What do I do now?

Friday, December 31, 2010
I am feeling deeply depressed now that I have completed Angry Birds. So deep is my sadness upon completing what has been the most engaging game I have played in years1, that I couldn't even bring myself to replay levels on which I didn't get three stars1.
Oh Angry Birds, what will I do now that you are done? At least I have Angry Birds Seasons, but it's like dating the cousin of the dream girl who dumped you. What a sad way to end 2010.
1.) Angry Birds has been very addicting, but I have had plenty of fun with Wii Sports Resort, in particular, the fencing game, the archery game and the game where you throw a frisbee to a little virtual dog. All fun games, but not as fun as Angry Birds.
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Community Activism and the "new" Obama

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

For many years of my life I worked at the jobs that came to me, ones that put food on the table and helped pay the bills. When I was in my mid-40’s it occurred to me that I was getting to ‘the age’ where I needed to be thinking more about what I wanted out of life, and my job was part of that.

I tell my sons that the things that make life worthwhile are always part of our heart and our passion. If you can find a way to live with your heart, and your passion, you’ll be a much happier person!

So it was I decided I needed to change careers. I wanted to do something to actually HELP people, in a real way. While I found myself working for a community education center, I think of myself mostly as a community activist. That is my passion, and it is what drives me.

Community activists are defined as people who work on a local level to create positive social change, to help communities solve their problems. It sounds more glamorous than it is. I’d love to share with you how things work here in our little town:

We have problems here like everyone does: homeless issues, lack of low income housing, drug and alcohol abuses, drop-out issues. Those of us who work in the field are aware of all the myriads of problems out there, and the complexity of trying to address them in any positive way.

So when we identify a problem and try to come up with something, we know we are facing a mountain with a teaspoon. Recently I have been working with community members on transitional housing issues and services. And we are in a position where we ‘might’ get a grant to help a few families or individuals a year. A FEW.

Does this mean we think we have solved the problem? Absolutely not, we KNOW we haven’t. We know that this attempt is one little tiny step to help a very few people. But it is a beginning, and beginnings are important. A few years ago we started a new beginning for out of school youth in our town and it has blossomed into something wonderful. Sometimes things work that way, sometimes they don’t. But you start somewhere, because sometimes that is all you CAN do.

Why do I feel like sharing this right now? It all came to mind because of all the criticism Obama has been generating for his ‘small’ changes since he took office. How disappointed everyone is in the President. Didn’t be promise change we could believe in? Didn’t he say he would address Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Immigration Reform (the Freedom Act), Health Care Reform? Aren’t we all sorely disappointed in his paltry accomplishments when he promised so much?
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Governor Ed Rendell to America - You are a bunch of wussies and China isn't

Wednesday, December 29, 2010
4th for 60 seconds EDITEDThe NFL decides to cancel the Sunday night game due to weather. Governor Ed Rendell (D) of Pennsylvania and columnist Will Bunch thinks that this signifies that we are a nation of wussies and that this why China is kicking our ass. His quote:
If this was in China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? He’s right, the people would have been marching down to the stadium, they would have walked, and they would be doing calculus on the way down.
Is this true? Der Spiegal has an article entitled 'A Superpower in Decline' where they posit that the American dream is, indeed, dead. Looking at  this depressing fact one might believe that it is:
The U.S. has 59 million people medically uninsured; 132 million without dental insurance; 60 million without paid sick leave; 40 million on food stamps.- Courtesy Alternet
Obviously our country is in trouble. We can have a debate as to why this is, but the simple fact is that we live in a nation without focus. We can rant and rave about the pablum that is Fox News, the vacuous nature of modern reality TV and the dismal state of public education in our country, but, I ask you, what have you done to make a difference?

I am just as guilty as you, preferring to drop a few dollar bills in the hands of charities and bitch and moan on my blog.  Over time I have began to realize that the biggest problem is not the ill-informed or the over-informed. It is the uninformed.

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It's awfully quiet around here...

Monday, December 27, 2010
Not a lot to say sooooo,  have a Random Photo
Frosted Limbs
Frosted Limbs
And Another:
Sunset Through Icicles
Sunset Through Icicles
And Some Random Ramones, Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)
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Christmas Past, Present and Future

Sunday, December 26, 2010
STARTING TO LOOK LIKE XMAS I have had moments of empty nest syndrome over the last couple of years, but never more so than this holiday season. Everyone made it home for Christmas. Son number one was home on 15th, son number two on the 17th and son number three on the 23rd.

This morning, Kyle headed back home. He was only able to get away from work for two days, just enough to get home for Christmas eve and Christmas day. At some point this week Daniel and Jason will head to Laramie, leaving me and Diane home alone for New Years

I sometimes sympathize with my boys on how hard it is to be a grownup. Hell, I've been doing it thirty one years and it's still hard. I know they have lives of their own, but it doesn't make it any easier when they head home and leaving us with our own lives.

No matter how old I get, I will always feel like those Christmas mornings when they where little, where just last year. The sound of feet skittering around on Christmas morning. The excitement of new toys. Our family traditions to be observed in our special ways. Don't get me wrong, Christmas is still joyous, just in a different and more melancholy way. Maybe it will change we have grandkids.

So, it will be another quiet New Year with just my baby and me. Of course, I fell in love with her when it was just the two of us on a New Years Eve, but that is another story for another day.
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The Ten Strangest, Silliest, and Stupidest Things Overheard From Behind the Counter

Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Working at a convenience store, I’ve grown a greater appreciation for the movie Clerks, because as it turns out you really do see and hear some bizarre and outright stupid things from time to time. The following is a list of some of the things I have been asked or I have overheard while standing behind the counter wearing that little red name tag.

