Saturday, December 30, 2006
Unfortunately, it seems like we might hit the next Magic Number of casualties for media commentators even before the new year rolls in. As an Operation Iraqi Freedom vet myself, these deaths mean more to me than they do to Washington megalomaniacs looking for facetime fodder to play politics with on Sunday morning chit-chat shows. Every photo of the deceased reminds me of someone that I served with. Beyond the still photos on the news, there is a flesh-and-blood reality that no media soundbite can ever accurately and fully portray.
Some joined for patriotism, some for a job, some for action, some for citizenship, some for duty or belonging. These Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guard are our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, co-workers and friends. And whoever the unfortunate soul that becomes Mister or Ms. 3000 is, after all the media chatter, the somber editorials, and the partisan pundit posturings are played out, family members, friends and loved ones will have to quiletly live out their lives. And they will continue suffering with that loss even as CNN, FOX and MSNBC dissolve to the next bit of inanity about Britney Spears.
Sunday update: Less than a day after my initial post, the unfortunate soul has been revealed.
Friday, December 29, 2006
So long, farewell, auf weidersehen, good night....
How I'm sure Saddam would want to be remembered ...
UPDATE: Morose snark aside, the Foreign Minister of Malaysia almost got it right. I have no problem with the death penalty, especially for Saddam. However, I believe the haste that the Shiite-led government pursued in snuffing out Hussein sends the message to the Kurdish people, "Screw you, the crimes against your people don't matter as much as crimes against Shiites." I'm not playing a "numbers game" with victimized groups, but will the al-Maliki government pursue due process for the families of Kurdish victims, or is that just so much historical Iraqi dust swept under the tent floor? Using Iraqi government logic, the Nuremberg Trials were a meaningless exercise in juris prudence, just because the six million (or more) victims of the Holocaust couldn't take the witness stand against the Nazis from beyond the grave. Iran's proxy government in Iraq has made its first major state-sanctioned kill. It's new unofficial theme song here.
Ragged Thots Retro Record Review
Praising the Minimum Wage
Most people remember the Bus Boys as the bar band that performed "Boys Are Back in Town," (the post-Thin Lizzy song) from Eddie Murphy’s first film, 48 Hours. However, their greatest musical moment was the earlier release of their first album, Minimum Wage Rock and Rock.
In 1980, the local pop radio stations in my stuffy, whitebread, Midwestern city had become increasingly segmented by race and genre. The days of hearing on a single station a range of new, multi-racial music ranging from country to soul and rock were fast disappearing. In the wake of Disco and Funk, the black roots of rock and roll were practically forgotten and R&B was often nothing more than, as Bus Boys leader Brian O'Neal expressed it, "mindless music to mindless people." Hendrix was revered as a guitar hero, but surely he was an anomaly. Rock was "white folks' music." Alternative groups, of any background, that couldn't break into America's Top 40 would have to wait another year for MTV to arrive.
In the post-disco/pre-Second British Invasion pop music stupor, along came a straight-forward roots rock-and-roll band---and they were African-American to boot! The Bus Boys generally shared the no-nonsense three to five-minute work ethic of all great pop artists. No prog-rock endless, keyboard wanking. No monotonous Donna Summer club beat. No Alien-Creatures-at-Studio-54 costumes like Earth, Wind & Fire.
Of course, the "novelty" of being an all-black rock-and-roll band in the waning days of the Carter Administration made for the inspiration behind much of the group's material. "There Goes the Neighborhood," deals with race and gentrification ("I ain’t moving out for no Carol or Bob/The inner city is too close to my job!"). "KKK" is not an ode to a certain ethnic hate group, but the frustration of what it takes to achieve mainstream success in an atypical musical sphere ("Do you still call me a mother/just because of my skin color?/Am I classified as 'C'/because of inferiority). "Did You See Me?" is a hilarious B-52s-type new wave rocker that crystallizes the culture clashes that the black alternative bands like the Bus Boys, Fishbone, and Living Colour experienced in predominantly white venues ("I went there to see what I could see/I had no idea they’d be dancing on me!!"). The band also wasn't shy in addressing the cultural narrow-mindedness of black record buyers whose brains were stuck-on-stupid in the disco era ("Johnny Soul’d Out").
