Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Lists, Lists, Lists

metacritic: Music: Best of 2003

With only a day and a half remaining in 2003, here are several more lists to compare with mine.

My own list, it must be said again, may come up for review after a particularly fruitful holiday CD season. New additions to the collection include these (the first six are from 2003):
The Shins: Chutes Too Narrow
Guster: Keep It Together
The Minus 5: Down With Wilco
Rooney: Rooney
The Jealous Sound: Kill Them With Kindness
David Sedaris: Live At Carnegie Hall
Miles Davis: Sketches of Spain
The White Stripes: The White Stripes
The White Stripes: De Stijl
Joni Mitchell: Blue
Bruce Springsteen: Tracks
Radiohead: Airbag/How Am I Driving?
Rufus Wainwright: Poses
Rufus Wainwright: Rufus Wainwright

Interested in hearing more about any of these? Let me know. I'm also waiting for delivery of Spymob's Sitting Around Keeping Score. If you'd like to hear samples, visit www.spymob.com.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Perhaps Ever

Gephardt: Bush Worst President of Last 5

I'm not voting for Gephardt in the primary, but I admire him and I like his gumption. On the list of bad presidents all time, I wonder where W would rank? Grant and Nixon and Harding are three that come to mind as ever worse.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Happy Holidays

This site will be pretty quiet the next several days. After today, I don't go back to work until January 2nd, after which I'll be spending eight days in Maui. I hope this means I'll see many of the people who read this in the coming days, but whether I do or not, I wish all of you a very happy holiday.

You can still find the Top Ten* Albums of 2003 List at 290MUSIC, and sometime in the next few days I'll try to post a review of the year's best movie so far at 290MOVIES.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Red, Red, Red

Analysts: Future Budget Outlook Gloomy

This article gives a pretty good quick overview of the coming fiscal doom we're facing in the United States. What it doesn't say is this: the fastest way to make it go away is to eliminate Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid--to take the government out of the business of taking care of its citizens in vital ways. And that's just what the Republican road is leading toward...


Cities covet young urban single professionals

Apparently Minneapolis was using me and continues to use my friends who live there. This article brings to light something I've often noticed--single, childless folks are quite the lucrative business opportunity for other people, evidently including municipalities. They pay more than their share of taxes in exchange for less than their share of services. Is it any wonder cities want them to move in?

Friday, December 19, 2003

Yeah, That'll End the Curse

Famous Foul Ball to Be Destroyed by Chicago Fan

I can't imagine paying $106,000 for a baseball, much less one I planned to destroy. Maybe they'll feed it to a goat in the middle of Wrigley Field. I'm sure that will help the Cubs win the pennant more than signing a decent catcher.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Big Surprise

Paris Hilton Beats Bush in TV Ratings

What a patriotic fervor we've all been whipped into over Saddam's capture. Maybe everyone did what I did and read the interview transcript online. While reading Bush's words is an adventure, actually watching and listening to him say them, and remembering, "That guy is running the free world," gives me nightmares.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

At Last

'Return of the King' Promises Big Box Office Ring

To think, people once considered this an epic gamble on the part of New Line Cinema. Today it looks like an epic masterpiece.

Use the comments below to talk about when you're seeing the movie and what you thought of it once you do see it. I won't be seeing it until Sunday night when I get back from Minnesota, so try not to ruin any surprises!

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


Bush Appears to Open Door to Same-Sex Unions

This can't be true, can it? Is Bush moderating the view of the party? If he does, there's no going back...

Perhaps he's decided this is an issue that's going to end up running the table in the end, and he can nip it in the bud if he draws the line between civil unions and marriage and says this far, but no further. I'm curious to see if the White House backpedals from this; it's sure to raise questions in the briefing room.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Second Opinion

Till My Head Falls Off

Not satisfied with my Top Ten* Albums list? Check out the site above for a review of the year's best CDs by music guru Paul V. Allen.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Short and Sweet

A review of Steve Martin's new book, The Pleasure of My Company, has been posted at 290BOOKS.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Top Ten* Albums of 2003

At long last, here it is: my list of my favorite ten (eleven, actually--hence the asterisk) albums released in 2003. Due to the fact that the holiday season inevitably brings more CDs my way, you can anticipate that this list will be shaken up and revised at least once in the coming year, but for now, here it is! (It is also available at 290MUSIC, where it will be front and center for a good long while, probably into 2004.)

1. Rufus Wainwright, Want One

This is part of a planned pair—Want Two is due next year—so it’s possible that in a few months I’ll have some second thoughts about Wainwright’s decision to cleave his bombastic efforts in two. On the other hand, W2 is supposedly the darker and more experimental half of the material from the sessions, so the division may have been an apt one.

Either way, Want One earns its spot on the list for several qualities. It’s consistently good—there are songs that are better, but none that beg to be skipped. The slowest songs are the shortest, maintaining a flow that carries the album along. The best song of all, “Go or Go Ahead,” is the longest, over six minutes of outburst that weaves myth and madness into a stunning package of sonic bliss. A microcosm for the album as a whole, the song builds for more than two minutes before erupting.

Lyrically dense, the album starts out in near nonsense territory with the repetitions of “Oh What a World” and builds to the poignant “Dinner at Eight,” an almost tear-inducing finale that acknowledges Rufus’s mixed feelings about his abandonment by his famous father. “I Don’t Know What It Is” and “Movies of Myself” belong on Top 40 radio, where they could oust less intelligent pop; “11:11” sounds silly at first but makes profound the words “ I was alive.” Born of personal experience and genetically inherited musical genius, Wainwright’s latest is the finest album of 2003.

2. Kathleen Edwards, Failer

This spot should belong to Lucinda Williams, but she met her match this year in a young Canadian with stories to tell that sound more naked and real than the over-imagined, over-wrought fare on World Without Tears. Failer is a remarkable triumph for a brand-new artist, and should have earned at least a Grammy nod in that category. It sounds like a northern winter and stings just as hard. It’s wry and self-effacing; witness track two, written at the last minute to add a tenth song to the album and one of the best songs on a record filled with them, called “One More Song the Radio Won’t Like.” She doesn’t sound like radio—she’s too good for that. I feel sorry for Kathleen Edwards. She’s got a tough task ahead of her trying to top this first effort.

3. Ryan Adams, Love is Hell, 1+2

There was a time, long ago, when artists did this: they’d write, record, and release tons of songs every year, building up impressive catalogs instead of touring until the fourth or fifth single played itself out and deigning to drop an album every third year or so. In that respect, Adams is heir to the Beatles and early Dylan, delivering quantity and quality at the same time. So it should come as no surprise that he now follows in their footsteps in other ways, placing two albums in one year’s top ten.

We start with his two-EP set, Love is Hell. Recorded as the official follow-up to 2001’s brilliant Gold, then jettisoned by his record company, Lost Highway, Adams considers this his truest artistic statement, and that seems like a fair self-assessment. It’s a beautifully written album, and Adams sings like he means every word.

The title track is rollicking fun, followed by a cover of “Wonderwall” that stakes a claim for Adams as its new owner, even in the eyes of its writer, Noel Gallagher of Oasis. There’s a splendid and wistful sadness in “This House is Not For Sale,” a song that’s actually about ghosts in their old house—sounds weird, but it really works. Adams can carry off an up-tempo tune as well, bringing Part 1 nearly to a close with “World War 24.” The final song, “Avalanche,” fades out beautifully, wrapping up the first EP so that it would stand well on its own as an eight-song album.

Instead, the second EP continues the mood of the first, though it is clearly a different side of the same record. (The full album has been issued on vinyl, which is what qualified it to be considered as a single entity.) With “Please Do Not Let Me Go” we discover the real impetus for such a sad work—the death of a close friend. This vein of tribute-thought continues on “City Rain, City Streets,” tumbles into “I See Monsters,” and completes a three-four-five punch on “English Girls Approximately.” The latter lifts the mood musically just in time, jangling with the flair Adams displayed on Gold, but even here the lyrics are sad, as the girl Adams loves says she doesn’t love him.

Overall, Love is Hell is a remarkable album. It changes setting halfway through—EP 1 seems to “take place” mostly in a rural setting, while EP 2 is more urban—but it holds together as one record. Its depth of emotion and the variety of tempo and instrumentation choices Adams makes to surround his weighty material make it worth having as a whole. It would be tough to divide it, in any case: the best material on each EP is sandwiched in its center, giving the overall album a good balance. Turns out you can be prolific and make coherent albums. May other artists take note.

4. Annie Lennox, Bare

The queen of broken glass is back with music that sounds like it—or, perhaps, like ice. This confessional, lyrically downbeat album is set to the logical electro-dance continuation of Annie’s old Eurhythmics music, and the results are fantastic. Highlights like “Pavement Cracks” and “Bitter Pill” soar as Lennox shows off the voice that made Diva an appropriate title for her last original album, while “Twisted” brings the album nearly to a close with an incredibly emotional remembrance: “I remember every word you said to me,” “I remember everything you did to me”—these phrases speak volumes, simplifying feelings that the music and voice convey until the depth of the anger and bitter regret behind them is almost painful. The album ends with the song that nearly kept it off this list, and now brings it back, “Oh God (Prayer).” Annie quietly confesses that she doubts God is watching over or listening to her, then bursts “But if you hear me” and begs for the help she needs to make it through, and the results…damn. They’re beautiful.

