May 31, 2006
Wanted: Great Summer Books
|[Posted by ]|
Some things are quintessentially summer. There are summer songs, summer movies and summer reads. I've made my list of summer songs. I know the summer movies I want to see (The Break Up, The Omen, Pirates of the Carribean II, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby , Strangers With Candy & You, Me and Dupree ) but I have no idea what to read.
I've come to realize that I only read books on planes and during the summer when I can sit outside. Already this summer I've gotten through Little Children , Replay and The Miracle of St. Anthony. I'm thinking about reading Life of Pi and A Long Way Down, but after that I've got nothing in the pipeline.
I'm looking for some suggestions. I'd prefer no "Oprah" books, but anything else is fine. I normally read more non-fiction than fiction, so a serious read is just as welcome as a beach book. So dear readers, bring it on.
May 30, 2006
'One' for Art's Sake
|[Posted by ]|
With American Idol over until January, I'm going through a little withdrawal. To help get me through it, I've been listening to my Elliott Yamin mp3s. My new favorite is Elliott's finale night duet with Mary J. Blige. The two of them sing U2's "One". And while the performance makes me think Elliott was robbed, it also reminds me of how much I love that song.
While there are a lot of theories about what "One" is really about, the idea I like that best is that at least part of the song is about the band itself. If that's true, then I think these are nearly perfect lyrics:
but we're not the same
we get to
carry each other
In Bono's hands, the song is like a plea. He's asking that we live up to this ideal of love. In cover versions, however, the meaning of the song changes drastically. Mary J. Blige sings it like it's another "he done me wrong" song. She's defiant. Johnny Cash, on the other hand, sings it with the wisdom of someone who's been around the block a few times. He's had real love and he's not going to worry so much about other people not accepting him. What does he care? He's frickin' Johnny Cash. With "One" the song is in the hands of the singer and that makes me like it even more.
My question is this: is a work of art greater when it's open for interpretation (like "One") or is it greater when an artist creates something that communicates a universal truth? I can arguments for each. Art that makes you wonder what it's really about draws you and makes you think. But art that expresses a singular idea is probably more powerful. I don't know which one I prefer. I think my answer is probably "it depends". I'd love to hear what other people think.
May 29, 2006
Classic Dummocrats: 'Thank You'
|[Posted by ]|
It's Memorial Day. In between grill outs and shopping and enjoying a three-day weekend, Americans pause to thank those soldiers who gave their lives so that we might be free. We all say and think words like that, but what do they really mean? How do you adequately honor the sacrifices of generations of men and women that have made our country one of the most peaceful, prosperous land on Earth? Do we know how lucky we are?
James posted an article back in September 2004 that I think says what I'm trying to say this Memorial Day. Here is is again:
Ben Stein has a great piece entitled "Swimming to Arkansas" over at the American Spectator.
Here I am swimming lazily back and forth, east to west, then west to east, in my wonderful swimming pool. The weather is perfect here in Beverly Hills, as it has been for weeks on end. Blue skies, temperature in the low eighties or high seventies, no humidity, slight breeze. It is marvelous. As I swim east to west, I look up at our house, which (to me) looks perfect. It's a 1929 Spanish style home with a balcony running along the second floor as it faces the pool. The roof is reddish tile and the palms tower above the roof.
In the other direction, as I am swimming west to east, there are the jacarandas in our garden. For some reason, they do not have the gorgeous blue blossoms other people's jacarandas have, but they are leafy and a rich, lustrous green. Glorious. It is always a thrill to think this is my life. I could have died in a concentration camp. I could have been mass marched to death in the snows of Poland. I could have died in a beating by Romanian thugs instigated by the Nazis. Instead, I get to swim lazily back and forth in my pool on a glorious summer day.
Would you like to know what the rhythm of my stroke is? You can guess. It's "Thank you, God, thank you God, thank you God." There is nothing I ever did to merit such a life.
Ben Stein was born in Washington, DC in 1945. When he speaks of his gratitude for all that he has in his life, and notes that he could have met a fate a thousand times worse than his life is great, note he isn't speaking from personal experience.
Wait, that's not quite what I meant to say--- let me try again. What I meant to say is, Mr. Stein, though he may feel a special connection to holocaust victims because of his faith, had no personal exposure to these atrocities, so his feelings of gratitude are particularly admirable.
Was that it? No, I don't think that I captured it there, either. Let me try one more time - This is what I meant to say: Ben Stein knows that it could have been him. But it wasn't. Just like you should know that it could have been you. But it wasn't.
Ben Stein is a very smart man.
It doesn't matter what your faith is, what your sex is, or what your race is - You could have been "exterminated" in a WWII era death camp. You could have been sold into slavery. You could have denied basic human rights for a lifetime.
You could have lived in that world, and You could have been that person. You could still be that person. You could one of the millions suffering in Africa or denied your basic human rights by the fanaticism of Muslim maniacs.
But you weren't, and you're not.
You know, I pay over $1000 per month for rent for a D.C. apartment that my Midwestern sensibilities tell me is worth maybe 1/10th of that. It is barely big enough to fit a bed, a couch, and a desk, let alone me. And it drives me crazy.
I go to school full time, and when it's all said and done, I should be over $100,000 in debt. I worry about that a lot, and fear that the debt will force me to take jobs that I don't really want, simply because those jobs pay more than the jobs that I really do want. I hate to admit it, but it keeps me up at night.
I don't understand how people do it - they excel at work, they have a strong family life, they maintain an active social life, they remain physically active, etc. I try to do half of those things and I have a hard time keeping up.
Right now, I'm training to run a marathon. I've never run a marathon before, and I'm really behind on my training plan, which isn't good seeing as how the marathon is about a month away. But I promised that I'd do it, so I'm sticking with it. On a typical day, after work and school, I finally get home at about 10pm or so, and all I want to do is go to bed. But I force myself to get out on the road and run. Believe me, it is quite a feat, especially because I know that completing the run will leave me with a scant 5 hours of sleep.
Filled with anxiety and impatience, I usually start off too fast in my run. I lose my breath, which is both good and bad - bad because that's no way to pace yourself, but good because it gets my mind off of my troubles and lets it wander.