The disc, however, is not all social commentary and race-relations snark. The album starts off with a great rocker that, 26 years later, I’m still trying to figure out whether or not it’s about unsafe sex and VD ("Doctor Doctor"). It then segues into a nice, bouncy paean to Ragged Thots regular commenter Rob's favorite subject, the working man ("Minimum Wage"). Closing out the first side of the album (middle of the CD nowadays) is the teen-boy-begging-for-booty mock ballad "Angie," not to be confused with a certain much-slower ballad by the The Glimmer Twins. And speaking of Angies, the Bus Boys’ cover of "Brown Sugar" was probably one of the best versions of the song I’ve heard outside of the Rolling Stones themselves. I saw the Bus Boys on a local cable access program when they came through Ohio in 1981 to support Minimum Wage, and they rocked "Brown Sugar" like they owned it.
The album starts to drag after the beginning of the second side, with the anti-nuke song "D-Day," (has there ever been a GOOD anti-nuke song other than Fishbone's "Party At Ground Zero"?), "Tell The Coach" and "We Stand United." It ends, however, with the rollicking "Respect," which not only conjures up the spirit of Otis Redding, but also manages to tie in elements of the Beach Boys, along with both major versions of "Satisfaction."
Unfortunately, the Bus Boys didn’t share in the great popularity surge that Murphy enjoyed from 48 Hours. To add insult to injury, the Bus Boys recorded and released their version of "Heart and Soul" on their second album American Worker, only to see Huey Lewis and the News’ rendition become the monster hit version a year later. The Bus Boys are still soldiering on. Among other gigs, they provide music for sports activities (nod to EdMcGon). Check out their NFL Replay commercial (a parody of their song "Did You See Me?") here. A nice TIME Magazine article on the Bus Boys, from 1980 here.
Minimum Wage Rock and Roll is available on I-Tunes.
A Seasonal Ditty...
Labels: Barack Obama
While we band of Merry Men await the return of our King, feel free to enjoy the weekly spot for things that we would have discussed in other threads anyway, after we changed the subject.
I'll have some Ragged Thots Retro Record Reviews (say THAT three times fast!) this weekend.
Ranking the NFL - Week 16
RAVENS: As evidenced by their win over Pittsburgh, the Ravens are still playing for the first week bye in the playoffs. Woe be to Buffalo this week (or any week during the Winter season).
CHARGERS: As if the Chargers don't have enough offensive weapons already, wide receiver Vincent Jackson is starting to come on during the last month of this season. With 5 catches for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Seahawks, Jackson had a statement game. If he can stay healthy, Jackson will become one of the premier receivers in the NFL over the next few years.
PATRIOTS: You have to admire the Patriots for not falling into the Jacksonville trap. They played the Jags tough. The Pats look playoff-ready.
BEARS: Brian Griese finally got to play...in a meaningless game.
SAINTS: The Saints are still the most dangerous team in the NFC. They are still young, but they play with a lot of heart. My gut feeling is they will do well in the playoffs.
TITANS: Six wins in a row? Their last loss came to Baltimore? If the Titans make it to the playoffs, call them "Cinderella".
EAGLES: How good are the Eagles? In the last three games, they have beaten all three of their divisional opponents. On the road. In December. Can you say "clutch"?
COWBOYS: What the heck was that? If the Cowboys beat the Eagles, they clinch the division. The Cowboys are pretenders.
BRONCOS: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! I love games in Denver in December, don't you?
COLTS: I like it when I make the prediction of Tony Dungy being fired after this season, only to see the Colts come out and stink up the place against the Texans. Keep up the good work Tony. You're making me look like a genius.
BENGALS: Does the name "Brad St. Louis" mean anything to you? He might end up with his namesake after he botched the long snap that cost the Bengals the game against Denver.
CHIEFS: You have to love the K.C.-Jacksonville game this weekend. Lose, and they are out of the playoffs. Win, and they have to wait and see what happens in other games. One of the few week 17 games with some drama.
JAGUARS: I know the Jacksonville fans are down on David Gerrard after he fumbled away the game against New England. But the Jags are really a more dangerous team with Gerrard. If not for him, we wouldn't even be talking about a close game with New England.