5. White Stripes, Elephant

“Seven Nation Army” describes the sound of this critics’ darling as well as its first song. How can two people, with no technology to help them, make a sound this big, this good? The album plays to strength after strength. Jack White sounds like Robert Plant on the Zeppelin-esque songs and like some classic crooner on the pitch-perfect “I Want to Be the Boy To Warm Your Mother’s Heart.” There are a few lulls among the fourteen tracks, but the album starts and finishes strongly enough to find its way back into the player over and over, a feat few 2003 releases achieved.

6. Ryan Adams, Rock N Roll

Ryan Adams’ response to the current state of rock—especially pals The Strokes and the White Stripes—plays like a greatest hits album for a career he hasn’t pursued at all. Often accused of faulty quality control, Adams has made a short album that never slows down long enough to question its quality at all. It wasn’t the album he wanted to make—look above for that—but we’re lucky Lost Highway pinned him into a corner. Having this album is a very good thing.

7. Fountains of Wayne, Welcome Interstate Managers

There’s so much more to this album that the hilarious “Stacy’s Mom.” In fact, too much—at 16 tracks, it drags by one or two. But it’s catchy and smart—the songs sound like ear candy but turn out deep, satisfying your sweet tooth and your need for intellectual stimulus. “All Kinds of Time” is a clever song that turns out to be about a quarterback seeing the field in a new way, while “Fire Island” is a nice musing on teenage mischief. And “Halley’s Waitress” is funny and relatable—“Darling, don’t you know we miss you when you’re gone?” Who hasn’t gone from wanting to order coffee and dessert to twisting in your seat to hail the waitress for the check and paying cash to avoid another long wait? Fountains of Wayne tie into these common experiences and make them live. They have just the right blend of wit and guitars to pull it off.

8. Radiohead, Hail to the Thief

So brilliant, so easy to forget. That’s the verdict on the new Radiohead, it seems. This CD rode around with me for months, and it still lives in my head—or parts of it do. “2+2=5” is the perfect opener for an album whose title was swiped from the sign of a Bush protester. And even the more experimental songs are very good—at least a few times around. Unfortunately, while they can grow on you enough to enjoy them, they still force on the listener a moderation that keeps the gems of this album, like “There There,” “Myxomatosis,” and “Wolf at the Door” away from needy ears for too long, both on the back-loaded album itself and over time, as Hail gathers a bit of dust despite its genius. Radiohead was a couple songs away from a truly transcendent album. That makes the result that much harder to accept.

9. Fleetwood Mac, Say You Will

This could have rivaled Rumours, which isn’t as perfect as people now remember it being. (It’s still pretty close.) Say You Will suffers from bulk and Buckingham. The bulk comes in the form of a 76-minute album that far outlasts its interest. Lindsey Buckingham adds volumes to this problem with songs like the unnecessary “Come,” a seven-minute thrasher which simply doesn’t work, and the indulgent “Murrow Turning In His Grave.” Cut this album down to 12 songs, though, and it’s a thing of beauty. The title track, “Miranda,” “Peacekeeper,” and the spectacular “Thrown Down” are among the best of Fleetwood Mac’s work, and that’s saying something. A flawed jewel, perhaps, but with a little polish and a programmable player, Say You Will makes a fine album indeed.

10. The Thrills, So Much For the City

Can’t anyone write a decent slow song anymore? The Thrills’ first album sounds like an instant classic for a little while, pillaging California for musical ideas until the only clue that they’re Irish is the cover photo—and even that’s no giveaway. In many ways, songs like “Don’t Steal Our Sun” sound like the Flaming Lips on Soft Bulletin, and the comparison makes instant classic designation a very real possibility. But, to quote the fourth track, “Deckchairs and Cigarettes,” the bottom falls out of this album as it goes on. It’s tempting to take it out thirty minutes in—perhaps after the seventh song, “Say It Ain’t So”—and call it a great EP. That would deny you the excellent bonus track, though, with its classic line, “I can’t see you smiling pumping gas.” The slowest songs are the longest, and that kills the flow of the album. Nevertheless, it’s still a good CD—it just misses too often to place any higher on the list than this.

11. Dido, Life for Rent

Poor Dido. She can’t quite crack the top ten with me. This year she’s mired at number eleven with an album that I really like but don’t feel compelled to listen to as often as it deserves. The single, “White Flag,” is a breath of fresh air in a tired pop world, filled with regret and bordering on the creepiness of a certain Police hit from the past. As I said in the original review: “Dido's songwriting remains strong on this album, and her classical training informs a musically interesting work that occasionally slips into sounding too much like itself by maintaining the same mid-tempo beat for much of the album. Nevertheless, that feel suits the songs, and as a result Life For Rent is just as strong as No Angel, if a bit more consistent.”

Tough Talk

Bush: Halliburton Must Pay for Overcharge

I predict this: in nine months, all Bush will want people to remember about this little episode is that he was "tough" on a major campaign contributor. He'll use the fact that he demanded Halliburton repay what it overcharged the government as evidence that they never got special treatment. Meanwhile, Halliburton will continue to ship money his way--not that he needs any more than he's already raised. Call me a red, but the fact that the Bush campaign can outraise all the others while selling most of America down a highly polluted river is stark proof that not everything should be decided by free markets.

Back in Action

Comments are back. Feel free to comment on the also-rans in the music list below, and check back tomorrow for the Top Ten* Albums of 2003!

Thursday, December 11, 2003


Yes, it's just me talking right now. The comment server is acting up. I'll have them back as soon as I can. If you're desperate to shout at me for something I've said, e-mail me at RMN21879@yahoo.com.

A Few That Missed The Mark

Please note: this content is also at 290MUSIC, where it will be joined two days from now by the Top Ten* Albums List. Both will be posted here on the main site as well.

These artists have known the glory of past top album lists, but didn’t make it this year. Here’s why.

Lucinda Williams, World Without Tears

When they collect Lucinda’s best work, there will be a few songs from this album. “Righteously,” “Those Three Days,” and “Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings” all belong on a compilation. But Williams overreaches, and it can be painful at times. “Atonement” can be kindly called ill-advised, and many other tracks aren’t up to her very high Car Wheels on a Gravel Road standards. Maybe she really does need six years to make an album.

Everclear, Slow Motion Daydream

By all rights, this continuation of the sound from the transcendent Songs From An American Movie albums should be great. It ain’t. It’s just OK—there’s no glue holding it together, no real emotion behind the faceless songs. That’s a real shame—this could have been a tighter album than the sprawling double disc last time out, and that might have shot to number three or so on the list.

John Mayer, Heavier Things

There’s obvious craft here, but someone either rushed Mayer or turned him sappy on a few of these tracks. You can’t blame him for striking while the iron is hot, but there’s room for quality control on an album with only ten songs from an artist who hasn’t been prolific. Deleting “Daughters” and playing around with a heavier sound to go with the album title could have propelled Mayer from also-ran to the big time.

Robbie Williams, Escapology (US)

For one thing, this is too long at 61 minutes. For another, it’s essentially the same as last year’s UK version, which was widely available here through the wonders of the internet. While it isn’t Robbie’s best album—Sing When You’re Winning and the crooner follow-up, Swing When You’re Winning, have that distinction—there’s a lot to like here, including the new and updated songs. I just wish the US version still had “Hot Fudge.”

Pete Yorn, Day I Forgot

How can an album shorter than its strong predecessor feel looser and weaker as well? (See Everclear.) Yorn’s sophomore effort isn’t bad, but it’s not nearly as catchy or consistent as the much better 2001 album musicforthemorningafter.

Zwan, Mary, Star of the Sea

And people say Ryan Adams has quality control issues. Billy Corgan, formerly of Smashing Pumpkins, lets it all hang out here—for over an hour—and the result, at times wonderful, it just too much. The bloated title track is an emblem of an album that’s sometimes killer and often filler.

Sting, Sacred Love

He’s anything but prolific—he releases an album every three or four years with only ten new songs. So why can’t Sting make all ten count? The single, “Send Your Love,” is a decent song, and his duet with Mary J. Blige on “Whenever I Say Your Name” is a stirring listening experience. It’s telling, though, that Blige is the one whose voice stands out and makes the song interesting—she’s the one bringing the fireworks. The remaining collection of Sting solos isn’t bad, but it’s bland enough that most of it will drop from memory as soon as you put this CD back on the shelf to gather dust next to Brand New Day.

Liz Phair, Liz Phair

Like everything else with the words “The Matrix” attached to it this year, Liz Phair’s attempt to transform herself into Avril Lavigne is disappointing for several reasons. The songs aren’t that good or even that catchy—which is, after all, why you have The Matrix write your songs in the first place. They sound trite, something Phair should be ashamed of after her auspicious debut. Worst of all, she’s trying so hard to sell out—and failing. Attempted humor and poignance fall equally flat. I’d have bought Britney to keep this off the top ten list if that were what it took.