I run past the National Cathedral, and I'm reminded of my grandmother, a devout Russian Catholic who grew up in the "athiest" USSR, whose fate was to be kidnapped from her family by the Nazis in WWII, only to be forced to work in a German work camp. I run past the Lincoln Memorial, and I'm reminded of the millions of Blacks that were stolen from their home land and forced into slavery around the world, especially in America. I see the the Vietnam and Korean Memorials that contain the names and tributes to over 50,000 American soldiers who died fighting against communism, fighting to promote American Ideals. I see the the WWII memorial, a monument built to honor the the millions upon millions who died just a scant 60 years ago, fighting to defeat an idea that today's liberals think is ancient history.
I think about my Grandfather who fought in WWII on a naval carrier in the great Pacific. I think of my other Grandfather, a Pollock who fought as a Pole, was defeated with the Poles, and was forced into German slave labor as a Pole. I think of my father, who was born in Europe, in the aftermath of the great war, and was lucky enough to make it to America with his family. As I run, and take all of this in, I know that he didn't have anything close to the opportunities that I have before me. He worked his entire short life so that his kids could have the opportunites that he never had.
I take all of this in, and I finally settle into a rhythm.
'Would you like to know what the rhythm of my stride is? You can guess. It's "Thank you, God, thank you God, thank you God." There is nothing I ever did to merit such a life.'
May 28, 2006
Where is my Flying Car?
|[Posted by ]|
With the Indy 500 being run for the 90th time today, I have just one question: where the hell is my atomic flying car? Seriously. We've been building and racing cars for over 100 years now. Don't you think it's about time those cars moved off the ground. I'm truly sickened and disappointed by our lack of progress in this area.
We can put a man on the moon. We can invent new wheats that save a billion people from starvation. We can create a pill so old men can still get erections. But, we can't make a flying car? I don't understand it. Is there a conspiracy against flying cars?
May 24, 2006
American Idol Finale - Taylor Wins
|[Posted by ]|
Just like everyone predicted, Taylor Hicks was crowned as the latest American Idol tonight. But let's not let that unfortunate incident detract from what was otherwise a fantastic night of television.
Back when Kelly Clarkson won, she was dissed by the likes of Averil Lavigne (as if). Now, the music industry has embraced the power of Idol. Tonight's guests included: Mary J. Blige, Al Jareau, Toni Braxton, Dione Warwick and Prince (!). Also popping in were past Idol favorites like Carrie Underwood (looking like a beautiful angel) and Clay Aiken (looking like a completely different person).
My favorite moments:
- Elliott's duet with Mary J. Blige on U2's "One". Actually, it wasn't really a duet as Elliott just sang his part and then watched Mary J. Blige tear the roof off the sucka. Holy crap!
- Prince looking cute and not at all weird
- The Golden Idol awards were a cute touch
- Clay Aiken stunning a tearful lookalike on stage
- Speaking of lookalikes, you had to wonder if Chris was embarassed by how much he looked like Live's lead singer when they performed side by side
The lowlights were the finalists. I can't help thinking how much more into tonight I would have been if the finals had included Paris, Elliott or Chris. But, that's water under the bridge. Both Kat and Taylor did themselves proud tonight, but in the end, it was, of course, Taylor who took home the crown. How does Taylor rank in the annals of Idol? You'll have to decide.
May 23, 2006
American Idol Finale-The Performances
|[Posted by ]|
You know, when Elliott was voted out last week, my heart went along with him. I don't care if Taylor or Katharine wins. I only hope they don't bore me to death tonight.
Kat reprises "Black Horse & The Cherry Tree". Getting off the floor, she dances around a little bit and has some funky fun with the band. This is a good song and it's exactly the type of song Kat should sing, but I don't think it's showy enough for the finale. She's gotta bring down the house.
Taylor does bring down the house with "Living in the City". He's wearing some purple, velvet blazer and looks like a complete asshat, but he sounds great and he's having fun. And, as we all know, when Taylor has fun, we have fun. That's the secret to his charm.
Round One goes to Taylor.
Guess what Kat's going to sing? You guessed it: "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". I don't get why everyone thinks this is so fabulous. It's nice. That's it. It's a very nice performance, but it's not a shining Idol moment like Kelly's "Stuff Like That There" or Bo's "In A Dream".
Taylor, in a huge strategic error (in my opinion" chooses "Levon" for his second song of the night. In this song, Taylor mistakes singing mush mouthedly to singing with passion and feeling. I think people can sing passionately without sounding like they have a mouth full of marbles. He gets down a little bit in the second half, but it still sucks.
Round two: Katharine.
So it all comes down to the final performance (okay, actually, I'm sure that Taylor is going to win no matter what. But, let's pretend otherwise to preserve the drama).
Katharine sings her possible first single, "My Destiny". Aw, it's a song about dreams. How novel! In the universe of Idol winner's songs, it's not the worst. Yes, I realize this is faint praise, but work with me people. I'm trying! If this came on the radio, I would wait at least 30 seconds before changing the station. And, since I would no longer be listening, I wouldn't hear the absolutely horrid notes Kat throws in at the end. Oh dear. If she ever had a chance to win, it's gone now.
Taylor's coronation will take place to the strains of "Do I Make You Proud?" Ugh, this is another boring ballad. What's up with this show making the contestants sing these awful ballads about dreams? This dreck is way worse than Katharine's song, but Taylor is singing it slightly better. But seriously, neither of these songs is going to inspire anyone other than rabid fans to go and download it.
Round three: Taylor
And, dear readers, I hearby predict that Taylor is your next American Idol. What do you think?
Groovy Tuesday Caption Contest
|[Posted by ]|
It's been a long time since we've had a good old fashioned caption contest, but this picture is just too good to pass up. It reminds me of the gas station nearby where everyone has to prepay "expect" credit card users.
It's a good thing the National Spelling Bee is going prime time this year. American needs the inspiration.
