Wednesday, September 29, 2004

One reason (among many) that I love Jon Stewart

How cool are these two news items? Everyone be sure to watch "The Daily Show" on October 7 so we can see Bill O'Reilly get a bit of comeuppance at the hands of the far more intelligent Stewart. Man, does O'Reilly make anyone else as mad as he makes me? At least Sean Hannity is just a shrill, admittedly right-wing loudmouth. O'Reilly pretends that his "no-spin zone" is the most objective media outlet on Earth. What a load of crap.

Comedy Central Unspins O'Reilly
Determined not to be caught up in a spin zone created by Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, Comedy Central on Monday refuted O'Reilly's assertion that the audience for the network's The Daily Show was composed of "stoned slackers." The channel extracted data from Nielsen Media Research to indicate that Daily Show host Jon Stewart's viewers are more likely to have completed college than O'Reilly's. O'Reilly made his remarks when Stewart appeared on his show a few weeks ago. "You know what's really frightening?" O'Reilly said. "You actually have an influence on this presidential election. That is scary, but it's true. You've got stoned slackers watching your dopey show every night and they can vote." O'Reilly is due to face the slackers directly when he appears on Stewart's show on Oct. 7.

'Daily Show' Viewers Among Best Informed Voters
Concerns that people who receive their political information from late-night comedy shows may not be adequately familiar with the issues in order to vote knowledgeably appeared to be laid to rest Monday by a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey. In a poll conducted between July 15 and Sept. 19, nearly 20,000 young adults were asked six questions about the presidential candidates' stands on various issues. Those who watched no late-night comedy shows answered 2.62 questions correctly. David Letterman's viewers answered 2.91; Jay Leno,'s 2.95; and Jon Stewart's (The Daily Show) 3.59. The results for Stewart appeared particularly striking to the pollsters, who noted that his viewers "have higher campaign knowledge than national news viewers and newspaper readers."

Friday, September 24, 2004

Random Survey

It seems that while I have my consistent favorites in music, for undefined periods of time I am inclined to listen fairly loyally to particular artists or styles that I'm "digging." Sorry, - just don't know quite how else to put it. Immersion in a preferred artist/style rarely ends abrubtly. It usually gradually fades out while something else is fading in. I guess what makes an artist a true favorite is if you endlessley keep coming back to her/him/them ?

So, here's what I'm listening to lately:

qBill Frisell - Gone, Just Like a Train
qBill Frisell, Elvin Jones, and Dave Holland Trio
qTribe Called Quest - Low End Theory
qMedeski Martin and Wood - End of the World Party (Just in Case)
qMiles Davis - On the Corner
qMiles Davis - Birth of the Cool
qThe Black Keys - Rubber Factory

qPostal Service - Give Up
qBenenvento and Russo - Darts
qMiles Davis & John Coltrane - The Complete Columbia Recordings
qJohnny Cash - The American Recordings

Thoughts? What are you all listening to these days?

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Black Keys P.II

Well, I've now had a chance to listen several times to the Keys' third and latest album "Rubber Factory." This is a great rock album through and through. During the first go, I kept thinking "this doesn't sound like their other two albums," not really sure whether that was positive or negative. By about the third listen it really clicked. The Black Keys have recorded another superbly-rough blues-rock album. The record does sound different, but succeeds in the often-elusive goal that so many artists are shooting for; staying to true the formula that makes their work unique, while making it fresh enough to keep it interesting. The change seems to be in the guiding rhythm of the album, maybe more of mid-tempo feel (that's not an empirical observation, but a "vibe" observation). The texture and sound are slightly altered too, but more or less in-keeping with the Keys' signature style. At any rate, this is great music and I'm starting to wonder - Why, at three solid albums in a row, aren't these guys getting talked about more? Waii..t... Oh yeah, Nelly just released two albums at once or something.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Music Releases: Catching Up on The Black Keys

In light of The Dude’s unofficial assumption of duty as official “Off The Table” film critic/reviewer (which I fully endorse - hoping he shows up for duty with greater consistency), it also seems rational to post some music reviews. While I don't pretend to listen to as many new albums as Jason - err…The Dude - sees movies, I’ll give it a shot. By all means, please consider this an invitation to anyone interested in posting album reviews, movie reviews, book reviews, or consumer reports - for that matter. As I always say, the more social contribution, distribution of resources, and freedom of expression, the better ;). Conservative watch-dogs: rest assured, in the foregoing sentence I intended no ist to follow “social,” no re to precede “distribution,” and no obscenity in “expression.”

