Archive for July, 2005

I Find Your Lack Of Bass Disturbing

July 19, 2005

This is the funniest eBay ad I’ve seen since the guy who was selling his ex-wife’s wedding dress for beer money. Better yet, it’s for a pretty neat item, a home-made subwoofer shaped like the Death Star (that’s no moon–it’s a subwoofer!). Be sure to check out the Q&A at the bottom of the ad.

Blogosphere triumphalism moment: a bit on this got posted to Slashdot this afternoon, resulting in over 170,000 additional hits to the ad–and the bid price has doubled.

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Garrison Keillor, Crybaby

July 17, 2005

Very few articles in the local rag have given me as much sincere happiness as this one. It’s an account of a spate of whining from NPR blowhard Garrison Keillor, who put on a “Prarie Home Companion” performance at Atlanta’s Chastain Park Amitheatre last week:

When Neil Young and Michael Stipe openly chastised noisy Chastain Park Amphitheatre audiences from the stage several years ago, the chardonnay-sipping conversationalists flicked away the criticism like a fly circling too close to the potato salad.

After all, Young has a well-honed reputation for crotchetiness and Stipe is a bit eccentric.

But when you receive a public spanking from “A Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor, a guy many suspect has green tea pumping through his veins — that’s something to talk about.

So when the coolers and candelabras are hauled into the venue Saturday for the India Arie concert, music fans can expect that talking will be a topic of conversation.

Chatty Chastain-goers are nothing new — the venue’s long-standing notoriety for noise has frustrated patrons and performers alike for years. For many, the quirky 7,500-seat, 61-year-old amphitheater can be either one of country’s most enjoyable — or confounding — places for a concert.

The issue came roaring to the forefront after Keillor posted critical remarks about the audience following the public radio host’s June 24 performance.

“The show was troubled by a large number of loud drunks sitting in the expensive corporate seats down close to the stage,” Keillor said on the show’s Web site. Calling the Classic Chastain performance “a joyless affair,” he added: “If Chastain Park were par for the course, I would’ve quit years ago.”

I laughed on and off for a good half-hour after reading that.

Chastain is one of the best things about living in Atlanta. The result of a 1930’s make-work project, it’s an outdoor venue that’s as unique in its own way as Colorado’s Red Rocks or Seattle’s old Pier 62/63 (which is now apparently and unfortunately closed to music events). Chastain is nearly unique in my experience, a concert site where patrons are (usually) allowed and even encouraged to bring in their own food and drink. The floor and several rows of the ampitheatre are filled with six-seat tables, and over the years people have gotten more and more elaborate with their concert spreads, bringing in tablecloths and candelabras and all manner of consumables to go with them. You have to see it yourself to really appreciate the charm and laid-back joy of the place.

As the article notes, Keillor is hardly the first performer to be taken aback by a Chastain audience. Most first-time players at Chastain are visible taken aback at not being the center of attention, and more than a few of them make nasty wisecracks about interrupting dinner with a concert–but those who can get over themselves and soak up the atmosphere of the place keep coming back, year after year.

Harry Connick, Jr. was completely stunned the first time he played Chastain, and griped about people chatting during his ballads, but since then he’s become as comfortable with the “Chastain scene” as any Atlantan, and he never plays fewer than two dates there on summer tours. We’ve got tickets to see Lyle Lovett at Chastain in a couple of weeks, and Lovett always makes a point to talk about how much fun he has playing a genuinely different venue after endless weeks of bland civic centers and generic outdoor sheds.

Now, I can already hear the complaining out there–“the audience should show respect to the performers.” Balderdash. The audience is playing the performer’s grocery bills, and the payees ought to appreciate that first, last and always. And at any rate, respect-to-the-performer would be a legitimate point if we were talking about Itzhak Perlman, or even Lovett and Connick–legitimate, accomplished artists. Garrison Keillor is a glorified novelty act by comparison.

Given Keillor’s reputation for being, well, a jerk, I’m not at all surprised that he couldn’t handle an audience that wasn’t composed entirely of fawning “public” radio fans. I particularly got a kick out of his whining about “expensive corporate seats” (ah, Garrison, they’re the same price as anybody else’s tickets in the forward section–and you’re the one who set those prices in the first place). I guaran-damn-tee you he didn’t make any connection to the taxpayer funding for NPR and CPB that came, in part, courtesy of the people who also paid for those tickets, whether they liked it or not.

