Blogs

Is Music Really So Bad? Another Music Snob's Dissent

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 6:52 PM EST

Daughtry is America

Yesterday, my Riff cohort Gary posted a diatribe against Americans' terrible taste in music. The commoners like their trash, for sure, and it's not restricted to music by any means: "Everybody Loves Raymond" lasted nine seasons, and I believe George W. Bush actually got a majority of the popular vote in 2004. It's tempting to curl up into the fetal position and whimper, "why, why, why," and it happens to the best of us: Idolator recently mocked a College Times writer for, ahem, "waking up to discover people have lousy taste," and he covered some of the same territory:

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5 Questions On Israel For The Next Debate

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 6:06 PM EST

As I've said before, there's been a vacuum surrounding Israel and Palestine this campaign season. Moderators have broached the issue only twice in the last 13 debates. And the most recent question, posed by Wendell Goler last week at the Fox News debate in South Carolina, was pretty weak. As Goler wound up—"Mayor Giuliani, President Bush is in the Middle East ... laying the groundwork for a Palestinian state"—there was, briefly, a glimmer of hope. Then he tossed this doozy of a softball: "I wonder, sir, how you would keep a Palestinian state from becoming a breeding ground for anti-American terrorism." One of several surreal assumptions behind the question seemed to be, "The Palestinians are prostrate, mightn't it be better if they're kept that way?" And that to the candidate with the Likudnik A-team advising him. Oh, well.

Since the debates have been so deficient in this area, I asked five well-informed Middle East observers what they would ask the candidates on the issue, if they could ask anything. The only ground rule was to keep it brief; no other boundaries. Here are their responses:

Friends: Who Needs 'Em?

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 5:03 PM EST

volleyball100.jpgNo friends? No problem! Researchers at the University of Chicago say you can make them yourself out of everyday household objects.

For evidence, they say, look no further than a crappy Tom Hanks movie:

"In the movie Castaway, Tom Hanks was isolated on an island and found the social desolation to be one of the most daunting challenges with which he had to deal," said Cacioppo, the Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago.
"He did so, in part, by anthropomorphizing a volleyball, Wilson, who became his friend and confidant while he was on the island." Although fictional, "Castaway depicts a deep truth about the irrepressibly social nature of Homo sapiens," Cacioppo said.


Presidential Campaigns Using Lots of Inappropriate Songs

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 5:02 PM EST

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I posted on the night of the New Hampshire primaries that the Romney campaign headquarters hosted a performance of Stone Temple Pilots' "Crush," a song that features both some ironically appropriate lyrics and some uncomfortably weird ones. Turns out that using inappropriate songs is a bit of an epidemic in the presidential campaigns, reports the Washington Post. First, they point out two of Hillary Clinton's choices for tunes at campaign rallies: Tom Petty's "American Girl" and Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business," both of which have some uncomfortable lyrical ironies:

The Debate Over Virtual Schools

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 4:46 PM EST

An appeals court ruling to cut funds for a virtual K-8 school in Wisconsin has rippled through the interwebs this week, causing tears among some students and applause from one teachers' union.

Friday Sighs, "Music News Day"

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 4:45 PM EST

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  • Did someone say "unicorn"? Neko Case, T-Pain and MF Doom will provide the voices for characters in an upcoming Adult Swim cartoon called, er, "Cheyenne Cinnamon and the Fantabulous Unicorn of Sugar Town Candy Fudge." Good title, but somehow I know it won't be nearly as good as the first season of Aqua Teen.
  • Speaking of adults, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore has provided the music (link possibly NSFW) for an adult film called "Extra Action (and Extra Hardcore)," out on DVD March 18th. Wocka waa, wocka wah waaaa? The video is being directed by Richard Kern who has also made some Sonic Youth videos, so that helps explain that, I guess.
  • Both Beyonce and Foo Fighters have promised to attend the Grammys, no matter whether it's a full-on ceremony with union writers penning the jokes or a guy tossing the awards out of the back of a truck. The Foos' manager, John Silva, extended support to striking writers but confirmed the band's commitment to the Grammy ceremony.
  • Some sad news: Lily Allen, who announced her pregnancy last month, has had a miscarriage. A representative for the singer asked for privacy for Allen and her partner, Chemical Brother Ed Simons. Messages of support are being posted at Allen's MySpace page.

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30 Million Years to Recover From Extinction?

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 4:02 PM EST

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Scientists have been saying for a while that by the end of this century, half of all species could be extinct. And a new study says that it could take an awfully long time for Earth to recover—30 million years, to be specific.

Back in the Permian era, Earth lost more than 90 percent of all life. Scientists once thought that species rebounded quickly from the hit, but it turns out they were sort of missing the fine print, according to researchers at Bristol University:

Sahney and Benton looked at the recovery of tetrapods – animals with a backbone and four legs, such as amphibians and reptiles – and found that although globally tetrapods appeared to recover quickly, the dramatic restructuring that occurred at the community level was not permanent and communities did not recover numerically or ecologically until about 30 million years later.