The Black Keys; “The Big Come Up”, “Thickfreakness”
http://www.theblackkeys.com/
Let me start off this review by noting that The Black Keys just released a new album called “Rubber Factory”, which I will review once I get a chance to hear it in full. These guys hail from my region of late - the Midwest. This Ohio-based outfit is difficult to categorize for a variety of reasons. Some folks are content to lob them in with the already fading “garage-band scene”. Upon first impression, one may find the designation unobjectionable. The Keys employ the familiar minimalist approach; a raw, stripped-down, and unpolished guitar purism that’s associated with the garage scene. They are only two; a guitarist (who doubles as vocalist) and drummer. This, inevitably, has led to misguided comparisons with The White Stripes. That certainly isn’t a crime, but in the end, the “Keys” are a different animal than the “Stripes” and transcend the garage scene. Getting to the point here, these guys are a gifted, dyed-in-the-wool, blues-rock band. In fact, they are only notches away from being straight blues.

A discussion of their sound couched in comparisons to the likes of The Allman Brothers, Ten Years After, and most of all, Cream, is markedly more fitting. That’s not to say their sound is derivative. In fact, heavily influenced by the aforementioned it may be; but they sound uniquely and incredibly refreshing. The fact that we’re currently being starved of good rock in a drought that dates further back than Utah’s probably plays a role in all of this. Nevertheless, these guys sound so good to me it’s exciting. The last couple of years I’ve been on a strong and steady drift away from rock and deeper into jazz. The Keys aren’t going to throw that into reverse, but they’re one of the only current rock bands that provide a compelling reason for frequent visits back to the old stomping grounds. The first time I heard them, I was, for lack of a better term, stoked. It had been a long time, with a rock band, since I’d had that sensation you (or maybe just I) get when what your hear greatness on first listen and it’s like a revelation. They have soul. They’re dripping with it. You want to jump in it like mud…err…football. These two are for real. (Side Note: I was genuinely befuddled when I discovered the vocalist wasn’t black – his blues voice is so dead-on…and that is a compliment on every level).
As for comparing the two albums, both of which are excellent, the debut, “The Big Come Up,” is probably the superior. As alluded to above, some of the earlier tracks on the record are strikingly Cream-ish, especially “The Breaks,” the fourth track. If “The Breaks” isn’t the long-lost sonic epilogue to Cream’s “Politician,” then nothing is. Unless you’ve picked up an album, it’s unlikely you’ve heard much, if anything, from these guys’ catalog. If you saw “School of Rock,” then you heard portions of “Set You Free,” a short, catchy, and solid rock tune also appearing as track number three on “Thickfreakness.” In short, you can’t go wrong with either disc, but all else being equal, I’d start with the debut. Stay tuned for a review of their new release “Rubber Factory.”

For good measure, I thought I’d tack on Amazon.com’s short review of “Thickfreakness.”

Amazon.com
Akron, Ohio's Black Keys offer crunchy, riff-heavy blues-rock that is remarkably rich and textured, particularly when one considers that they are merely a duo. Continuing in the vein of their 2002 debut, The Big Come Up, this sophomore CD leavens their garage blues with enough innovation to keep things interesting, taking full advantage of Dan Auerbach’s full-throated growl. Particularly appealing are "Hard Row," which lurks somewhere between Cream and punk rock, the strong stomp of "Everywhere I Go," and the irresistible guitar riff that graces "If You See Me." The Black Keys might be covering familiar territory, but they do it so well--and with so much invention--that one is inclined to yield it to them and see what they do with it. --Genevieve Williams

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Big boobs and mutilation, redundant?

I recently had a conversation with one of my pseudo liberal minded friends who, upon me commenting on a friends nice new set of boobs, began to argue that breast augmentation ( or plastic surgery in general) was the same as Femal Genital Mutilation (FGM) that began in Africa approximately 2000 years ago. I was so shocked that a woman could be 'informed' about such horrific practices and yet still side with them that I risked being late to class to better educate myself on the topic. Here is what I found: There are three different kinds of FGM, Sunna Circumcision which removes the retractable fold (or hood) of the skin, Clitoridectomy which is the removal of the entire clitoris and the adjacent labia and Infibulation which consists of performing a clitoridectomy which is then stitched up allowing for urine and menstrual blood to flow.

The age the procedure is carried out vaires from just after birth to some time during the first pregnancy, but most cases occur between the ages of four and eight. Most times this procedure is done without the care of medically trained people, due to poverty and lack of medical facilities. The use of anesthesia is rare. The girl is held down by older women to prevent her from moving. The instruments used by the mid-wife will vary and could include any of the following items; broken glass, a tin lid, razor blades, knives, scissors or any other sharp object. These items usually are not sterilized before or after usage. Once the genital area for removal is gone the child is stitched up and her legs are bound for up to 40 days.

