Tuesday, July 11, 2006

World Cup Follies

OK, I just gotta' say it... I'm sick of hearing all these folks talk about how awful it is that Zidane lost his temper and thus lost the World Cup for France. This has been a nasty World Cup... and people who watch soccer know that it's not the most civilized or teetotling a sport as it is. I mean, it ain't hockey, but...

Well, can I just put in my own two cents here? And please note this is coming from a chick.

ZIDANE kicks A$$!!!!

That was one sweet move, man. He hit him so hard you could HEAR the impact on the video. Screw this metrosexual violence doesn't solve anything shit. I could watch that over and over. Z made it look so effortless. All that stuff people say about the French being wimps... and Z-man just turns around and goes POP! and the other guy's on his butt.

Sorry, but sometimes violence is beautiful. I really mean it.

To paraphase Doyle on a long-lost episode of "Angel," "Violence is never the answer... But it can be kinda' festive!"

Ahhh... Nothing like watching men be men. Especially when they're good-lookin' to boot.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled political correctness.

After my quote of the day, that is:

“The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?” —HD Thoreau

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Ladies and germs... Dudes and dudettes... Chicas y muchachos...

Hola and Kaixo, greetings from your wayward droogie CAS.

It's finally real! Check it out y'all, I am so psyched. Volume One of Racing History is going live and worldwide. You can get the whole first book or just an episode at a time. (Cheaper to go whole hog than to buy all seven eps separately, hint hint.) It would totally rock if I could get onto the eBook bestseller list. Hey, they're freakin' eBooks, it shouldn't take much!

OK, so here's the link:
  • http://www.dppstore.com

  • Go there and click on sci-fi/fantasy, and you'll see my stuff. It's pretty easy to find, my covers are the best. ;-) Yes I did them myself. Creative control all the way, baby!

    Alternatively, you can go straight to me with this URL:
  • http://www.dppstore.com/cgi-bin/category.cgi?category=Scott

  • And if that wasn't enough, I've finally got a writer-type website too. Signed on with a service for now, until I can get together something spiffier. But the price was right, and I needed something right away. So you can find it here:
  • http://thespiritus.eyewrite.net

  • There will be free stuff there soon (probably after the 4th of July holiday's over). Cool RH stuff and other things too. Lalala. I'm so happy, I have to shout in graphic form:

    PS: In lieu of a supporting purchase, I would greatly appreciate some word of mouth. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge, say-no-more... OK, look, I'm begging here! Tell every skiffy fan you know how wicked cool all this is and how you knew me when I was working on it blah blah blah. Please? I'll buy you a cookie. Ah, c'mon, if I know you I've probably bought you lots of cookies or lunches or dinners etc. Right? Heh. Y'know ya love me. ;-) If you're at Orycon or RustyCon this year (or Westercon next year), I'll be there too and very very grateful too. :-)

    But seriously, folks, I GREATLY appreciate all your patience and support over the years. And if we're lucky, this is only the beginning.


    Sunday, June 25, 2006

    Thanx, Bennie!

    I would just like to thank Ben Lee for helping me out of my snarky crappy mood. I was just doing some work here on Racing History Volume Two, and his song "We're All In This Together" came on my iTunes, and... Dang, that's a great piece of writing. Highly recommended once again, kids. CD's called "Awake Is the New Sleep." Great philosophizing in the form of singable, memorable tunes.

    In other news, I'm adding a scene to Vol. 2. (Hey, cut me some slack, this is my last chance!) And Vol. 1 should be up on the web before long. One of my bestest friends in the world, former roommate and shipmate from college, Jen Birmingham is coming out to visit next week. Her first time west of the Mississippi, I believe. I'm really looking forward to showing her around, taking her to see some of the grandeur our beautiful state has to offer. Hopefully, by then the grass pollen count will have dropped off. This has been a rough season; half the time I'm too wasted to make any sense, the rest of the time I'm trying to get all the stuff done I couldn't do whilst I was high. Gotta' love that Benedryl, especially when you get stupid and wash it down with a nice chianti. Doh!

    So anyway... Y'all may not hear from me much between 6/29 and 7/4. But I do swear to get back to journaling here more often. Promise. Tis good for the psyche. And it may even be stuff worth reading, who knows?

    Till later...


    Thursday, June 22, 2006

    Couldn't Wait...

    Well, folks, I wasn't planning to post again until I could give you all a link to the first appearance of my book. But I couldn't wait. See, I've been thinking again. And that's always dangerous. Puts me in a foul, foul mood whenever I pay attention to what's going on in our world. So I've got to get some of this ire out before it makes me really sick.

    Share my misery! C'mon, it'll be fun!

    Here we go...

