Tuesday December 21, 2004
The Nashvegas Tennessean has uncovered a scheme to push a country single up the charts by having fans request the song while posing as family members of U.S. troops.
That’s right, the pro-military ballad “The Bumper of My SUV” by country has-been Chely Wright has reached number 44 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, thanks in large part to an astro-turf campaign orchestrated by members of the singer’s fan club, who inundated radio stations with deceptive letters like this one:
I heard that Bumper Sticker on my SUV song. Well, let me tell you it stopped me in my tracks! My husband is over in Iraq right now and he is a Marine. Half way through the song my tears were flowing. I brought a sense of pride and a longing for him to come home. The words were so true. How lucky are we! We drive safe on our streets and no one wants war but this is their job.
I hope you can play this again so more people can hear and during this holiday season when we are missing our loved ones it gives us a sense of pride that someone gets why they are away and are doing what they are doing.
Thank you, Thank Chely Wright and God Bless this great nation of ours!
Wright has dismissed the president of her fan club over the effort.
I was not at all surprised by this item about squirrels, um, squirreling away light bulbs at the Cincinnati Zoo’s annual Festival of Lights. Why? Because I know from experience that the squirrels of the Ohio Valley are preternaturally resourceful.
My parents — and perhaps your parents, too — have spent a lot of time and materiel trying to control the squirrels around their home (which I will be visiting later this week.) This is what people do when they retire. They try to outsmart squirrels.
At my parents’ house, the primary object of the ongoing Squirrel Campaign is not keeping the little guys from stealing lightbulbs, but keeping them off the %&*#ing birdfeeder. This is, in fact, a national obsession among retirees, and there are even specialty products available, like the Yankee Flipper, which spins when touched, flinging squirrels in all directions. My parents have not yet gone this far. Here are some of the homemade solutions they have tried, which I provide as a springboard for future research:
- HEIGHT Initially, the squirrels mounted the birdfeeder from the ground, so it seemed sensible to simply jack the thing up a few feet. In addition to being able to unscrew lightbulbs, however, it turns out squirrels can jump very, very high.
- SMALL PIE PAN This solution involved taking a bakery-grade pie pan, drilling a hole in the middle, and bolting it to the bottom of the birdfeeder so that the squirrels had nothing to grab onto when approaching from the ground. This is when they started jumping to the feeder, not from the ground, but from the trunk of the tree.
- DISTANCE To keep that from happening, the feeder was moved way out on the end of a branch, so that the squirrels could not longer jump from the trunk of the tree. This is when they started shinnying down the chain that suspended the feeder from the branch.
- RUBBER TUBING To prevent access-via-shinnying, the chain was encased in plastic tubing. The squirrels seemed to enjoy that.
- LARGE PIE PAN Like the addition of the small pie pan, this mod involved drilling a hole in the middle of a pizza pan and suspending it on the chain between the branch and the feeder, forming a barrier/platform beyond which the squirrels could not shinny and off which they would often slide. I believe the large pie pan was regularly greased. They somehow made it to the feeder anyway.
Lately, my parents have taken to spiking the birdseed with crushed red pepper, which I guess squirrels don’t like, although I think they’ll eat it in a pinch.
In any case, after all this my parents and the squirrels now live in a state of mutual respect. The squirrels look down cautiously at the feeder from nearby rooftops — like Indians in old western movies — and occasionally leave large nuts by the back door, offerings to the dieties whom they apparently believe they have pleased by overcoming the many obstacles that have been placed in their paths.
I am looking forward to retirement, to the day when it is my time to fight the squirrels. I’ve got a few can’t-miss ideas and lots of time to work out the kinks.
Monday December 20, 2004
The United Church of Christ is challenging some station licenses for refusing to air the church’s ad promoting tolerence. A good idea, although — in my experience — these things never work. The analogy to this Denver case I covered in 1998 isn’t perfect — that one involved the wackier claim that sensational news was a health risk — but I’m not even sure the FCC is prepared to process license challenges in any serious way. All they’ve got is a big rubber stamp. Much better to follow the Sinclair model and challenge advertisers. The FCC is determined to let the market rule, so let it rule.
Sunday December 19, 2004
- Experience One Block Radius, an online project not unlike Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, but focusing on one block on the Lower East Side.
- See Secretariat win the Belmont as no horse has won the Belmont before or since. A perfect example of something I would have never looked for, but was happy to see nonetheless. (Both via MeFi.)