Submit entries to the comment section by the end of the day on Thursday. We'll pick a winner and will announce him or her here. If the winner has provided contact info, we'll contact the winner via email, get their name and send you a small prize. So, make sure you provide your email in your profile or send it directly to james or me (it's "james at dummocrats.com" or "kris at dummocrats.com").
Lowest Common Denominator
|[Posted by james]|
Seen at Volokh:
So if you're concerned that only the top 5% will ever afford getting higher IQ for their kids, that seems highly unlikely. And if you're concerned that only the top 70% will afford it, and oppose the technology because of the bottom 30%, then I think you have the wrong set of priorities. Work on ways to eventually make the technology accessible even to the bottom 30%, rather than denying it to the top 70%.
There's an old Soviet joke about the man who visits Hell. (Actually, there are many different Soviet jokes about the man who visits Hell.) In Hell, there are three giant cauldrons in which the sinners are being boiled. On the rim of one stands a regiment of demons, shoulder to shoulder, constantly using their pitchforks to smack down the sinners who are trying to escape. On the rim of the second walk a few demons, who occasionally whack someone down. The rim of the third is empty, but no-one is getting out.
What's going on here?, the visitor asks. "There are three kinds of people," the Devil says. (In the original joke, they are Jews, Russians, and Ukrainians, but in honor of the 2004 Orange Revolution I've sworn off Ukrainian jokes.) "The first kind is in the first cauldron. When one looks like he's trying to escape, all the rest follow him. We need a lot of demons to manage them.
"The second kind is in the second cauldron. Occasionally someone is trying to escape, but the others don't pay any attention. It takes just a few demons to deal with this kind.
"The third kind is in the third cauldron: When one is starting to escape, all the others drag him back down by the ankles."
Don't be that third kind.
This joke is an example of everthing that I think is wrong with the Democratic party. It seems to me that the Dems want to pull everyone down to a single common denominator, the lowest of the low. If a poor man makes too little money, the Dems look for ways to make sure that the rich man earn less, instead of looking for ways to help the poor man earn more. That's no way to live your life. That's no way to run a country.
May 22, 2006
Why Barbaro Is Still In Danger
|[Posted by ]|
I'm sure a number of you are wondering why Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro's chances of survival are still only 50/50 even after his successful surgery yesterday. The problem is that you can mend a horse's broken leg, but in doing so you may trigger even more serious health issues.
Horses are animals that live on their feet. Even a horse with a broken leg can't be kept off of its feet for long. One common problem that develops is laminitis, a sometimes fatal inflammation of the foot. A horse with a broken leg puts more weight on its good legs. The uneven weight distribution can trigger a case of laminitis.
In order to keep Barbaro's weight evenly on all four feet, he's been fitted with a special compression plate. But, there's always a chance that the devices will not hold and Barbaro will essentially break down again.
The third major factor working against Barbaro is the absolute stress of what he has gone through. In horses, stress can sometimes lead to colitis, which kills many horses and nearly killed Seattle Slew himself a few months after he won his Triple Crown.
But, it's not all bad news for Barbaro. So far, he sounds like an ideal patient. A lot of people have compared Barbaro's injury to what happened to the great fillies Go For Wand and Ruffian. It's not the best comparision. Go For Wand tumbled over when she broke down and was so severely injured that she had no chance and was destroyed on the track.
Ruffian's case, on the other hand, does have some similiarities. Ruffian had an initial successful surgery, but when she came out of the anesthesia, she went crazy and kicked and flayed around and jerked the cast right off of her broken leg. After that, there was nothing more they could do for her but put her out of her misery.
From the beginning, the fates worked against Ruffian. While Barbaro stood quietly and kept weight off of his hind leg, Ruffian reared up in anguish. When she was given a tranquilizer to calm her down, she had a paradoxical reaction and instead became more violent.
Barbaro may have the odds stacked up against him, but just as he did on the track, he's giving himself the best possible chance to win. But keep your fingers crossed for him. He won't be out of the woods for a couple of months.
In Defense of Nagin
|[Posted by Laura]|
Some of the blogospheric vitriol against C. Ray Nagin is completely unjust. Did he make mistakes before and after Katrina? Certainly. Should he have run off at the mouth as much as he did? Of course not. Did he do any worse than the rest of our political "leadership?" No, he didn't. And yet, because those people have toed the party line, they've escaped most criticism for their actions. Jefferson Parish President Broussard received a pass for causing over a billion dollars in damage by sending the pump operators away and outright lying on national TV. Blanco played politics, seeking the best way to promote herself and stab Nagin in the back. Ever since Nagin endorsed Republican Bobby Jindal over Kathleen Blanco, the knives have been out for him. The Democrats and the MSM only like "mavericks" when they are RINOs. And the coverage of Nagin has reflected this.
Just as the prevailing meme is "Bush lied" it is also now conventional wisdom that Nagin is incompetent and corrupt. A case can be made for incompetence, although I don't think that case would win out in front of an impartial judge who has all the facts. To those who accuse him of corruption, I have this to say: you're full of crap. If you're going to slander the man, at least provide some evidence. And by evidence, I mean something other than William Jefferson endorsing him. You don't have to prove it but at least reference a credible accusation. I don't believe you can. Nagin has had an exemplary anti-corruption record from the first week he took office.
We had very little warning about this storm. Nagin was out in front begging people to leave long before the voluntary or the later mandatory evacuations were called for.
The Superdome was never set up to be a shelter. But people needed somewhere to go, and given the lack of other options, that was the best choice. They were told to bring food, water, and bedding. It was plainly, repeatedly stated that those things were not going to be provided. Although Nagin is generally blamed for this, after the storm the reason food and water were not delivered was none other than Governor Kathleen Blanco. Hugh Hewitt's interview with Major Garrett on 9/7 makes that abundantly clear.
HH: Of course they are. Now Major Garrett, what about the Louisiana governor's office of Homeland Security. Have they responded to this charge by the Red Cross, which is a blockbuster charge?
MG: I have not been able to reach them yet. But, what they have said consistently is, and what they told the Red Cross, we don't want you to come in there, because we have evacuees that we want to get out. And if you come in, they're more likely to stay. So I want your listeners to follow me here. At the very moment that Ray Nagin, the Mayor of New Orleans was screaming where's the food, where's the water, it was over the overpass, and state officials were saying you can't come in.