    Someone on the Huffington Post commented on a photo he saw of an ecstatic newly molded soldier embracing his commander in chief. See it here: www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-durang/on-hugging-the-president_b_23492.html

    Like me, the blogger feels that he and the soldier must be living in completely different worlds. We are, man, we are. I commented on the thing, and here's what I said:

    "It's sad to see people who are considered nothing but cannon fodder going ga-ga over the guy who'd willingly throw their lives away for fun and profit.

    "Before you armchair hawks start giving me crap about it, I'm the daughter and granddaughter of real life military grunts (not officers) and can count at least a dozen military people among friends and family. So I know whereof I speak when I say...

    "This 'fighting to preserve our freedoms' crap is nothing but military propaganda used to make the cannon fodder feel good about their sacrifices. Don't kid yourselves. If we weren't so utterly spoiled and self-indulgent, if our leaders weren't such pseudo-royal jerks, and if we didn't vomit our cultural ideas all over the rest of the world while sucking up the vast majority of its resources to maintain our outrageous standard of living... If not for squandering all the global good will turned our way time and again, we wouldn't NEED to have our freedoms protected by throwing everything our military has at a country the size of New Jersey. The US military exists in its current form as an economic crutch. And the lives of its soldiers are no more valued by the guys in charge of 'human resources' than are any other tool in the arsenal.

    "My freedoms are not being protected right now, anyway, except perhaps by the Coast Guard. If we were attacked directly by the Chinese army (perhaps seeking repayment of the billions we now owe them thanks to this war), the current people in charge wouldn't have a clue what to do about it."

    Katrina and 9/11 pretty much showed how well the blokes in charge can handle a real live threat to "the homeland."

    But that got me thinking even more as the day went on after that... Quite distracted, I was in fact. And here's the thing. I've heard this argument many times from various family members (mainly) and others too that the world is out to get America and the only reason we're not all speaking Russian or German or what-have-you is because of the courageous efforts of our great and powerful military. This goes hand-in-hand with the support-the-troops thing, and is to be expected in a family with so many members having been said troops. (No officers, mind you, just privates and the like.)

    And make no mistake, I do NOT blame "the troops" for what's going on politically right now. In fact, it is their commanding officers I blame somewhat, and going up the chain of command to the decision-makers. Deciders, if you will. But here's the thing. I've had it up to here [picture hand and throat] with this double-standard superiority/sacrifice image we give the military. In the movies, in the propaganda, you name it. Civilians don't know anything about how the world really is, and only our brave and gallant troops out there defending freedom are in the know, and we're ungrateful louts who barely deserve said protection.

    Never mind that it's mostly civilians whe are involved in the economic alliances that bind the world together, and that many of us have been to other countries and met other people in real life...

    But let's be honest. How many countries are there in the world? And how many of them have smaller militaries than ours? And how many of them are currently being pounded into shit by opposing armies? Guess what? It's a biological imperative to stay alive and not take stupid risks for no reward. Countries don't go to war every freakin day just 'cuz they know the other guy can't fight back. Yes, it happens. It has happened. But the percentage of countries who've done so vs. those who haven't shows that it's the anomaly. It takes raging stupidity to throw your citizens and your resources at something like that.

    Our Fearless Leader would have us believe that Muslims "hate our freedom and want to destroy it." Well, that's so totally off-base, it's laughable. They don't hate our freedom. Lots of people are JEALOUS of it, yes. Thus the immigrant issue. But hate it? No.

    What do they hate? I kinda' listed it in my Huffington Post comment. They hate that we get to live the highest standard of living on Earth just 'cuz we're 'murkins... They hate that we're bullies and push everyone else around economically and militarily, etc. They hate that we suck up resources like a giant Hoover vac... They hate our arrogance. They hate many aspects of our culture that we ourselves hate: nasty porn (nothing like the stuff they put on regular TV in some parts of Europe, BTW), excessive violence, consumerism/materialism, greed, waste, etc. In many ways, in fact, what Republicans claim to hate about our culture is what fundamentalist Muslims hate about it. Except for the stuff that makes them money.

    So what keeps people from sending their armies in and taking our stuff? The largest standing army on Earth belongs to China, which is utterly opposed to our way of life and also happens to be our largest creditor. Why haven't they sent a million guys onto our Pacific beaches? Is it our glorious military?

    Much simpler than that. We have nuclear weapons (and so do they, BTW, which is probably why we haven't tried to stamp them out yet), and we've shown that we're happy to use them. Our military's kinda' tied up elsewhere now, in fact, and has clearly shown the world that it can't even handle a country the size of New Jersey. If anything, the Iraq situation is making it very clear to everyone else that we're nigh unto incompetent when it comes to such things. It's almost like hanging out a big "Come get us, we're idiots" neon sign over the Statue of Liberty. (I posit that our Fearless Leader knew damn well there were no WMDs there, or he'd never have gone there. It's the only real deterrant.)