GIANTS: The Giants coaching staff has pulled off a maneuver worthy of "The Three Stooges": Tom Coughlin has replaced offensive coordinator John Hufnagel as offensive play caller with QB coach Kevin Gilbride. Much like replacing Curly with Shemp, expect the hilarity to continue. As I have pointed out in two previous posts about Hufnagel and Gilbride, neither of these clowns should be allowed anywhere near an offense.
PANTHERS: Only 10 points against Atlanta? That is NOT playoff-calibre.
JETS: If the playoffs started today, the Jets would either be in Indianapolis or New England. Can you say "one and done"?
FALCONS: They need to beat or tie the Eagles in Philly in order to have a chance to make it to the playoffs. Jim Mora, I hope you have your desk cleaned out.
SEAHAWKS: Here is a hypothetical scenario for you: If Seattle loses to Tampa Bay this week, they will be 8-8. While they have already clinched the NFC West, they would NOT EVEN be a wild card team in the AFC.
RAMS: It is scary to think this team is still in the playoff hunt. The Rams are the proverbial equivalent of the ugly girl in the corner at the school dance. She is hoping some of the pretty girls will drop dead or get sick or just leave, so some of the cute boys will ask her to dance. Sadly for Ram fans, the dance would be called off if the NFL were that desperate.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
And the buzzword for today is ...
Will John Edwards play class warfare with A Certain Ethnic Candidate, pitting his "populist people's alma mater" law degree against one from that "fancy book learnin' school"? Will he brag about eatin' vittles by the cee-ment pond? Tune into the Democratic Party tomorrow, same bat[expletive] crazy time, same bat[expletive] crazy channel.
Edward's new bid for post-boomer Peace Corps votes here. The REAL One Corps here ...
Ice Cream Clones
The FDA has given preliminary approval for cloned meat and milk products to be sold without special labeling. There will be a 90-day period for public comments. Thus, we can all sit and be treated to the wonderful parade of extremists who claim that these genetically modified foods will bring death, pestilence and war (did I leave out a Horseman?) to all humanity. Listening to the radio this evening, one interviewee claimed that a poll showed that 60% of Americans consider cloned food to be "immoral." I've thought of a Whopper as many things---tasty, fattening, wonderfully inexpensive---but "immoral" is not a word that ever came to mind. Is it unethical that baby carrots must die so that I can live?
Now, I'm not a biologist, geneticist, or nutritionist, but I seriously doubt such foods are the danger that the fearful make them out to be. However, the inquisitive layman and Darwinist in me thinks that cloning could potentially be bad for the cattle business. Mother Nature seems to like her genetic variation and recombinations. If a cattle population shares much of the same genetic material and blueprint, wouldn't that herd be more susceptible to certain unforeseen diseases and illnesses as opposed to a herd with more genetic variation? (Any trolling scientists out there, please chime in)
If all else fails, the frankenfood phobia folk can get the city governments of Chicago and New York City to ban any future produce. "If Thy Rib Eye Offend Thee, Legislate It Out!!"
The economics of cloned meat will be more interesting than the endless harangue of politically motivated speeches. Music producers have often found that when obscenity laced rap and rock music units increase in sales, there is usually a similar increase in the demand for "clean" CDs by those who don't want the potty-mouthed pop. I expect Whole Foods, Wild Oats and other "heath food" chains to make a killing in the coming years with meat and dairy labeled as being "CLONE FREE!!!" to the upscale fearful-but-trendy consumers among us, despite whatever the actual science eventually reveals.
Question to Ragged Thots readers: Do you care if that juicy steak from your favorite restaurant or butcher comes from a clone? Will cloned beef dinners give you indigestion and keep repeating themselves? And will the availability of cloned foods bring new meaning to the phrase "Endless Buffet"?
Pick the NFL Winners - Week 16 Results
Anyway, the results from last week's "Pick the NFL Winners" are:
joe gibbs - 9
David Stefanini - 8
Robert A. George - 8
EdMcGon - 7
J. Mark English - 6
In the only game that someone named "Joe Gibbs" won this week, Joe Gibbs is our winner!
By the way, if you followed his advice and "bet the house" on the Redskins this week, I can only hope you don't live in a cold climate.