There has been criticism about Nagin's perceived hysteria in requesting thousands of body bags. If Katrina had actually hit here, instead of giving us a glancing blow, those body bags would have been needed.
There has been criticism that Nagin did not immediately straighten out the Levee Board when he took office. The Levee Board is appointed by the Governor and they are useless. The Mayor is not empowered to change it. He likewise has no control over the Corps of Engineers, who is largely responsible for the damage in New Orleans. If the levees had held as promised, we'd have been back to normal a month after the storm.
Again, I'm not saying that Nagin is perfect and that he made no mistakes pre- and post-Katrina. I'm saying that he's an honest man, who made mistakes, and is also being unfairly blamed for things he had no control over, and accused of things that are simply not true.
There was no perfect candidate. It was either politics as usual with Cajun Kennedy Mitch Landreiu, who pledged to bring in notoriously corrupt Marc Morial to help decide how to spend federal Katrina funds, or an honest, flawed man who is relatively new to politics but kept his campaign pledge to clean up entrenched corruption.
New Orleans made the right choice.
Update: Other NOLA bloggers agree that, even if they don't especially like Nagin, his re-election is not bad news.
Dana at Northshore Politics: "I would have loved to seen a change, but, given the choices, I think Nagin was the lesser of the two evils. Before the storm hit, Nagin was a good mayor. Obviously, the New Orleans' voters are hoping to see that good mayor again soon."
Paul at Wizbang: "... I laugh at the people who bash New Orleanians for electing Nagin. It might be paradoxical but he WAS the reform candidate.
Confused yet? ;-)
In case you still don't get it: It is basically a given that the Dems lost a seat in the Senate last night."
May 21, 2006
The Hardest Sport to Love
|[Posted by ]|
After what happened yesterday, it doesn't seem right to have Preakness picks at the top of the blog now. Suffice it to say, that sometimes it really sucks to be a horse racing fan.
But, for every tragedy, there's a moment of triumph too. If you're new to the sport and thinking about giving it up now, please reconsider. Horse racing is the hardest sport to love, but it's ultimately one of the most rewarding sports to love too.
May 20, 2006
Preakness Picks & Analysis
|[Posted by ]|
So it's Preakness Day. Instead of gobbling down mint juleps, we enjoy delicious crab cakes. Mmmm...crab cakes. But that's not the only difference between the Derby and the Preakness. Traditionally (and again this year), the Preakness field is much smaller and the race is more truly run.
In addition to Derby winner Barbaro, Sweetnorthernsaint and Brother Derek are coming out of the Kentucky Derby. The latter two horses ran well two weeks ago, but they ran into traffic problems while Barbaro was sitting pretty in the garden spot just behind the leaders. For some reason, I think that horses have a harder time recovering from a rough race than from a relatively easy one. It's not about the speed of their performance, but what they did to achieve that performance. In other words, I expect Barbaro to bounce back from his Derby far better than Sweetnorthernsaint and Brother Derek bounce back from their Derbies.
So, can anyone beat Barbaro? Of the newcomers to the race, I'm most interested in Bernadini. This son of A.P. Indy is well-bred and won his last race rather impressively. He's moving up in class, but his speed figures indicate to me that he should be competitive at this level.
I think the Preakness will be run like the Derby. The pace won't be particularly strong, so it sets up for a stalker. Both Barbaro and Bernadini fit the bill. I'm torn between the two. On one hand, yes, Barbaro had the dream Derby trip, but he did run a great race. On the other hand, Bernandini could be a solid upset pick. It's hard not to fall for a horse like that. In the real world, I'd box the two in an exacta. In my online fantasy world, I want Bernadini to win, but I think we're going to have another Triple Crown try this year, so Barbaro is the pick.
For more racing news and views, visit my horse racing site, The Filly Pundit.
May 17, 2006
American Idol Final Three Recap-Elliott Voted Off/Amazing Race Finale - Hippies Win
|[Posted by ]|
Tonight it's the dreaded hour long results show. To be honest, I'm only kind of watching this. I'm really watching the Amazing Race finale. So, last night the final three performed some crappy songs crappily. Meanwhile, Ray & Yolanda finished third in the penultimate leg in Japan!
The Idols look into the future with a Ford commercial that gives us a sneak preview of what they'll look like when they're old, wrinkled and have big butts (and I cannot lie). It ain't pretty.
On the Amazing Race, teams must travel to Anchorage, Alaska and drive somewhere. The Frats do a killer imitation of a bad Japanese dub job.
The Idols go to their hometowns. Everyone loves them. They're amazed. What's really amazing, however, is the way Ray & Jolanda worm their way onto a critical flight. Once in Alaska, teams have to drive through the snow to Mirror Lake. You know, I've never seen teams have to deal with bad weather before. It's about time. Then, in a truly inspired Detour option, teams have to set up an ice fishing shanty. Wow-it's like the Race has gone to Wisconsin!
Back over on Idol, it's still filler time. Yawn, although I do enjoy Kat's reprise of "Think". That's one of my favorites from her this season. Plus, as a shoe marketer, I appreciate the emphasis she puts on her footwear.
While Idols bask in the glow of the public's love, the Amazing Race teams snowshoe on isolated trails in Alaska. Of course, not being hardy folk, they bitch about how cold it is.
Virginia loves Elliott. And Colorado loves the Amazing Race. That's where the Race is going to end as the teams fly to Denver (all on the same flight) and then head to Golden (where, by the way, our own BV lived for a few years). Then, like U2 before them, teams go back to where it all began at Red Rocks.
You know, I love Elliott, but I can't picture him singing "Moody's Mood for Love" at Red Rocks. He's no Bono.
And however much Idol messes with their contestants, they're nowhere near as wicked as the Amazing Race producers. In the teams final Roadblock, they have to find the flags of all the countries they've visited in a field of over 200 flags and then place them in order. Ooooh, I love geography quizzes. I would rock this Roadblock. Rock!