Friday December 10, 2004
I haven’t laughed this hard since Joe Queenan admitted, in the last uncertain days of Spy, that jazz sucks. The Britwits at the Guardian have reevaluated some of rock and roll’s sacred cows and directed them to the nearest pasture. Some highlights:
On Brian Wilson:
His particular genius lies in making songs about summer sound like songs about Christmas and spending the best years of his life in a sandpit full of dogshit.
On Jim Morrison:
Only a blowhard stockbroker’s son like Oliver Stone could fall in love with a boorish, spoiled admiral’s brat like Jim Morrison.
On the Rolling Stones:
And don’t start protesting that Mick Jagger is the most charismatic frontman the rock world has ever seen - he’s a hideous, tulip-mouthed cadaver with nothing interesting to say, and the most grating voice this side of Sybil Fawlty. The most interesting thing about the Rolling Stones is the amount of drugs they took - and there’s nothing more boring than that.
On the Beatles:
Thanks to these four, Britain’s high watermark of musical creativity is still considered to be pub rock made by white idiots.
And, on my personal sacred cow, David Bowie:
Station To Station is perhaps a great cocaine record, but only insofar as it unimprovably demonstrates the drug’s ability to turn people into humourless, self-absorbed bores.
Thursday December 09, 2004
Dude is clearly used most by young, European-American men, and thus also likely indexes membership in this identity category, but by closely investigating women’s use of the term, the separation between the first-order stance index (cool solidarity) and the second-order groupidentity index (man) becomes evident. These data also suggest, as would be intuitively predicted by anyone living in North American Anglo culture, that there is an indexical connection between the stance of cool solidarity and that of young Anglo masculinity, and thus an indirect indexical connection, of the kind outlined by Ochs (1992), between dude and masculinity.
I’ve been enjoying the small archive of strange fortunes collected at weirdfortunecookies.com. A lot of the them aren’t really that weird, but I was glad to come across one that says “Everything is not yet lost.” I actually received this fatalistic fortune one late afternoon in a pho shop in Memphis, when the sky was dark — both literally and metaphorically — and my nerves were apocalyptically jangled. I’m happy to report that it turned out to be true, and I’m glad to find out I didn’t imagine it.
Wednesday December 08, 2004
Everyone, from Jeff Jarvis to Mediaweek, is talking about how few people are fueling the FCC’s indecency crusade, so I thought I’d share what I saw a few years ago when I was ringside at a right wing action against the Memphis Public Library.
It was 1999, and I was a reporter for The Memphis Flyer, an alternative weekly. A small group of well-organized, evangelical activists — with substantial financial support from organizations outside the community, including Phil Burress’ ultra-conservative Citzens for Community Values — decided the public libary needed to start filtering its Internet connections. At the time, the library system received two-thirds of its $16 million budget from the city and one-third from the Shelby County Commission. The diverse City Council would have had little interest in meddling in this, so the matter was taken to the County Commission, where filtering had one true advocate — Marilyn Loeffel, a past president of a “values” organization called FLARE that was so regressive the all female board identified themselves with their husband’s names (e.g. Mrs. John Smith) on FLARE’s website. The commission, following Loeffel’s lead, essentially held the county’s portion of the library’s budget hostage until the sytem was forced to comply.
This was accomplished with the participation of very few people. Of the five people who addressed the commission on the issue, two held official positions with the Memphis chapter of Citizens for Community Values and one was the president of FLARE. No one showed up to object and the library was left twisting in the wind. And with no vocal opposition, more moderate members of the commission were left without political cover. One commissioner who proposed a middle-of-the-road measure, which would have called for filtering only on computers used by minors, was pressured to withdraw it by Loeffel and her supporters. In other words, the victory went to those who simply showed up. Had anyone showed up to oppose the commission’s intimidation of the library, things might have turned out differently.
Of course, by casting this as a decency issue rather than a free speech issue, the organized right makes it uncomfortable for average citizens to oppose them, although this is what will have to happen if we want to keep evangelists on the right from setting community standards as they see fit. The right is motivated to roll back liberalism, and citizens must become just as motivated to stop them. And there is much more at stake than whether or not library’s use internet filtering — an issue about which moderate minds might disagree. In Memphis’ case this was just the thin side of the wedge and the thick end was the wholesale regulation of content. While debating the library issue, Loeffel said she had a lot of other concerns about the library, including the “inordinate amount of liberal information” being distributed, and an alleged underrepesentation of conservative material. “If your policy is open and free information to anyone at any age,” she observed, “then the conservative viewpoint should also be available just as readily as anything else.”
