Thursday, November 24, 2005

Died too early

I find it never pays to read the obituaries page. Really, if you think about it, the obits page very rarely delivers good news (but there are exections).

But today is not one of those rare exceptions. I see today that Chris Whitley died at age 45 of lung cancer.

And this is a great pity. His debut album is certainly one of the best albums of the 1990s, but it got almost no attention in the public.

The music is wild, spooky, breathtaking and completely absorbing. It is at once intimate and huge. It's like driving across Utah on a bright, hot, sunlit day. It's hypnotic.

Of course, his later stuff was a little, well, offputting to put it politely. But the guy kept trying new things and wasn't afraid to put off his audience. He wasn't afraid to offend people. It probably cost him the public acclaim he deserved, but it marked him as a real rock hero, true to its spirit until the last.

You won't regret picking up a copy of Living with the Law. Give it a listen and you will see why I am sorry I ever opened to the obits this morning.

About damned time

This from the US Weekly website yesterday (don't even ask why I was looking at this site):In this week's issue:

EXCLUSIVE: Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey Announce Separation To Us Weekly 10pm EST

Now, officially speaking, I am terribly sad that my most-of-the-time employer People magazine didn't get the story first. For what it's worth, US claimed to have broken the news at 10 a.m., People at 11:30 a.m. Curse you, US Weekly.

But in real life, I must say: Thank God. Can we all stop talking about this now? Was there ever a story of romance and breakup that mattered less to anyone than this one? I suspect even Jessica's family is sick of this saga.

Am I wrong about this? Is there something about Jessica Simpson that I am missing, something that might make her matter?

Gosh, I wonder what Paris Hilton is up to this weekend?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

All Down Hill from Here Pt. 2

On reflection, I suppose there is a greater sign of creeping Fogey-hood than watching classic sports films. It is this:

I bought this with an Amazon gift certificate my dad gave me. I logged on intending to buy some books and CDs I was behind on, but then I saw that Amazon has a category for "Musical instruments." That got me thinking.

And $250 later, I have everything I need to be a major league guitar player. Except I don't know how to play the damned thing.

Fortunately, there is software to help one do this, so I am learning slowly. If all music involved nicely executed G, D, and A7 chords, I would now be a Claptonesque guitar god. Otherwise, I may have a way to go.

I do hope this completes the midlife crisis.

A really sad ending

A friend of mine here in Philly wrote this piece for People over the summer - it was a great little story about a guy named Terrell Pough, who at 19 was raising his daughter all by himself in tough inner-city Philly. It grew out of a larger project the editors wanted to do about single teen fathers who were raising their kids. Somehow the editors got it in their heads that there were lots of these guys. We looked and looked and looked, though, and only came up with a handful. And none really seemed to fit the bill. Except this guy. My friend here was very excited, spent a lot of time with him and his family. And a lot of good things happened to him as a result - someone gave him a car, the 76ers honored him and, I think, set up some kind of fund for his daughter, all kinds of good stuff. Life seemed to be turning upward.

Until this happened.

Now my poor friend is all torn up. I can understand, of course, but I told her she probably did a great thing for this guy. Had this happened without the People profile, he would have been lucky to rate a brief in the Inquirer, and maybe a short story in the Daily News. He would have died in anonymity, like so many guys in Philadelphia. Now he'll be remembered for the great thing he did, or was trying to do, in taking responsibility for his daughter. And his daughter will have a hell of a rememberance of her father, even if she never had time to get to know him.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

When John speaks, people listen

Bush is going to have a hard time with this one. Democratic Congressman John Murtha is a cranky old cuss and, at least when I worked on Capitol Hill, was a reliable vote for virtually anything that the Republicans wanted to do on the military front. But he was not a stooge for the Republicans - he is widely respected as a voice for military issues by both sides. It is going to look both churlish and partisan to attack what he has to say, particularly given that he said it with such passion. He's kind of like a Democratic John McCain, but with even more moral authority since he isn't quite as relentless in his courting of the spotlight. When Murtha gets up to talk, people listen.

Murtha's speech

Scott McClellan did his best, I suppose in responding, but let's face it - even Grover Norquist might be tempted to snort privately in derision at the idea that Michael Moore and John Murtha inhabit even the same corner of the universe.