The Strokes, Room on Fire

Victims of their own critical prestige, the Strokes had no chance of pleasing as many people with their second and overexposed album as they did with Is This It. My displeasure lies with the problem that Room on Fire is pretty boring. It doesn’t sound human—in fact, for a record made by five unruly New Yorkers, it sounds like a committee of computer programs created it. The results are musically competent but not very revealing or interesting.

Travis, 12 Memories

I never thought I’d say this, but the latest from Travis is too British. Nevertheless, you’ve got to give Fran Healy credit for trying. His lyrics here are all over the map—literally. Some of the album is about love, some is about politics, and Healy wedges in both references to the United Nations and a crowd of soccer hooligans chanting “Peace the fuck out.” There’s nothing wrong with that, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with this mostly charming little album, either. But it doesn’t soar, and that means it suffers in comparison to The Man Who. Every time it approaches the cusp of brilliance, it backs away, right where Man Who would have taken flight. Still, this is an enjoyable record, certainly worth its release week price tag of eight dollars. It just doesn’t grab and hold you the way we know Travis can.

The Thorns, The Thorns

There’s a prophetic line at the start of the second track, “I Can’t Remember”: “I’m not gonna lie to you, something is missing.” Despite the fact that it boasts the work of three moderately successful solo artists, including Pete Droge, Shawn Mullins, and previous top ten entrant Matthew Sweet, The Thorns comes up short. Instead of any driving rhythms or compelling lyrics, the thirteen songs here consist mostly of three-part harmony and lyrics that sound like they were sanitized during the process of three songwriters tweaking them. The results are bland and inoffensive, certainly not as good as fans had every right to expect from these three.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


I'm building a new, faster computer--OK, Brad is building a new, faster computer for me--so you may get less content for a little while. However, I will post the first phase of the 2003 Top Ten* Albums List as soon as possible.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Sad News

Ex-Sen. Paul Simon of Illinois Dies at 75

Senator Simon was a good legislator, a smart entrepreneur, and a good man, as the obituary above makes very clear. I met him at Augustana late in my senior year, and walked with him across campus. As we rode in the elevator to the small talk he was leading, he told me to continue to care about politics--this was right after the 2000 election--and to do everything I could to help Paul Wellstone get re-elected. In the discussion he led, he remembered my name and where I was moving, and also the names of the other people in the room. He told us not to watch too much TV, an admonishment I hope I have done better at regarding than the one about Wellstone. He made politics seem noble, and saw government as a tool that, properly wielded, could make life better for people.

Today, three years after I met Paul Simon, both he and Wellstone, two consciences of the nation, are dead. They both brought honor to a place that is often acrimonious. They are both missed.

Advocacy From the Devil

How Dean Could Win . . . (washingtonpost.com)

William Kristol would say he's playing devil's advocate in this article. While I think the Weekly Standard editor is the real devil, his article is interesting in its use of a football metaphor to explain the possibility that Dean could pull off a win in 2004. Whether Kristol thinks that would be the end of the world or not--and on that count, I think he's nuts--his argument is interesting.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Game Over

Gore to Endorse Howard Dean, Sources Say

And just like that, the clock may have run out on the race for the Democratic nomination. When the winner of the popular vote endorses you in a race decided by people who still believe that he won the election and should be in office right now, it carries weight. If this happens, everyone else is finished.

Fry Him

Janklow Jury Weighs Manslaughter Case

The level of deceit that former South Dakota governor Bill Janklow, currently the state's only representative in the House, will tolerate in his defense is stunning. I guess it shouldn't come as much surprise from a man whose governing style was always fairly mercenary. I hope the jurors are seeing through his web of lies to the truth--he sped through a stop sign, just like he always has, and this time someone else was already in the intersection. It may not have been intentional, but Janklow killed a man through his own recklessness and he isn't fit to be in Congress.

Ten Days

Film Review: 'The Return of the King'

The first reviews are coming in, and so far no one has anything bad to say. So here's a question: if the third movie is as good as the first two--and I'm betting it's even better--is Lord of the Rings the greatest trilogy ever?

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Pens, Swords, and Might

A new review has been posted at 290BOOKS.

Playoff Time

Sugar snub for USC is total B(C)S

After watching all three games in question yesterday, it passes understanding that poll leader USC is headed to the Rose Bowl while Oklahoma remains the number one team in the BCS rankings and gets to play LSU for the "national championship." It's time for a playoff in college football.

Since that won't happen, it's time to do what they should have done when they created the BCS: leave the computers out of it and designate a different bowl each year that gets the top two teams in the AP and coaches polls. If there's a disagreement between the two polls, find a tiebreaker--perhaps the poll whose number two has a bigger lead over number three gets to go. And bar any team that can't win its own conference title from playing for the title. How many times must the Big 12 send its second, or third, or fourth place team to vie for the national title? How does that make sense?

It's really a shame. USC-LSU would have been a classic.

Friday, December 05, 2003

And Clinton on the Dollar Bill

Conservatives Want Reagan on Dimes

Only Republicans would want to change the faces on money over a TV show that no one even watched. They want to replace Franklin D. Roosevelt--the leader of the nation through the Great Depression and World War Two--with Ronald Reagan, who similarly bloated the nation's deficits but did so without any compelling rationale other than making it too expensive to continue FDR's social programs. Isn't it enough that they named an airport after him--while he's still living!? (Of course, he may not be alive at all--his family says he's asleep most of the time, but a Reagan funeral late next October would suit the GOP election strategy pretty well, don't you think? They probably already have his "last words" chosen, something along the lines of "Carry on, George.")

And the headline is a serious suggestion. If living politicians can be on the money, why not Dollar Bill? His administration presided over quite a few dollars flooding into the hands of ordinary American people, which is more than most other recent presidents can say.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Good Move

Bush Ends Steel Tariffs, Averting Trade War

A man admits when his opponent does something right. In a gesture toward this 'manhood,' I must acknowledge that dropping the steel tariff was the right thing to do and took courage. For once, I agree with Bush.

And I must go further and express my disappointment at Howard Dean, who accused Bush of playing politics with people's lives. Where was that line when Bush condemned the Massachusetts court? Bush is obeying international law in this case. Opposing civil rights to play to his base is playing politics with people's lives, and none of the Democrats had the guts to quite go so far as calling a spade a spade then. Shame on you, Dean. Don't hide from an issue when you're right.

Hip Hop Honors

R&B Stars, Rappers Lead Grammy Nominations

I suppose it's hard to argue with this year's Grammy nominees. I have a hard time with Fountains of Wayne as a new band, even if they're new to me--they've been around for eight years! But in the big categories, the nominations were sane. The White Stripes duke it out with OutKast, Missy Elliott, and Justin Timberlake for album of the year; only Evanescence is a surprise, but there has to be one representative of that sort of sound and no one else impressed, apparently. (I'd have put Annie Lennox or Radiohead in that spot.)

The nominations also herald this important announcement: it's almost time for the Highway 290 Top Ten Albums of 2003. I'm currently awaiting one more CD's release before compiling and publishing the list, and nine of the top ten are tentatively chosen. Any guesses what I'll choose? Who makes your top ten of 2003?

Time Is Almost Up

Poll Shows Dean Opening Big Lead in N.H.

Dean is apparently made of teflon. All the attacks by the other candidates, and now even the Republicans, seem to have conferred on him an unbeatable status. A 42-12 lead is almost insurmountable.

And Dick Gephardt, who I consider a potentially viable candidate, is at three percent. Three. Maybe he's not so viable.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Common Sense Prevails

Holy Matrimony - What's really undermining the sanctity of marriage? By Dahlia Lithwick

If only everyone would read this and think about it.

Time After Time

A new review has been posted at 290MOVIES. Take a minute or two to read it, won't you?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Headed North

Canada's View on Social Issues Is Opening Rifts With the U.S.

In a land where cooler heads are prevailing, they tend not to agree with or even understand the direction America has taken of late. One day soon we'll all look back on this troubled time in American history with the same detachment the Canadians have right now...and realize how fundamentally screwed up things have been lately. They think it's funny and sad that our government is increasingly run by fundamentalists, even as we fight a war on terror against other fundamentalists. You know, they're right. It is funny--and very sad.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Payback Will Come

Conservatism, Um, Evolving

If you want to see how bad things have gotten for someone, take a look at the way his friends paint his troubles. If you want to know how badly the GOP has been behaving lately, without any liberal spin, ask conservative George Will.

He's right about a great many things in this column. Republicans have decided that it's time to change the rules now that they're the majority party. Checks and balances like meaningful Senate debate--including the filibuster--and limited votes--unlike the one the House held last week--are being threatened by a party that wants to capitalize on its current good fortune.

But what if the balance swings back, as even Will knows it will? Where will that leave Republicans who want to stop Democrats from enacting their agenda without debate or compromise? And would anyone like what happened if either party could run things without any moderating influence from the other?

Let's hope Republicans who respect George Will pay heed to his message.

Friday, November 28, 2003

No More Chris Moore

'Greenlight' gets red light from HBO

Apparently two box office flops was enough for HBO. Bravo is interested in picking up Project Greenlight , though, so it might come back someday.

