Friday, February 29, 2008

With the Correct Note Selection, You Can Write An Entire King Crimson Record

This is a pretty fun way to write a 10,000 note piece really quickly.

Was the Misanthrope Right?

A couple of days ago, I shook my head at another loopy economic idea ("patriot employers") coming out of the Obama camp that begs you to stop taking him seriously.

In that post, I noted that I was surprised that Obama would be talking such nonsense when he is advised by very respected free-market economists like Austan Goolsbee.  There's no way he's been suggesting this kind of nonsense as policy to the campaign.

Well, look who Canadian television is naming as the Obama campaign source who told the Canadians to ignore all the heated anti-NAFTA talk as "campaign rhetoric."

BTW, note to Obama and Clinton:  It doesn't make you look like you are going to "repair America's image" when you start blathering on about how you are going to hold our two largest trading partners at gunpoint until they do what America wants.

Misanthrope Comments, McCain Listens

Misanthrope on Wednesday at Instapundit.

John McCain on Thursday on the campaign trail.

Remember that when McCain starts to try and defend "Tales from Topographic Oceans" while campaigning.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Seeing the Truth

Click here for the best coverage of the Obama-Clinton debate I have ever seen.

What White People Like

Best blog I've seen in a while.

Every Time I Think the New York Times Reaches the Bottom...

Reading the New York Times lately has become a very depressing experience.  The paper has always had a left-leaning editorial slant, but the reporting was generally high quality and substantive.  I don't really mind papers having a bias.  It's honest to admit that you believe certain things and that you are reporting through that prism.  It helps the reader evaluate what you are reporting.

But when did the New York Times suddenly decide that a few people "questioning" something is the basis for a hard news item?  First it was the ludicrous article about McCain and the "questions" about his "affair" (we don't know, we have no evidence, but we're just sayin'...), brilliantly taken down by Michael Kinsley in this piece on Slate.

Now it's this piece of nonsense from the Times about "questions" over whether McCain, who was born on a U.S. military installation in the Panama Canal Zone, is a "natural born" U.S. citizen for the purposes of the Constitutional requirements of the Presidency.  Who is doing the questioning?  The paper quotes an associate professor at Catholic University's law school and, uh, nobody else.  It then goes on to quote numerous sources who make it clear that this isn't even close to being an issue.

Here's a more informed story on the issue, one that references, you know, actual laws and stuff.

What the heck is going on at the Times these days?  It's like they've lost their minds completely. 


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New New Deal Anybody?

Every time I get close to thinking that Obama might not be so bad, I read another one of his loopy ideas like this and I wonder how we can possibly be considering this guy seriously.  Just the term "patriot employer" is so redolent of creepy government interference that I can't believe he is putting it forward.

I'm astonished at this because one of his economic advisors is a very serious free market economist (and college classmate of mine) Austan Goolsbee.  For some reason, I cannot believe he signed off on this nuttiness.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

This Was Surprising

Rasumussen is reporting that Obama's negatives are 43%, up from 36% last year.

I was pretty shocked to see this as 43%, that's Hillary Clinton territory.  

The interesting number was the "depends on the opposition" number - 18% for Obama and 29% for McCain.  It looks like McCain has got his work cut out for him.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who Lives in a Pineapple Under the Sea?

SpongeBob in your pants.

To be fair, it can be used orally or under the arm as well, but I would suggest having a clear policy with your spouse to avoid mistakes.

The truth is, some percentage of children will grow up to be adults who find themselves with cartoon characters on sticks protruding from their rectum anyway.


This is just creepy.

And what is it with British Airways these days???

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Unelectable at any Speed

Nader is back.  Did he cost Gore the 2000 election?  In a narrow sense, I suppose this is true.  There is no doubt that the people who defected to him were not former Bush voters.  But let's face it.  Gore ran a horrible campaign and is a very hard person to like.  And let's also face it, he was running against a guy who didn't really have very impressive credentials, which makes his loss even more appalling.  So, yeah, Nader cost him some votes, but Gore did the real damage. 

(I also don't think the case is that strong that Perot, with 19% of the vote, cost Bush the 1992 election.  If Perot hadn't run, it would have been a closer race, but Clinton still drubbed Bush in the Electoral College 370 to 168.  Even if you flip some of the larger states (e.g., New Jersey, Colorado) that went Bush in 1988 back to his column, you don't get a win.  Perot's main effect seems to have been to ensure that people could forever point out that Clinton was not elected President by a majority of American voters.)

