Wednesday, October 29, 2008

To Quote Obama...

...this is not the Led Zeppelin I thought I knew.

I think we can agree that Page and John Paul Jones with Bonham's son and some replacement singer is not the same as "Led Zeppelin."  I'm kind of surprised because Led Zeppelin must surely go down as one of the best managed, if not THE best managed, bands of the 1970s.  They didn't get screwed by the record company.  They didn't stupidly sign away their publishing.  They didn't put out crappy filler albums or novelty singles that diluted their brand.  When Bonham died, the shut it down and managed their legacy with care.  (Unlike, say, The Who, a band whose stature was badly, badly tarnished by poor management and endless efforts to cash in on the back catalogue.)

So what the hell is Jimmy smoking?

Some Good News

I haven't written about Satan P. Cancerbeagle, aka "Maggie," in quite some time, so here's an update.

First of all, Maggie's 7th birthday was on Saturday.  I confess I didn't have much hope in the spring that she would live to see that milestone.  I was, however, completely wrong.

The tumor was mostly stable during the summer and the only bad effects were caused by the immunosuppression from the chemo.  We adjusted the regimen and she has done very well.

Three weeks ago, we tried a new chemo drug, an mTor inhibitor, and the results came this morning at Maggie's echocardiagram.  For the first time ever, parts of the tumor have actually shrunk.  It's an amazing result because saromas are extremely difficult to shrink with chemo.  

More importantly, Maggie has been totally normal.  We were out on the beach on Sunday afternoon and she was tearing up and down the sand at full speed.  Aside from the hair loss on her snout, you'd be hard pressed to imagine that anything was wrong with her.

I don't want to get too excited because, realistically, chemo rarely kills sarcomas entirely, but we have gotten nearly a year of very high quality life  so far and I am thankful.

New Line of Work

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pure Tone, Pure Desmond

I've been enjoying a record called "Pure Desmond" for the last few days.  It's a recording from 1975 with Paul Desmond (alto sax) and a Canadian guitarist named Ed Bickert.

The album was recommended to me because Bickert plays a Telecaster, which is, to say the least, a pretty rare guitar to find in jazz.  I had mentioned to a jazz fiend that the Telecaster seems to be an odd choice for jazz because it is known for its trebly, biting bridge pickup.  Boy, did I underestimate what that little guitar can do!  I urge any fans of the venerable Tele to listen to this record to hear what it is capable of in a jazz setting.  Bickert's tone is just amazing.  When he is holding down the chords, his guitar is so rich and majestic, it sounds like there is also a keyboard player behind him.  In fact, his chord playing is more out of a keyboard player's playbook than a guitarist.  Absolutely amazing stuff on a record that is all about tone.

Another revelation (to me, at least) is Paul Desmond's tone.  Desmond is probably most famous for playing sax in Dave Brubeck's band for years and for playing the famous sax lines on "Take Five," a tune  he also wrote.   One of my big blocks with jazz has always been that I really dislike the sound of most brass.  Always have.  And that's like trying to enjoy rock when you don't like the guitar.  But Desmond's sound is more like an oboe, which happens to be one of my favorite instruments.  So listening to this is a joy.  And Desmond's spare phrasing and fluid style are also a joy.

Definitely a recommended disc.  Go check it out.

Hugo's Problems

Oil drops below $65 a barrel, even after a 1.5MM barrel/day cut by OPEC.  I expect it to drop further.

Whom does this hurt?  Everybody's favorite jerk, Huge Chavez.  It will be interesting to watch him keep his grip on power when he cannot count on high oil prices to pay for his bread and circuses approach to government.  I'd say it's 50/50 he's thrown out within 18 months.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Mystery

Somebody needs to explain to me why Colin Powell is a figure afforded such respect.  He did a good job running the Gulf War, but since then I can't really point to anything impressive in his record.  What's more, he was at the helm of State during the disastrous first Bush term and he was the one making the case that there were WMDs in Iraq.  So, help me out here, why are so many on the left excited about this guy?

I'm sure he's a decent fellow, but I cannot for the life of me understand the political respect he gets.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

When Worlds Collide

In my haste last night, I forgot to list one of the other highlights of the trip.  That was when we passed by "Squirelly's Pizza" just outside Shreveport, Louisiana.

There were so many things wrong with that place it's hard to begin, but here's a short list:

1) Pizza in rural Louisiana
2) Pizza made in a doublewide trailer that also serves as the dining room
3) The large Stars & Bars that was flying just next to the entrance
4) The word "Squirrel" in the name of any food business

Still, I hear the "Meat Lover's Surprise" is fantastic.