Having seen both PG movies, I hope they do this again. Neither was incredible, but seeing a movie get made and then watching it on the big screen is kind of cool. Maybe they can find some real talent to promote the series and dump Ben Affleck.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Happy Thanksgiving

I doubt there will be too much new content over the weekend. Between the turkey, decorating our house for Christmas, the John Williams/Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert, cutting down the Nelson Christmas tree in Oregon, and trying to make a significant dent in my shopping list, this should be a busy few days. For the fact that I can do all those things without first driving six hours tonight, I am very thankful.

Have a safe and happy holiday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

'Tis the Season

More mall-weary shoppers go online

The mad dash has begun. With only a month until Christmas, it's time to hit the mall--or is it? Last year I managed to do about a quarter of my shopping online. How much did you buy online? How much holiday shopping will you do online this year?

Monday, November 24, 2003

Three for One

A boatload of new content has been posted at 290MOVIES.

The Time Grows Short

Slams on Dean Make Him Stronger

If they want to beat Howard Dean, the other Democrats had better do it now. They tag-team him at every debate and his poll numbers show no erosion. The article above, from Newsday, compares him to Ruben Studdard--the opposite of what people thought was needed for the job, and yet, he's on top.

Meanwhile, the HRC has enough funding to start running full-page ads in major newspapers, including the ones you can find here. I challenge you to read this one and not be affected. Imagine loving someone--and not knowing if the hospital would even call you if he or she were dying there? Imagine knowing that even staying together in old age would be a monumental challenge. Imagine feeling second-class every day of your life.

This fight won't be won by people like me. It will be won by people like you. Please, if this issue comes up at your Thanksgiving table, don't keep quiet. The country is at a crossroads; there's never been a more critical time to win over the hearts and minds of Americans on this issue.

Thank you.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Oh, A-Rod

Red Sox or Yankees, A-Rod insists

For $25 million a year, I think I would work anywhere that would take me. Alex Rodriguez is a good player, but he's a baby who doesn't make his team better. He's lucky that the Rangers are stuck with his contract, and he'd be even luckier if they could find someone to take him. He shouldn't be naming only two teams he's willing to play for. For a contract valued at a quarter of a billion dollars, he should play wherever they tell him to play.


Polls Finds Mass. Gay Marriage Ruling OK

Conservatives who have spent the last few days calling the Massachusetts ruling legislating from the bench should take a look at this poll, which shows that people in the state agree with the ruling. Could it be that the judiciary is only doing what the legislature would do anyway if it had the courage? Maybe this article by Robert Reich is right--maybe this issue will end up hurting Bush more than helping him.

Friday, November 21, 2003


Those few of you who have met Raider, our pet rabbit, will be amused to learn that we found out yesterday that he's now a grandpa. Yes, his kids had kids--with one another. He's the paternal and maternal grandfather of three new bunnies that came into the world this week.

And some people think my behavior is deviant.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Black and White

Marriage Quiz

You should really take the quiz above. Feel free to comment on the results below. I think you'll be surprised...


New content has been posted at 290MUSIC. And because I like lists, here are a few more that I discovered today: Amazon's top 100 of 2003 and Rolling Stone's top 500 of all time!

Equal Time

Protect traditional marriage

Looking for fair and balanced? Here you go. Click above to read what the Family Research Council has to say about the ruling Massachusetts.

Here's what I find most objectionable: "Other research has shown that same-sex relationships lack permanence and fidelity. Therefore, if such unions are recognized as 'marriage,' those values will be further stripped from the ideal of marriage that is held up to our children."

Yes, indeed. We're the ones who are dragging marriage into the toilet. We're the ones with the 50% divorce rate. Clearly, we're going to make matters worse.

Yeah, right. Isn't it convenient for the moralists who run their campaigns based on family values that their crusade demands nothing of the voters they seek except blind rejection of other people? Crusaders for the Right demand no sacrifice of their constituents; they seek only to lay blame for the "end of the world" on people who won't vote for them anyway. They make my life their campaign issue because examining the indiscretions of corporate criminals and industrial polluters--people who are actually doing harm to their fellow citizens--wouldn't be a winning issue. Or so they say. What they mean is that it wouldn't be easy--it would demand of voters that they think about the issues rather than voting based on a knee-jerk reaction. I long for the day when someone runs a difficult campaign, tackling issues that matter--and wins.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Welcome to the Rational World

Mass. court cuts through the homophobia

This article by Derrick Jackson comes from the Boston Globe and is therefore as close to the source as can be. I love his answer to the conservatives who have been saying, over the past day and the past decade, that gay marriage will be the end of civlization: "Railing about gay marriage in a society where half of straight marriages end in divorce is gutter politics that exploits one of our deepest remaining strains of bigotry."

And if you're super rational, check out the analysis of economic, legal, and logistic benefits for couples in Massachusetts. Isn't this the way things should be everywhere?

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Scathing Review

New content has been posted at 290MOVIES. Read it before you rent a movie.

All New

The Wellstone memorial is over, but the green lives on in this new design. I hope you like it. I find it appropriate that I was asked to change the color on the same day that the NTSB determined the cause of the plane crash that took Paul Wellstone away from us.


Here's a bit more about what today's ruling in Massachusetts means for people living there, and what it could mean in the future for people elsewhere. Please, comment below. I'll be writing an essay about this topic very soon and I'd like to address your concerns.

Weekend in New England

Massachusetts Rules State Can't Deny Gays Right to Marry

Baby, let's go to Boston.

I'll be following this story with great interest. It's good news, of course, but it also means that gay marriage is a campaign issue now, and that the Federal Marriage Amendment is going to be seriously considered. Maybe it's too early for this phase of the culture war in the United States; maybe we'll lose a dozen years of progress because of this ruling. We're about to find out.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Ready to Retire

Scalia Lashes Out at Supreme Court Judges

I'm starting to wonder--is Antonin Scalia getting ready to retire from the bench?

I can't imagine any other logical explanation for his recent smattering of outbursts, both written and verbal, regarding his fellow justices. The Supreme Court is known for its collegiality; the nine justices usually stick together even when they disagree, and certainly don't get as vicious as Scalia did today and has during speeches and in his dissent to Lawrence v. Texas .

Either Scalia thinks he can continue to work with--and, he hopes, persuade--these people every day despite the tongue-lashings he delivers on a more and more frequent basis, or he's so sick of being in the minority when he believes he's clearly right that he's spiraling out of control and on his way out the door. Frankly, that kind of anger can cause an aneurysm.

For his own health, maybe Scalia should put aside his robes and go to work for a conservative think tank. There he can plot out a course to "take back the country" from the "crazy liberals" he works with right now.

Role Reversal

The Limits of Eloquence - Did Bush mean a word of his speech about democracy? By Michael Kinsley

I consider Michael Kinsley, the founder of Slate, one of the brightest minds in America. This insightful, incisive piece explores the Bush foreign policy and how the rationale it now garbs itself in is remarkably similar to the ideas that Bush attacked during his debates with Al Gore. The quote below should give you an idea of what to expect. (For those of you who dislike the tone, I promise this is also the bitterest passage in the article.)

"One way to show your respect for democracy is to state your beliefs when running for office and then apply those same beliefs when you're elected. Democracy becomes pointless if there is no connection between the policies that citizens think they are voting for and the policies they get. In this case we actually do seem to have the policies that a majority of voters thought they were supporting. But we cannot count on election theft and broken promises to cancel each other out every time."

Check out how the next paragraph ends.

Turns Out They Don't Hate Us

U.S. Expats in UK Hit by Wave of 'Anti-Bushism'

Everyone's heard that you should be careful in foreign countries because being an American can make you a target. Guess who's taking the blame?

It's not hard to understand; a distinctly "We don't need you" attitude toward European allies has made Bush our least popular president worldwide in quite some time. And while I know the foreigners who dislike Bush don't live here and don't vote, there's little doubt that the choices of American voters have more to do with the fate of the rest of the world than those of any other citizenry.

Maybe we should make that argument at the U.N. and claim we need relief funding to better educate the American electorate. If a Democratic candidate for president used that as his rationale--and then used the money to finance his campaign for office--there are a lot of countries that would think long and hard about paying.

Let There Be Content

My apologies for taking a longer-than-announced hiatus. It's been a busy four days! The Ten Commandments judge is out--it was fun to see his sullen face splashed on every airport monitor on Thursday. I have a slew of articles to post as soon as I can, and many movies to discuss--Alex and Emma , Finding Nemo , and The Matrix Revolutions --in IMAX.

For now, bask in the bizarre glory of this.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I'm going to Oakland for work later today. I won't be back until very early Saturday morning. Don't expect any updates until Saturday afternoon...

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Senator Franken

I can't imagine a better man to challenge Norm Coleman than Al Franken. (Click on Al's name to read the story in the Pioneer Press .)The former Saturday Night Live star and author of Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right , who has dedicated most of his time to political works of one sort or another over the past several years, is considering a run for Senate in his home state of Minnesota in 2008. His passionate chapter regarding the life and death of Paul Wellstone in the aforementioned book convinced me that Franken would be a fitting successor.