Speaking of rock, remember Chris?
After a riveting flag contest, the Hippies, B.J. & Tyler win the Amazing Race! I guess their fancy college educations came in handy afer all! The Frats are second while Ray & Yolanda trail in third. Also, Phil looks hot in winter clothes. And, I have a confession to make. Blonde frat boy has totally won me over. He's really kind of funny and sarcastic. Who knew?
Back over on Idol, it's finally results time. Ryan shows us that the voting percentages are nearly tied. The contestants are within a percentage point of each other. Amazing (the theme of the night). And it's Elliott who is going home. Drat. That sucks. Thanks a lot America. Way to make Elliott cry again.
May 14, 2006
Movies for Surround Sound
|[Posted by Laura]|
My husband's been working on getting our living room set up as a home theater and we're close to being finished. (Photo below the fold.) I've been working so much overtime since Katrina that I think he's trying to lure me out of the office. So for Mother's Day, he and my daughter gave me a Kenwood home theater sound system with six 150 Watt speakers and a huge bass to make the neighbors mad. So the critical question is, aside from Top Gun, what are the best movies for surround sound?
May 13, 2006
Mother's Day is Tomorrow
|[Posted by james]|
"The NSA would like to remind everyone to call their mothers this Sunday. They need to calibrate their system."
via Bruce Schneier.
What Can Money Buy?
|[Posted by ]|
Word inside the Beltway is that Al Gore can "buy" the 2008 election with his Google money. I dispute that notion. Al Gore can buy loads of advertising and a great staff with his Google stash, but he can't literally buy an election. He can buy awareness, but being aware of Al Gore will not necessarily drive people to vote for him. In fact, one could easily argue that the more aware of Gore you are, the less likely you'll vote for him. It's the Ross Perot effect. Sometimes people are better off keeping their traps shut and letting the voters fill in the blanks. That's what Herb Kohl has successfully done in Wisconsin for years. Kohl's motto has been "Nobody's Senator but yours". Note that this motto says absolutely nothing about Kohl's political beliefs. He's never run on issues. He's run on the fact that he's so rich that he doesn't need to raise money to run for elections. Al Gore doesn't have that option since he's spent the last 6 years acting like a moonbat. All advertising is going to do is remind people of that.
People are jumping to conclusions (hey, wouldn't make a great mat?). The New York Yankees buy the most expensive baseball players, but they haven't won the World Series since 2000. Every year, tycoons spend millions on thoroughbred yearlings, but the most expensive horse rarely wins the Kentucky Derby. Movie studios spend millions marketing their films, but that doesn't mean people will show up at the box office. Flops happen all the time. Spending lots of money doesn't mean make your desired result a fait accompli.
I think it's time for a quick review. Here's what money can (and cannot) buy:
|Political advertising||Political agreement|
|Goods & services||Entry to heaven|
|Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co.||Fair treatment|
|Good press||Good taste|
|Well-bred racehorses||Man O'War|
|Steroids||The public's affection|
|J Lo's shoes||J Lo's love|
|A green dress||Peace of mind|
May 11, 2006
New Horse Racing Blog
|[Posted by ]|
For those of you that have enjoyed my occasional horse racing posts, I'm pleased to announce that I've started a dedicated horse racing blog. Be sure to visit (and bookmark) Filly Pundit. I'll cover the sport more in depth and even make some picks (although, give my track record, you probably don't want to take those to the bank ;-).
May 10, 2006
American Idol Final Four Results-Chris Voted Off
|[Posted by ]|
Last night, the Idols begged America: "don't be cruel". I echoed their plea because if Elliott's gone tonight I'll be forced to check into Heartbreak Hotel.
Medley time! Doesn't it seem like the show cut down on the medleys this year? I don't understand it. The medleys are the only thing that make the results shows tolerable. This one is particularly fun as it ends with a fun rendition of "Burning Love" as the Idols rock out and dance behind the judges. Note to the producers: we like to watch these kids have fun, not just squirm for the judges.
Speaking of squirming, it's time for the results. Ryan separates the Final Four into two groups: Taylor & Elliott and Chris & Katharine. Of course, if you read Dial Idol you know damn well that Kat & Chris are in the bottom two.
Once again, Dial Idol is right on and it's the "rocker" Chris who's going home. Don't worry Chris, I'm sure Fuel will be calling soon ;-)
|pretend pundit linked with American Idol Shocker! How Was Chris Daughtry Voted Off?|
|pretend pundit linked with American Idol Shocker! How Was Chris Daughtry Voted Off?|
May 09, 2006
American Idol Final Four Performance Recap
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I've reason to believe
We all will be received
So said Paul Simon and tonight he's right as American Idol's Final Four traveled to Graceland, met a scary looking Priscilla Presley and enlisted the help of producer Tommy Mottola (the former Mr. Mariah Carey) for tonight's Elvis theme.
Taylor starts off the night with "Jailhouse Rock". I don't mind Taylor, but now I get why some people think he's an asshat. He's wearing a stupid burgundy suit and sings the song exactly like Elvis. It's totally karoke, but of course only Simon has the guts to say so. Taylor is the new Pickler, he's so safe, even though this performance gets just a 4.
After revealing he wears boxer briefs (yawn), Chris gets down to business with "Suspicious Minds". Confession time: I think this is such a cheesy song. But, to his credit, Chris cuts the cheese (I know, I'm 12) out with a slower, deeper take on the song. Of course, for all I know, Live did a version and Chris is merely covering it. That's the problem with Chris, he really is a good singer, but it's so easy to dismiss that because you get the feeling that something's not genuine about him on the show. All that said, I really liked it and he gets an 8 from me.
My boy Elliott is next singing an Elvis song I've never heard, "I Can Dream". At first I was annoyed that Elliott was again singing something I didn't know, but I quickly forget that and just get wrapped up in Elliott's performance. It's beautiful, tender and powerful all at the same time. Elliott's won me over again! Randy didn't like him, but Simon did and really, isn't his opinion the one all the performers care about? I'm giving Elliott a 9.5.