  1. What’s the gayest thing you sell that we can put on a cake?
  2. Do you guys sell S&M mags?
  3. How much for this bun? I don’t want a hot dog, only the bun.
  4. Dude, the ketchup burns my mouth!
  5. I need Grillz, RIGHT NOW!
  6. How much cheaper are the 50 cent off packs?
  7. I tried those once, they made me sad to be a smoker.
  8. (Holds up a bag of Funions) Can I put nacho cheese in this?
  9. I think your bathroom is haunted.
  10. Do I return my movies in here?
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Five things that need to go away in the next decade

Wednesday, December 22, 2010
1. Cooking Competition shows and by association Food Network
The Infamous Kwanzaa Cake - Google it, you know you want too
I admit that I watch Top Chef, Iron Chef and The Next Iron Chef. They are pretty much the cream of the crop. As an aside, this seasons Top Chef All Stars is great. Of course, if you can't make dramatic reality television by bringing by in the most controversial non winners from previous seasons, then maybe your show has run it's course.

I have a special place of loathing for Food Network lately. I don't watch the early morning stuff, which are actual cooking shows, but when I turn it on at night, I am greeted by Guy Fieri looking like he just stepped out of a hair band video in 1986. Is every show on the network in the evening some kind of competition show or low rent travel/food show?

The only show left worth watching on Food Network is Good Eats, but I am sure if Food Network closed it's doors, Alton Brown would find somewhere to air his show. It worked out okay for Tony and Mario1.

One other thing, and this goes for all the food competition shows. The next time you edit in a contestant saying 'If I go home for not cooking [insert food of choice here], I will really be [angry, pissed, upset, etc.]', I swear I am going to hunt you down and make you eat Sandra Lee's Kwanzaa Cake.

2. Global Warming Skeptics
Don't believe in Global Warming? Are you a meteorologist or climate scientist? No? Then STFU. That it all.
3, 4 and 5 after the jump
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Winter in Wyoming

Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Winter... you sure better love it if you live in this part of the world. This view sums the last couple of days rather well. I suspect the next couple of days are going to look exactly the same. So right now it's not so much a white Christmas as a vaguely bleak gray and white Christmas.
Winter Day on the Solstice
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Invasion of The British Folksters

Tuesday, December 21, 2010
As of late, I have been drawn to a lot of the new indy folk rock groups. My first foray into the nu-folk, was with Sufjan Stevens. From there it was on to Joshua Radin, Fleet Foxes and Blind Pilot. For the most part, I was ignorant of the new British folk rock until I heard Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit and their debut album A Larum.

Johnny Flynn is a very talented song writer, crafting achingly and hauntingly beautiful pop confections that are deep. This is not your typical foot stomping Brit Folk Rock rather a moving type of folk recalling the late sixties folk rockers like Paul Simon and The Byrds.

Avoiding the sophomore slump, Mr. Flynn's new album, Been Listening, is another great piece of folk rock loveliness. Pick up both albums. You won't be disappointed.

Update: I have been listening to Been Listening and I am catching some very subtle Nick Drake in his music, especially in the violin & organ arrangement on the song Been Listening.

Kentucky Pill - Been Listening

More videos after the jump
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Conservatives to Hispanics: The DREAM Act was just a ploy to make us look anti-Hispanic. So we voted it down.

Monday, December 20, 2010
Some days, I just marvel at the audacity of the modern right winger. Bill Kristol went on Fox News and said this:
Barack Obama and Harry Reid played politics with this. You know how many hearings there were in either house, in the House and the Senate on the DREAM Act over the past two years? Zero.
Point the first Mr. Kristol, the DREAM Act has been kicking around the House and Senate since 2001. As noted in this great article over at American Progress (Myth vs Fact: The DREAM Act)
...this is not a new or complicated bill. The basic elements of the DREAM Act are straightforward, well understood, and have been considered numerous times over the last nine years. It has been introduced every Congress since 2001. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a 16-3 vote in October 2003. And it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee again in 2006 by voice vote as part of the McCain-Kennedy comprehensive bill, which passed the full Senate by a 62-36 margin.
There they go again, just making shit up1. So, Mr. Kristol, are you saying that you aren't racist but the Democrats made you look racist? Wow. That train of thought just gave me whiplash. Thank you Bloody Bill for letting me know who the real victims are.

Hat Tip to Heather @ Crooks & Liars
1.) Look something else bipartisan that McCain supported in the past. DADT? Not Anymore. DREAM Act? What was that?Is senile the new Mavericky?
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Cory Doctorow is a very smart man! (as is John Scalzi)

Saturday, December 18, 2010
This has to be the quote of the week:
A cloud computer is just like a regular computer, except you have to ask permission from the phone company every time you use it - Cory Doctorow via Twitter
John Scalzi also makes an interesting point regarding cloud computing:
...in the United States, the 4th Amendment status of content saved “in the cloud” still appears to be ambiguous, notwithstanding this week’s 6th Circuit Court ruling regarding e-mail on service provider servers. I’m not fomenting treason or such, but even so, I’d still like my government to need a warrant if it suspects I am, rather than going to my cloud service provider and leaning on them to use its Terms of Service to short-circuit those rights.
My own concern is that content providers are slowly but surely creating a 'walled internet' with the glorious world of apps. Much like the DMCA circumvents fair use with encryption, apps are being created by content providers to provide a 'seamless' customer experience at the cost of your control of the data. This control is not just how you get the data, but also what data the app providers receive from you.

Long ago the early internet denizens scoffed at AOL and their vision of a tiered and walled internet where they would provide 'premium' services to their subscribers. We fretted (and still do) over the DMCA and what it meant to fair use. We have argued for net neutrality, saying that without it, the net would become a wasteland controlled by the media conglomerates, Google, Microsoft and Apple.