Nader polled only 0.3% of the vote in 2004 and wasn't even on the ballot in several states. Given the way Obama is likely to run away with New York and California, where I suspect most of the hard core Naderites can be found, he isn't nearly a match.  In fact, he will probably drop out before polling day.

Also, Obama is not Kerry or Gore.  While I may decry the national silliness and swooning over Obama, I do not in any way make the mistake of assuming that he is an empty suit.  Whatever his policies, Obama has been running a near perfect campaign and has shown himself to be very shrewd.  Despite a maddening reliance on rallies and slogans, he is a formidable candidate.  Voters go to guys like Nader and Perot when they are frustrated with their own main party candidate.  I suspect that people who chose Nader over Kerry or Gore are not going to be as frustrated with Obama.

One Crazyland thought that popped into my head was a campaign where Bloomberg also throws his hat into the ring.  That would open the door for a Hillary independent run.  And Huckabee could stay in as well.  It'll never happen, but it would be massively entertaining to watch Obama versus McCain versus Hillary versus Huckabee versus Nader versus Bloomberg.


SNL does pull out the goods from time to time.

First, as much as I hate him, Huckbee can laugh at himself.

Second, I love the takedown of Obamamania and Hillary's delusional cackle.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Further Crimson-related Note

If the eminent Professor of Pocketology known as DJ Macho LD were to form a band with the Misanthrope from scratch, I am convinced it would sound like Fripp's early 80s band League of Gentlemen.

Quotation of the Day

"Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher."

Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Friday, February 22, 2008

Star Wars...those nutty STAR WARS

Oh my God, this guy nails it.

I confess.  He's right.

Here's the follow-up.

The story about the guy asking for shoes in the Wal-Mart is priceless.


A couple of nights ago I was at a dinner where one of the attendees started to talk about the passing of Fidel Castro.  I almost fell out of my chair when he immediately trotted the tired old line about how Cubans had "universal health care and high literacy."  

Seriously?  People still cling to this line of defense for Castro?  As I said to this person, "If you gave me control of the army and the police, the ability to jail anybody who dissents and a series of outside donor states who propped up my economy, I'm sure I could deliver the low-quality health care you are describing to everybody."

Is the bar really this low?  Even this guy had to admit that Castro had built a police state and utterly destroyed the Cuban economy and infrastructure, but somehow this was a fair trade-off for access to medical clinics.

As I said, I almost fell out of my chair because I would have thought that even the most devoted fellow-travellers had seen the light about Castro in recent years, particularly after the clampdown he began after September 11, 2001, when he knew that the outside world was no longer watching.

It beggars belief, but what was more frustrating was that this guy kept trying to back track and claim he was not supporting Castro or excusing him.  That argument might have held water if I didn't learn later in the dinner that he had actually been employed as a PR person by Castro to help him improve his international image.  (His one contribution - ditch the fatigues for something casual, like a jump suit.)

You can't make these people up.


As many of you know, the Misanthrope, he is the fan of some of the 1970s progressive music. (Okay, no more Manoloblogging.)  

This is partially because when I was learning to play guitar and I was attracted to some of the virtuosity of guys like Steve Howe and partially because I get bored with the simple harmonic structure of rock very quickly.  I don't know how to square any of this with my adoration of The Who.

At any rate, I happened upon a live performance video of King Crimson (the current "double-trio" version) and it got me looking to dig back into my Fripp collection.  Sadly, most of it was on vinyl and most of that was stolen in my junior year of college.

So I went to iTunes to see if I could pick up "Discipline," my favorite Crimson album.  Nope.  No Crimson on iTunes.

This led to some web searching and I came upon Discipline Global Media, the company that now distributes Crimson and related music and also promotes other new artists.  The Rosenbergs, a band I remember seeing with Dfactor in Dumbo back in 2000 or so, were with DGM for a while.

This introduction and series of small essays by Fripp is, I think, fascinating for all those who have been interested in the "label for artists" dream and the frustrations of working with large record companies.  I have to commend Fripp for his clear-eyed review of where things went wrong.  He understands, having run things from the other side, that record labels are businesses and that businesses need to be run for profit.  And this leads to decisions that are unrelated to artistic love of the music.  Sometimes the artist you love and want to promote is simply not going to sell records.  And that has to be agonizing for somebody who started a label for the purpose of putting out music that would not otherwise be heard. 

(Side note: E.G. Records, Crimson's label in the late 1970s and 1980s, was actually run out of the 4th or 5th floor of the apartment building I grew up in.  I used to see Robert Fripp in the elevator four or five times a week.  The only problem was, I was too young to know who he was and I didn't pick up the guitar until I was 14.  It kills me that I didn't get a chance to talk to him after learning about him.)