    No one dares to come after us 'cuz we're big, mainly, and that makes military actions here very difficult. We have a fantastic infrastructure thanks to FDR's new deal and other massive public works projects. You know, big government. Also we have The Bomb and aren't scared to whip it out. You can thank Einstein and Oppenheimer and a bunch of other scientists for that, BTW, not the military. The only other thing that keeps us safe is our numerous alliances, both political and economic. So many different countries have a stake in the US, it's not even funny. We'd only have to worry if they, I don't know, maybe all ganged up against us and demanded the money we owe 'em or something.

    Unfortunately, the current administration believes that alliances are for pussies. They obviously don't give a damn what anyone else thinks about us or what we do, unless that's someone who has something we want. And they're just as likely to say "Screw 'em," take their shit in the name of liberation, and set up housekeeping in their capital city than possibly consider what they might want themselves.

    Why are we farting around in the middle east when a lunatic leader in North Korea is brandishing very real WMDs in our direction? Because he doesn't have anything we want. And because we can take care of the so-called threat he presents by tossing a couple of bombs his way. No troops necessary.

    Ah, yes. Back to the troops thing. I know more people who washed out of the military for whatever reason than who are successful there. But both, OK, so I've paid attention to both sides of that equation. And the fact is that our military is nothing but an economic crutch, a political bargaining chip, and worst of all a collection of human cannon fodder whose leaders will throw away like garbage on the whim of a holy war.

    Support the troops? I ache for them. I'm disgusted and personally guilt-ridden over the exploitation of them that I see, that I tacitly allow. Never mind that I can't do a damn thing about it. But I sure as hell don't support it. Not that. It's the way of the world, man, but that don't mean I gotta' like it.

    2,500 is "just a number." So's 100,000 (the approx. number of Iraqi casualties, both combatants and noncombatants). So's $350 billion. So's 1984. And freedom's just a word. Sorta' like peace and prosperity, security and privacy, life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The people in charge right now don't care about any of these things. If the numbers aren't attached to dollar signs, positive dollar signs on their own personal balance sheets, then none of it matters.

    The past few years have done nothing but convince me that the world is packed full of stupid people.


    Tuesday, May 09, 2006

    Quote of the Month

    'Cuz apparently I can't be depended on to post daily or even weekly...


    “The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?” —Henry David Thoreau

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    Quote of the Day

    A political party is usually an alliance between idealistic people attracted by its official ideology and others with other purposes ('realists'). When it is out of power the idealists have free rein; they recruit supporters by explaining the ideology. When the party gets into power the realists sweep the idealists aside, and allow them to influence the public only when it can do no harm. In effect, the theory is a screen.

    --"Free Enterprise and Its Critics" by John Kilcullen of Australia's Macquarie University, 1996

    Check out the link for some hard reading:


    More Important Than (Normal) Life

    Wow, can it be so long since I ranted at y'all? OK, let me quick get the personal stuff aside 'cuz there are important things afoot.

    First, yes I found and bought a house. It's nice -- and looks like a tornado hit it since we finished moving in this week. Photos to come soon, I promise. We now live in Springfield ("Spring-tucky" as they call it in Eugene, and yes it's pretty much the one on "The Simpsons"... You guys can decide what character that makes me. (Though I recently realized that my family was a pretty close correlation to that one when we were little kids. I was Maggie.) New address will be in my profile momentarily...

    Second, you will soon be seeing my skiffy series "Racing History" online, thanks to Digital Pulp Publishing (www.dppstore.com). I'll let you know when the first novel goes up -- and shall expect to see some support. The only way digital publishing can work is through word of mouth, etc. More on that later this month.

    Third, I'll be appearing as a panelist/guest at two skiffy cons over the coming months: Orycon in November (Portland, OR) and RustyCon in January (Seattle/Tacoma). Hopefully I can make that happen for Westercon 60 next year in San Jose. Be there or be a cube. Not even one of those cool colorful Rubik's ones, either. (For you younger kids, those were what we had to play with at home back when you had to go out of the house with a pocket full of quarters if you wanted to play videogames.)

    Now, on to more pressing issues. Ladies and germs, the very concept of free speech is in jeopardy. Now, as most of you well know, it's a supposed freedom of the people that was guaranteed by a particular amendment of our country's Constitution. One that hasn't been a reality since the price of printing and distribution went so high that you had to have investors and/or advertisers to do it. Radio and TV made it worse by allowing companies to control the airwaves (that was legislated around the middle of the last century). And cable TV took it to the absurd -- which is why you can watch any one of half a dozen home shopping channels, but you can't find a decent movie on when you're sleepless at 3 a.m.

    But the Internet made it possible for anyone -- smart, stupid, educated, ignorant, good-looking or hideous, you name it -- to make their opinions and knowledge known to the world. It's the first time in human history that total nobodies on opposite sides of the planet could find and communicate with each other on any sort of human level. It's a beautiful, beautiful thing. And AT&T can't stand it anymore.