Today an iPad user can get all their information from their Fox App, subscribe to their Dr. Laura, Bill O' Reilly and Glenn Beck podcasts and never, ever see the rest of the internet. You can safely live in your 'walled' internet without the fuss and muss of conflicting opinions.

It's probably just a matter of time before some content provider stops allowing access via the web and only via their app. Which will be free and convenient. The internet will be the lesser for it.

Hat Tip to John Scalzi @ Whatever 
Cory Doctorow can be found at the great BoingBoing and at his own blog Craphound
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Remembering Elizabeth Edwards

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Elizabeth Edwards lost her battle with cancer last week. I was saddened to hear it, because if any woman in the news personified grace under pressure, it was her. Even after the public outing of her husband’s affair she remained a steadfast supporter of her family and, more importantly, continued to support issues she was passionate about. She did not become a postscript to her husband’s failed political aspirations. I admired her for that.

Her funeral was held and most of the media was well behaved so far as I can tell. There was some play about the Westboro Baptist Church protesting outside the church. Their reason? Elizabeth Edwards did not oppose gay marriage.

The Westboro whackos believe that America is being punished by their god for supporting gay rights. They believe, in fact, that our troops are being killed because of this. Not because they are in a war zone, because they are representing an America their god does not like any longer. They are known for attending the funerals of war veterans carrying signs that read “God hates fags”.

If I believed in a God, I believe he or she would most certainly be pretty pissed off about the activities of the Westboro whackos. The fact they are happily moving from state to state, trying to spread a message of hate, is all the proof I need that their god doesn’t stand for anything I’m interested in.

A lot of people are understandably upset by their protests. Locals at the Elizabeth Edwards funeral created a human barrier between the protesters and the grieving family, singing Christmas carols to drown out their voice. The Westboro whackos are really not worth acknowledging more than that. Most reasonable people recognize hate when they see it.

Reading about all this reminded me of the wonderful closing speech in the movie “The American President”. In that speech, Michael Douglas is taking a shot at a political opponent who could easily be our modern day Jim DeMint…or Mike Huckabee. His speech outlines why people like the Westboro whackos get to show up at funerals of people they don’t know and don’t understand.
In the movie the President says: "You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.”

Elizabeth Edwards would have understood that. Had she been present, I think she may well have marched right out there and given them a piece of her mind. She probably would have done it with more dignity and class than any of them exhibited. That is what makes her worth remembering.
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Friday Pick Six from EKG: Pick Six Favorite Rock Concept Albums

Saturday, December 18, 2010
I've been given the great pleasure of writing this week's Friday Pick Six, and with the recent release of MCR's Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, one thing I've been revisiting lately are concept albums. Personally, as a wanna-be writer in my spare time, I'm a sucker for concept albums, which are simply albums that are built around a central concept or idea. A lot of the time, these albums tell a story and follow a central theme, meaning that a good concept album uses music and the traditionally album format to combine several songs into something more cohesive and poignant. These are my six personal favorite, three older and three newer, with links to a couple of the best examples of the album.

1:Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
2: The Wall by Pink Floyd
3: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie
4: Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails
5: American Idiot by Green Day
6: Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys by My Chemical Romance

A few notes before I link videos (which I will try my hardest to limit to two videos per album, hopefully if you're really interested you'll give the full album a listen).

Obviously, you can't really discuss rock concept alums and NOT include Sg.t Pepper's somewhere on the list. While it wasn't the first concept album, it was and still is the definitive rock concept albums, that paved the way for every one that would follow. The concept of creating alter-egos in a fictional setting as a means of framing the concept album would be an example that almost all of the other albums on my list would later use.

The Wall is more than a concept album, it's an experience. It's something so powerful and personal and moving that it yearns to break free even from its medium and spread. If you only listen to one album on this list, make it this one, and I highly recommend that you rent the movie while your at it (the movie actually is what turned me on to The Wall in the first place, interestingly enough). On a side note, every album Pink Floyd ever wrote was, in some way a concept album, but I barred myself from repeat bands on the list.

Ziggy Stardust takes a nod from Sgt. Pepper, and features Bowie as a compilation of eccentric and awesome characters. I've included it for two reasons, first, the album is Bowie at his best, eccentric, flamboyant, and all around ass-kickingly awesome, and second, because it is one of my first exposures to the world of the concept album, so it has some sentimentality to it as well.

I honestly don't expect most people to like or even really get Year Zero. The album is Trent Reznor's brain child, and follows a dystopic not-too-distant future controlled by a hyper-religious oligarchy that subdues the population with drugs and mind control, and led by a greedy bureaucrat who Reznor swears isn't based on our former president (but, I mean, listen to the song Capital G. You're not fooling anyone, Trent). It's experimental, visceral, industrial, and amazing. Also, how many albums could I possibly write a paper on for a college-level English course? Yet I did with Year Zero, and it was awesome.

I know it's hip to hate on post American Idiot Green Day, but I've probably listened to this album more than any other album, not just on this list, but ever. For having been around and famous for as long as they have, I can think of few other bands who are still so close to the pulse of the modern generation as Green Day. American Idiot is a sum of all the hopes, fears, and vices of my generation, and that isn't an easy feat. However, they speak to a wider audience as well, because this is one of the rare modern bands that both my parents and my brothers and I can all agree is fantastic.

Like post American Idiot Green Day, it's hip to hate on MCR, but since they sparked this whole list, I had to include them. Also, I'm not afraid to admit that Danger Days is not only their best album, but perhaps one of my personally favorite albums of the year. Also, I have unashamedly liked MCR for years. Danger Days is inspired by some of the other entries on the list, as it follows the band's alter egos as they resist and evil corporation in a not-so-subtle message of art versus industry in a dystopic, post-apocalyptic California. Their videos are colorful and bizarre, and looks like a mix of the Road Warrior and Blade Runner.