Plus, politics would be fun again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

We Can Use the Cash

Billionaire Soros takes on Bush: Ousting president 'central focus of my life,' he says

You and me both, pal.

Good to See

Matthew Perry Returns to 'West Wing'
It's good to see the show get good press. Check out this list of ten things critics like about the post-Sorkin show.

Back to Normal

The comment server is back in action. Resume fire.


Something is wrong with the comment server today, so comments been temporarily suspended to allow the rest of the site to load properly. I'll bring them back as soon as possible so you can all get back to telling me how wrong I am.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Sign Here, Please

Sign the Petition

I don't ask for much, but if you could sign the petition above, that'd be great. Thanks.

A Snail's Pace

Sorry it's taken so long. Another review has been posted at 290BOOKS.

So Much Sadness

Monarch Butterfly May Face Climate Threat

Get ready for more news like this. It's one thing to cause the demise of our own environs--global warming is slowly but surely sinking coastal cities like New Orleans--and quite another to wreak havoc on other species.

Back to Dean

Chicago Tribune | Appeal to South cuts across race

Well, our boy went and decided to keep fundraising for the rest of the primary season, which means I can't stop talking about him just yet. The link above will lead you to another interesting take on Dean's remark heard round the world, this time from a black columnist who has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. This wasn't Dean's first use of the flag as a symbol, but it's interesting to see how different the reactions are now that he's the frontrunner.

Also interesting is Paul Krugman's take on this.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Old Men and Young Women

Not a Womb In the House

No, this isn't about the latest Richard Gere movie. It's more on our theme: why do old men feel qualified to decide what young women can do? Enjoy.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Don't I Feel Smart

Image of Men Signing Abortion Ban Assailed

Today Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, made the same point I made yesterday about the signing ceremony for the partial-birth abortion bill. This could turn out to be the perfect year to finally have a woman as the face of the Democratic party in Congress.

Here's a quote from the article that I hope presages some aggressive campaigning:

NARAL Pro-Choice America put the photo of Bush with male lawmakers on the home page of its Web site. The group's communications director, David Seldin, e-mailed the Internet link to reporters Friday under the subject line, "A Picture for the Ages."

"If we had the money we'd put it on TV every day from now till the election," Seldin said in the e-mail.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Buy Order

Another new review has been posted at 290MUSIC. Check it out.

Wrong Symbol, Right Idea

Dean still holds a strong hand

This is a pretty decent analysis of the fallout from Dean's Confederate remark. To reiterate here what's been going on in a comment brush fire for a few days now, I don't think Dean was right to use that symbol to represent the voters that he, rightly, hopes to bring into his column for 2004. As he said, he doesn't understand why white Southern voters who make less than $25,000 a year "keep voting Republican against their own economic interests."

It's unfortunate that he made the remark, but even more unfortunate that he could make it and people would know exactly what he meant. The reason why this remains an issue is that the Republicans have been flying the rebel flag for years to sucker these very same poor white Southerners into "sticking with their own color" come Election Day. When people are done casting stones at Dean, and he wins the nomination anyway, I hope they'll pick up some bigger rocks to throw at the GOP's cynical strategy and the people behind it.

That Makes Sense

Bush Signs Anti-Abortion Bill

Yeah, these are definitely the people who should decide what a woman can and can't do.

Is it just me, or does Bush look fake in this picture?

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Riding the Bench

There were several good developments on tonight's so-so episode. To wit:
--Sam--Sam!--called to tell Josh to "roll with the punches." Could it be? Are the writers actually acknowledging the existence of characters AFTER they leave the show?
--Will is doing a good job in his new post and Leo took the time to notice--in between rants.
--Donna totally gets Josh. She ran interference for him throughout the episode, protecting his ego and his image. Who else would have found a way to make Ryan useful by sending him as a backup dinner mate? And at the end, there was a reason why they played that stirring music--Donna had found the way to help Josh recover. She stood by him and showed him the way that he can still be useful and do something meaningful, even as he's being benched. That rainy day file of hers will save his life. But no, she's not on the right level for him to love her, right? Amy would have slept with him--at best. And while I don't dispute the therapeutic benefits that might have had, Donna's contribution was far more important and long-term.
--Charlie finally got more lines! Oh, wait--that was in the disaster relief PSA after the show. And even there he got the least lines among the three of them. "Three," by the way, was one of the inspired sentences Dule Hill got to deliver tonight. To his credit, he did it well.
--CJ told the President he needs to get back to leading. If only she would have added, "Because I'm sick of listening to cranky old Leo scream and shout and bench Josh when he authorized the strategy with Carrick and maybe he needs a vacation and maybe we need a vacation from him so please, please, Mr. President, lead again and stop letting him run the White House and the country. I'm scared--of him."
--Amy did what she should do on the show--she called on the phone and didn't appear.
--Bingo Bob made a nice save at the meeting with the Congressional folks. He knew the right tone and language to use. Maybe he can be helpful after all?

And the bad? Abby is still gone. Danny is still gone. Fitz is gone for good. They haven't hung the French guy in the Rose Garden yet for letting Zoey's drink get spiked. No one knows how Zoey was found. And the writing still stutters at times. But I care about the plot. So it's going OK. Keep it up, Johnny.


Another new review has been posted at 290MUSIC.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003


Rivals Seek to Block Dean Endorsement

It's starting to look desperate for any Democrat who isn't named Dean. You know you've got your opponents scared when three of the prominent candidates running against you team up to thwart you. Edwards, Kerry, and especially Gephardt have good reason, though: if Dean gets the endorsement of a labor union with 1.6 million members, he'll have all the troops on the ground he needs to take on all comers. And Gephardt's union man strategy will inevitably fail.

I predict this: it doesn't matter whether they stop the endorsement or not. The SEIU has already indicated that they'll endorse Dean or nobody, and that tells you everything. This is Howard's race to lose. If he avoids a major gaffe--like the Confederate flag episode could have been--he'll cruise.

Speaking of the flag incident--in which Dean said he wants to bring Democrats who still have Confederate flags on their trucks back to the party--I understand the sentiment, but have to agree with Gephardt's chiding of Dean. Nevertheless...this is an election that needs to be won, and that will mean winning at least one Southern state. Unfortunately, you can't do that without getting at least a few guys with a rebel flag on their pick-up to vote for you.

Couldn't we have just let the South go? If it weren't for the whole slavery thing, which clearly had to be stopped, I'd be tempted to see what the world would look like if the Confederacy was its own nation. The remaining United States would be a very different, much more liberal country. Oh, the capital might have to move--DC would be on the border--and we'd have to import more cotton and oil without the fields of Texas to supply us. You know what? It just might be worth it.

Six Percent More...

More Voters Deciding Not to Support Bush

44% of voters say they plan to vote against Bush a year from now. That's a big number in a poll that still has a lot of uncertainty in it, including an opponent. That's 44% who don't know who they'd be voting for and still prefer that person to Bush.

And it's six percent more than the people who plan to vote FOR Bush. Which is, in electoral terms, a landslide.

Bush still leads when faced off with a candidate, but that will change: most people still don't know who the Democratic candidates are. There's still a year to get to know them.

Bush had better hope he can find a solution to Iraq soon. If another helicopter gets shot down this time next year, his political career--still only a dozen or so years old--is over.


Stephen King Finishes 'Dark Tower' Series

At long last, I can pick up and finish the fourth book in King's very good, and long overdue, Dark Tower series. A year from now, he says, he'll have published all seven books.

Monday, November 03, 2003


A new review is available at 290MUSIC.


By the way, the archives are back to normal. If you're put off by what I'm posting today, you can go back and revel in the glory of my August posts...when I had nothing to do but blog. What a time it was...

Unwelcome News

A few weeks ago I was pleased to hear that Bob Graham of Florida had chosen to leave the race for the Democratic nomination. Today's news is not cause for the same sort of celebration.

Graham's departure from the Senate next year leaves another open seat for Democrats to defend without the benefits of incumbency. More importantly, it strips the Senate of another reasonable voice.

Next year's elections are looking more and more critical. If the GOP extends its margin in the Senate and Bush retains the presidency, the impact on tax laws, the environment, Social Security, and the future of the Supreme Court will be catastrophic. It doesn't look good...

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Time to Confess

grouphug.us // let it all out

This is a fascinating little site. Take a look.

And no, I haven't posted any confessions, so don't go trying to guess which one is mine.

I've Found It

Welcome to History 2.0

This article is an interesting take on something that hasn't gotten that much attention yet--Amazon's new and remarkable "search within the book" technology. As Steven Levy points out, the digitization of more and more published works makes it easier and easier for researchers to find what they're looking for--and do it fast. For someone who's seeking sources of information for an article or research paper, for example, the search process will be shortened even further than it was by the advent of online periodical databases.

Levy's right: this small step for Amazon is the start of something major for the way we as a culture think about information.

Saturday, November 01, 2003


A new review has been posted at 290MOVIES.


The structure for 290BOOKS is complete (for now), and includes a rolling list of the books I've read over the past year. If you'd like to hear about one in particular, please let me know.

