Blogs

Music: Great One-Note Guitar Solos

| Fri May 23, 2008 6:54 PM EDT

mojo-photo-note.jpgSure, everybody loves a guitar show-off, melting picks and blistering fingers as they break barriers of time and space to send billion-note hyperspeed solos out into the cosmos like a rock Big Bang. But for those of us who came of musical age under the fuzzy blanket of shoegaze, the anti-rockist banners of punk, or the tripped-out tie-dye of psychedelia, Yngwie Malmsteen-style pyrotechnics not only seem excessive, they also kind of hurt our ears. So, let's take time to celebrate guitarists at the other end of the spectrum, musicians who have found that a single note, played at just the right moment, can stand up to the most complicated finger gymnastics. Now, sure, you may ask, "if it's just one note, how can you tell if it's a solo and not just, well, a note?" There were two basic criteria: one, the position of the solo at a climactic moment in the song, generally just after the second chorus (disqualifying "You Keep Me Hangin' On"); and two, when the solo is finished, you feel like standing up and cheering, or at least you would if you weren't so cool.

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Women's News: Sublime and Heinous

| Fri May 23, 2008 2:58 PM EDT

A Chinese cop has taken it on herself to breastfeed as many as nine children either orphaned by the massive quake or whose mothers' are too traumatized to produce milk.

She has a six month old of her own and, much to her chagrin, has become a national celebrity; China's "Mother #1". "I think what I did was normal," she said. "In a quake zone, many people do things for others. This was a small thing, not worth mentioning." She's still nursing two in addition to her own. And elsewhere in chick news?

Teenager's Science Fair Project May Deliver Us From Plastic

| Fri May 23, 2008 2:55 PM EDT

plastic%20bags.jpg

I bought groceries at Trader Joe's the other day. As anyone who has ever shopped there knows, Trader Joe's is full of incredibly attractive, cheap food, which, if you manage to make it through all the plastic packaging it comes in, you can actually eat. Unfortunately, by the time I started cooking I had more or less lost my appetite, since every time I discarded one of those packages I felt like I dropped another circle in hell.

So I pretty much love Daniel Burd right now. The 16-year-old from Waterloo, Ontario, as part of a science fair project, figured out a way to break down the polymers in plastic bags—compounds that can last for over 1,000 years—in about three months. Essentially, Burd hypothesized that since the bags eventually do degrade, it must be possible to isolate and augment the degrading agents.

Turns out that it's not only possible, it's kind of easy. Burd combined ground polyethylene plastic bags, sodium chloride, dirt from a landfill (which theoretically contains the microorganisms that ultimately degrade the plastic) and a yeast mixture in shakers for four weeks at a consistent temperature of about 86 degrees. At the end of the month, he took a sample of that mixture and combined it with a new one, with the goal of increasing the overall concentration of microbes. After one more repetition, he put fresh plastic bags in his solution for six weeks. In the end, the plastic degraded nearly 20%. A little more filtering to figure out exactly which microbes were the most effective, and he upped the degradation rate to 32%. He concludes, "The process of polyethylene degradation developed in this project can be used on an industrial scale for biodegradation of plastic bags. As a result, this would save the lives of millions of wildlife species and save space in landfills."

So, will this really work? Has a teenager really found a way to rid us of one of our most persistent environmental problems? Who knows, but judges at the Canada-Wide Science Fair apparently agree that it's worth pursuing. They sent Burd home with $30,000 in awards and scholarships. You can read his final report (all six pages of it) here (.pdf).

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Arbel Egger.

—Casey Miner

Schadenfreude for the Lieberman Haters

| Fri May 23, 2008 2:53 PM EDT

Guess who his step-son is voting for?

Florida Congressman's Car Dealership Accused of Sleaze

| Fri May 23, 2008 2:28 PM EDT

There are few professionals that Americans consider sleazier than politicians. Among them might be car dealers. Vernon Buchanan happens to be both. The first-term Republican congressman from Sarasota, Florida owns one of the state's biggest auto dealership chains. Yesterday, the former finance director for one of the company's outlets, Sarasota Ford, sued Buchanan and the other managers from the Buchanan Auto Group for firing him for refusing to go along with allegedly sleazy and illegal business practices.