As per usual, videos after the jump.

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In Through the Out Door or has The Zep become monotonous

Wednesday, December 15, 2010
And if you promised you'd love so completely
An' you said you would always be true,
You swore that you never would leave me baby,
Whatever happened to you?

Fool In The Rain - Led Zeppelin
Best Album Cover... Ever
In response to an earlier post by El Kaiser Guapo and some comments regarding the post both here and on Facebook, I began to wonder if, indeed, the entire back catalog of Zep has become passe.

Clearly, Led Zeppelin was target number one for the anti-corporate ethos of the first generation of punk rockers. In spite of that, I had plenty of hard core friends who still listened to Zeppelin. Sure, Stairway To Heaven (The theme of every senior prom between 1971-1980) was already overplayed. Hell, that song was overplayed by 19751, but Led Zeppelin was still trotted out at some point during Friday night parties.

Maybe Zep has been overplayed in general on classic rock stations, but I think that some of their lesser played songs still pack a punch. Going to California (Led Zeppelin IV) is still pretty damn good. I will always have a soft spot for The Rain Song (Houses of the Holy)2.

Why not quit listening to those classic rock stations, get out your Led Zeppelin and play it loud. There is still some Zep left to appreciate.

Videos After The Jump
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Grand Opening!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
My fellow musketeer and friend Simon has started a new business fixing and enhancing photos. Check out his website here. Good luck!
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It's always good to know Chowdaheads have their priorities in place...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010
From Fail Book:
Celtic Pride
see more Failbook

New England sports fans, at least you all have a sense of humor.
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Three Classic Rock Songs That Are Actually Extraordinarily Grating After The 100th Or So Listen (New Post from the New Guy)

Sunday, December 12, 2010
I’ve been a rocker my entire life (partially thanks to my father, and partially thanks to the fact that ZEPPELIN RULES!), and have become well acquainted with a wide variety of rock classics. So, it seemed like a good thing that the one radio station I get out here in the sticks that isn’t Pop, Country, or Gospel just so happens to be a Classic Rock station. Now, thanks to my car and my job, I spend a good 30 hours a week listening to this particular radio station and have for the past 5 months or so. And, not to sound ungrateful to 102.9, since they provide a much needed service, I do have a few minor complaints. First of all, I’m pretty young, I was born in the late 80s, but even I find it offensive that U2, Tom Petty, and friggin’ Nirvana are now, somehow, “Classic” rock. Second, considering the vast amount of songs that can be considered Classic Rock, for some reason 102.9 still plays the same songs, over and over, every night. Seriously, it’s like they found 40 songs and then got lazy and decided that was enough. I mean, my Classic Rock mix for my iPod is 60 songs, and even that is a small selection.

Now, don’t get me wrong, some of these songs are really great songs, so even after 5 months of hearing them almost every night I’m not sick of them. Songs like Long Time by Boston, Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, Dust in the Wind and Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas, Immigrant Song and Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin; these are songs you can listen to repeatedly and somehow, after countless listens, you still find yourself singing along whenever they come on. Because they are just that good. However, this cannot be said for some of the songs 102.9 has decided to include in their 40 songs that they use. Three songs I hear almost every night come to mind…

1: Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon

I’m going to play it safe with this first one, since I have a feeling my next two choices some people may disagree with. I had to actually look the performer of this song up, because I had literally never heard of him or any of his other songs, which is strange because of the other regular songs 102.9 reuses I can almost always name the title and band at this point (NOTE: I should mention that 102.9 does not have a DJ, so there isn’t anyone to introduce these beforehand and give a title and band). I guess at some point this song had to have at least some fleeting popularity, even if it wasn’t enduring. It was kinda fun and entertaining, to be honest, at least the first like 50 times I heard it. Then, I found myself getting up and leaving whenever it came on. There are a couple of reasons for this, the main one being the chorus. The singer’s howling really grates on me after a while. It sounds less like a werewolf and more like a monkey who somehow thinks he’s a werewolf and is doing his best werewolf howl impression. It doesn’t help that the man’s chorus is literally just “Arrrroooo, Werewolves of London, Arrroooo…” over and over again while he plays the same line of music on the piano. That’s the second problem, the dude wrote like one line of music for the piano, and then plays that line over and over again for like three and a half minutes. Sure, the lyrics (aside from the chorus) are funny, but that is basically the only thing this song has going for it. That, and the fact that I had never heard of the performer or the song before I started listening to 102.9 may or may not say something about this song’s apparent “Classic Rock” status. I mean seriously, what is this song doing in the same top 40 list with the Rolling Stones and Black Sabbath? Or even either of my next two choices…

2: Live and Let Die by Paul McCartney and Wings

Let me start out by saying that I am in no way dissing Paul McCartney in this. The man is a legend, from the days when pop music was still good. But I mean come on, as far as Bond songs written by famous people, this one has got to be close to the bottom of the list, and it’s not like Wings is remembered especially favorably. This song was pretty forgettable for the longest time, I mean, I wouldn’t make a habit of turning down the radio whenever it came on or anything, but after a while I realized that the only reason I didn’t outright dislike it was because Mr. McCartney was attached to it. He was the only thing keeping me from hating this song, and his pure strength of awesomeness can only hold back my irritation for so long. That’s right, I’m saying that at its core I find this song so irritating that not even Paul McCartney can save it. The whole song seems dis-joined and fragmented, like it was made by throwing different bits of other, more whole selections into a blender and seeing where things landed. Lyrically, the song is incoherent and nonsensical… I’m sure Paul and Linda were doing their best trying to write a song based on the title “Live and Let Die”, but still. And let’s face it, Live and Let Die was not a very good movie anyway. I’m pretty sure the film was racist even for the early 70s, and Roger Moore is pretty far down the list of good Bonds.