This will be the last "Pick the NFL Winners" for the season, but we will be back next week with a very special "Pick the NFL Playoffs".
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Down With O.P.P. (Obligatory Political Post)
There was an article on today’s New York Post web site about a story that I’ve seen in a few other places: the increase in crime rates in many major metropolitan areas. Now, we all remember the “It’s the Economy, Stupid” mantra that wheeled Clinton into the White House (along with a chunk of votes taken out of the traditional GOP electorate by Ross Perot). Putting cops on the street and reducing crime was one of Bill’s major platform initiatives, as well.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, have consumed our national mind (and treasury). It remains to be seen if any of the current candidates, or even the wannabe/gonna-be/possibly candidates, for president can bring them selves back down to Earth to forthrightly address domestic issues such as burgeoning inner city crime, immigration and (un)employment, or public education.
John Edwards has (accidentally) announced he is running for President. The place chosen for the formal announcement is a location involving domestic destruction, rather than a foreign policy institute or think tank. Though Hillary Clinton, Edwards and Oba---er, um, the certain ethnic candidate who’s name I promised not to mention this week---get all the media spotlight, the real urban political struggles and work lie with women and men not in the constant spotlight, like Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, NJ.
Anyone can run around the country giving feel-good, empty speeches and dishing out platefuls of platitude to the charismatically starved masses. Real leadership as an elected official is getting into the trenches, as Mayor Booker is attempting, and dealing with the daily bloodshed and social disintegration cited in the Post article.
Let the mainstream media and the NAACP give out useless Image Awards to the poster-boys-and-girls-of-the-month. Will the Democrats, Washington politicos of both parties, African-American so-called “leaders,” and the press be there to congratulate Mayor Booker and those like him, if they set off an urban transformation in reducing crime and violence?
It Takes Two, Two
It was 1984 and MJ had declared his independence from Motown's legacy and his siblings with the release of Thriller, and his show-stealing performance on Motown's 25th Anniversay Special on NBC. That was the 1983 show where Michael unleashed the "moonwalk." Riding the wave of Michael-mania the next year, the other Jacksons released the so-so Victory LP on the public, complete with an "Including Michael!!" cover to boost sales. Ironically, Michael is the most sanely dressed one on the cover. The public should have known the album was a stinker by the first single, aptly titled "Torture." Also on the album was what should have been a hot pairing of rock's two greatest stage performers. The only thing that saves the song is a catchy guitar hook which grates on your nerves after a couple of listenings. The single goes totally silly at the end with Mike & Mick shouting, "Look at Me! Look at Me!" like a couple of Top 40 Dorian Grays. Jagger did a better job the second time around, with Tina Turner at Live Aid '85.
R.E.M. / KRS-One, " Radio Song" (1991)
I've always considered R.E.M.'s megahit album Out of Time to be a very weak rendition of their preceding major label debut, Green. I've never understood why people consider Green to be a "sellout" for Warner Brothers. Then again, my favorite R.E.M. album is Monster, so what do I know? Out of Time, of course, produced the monster single "Losing My Religion." The very next year, Stipe would be singing "Losing My Hair." The album opens with an interesting pairing that ultimately disappoints, "Radio Song." Now, I actually love most of "Radio Song". Culturally, the pairing of Michael Stipe and KRS-One was an important pop moment as Hip Hop was already starting to degenerate into Afro-fascist Goth music, and Nirvana's Nevermind (one of my all-time favorite rock LPs) would unleash a whole new generation of narcissistic navel-gazers and monochromatic moaners. What kills the song is KRS-One's weak rap coda. For a guy of his talent and intelligence, the last 30 seconds of "Radio" sounds as if the studio producer shouted, "This is the end of the track ... SAY SOMETHING, quick!!"
They could have brought Joeski Love out of obscurity for this one. I'm not too crazy about R.E.M.'s second attempt at Rock-Rap hybrids, either. Q-Tip is a great actor, though!