Let's hear it for the boys, because the girl, Katharine butchers "Hound Dog". Tonight Katharine is full of sound and fury but signifies nothing. She bounces around and screams and looks cute, but the vocal is completely lacking. She's kind of like Taylor in that she's focusing on the performance so much that she's forgetting to sing. However, she doesn't come off as an ass like Taylor does, so she gets a 5.
Act II begins with Taylor's take on "In The Ghetto". Heh. I know I'm a terrible person, but this song cracks me up. It's oh so melodramatic. The paradox of Taylor is that when he dances he can look like an ass, but when he doesn't dance he's frankly kind of boring. This is kind of boring. Zzzzzz. Randy & Paula eat it up and Simon likes it because he didn't dance. Are they all breaking into Paula's stash? He stunk. It's a 5.
Chris sings "A Little Less Conversation" which just brings up memories of Jon Peter Lewis' hilarious version. Chris is many things, but hilarious is not one of them. His take is a little jazzier and a lot sexier. I really dig the overall vibe he brings to the song. It's Chris stripped of all the crap and just singing. Simon doesn't like it because it was low and not flashy, but I thought it was one of Chris' best performances. It was a departure and I'm giving it another 8.
Elliott brings out his wild side to sing "Trouble". This is a cool song, but Elliott seems like such a sweetie pie, not a trouble maker. The boy was crying after his first performance. But you know, who cares? This is fabulous. Elliott's suddenly a frickin' rock star. What he lacks in image he completely makes up for in pure vocal power. Another 9.5. He's driving me to vote! Oh, Elliott!
Whoa! Ryan just reignites his feud with Paula by comparing her dancing to that of a stripper. Sweet! It's so boring when things are lovey dovey between the judges and our intrepid host.
Random Elliott blurb I learned during the break. If you go to Elliott's Wikipedia page you get a link to a list of "famous short men". Heh.
At last, it's Katharine who hopes that America "Can't Help Falling In Love" with her. Kat's version has a nice country feel to it, but I think she cares more about flirting with the camera tonight than singing well. Instead of being powerful (like Paris, sniff...) she's just screechy. I think she's hope to flirt her way to the next round. Better her than Taylor, I guess. The judges were underwhelmed, as was I. It's just a 3.
I think Kat's going home, but I'm really afraid for Elliott. Vote for Elliott!
May 08, 2006
Bush's Top Moments
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In an interview with a German journalist, President Bush had a hard time coming up with the best moment of his Presidency. He eventually settled on the time when he reeled in a 7 1/2 lb. largemouth bass. Really. Personally, I would have gone for the time he went biking with Lance Armstrong, but that's just me.
I hope this turns out to be some urban legend or a joke. Otherwise, I'm afraid Bush is starting to believe his own press. Let's forget about getting rid of the Taliban, elections in Iraq, keeping America safe from terrorism since 9/11 and an economy humming along with near full employment. Yep, that's nothing.
What's wrong with a little old fashioned horn tooting?
May 05, 2006
Your Guide to Picking a Kentucky Derby Winner
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Picking a Kentucky Derby winner is a daunting task. I've picked one exactly twice in my life. So this year, instead of just giving you a name, I'm going to try to guide you through an easy process to pick your own winner. Ready? And we're off!
Is there an exceptional horse in the race? Because the Derby usually has a large field, racing luck and pace tend to make the race. A truly exceptional horse, however, tends to make its own luck. If you think there's a potential Triple Crown winner in the field, pick him and skip to the end. If not, move on to question 2.
This year, I think the answer is a clear "no". So on we go.
Are there fewer than 14 horses in the field? If so, then you can rely on what happened in the Derby preps to guide your pick. Races with fewer horses tend to have a more reasonable pace and predictable results. If the field isn't full, look to one of the winners of the big prep races (Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby, Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes, Florida Derby).
This year, 20 horses are going to be in the starting gate, so it's on to question 3.
How fast will the pace be? As Paula Abdul would say, this is "key important". Check out the running styles of the field. If there's a ton of horses in the race that all like to be 4th or 5th throughout the race, then they all might plod around in the early part of the race, meaning that one of them will outkick the others for the win OR that a frontrunner might get loose on the lead and win. This is not a common scenario. More likely is the field with a few speedballs. They'll ensure a swift pace and cause those horses who want to be comfortable sitting off the lead to go faster than they want. This pace scenario usually results in a come-from-behind horse winning.
So, to review, fewer speed horses mean the race sets up for stalkers OR for a lone speed horse. Lots of speed horses mean that the winner will most likely come from way off the pace.
This year, there is plenty of speed as horses like Sinister Minister, Keyed Entry and Lawyer Ron will tear out of the gate and set a torrid pace. Because of this, I'm going to narrow my possible choices to horses that come from behind or who have shown the ability to lay off the pace. From a field of 20, I'm now down to the following: Barbaro, A.P. Warrior, Bluegrass Cat, Steppenwolfer, Point Determined, Cause To Believe, Storm Treasure, Jazil & Seaside Retreat.
Will it rain? On some tracks, it doesn't seem to matter if it's muddy. At Churchill Downs (the home of the Derby) it does matter. It's the track comes up wet, look for horses with some history of success in the mud. Extra bonus points if his mother was a mudder.
This year, there's a 30% chance for rain on Saturday. I'm not overly concerned about finding a mudder, but, in any case, pretty much all of the horses who made it past question 3 should just be fine in the mud.
Can he go the distance? One common misconception is that horses who come from behind are stayers. This isn't necessarily the case. You still need to find a stretch runner with a pedigree that doesn't scream "sprinter".
Of the horses left: Barbaro, A.P. Warrior, Bluegrass Cat, Steppenwolfer and Point Determined should have enough blue blood to make it home.
Horses prep all around the country and many never race against each other before the Derby. Therefore, it's useful to rank the regions. If, for example, the Florida horses are much the best this year, that gives you a reason to take a Florida stretch runner over one who stayed in California.
This year, it's all about the California-based horses. As a group, they appear the strongest, so bonus points for A.P. Warrior and Point Determined.
