2009 - %3, March

Car Stereo Theft a "Dying Crime"

| Tue Mar. 24, 2009 4:54 PM EDT

Here's an interesting trend noticed by NPR's Morning Edition: the theft of car stereos, once a ubiquitous urban crime, may be going the way of train robberies:

It's a crime that plagued car owners throughout the 1990s. But according to the FBI's latest crime report, car stereo thefts have fallen by more than half over the past 15 years, from more than a million in 1994 to just over 400,000, even as car theft rates have remained high. Washington, D.C., police officer Mark Lakomec has seen a dramatic difference on the street. For 10 years, his job has been to spot stolen cars, which he does two to three times a night. In the 1990s, he said, every stolen car was missing the stereo. These days, he says thieves will take just about anything — umbrellas, sunglasses, even motor oil — but they leave the radio


NPR gives a variety of reasons for the change, primarily the fact that most cars now come with tolerable stereos, custom-fitted to the dashboard, thus discouraging theft. Moreover, these days cars don't have stereos, they have Entertainment Systems, with DVD players and flip-down screens and Bluetooth interfaces and soothing interactive voice commands, and how do you steal the Hal 9000 from a Prius? The article mentions a piece of equipment also destined to go the way of the dodo bird, the trunk CD changer. Remember those things? It was like carrying a little jukebox in your trunk, and it seems like just three years ago that cool people had them. Nowadays, even my dad's pickup has an 1/8 inch plug for my iPod so I can play him the new Coldplay song.

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Is America Ready for a Gay Idol?

| Tue Mar. 24, 2009 1:16 PM EDT

In the world of reality TV, the buzziest personality is undoubtedly American Idol contestant Adam Lambert. But it's not his copious eyeliner, gothic black nail polish, or theatrical wails that have generated the most controversy—it's his sexuality. The media's biggest question about the man-kissing drag-performer: Should the singer come out on Idol?

The San Francisco Gay & Lesbian Examiner: "I want Lambert to announce his gayness and still win this year's competition. Is that too much to ask?"

The Huffington Post: "An out Idol contestant would win lot of gay hearts but might lose votes."

The Associated Content: "The purpose of the show is to be entertaining, not ideological."

The Advocate: "He’s not officially 'out,' but that’s not the point. If something as formerly monumental as a public person’s gayness can suddenly be seen as post-mattering, then that’s what really matters now."

Will viewers of family-friendly Idol continue to vote for a gifted performer they know is gay, regardless of their Prop. 8 voting and Milk-watching preferences? As the country speed-dials its way into the weeks ahead, we'll soon find out.

Why Do Women Get Their Asses Kicked? Feminism, Of Course

| Tue Mar. 24, 2009 8:32 AM EDT

OK, the tsunami of getting the kids up, cleansed, fed, and off to school has me all muddled. Is that why I can make neither heads nor tails of this NRO piece (courtesy of Salon's Broadsheet)?

If I understand this correctly (re: Chris Brown and Rihanna), the 'argument' is that feminism has deprived women of their supposed 'special status' in society (cuz pre-bra burning, women were never brutalized), such that men don't know how to behave (i.e. maybe hitting women is ok?)

According to Kathryn Jean Lopez, the editor of NRO, "There's something off when so many people blame the victim, not the aggressor."

Hmmm. Might that 'something' be sexism? As Theodoric of York would conclude: Naaaaah.

If you want to understand how people who have sold their souls to a particular way of making a living live with themselves, read those links.

Is the Galactica Finale Bad News for Lost?

| Mon Mar. 23, 2009 3:39 PM EDT
I'll admit I've never been as much of a Battlestar Galactica fanatic as some people, even though I'm enough of a sucker for apocalyptic sci-fi that I stood in an opening-night line to see The Core. But even that skepticism wasn't enough to prepare me for the pile of stinking silliness that was the show's final episode on Friday night. Turns out the mystery song was a Google Map to the really real Earth, and God was directing them there the whole time through magic angels, or maybe demons, but whatever, their work here is done so they're gonna go "poof" and let you guys go about mating with the natives and making more people who can eventually make more robots. And, scene. Questions that had seemed vital, propulsive forces to the show's dramatic arc—What's the deal with reincarnated Starbuck? Who are the secret Cylons and why are they there? How does this world intersect with present-day Earth?—were tossed aside with quick "God did it" explanations or comically deadpan titles: "150,000 years later." Did the show bite off more than it could chew, or just crumple in the face of overwhelming expectations? And what could it mean for everybody's other favorite sci-fi ensemble mystery?