Chrissie Hynde / Frank Sinatra, " Luck, Be A Lady" (1994)
Listening to this version of Ol' Blue Eyes' classic show stopper, I am sad, sad, sad. I will never be a fan of Sinatra's Duets albums, but will always be a fan of both Sinatra and the Pretenders. On this disc, however, The Chairman's co-stars only warbled along to his tapes and there is no true person-to-person interaction. Inspired by Natalie Cole's then-groundbreaking technological feat of "dueting" with her deceased father's recorded voice, I guess the record company thought this would be a great way to expand Sinatra market share to a younger audience. No dice, chickie baby! What's so sad about this particular pairing is that Hynde's performance is very emotionally nuanced for a pop singer doing an overdub, and to my ears was one of the best "pairings" on the album. At least we'll always have real duets that are worth a listen.
Reading, Ragged Thots, and 'Rithmetic ...
My apologies to Ragged Thots readers for any missing modifiers, dangling participles ("you should get that fixed"), and prepositional phrases that aren't quite preparatory. I am dusting off my copy of The Elements of Style.
It Takes Two (to Make a Thing Go Wrong), Pt. 1
So, with that in mind, I present other pairings of pop greats that make you want to drive off the side of the road:
Afrika Bambaatta / John Lydon (bka Johnny Rotten), "World Destruction" (1984)
Like Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It, I thought this anti-nuke single was "the bomb" as a teenager. And just like Mr. Lee's first movie, years later I wondered what the heck was I thinking?
Afrika's place in the history of hip hop is well established. John Lydon's place in the history of punk, new wave and alternative is well established. What was not well established on vinyl was a good song that would hold up years later. The beat is a tired, industrial mechanical sound, typical of the 1980's Celluloid record label. The lyrics are the usual high school liberal pedestrian and puerile stuff about THE END OF THE WORLD, although the line "The KGB is smarter than you think!" might be due for a comeback in light of the Litvinenko murder. It sounds as if Bambaataa and the producer had no idea how to integrate Lydon into the record, and his presence is grating rather than elevating.
If you want a better, pre-Run-DMC/Aerosmith pairing of Rock and Rap, try my favorite record of 1985, "Sun City" by the great "Little Steven" Van Zandt. Teaming with Van Zandt were Grandmaster Flash, Run-DMC, Bono, Springsteen, Lou Reed, George Clinton .... **whew** and many, many, more.
Labels: Music Duets 80s
A Long, Decent, Lifetime is Over
One of the interesting ironies of Gerald Ford is that his brief presidency -- which to the extent it was controversial was more because of events swirling around him than what he initiated -- was populated by personnel who decades later cast huge shadows across this country's policies: His secretary of defense was Donald Rumsfeld (then the youngest SecDef in history); his chief of staff was Richard B. Cheney; his head of National Economic Advisers was Alan Greenspan; his ambassador to China (and later CIA chief) was George H.W. Bush. Further down in the bureaucracy was a young budgetary wonk named Paul O'Neill. Brought into the government for the first time was a young military officer named Colin Powell.
A second irony, connected to the first, is that Ford -- in deciding to pardon Richard M. Nixon -- chose to act as "a uniter not a divider," yet several of those staffers ended up leading an administration three decades later that is one of the most divisive in history.
It is not a coincidence that a Ford veteran (named Cheney) has been the most prominent member of the current administration to insist on the prerogatives of executive power -- specifically initiating a pushback on the erosion of executive branch that began following the Nixon resignation and accelerated during Ford's tenure.
UPDATE: John Derbyshire seems to get the Ford character just right (Ford was also the first president that I got to know from beginning to end).
Technorati Tags: Gerald Ford
Labels: Gerald Ford
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
As I’m sure everyone knows, a certain Mr. Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti is on the fast track to the gallows. I'm not sure why the "need for speed" on the part of the Iraqi court. Perhaps the cries that "We were better off under Saddam" will die down once he is physically removed, and help any future Iraqi leadership to deal more effectively with the country's problems.
Saddam has been out of power for almost four years. Iraq will be no better or no worse off after his death. The magnitude of any successes or failures of Operation Iraqi Freedom have overshadowed Saddam and his dark legacy, which is why his execution will ultimately be a historical, political and cultural anti-climax. It will be nothing more than a "media moment," with many TV talking heads and newspaper columnists waxing poetic (while fetching for a Pulitzer nomination) over the "meaning" of Saddam's execution. Of course, the fringe elements of the anti-war movement will have to find some other cause célèbre, and Lord only knows where Ramsey Clark will find his next retainer.