By the way, if you are ever looking for a vintage car to rehab, I recommend trawling the backroads of Latex (that's Louisiana - Texas).  Almost every other house had two or three El Caminos or old Plymouths mouldering in the front yard.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I'm Back

I feel like I've been in Outer Mongolia for the last week, but the super-duper cross country trip is now complete.  I touched down in Linden, New Jersey tonight at about 6:50 PM after a 3 hour and 20 minute flight from Salisbury, North Carolina.  All told, I logged about 19 hours of flying time over the past six days and got my skinny white ass from New York to Shreveport, Louisiana and back all in one piece.

Highlights from the trip:

1) Hanging out with my nephews and playing Rock Band...and getting schooled by the oldest on "Won't Get Fooled Again" of all songs.
2) A pretty cool instrument approach into Salisbury, North Carolina in very low clouds.  There's truly nothing like seeing the runway end lights after you pop out of the clouds.
3) Staying up until 3:30 AM playing blackjack in some godforsaken casino in Shreveport.
4) Visiting Lead Belly's grave site outside Mooringsport, LA at the suggestion of my friend Glen.  Pictures to come soon.
5) Waffle House
6) Seeing the Shenandoah Valley from 7,000 feet from end to end
7) Seeing the Mississippi as it bends around Vicksburg from 6,000 feet.
8) Figuring out that a visit to Tony Alva in Hotlanta is pretty doable in the plane. 

I realized very quickly that I need one of these for such long trips.  Luckily, I discovered that the good folks at Gatorade make a generic version.

I'm pretty beat, but pretty much anything under 3 hours now seems like nothing in the plane.

Still, I want a faster plane.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

If You Are Not Busy Tomorrow

Last week I was out walking Wallace P. Sweetbeagle and Satan P. Cancerbeagle in the wee hours when I noticed a large white van on Jane Street with "" painted on the sides and back.  There were a bunch of photocopies of what looked like a 1980s fanzine stuck under the windshield wipers, so I took one.

It's been quite a while since I've seen a photocopy of newpaper articles and typewritten text glued on a page.  At any rate, the author believes that Stephen King killed John Lennon under orders from Ronald W. Reagan and Richard M. Nixon.  This seems like a plausible theory.

If you agree, he will be holding a protest outside the ABC television offices on the Upper West Side tomorrow from 9 AM to 7 PM.

I, on the other hand, will be flying to North Carolina to visit my brother and nephews.  From there I will continue on to Shreveport, Lousiana to visit a friend for the weekend.  At 2,300 miles roundtrip, it will be the farthest I have flown the Fanta Plane.  There's a huge cold front that is just passing through my route of flight, bringing showers and instrument conditions, but the upside is that there is an enormous high pressure system behind it.  That means that Friday's leg to Shreveport will be in sunny, clear skies.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Difference Emerges

After the mess of the earlier debate, I have to say there is no question that McCain mops the floor with Obama when it comes to foreign policy.  McCain is clear, he knows his subject and he indicates that he has a plan.  Obama is just all over the shop and his rhetoric, particularly over Pakistan, is just bush league and naive.  

And he has the weirdest habit of saying that he "put out a statement" as if it indicates that he took action of some kind.  In fact, that might be the metaphor for Obama's whole political career. No actual legislation or governance, just a bunch of statements he put out.

This round goes to McCain, no question.

Pouring a "light" bourbon number four now.

Oh Come ON

Obama claimed that he is cutting more in spending than he is proposing in increases.  I'm sorry, but there is just no way that is true.  No way.  I'm sure the Obama campaign will issue some press release "proving" that it is true, but only in the most lawyerly sense, but it's just nonsense.  

Oh, by the way, Obama is going to respond to the economic crisis by expanding the Peace Corps??  WTF?

Then again, McCain may have totally undercut his message of spending control with that insane proposal to buy non-performing mortgages.  

I am into my third bourbon.  No matter who wins, it's going to be a rough four years.

I Am So Depressed

The bullshit is flying thick and fast here.

What on earth is McCain talking about with a program to have the Treasury buy non-performing mortgages??  I get the general idea, but he talks about the subject as if the problem is that home values are dropping.  What does that have to do with your ability to pay your mortgage?  It has nothing to do with it.  It's just a more palatable way of saying we are going to bail out a bunch of jackasses who borrowed too much.

My head almost exploded when he said that.

And are we really supposed to believe the new, improved Obama the Budget Hawk??  Where did this come from?  Obama promises to review the Federal Budget line by line.  Does he mention that the President has no Line Item Veto?  And that the Democrats opposed such a veto power consistently?  And we are supposed to believe that spending is going to be constrained with Obama, Reid and Pelosi in control?