A Note on the Archives

There is apparently a problem with the archives right now. Hopefully Blogger will fix it soon. In the meantime, you're stuck with the current content.


New content is now available at 290BOOKS.

Well Isn't That Odd

Gay rodeo rounds up new sponsors

I had no idea there was such a thing as the International Gay Rodeo Association. What's next? Gay marriage?

Friday, October 31, 2003

A Whole New 290 World

The crash earlier today, and Paul's new blog, got me thinking about the way this site is set up. So, you'll notice that the links to the side are a little different. Eventually Highway 290 Revisited will be the home page for a cluster of 290 sites (sites related to this one, not two-hundred and ninety different sites).

Isn't it sickening how much energy I have after my first week of work in four months? I'm sure it will wear off soon.

Something Bad...

My old template just died. I don't know why. Enjoy this weird thing until I can fix the real one again over the weekend.

Headed Home

Tonight after work I get to return to a house rather than a hotel. We don't have mold in our house; the air ducts are being cleaned today and all should be well.

This means that I get to give away the massive bag of candy in our pantry to neighborhood children rather than eating the whole thing over the weekend. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2003

That Was An Improvement

Last night's episode was far better than the previews would indicate, which makes me think NBC is promoting the show in an attempt to win a new fan base while trying, somewhat, to maintain the things that current fans enjoy while assuming they'll tune in. I have to admit, grudgingly, that this is a pretty good strategy.

I still don't like that Leo is turning into Mr. Evil. The "Us against the rest" feel of the principal cast is being put aside for some pretty serious rancor. I thought CJ was going to scream at Leo, and Will practically did shout at Toby before he decided to work for Bingo Bob. (I wonder what that choice means for Josh Malina's role on the show?)

Anyone who's paid attention knows what I liked the most, though: Amy left, and that's got to be a good thing. I especially liked how selfless Donna was: she was obvious about her feelings for Josh when she told him how good he looked, but she also tried to get him to treat Amy well and didn't nag him about his birthday. The writers remembered the promise Sorkin made last year when he put the words, "You've got to get Josh" in Donna's mouth--she's the one who gets him, both in the mental sense and, eventually, the romantic one.

Let's just hope Josh can dig himself out of the very Sorkin-esque mess he's in--I think his problems with the Idaho senator were the thing that made this episode enjoyable. The juxtaposition at the end--huge failure and happy birthday--was the kind of thing I would have expected in season two. Credit is due: good work, Mr. Wells.

Now, please don't make the rest of sweeps month revolve around a tornado.

Let's Hope He's Electable...

Howard Dean looks like he'll be picking up a big endorsement this week. That will really hurt Gephardt, who I was starting to consider the number 2 candidate in the race. Clark or Kerry have a chance to make a move--now.

A year from now there will be mere days until the election.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003


The Onion | Pope John Paul II: 25 Years Of Laughs

I don't post from the Onion very often, but I didn't say anything when the Pope marked his 25th anniversary. He deserves some recognition for doing at least as much harm as good over the last quarter century by standing in the way of progress, encouraging the maintenance of stereotypes, and preventing millions of people around the world from seeking contraception that could help reduce population problems and begin the move toward equality for women in developing nations.

But God will tell him when to step down. Perhaps with a lightning bolt?

Just in Time

If you look to the right at the new music list, you'll realize that I found employment just in time to maintain my compulsive CD-buying habit. Suddenly picking the top albums of 2003 is looking a little bit trickier...

The new R.E.M. is great even if you're not a lifelong fan. Except for "Shiny Happy People," it's got everything you'll want from the last 15 years. Cough up the extra 4 bucks and get the special edition with the rarities disc. It's mostly songs you've heard before performed live or in a different version, and worth the money.

I'll have to listen to The Strokes a few more times to judge it fairly. Right now it's hard to tell if they've done anything at all different. I wish they would have continued working with Nigel Godrich (producer for Radiohead and two Beck albums). Oh well...

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Go See It

See it. That's all I want to say about Mystic River , one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. There's a reason why you haven't seen a bad review...

Monday, October 27, 2003

Worth the Wait

I just finished my first day at the AAD. (In fact, I'm still here as I type this because I go home to the internetless hotel when I finish typing.) What a great day! I learned about the benefits of my job, which are myriad and include, for some reason, discounts at Woodfield. When I got upstairs, I found even better news: my cubicle wasn't a cubicle.

It was an office! Complete with a door, two desks (one for writing, reading, and meetings, and one for typing), and as much space as my boss had at my last job. (I'm not counting the two-day interlude at IPA.) The euphoria from this will probably propel me through at least Christmas.

It helps that the people are very nice; I was taken to lunch and people have been stopping by as I type this to say goodnight and ask how I enjoyed my first day. I can hardly contain my excitement. (I realize as I write this that it sounds like a letter Josh Malina would have written on Sports Night.)

In retrospect, the stop at IPA was a very good thing. It showed me what I want in a job and made me far more committed to getting this one. Quitting IPA was an even better thing; if I had stayed one more day I wouldn't have taken the call or scheduled the interview that got me this job. Sometimes things really do happen for a reason.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

But Before I Go

A better reason to hate Bush

Chew on this for a while.

If you don't hate Bush when you're done, chew again.

If you don't hate Bush after that...

You're as illogical and foolish as he is.

Livin La Vida Quinta

I'm home right now battling with a washing machine that won't spin out the water at the end of the cycle in a house whose temperature has dropped below 60 degrees because the heat is off while we're not living here. Oh, and it smells like the ducts haven't been cleaned yet.

So I'm posting this to explain that you won't be seeing quite so many updates from me this week, partly because I start my new job tomorrow and partly because I'll be going home to a hotel. Which, by the way, is about the last thing you want to do at the end of the day. Did I mention they have an outdoor pool?

Wish me luck on my "business trip" to Schaumburg!

Friday, October 24, 2003

Get Lost

Lost in Translation

What a film. I think this was the first time I've cared about the characters in a movie, and felt empathy with them, in a while. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson give amazing performances. And the feel of the film drags you into the characters and their experience of Japan--you're just as lost as they are. In a word, this is a wry film. And that's a good thing.

Anyone who's seen it, please offer your guess as to what Bob says to Charlotte at the end.

Home Sweet Home

La Quinta / Reservations / Property Overview / About This Hotel

Our landlords are sending us on vacation! Their sudden discovery that the horrific stench emanating from our vents may have something to do with mold in our ducts (which can cause, I learned today, permanent brain and lung damage) prompted them to send us to...Hoffman Estates! We'll be living right next to Chili's and IHOP, and just across the freeway from a 30-theatre AMC.

Free continental breakfast will definitely make up for not being able to use my computer or television or stereo or garage or read my newspaper each morning. At least I'll have a lot of fresh towels every morning.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

I Feel So Bad About This

Is Scalia Too Blunt To Be Effective? (washingtonpost.com)

Ha! Justice Scalia, part of the unholy trinity of Supreme Court justices (with Thomas and Rehnquist) who can be counted upon to be on the opposite side of me on nearly any issue, won't be able to weigh in regarding the Pledge of Allegiance and whether it can include the words "under God." I guess that's what happens when you decide a case before hearing the arguments.

Today Scalia lambasted his peers for their ruling in Lawrence v. Texas . Doesn't he get it? I like the image presented in the first article of Scalia as a man who has failed to bring his colleagues around to his positions and thus been rendered, despite considerable talents, mostly ineffectual. Let's hope he remains that way.

The best way to keep Scalia out of the majority on the Court? Don't let Bush hold the White House next year. But that's just a suggestion.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Language Problem

Dear John Wells, Executive Producer of The West Wing ,

You've got to be kidding me. Josh and Amy have a language problem comparable to the one the administration has regarding the stagnating economy? Here's what they have: a relationship based entirely on physical attraction and on Amy's willingness to prey upon Josh to advance her causes. Shouldn't MLP be off having a baby by now?

At least you redeemed Donna's diet metaphor after making her look incredibly stupid--having her share a theory with a Nobel Prize winning president was a nice boost for the Donna-isn't-an-idiot crowd. And that speech about Bingo Bob on the teleprompter was pretty funny. But having Ryan bail out Josh and never saying anything about it, marginalizing Charlie's role on the show, and the way you're turning Leo into a crank--I can't say I approve.

By the way, John, I hope you're setting up something very good with this whole "Toby wants a different job description" thing. Perhaps this is how you'll promote Donna to set up her impending reckoning, and subsequent love affair, with Josh?

It's hard to like your show, Mr. Wells, when you're running against the MS scandal episodes over on Bravo. You should consider asking NBC to stop airing the reruns until summer so you don't have to compete. Frankly, other than Matthew Perry's return to the show, I don't know what the hell you've got planned. Based on that trailer, it doesn't look like much--but at least you didn't make me watch Josh and Amy kiss again. Thank heavens for small blessings.

A Very Concerned Fan

Take That, Ruben

Clay Aiken's CD Debuts at No. 1

It isn't the best CD of the year. I doubt it'll make my top ten. And it sounds like the soundtrack to a Broadway musical that doesn't yet exist. But Clay Aiken sold 613,000 copies of his new album in the first week it was in stores, and that's pretty amazing.