Are any of the remaining horses trained by Bob Baffert or D. Wayne Lukas. Savvy handicappers are known to take out "Lukas insurance". That is, they'll place a small wager on Lukas-trained horses even if they don't really believe that they have a chance. History shows that you ignore Lukas & Baffert at your own peril.
This year, Lukas doesn't have a horse in the mix, but Bob Baffert trains Bob And John, Point Determined and the speedball Sinister Minister.
Who do the Derby gods want to win? Really. The Derby gods are a sentimental bunch. If there's some octogenarian owner who has waited his whole life to win the Derby, he usually will. Good stories win.
This year, I think there are three exceptional stories. The recently widowed Beverly Lewis is represented in the Derby by Point Determined. Beverly and her husband Bob won the Derby with Charismatic & Silver Charm. Many folks would like to see the popular Beverly win this one on her own, in memory of her husband. Another good story belongs to Barbaro's trainer, Michael Matz, who was one of the survivors of a terrible Iowa plane crash back in the 1980s. Matz led three children from the wreck and then went back to save an 11-month old girl. The Derby gods gotta like that. Finally, the likely Derby favorite, the front-running Brother Derek, is trained by Dan Hendricks, who was paralyzed in a 2004 accident.
So, based on my flow chart of questions, the clear pick is Point Determined. He's a well-bred, stretch-running horse from California trained by Bob Baffert with a sentimental backstory. But here's where I screw myself up. I really don't think Point Determined is going to win. I prefer his California counterpart, A.P. Warrior. So, I'm bucking my own system to make my pick. Hopefully it'll pay off this year. For the trifecta, I like A.P. Warrior, Point Determined & Barbaro. Who do you like?
May 04, 2006
O.J. Simpson's Hunch Derby Bet
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I will publish my official Kentucky Derby pick, along with a guide to choosing your own Derby horse, tomorrow. In the meantime, get a load of this handicapping tip from O.J. Simpson:
For example, there's O.J. Simpson -- a perennial Louisville guest. He says he doesn't bet much, but he's got a hunch play this year.
"I'm a big fan of lawyers. Give me Lawyer Ron," he says with a chuckle. "If his name was 'Lawyer Johnnie,' I'd bet the house."
Ron??? First, does O.J. even have a house? Didn't he lose all of his money in the civil suit? Second, I shudder to think what O.J. would want to bet if there was a horse named, oh, let's say, "DNA Expert Nicole" in the field.
May 03, 2006
American Idol Final 5-Paris Voted Off
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The night kicks off with a long-awaited group song. I love the group songs! They're singing "Together, We Are One", whatever that is. It's all about touching stars and making dreams come true. Oh gag. Why can't they do a group number about wanting to beat the crap out of each other. Something like "Alone, I Am The Best". In any case, the star of the song is clearly Paris. I know that she can be annoying, but I'll definitely buy Paris' record. She's an unpredictable, gutty performer.
To distract from his feud with Paula, Ryan craftily tries to get the judges to fight amongst themselves. Heh, let's just say that Ryan doesn't have to try that hard ;-)
Now it's down to business.
Taylor: safe (duh)
Chris: safe (double duh)
Paris: bottom two (triple duh)
The show's producers, because they're mean, make Paris sing "Kiss" again. Why do they torture these kids? On to the rest.
Elliott: bottom two (that's a surprise!)
As Elliott sings "On Broadway" again, I have to tell you that I'm completely sure he's safe. Poor Paris.
And I'm right. It's Paris' time to go home. Goodbye Princess P. I'll miss you. And honey, you did not have a bad day!
Amazing Race Recap (In Verse)
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We start in Freemantle, perched on Australia's Indian Ocean
Where the teams had a pit stop after a leg full of motion.
In the lead, as usual, it was the obnoxious Frats
Followed by the Hippies, Ray & Yolanda and MoJo (those brats).
The teams headed off to Perth's Swan Bell Tower
Where stealthy teams called taxis to pick them up on the hour.
The Frats cancelled their cabs and started playing dirty
While Eric and Monica got a little bit flirty.
But Karma is a bitch
and in a delightful switch
The Frats' cab never came
and they were left looking mighty lame.
All the teams ended up on the same flight
And they were in Darwin later that night.
They retrieved a clue from a pond of crocodiles
And then took a 50-mile drive that tested their wiles.
The hippies were first as the Yield sign loomed
It was obvious that MoJo was doomed.
As B.J. took the Roadblock and got to go skydiving
MoJo pouted and their relationship wasn't thriving
As always, the Detours offered teams the opportunity to choose
In this case it was hiking or learning to play didjeridoos
The Frats and the Hippies went hiking and were slow
It was faster to find Aborigines and learn how to blow.
Time for the Pit Stop. Who would be first?
It's Ray & Yolanda, who used to be worst!
The other three teams raced to the mat in an old-fashioned foot race
And at the end, it was the Hippies who were finally outpaced.
Luckily for them, they got good news from Phil
It was a non-elimination leg-oh, the thrill.
No possessions, no money, nothing at all
But they're still in the running for the million dollars, y'all.
Next week Thailand beckons for our Final Four
Non-elims are over, so someone will be headed for the door.
If this Amazing verse isn't enough information,
head to the Viking Pundit for his take on the non-elimination.
May 02, 2006
Reason 8,000,001 I'm Sick of Politics
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My Congresswoman, Tammy Baldwin is best known for being the only openly game woman in Congress. I'd don't care that she's a lesbian, but I do care that she's a flaming liberal who is more accurately referred to as "Comrade Baldwin". So, yeah, I'm no fan.
Dave Magnum, a radio station owner, is planning on challenging Baldwin again this year. Baldwin gets a ton of money from places like Emily's List, but, even so, Magnum gave her a good run in 2004, so there's reason to believe he could challenge again.
Anyway, I get Magnum's email newsletter, Dave's Digest. The latest issue focused on illegal immigration. Dave says:
Unfortunately, some of those on the front lines of the immigration debate are doing their cause no favors with their confrontational stance. Pictures of illegal immigrants on the news parading around in "I'm Illegal, So What?" t-shirts are a mocking display of blatant disregard for our laws. This in-your-face effort to provoke and bully is only going to make it more difficult for all sides to come together and reach a mutually acceptable resolution.
