Archive | July, 2008

Five Guilty Pleasures, Music Edition

29 Jul

I’ve been tagged, so here are my worst music moments, courtesy of iTunes:

1. Angels and Airwaves, “The Adventure”

I have a soft spot for power-pop and layered pieces (a la wall-of-sound and prog rock).  I’ve always found myself liking Tom DeLonge’s stuff with Blink-182 in spite of the fact he writes some truly bad lyrics This one’s on my workout mix when I go to the gym.

2. Marc Cohn, “Walking in Memphis”

Best line from this song: “She said,’Tell me, are you are Christian, child?’/And I said, ‘Ma’am I am tonight.'”

3. Mike and the Mechanics, “All I Need is a Miracle”

I also have a soft spot for synth-heavy 80s dreck, and the best of New Wave.  This falls somewhere in between.

4. David Bowie, “Underground”

Taken from the Labyrinth soundtrack–a cool, if somewhat disturbing movie; it features David Bowie in very tight pants.  Not as cool as Bowie as Nikola Tesla, but guaranteed to creep out the kids.

5. Tears for Fears, “The Working Hour”

I genuinely like this song, but never heard it until I was in my early 20s.  I had heard “Shout,” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and “Head Over Heels” from Songs From the Big Chair , but nothing else.  Then I went over to someone’s house and listened to it on their record player.  I now also own the album on vinyl (80s all the  way!).

I tag Keith at The Projector is Ripping Your History since he actually knows a thing or two about music.

McCain’s Message Stepped On By Reality, Oil Magnates

23 Jul

It’s been a rough time for John McCain’s foreign policy message, what with Nouri al-Maliki endorsing a timetable for withdrawal along the same lines Barack Obama has proposed. But it’s also got to be a bit galling for McCain’s staff to find that their “Drill now to save you gas money–sometime!” message has likewise been deflated by wealthy oil man T. Boone Pickens’s ad which states outright “This is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.”  It also doesn’t help to put together bizarre attack ads like this one that blames Obama for higher gas prices:

As I said, it’s gotta sting a little when your message is “Some in Washington are saying no to drilling and independence from foreign oil” and it turns out those “some” include an oil executive from Texas:

This isn’t to say that either Maliki’s comments or Pickens’s ad has convinced the American people to sign on to Obama’s policies and vote for him, but they do seem to significantly blunt any impact McCain’s criticsms might have had.

It’s a Nice Day to Start Again

10 Jul

I hesitate to say that Brad DeLong is wrong–merely misguided, perhaps–in his advice to Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Marriage is good thing (There’s a drinking! And presents! All while in formal wear!) but I was reminded of a few lines from Philip Larkin’s “The Whitsun Weddings”:

Success so huge and wholly farcical;
The women shared
The secret like a happy funeral;
While girls, gripping their handbags tighter, stared
At a religious wounding. Free at last,
And loaded with the sum of all they saw,
We hurried towards London, shuffling gouts of steam.
Now fields were building-plots, and poplars cast
Long shadows over major roads, and for
Some fifty minutes, that in time would seem

Just long enough to settle hats and say
I nearly died,
A dozen marriages got under way.
They watched the landscape, sitting side by side
– An Odeon went past, a cooling tower, And
someone running up to bowl – and none
Thought of the others they would never meet
Or how their lives would all contain this hour.

Yes, Larkin was a dyspeptic and rather unlikable fellow, but he has a point; one must consider the entire affair, the sheer production of it all.  If the current arrangement seems to be humming along nicely, no need to trade it in just yet. To be honest, though, the first lines to pop into my head were from the, uh “poet”, Gordon Sumner:

No earthly church has ever blessed our union
No state has ever granted us permission
No family bond has ever made us two
No company has ever earned commission
No debt was paid no dowry to be gained
No treaty over border land or power
No semblance of the world outside remained
To stain the beauty of this nuptial hour

The secret marriage vow is never spoken
The secret marriage can never be broken

No flowers on the altar
No white veil in your hair
No maiden dress to alter
No bible oath to swear

The secret marriage vow is never spoken
The secret marriage can never be broken

I should also mention that Young Zeitlin rains on my “excuse to have a party” parade with a thoughtful post about marriage policy and the Democrats.

He Says, We Say: The Moves that Matter in Blogosphere Discussion

9 Jul

There’s been some recent discussion about male violence and the feminist response from Mike Meginnis, based in part on a discussion from Feministe that addressed the prevalence of male violence and how this is rarely discussed.  Today, Jamelle asks people to weigh in, so I figured I’d toss in a few thoughts instead of breaking up discussion between the comments section of two different blogs.