I hope Ruben sells less than 300,000. That would really be icing on the cake.

Is This True?

Dateline: Hollywood

This article, sadly, blurs the line between truth and fiction. I can actually imagine the conversation that occurs near the end of the piece taking place--and Colmes doing just as bad a job as he can defending his alleged party.

Thankfully, I doubt the electoral map will be quite as red as this article shows it. Yesterday's ban is the beginning of a culture war that will play out over the coming year. The notion that Roe v. Wade is in danger traditionally works in the Democrats' favor. Some of the voters the GOP counts on may be turned off by an anti-choice message--especially soccer moms.

If you read the culture war article, pay special attention to the section about General Boykin--AKA the "Christian Soldier"--and his remarks about Islam. The fact that Bush won't shout back at him for making clearly racist remarks because he doesn't want to offend his "base" tells me just how scary and powerful that base is.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Brian was also right. He's been pointing out the flaws with the comment system consistently for a long time. Jon just made a joke about it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

New Genetic Code

Jon is right: this website seems to have a genetic predisposition to ignoring comments. Well, no longer. Below each post for the time being you'll see two comment links. The one on the left is NEW; please start using it for your comments. The one on the right is the old, clunky version; I'll keep it on the site until it seems appropriate to remove it.

I hope this makes it easier to add comments in the future.

Not for the Faint of Heart

Savage Love by Dan Savage (06/12/03)

I discovered this while reading The Onion today. The offending material--a new definition for the word "santorum"--is at the end of the column.

That 's just about the perfect revenge.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Mission Accomplished?

BRAVO > The West Wing

A bit of personal triumph to share: as of tonight it is my belief that I have seen every episode of The West Wing . If not, it's very close. Thank goodness for Bravo.

Geysers of Blood

Kill Bill - OCTOBER 10th VOLUME 1 -

After a day of reflection, I've decided that Kill Bill is just the right kind of movie to divide in two.

I want to know how it ends--don't get me wrong about that. And watching it was, while sometimes straining, always entertaining--Uma Thurman's delicate facial expressions make up for the lack of dialogue in Volume One. But I couldn't have made it through the other 100 minutes or so of the film--not yesterday, and probably not today, either.

Much has been made of the fact that Tarantino shoots the movie in a variety of styles, all of which share a common trait--they obscure reality. Blood shoots from wounds like it would in a cartoon. The characters are often caricatures of themselves--indeed, Lucy Liu's character is animated for half her screen time. The story is so over the top as to be outside the realm of possibility.

Normally these traits make a movie watchable. They make it an escape. I can sit through three hours of Lord of the Rings and beg for more when it ends because the situation, however dire, is an escape from the reality of my life and bears little relation to it. These traits are the reason the Matrix sequels could have been packaged as one and many would have been made happier as a result.

And these traits are the reason why I can't imagine watching KB in one sitting. All the cartoony elements mask the underlying simplicity of the story: a heroine who got screwed and wants to face the people who did it. Yes, her screwing is drastic--how many of you were shot in the head on your wedding day while the rest of your wedding party was killed?--but so is her solution. It stands in all too easily as a metaphor for our own pain, our own primal urge for revenge. Tarantino lets loose the ambitions that civilization encourages us--and rightly so--to suppress. KB strikes a chord with a deep and disturbing part of the human psyche, the part that craves vengeance and holds a grudge. Incredibly, it does so without miring itself in the hours of philosophical debate about the nature of revenge one would expect from dialogue-fanatic Tarantino. Somehow, he lets the action do the talking.

If you can stomach the body count--and it's high, oh so high--go see it. Tarantino may well have lost his mind. But the man knows how to make a movie.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Another Bit of Science

Yahoo! News - Sexual Identity Hard-Wired by Genetics - Study

Well, here's a study for George Bush to toss on the "ignore" pile with the global warming studies. I guess that's all you can do when the facts are against you.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Make Up Your Minds!

NBC.com > The West Wing

Now NBC is saying that the episode of WW originally scheduled during game 7 of the NLCS will be on THIS Wednesday, the 22nd, rather than the 29th as originally announced. Just thought some folks might want to know.

And for the Josh-Donna naysayers, note that Bradley Whitford is next to Janel Moloney in the cast lineup at the top of NBC's site. And Mary-Louise Parker (Amy) is with child and expecting in early 2004.

Friday, October 17, 2003

10 Outs

Only ten outs--5 for the Red Sox, 5 for the Cubs--prevented the world from seeing the World Series of dreams. I don't even know if I can bear to watch the Marlins battle the Yankees.


Thursday, October 16, 2003

Just in Time

We’re Baaaa-aack

As the article above points out, liberal views are finally being heard by more than the small portion of the population willing to use the much-maligned term to describe themselves. Five of the ten bestselling books are by liberal authors, including Molly Ivins and Paul Krugman, who I've quoted here before, and Al Franken, whose book I just finished reading.

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right is a wonderful book. You'd think it would be funny but lack any substance--and you'd be dead wrong. Every chapter bursts at the seams with meaningful discussion and arguments for a variety of causes. Hannity and Colmes, O'Reilly, and Ann Coulter all come in for some fact-checking, and the prevalent idea of a liberal media goes through the wringer.

And the book is also, much to Franken's credit, hilarious. Skits like Operation Chickenhawk and Supply Side Jesus make their points while making you laugh, and repeating themes like the Bush administration's pre-9/11 terrorism plan, Operation Ignore, bring a necessary levity to a very serious topic.

If you only read one piece of non-fiction this year, make it this book. It'll really open your eyes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Fear Not!


NBC.com says that tonight's episode of The West Wing will air on the 29th. And no, they're not going to go out of order. Next week is supposed to be a rerun anyhow, from back when Rob Lowe was leaving the show. NBC probably wanted to avoid conflicting with the end of the NLCS--gee, who would watch that --and the World Series game that will inevitably be on next week. After all, the ratings for baseball's postseason this year have been setting records. It'd be tough to compete.

Think Fox would like Chicago, New York, and Boston in the playoffs every year?

For Real This Time

Benefits Overview

Once again I've accepted a job--and this time I mean to keep it. I'll be working as a writer at the American Academy of Dermatology, producing most of the content for their member magazine. It seemed like a great organization and a really nice office during my two interviews, and everyone I've talked to has been extremely friendly.

Never underestimate the power of a really wacky cover letter.

Nothing Like a Clinton

Yahoo! News - Clinton blasts Bush's gay marriage attack

And people wonder why I'd vote for Hillary in a heartbeat.

Speaking of hearts, was yours broken tonight? Five outs! Five! Tomorrow night you'll be able to breathe easy--if you're not watching the game. Everyone who is will be holding our collective breath for nine innings.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

A Note on the Color

Since some have noted the new green background, I should explain why I changed the look of the site.

First, I was getting tired of having the same old look. More importantly, I tried to find a color as similar as possible to Wellstone green to honor his memory these next two weeks. I'll change the background before Halloween.

Speaking of color, I think my neighborhood zipped through fall last night. The tree outside my office window went from brilliant gold to barren. I guess snow will be next.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Strong Families?

Marriage Protection Week, 2003

Somehow, I don't think strong families are what the Right considers the most important notion in the delightful proclamation above. If they did, they wouldn't have made the third and most provocative sentence stand apart.

Thank you, George W. Bush, for using the authority vested in you to remind me that you consider me a second-class citizen. (And thanks, especially, for choosing the week after National Coming Out Day to do it.) My only comfort is knowing that you're a third-rate human being with a fourth-grade mind.

Almost a Year

In twelve short days, it will have been a year since Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife, his daughter, three members of his staff, and two pilots crashed into a northern Minnesota forest and died. While it seems strange to feel this way, I consider that day a pivotal one for me, a day when I staretd to reconsider my place in the world as it related to politics, family, and work.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I came across a chapter in Al Franken's new book (which is, by the way, stellar) that discusses Wellstone's death and the ensuing memorial. I don't want to get into a debate about that memorial, though I still shudder when I think about how thoroughly the media botched its coverage when it allowed a heartfelt speech to be spun into an act of naked political cunning. What I want to do is remind people of something Wellstone said, something I believe, and something that refutes the idea, expressed to me by many of late, that politics is just a game, not a meaningful exercise:

"Politics is not about power. Politics is not about money. Politics is not about winning for the sake of winning. Politics is about the improvement of people's lives. It's about advancing the cause of peace and justice in our country and in our world. Politics is about doing well for people."

Now That's Brilliant

Raised by a pack of French poodles

Though I've never watched Newlyweds , I've heard enough about it to find the article above very funny and very interesting. Linda Holmes is an excellent freelancer, and I think you'll find her conclusions about the popularity of the MTV show intriguing. Enjoy.

Thought of the Day

I'd rather work for a company that gives employees Martin Luther King Day off than one that celebrates Columbus Day.

And here's a question, especially for people familiar with elementary education: is Columbus still a big deal at this time of year like he was in my youth? I have such a different idea of him and his ilk now, and I wondered if schools are teaching about his "discovery" differently.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Done So Soon?