At one point during this conversation with my ignorant friend she said that many of the facts we westerners have about FGM (such as those stated above) are skewed or incorrect. I argue-that even if the circumstances in which these mutilations take place are sanitary and anesthetic is available, the reasons behind such practices are enough to attack it. In my research I found several reasons listed as to why this is done, one of those being that it will reduce a women's desire for sex and in doing so will reduce the chance of sex outside the marriage. Another, that an unmodified clitoris will lead a women to masturbation which will lead her to lesbianism and one of the most shocking reasons was that an intact clitoris will generate sexual arousal which can lead to personality defects.

Can a member of the human race, especially a woman, actually think it is acceptable for some cultures to look down on women feeling pleasure? I cannot believe that a person could consider spending thousands of dollars because of an insecurity (getting plastic surgery) as being the same as living ones life with a mutilated body and without joy in sex. If my friends point was that plastic surgery is becoming too accepted and too often resorted to, I can concede. However, it is in no way related to the physical and emotional damage women with FGM go through ("ain't no f***** ball park. Ain't even the same f****** game").


Info provided by www.members.tripod.com/fgm

Friday, September 03, 2004

Lets rethink "Joseph Smith for President"

An introduction:
My name is Brent and I have been invited by T. Wray to contribute to the Blog. My comments will be largely political and will often be in response to ridiculous comments made by the Left. For those of you who prescribe to the doctrine of the Democrats, I am sorry. Please do not take offense to the things I say but rather accept their truth. (Or disagree with me if you feel so inclined.) Anyway, here goes!

T. Wray,
Good try! At least I got a good laugh. First of all, we can't give Joseph Smith credit for these words when he simply quoted them. True, he seems to agree with them but I felt it was a point that needed to be made. Being a quotation from a secular authority these words would be a personal opinion and in no way indicative of the "Church's" opinion or "prophetic."

I will comment nonetheless (my comments follow T. Wray's):

-To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations, having correspondent dispositions- Oh, so like maintaining good relations with Europe (France !?!) and other diplomatic nations? Lets finish reading the sentence before we jump to conclusions. After the comma are the words "having correspondent dispositions." Oh, so unlike many European countries (France !?!).

-to maintain sincere neutrality towards belligerent nations; to prefer in all cases amicable discussion and reasonable accommodation of differences to (over) a decision of them by an appeal to arms – like Iraq? Yes, like Iraq during the last 12 years of "amicable discussion!" We tried that route and when it didn't work we tried something that did. Sounds smart to me!

- to exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities – Oh, like favoring Israel and rich Oil Kings while turning a blind eye to other nations being oppressed by tyrants and suffering AIDS emergencies ? I hope you noticed the glaring contradiction in your comment. It goes something like this: "We shouldn't be partial to any country unless it is for feel-good causes like aids and decreasing oppression." By the way, wasn't Iraq "being oppressed by tyrants?"

-to foster a spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others – like those of the Iraqi people? I don't know if you noticed, the Iraqi people didn't have any rights before we came onto the scene. This is a statement of fact and as such cannot be refuted. By freeing oppressed peoples aren't we fostering a spirit of independence. I think you really need to rethink this one.

-too proud to surrender our own – like our due process under the Patriot Acts? Like our right to do with our own property as we will! The Democrats certainly don't have a problem taking our property (one of our most fundamental rights) in the form of taxes. (Or should I say, God's property that he has entrusted to us?)

-too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices ourselves – (Wait, did he just say “liberal”?); like listening selectively to those who say that there are, in fact, WMDs ? –affirming what you planned on doing anyway. ??? I know you are joking with the whole liberal thing, at least I hope you are. You lefties need to get off of this selective intelligence thing. First of all, you don't have any idea what intelligence Bush was getting. Second, it was an established fact, one with which no one disagreed, not even the frogs, that Sadam had WMD's. Bush was just the only one who had the spine to do anything about it. You have to admit, Iraq with WMD's is scary and poses a threat. On a side note, it has not been proved that he did not have them. On the contrary, we know he had them because he used them to satisfy his genocidal murderous whims.

-and too elevated not to look down upon them in others – like treating Saudi Arabia as a most-favored-nation with all their oil and money, even though they rule despotically and are severely demeaning in their treatment and abuse of women? So, what should we do to the Saudi's? You are starting to sound like Michael Moore.

So, what say ye? Joseph Smith for President? Sure, but lets base our vote on some of his own words. What say ye?

Brent

Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Dude's Movie Update

Sorry it's taken me so long for my follow up to that "best of the year so far" list. By the way, before I get on to the dreck of the 2004 movie releases, let me add to my previous list by mentioning a few excellent offerings that have come to theaters recently.