On a related note, I was geeky enough to sit through a very long but fascinating documentary on Yes last night.  I really only like the "classic" three records (The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge) with the occasional track on a later record, but I became engrossed in the interviews about the periods before and after that era because of the monstrous band politics and the absolutely shocking business mistakes the band made.  Their first manager signed them up for something like an 18 album deal with Atlantic!  They sold their publishing rights in 1970 to buy a PA like the one they had seen for the band Iron Butterfly!  They were so screwed that the ended up touring constantly to pay off their debts and live their lives.

Yeah, I know, it's a common story (although selling the publishing for a PA is a new low), but in the documentary they compared Yes with Atlantic label mates Led Zeppelin and noted what an incredibly good manager Peter Grant was.  And I have to wonder if Grant's excellent management might have been why Zeppelin was so consistently good musically.  Touring constantly meant Yes rarely had six months off to recharge or write material without getting on a bus or plane.  And their output started to suck pretty rapidly because of it.

Anyway, enough snowy day ramblings.


Much fun is being had with the report that Hillary Clinton's campaign spent $95,000 at a deli in Iowa during the caucuses.

For those of us who live in NYC, this figure seems about right.  At my local deli, $95,000 only buys three cups of coffee, a package of Ho-Hos and that little vial of Energy Drink in the red and orange wrapper.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Power of Love

Dfactor's blog Waved Rumor is an excellent one-stop shop for all things rock related.  I stopped by there today and found this gem.

When I saw the date, I knew immediately that this was the series of concerts that my cousin Janie (pronounced, "JAN-EE," as it is short for "Janice" - she was named for the Misanthrope Mom) attended in 1977.  What makes the story legendary in our family, however, is that she was too young to go by herself.  Things were pretty loose back in 1977 in New York, but not all parents were okay with having a 12 year old girl go to Madison Square Garden to see KISS.  

The upshot was that my Aunt Phyllis, who must have been about 47 at the time, went to every concert and sat with Janie.  I can't even imagine what she must have made of this at the time.  Aunt Phyllis reached 21 years old well before Rock'n'roll got started.  Her teenage memories are of the 1940s and WWII.

Anyway, it's pretty amazing that she was willing to sit through what must have sounded like WWIII just so her daughter could go.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Wallace and Maggie find a sunbeam at the beach house.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Blood in the Streets, the Town of New Haven

I was saddened to see that the Yankee Doodle is in danger of closing.  I'm not really surprised though.

When I was in college, New Haven was pretty much a dump.  There's no way to hide it; the place was devastated.  And I know that I often thought how nice the city could be (it was once considered one of the best places in America to live).

As they say, be careful what you wish for.  Soon after I graduated, the city and the campus began to improve considerably.  This, of course, meant rising rents.  Demery's, the site of so many delightful Friday night fights, was turned into an Au Bon Pain.  The pizza place near my residential college where they sold crack out of the kitchen closed and was replaced by nicer shops.

Obviously, it is nicer, on the whole, to have a cleaner, more pleasant campus.  The downside of these changes is that awesome institutions like the Yankee Doodle get squeezed out.

In my Senior year, I lived off campus on Park Street and I think I must have eaten at the Doodle 3-4 days a week.  Two eggs, coffee and toast cost $0.80.  A hamburger and coke was something like $1.50.  The place only had a few stools in a mini-diner format and it closed at 2 PM.  I quickly learned that the owner did not want to be friends with the students (or most of the customers) and I would often chuckle into my eggs as some newbie would come in and try to befriend Rick or his daughter.  Although the Doodle was sparse, it was never downtrodden or dirty.  It was a total timewarp from the 1950s, when, it seemed, they also froze the prices.

A group of alums have banded together to try to save the Doodle and I intend to contribute.  At the very least, I owe Rick the real value of all those meals I got there for next to nothing.  There is no doubt that the real estate value (given its location in the middle of 7 of the 12 residential colleges) is too high now to make it work on its own.  But there is nothing wrong with devotees banding together to try to preserve something that made the lives of so many undergraduates just that much better for decades.

P.S. - When I was there, the record for the hamburger eating contest was 12.  I am still certain I could have held the title briefly in that period.  The record is now in the mid-twenties, which is deeply disturbing.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

McCain/Romney '08?

Romney is about to endorse McCain, giving him his delegates and securing the nomination.

Romney never really got me excited, but I think he is a smart, serious guy and he would address the McCain age issue very well.  I think a lot of people would feel comfortable knowing Romney would be the back up if McCain got sick or stepped down after one term.