I really just hate them both now.  Neither of them has a clue.

Oooh, Pander Fest!

I am going to vote for the candidate who promises me a free iPhone and a $1,000 check.

Seriously, this debate has turned depressing very fast.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Yes, It Can Get Worse

Pretty crazy day on Wall Street.  Can it get worse?

Yes.  There is going to be a very large wave of hedge fund failures off of this and when those guys need to start winding down, the selling could get intense.  The fact is that there are just too many hedge funds and they can't all beat the market.  Too many of them have been taking on more risk than they admit in an attempt to generate excess return.  Their world is crumbling.

It is going to be very, very ugly soon.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Asleep at the Switch

The general consensus on the debate last night was that Palin cleared the lowered bar of expectations and, therefore, generated more political value than Biden.

I don't love the way Sarah Palin talks.  She was talking too fast and often got ahead of herself, leading to some extremely tortured syntax.  I don't think she is a dumb woman and I think her record in Alaska shows she is a skilled politician and can work the process.  That being said, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that she has not been engaged in national and international issues long enough to have a fully-developed worldview.  She is a quick study and I was surprised at some of the details she came up with, but we have to be realistic.  She is absorbing a lot, but that is not the same as having been focused on these issues long enough to have a coherent, well thought-out point of view.  In this respect, I do wish that she had been Governor for a bit longer.  So, at its core, you have to take it on faith that she will bring the same skills to the issues of the country as a whole that she brought to Alaska.  That's not a terribly compelling argument, but I think this image that she is some kind of blithering idiot is ridiculous.  She's also a weird contrast with Obama.  She actually has a record of governing but little engagement with national issues.  Obama has no record of governing, but he is clearly very intelligent and has been engaged with national issues.  They both have a big hole in their arguments.

On the other hand, I am absolutely dumbfounded as to how Joe Biden continues to get such a free pass from the media.  As I said below, he is very smooth and articulate and it is pleasing to listen to, especially when compared with the halting speech pattern from Palin.

But, my GOD, the guy just makes things up out of whole cloth and nobody says a word.

There was the usual political bloviating, like his reference to the people at Katie's restaurant in Wilmington, where the regular folk can be found.  Sadly, Katie's has, apparently been closed for almost two decades.  I don't begrudge him the bullshit populism, but, Joe, come on, at least reference something that existed some time recently.

That's just bad political style.   His policy comments were more bizarre and more fabricated.

For example, his comment that we spend more in a month in Iraq than we have spent in Afghanistan in seven years.  My ears perked up when I heard this because it sounds incredibly damning, even taking into account that Afghanistan is a more international conflict.  The problem is, it is totally untrue.  In fact, he is off by a couple of orders of magnitude.  Now, seriously, can you imagine the derision that Palin would have had rained down on her for saying such a thing.  How can the press not call him on such an outright falsehood?

And for a guy who is a 36 year Senator and a lawyer, he sure needs to re-read the Constitution.  Virtually everything he asserted last night about what the Constitution says about the office of the VP is wrong.  And his point, which was to bash the Cheney's interpretation of the role of the VP, didn't even make sense.

But the absolute jaw-dropper was his comment about how the U.S. and France chased Hezbollah out of Lebanon.  And that Obama, who had been a Senator for about three days when this happened, had called for sending NATO troops in to fill the power vacuum.  Can somebody tell me in what version of reality any of this actually happened??  It will certainly come as news to Hezbollah's leaders.  His defenders are saying that he meant Syria, but the problem is that it still doesn't make any of this true.  And are we now meant to understand that the candidates who feel we are overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan were in favor of opening up another conflict in the Middle East by sending in NATO (which, we all know, means US) troops?  Especially from Obama, who couldn't even bother to call his Senate subcommittee, which has oversight over NATO, into session once in his less than one term as Senator?  

How does he get away with this?  I was listening to the debate in the kitchen when he shoveled this out and I actually ran into the living room to make sure I was still watching the actual debate.

Will the media call him on this? Nope.  In fact, I have been reading about Biden's "mastery of the facts" all day.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Gotta Say

Of all the candidates, the one whose speech pattern doesn't drive me crazy is Joe Biden.  I don't agree with everything he's saying in the debate and he's peddling some pretty specious arguments, but I can stand to listen him talk.  I honesty can't stand listening to the other three.

I have a weird soft spot for Biden. I don't think he should be VP (or, God forbid, President), but he's probably a pretty decent guy and he manages to talk in more than soundbites.  Sure, that leads him into some goofy monologues, but there is a weird charm to him.  Of all of them, he's the one I am sure would be the most fun to just get shitfaced drunk with at some dive bar.