3: Riders on the Storm by the Doors

Okay, now before all you classic rockers get angry and start vomiting in rage at me including a well known classic like this on my list, allow me to explain myself. Before I had to hear this song once or twice a night for five months, I too would have included it on a list of rock songs everyone recognizes from somewhere, even if it is tragically associated with Blues Brothers 2000. But that was before, when I had only heard this song once or twice in the background, and before I was given time to really listen to it closely. I realized a few things after having listened to this song like 100 times, and none of them were good. First of all, the song doesn’t make any sense. Like, at all. Every new verse is completely unrelated to the last one, jumping from talking about a killer on the road to why a woman should lover her man. There is no connection between these things, it’s like a jumbled assortment of partially related ideas that are framed by the line “Riders on the Storm”. Also, the song is waaaaay to long. 102.9 plays the seven minute thirty second version of the song every time, and during those seven minutes there is like 2 minutes of unique material. Whenever the song comes on, about halfway through I think something has gone wrong with the signal, because it literally gets so monotonous and quiet in the middle that I forget that its music playing. Lastly, for a Doors song Jim Morrison just sounds bored the entire way through. He sounds like they woke him up to record the song, so he’s still half asleep. Also, compared to, well, most of Morrison’s other works, the lyrics are very uninspired. Maybe that’s why he sounds so bored and sleepy through all his parts. Yes, I recognize that this may be the Doors most recognizable song, but, it’s just not very good. After having had to listen to it so many times, I’m to the point where I want to just turn off the radio for seven minutes until the song is over, and turn the radio back on again for a song that isn’t so painfully monotone and repetitive.

Okay, now, if you’re still so inclined, you may throw your coffee cup at the computer. But after you buy a new screen, I invite all who disagree with me to put these three songs together on repeat, and let me know how you feel about them after a good 100 or so listens. That’s what I thought.

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Conservatives to the Middle Class: Tax cuts for the rich are good, tax deductions for the middle class are bad.

Saturday, December 11, 2010
Deficit reduction is all the rage. Of course most of it is only lip service to a small group of tea partiers. All over the Western world, austerity measures are being meted out to the middle class, while tax cuts are being extended to the rich. Who we have bailed out after their banks failed1.

So in exchange for stimulus funding, President Obama keeps the tax cuts in place. Conservatives can now trot out the canard of deficit reduction. Since we can't cut the holy grail of defense spending, we need to cut… what exactly?

David Gergen has the answer;
When we get serious about deficit reduction, you know who’s really going to get hit hard? It’s going to be the middle class. A lot of the mortgage deductions are going to get trimmed back. A lot of those things are going to get trimmed back and you know, I think that Washington is not being straight with people.

Yes we’ve got this… we have a need to get these tax cuts extended. It has to be done and so forth and so on, but trouble is coming for the middle class and the sooner the president and the Congress full level with the American people, the better.
Heather over at Crooks and Liars makes the obvious connection. Most of us don't have high enough mortgages to qualify for a tax break. Unless you own two homes or live San Francisco or New York. She makes the argument that the cuts he is really talking about is Social Security. Another austerity tax for the middle class.

Hat Tip to Heather @ Crooks And Liars

1.) I know the bailouts were bi-partisan. Sadly it is the only bi-partisan thing that has happened in the past couple of years. Even sadder? The other bi-partisan thing that happened in the last decade? The war in Iraq.
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A note from the proprietor

Friday, December 10, 2010
To our new contributors, there is a problem with the blog posting that is not showing the post author's name. I will have this resolved by Monday.

We are looking for a few good contributors
Are you interested in participating in this blog? We are looking for contributors who have an interest in music, movies, politics, poetry, fiction and all things pop culture. Nothing is off limits. Our vision for this blog is to create a fun community for all people.

 We are a growing blog and we need you! Email Jay at madpoet AT madpoet-one.com if you are interested.
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6 Classic Punk Rock Faves

Friday, December 10, 2010
Post 1990, punk in popular culture became very mainstream. I like to refer to this iteration as pop post  punk. I am not saying I don't like it, because some of it is very good. As they say, it's got beat and you can dance to it. I would argue that many of the pop punks bands are bit more influenced by 70's proto punk and pre newwave groups and singers.

I will always consider "real punk" to be the groups between 1976 and 1981. The Pistols, The Clash & the Ramones being the real big groups of the movement in my mind. There were others and some are still rocking today. So here is my TGIF Pick Six
A couple of notes before we get to the videos. I know Anarchy in the UK is a bit on the nose. It is, in fact, the first punk song I ever heard. The second was Career Opportunities and started my lifelong adoration of The Clash.

Arabian Knights isn't really a punk song. Siouxsie Sioux & the Banshees were changing their sound in the early eighties, becoming part of the vanguard of new wave movement. Still, it is one of my faves from Siouxsie.

Generation X is an often overlooked punk group. I remember the argument about them was that they were to pretty to be punk. It goes to show you, the argument about who is and isn't punk has been going since the beginning. But Generation X gave us Billy Idol, so it's not all bad.

Finally, there is not a lot of video material of the Stiff Little Fingers from those days, but the video I found from 2007 shows that they are still a great punk band.