And, mercifully, it would shut Mike Huckabee the fuck up.  I cannot stand that guy and he should not be allowed to gather anymore support for 2012.

Rock 'n' Roll

Last night, the Scottish Lass and I went to see Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll with Brian Cox and Rufus Sewell.

First of all, Brian Cox could read the ingredients from a box of Wheaties and he'd still be cool.  No, I'm not silly enough to claim that he was the better Hannibal Lecter, but he's just always enjoyable to watch. (IMDB tells me that he and Anthony Hopkins have shared three roles - Lecter, Titus Andronicus and King Lear.)

Rufus Sewell, eh, not so great but Stoppard gives him a lot of lines that are, shall we say, tough going.

At any rate, I can't say I loved it as I think Stoppard bit off a bit more than he could work with in a single play (the story of Czechoslovakia post 1968, "useful idiot" intellectuals at Cambridge who played at being Communists but never saw what was really happening, the navel-gazing silliness of the flower power movement in the 1960s), but I must commend it to Chrispy and StinkRock for placing, of all people, Syd Barrett in a central role in the play.

Indeed, they play a bunch of early Floyd in the little breaks between scenes, including "Astronomy Domine" and "Jugband Blues."  (Bizarrely, they also play "Vera" from "The Wall," which is a great little tune.)

The play was so wordy and overwrought in places that it was a bit difficult to sort out what Stoppard was trying to achieve, but as I see it this morning, Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd seem to be a kind of metaphor for all of the "revolutionary" spirit of the 1960s.  Barrett is a pure force of beauty who succumbs to insanity.  The machine he helped build, Pink Floyd, becomes a commercial mega force, no doubt skilled at what they do but lacking something of the pure nature of the Barrett craziness.  This template is overlaid on the events in the Czech Republic, where the Plastic People of the Universe are the apolitical force of nature that does more good than all the intellectuals who claim to take up the mantle of the people.  It's not clear whether or not Stoppard is claiming that the beauty is inevitably linked to being mad.

Yeah, as I said, it's a bit hard going for a single play.  But it was so unexpected to see the ghost of Syd raised on Broadway and with such affection.  If StinkRock and Chrispy look, they can probably find discount tickets as the show is ending in 6 weeks and the house was nowhere near full.

Yes, Russians Are Basically Crazy

I was taught to play guitar by a Russian and I can tell you that Russians are amongst the most unique mix of intense intellectual and scientific achievement and flat out, moonbat, wingnut, craziness on the planet.

This article reminded me of my teacher.  He was a very smart guy and he had been trained at one of the best conservatories with the best teachers.  And he was very wise about many difficult subjects.  But every once in a while he would tell me that Russians had invented cars that ran on spiritual fuel or machines that could fly to the moon on chocolate and he would be totally serious.

There's something awesomely eccentric in the whole thing.  It's kind of like British eccentricity with a deeper, sadder soul suffering at its core.

That's why my German car only runs on oil.

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Awesome van.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is Anybody Actually Surprised?

If you didn't think Obama was going to try to bring the New Deal back from the dead, you were deluding yourself.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Mixed Bag

Just got back from the vet.  The ultrasound showed a small increase in the size of the mass on her heart, but the increase was nothing compared to what would have been expected in this period of time.  That may sound like a hollow victory, but the vet was actually quite pleased with the result and with Maggie's total lack of side effects from the first round of chemo.  We are in the fight now!

So, we are switching the chemo cocktail today to include carboplatin, a DNA alkylating agent (it attaches an alkyl group to DNA to prevent replication; this is effective because cancerous cells replicate quickly) that is very potent but also myelosuppressive.  That is to say, we need to watch Maggie's blood chemistry because the drug suppress her bone marrow activity.  This can result in a weakened immune system.

As always, I will monitor the Biscuit's well-being and comfort, but I am glad that the initial chemo has shown efficacy and that we are able to hit the mass again with a different drug.

Maggie is a tough little dog and I am convinced that our sapphire bullets of pure love have helped her in many ways.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Okay, I Have to Admit It

I am now officially sick and tired of Barack Obama.  This whole thing is so over the top for what has been, so far, no substance at all, that it is beginning to sound more like a cult than an election campaign.  The guy gives a nice stump speech.  Great.  He seems bright and gentlemanly.  Nice.  And I certainly love that he has made Hillary look like the phony she is.

But Obama is surely just as much a phony.  He is long on "uplifting" speeches and extremely short on policy and platform.  Change, change, change - what the hell is he, a bank?  Change to what?  For what reasons?  Change everything?