"The Fempire:" Female Screenwriters Give Hollywood a Run For Its Money

| Mon Mar. 23, 2009 2:58 PM EDT

Lotsa good feminist stuff on the wires today, like these four under-30 screenwriters kicking ass in Hollywood and watching each other's backs. Again, the Times

"Mr. Spielberg will call her and she'll be afraid to answer the phone," Ms. Scafaria said of Ms. Cody. "I'll be like, 'Answer the phone!' "
Ms. Cody said: "I'll think it's all over. I’m a pessimist."
Ms. Scafaria said, "He’ll be calling to praise her."
Ms. Cody won an Oscar for her screenplay for "Juno." Ms. Scafaria is the screenwriter for "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist." ...
With their pals Dana Fox, who wrote "What Happens in Vegas," and Liz Meriwether, a playwright-turned-screenwriter, they make up a Hollywood powerhouse writing posse who call themselves "The Fempire."
You can find them at work in their Laurel Canyon homes in their pajamas, or sitting next to one another at laptop-friendly restaurants. To see them gathered amid the dinosaur topiary around Ms. Fox's swimming pool with their dogs (they all have dogs) is to see four distinct styles of glamour that bear little resemblance to traditional images of behind-the-scenes talent. Whenever one of them has a movie opening, they all rent a white limousine and go from theater to theater to watch the first audiences react...
I especially love the way they fly around the country supporting each other at premieres and, most importantly, giving each other permission to just fracking enjoy their success. To own it, something too many of us have a hard time with:
"This was never truer than during the hoopla surrounding "Juno," Ms. Cody’s story of a pregnant teenager who decides to have her baby and give it up for adoption. The other women lent or bought outfits for Ms. Cody, but that was the least of it.
"They supported me through the wildest time in my career," Ms. Cody said. "They helped me be excited for things when I was kind of shellshocked. They were the ones who had to literally take me aside at the 'Juno' premiere and say: 'This is fun. You will never forget this. Please enjoy yourself.'"

From the mouths of babes.

Bat Mitzvahs for Seniors?

| Mon Mar. 23, 2009 11:48 AM EDT

Ohio women from 90 to 97 are finally getting their bat mitzvahs. Apparently, the ritual for girls wasn't something with much Jewish cultural traction until the 50s and 60s when these women were already grown. Even a Southern Baptist apostate like myself knows how central the bar mitzvah is for Jewish males. Thankfully for them, these women have a rabbi who gives a damn. From the NYT:

A challenge, perhaps, but not all the women see it quite that way. "My first thought was boy, what a hoot!" said Millie Danziger Fromet, 90...A self-described "feminist all my life," Evelyn Bonder, 90, said she "always thought girls should have the chance to participate" in something that Conservative, Orthodox, and Reform congregations embraced in stages.
Ms. Agin said: "My daughter had a bat mitzvah. But it was on a Friday instead of a Saturday. It wasn't held inside the synagogue, and she wasn’t allowed to read from the Torah."
...Next came the speeches, which traditionally respond to the Torah passage read in synagogue that week. Rabbi Kutner had consulted old calendars to determine the week in which each woman would have spoken at age 12. He asked them to prepare messages based on the passages they would have addressed eight decades ago.
...Class members argued intensely over whether to limit each woman's speech to three minutes. The concern was not whether aging bladders could handle a ceremony that lasts an hour and a half, but whether relatives, some of whom are flying in from as far as Boston and California for the event, might be bored.

I've never been to either a bar or bat mitzvah, but I'd pay money to see this one.

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Oops! Sometimes, We Fag Hags Just Make Things Worse

| Mon Mar. 23, 2009 11:07 AM EDT

It's been so long since I hit the clubs that I didn't know women were choosing gay bars for their bachelorette parties. When I first read about the pheomenon today, I thought: Brilliant! I shudda thought of that, though my own was from rowdy (by choice). What a great idea! Turns out, not so much. 

Not only are women getting drunk and handing out the same kind of pawings they passed on hetero-bars for, they're (we're) just rubbing salt in the wounds of our fellow citizens who can't marry. From the Chicago Tribune (via Salon's Broadsheet):

"The women are a hoot, and some can be just delightful," said Geno Zaharakis, the owner of Cocktail, a gay bar on North Halsted Street. "But because not everybody can get married, watching them celebrate, it's such a slap in the face. Prop 8 just reopened the wound."
Zaharakis told me that Cocktail stopped hosting bachelorette parties a couple of years ago when he noticed his gay patrons weren't just complaining about the women being minor irritants but about them "flaunting" their right to marry. So Zaharakis hung a sign on the front door of his establishment that says, "Bachelorette Parties Are Not Allowed."
If that message isn't resonant enough, he offers a written statement: "Until same-sex marriage is legal everywhere and same-sex couples are allowed the rights as every heterosexual couple worldwide, we simply do not think it's fair or just for a female bride-to-be to celebrate her upcoming nuptials here at Cocktail. We are entitled to an opinion, this is ours."...Indeed some gay men and straight women have a friendship that's reminiscent of the old television show "Will & Grace." And many men make the distinction between their "girlfriends" who frequent gay bars and are sensitive to the marriage issue and other women who are merely seeking good music and "go-go boys" (translation: nearly naked male dancers) for a bachelorette party.
"We appreciate that these women are not homophobic and … want to party with us," said Jens Hussey, a gay man who's in a four-year relationship and worries about being able to make medical and other decisions regarding his partner. "But with all that's going on [in] the media about us not being able to marry, are [these women] willing to march with us or raise money with us or work to change somebody's attitude to help us get equal rights?"