According to Automotive News, the dealership fired Joe Kezer in November after he protested that managers were, among other things, illegally altering people's credit reports and sales contracts, common scams in the auto industry. A spokesman for Buchanan told Automotive News that as chairman of the auto group, the congressman isn't involved in the day to day operations of the dealership. Still, if the allegations in the lawsuit are true, the case ought to provide an interesting window into business practices that have made Buchanan a wealthy man. It's possible that the car business could make Congress look squeaky clean by comparison.

Hillary: Too Old For High Court

| Fri May 23, 2008 11:15 AM EDT

There's been lots of chatter lately suggesting that Barack Obama should promise Hillary Clinton a seat on the Supreme Court as a sort of runner-up prize and inducement for her to finally get out of the presidential race. Bloggers have debated her fitness for the job, whether she'd want it, or whether it would even be a good idea. But all of this is much ado about nothing. There is no way Hillary, or her husband for that matter, will ever warm a seat on the high court, for one major reason: She is simply too old.

Like the rest of the federal judiciary, Supreme Court justices serve for life. That's why Republicans over the past 15 or 20 years have made a very active and conscious effort to fill those seats with the youngest possible candidates as a way of preserving their influence for generations. The average age of GOP nominees for Supreme Court justice since 1981, including O'Connor, is 50, a full decade younger than Hillary. (Indeed, there's not a person on the court today who was older than 60 when nominated.)

Democrats haven't had a chance to pick as many candidates, but they clearly haven't made age as much of a priority. No doubt that will change should they retake the White House in the fall because, as Republicans have shown, the math is simply too compelling. Consider that when George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas in 1991, Thomas was only 43 years old. If he hangs on as long as the court's current veteran John Paul Stevens, 88, the country will be stuck with nearly a half-century of Thomas jurisprudence.

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McCain Throws Himself Into the Briar Patch...Some More

| Fri May 23, 2008 10:55 AM EDT

What is McCain up to?

Even with pundits opining that McCain hurt himself with his "Man, am I old!" turn on SNL last weekend, he's continuing to go kamikaze on us. On a soon-to-air Ellen show, the affable talk show host dogs him about her upcoming marriage to long time girlfriend Portia DeRossi, which he opposes. He tried to segue with talk of civil unions, etc. but both held fast, however nicely. Homey didn't budge but he was clearly dodging bullets.

Then, as if he hadn't suffered enough, he sat down with Essence "Sister Grrl" magazine, even as MoJo's catalogued the dearth of black GOP candidates. Then, his mega-rich and pretty f'ing hot wife vogued barefoot and all natural in Vogue.

WTFO, with McCain? Desperation or penance?

One Problem With Hillary as VP

| Fri May 23, 2008 10:52 AM EDT

As Joe Sudbay at AMERICAblog points out, there's a serious problem with the idea of Hillary Clinton as Obama's VP. She, but much more likely Bill, might not pass the vetting process.

Bush Plans to Be Active Presence on Campaign Trail

| Fri May 23, 2008 10:36 AM EDT

mccain_bush_hug.jpg From AFP:

Bush and McCain plan to appear side by side at a May 27 fundraiser, their first public embrace since March 5, making the most of one of the president's most potent remaining political weapons.
Bush has done 19 political fundraisers in 2008, scooping up 37,142,500 dollars, according to records carefully kept by CBS news. His totals since 2001, including his 2004 reelection, are 310 events and 766,782,500 dollars.
The White House says the president plans to campaign vigorously for fellow Republicans, including McCain... "I think you'll see the president out on the campaign trail quite a bit. We'll keep you posted on their events that they may have together," spokesman Scott Stanzel said Monday.

This is helpful for McCain in that Bush can open the wallets of members of the conservative base that have not yet and probably will not warm to McCain. But if Bush does rallies and TV spots instead of just closed-door fundraisers, well... that's Christmas come early for the Democrats.

Obama and Clinton in Withdrawal Talks

| Fri May 23, 2008 10:08 AM EDT

CNN is reporting that the Clinton and Obama camps are holding "formal meetings" about Hillary Clinton's withdrawal from the Democratic primary. The report is sourced almost entirely to Clinton insiders — the Obama folks are denying unequivocally that talks are occurring — and they appear to see three scenarios:

(1) Obama chooses someone other than Clinton as vice president. The Clinton people consider this "totally unacceptable" and akin to "open civil war within the party." If it were to happen, Clinton's campaigning for Obama in the general would be "quite aloof."
(2) Obama publicly offers the VP spot to Clinton, which she would then reject.
(3) The candidates talk personally and hammer out a solution. Clinton gets her debt covered or gets Obama's support in a later run for Senate Majority Leader.

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