America is the most generous nation in the world, bar none. We will always be willing to help those who need it, yet there is a difference between a hand-up and a handout. For generations, those who arrived on our nation's shores understood this.
As a kid, my Grandpa DeSomer often told the story of how his family agonized about it and finally stepped onto an intimidating old ship leaving their family and native Belgium forever. They sailed to these shores, hung the stars and stripes, learned the language, and worked hard to become productive citizens. The last thing they expected was a handout. Yes, America was built by immigrants - law-abiding, respectful, grateful immigrants for whom living, working, and raising a family here was a point of pride that was not taken lightly and did not come without great effort and sacrifice. That is still true today, and we should never lose sight of that fact as we work toward solving our current illegal immigration crisis.
I like that quote. It makes me feel like this is a candidate I could get behind. But then, immediately after that passage in the newsletter is this:
DID YOU KNOW... The Tammy Baldwin agenda on protecting the U.S. flag from desecration
Tammy Baldwin voted against H.J. Res. 10, which proposes a Constitutional amendment authorizing Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the U.S. Flag (6/22/05 - Roll No. 296)
That makes me roll my eyes in frustration. Where is the candidate that wants to enforce laws at the border and respect our First Amendment rights?
American Idol Recap-The Final Five Perform
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Tonight the final five will perform two songs: one from the year they were born and one from the top ten of any of this week's Billboard charts. Let's get it on!
Elliott sings George Benson's "Broadway" (1978). Elliott's right arm is going crazy, it's distracting. Stop it, Elliott's right arm! As for the rest of Elliott, the vibrato is in full force and this is his typical performance of a song that has all kinds of twists and turns that never goes anywhere. It's boring. Randy & Paula like it, but Simon thinks he's lucky he has another performance tonight. So do I. A 5.
Paris is going to sing "Kiss" by Prince (1988). Really? Oh wow. This could be incredible. Hopefully incredibly good, like the Tom Jones version. She changes "girl" to "boy" in the song, which is just lame. But other than that, she's really a little fantastic. She rocks out at the end of the song. I love her. Randy & Paula damn her with faint praise. Paula actually complains that she's not singing old songs. Hey, the damn show is making her sing a song from 1988 you drunken fool. Simon thought it was "screechy & annoying". Simon is either trying to sacrifice Paris to Katharine OR he's trying to scare her fanbase. I'm giving Paris a 9. Go, Paris, Go!
Chris sings 1979's "Renegade". Chris gets backup singers. He's got a bit more of the goat throat tonight, but it's still pretty good. I know Chris is getting pimped to death by the show, but he really is good. He wouldn't be an undeserving winner. Randy loves him. Paula loves him. Simon really, really loves him. I still like Paris better, so I'm giving Chris an 7.
Ryan tastelessly brings up Katharine's wardrobe malfunction last week. Kat assures us she's strapped in this week as she steps up to sing "Against All Odds" (1984). She starts with a terrible first note. Wow, I used to play this song on my flute and I was about 1,000 times better than Kat. She's off key or flat or pitchy or something. Whatever it is, it ain't good. This is a Pickleresque performance. The best Randy can sing is that it was "okay". Both Randy & Paula compliment her outfit. That's not a good sign. I think it was just terrible. I give her a 2.
Word up, Soul Patrol. Their man, Taylor, hits the stage to sing 1976's "Play That Funky Music, White Boy". Oh yeah, bring that Wild Cherry! I think this song is Taylor's f*ck you to the Idol producers. He's singing it defiantly, which adds a whole new dimension to the song. I really like it and so does the crowd. Randy & Paula like it, but Simon has no clue what to make of it. He thinks it's a "horrible wedding performance". No, that's not horrible. The woman who karaoked "Baby Got Back" at the wedding I was at last summer was horrible. This was actually pretty great. I'm giving it an 8.
We're halfway through and I'd just like to compliment Paris, Taylor and Chris for choosing entertaining songs. It's about frickin' time. It's also time for the annual American Idol CD. Pre-order yours now. How do you like that commercial break?
Elliott's back to sing Michael Buble's "Home". I don't like Michael Buble. He's too showy. I kind of like Elliott's more heartfelt take on the song. But should he really be singing a song about "coming back home" now? He's really tempting us to vote him off the show, isn't he? The judges like this one better and so do I, but Simon is a little worried about him. So am I. I'm going to give him an 8, but he needed a 9.
Cute little Paris is going to sing Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You". I can't understand a word that she's singing, which ticks me off. However, I absolutely adore her ultra-cool silver and camo outfit. God, I sound like Paula. I don't get this song at all, but Paris is really awesome. She has suddenly figured out how to convey the emotion of a song. "Princess P" gets an 9.
Chris performs "I Dare You". I've never heard of this song. It's so "Chris" that it might as well be on his first CD. Chris is as good as ever, but I've just realized that hearing two Chris songs in an hour is one Chris song too many. I'm already bored with him. The judges didn't really like it either and they think his voice is going to go out on him. Maybe that wouldn't be a bad thing. It's just a 5.
Chris' partner in pimp, Katharine sings K.T. Tunstall's "Black Horse & Cherry Tree". She sings the whole song on her knees (once again, how Pickleresque) and while that's a nice novelty, wtf? Her second performance is better than her first, but I still don't know what to make of Katharine. Is she a barefoot hippie or a siren song diva? I'd be more interested in her if she's the former. In any case, it's a 7.
Closing out the show, it's Vote For The Worst's Taylor. Taylor cheats and sings "Something" from the Beatles (it's on some obscure "catalog" Billboard chart). This might be my favorite Beatle song, as I'm partial to the gooey, schmaltzy George Harrison songs. Taylor's version is more like a Joe Cocker cover, which just strips all the romance out of it. I absolutely hate it. Objectively, it's probably not that bad, but he just ruined one of my all-time favorites. Jerk. The judges kind of like it. I don't. It's a 3.
My cumulative rankings for the evening:
My guess is that Paris goes tomorrow anyway.