    The DotCom boom showed that it's damn hard to make money off this stuff. Especially when you're a media company that believes money ain't worth making if it's not measured in 6-digit numbers. Now some marketing geniuses have figured out a great way to make money off the Worldwide Web: Don't charge the users; charge the web sites themselves! Treat 'em all like advertisers! If you "own" the bandwidth, then shouldn't you be raking in the bucks when people use it for selling their goods and services? Sure.


    The bandwidth is not owned by AT&T and Comcast, etc. It's owned by the people who built it: the US gov't, the military, and most of all you. And me. All of us who paid for it through our taxes, who've contributed to the evolution of DARPAnet to the Internet, we all own it... and we say Net Neutrality is and should always be the order of the day.

    Don't we?

    Look, someone else has written much more clearly on this issue than I could here. Go read it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adam-green/mike-mccurry-hurting-t_b_20216.html

    Then join the fight. Never mind corporate greed. Never mind taxpayers rights. What we all really care about here is the true democracy of the Web. Remember that website where we all posted apologies to the rest of the world when Bush won his second term? That's real foreign relations, people. We are the world. Blah blah blah. Don't let them turn this place into just another media outlet that's beholden to the advertisers and the whims of owners like Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch. Keep the Net free!

    Save the Internet: Click here

    Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Grown-Up-CAS in Da House

    Folks, it's been a crazy three weeks since that last post... I found a house, made an offer, and applied for financing, if you can believe that. So my responsible side has taken over, and I've never been all that well acquainted with her. Not that I don't like her much, she just isn't very fun. But she does get things done. So we'll have this mutual tolerance thing for a while, at least until the loan goes through (yay or nay) and so forth. Closing date should be 10th of April, if all goes well... I refuse to be optimistic, that's usually a bad idea in my life. It usually leads to disappointment. (Thus the lack of house photos here for now; I will post them if things turn out right.) Meanwhile, I thought I owed y'all an explanation as to my disappearance of late.

    My friends are, I'm sure, sick of hearing me talk about it. But it's a pretty big thing in life. Or at least, it feels like it when you're 36 years old and doing this for the first time. I've learned about a lot of things over the past few weeks, things I never wanted to care about like credit ratings and closing costs and so forth. Bleah.

    And the world has gone right along as if (GASP!) it didn't even notice or care... Our country's debt limit has been raised to accommodate the borrow-and-spend Bush administration's manic hemorrhaging of money. 'Cuz the people benefitting from the war can't be expected to PAY for it, after all -- You know the ones, those whose kids aren't enlisted in the military to waste their lives in the desert. Yeah, them.

    Ah yeah, and my all-time favorite graphic novel "V for Vendetta" by Alan Moore has been turned into a pretty darn good movie that's currently doing all right in the theaters. I'm shocked, actually, 'cuz I figured it was too British for American audiences to "get" y'know? Like, what average Iowa citizen knows who Guy Fawkes was? Or how important a symbol he is? And your typical comic-book movie this ain't. In fact, the usual superhuman comic booky things are entirely incidental to the story. How pleasantly surprising, I gotta' say. I just hope people -- at least some of them -- are getting the point. Guess that one remains to be seen...

    Sorry, but it looks like I don't have much of a rant in me today. Maybe later. Till then...


    PS: Please send some good mojo our way for our dog, Sasha -- She has an ugly sore on her foot that could be skin cancer. Which might mean losing a toe. Or death. Or not. But a little good mojo can't hurt. Thanx!

    Saturday, February 25, 2006

    My Hero

    Wow, check this out, y'all:
  • http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/cold_turkey

  • Kurt Vonnegut kicks ass. I wonder if I have any of his books around?
    He speaks many things, e.g. in the above-linked column, that I think.
    I'm almost... allllmmmosssstt... inspired. Ideas, yes. Words/stories, no.

    I have a business trip to southern Cali, leaving tomorrow morning.
    I'll be back in about a week. Will the change of scenery help?

    (whose credit, BTW, is not quite as bad as she thought)

    Sunday, February 19, 2006

    Another Kind of Award Show

    My goodness. I watched the BAFTA awards this evening -- the British film academy awards -- it was only 2 hours long and immensely more worthwhile than that Grammy fiasco. Interesting to see it now -- more evidence that the Universe does what it does with purpose. If you look for meaning in the world you will find it.

    The five movies up for best film were Brokeback Mtn (which won), Capote, The Constant Gardener, Good Night and Good Luck, and Crash. I can vouch for Crash, at least, which was brilliant. And nary a fart joke or a giant computer-generated ape in any of the list... So I got to thinking about the movie industry and how I just might have given it short shift in my "art is irrelevant" post last night. The famous producer of Chariots of Fire and The Killing Fields and Memphis Belle was on the BAFTAs and talked about how he retired from the film industry 8 years ago thinking there was no place for him and his kind of film anymore. And he pointed out these five nominees for 2005 and said how grateful he was to those who'd made them -- thus proving him wrong.