He makes us feel like everything is going to be alright because we are all standing at a "special" moment in history and we can all save the country if we can just "unite."  This is, of course, complete and utter horseshit.  Democracy is not about unity.  It is about disagreement, but civil disagreement.  "Unity" is the kind of crap that you hear about in, dare I say it, totalitarian societies.  It is the sophisticate's patriotism by another name.

And I, for one, have had enough of it.  Uplifting speeches accomplish very little.  What is needed are solid ideas, well thought out and vigorously, but courteously, pursued and defended.  That's not unity, that's a functioning democracy.

Somehow I think this whole carnival comes crashing to a halt if he gets the nomination and has an opponent with more experience and different ideas.  Bring it on.

(As a side note, I am also heavily amused by the constant comparisons between JFK and Obama.  The fact is, JFK would probably be the nominee of the Republican Party today.  He was a vigorous internationalist in foreign affairs who was prepared to send American troops in harms way and who used the CIA to assassinate political leaders.  The Democrats would have a heart attack if he were actually President today.)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

This Really Happened to Me

At last, a scientific explanation of the shivers you get after peeing.

This effect was responsible for one of the coldest feelings I've ever felt in my life.  I was hiking the Inca trail in Peru to Macchu Picchu with a tour group.  The local porters that came with the group would set up tents at night and we would eat around a campfire under the most incredible blanket of stars I have ever seen.  (Side note: Quechua, the local language spoken by the porters when they were not speaking Spanish was the basis for the dialogue spoken by Greedo in Star Wars IV:  A New Hope.) (Additional side note:  Han Shot First).

After dinner, I retired to my tent, but about an hour into sleep I had to pee.  So I got up, put on a fleece and went outside to pee over the side of the ridge on which we were camping.  Once I got done, however, I began to shiver uncontrollably and was overwhelmed by the deepest cold I have ever felt.  The high mountain air, which had seemed mild moments before, was suddenly colder than Antarctica.  I had to sprint back to my tent, where it took me 15 minutes to relax my jaw from the chattering teeth.

Coming up soon:  Other bodily function stories related to my time in Peru, including the story of the deaf guy taking a shit on 800 year old Inca ruins in full view of 150 people.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Laughing in Her Sleep

A commenter on Stink Rock quoted the old Microdot song "Biltmore Clock" (I'll post the song if somebody tells me how) in response to a mention of Bill Boggs.  The song was my homage to growing up in New York in the 1970s and 1980s when, let's face it, the place was an open sewer - but an open sewer with a heart.  Anyway, the commenter was right to connect the name to the song, but the New York television presenter was not the person I was naming in the song.

She was actually a homeless person who slept on a grate on Second Avenue in the 1980s who became a test case in the Koch administration's attempts to commit mentally ill homeless people.  For some reason, that affair was New York in a nutshell for me.

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for those days in New York.  No, I don't want to return to the days when the subway cars were covered in graffiti and God knows what else.  But something wonderful got sucked out of the city during those final years before a massive new tide of wealth turned it into the yuppie playground it has become.  If you can believe it, when my parents moved into our new apartment in 1977, the landlord gave them two months free rent as an enticement to sign the lease.  Looking back, there's no way that my parents could give us the life we had back then at today's rates.  For a brief period, the inmates were running the asylum and it was CHEAP.

So here's to all the old head shops on every corner, the Irish bars with briskets from the Eisenhower administration still stewing in a steam plate, the Monkey House at the Central Park zoo, the big yellow cabs, the jazz clubs that once ran along 54th Street, where I grew up, the crazy drummer in Central Park who spray painted his hair black (yes, he was real, not just a character in "Taxi Driver"), and all the other wonderful old school New York things that were dead and gone by 1990.

Holy Fucking Shit

The Misanthrope is in awe of the Giants.  

When the game started and the Giants began that first drive that ate up over half the first quarter, the Misanthrope turned to the Scottish Lass and said, "The Giants are playing this thing perfectly.  They will score first and Brady will have been sitting on the sidelines, getting cold, for the first ten minutes of the game."

And it just got better.  The Giants defense swarmed Brady so effectively that they eventually got into his head.  You could see the defeat in his eyes when he walked out of the locker room for the second half.  Doubt had been placed where there had been little doubt the whole season.

As the game progressed, I thought that the Giants defense would start to tire and make mistakes.  And they did start to lose some steam.  But somehow they found another well of energy and they put in an unbelievable showing to the end.  Those guys really believed in themselves.  It was absolutely awe-inspiring to watch.

But the play that few will ever forget was Manning twisting himself free from what looked like a game-ending sack to drop and hit Tyree to keep the dream alive.  

Insane.  Just insane.