Videos after the jump

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A big welcome to our newest contributor

Thursday, December 09, 2010
Let's give a big welcome to our new contributor El Kaiser Guapo. I am looking forward to his very learned posts on history, movies, music and.... cigarettes? Welcome aboard.
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What Your Cigarette Says About You! (First Post from the New Guy)

Thursday, December 09, 2010
I’ve spent the last 5 months working at a convenience store 7 blocks from my apartment. It’s been a magical time, filled with wonder and amazement and… and who am I kidding? I work graves at a convenience store in a college town. It’s exactly as much fun as it sounds. Well, I’ve been getting paid, so that’s pretty cool, and it actually has been fairly educational.
For example, I’ve learned that by convenience store, what they really mean is place to get cigarettes and, on occasion, things you can get at a grocery store for much less. Seriously, more than 60% of my store’s internal revenue comes from tobacco products. That means that, in essence, 60% of my paycheck comes from me selling cancer sticks to people. I’m not really too surprised by this… after all, it’s a college town in Wyoming, meaning the population consists entirely of rednecks who are basically the target audience for the tobacco industry, because many of them probably can’t read the warning labels and honest to God think that a “light” cigarette is healthier for them (I kid you not, more than one person has said this to me), college students who figure that they should be spending their time now drinking and smoking because their idea of college has come from watching Van Wilder and Animal House (that, and because smoking, like, totally makes them look cool), and old people who have nothing better to buy than things that will put them in the grave just a little faster (I say they have nothing better to buy based on the fact there is a half an aisle dedicated to the Snuggie at the local Wal-Mart).
To comply with the high demand for tobacco, there is literally a wall full of it at the store, offering a wide variety of tobacco wrapped in paper with a filter. There is basically a cigarette for every kind of person imaginable. As I have noted from my long time here, different types of people are attracted to different kinds of cigarettes, with, in most cases (I’ll go ahead and say 4 out of every 5 cases), you can tell what kind of person someone is based on the pack that they buy:
American Spirit:
The Hipster cigarette of choice! People who buy American Spirits fall into one of two categories: One, the kind of people who think that because American Spirits are, and I quote, “100% additive free natural tobacco”, that it means that it’s better than the “trash” those other simpletons buy (yes, a regular of mine did use the word “trash” to describe other brands). Two, the kind of people who think that because American Spirit is “natural”, and it has a pipe-smoking Indian as a mascot, it’s, like, totally less destructive on the environment, man! American Spirit cares about the earth, and poor small-time tobacco farmers! Not like those mainstream d-bags (these people fail to realize that, in truth, American Spirit is as widely distributed as brands like Marlboro, Camel and Newport, meaning it still causes plenty of damage to the earth in transportation alone). In either case, Hipsters like American Spirits. Rarely do I get a smoker who I don’t think I need to card who buys American Spirit.
Marlboro is somehow synonymous with cowboys and the west, most likely due to decades of really effective marketing on Phillip-Morris’ part. As such, I sell waaaaaaaaaay more Marlboros than any other brand here in Wyoming. People who buy Marlboros are hard to generalize, since we offer 30+ different types of Marlboro at our little store. That being said, there are certain types of Marlboro that are favored by certain types of people. For instance, Marlboro Blend 27s seem to be favorited by the painfully redneck Tech-ers (for those of you who don't know what a Tech-er is, they are kids who attend the Wyoming Technical School... and they are almost always kids who weren't smart enough to get into any other school ever), probably because they’re brown and look like leather, meaning they’re a manly cigarette! Marlboro Menthol Smooths are the female equivalent, favorite by the few girl Tech-ers. Old, redneck men almost always buy standard Marlboros, annoyingly assuming they’re the only cigarette we sell, often asking for “a pack of smokes” or “a pack of Reds” and assuming I’ll know they mean Marlboro. This in spite of the fact that we have Marlboro Reds, Marlboro Red Pack (which is different… somehow), Camel Reds, Winston Reds, American Spirit Red Pack, Sonoma Reds, and I think you get the picture. While many people buy Marlboros, it is safe to say that if a redneck of any breed or age walks through those doors, they’re going to want Marlboros. Cause they’re the cowboy smokes, and this is Wyomin’ damnit!
This is the second brand that is really kept on the shelves because of college students. Newports are somehow the “classy” but still non-pretentious brand of cigarettes (Benson & Hedges being the classy and pretentious brand), for those young-uns who still think that their habit is worth $6.50 a pack for some reason (in Wyoming, between $5 and $5.50 is about average price for cigarettes). To be honest, I didn’t even like Newports when I tried them, and thought the Marlboro Menthols made me gag less… but I’m no smoker, so what the hell do I know, right? They cost more, therefore they MUST be better! Makes sense to me. And when you’re a college student, trying to look cool, you want an expensive cigarette that doesn’t make you look like a stuck-up snob but is also menthol so you can smoke it without coughing like the poser you are.
Like Marlboros, there are just so many kinds of Camel offered that it’s hard to generalize customers of the brand as a whole with about 20 different kinds of Camels available. As for the individual types of Camels, well, you have Camel Crush and Camel No. 9, both of which are bought almost exclusively by effeminate men and roughly equally effeminate women. You have your Camel Wides, targeted at people who want to smoke two cigarettes at once but are too lazy to light two cigarettes or to roll their own. The solution? BIGGER CIGARETTES, for twice the price! Interestingly, a lot of fat people buy Wides… oh the irony in that. A few acting majors I know personally who regular the store buy Camel Reds… and they’re literally the ONLY PEOPLE who buy them. Not really sure why. And finally, there are the filter-less Camels, which, as far as I can tell, are only bought by hard-asses who like to tempt death and then punch him in his stupid deathly FACE.
I don’t sell too many of these, and when I do, it’s to old people who make one of two assumptions about them. Some are like the Hipsters who like American Spirit and think that “organic tobacco” makes a better cigarette… though it just makes me curious what inorganic tobacco is like. Others are strange, confused old people who assume that because they’re called “Basic”, they’re the cheapest cigarettes. They are not.
These are cheapest cigarettes we sell. Understandably, the only people who buy them are usually the same people buying chips and soda with their food stamps, then throwing together change to buy cigarettes while complaining under their breath that their food stamps won’t cover them or energy drinks anymore (talk about unreasonable, right?). Seriously, anyone who has kids and uses their food stamps on junk food should be required to get a tattoo on their forehead that reads “I'm a terrible person”, but that’s getting off topic (I think I'd be more okay with them buying gourmet food on their food stamps, see the correlating post below). No one really enjoys Sonoma. They’re the Keystone of cigarettes… they’ll help you get your fix cheaply, but at what greater cost?
Benson & Hedges:
Only one kind of person buys these, and that person is the kind of massive pretentious prick who thinks he’s better than everyone else because he buys a $9 pack of cigarettes. Actually, only one person on my shift buys them, and I hate him (see the above reason). He comes in once or twice a week, and I still don’t know his name, so let’s just call him Claude. Seriously Claude, no one thinks you’re cool for buying the most expensive cigarettes we sell, dude. Also, loose the pedo-stache.