Do You Know Where You're Going To?
RAG has apparently given Dreamgirls his movie-money thumbs up (see below). Personally, I was always more of a fan of Stax-Volt than Motown. Diana Ross has always been my least favorite Motown artist (Stevie Wonder being tops), so I'm not really interested in seeing a fictionalized account of her travails. However, I WOULD pay good money to see outtakes from the Motown 25th Anniversary special that aired in 1983. Apparently, Ms. Ross got into a tiff with the other Supremes that didn't make it to the airwaves. Paul Mooney has sworn off the "N" word, but hopefully Diana Ross drunk-driving jokes are still in his repertoire.
Now, admittedly, I haven't read comic books on a regular basis since about 1981. I lost track of the Marvel Universe after the Hellfire Club storyline in X-Men. My favorite comic book at the time was Daredevil. I have, on RAG's recommendation, checked out Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns. I'm also happy to find out that Neal Adams is still alive and kicking. As a kid, I always enjoyed more esoteric comics like T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and the Creeper (I won't ask how Steve Ditko came up with the idea for a superhero whose costume is comprised of fashion brief underwear and a red feather boa).
So, God Willing, later I'll post something about a mans re-acquaintance with the polychromatic effulgence of his youth. Any recommendations? Also, any thoughts out there on the lameness of Made-For-TV superheroes (Space Ghost, Blue Falcon, etc.) vs. Originated-in-Print ones? Ralph Bakshi's answer to that question here (any Marine Corps readers out there, feel free to laugh at the Boatswains Mate with super powers).
Barack Obama should be smiling at this news. Would it mean that he might have even better crossover political box-office appeal than many forecasters might believe? As much as the conventional wisdom is that it is nuts to consider about 2008 so early, and its way too seriously to take Obama-mania seriously...the truth is that the wave is building.
Obama has many obstacles to overcome before he becomes the first black person nominated for president by a major party -- let alone actually win. However, one crossover "dream" might suggest a larger than anticipated readiness in the general public to consider the merits of another.
By the way, two years ago, at the Democratic National Convention, I stood in the CNN skybox watching and listening to Obama's breakout speech. I turned to a well-known political columnist whose identity shall remain "Anonymous" (wink-wink) and said: "You remember the rumors of Bill Clinton having a black baby? Well, there he is."
Technorati Tags: Barack Obama, Dreamgirls
Monday, December 25, 2006
Farewell to The Godfather...
R.I.P., James Brown, 1933-2006.
Mr. Dynamite, Soul Brother, No. 1, the "hardest working man in show business" is now finally at rest.
Labels: James Brown
The Best Packer Quarterback
One thing that struck me in the comments was people claiming Brett Favre as the best of all time. But I don't even consider him the best Green Bay Packer quarterback. That would be Bart Starr.
Using the same criteria I used to determine the best quarterback of all time, Starr is very close to Favre, even considering the different eras in which they each played. Starr's numbers are on the left, with Favre's numbers as of last season:
Completion Percentage: 57.4% vs. 61.5%
Average Gain per Attempt: 7.85 vs. 7.04
Touchdown Percentage: 4.8% vs. 5.2%
Interception Percentage: 4.4% vs. 3.4%
NFL/Super Bowl Championships: 5 vs. 1
Average Rushing Yards per Carry: 5.3 vs. 3.5
Passer Rating: 80.5 vs. 86.0
Those are similar numbers considering the different passing nature of the eras involved. The yards per pass attempt explain a lot. In Starr's era, the passes were generally thrown farther than in the "west coast" era of Favre. This also explains why Favre's completion percentage was higher, although Starr's 57% completion percentage was the NFL career record when Starr retired. Finally, with Starr typically throwing the ball farther than Favre, Starr naturally threw more interceptions per attempt.
But for a true comparison on game management, let's add fumbles to interceptions per game. Favre turned the ball over 1.57 times per game. Starr turned the ball over 0.93 times per game.
But the number that stands out is the championships, where Starr holds a 5-1 advantage. Adding in the facts that Starr was a better runner and game manager than Favre, and Starr is clearly the better Packer quarterback.
May your day be blessed with warm feelings spent with your loved ones.