Scott's answer

Of course, Murtha and McClellan both could do with a close reading of the real master of speeches on war:

Don't write 'em like this anymore

All downhill from here

Is there any surer sign of impending fogey-hood than finding ESPN Classic the most compelling cable channel on the air? I mean, really, I have only 500 channels at my disposal thanks to the magic of DirecTV. I can order dozens of movies. I can see high quality modern sports, played by living people, any time I care to. News. Music. Comedy. All at my fingertips. But hey, what’s that? The 1991 Sugarbowl? Cool. An obscure Cowboys-Falcons game from the early 1980s? I’m there, even though I can’t stand either team. The low point, of course, is I am sitting here watching the 1958 light heavyweight championship fight in Montreal where Archie Moore went 11 brutal rounds against Yvon Durrelle and finally dropped him. And I am enjoying it no end. It’s amazing how much more gentlemanly these fighters seem. And it’s also a little amazing to see the all white crowd howling for Archie Moore’s black blood, even though Moore was clearly a better fighter. All this just nine years before I was born.

Gosh, I wonder what ancient contest is on next. To hell with news. To hell with movies. I sure do hope it’s downhill skiing from the 1980 Olympics…

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

So weird it works

This recently came to my attention. It is, well, hard to describe. It seems to involve ancient children's songs with funky remix beats.

Leaving aside the embarrassing overtones of the band name (don't let your buddies see you buying this disc. And for God's sake don't download it on Napster. When the Feds finally come for your hard drive some geek at the FBI forensic lab will have a good laugh at your expense. Then swear out some sort of porn-related warrant), it is really sorta good. I think. In a kind of too-much-ecstasy at the rave kinda way. You will see.


Don't Taunt Happy Funball

This amuses me.


It does, however, bear a striking resemblance to this:

Side Effects

And even this:

Happy Funball

Remember: Don't Taunt Happy Funball

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Idle Pondering updated

I am told by a reliable source (i.e. someone who works rather close to Insight) that the magazine is not longer a serial liar (and believe me, it used to be. I too long ago worked dangerously close to Insight, as in downstairs at the Washington Times).

So what do you know? This may in fact be true.

Which leads me to wonder: What does the president do all day if he only talks with four people? What does he do with the other 23 and a half hours in the day? He cannot nap all the time, nor can he exercise all the time. And there is no brush to clear anywhere on the White House grounds.

So what does he do?

Ronald Reagan reportedly filled time watching movies, which makes sense given his former occupation. But it isn't as if George W. can fill his empty hours with governing Texas or prospecting for oil. Perhaps he is back to managing the Texas Rangers, if only in his mind.

Idle Pondering

This sounds true. But Insight is known for making shit up.

From the Drudge Report:

Bush rarely speaks to father, ‘family is split’
Tue Nov 15 2005 11:23:51 ET

President Bush feels betrayed by several of his most senior aides and advisors and has severely restricted access to the Oval Office, INSIGHT magazine claims in a new report.

The president’s reclusiveness in the face of relentless public scrutiny of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and White House leaks regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame has become so extreme that Mr. Bush has also reduced contact with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, administration sources said on the condition of anonymity.

“The atmosphere in the Oval Office has become unbearable,” a source said. “Even the family is split.”

INSIGHT: Sources close to the White House say that Mr. Bush has become isolated and feels betrayed by key officials in the wake of plunging domestic support, the continued insurgency in Iraq and the CIA-leak investigation that has resulted in the indictment and resignation of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions.

A Late Start

So I've had this blog now for weeks. Months perhaps. I acquired it as part of a work assignment, working on a magazine story that never ran.

I've considered what to do with it, but I kept coming back to an unmistakable fact - I had nothing interesting to say.
So, I thought, why not turn this into a virtue? Why not make the first blog about nothing, with nothing on it? Some kind of postmodern statement, perhaps. Or a surrealist statement. Or whatever. It seemed like a good idea and made for briefly amusing conversation with my friends.

But, as it turns out, the bastards at have already considered this and made sure it cannot happen. If there is nothing on your blog, nobody can see your blog. I am forced to retreat and perhaps craft a post or two.

Another great concept on the ash heap of technology.

And moreover, after yet another magazine assignment that will never see the light of day, I have realized that it doesn't matter if I have nothing terribly compelling to say. It hasn't stopped anyone else. You see, I was forced to spend several hours trawling the blogs maintained by a bunch of 13 and 14 years olds on a site called Xanga (if you haven't been there and you are over perhaps 20, I don't recommend the trip. If you're under 20, you're probably already there).

I assume that I was no more interesting or deep at age 14 than these kids, but I am deeply grateful that my inane chatter was not preserved in print for all time. I shudder for these kids on the day that they run for office, or are named to the Supreme Court, and need to explain their teenage blog entries.

So welcome to my blog. We'll see if anything interesting happens.