a bit goofy, this teacher is setting "an example for students through...personal conduct." A good example. When I was teaching high school theater, I believed that it was extraordinarily important for me to continue working as an actor and director on my own time, if only for credibility's sake--I also found that continuing to act gave me all kinds of insights into the subject I was teaching. But I don't really need to say all that: it is self-evident that a teacher should stay active within his field.

Beyond all that, I'm really starting to be disturbed by what is now clearly some kind of puritanical anti-art movement in this country. This is the fifth high profile incident of which I've heard this year in which artists have been attacked and punished by self-proclaimed arbiters of morality. First there was the incident where an art teacher was fired because topless art photos of her appeared on the internet. Meanwhile, a Church of the SubGenius performance artist lost custody of her children because a family court judge didn't like the anti-religious content of her art. Then a police chief had to resign because of topless photos his wife uploaded to the internet--okay, I'm not sure if this woman was an artist, sounds like a weird biker thing, but it's along the same lines; someone was punished harshly for self-expression. Finally, an art teacher lost her contract because some kids she took on a field trip to an art museum saw some nude art.

Now this shit about the butt-painter.

If you look at all this in the context of the "abstinence based" sex education movement, condom misinformation coming directly from the federal government, as well as the fed's new abstinence propaganda for people in their twenties, it's pretty damned hard to not conlude that something's afoot here. Despite their defeat at the ballot box last month, the narrow minded and dim witted forces of religious fundamentalism are on the move, and they're taking people down. That's pretty fucked.



Six or seven years ago I started buying these things in dollar stores. You know, they're cheap and weird, the perfect thing to collect. After a couple of Christmases, I had a nice little collection going, which seems to get a little bigger every year because I pretty much always include some dollar store action for the Yule. For the last couple of years, I haven't really bothered with getting them out for lack of space, but this year I've brought them back.

And boy are they weird. For instance, this 1950s looking evil Santa.

Or this Gandalf-as-Santa model.

Some are less weird and more whimsical, like this one that looks like it's riffing on children's book art.

Some of these things just challenge my brain. What the hell's going on with this one? It's a candle holder, yes, but what's up with the design? It's a big floating Santa head, but buried in his beard is a sort of English looking Father Christmas guy. Why?

Here's another whimsical Santa, a candle, but it's still pretty damned bizarre, what with its cone shape and single dot eyes.

This one may be my favorite. It's something of an Arabic Santa, perched on a flying carpet, arms crossed like I Dream of Jeannie. Of course, Christmas isn't particularly Islamic, and this "Arabic" Santa is as white as yogurt, but I suppose these strange contradictions are what makes it so neat.

Finally, here's a group shot of about a third of the overall collection. Some weird stuff, for sure.

Maybe I can post a few more pics of these strange pieces of pop trash before the Xmas magic starts to fade.


Study Detects Recent Instance of Human Evolution

From the New York Times courtesy of AlterNet:

The principal mutation, found among Nilo-Saharan-speaking ethnic groups of Kenya and Tanzania, arose 2,700 to 6,800 years ago, according to genetic estimates, Dr. Tishkoff’s group is to report in the journal Nature Genetics on Monday. This fits well with archaeological evidence suggesting that pastoral peoples from the north reached northern Kenya about 4,500 years ago and southern Kenya and Tanzania 3,300 years ago.

Two other mutations were found, among the Beja people of northeastern Sudan and tribes of the same language family, Afro-Asiatic, in northern Kenya.

Genetic evidence shows that the mutations conferred an enormous selective advantage on their owners, enabling them to leave almost 10 times as many descendants as people without them. The mutations have created “one of the strongest genetic signatures of natural selection yet reported in humans,” the researchers write.

The survival advantage was so powerful perhaps because those with the mutations not only gained extra energy from lactose but also, in drought conditions, would have benefited from the water in milk. People who were lactose-intolerant could have risked losing water from diarrhea, Dr. Tishkoff said.

Click here for the rest.

Yay! I finally got the word "diarrhea" into one of my posts.

This looks very much like a smoking gun in the evolution versus creation "debate." For real scientists, evolution has already been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, but creationists like to mix things up, taking laymen down fool's paths in terms of logic, sounding reasonable, but being anything but. That is, creationists fraudulently insist that science deals only with direct observation; because the overall evolution of human beings took millions of years, it's generally impossible to directly observe the process--by creationist debating rules, one can't prove that evolution is a fact. People who have even the most minimal understanding of how science actually functions know that evolution is a fact because of hundreds of thousands of concrete scientific inferences, but, obviously, that's not good enough for the creationists. This news comes much closer to direct observation. A whole lot of argumental bullshit can now be avoided by pulling this story out. What the hell can they say to refute it?

I mean, it's fucking DNA, and Johnny Cochran is dead. What can they do?