    Gee. The medium that gave us Memento... The Sixth Sense... American Beauty... LA Confidential... Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon... The Motorcycle Diaries... Run Lola Run... Dark City... I mean, wow. They don't all disappear, do they? Gawd, I watched Citizen Kane the other day. Like 60 years old, and there I was marveling at this black-and-white thing. The ability of film (that is, images plus music plus story) to convey and create emotion...

    And my friend Jen made a darn good point, too, about music. Even when I'm totally uninspired, as I have been recently, music inspires me. it's not all American Idol and Kanye West, is it? The entertainment industry may be blockbuster-obsessed, but that's not to say art itself is made irrelevant by the slimy, talentless leeches who made a business out of it. It's the concept of art as industry that's totally frelled, ain't it boys and girls? Just because The Wedding Crashers makes more money than Serenity did, doesn't make it better art, of course. Just because something has a larger audience doesn't make it the only thing that's out there.

    Kinda' like politics, now that I think of it. The system we have is the one that majority-rule gave us, right?

    Hmm.... If only some of these many hundreds of seemingly important ideas floating around in my head would distill somehow into a formattable story-type thing, I might just get inspired again. But right now, nothing I've got started and/or waiting to be started seems to interest me. And I figure, if I can't be interested enough to write the damn things, then I sure as hell cannot expect their eventual/potential readers to give a crap.

    It's a strange kind of writer's block, the sort I haven't had since... gee, I don't know really. Maybe never. I'm 36. Is this the bleak Frodo-and-Sam-on-the-hill-overlooking-Mordor vision of an oncoming midlife crisis? Or what?

    confused, bleary,
    entirely too deep into house-buying financials,
    and questioning every damn thing

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    Eye-ronic Ain't It?

    So I followed the link on Shane's blog right after writing the previous post... It's this website that somehow assigns a meaning to your name. Ready for this?

    Cheryl --


    An immortal

    'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at QuizGalaxy.com

    Now that, friends, is what they call IRONY. I should call up Alanis.



    I'm a writer -- er, not just a blogger, but I like write stories and sometimes poems or attempted plays things sometimes. I know what you're saying: "So the feck what, CAS? You're a writer. Big deal. What's that mean in 2006?"

    Yeah, it pretty much means I'm irrelevant. My fiction produces no revenue for anyone. Periodically my nonfiction does; I can slam out a pretty good article on some basic science or technology from time to time. But that's not me. I sit around mooning about people who don't exist, and periodically I get into this warped little trance where I have to perch over the keyboard and tell the Ether about it. This is, I'm convinced, a barely controlled form of obsessive-compulsive disorder -- the kind that's channeled into a harmless behavior that doesn't interfere all that much with your ability to function as a semicontributing member of society. These numerous strings of alphanumeric characters that result, what happens to them?

    Well, they become bits & bytes, of course, stored on my hard drive. And as such, they are just slightly more real than when they were floating around in my head. If I'm really super lucky, some friend of mine or member of the family will take pity and scan a few lines. They'll say nice things, maybe offer a little constructive criticism, and that's about it. I might make a few changes as a result, and then what? Well, not much.

    Don't tell me to "send it out." I have. Various things have gone and come back again from time to time. Sometimes with kind or encouraging words, sometimes with a Xeroxed formletter, sometimes nothing at all. But here's the point, folks: Why even bother? What would happen if the answer was "Gee, thanx for sending that! We love it! We'd like to turn it into a product!" OK, so now you've got ink on paper -- or maybe just more bits & bytes intended to glow on someone's screen. And for me, what? A hundred bucks, maybe? Periodic royalties measured in cents rather than dollars? Yippee. Let's celebrate. I could make more on an assembly line.

    'Cuz nice little stories, my friends, ain't worth $hit in 2006. Nor are not-nice big ones. This is the day and age of reality television (cut out the writing staff, more credit and profit for the producers!), manufactured pop music, and movies like "Date Movie" and "The Wedding Crashers." In other words, ladies and gents, crap. The world doesn't want your little story, it doesn't care what you think or have to say; it only cares what you look like, how much money you have, and who you're sleeping with. Especially if you'll go on TV and tell all the juicy details. Or better yet -- set up a webcam in your bedroom and invite all of Big Brother's little brothers and sisters into your home!