The Bourne Supremacy

Have I mentioned how much I love the current trend of assigning big-budget Hollywood vehicles to talented and stylish independent and foreign directors? It seems to have caught on in the last few years and has led to the production of some excellent blockbusters: movies that appeal to the masses but don't insult the intelligence of the more discriminating viewer. Bryan Singer on X-Men. Sam Raimi on Spider-Man. Not to mention Peter Jackson and the whole Hobbit thing. Heck, even the failures are interesting. I'd rather watch Ang Lee's flawed but interesting Hulk over studio garbage like Bad Boys 2 any day.

The new sequel to The Bourne Identity successfully continues the original's formula of putting a potentially generic big-budget action movie in the hands of a director with serious indie-credibility and little experience with a big studio. The 2002 original was helmed by Doug Liman (Swingers, Go) and turned out to be a smart, above-average thriller with a great action-star turn by Matt Damon.

The sequel brings on director Paul Greengrass (who directed the excellent Bloody Sunday a couple years ago) and his serious love of handheld camerawork to create an even better movie than the first. Seriously, these are what the James Bond movies should be: Stylish, smart, exciting spy action that doesn't hinge on crazy wannabe world-conquerors or plots to destroy the earth. Also, this movie has about the best car chase since The French Connection. Now, admittedly, there was one plot point that pissed me off in it's lack of originality (Honestly, how many sequels rely on this?) but it didn't dampen the overall effect of this excellent movie. One of the best action movies I've seen in a while.

Collateral

Scene for scene, Michael Mann is just about the best director working right now. If this guy had started making movies in the 70's, I truly believe that we'd be hearing his name in the same breath as Scorsese, Spielberg and Coppola. Regardless, the guy hits pretty solidly every time he gets up to bat. Even the over-long, slightly unfocused Ali contained filmmaking that would make most directors envious. Collateral, as it falls in Mann's canon, can best be compared to David Fincher's Panic Room. Both directors had just come off their most ambitious projects to date (Ali and Fight Club, respectively) to mixed critical response and indifferent box-office. So, it seems, they both decided to take a breather between "important" projects and both hone and show off their impressive cinematic skills on a tightly-plotted, somewhat formulaic genre exercise. And in so doing, both gifted filmmakers end up elevating the genre in which they choose to dabble. I won't say much more, just that Mann's cinematography is amazing, as are Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise. The great characterization and dialogue between the two of them more than make up for the rare times that the genre's more conventional trappings rear their ugly heads (two-dimensional secondary characters, ho-hum ending.) And if the shootout in the club (which holds its own with Mann's other great shootout in Heat) does not provide enough evidence of Mann's cinematic genius, then my advice is that you may want to hurry and catch Garfield: The Movie before it leaves your area.

Okay, that's enough for now. I promise to get back with the list of stuff to avoid as soon as I can. Until then, the Dude abides.

Joseph Smith for President

Here is an interesting quote that I pulled from Joseph Smith’s platform for the U.S. Presidency, “General Smith’s Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States” (1844). It seems like it could really be pertinent to our day. What do you think, is it applicable?

“It is an old saying and a true one, ‘if you wish to be respected, respect yourselves.’… I will adopt, in part, the language of Mr. Madison’s inaugural address, ‘To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations, having correspondent dispositions; to maintain sincere neutrality towards belligerent nations; to prefer in all cases amicable discussion and reasonable accommodation of differences to a decision of them by an appeal to arms; to exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities, so degrading to all countries, and so baneful to free ones; to foster a spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others, too proud to surrender our own, too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices ourselves, and too elevated not to look down upon them in others…”

-To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations, having correspondent dispositions
- Oh, so like maintaining good relations with Europe (France !?!) and other diplomatic nations?

-to maintain sincere neutrality towards belligerent nations; to prefer in all cases amicable discussion and reasonable accommodation of differences to (over) a decision of them by an appeal to arms – like Iraq?

- to exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities – Oh, like favoring Israel and rich oil kings while turning a blind eye to other nations being oppressed by tyrants and suffering AIDS emergencies ?

-to foster a spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others – like those of the Iraqi people?

-too proud to surrender our own – like our due process under the Patriot Acts?

-too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices ourselves – (Wait, did he just say “liberal”?); like listening selectively to those who say that there are, in fact, WMDs ? –affirming what you planned on doing anyway. ???

-and too elevated not to look down upon them in others – like treating Saudi Arabia as a most-favored-nation with all their oil and money, even though they rule despotically and are severely demeaning in their treatment and abuse of women?

What say ye?

I think we can all agree – Joseph Smith for President !
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