Google Search: "joey and rachel break up"

One of my visitors today arrived via the search above. It turns out that this site was the only one that a search for "joey and rachel break up" returned.

Yet it would appear that, only three episodes in, that's what has happened on Friends . I have no source, so this isn't spoiling, but I saw this coming and you've got to wonder, after watching Joey and Rachel fizzle out and head to bed separately, how long it will be before the writers bring back the Ross-Rachel plotline. They've only got 15 episodes left to put Emma in an unbroken home.

I thought tonight showed a great use of a guest star without all the promotional clowning you usually see on NBC. Granted, in spite of her roles in Christopher Guest films and as Stifler's mom, Jennifer Coolidge is hardly a household name. Still, it was nice to see a surprise on a show that, after ten years, has to really stretch to be surprising. And Chandler grabbing the phone to tell Amanda that he gets pedicures, providing multiple payoffs for a joke set up at the intro, was the kind of detail that allows the show to remain funny after all this time.

On a personal note, the waiting begins again for me. I've sent in my writing sample and submitted my references, following up on two strong interviews; someday soon I hope to hear back with positive news about the job I want more than any I've heard about this long summer and fall. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Oh, the Horror

GeorgeWBush.com :: Official Blog :: October 2003 Archive

George W. Bush and I now have something in common--before this, our gender was the only thing I believe we shared--and it makes me somewhat sick. Bush has started a blog.

The entry above discusses the launch of his 2004 campaign in Pennsylvania, where he's chosen the delightful Rick Santorum to chair his efforts. Yes, Bush is aggressively courting the gay vote in the Keystone State. Perhaps he should call in Jesse Helms to tie up the black vote as well.

For those who don't remember why Rick Santorum and I aren't friends, check out this charming article by Santorum and this humorous selection from another, more respectable blog than Bush's.

Independence Day? More Like Columbus Day

I know that reality has been suspended on The West Wing . Nevertheless, wasn't it a bit strange that tonight's episode took place on the Fourth of July? I suppose they're maintaining the internal integrity of the show.

This episode was a slight improvement over the last two. While the horse montage that ran through the show was a bit much, the pacing of the conversations picked up, and the characters are back to thinking about issues and making us think with them. CJ's troubles with Bartlet's actions will hopefully mean a meatier role for her as the season goes on. Again, though, I must ask: Where is Danny? He's the one who brought Sharif to CJ's attention in the first place. I hope Wells hasn't let his character fade from the show in favor of this obnoxious new intern, Ryan.

Also, I'm glad William Devane won't be the VP, but I thought Gary Cole fell flat as "Bingo Bob." If he's going to get what he asks for--more access and involvement than Hoynes--I hope the writers make his character as intriguing as he promised to be in his little speech to Bartlet about confounding expectations.

Finally, I'm glad Charlie finally got a line. The conflicted face of Dule Hill as he told Bartlet to send Zoey to New Hampshire spoke volumes, but he deserves to speak with his mouth once in a while.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

A Faint Light

Yahoo! News - Poll: U.S. public is 50-50 on gay marriage

On a very bad night for sports and politics--unfortunately we can't recall the result of the Cubs game--the article above is the best news I could scrounge up. What do people think: will we see some federal legal recognition of gay couples in our lifetime?

If You Went to Bed When This Was the Headline, I'm So Sorry

Yahoo! News - Buccaneers Leading Colts 28-7 at 3Q

It was a perfect night for sports. The Red Sox kept the dream of an all-curse World Series alive by closing out the choking A's 4-3 in a nail-biting game that couldn't have been more riveting in its final innings. (Best wishes to Johnny Damon, who left the field on a stretcher, and evidently a concussion, after colliding with a teammate as they both ran to catch a bloop to center.) Then, millions of Americans switched over to the Monday Night Football telecast, only to find the Colts hopelessly behind the Bucs...

Except...Indy QB Peyton Manning caught fire, seemingly aware that his audience had suddenly doubled. With 386 passing yards (176 of them to the phenomenal and underrated Marvin Harrison), Manning led his team back from a 21-point halftime deficit, driving the team downfield for three scores within the final four minutes. The ensuing overtime brought eleven more minutes of thrills before Vanderjagt's field goal clinked the right goalpost and bounced left and through to win the game. I pity the millions of people who turned off the game certain that it had been decided and missed the most stunning comeback of the season.

The First of Many

Bob Graham Ends Presidential Campaign

This comes as welcome news: Bob Graham, Senator and former governor of Florida, has left the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. We're back down to the fellowship of nine. As time passes I'm starting to wonder if Clark isn't the electable answer...but for now, all eyes on the recall. Place your bets: When will the final recall results be available? I'm betting we won't know the outcome until Thursday.

Monday, October 06, 2003

The Same Old Song

Once again I have a second interview for a job, this time on Wednesday for a job here. After all these interviews, I'm more nervous about my round of golf tomorrow than discussing a job, but wish me luck anyhow. This would be a good job to get.

I caved in and bought the new Sting album. So far it's OK, but not a revelation. His duet with Mary J. Blige is excellent, but there's a lot of filler, many of the songs are too long, and some of the album sounds like Sting plagiarizing himself. Alas.

The new Rufus Wainwright CD, Want One , is more promising. The opening track, "Oh What a World," borrows from Bolero, and that's just the start of the fun. The lyrics are interesting, the music is strikingly good and executed with obvious skill, and the album as a whole feels shorter than Sting's--but is, in fact, longer. It's just a more enjoyable way to spend time.

Sunday, October 05, 2003


Yahoo! News - Calif.'s Davis Comes Back Swinging at Schwarzenegger

It's been an interesting weekend for the California recall election. Tom Brokaw asked Arnold point-blank about the allegations of groping and harassment, noting that in many states what the potential governor has been accused of has a name: sexual assault. As the article linked above notes, the number of women who have recounted their stories of mistreatment at Schwarzenneger's hands has grown to fifteen. I doubt they're all lying.

What do people think: Should a man who seems not to respect women be the next governor of California come Wednesday? And isn't it obvious what happens next if he wins? Can't you see the signs already?

The petitions are already printed, at least in Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury comic. Starting Wednesday, if he wins, Arnold will be the next governor who faces a recall election. Don't you think millions of disgusted women and embarrassed Californians will sign? The Republicans have started something bad. It won't end here.

A Great Day for Every Ursa

Yahoo! News - Cubs End 95 Years of Playoff Frustration

Today was the day of all Chicago sports days. The Bears and Cubs both found a way to win.

I was actually at the Bears game. Edinger kicked the winning field goal right at us, and we got to see both Bear touchdowns in our end zone as well. The Bears got their first win at the new Soldier Field--a historic feat, especially given their Division III level play for the first three quarters.

As for Kerry Wood and the Cubs...magical. I hope you saw it.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Ah, Memories...

The End Matter

At last I've discovered that much of what I read in The New Yorker --a magazine to which you should subscribe if you don't already--is posted on the internet for me to share with you. Today's link will encourage a chuckle from anyone who remembers suffering with Hacker in college, or any other guide to proper citation in term papers. The final paragraph is worth its weight in gold, and ends thus: "The perfect manual of style would be like the perfect map of the world: exactly coterminous with its subject, containing a rule for every word of every sentence. We would need an extra universe to accommodate it. It would be worth it." The article explores the myriad deficiencies of Microsoft Word, the haphazard nature of web citation, and the general hilarity of trying to record your sources.

The issue also contains an interesting profile of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, written by none other than Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections .

The last issue contains a very funny profile of R.W. Apple, Jr., a New York Times writer for decades whose reputation grows with his waistline. (Jon, this issue is probably on your coffee table where I left it.) Written by Calvin Trillin, it's worth reading simply for the playful joy of the words, which were of such quality that I'm sad to have left my copy of the magazine behind in St. Louis. If you happen across a copy of the September 29th issue, sit down and enjoy.

Beating the Bushes

Dean still on top of money race

With the numbers coming in, it's apparent that Howard Dean will lead the Democratic pack in fundraising again this quarter. That's good, but hardly news.

So here's some news, taken from the article linked above: "Taking the party-wide view, Rosenberg pointed to what almost no one else has noticed: Based on the preliminary estimates for the third quarter, the 10-person Democratic field collectively will have outraised the Bush campaign, an indication of how fired up Democratic donors are."

That's right: Democrats, with individual contributions of often less than $100, are managing to raise as much money as that prince of corporate contributions, Bush. How bad do we want this guy out of the White House? No price is too high...and we'll pay it from our own wallets if necessary.

A Deserving Winner

Yahoo! News - Coetzee Wins 2003 Nobel Literature Prize to Acclaim

In keeping with my promise to promote good literature, I thought I should note that J.M. Coetzee was announced today as this year's Nobel Prize winner for literature. I've read a great many books in the last several years, and I'd have to say that Disgrace , which won the Booker Prize in 1999, was one of the most profound and deeply affecting of all of them. I highly recommend it. Coetzee's work is short and easy enough to read; you can devour a book in a weekend and savor the afterglow in your consciousness for weeks to come.