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Remember, None Of Us Take To Losing Well

Thursday, December 09, 2010
This video reminds me of an incident when my children were young. For the second NBA final in a row, Micheal Jordan had ripped our hearts out, leaving Jazz fans heartbroken and forlorn. One of my sons was just beside himself. I think he decided then that he hated Mr. Jordan and he was going to quit watching the NBA.

This poor kid just had the hated Raiders1 beat his beloved Chargers.

Wow. Poor kid. His parents posted the following on their YouTube page:
Aidan does not take the Chargers losing to the Raiders very well.  (Please note: Aidan is an outstanding child and is a kindergartner. He really doesn't hate anything and is full of love. He had been camping all weekend, ran an obstacle course with Marines that am, and was extremely tired. He had a nice nap afterward.)

I am sure there will be the inevitable blowback about how putting this on the internet is bad for the kid and the cries of "what are the parents thinking". Then the deeper discussions of whether it's good for a child's psyche to exposed to this kind of trauma.

I don't have a horse in this race, but I will say this, we don't always win. When our favorite team loses, we feel just like Aidan. We just express it differently2. For what it's worth Aidan, I hate the Raiders, too.

1.) If you are not a lifelong denizen of the AFC West, you probably don't understand just how  hated the Raiders are. I mean, nobody but their fans like them in the NFL. For the last decade they have been one of the worst teams in the NFL, which we all felt was cold justice for the silver and black (the only losing team that breaks my heart is the poor Detroit Lions. So sad.). Somehow they would still get up for conference games and pull out the odd win against other AFC West teams. I think they only city outside of the AFC West that carries this kind of angst against the Raiders is Pittsburgh and The Steelers.

2.) Some of us do. I have made the occasional acquaintance who reacted to losing as a personal affront. While they didn't cry, any amount of teasing about their team's loss could result in getting punched.
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Team claims stem cells made paralysed monkey jump again

Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Green Monkey in Barbados
Not the monkey in the article
Pretty cool.
Japanese researchers said Wednesday they had used stem cells to restore partial mobility in a small monkey that had been paralyzed from the neck down by a spinal injury.
More promising stem cell research from outside of the US.

via Slashdot
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Conservatives to People on Foodstamps: Foodstamps are bad because I can buy a gourmet meal on foodstamps

Wednesday, December 08, 2010
My first stop was the seafood counter, where I found the thickest swordfish steak I could, which at $18.99 per pound also turned out to be the most expensive item in the department. Then I headed to the coffee section, where I dropped $11.99 for a pound of fresh roasted beans.

From there, the milk aisle, where $8 bought a half gallon of pure organic goat’s milk. Nearby was the cheese section, where I found a tiny wedge of fancy-looking cheese from some European city I’ve never heard of and threw it my cart.

Last I hit the produce section, where I discovered a small but tasty-looking container of Chanterelle mushrooms. Price? $13.99, plus tax.

At the checkout line, I whipped out my shiny new Electronic Benefits Transfer card and watched the cashier ring up my order. The total (minus the cheese, which I discarded at the last moment) came to $51.10. Not bad for a gourmet meal, especially since I wasn’t paying for it.

So Matthew Boyle goes to Whole Foods, buys $51.10 of gourmet items and this proves... what?

The maximum a family can receive for food stamps is $526.00. Click here for more detail on food stamp eligibility.

So if you shop like this guy, you will only get to eat 10.2 meals a month. Assuming you get the maximum benefit. Assuming you are single. If you receive the maximum benefit, you can spend $17.53 a day. For your whole family. I don't think these people will be buying $18.99 per pound tuna.

Hat Tip to John Cole @ Balloon Juice
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A fact free post

Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Dear perpetual malcontents and conspiracy theorists,

I do believe that some things do require a response of righteous indignation. I don't think self righteous angry whiners accomplish anything. I am tired of people shrieking "fix it , fix it, fix it" without any plan to fix it. I am tired of people denying that anything needs to be fixed.

I get it. Things are tough all over. Jobs are scarce. If you have a job, you never know which day is going to be your last day. You want someone to blame. In this environment, like in a dysfunctional family, everyone is at fault and no one is to blame.

A former malcontent and conspiracy theorist.

Update: If you do not get this post, then, HOORAY! However, if you do get this post... well, maybe you're are a malcontent, too.

I'm so bored with the USA / Train In Vain (LIVE)
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Conservatives to those in poverty: Don't you know being poor with children is child abuse?

Monday, December 06, 2010
Washington DC editor of The Nation and conservative pundit, Kate O'Beirne on free school breakfast and lunch:
I just don’t get why millions of school children qualify for school breakfasts unless we have a major wide spread problem with child neglect.