    Admittedly oversimplified. After all, the occasional worthwhile piece of art does catch the attention of the masses. For, what? A week? A month at best? It's just a product. There are new ones coming out all the time. That's the deal, see? Even if your nice little or not-nice big story becomes a huge freakin' hit -- a phenomenon even -- it hasn't done a damn thing. Two years later they'll be saying the latest steaming pile of crap to come oozing out of 50-Cent's ass is so very much better. Remember "The Matrix," folks? Do ya'? What kind of references do people make about it now?

    Irrelevant, see? All of it. Your painting, my novel, Jimmy's short story, Kelly's little song, Freddy's blog, and even Mikey's latest film... None of it changes anything -- the days of artists affecting the hearts and minds of the public are long gone. At its best, at the pinnacle of its success, art is nothing but a product. Why don't we just make shoe trees or grow plums? This is what I'm wondering today. Why don't I trash the lot of it and just take up gardening?

    But maybe that's just the writers' block talking.

    (looking for a house in Lane County)

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    3.5 Hours I'll Never Get Back

    I sat through the whole periodically excruciating Grammy Awards last night, and for those who didn't I thought you could use a report from someone who was actually paying attention.

    Rock music is pretty much shat upon by the Grammy powers that be these days, that we know. Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young both did really great folk (at most, folk-rock) CDs in 2005, both of them were nominated for Rock categories, and Bruce won one. This ain't so bad 'cuz... well, deserving and all... but jeeze it goes back to Jethro Tull winning the metal category y'know? Where was Audioslave? Where was Franz Ferdinand?

    For that matter, where were the Latin categories? Has no one noticed that Hispanics are the largest minority in the USA? How come deSol or Kinky weren't playing? And speaking of folk-rock (as I was a minute ago), what about Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, Ben Lee, and Lucinda Williams? Guess they don't get a category -- so it's like they don't even exist?

    Anyway, the two major rock awards (best metal and best hard-rock performance) happened get this OFF THE AIR. Apparently Slipknot and System of a Down (the winners, respectively) are not ready for pime time. But JZ or whatever he is, well he's just fine. What kinda' crap is that? Heck they couldn't even give us the White Stripes and their alt-rock award, for chrissakes...

    Remember years ago when rap was new and all the rap guys bitched about getting no respect as musicians, etc.? OK, yeah, so they got their own category (of course, hard rock and metal had been trying since Led Zeppelin's day, and they finally got a category each in the late 80s, but I guess we won't get into that). And that's fine, good, even if what they do is a lot more performance art than it is music. But just a few years go by, then I turn around and not only do they have like six categories or something but they have the most performances on the show -- to the point where they and their R&B pals are horning in on other people's performances. Linkin Park can't play unless JZ is up there with 'em? What the hell was he talking about? I have no idea... but excuse me? Metal gets one single category, the award is given away safely off stage, but Kanye West and Kelly Clarkson get to thank their freakin' PUBLICISTS for fucksake?!? I say anyone who thanks their publicist should be barred from all future awards.

    I'm all for this cool smash-up idea where people from radically different music "categories" get together and do some cool collaborations. But that shouldn't only equal some rapper talking about his money and how cool he is over the top of a watered-down version of a Linkin Park song. Here's a crazy idea: Why not Coldplay meets the Chemical Brothers? (CBs also got an award last night, two of 'em in fact, though you'd hardly know it if you watched the show.) Or Norah Jones meets Foo Fighters (oops, yeah, Dave Grohl made that happen, didn't he?). Or Angelique Kidjo meets Tom Morello.

    The closest things to a rock performance in the show were Coldplay (w/more energy than you've ever seen 'em, I was truly surprised), and U2 (though of course we couldn't have a simple rock and roll song, some R&B chick had to come out and show off her vocal range for half of it, but Bono was nice enough to do very nice backup singing for her), and believe it or not Paul McCartney's kick-ass version of "Helter Skelter" rocked harder than anything else. He was cool, totally relaxed ("...my first time on the Grammys, I'm glad I finally passed the audition."). Later, Chester from Linkin Park was doing an admirable attempt at Paul's "Yesterday," (while JZ was doing his best to massacre the song) and Paul just moseyed out there to help. The only thing cool about JZ was his John Lennon teeshirt. Why Linkin Park's resident pianist/rapper was relegated to the back of the stage, I have no idea, since he's better at it than any of those guys with the jewelry and attitude...

    A tribute to New Orleans was planned for the end but the show ran overtime (as usual) mainly because of look-at-me antics and ego-stroking speeches by Kelly Clarkson and the block of rappers/R&B people who'd pretty much taken over the whole show. So the second main reason I was watching got rushed at the end... and please note that none of those self-important jerks were on the stage to help out Katrina victims (except for WillIAM from BlackEyed Peas, the classiest of the rap bunch). Anyone care about their musical roots at all? Jeeze.