“While we’re moving, let’s keep up the momentum,” she said later. “We’ll eat the elephant one bite at a time.”
Tuesday December 07, 2004
Nothing like a fake miltary uniform to calm fears that we’re descending into a dark age of extremism and creeping totalitarianism. It worked for Stalin.
- Hear WFMU deejay Irwin Chusid — popularizer of such outsider bon bons as The Shaggs and The Langley Schools Music Project — stagger through a Daniel Johnstonish rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” (Stay Free!)
- See the skeletal structures of popular cartoon characters, as rendered by artist Michael Paulus. (via BoingBoing.)
Monday December 06, 2004
… God created zoning variances. The Creation Museum — which is being built near my ancestral home in Kentucky — has just received permission to place a few large statues of dinosaurs at the entrance to the $25 million attraction, which is set to open in 2007. Why dinosaurs? Well, since all land animals were created on the sixth day, visitors will be able to consort with the large reptiles — just like Adam and Eve did! I really encourage you to take the virtual tour, which includes renderings of coming attractions like the “Bible Authority Room” and a replica of the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil.
Somehow, I wasn’t surpised to find James “Payback” Kennedy listed as the honorary chairperson of the museum’s reference board.
Sunday December 05, 2004
Instead of tanked-up businessmen and hen nights murdering cheesy hits, pornaoke participants are being asked to provide the soundtrack for silent porn films - supplying grunts, screams and groans.
Yes, yes. Oh yes.
Slate’s ever-keen Dahlia Lithwick gets it right when it comes to the emotional bloodletting that has infected the administration of the death penalty in the U.S.:
The notion that there is a place in the chilly, linear life of the law for this sort of sentimentality—the unrestrained id of emotion untethered from logic—is beyond strange. The idea that in order to decide whether a criminal deserves the “ultimate punishment” a jury must abandon reason and clarity for emotion and intuition inverts everything the law otherwise represents. When else do we contend, as a society, that people exercise fantastic judgment at that moment when they are sobbing and gasping for breath?
As an activist friend of mine observed on the eve of Tennessee’s first execution in 40 years: “The justice system is designed to produce justice. It is not designed to produce a feeling.”
FCC Chairman Michael Powell gets all pious in the New York Times about the commission’s recent crackdowns on indecency:
The F.C.C.’s job of regulating indecent content on the airwaves is not optional; it has been required ever since Congress first made the broadcast of obscene, indecent and profane material illegal more than 70 years ago.
Of course, the rest of the Communications Act of 1934 — including the parts about, you know, allocating spectrum with a view to the public interest — is entirely optional. This is standard conservative pathology: regulating content, but never money.
From the booby desk of the Dayton Beach News-Journal:
Lollipop’s Gentleman’s Club, Molly Brown’s, XTC Adult Supercenter, Club Topic and the Banned Bookstore denied any involvement Friday. Officials from the Shark Lounge, The Pink Pony and Beach Beauty Club were not available for comment.
Thursday December 02, 2004
Because I know I can’t give everyone on my list The Most Relaxing Classical Album in the World…Ever! for the holidays, I was glad to find CustomizedClassics.com, where I can order up personalized versions of Moby Dick and Romeo & Juliet, the latter of which is available with not one, but two “happy ending” versions, in which the star-crossed lovers come back to life — just like Jesus. I believe I will have to go with the ultra-hep “irreverent version”:
ACT V, SCENE IV. IN THE SEPULCHRE.
[Romeo and Juliet awaken, rubbing their eyes]
Romeo: What the heck was that big scene all about?
Juliet: Who knows? I just passed out for a second and everybody’s losing it. Luckily the dagger wasn’t sharp.
Romeo: And the apothecary screwed up big-time! What do you say we head home?
Juliet: Sounds like a plan, my medieval man!
[Exeunt Romeo and Juliet hand in hand]
Hell’s Kitchen serves up the lost culinary notebooks of Jean-Paul Sartre, in which he attempts to “put to rest all notions of flavor forever.” This negation of the traditional tuna casserole is a good start.
Ingredients: 1 large casserole dish
Place the casserole dish in a cold oven. Place a chair facing the oven and sit in it forever. Think about how hungry you are. When night falls, do not turn on the light.