And when the species were struggling to rebound back then, they didn't even have to deal with us.

Mitt Romney's Lobbyist Connections

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 3:10 PM EST

romney-old-headshot.jpg In a tense exchange with an AP reporter on Thursday, Mitt Romney insisted that even though a registered lobbyist is one of his senior advisers, lobbyists do not "run" his campaign.

The claim is part of Romney's new self-styled outsider message: lobbyists are part of a broken Washington system and Romney has nothing to do with them.

"My campaign is not based on Washington lobbyists," Romney said. "I haven't been in Washington. I don't have lobbyists at my elbow that are arguing for one industry or another industry and I do not have favors I have to repay to people who have been in Washington for years."

The truth is that Romney is tied closely with many lobbyists. The AP reporter Romney exchanged sharp words with later reported that several Romney aides and advisers are lobbyists. Additionally, as the Nation first reported, Romney has accepted the second most money from lobbyists of any Republican presidential candidate, and has received the most endorsements from lobbyists.

The lobbyists who have endorsed Romney have represented, in 2007 alone, nearly every part of the health care and financial services industries, the NRA, members of the tobacco industry, and gambling interests.

In fact, nearly every lobbyist who has endorsed Romney is peddling influence for the health care industry. They represent insurance companies like AIG and New York Life; trade groups like the Health Industry Group Purchasing Association and the Healthcare Leadership Council (which reps "chief executives from all disciplines within the health care system"); pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer; and other extensions of the American health care apparatus like the California Association of Physicians Groups, the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, the American Dental Association, and the Biotechnology Industry Association.

Obama Supporters Cross the Line in Nevada

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 12:57 PM EST

Barack Obama has generally been less nasty and more truthful than Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race, but this week his supporters in Nevada crossed the line.

The textile and hotel workers' union UNITE-HERE, which is supporting Obama, is ticked off that Clinton supporters filed a lawsuit to make it more difficult for its members to caucus tomorrow. (The lawsuit failed.) So it aired a Spanish-language radio ad in Nevada that is pretty unfair. Here's the translated text:

Hillary Clinton does not respect our people. Hillary Clinton supporters went to court to prevent working people to vote this Saturday — that is an embarrassment.
Hillary Clinton supporters want to prevent people from voting in their workplace on Saturday. This is unforgivable. Hillary Clinton is shameless. Hillary Clinton should not allow her friends to attack our people's right to vote this Saturday. This is unforgivable; there's no respect.
Sen. Obama is defending our right to vote. Sen. Obama wants our votes. He respects our votes, our community, and our people.
Sen. Obama's campaign slogan is "Si Se Puede" ("Yes We Can"). Vote for a president that respects us, and that respects our right to vote. Obama for president, "Si Se Puede."

It's pretty ridiculous to say that "Hillary Clinton does not respect our people." Clinton has long-standing ties to the Hispanic community, and has worked with it and for it for many years. She's been rewarded with the endorsements of many Hispanic leaders. Clinton may not play politics in the cleanest way sometimes, and she may not be as committed as other candidates to driving lobbyists and special interests out of Washington, and she may be a touch too hawkish on foreign policy—but her commitment to minority issues is unquestioned.

A Problem for Barack Obama

| Fri Jan. 18, 2008 11:36 AM EST

No matter what happens in the Democratic caucus in Nevada (this Saturday) and the Democratic primary in South Carolina (next Saturday), Barack Obama has a problem. Mind you, I'm not predicting his demise. But as he and Hillary Clinton head toward Supersaturated Tuesday on February 5, Obama will have a profound challenge that she will not.

Both have money and organization. But she is running a conventional campaign; he is not. She waves her resume, cites her experience, and proclaims she is ready to do the heavy lifting on Day One. He claims that he can change politics--and, thus, government policymaking--because of his vision and strength (and force) of character. He is mounting a campaign that aspires to be transformative. She is heading a campaign that seeks to put its candidate into a job.

After South Carolina, the presidential campaign will be dominated and shaped by ads. With so many states--including California--in immediate play, there's no way the candidates can do retail politicking that matters (like they did in Iowa and New Hampshire). It will be easy for Clinton to sell herself (in conventional terms) through television ads, radio spots, mailers, and the like. Obama may find in tougher to convey the intangibles he is banking on--hope, faith (in him), transcendence--via 60-second snippets. Before signing up with a noble crusade, some Democratic voters might need first to feel the Obama magic. On the other hand, no voter needs to experience Clinton's soul to conclude she is the most qualified for the job.

Connecting with voters in a transformative manner will be a difficult task for Obama in the crazy nine days between South Carolina and February 5. As a more conventional candidate, Clinton could have an advantage at this stage. After all, the conventional often works.

I explain this all a bit further here.