Ah, what fun. Every year, some pompous performer gets his knickers in a knot because a Chastain audience won’t pay complete attention to him. How much more delightful, then, when this year’s Chastain laughingstock is a pure-blue jackass offstage as well.

Homer Simpson Predicts Time Travel

July 14, 2005

Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?

No, No, Kill The Bugs! Not The Appliances!

July 11, 2005

Oh, this is great.

Couple of kids from the termite company came out today to treat my house. They just did the garage and crawl space because of the weather. We got home from work and discovered we had no hot water. I couldn’t get the pilot to re-light, and when I checked out the heater, it looks like they banged against the pipes and shook one of them loose. The ground around the heater was saturated with water. And the little bastids took off like bats out of hell when I pulled up at the house at lunchtime (all the note on the door said was, “finished garage and crawl space”).

I’ll lean on the termite company to pay for it, but either way, it looks like I’ll be needing a new water heater. Anybody have any suggestions for a natural gas model? With apologies to Hank Hill, we don’t have propane service, and I’d rather not rewire for electric. Any experience with these tankless jobs?

Stirred, Not Shaken

July 11, 2005

Here’s Christopher Hitchens in the Weekly Standard, on the July 7 bombings. The finale:

[F]rom now on, we must increasingly confront the fact that the war within Islam is also a war within Europe. It’s highly probable that the assassins of 7 July are British born, as were several Taliban fighters in the first round in Afghanistan. And the mirror image also exists. Many Muslims take the side of civilization and many European fascists and Communists are sympathetic to jihad.

These are not the bright, clear lines that many people fondly imagine to be heritable from a heroic past. But the nature of the enemy is somewhat similar. Like the fascists that they are, the murderers boast that they love death more than we love life. They imagine that this yell of unreason is intimidating and impressive. We shall undoubtedly go forward and put these grave matters to the proof but, meanwhile: Death to them and Long Live London!

Hurricane Update

July 10, 2005

I’m hearing from friends in south Alabama and the Florida Panhandle that thus far, Dennis has done much less damage than anticipated. “Nothing like Ivan” is what I’m hearing from several people. That’s no consolation to those who did get severe damage, though, and I’m sure there are plenty of them. The beaches in Destin and Walton County are said to be extremely eroded by the storm surge.

My folks (in Alabama) didn’t even lose electricity, for once. After Opal in 1995, it was out for over a week.

London Recalling

July 7, 2005

unionjack.jpg

Fourteen years ago in London, terrorists tried to kill me.

There was nothing personal about it, mind you; they were literally trying to kill anybody at the time. It was February of 1991, during the thick of the Gulf War, and I was a visiting student at Oxford. On the morning of the 15th, I had planned to catch the early train to Victoria Station for a London day trip, but thanks to spending the previous evening out on the town (I have a vague memory of doing shots with a couple of Californians at an after-hours nightclub), I was slow getting out of bed and missed the train.

That hangover might have saved my life. During the thick of that morning’s rush hour, a bomb went off in a Victoria Station garbage can, killing one man and injuring 40 others. Because of the world situation, everybody’s immediate first thought was, “Arab terrorists,” but the bomb turned out to have been planted by the IRA, which had tried to murder Prime Minister John Major and his cabinet in a mortar attack on Downing Street just eleven days earlier.

The Victoria Station bombing had an unexpected effect on me and the other students, and that counts for both the Brits and the Americans. After the Downing Street attack, there was a lot of nervousness and quiet talk about keeping a low profile and avoiding possible terrorist target locations.

After Victoria, though, everything changed. The shift was remarkable and consistent from the most bleeding-heart New York Chomskyites (one of my roommates) to the most reactionary Southern right-wingers (er, me): everybody got mad. To an individual, the reaction was, “I’ll be damned if I let these barbarians make me change my plans, or my mind, or my life.”

I fully expect to see the same reaction out of Britain after today (it’s already started, in fact; check out the fire-breathing denunciation from London Mayor “Red Ken” Livingstone), and woe betide the Islamofascists who’ve been hiding in plain sight in their midst until now.