Just goes to show, no matter how well-intentioned you might be, there's always something to be learned. I wouldn't have given a second thought to attending a bachelorette party at a gay bar. I'd try to talk them out of it now. Sorry guys.

On a different point though, in my younger days I did hit the gay bars with gay friends and did indeed enjoy the go-go boys. But I never wondered if they'd rather not have to 'tend' to the female guests, many of whom were quite...uninhibited with them. I gave my gay friends the bills to 'offer' to the dancers but lots of women don't. From what I understand, female 'dancers' don't mind tending to women clubbers.

I'll have to call "my gays." I don't have as many as Kathy Griffin, but I got a couple that'll do.

How Clean Energy Ruined "Watchmen"

| Sat Mar. 21, 2009 11:38 PM EDT
I just saw Watchmen and—spoiler alert!—it kind of sucked. But not just for the obvious reasons (it's based on an impossible-to-adapt comic book; it's terribly acted, pointlessly violent, and infuriatingly shallow; and it ruins a great Leonard Cohen song). It was awful because it turned an unnecessary subplot about clean energy into a major plot point that's the foundation of its unsatisfying climax. Bear with me: In the original Watchmen book, we learn that atomic demigod Dr. Manhattan (owner of a hard to ignore, possibly offensive, glowing blue penis) has figured out a way to make mass quantities of efficient lithium batteries, and as a result, by the 1980s, electric cars have made gas guzzlers obsolete. Goodbye climate change! Yet in the movie, electric cars are nowhere to be seen, though we learn that Dr. Manhattan is working with impossibly skinny crimefighter-turned-tycoon Ozymandias (AKA "the world's smartest man") to come up with some new form of vague yet CGI-intensive clean energy. And that's where things start to get really dumb.

March Really Madness

| Thu Mar. 19, 2009 5:52 PM EDT
The Big Dance started today. The week has been a frantic rush to fill out brackets, to winnow 128 teams (there's also a women's tourney going on, people) down to the champions come April. For a break from the careening Dow, people will glue themselves to their screens throughout the weekend watching young athletes try to make up for their schools lost endowments by getting deeper and deeper into the tournament. We'll all hope for a Cinderella story to cling to, to help us believe that miracles are possible. I once played in the dance (and two years later my team made history by being the only #16 seed to ever beat a #1) and for a long time I watched every second of every game, till I wanted to stab Dick Vitale's eyes out (there's only so much Dickie V. one can take). These days I'm more distracted, and much less enamored with the ritual, since it's more commercial than collegial. I'm sure I'll still shed a tear come One Shining Moment (I always do), but for now I am keeping my distance from the sports bars.

If you are too, or if you're a tourney junkie who can't get enough, there's still more fun with  brackets to be had. Check out this Bracket of Evil. Credo Mobile's creation is more of a Sour Sixteen, but it's still fun to consider who's more vile, Ann Coulter or Fox News, AIG or Blackwater? Pick your winners (losers?) and those with the most votes move on to the next round. One glaring omission is Dick Cheney, but that's likely because he'd win the whole thing in a blowout.

New Music: PJ Harvey & John Parish

| Thu Mar. 19, 2009 4:46 PM EDT
It's hard to believe that it's been 16 years since English rocker PJ Harvey's Rid of Me shared a "for my walkman on the bus ride to work" cassette with Nirvana's In Utero. That was a good tape, if a little emotionally rough for 7:30am. I was going to say that since then, Harvey's never quite reached for the explosive energy of early tracks like "50 Foot Queenie," and this track opens with a mellow tempo and languid guitar riff, but then the chorus kicks in with devastating lyrical candor and melodic tension, and I'm not so sure. "I'd like to take you to a place I know," she declares, as the guitars rear up behind her, "my black hearted." There's a Sonic Youth-y balance of melancholy and squealing noise here (thanks to longtime collaborator Parish, who wrote the music) as well as the off-kilter, shambolic rhythm of Pavement's "Rattled by the Rush," but no-one has a voice like Polly, knife-edged and perfect, intoning, "I think I saw you / In the shadow." Aaagh, okay, yes, yes you did, that was me, sorry. Harvey's new album, A Woman A Man Walked By, comes out March 30 on Island. "Black Hearted Love" is on iTunes or listen below.