What’s interesting about this exchange is what it suggests about the limits (or starting points) of some forms of online discussion and within some online communities.

The biggest problem seems to be the way Mike framed his comments, as a quick reread of the comments section reveals commenter Anna brought up essentially the same observation a few comments before Mike:

Is it derailing too far to bring up how rarely we do talk about men as the victims of violent crime as well?

Because, as you say, there is no gender applied to “shooting victim” but there will be to “female shooting victim”.

We don’t talk a lot about violence this way so people arguing with me about feminism will often bring up “men are the victims of violent crime more than women!” without responding to the point of “and that violence is caused by other men”.

Leaving aside the last part (which is a bit awkwardly formed, but you get the gist) this is what Mike seemed to be addressing, except that he began his comment thusly:

Ashley, I agree with much of what this post is trying to do, but it also deeply frustrates me. You’ve noted correctly – and this is something I try to push myself – that men commit the vast majority of violence. But what you haven’t noted, whether because it would complicate your argument, you feel it’s irrelevant, or you simply don’t know (but I assume you do know), men commit the vast majority of violence *against other men,* even if we discount violence in war zones, which intellectual honesty would suggest that we shouldn’t.

Mike’s comment was directed directly at Ashley and began with a note contention (“it deeply frustrates me”).  From there the responses (while measured and civil) were easy to predict: some defensiveness and rhetorical moves that were dismissive of Mike’s concerns on the grounds that he was speaking from a position of privilege and taking a position that asked “what about teh MENZ?” This is a rhetorical move that you see in a lot of online discussions (and a not altogether illegitimate one either). There are lots of discussions where people in a community or with a certain familiarity with a topic will cut off further discussion along those lines because it’s a flawed or downright spurious argument they’ve dealt with before-it’s a kind of rhetorical efficiency (e.g. For many feminist discussions how often have you heard: “But why can’t we be humanists?”; for race, “Why can’t we just be colorblind?”).  But it also has its drawbacks, in the same way teaching people cognitive biases can lead people to easily dismiss the content of an argument once any sort of bias is identified.  Mike’s point-that the dominate conception of masculinity and the violence it promotes-is most often directed against men themselves isn’t really much of an issue, nor does anyone at Feministe really take issue with it.  Instead, the problem becomes the way Mike addresses the topic.  I think most of the disagreement could have be waived away by responding with something like “Fair enough, but in this discussion we’re going to focus on women as objects of violence (because that’s what we’re most interested in/that’s the implied focus of many of these posts/that’s just what we feel like right now).”

For my part, although I understand that a lot of these rhetorical moves are often are useful, from a stylistic (as well as argumentative) perspective, I’d like to see less of them.  Yes, some unremarkable conservative probably said something wrongheaded or guffaw inducing, but does every response have to be “WTFBBQ!1!11!!!!11!”?  Yes, yes, we get it; you’ve saucily mimicked someone’s digital overreaction or outrage-wonderful.  What’s that?  You have your own prepared word or phrase to describe a certain position or person that ends with (TM)?  What a clever skewering of well-rehearsed debates and a trenchant critique of consumer culture and corporatism run amok!  At least read someone like Belle Waring who does this better than most and still manages to wrestle with content of the argument to get a sense of best practices.

Dept. of Weird Science: Second Hand Smoke Is Cool

6 Jul

I know lots of people harbor all sorts of folk theories about natural phenomena, but it’s always fun to watch someone play amateur scientist using an idea you’ve never heard of (courtesy of NRO’s The Corner):

But it has long seemed to me that one of the things that make cigarettes so dangerous to smokers is the high temperature of the smoke; the paper and the additives make it very hot. Cigars are just tobacco, and cigar smoke is much cooler…so it follows that second hand smoke, having cooled down significantly, isn’t as dangerous as the stuff cigarette smokers inhale.

What does “smoke temperature” have to do with anything? I could cobble together some amateur scientific speculation of my own to cover how temperature might affect things like smoke volume or the amount of chemicals you take in, but that’s not what Ledeen sees as the problem.  It’s the temperature of the smoke itself, which I would agree with if we were talking about a burning building and burns due to smoke inhalation.  Regardless of the temperature of the smoke itself, burning a cigar or cigarette (at whatever necessary temperature) and turning it into smoke is the problem–either way you’ve just created the delivery system for the nicotine and other chemicals.

Picture used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user neilbetter.