    The other main reason I watched was the Gorrilaz thing at the beginning, which was pretty impressive. They really seemed 3-D, and Madonna actually walked all the way around one of them, which was pretty cool. The animation wasn't bad, the characters were hilarious (guitar-gorilla in his tighty whities and singer-gorilla almost bored to be there, while drummer gorilla looked like King Kong on vacation). What a great song is that "Feel Good Inc."

    The surprisingly good moments of the night: Bruce Springsteen alone on a totally dark stage singing "Devils and Dust," with a quiet "Bring 'em home," statement at the end. John Legend sounding like a modern-day Sammy Davis Jr. And Bono's emotion when talking about his father. Oh yeah and all the people doing the Sly/Stone songs. Might've been better if the lame-ass sound guys would hold off on the pot-smoking till AFTER the show. I never saw 3 hours with more sound-engineered gaffs in my life. During one country-music performance, you could actually hear the sound guys talking to each other about their fuckup. Great work, guys. Really.

    The pointless ego-fests that pass as "music performances" these days never cease to amaze me. Mariah Carey gets a good review 'cuz she screeched out some inhuman high note? So the feck what? So now sadism passes as musical talent? Did anyone happen to notice Christina Aguilara standing perfectly still leaning against Herbie Hancock's piano? Now that was a performance! The girl's growing up -- she used to be the sleazy Britney Spears, and now from what I can tell Britney Spears is the sleazy Britney Spears...

    And forget all those rap guys, who are so in love with the camera and the money it represents that they now have to do their poser-schtick during other people's performances too. I was hoping to hear Jamie Foxx sing (he really can, y'know) but all he got to do was prance around like a high school moron with that other guy. Sigh. That audience of people who actually thank their publicists in acceptance speeches couldn't even remember the freakin' words to "Higher Ground" when Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keyes asked them to sing it with them in honor of Rosa Parks at the beginning, and thus a potentially beautiful moment was lost. Cripes. They're probably all "Rosa who?"

    OK, the rant's winding down now. I'd started to feel a little optimistic about the Grammys for a couple years there when the performances were good and etc. Lauryn Hill gave you hope for hip-hop, and Alicia Keyes and Usher for R&B. Maroon 5 and Los Lonely Boys made you think pop might be good again. And remember Simon & Garfunkel together again? Great moments. But last night proved that it's back to its money-grabbing tradition -- I guess we shouldn't be surprised when it's entertainment industry related at all. But the recording industry has pretty much proved that it's completely lost by this point. They shove aside whole genres of music so the rap crowd can have their night. Fine. When do the rock people (never mind blues, jazz, world, etc.) get theirs?

    (a gen-X-er who's starting to feel a little bit like an old fogie)

    PS: Yay, Green Day! Winning best rock performance with a song that was technically released in 2003! And yay Billy Joe Armstrong for pointing out the glaring absence of rock n' roll in these final days of the great Roman Empire. A culture that stagnates (read: wallows in its own decadence and ignores the danger signs) will fall. Katrina was just the beginning.

    Kudos also to David Bowie, who didn't bother to go even though he was "awarded" a lifetime achievement thingie. That amounted to someone talking for all of 20 seconds about how cool he was and a bored audience politely clapping whilst checking their voicemail. An embarrassment. Hey... when's the R&R Hall of Fame show? Or have the manufactured pop stars and crappy slam-poets with gold teeth taken that over too?

    Tuesday, January 31, 2006

    State of the You-nyun

    Hello friends and family, long time no see... er, write... rant, whatever. Tonight our Fearless Leader spoke his words unto us, and for the fifth or sixth year in a row (I'm losing track, it's all a blur, War on Drugs, War on Terror, what's the diff?) I did not watch or listen. I am a bad, bad American. Unpatriotic and apathetic and etc. I guess... Well, if politics is a spectator sport, it's just no fun when there's no legitimate opposition.

    I am a registered Democrat. Why? I have no idea. Because I had a brief moment of optimism back around the turn of the millennium, when I actually thought that if more intelligent people would get involved in "the party," we could actually make a difference. Yeah, right. And some people still think voting matters, too.

    Gawd, it's like that old "better to have loved and lost..." bullshit. Remember the glorious swelling of happiness and belief in Humanity we all felt that night? The big New Year's celebration, 1999 into 2000 (not the real Millennium a year later, although that was a pretty memorable party in itself), when the whole world held hands and sang Kumbaya for 24 hours... None of our dire predictions came true, no world-ending apocalypse or computer meltdown or even crazy mad bombers ruining the party. (How many truly great parties can say that?) I got choked up and shed happy tears, and for a few precious hours I loved Everybody.

    But now I look back on that One Great Shining Moment with bitterness and a little heartache. I remember getting choked up, feeling like my species was all right after all, looking forward to what the future would bring. And now it just turns my stomach. Better to have loved and lost, my ass...