Required Reading

July 6, 2005

Great Der Spiegel interview here with Kenyan economist James Shikwati. A sample:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa…

Shikwati: … for God’s sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa’s problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn’t even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.

Read the whole thing (and send a copy to Bono and Saint Bob). The interviewer’s disbelief at hearing such heterodoxy is almost as enjoyable as Shikwati’s bracing good sense.

Masters Of Somebody Else’s Domain

July 6, 2005

After reading the comments in my earlier post about the confluence between a recent property seizure in Oakland and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s wild defense of eminent domain in the Kelo decision, I did a bit more digging into the lead developer on the Oakland project, Forest City Enterprises, Inc.

Forest City is a publicly-traded development and real estate conglomerate run by the Ratner family of Cleveland, Ohio. Led by the Ratners, Forest City is a player in major developments on both coasts (and many places in between), including some of the hottest hot spots in eminent domain seizures.

The biggest, or at least the most publicized, involves a huge tract of Brooklyn in New York City. The Ratners are proposing to turn it into a condo-shopping-basketball-arena complex; Bruce Ratner of Forest Park is the owner of the New Jersey Nets. The Ratners are lobbying the city and state of New York to exercise eminent domain powers to seize properties in Brooklyn for this project.

(Incidentally, Bruce Ratner’s brother Michael runs the far-left humanrightsnow.org website, and is president of the George Soros-funded “Center for Constitutional Rights,” and is one of the major legal players trying to free the terrorist prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Quite a family there.)

In addition to the Uptown Project in Oakland, Forest City is a prime contractor in a gigantic shopping mall project in San Francisco which involves eminent domain seizures of private property. The company is also partnered with the New York Times to build the Times’ new headquarters in Manhattan–on a site that was seized especially for the Times by New York City. Small surprise then that the Times is (thus far) second only to Nancy Pelosi in cheerleading for the Kelo decision.

Speaking of Pelosi, as the Democrats’ leader in the House, San Fran Nan has been the beneficiary of a great deal of campaign largesse from the Ratners. Based on numbers from OpenSecrets.org, people named Ratner who were employed by Forest City companies donated at least $18,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2002 and 2004 cycles (I also include one individual named Ratner identifed as a “homemaker” who had the same address as another Ratner/Forest City contributor).

The Ratners are also major contributors to other heavyweight Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Chris Dodd, Nita Lowey, Tom Daschle, Joe Lieberman, John Kerrey, as well as disctinctly non-Democratic names like George W. Bush and Rick Santorum. Nothing unusual there; many corporate donors hedge their bets by giving to both parties.

Even so, the large amounts given to the DCCC (18 donations of $1000 per donor, vs. no Ratner/Forest City donations that I can find to the NRCC), many of which were given in late October of election years, suggest that the Ratners are keen to get the attention of congressional Democrats–and particularly their leader–at electoral crunch time.

Gee, I wonder why?

Perhaps more importantly, why did I have to look all this stuff up myself? Shouldn’t some MSM reporter have written about it already? It’s not like it was hard to find.

Jay Rosen, if you’re listening, if you changed the acronym DCCC to NRCC, and “Forest City” to “Halliburton,” if Tom Delay had compared Kelo to ‘the word of God,’ if the family running Halliburton was also involved in legal defense for terrorists, and if the decision had also been heartily endorsed by Fox News, d’ya think I might have read about that in the Washington Post by now?

The “Little People” Have Big Ears

July 6, 2005

Last month, Dickie Durbin expressed surprise that his Nazi-Soviets-Pol-Pot slander got noticed in the press. It hasn’t been very long since his surprise would have been understandable–an awful lot of stories involving left-leaning politicians didn’t get reported in the MSM.

As Dickie found to his dismay, the internet has changed all that. Thanks to Drudge, Chuck Schumer is getting a similar lesson today.

You don’t just have to worry about your pals in the press any more, boys. The “little people” are listening, too. And we don’t need to ask the permission of any ideology-addled editors before we report on what we’ve heard.

UPDATE: Just for the record, I’m neither shocked nor particularly offended by Schumer’s “statement”; it’s about what I figured his position would be… but I’m also reasonably sure that he didn’t want it publicized. Ten years ago, it wouldn’t have been.