You know, I mean if that’s how many parents are incapable of pulling together a bowl of cereal and a banana, then we have problems that are way bigger than… that problem can’t be solved with a school breakfast, because we have parents who are just criminally… ah… criminally negligent with respect to raising children.
She really said this. On television. During a Republican strategy session. How is it that these guys took back control of the House? Not only is this just plain mean, it also demonstrates a tremendous amount of ignorance about poverty.  She assumes that these children have a banana and a bowl of cereal at home. Or that mom and dad are home to prepare it.

The biggest thing that galls me about these conservative pundits is that when it comes to reducing government spending, social programs are always on the table. Propose a cut to any military spending and they trot out the "soft on terror" canard.

So in their world, it's okay to buy munitions to arm a Predator drone and possibly kill innocent children as collateral damage. Give a kid a chance at a good breakfast? Well, we can't have that can we?

CSPAN video after the jump
Hat Tip to Crooks & Liars and Rumproast
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Help Help I'm Being Unfriended

Monday, December 06, 2010
Fog On The ButteI admit it, in the past I was a "friend-ing" whore, desperately friend-ing people that had the remotest thing in common with me. Hoping that they would would respond to my friend request and above all, leave a comment or like one of my inane utterances.

When a post was left blowing in the virtual wind, all alone with no comments, I took it personally. As if the lack of response was a indictment of my own worth in this world. I have always maintained being ignored by the cool kids is far worse than being teased by them1.

Social networking is just like real life. You need to be selective about who you let in the sphere that is your life. The difficult thing in the virtual world is that you never really know what kind of person you are inviting into your world. If you already have "boundary issues", you are likely to bring those issues online with you. Worse, you might attract others with boundary issues into your life.

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I don't give a f**k if they remember me at all*

Saturday, December 04, 2010
Happy First Day of Zappadan! May the next 17 days be filled with... well whatever you want to fill them with. As Frank once said, "The most important thing to do in your life is to not interfere with somebody elses life."
Montana Live

This is blog post 139 for 2010. Only 2 more to match last years output. 
*This is an actual quote from Frank Zappa on July 1, 1983 in an Interview on Nationwide (YouTube Link)
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Conservatives to the unemployed: Stop Being Unemployed & We Can Solve This Unemployment Problem

Friday, December 03, 2010
First they tell me that a pre-existing condition is like a burning house. Now they say that people are unemployed because they want to be. No, seriously. They have been pushing this meme for a while now. Back in March Tom Delay said this:
“You know,” Delay said, “there is an argument to be made that these extensions, the unemployment benefits keeps people from going and finding jobs. In fact there are some studies that have been done that show people stay on unemployment compensation and they don’t look for a job until two or three weeks before they know the benefits are going to run out."
I always love the "some studies" line. What studies Mr. Delay? There was one study that found that 1.2 Million unemployed workers have given up on finding a job. I suppose that if you haven't found a job in a couple of years, you would start to feel just a little hopeless.

I am sure you can find someone who is abusing the system and not looking for work, but I suspect by and large, most people don't want to be unemployed.

Back in August the odious Glenn Beck said1:
“You now have people and we’ve shown some of them. We now have people that are on unemployment, but they won’t take another job. They won’t take a job, because well I can’t make as much. I’m making more on unemployment. They have sold their soul to the federal government. They have sold their pride. “
Glenn, who knows something about selling souls, is using the welfare queen defense.  That somehow these horrible unemployed people are doing better than you on your tax dollar. This is a long standing tactic from the right. It's always the victims fault, unless, of course, they are victims.

Now comes another pundit pushing this idea. Juan Williams2 of Fox News chimed in with this doozy:
"To me it's crazy because the longer that person is unemployed the more difficult it is then for them to get a job," Williams said. "Because employers, potential employers, will look and see that gee, they've been out forever, it doesn't make sense. And I think that's partly playing in to this cycle. And at some point then it becomes a matter of you lose your work ethic, your values are impacted, you know, getting up, showing up, dressing well, all that good stuff."
That's right, if you just got out of bed and took a bath, you could get a job.  So quit your bellyaching and find a job. By the way, if you aren't already depressed and angry, search Google for "The Unemployed Need Not Apply".

1.) Glenn Beck's comment, and for extra credit, Glenn is claiming the suffering of the poor is a lie. Merry Christmas
2.) A couple links documenting Juan Williams comments. Crooks & Liars & Zandar vs The Stupid
This is blog post 138 for 2010. Only 3 more to match last years output.
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Tick... Tick... Tick...

Thursday, December 02, 2010
This was going to be a brilliant blog post about the tyranny of time and how it can affect creativity, but, I ran out of time. Good night.
pssst, have a random photo
Echo Canyon Interstate Merge
This is blog post 137 for 2010. Only 4 more to match last years output.
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Out to Piedmont

Wednesday, December 01, 2010
I made it out of the house today and went to Piedmont with my brother and his wife (and little Carter, too). It was great to get out! I got this HDR of the top's of the kilns:
Charcoal Kilns HDR
Here is a slideshow of all my pictures from Piedmont

This is blog post 136 for 2010. Only 5 more to match last years output.
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It's our Blogaversary!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Happy Birthday to us and a BIG THANKS to all you for making this such a fulfilling endeavor. I know there blog posts predating December 1st 2008, but that is when I started really focusing on my blog as place to post things and stuff and such. So Music for a Midlife Geek is two years old today! Hopefully we can live up to our terrible twos!

The first POST is here...
And the new mission is here

This post is the 315th post since that first one was posted exactly two years ago!
This is blog post 135 for 2010. Only 6 more to match last years output.
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