    State of the Union, 2006: Exxon reports largest corporate profits in human history. Take a look at this chart to see what the past six years have been like for them (and very likely, every other oil company and country). How many of us expected something exactly like this five years ago? Any Exxon employees out there? Just wondering whether your wages have tripled like the company's profits have...

    In other news, our leaders are defending freedom out one side of their mouths and torture out the other side... calling suicide bombers terrorism but phosphorescent rounds in civilian poppulations collateral damage... the toxic waste of our digital society is shipped to third-world dumps under the guise of "recycling"... for the first time since 1816, the US gov't is withholding names of its employees (about 900,000 of them), with no explanation as to why, although I'm sure the word terrorism came up... federal budgets cut meager amounts spent on making deadbeat dads pay their child support and more substantial disaster preparedness while borrowing billions from countries like China to pay for an Orwellian perpetual "war" that conveniently provides our leaders with carte blanche to do whatever they like without accounting to anyone... the Pentagon is tracking peace protestors in case they might be terrorists... Treasury Secretary John Snow asks Congress raises the government's borrowing authority from its previous $8.18 trillion cap (who are we borrowing from, you ask? Who cares, they answer, if they demand repayment we can always drop some of the bombs on 'em that they paid for!)... People are putting digital ID chips in their pets and children... and in the wake of Katrina et al, some people are still arguing that global warming hasn't yet proven to be a real threat... and the Fearless Leader believes the solution to our healthcare situation is for people to pay MORE out of their pockets because somehow choice will magically make costs go down and quality of services go up (he's forgetting, of course, that only those who can AFFORD to buy luxuries like insulin and physical therapy, further widening the gap between rich and everybody else)...

    Ain't it great to be alive, American, and free in the 21st century?

    (waving at the Watchers,
    who aren't watched by anybody)

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

    Long View

    Last nght I came home from a typical day of working on the thrice-bedamned Windows PC at the office to a book Chris picked up for me at his work: Terry Pratchett's "Only You Can Save Mankind." It's pretty much a kid's book, but here's the thing about Pratchett. If you pick up a TP book, Discworld or not, and dare to read... say... the first sentence, well, it's all over from there. You will be finishing it that night. Terry's nice enough to write short ones that we can do that with. Heck, even back when I was barely reading anything at all, I couldn't put down a TP book.

    So anyway I finished it, it was funny and sweet and made me smile, but... Well, by the end of it I gotta' say my eyes were totally fecked. And I got to thinking, because my vision was going and I had a nasty headache, about how Anne at work was telling me one day that you're supposed to look off into the distance like 5-10 minutes out of every hour you spend at the 'puter. This is why offices with windows are so important. And I try to do it, but y'know...

    It's winter. Here in Oregon, that means it is pitch dark at 5pm. And the sloppy weather keeps you inside. We got the seasonal affective thing going big time, of course. I got a grow light next to my bed just so's I can regain consciousness in the so-called morning. Anyway, here's the thing that occurred to me:

    We humans evolved on the African plains, yes? So the wide open spaces and grand vistas, they are our natural environment. We especially like to climb up high and look around. That's why all the most expensive houses in your town are up on the hills. It's why we have those pullouts along the highway that say "Scenic Overlook, 1/4 mile." It's why you get that charge from standing up on the edge of Crater Lake and looking around, and it's one of the reasons (I contend) that we so love to stand around on the beach and just stare at the ocean. The long view, man, we're hardwired for it.

    But our city life, and in particular our modern city life of the 21st century, is all about things that are up close and personal. The 'puter, the TV, the nearest cars in traffic... Heck, probably the farthest away we have to focus our eyes is maybe 30 feet or so. Privacy fencing in the backyard means even when we go outside we're agoraphobic about it. Winter just exacerbatees the problem, keeping us from getting out into the world unless we're crazy enough to enjoy strapping our feet to sticks rubbed slick and jumping down an ice-covered hill or something.

    Well, I got this theory that it's not just bad for the eyes, all this concentration and straining to focus on stuff that's really close up to us. It's also bad for our psyches. Makes us all close-in and self-absorbed, like the whole Universe revolves around us alone... with no idea of the big picture y'know? So we can't think, pardon my descent into biz jargon here, out of the box. Can't see the big picture, how can we keep it in mind? Wish I could do a study, compare the incidence of big-picture thinking with how often people go to the beach or up in the mountains, out to the desert etc.

    Anyway, it's got me convinced that I need to do just that. I know how much better it always makes me feel, and I got the New Year Blues setting in right about now. Even if it means going out in the freakin' rain this weekend, looks like I just gotta' do it. I bet it even correlates with the seasonal depression thing -- yes, I know that's mainly due to a lack of light and associated brain chemicals, but gee... Hey, you go outside and look up at the stars, really look at 'em, let your gaze stretch out (maybe go somewhere up high if you have to), and tell me how it makes you feel.

    Works for me!