- Really nice and thorough op-ed on why renewables and more efficiency and conservation are the only immediate responses of significance to global warming and why our politicians, including President Gore, can't be counted on to get them done (h/t Grist).
- Nice example of political nonsense and counter-productivity. The new IA gov is committing $100 m. to making the state a world leader in renewables and efficiency. Sounds perfect, right? Except, being IA, the renewables are biofuels. And biofuels are starting to draw calls for boycotting as the land, food, and forests are consumed to create them right now while we wait for all those wonderful alternative bio products to come online. And then we've already got this: feed that used to go to dairy cows now goes to ethanol-->costs to dairy farmers go up-->higher milk prices. IA farmers will love that, won't they?
- And when the nation realizes what's possible with solar, we'll be turning to CA, it looks like, with home developers incorporating it now and a multi-billion dollar initiative to promote even more through rebates for investment, etc. FL may actually be pretty close behind, especially with Bushnev's hermano gone.
- This could be why CA is moving on solar. Its average temp went up 2 degrees F (the one we use, not that C thing) in the last 50 years, maybe as much because of all the concrete they've been throwing up. Not kidding, actually. An international meeting of mayors just spent a lot of time discussing warming and the role that urbanization is playing in adding to the total. And climbing.
- Probs with carbon trading. A listing here, but it basically boils down to "too easy to be gamed" and "too many other better options."
- The second IPCC report will apparently note how hammered Australia is going to get under global warming. And its idiot PM's response? "Mr. Howard told Parliament that Mr. Stern's demands [to embrace Kyoto and international agreements] would destroy Australia's economic growth and cost jobs." By all means. Country goes to Hell, almost literally, but our religious zeal for idiot theories of econ decline and global warming come first.
- An unusually warm winter in the Arctic, ice didn't form the way it should have, that ain't good. Dry winters in the north Mediterranean, hotter summers further north in Europe, that ain't good either.
- There's always a catch. Those long-lasting, less energy-using fluorescent bulbs we're all supposed to switch to? Got mercury in them. When they finally do go black, what do we do with them all?
Friday, March 30, 2007
Thursday, March 29, 2007
- First up, Where did the music industry go so wrong? "The industry has become decentralized. Major labels no longer have the market muscle or control over the distribution channels as they once did. Technology and consumer choice have caused a shift from the traditional music business model of major labels throwing copious amounts of money behind a few big hits to that of a vast collection of individual artists creating pockets of more moderate success among passionate fan bases."
- Fresh off of his Exchange with yours truly, Michael Atchison at Teen Kicks has a spirited exchange with his own blogmate, Trip, about Starbucks becoming a player in the music industry.
- Here's a PopMatters review of Modest Mouse's new (this still sounds weird) #1 album. (And while you're at PopMatters, read this. I'm not saying I even remotely agree with its premise--that the WWF/WWE and politics have become indistinguishable--I just love that somebody came up with that premise. And for the record...yeah, I kind of agree with the premise.)
- And finally, it's The Roots on Letterman!
I haven’t watched this much because I haven’t wanted or needed my time sucked into yet another tv show. However, as this post makes clear, the few times anyone watches “Friday Night Lights,” they come away gobsmacked that something of that quality is possible on network television. It’s apparently in serious trouble ratings-wise, so I’m not sure what good a rally cry would be at this point. Let’s just hope a ray of sense breaks in on NBC execs. Either renew the show and let it build an audience over the summer like “Cheers” did (maybe) or let the producers know in time so the writers can prepare a finale that will be worthy of everything they and the cast have done to this point. I still miss “Sports Night.” Maybe it’s good I didn’t watch “FNL.”
Can someone please tell me where the management experience is that says that the way to get and keep long-term customers is to fire your high performing employees to hire lower-paid ones? Or that even says that said employees will give a rat’s ass about your business knowing they will be fired if they start costing you too much? Please, please show me. And remember, this isn’t the first time Circuit City has done this and they’re doing it again now because . . . they are losing business!!! Just like Home Depot and every other moronic company that’s using this “strategy” of demoralized and underpaid “help” that doesn’t as much as the talented people they’ve let go did. (And don’t just quote those dumbass “management consultants” cited in the article. Those people are hard-core stupid, the reason why there are so many books out there blasting business "consulting" now, and let’s guess who they voted for in 2004.)
- Rising tides. No, not from global warming. Well, not directly. I’m talking about the ones that are going to wash over the Repubs as they take their opposition to focusing on global warming to new heights, this time trying to stop Gore’s Live Earth Rock Concert at the Capitol. As we’ve said over and over here, all the other issues we fuss about are pale compared to the urgency and consequences of what we’re doing with global warming and its associated concerns of energy and water. Nothing else comes within a universe of it despite the lack of interest even from most of our fellow “progressive” blogs, much less the news media. And the people who go down in history as impeding action and letting the worst happen will live with the consequences. So let them play their games, even win on this point, just to label them better. That light at the end of their tunnel IS a train.
- Does seem like a few of the Repubs have a clue. From one of their pollsters: And Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist who conducted the poll in South Carolina, said Republican candidates could garner support from independent and swing voters by showing sensitivity to climate change. "The issue has advanced dramatically over the last eight years," Ayres said, "and flat denials of the existence of global warming are no longer credible." (h/t Grist) But, as the story makes clear, most Repubs are beligerent ostriches on this and a few semi-reasonable ones don't make up for their silliness.
- Here's the poll mentioned in SC, from a story on how FL and TX may finally be realizing that sun all the time might make them, you know, rich in solar power: State Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, is pushing for more solar investment in Florida. He says a recent Mason-Dixon poll found that 90 percent of Floridians think the Florida Legislature should encourage investment in solar energy, and 78 percent say they would be willing to pay up to $1 a month on their utility bills to pay for it.
- But this is the big kahuna poll that the Repubs are fortunately ignoring (h/t Scientific American). 83% of Americans see global warming as a serious problem and more than 80% have serious concerns about toxic soil and water, deforestation, wildlife extinction, and dependence on foreign oil. Rightly, this is being called a "tidal wave." Remember those yahoos who stood around laughing at Noah. They were Republicans. Oh, the irony.
- Oh, yeah. Their favorite claims that it's just a natural cycle? Well, now we have 420 m. years of evidence of consistent correlation of CO2 rates and effects on temps. Wait, I forgot. The earth's only 4000 some years old. At least the Brits are doing their part, with their carbon emissions up 1.25% last year. And they're the ones who accept it and claim to be doing something about it.
- Polar ice experts kindly let us know that a TX-sized piece of the Antarctic ice sheet is thinning. And if it melts? Only a 20 foot increase in sea levels. Nothing to see. Move along.
- If, IF, their vegetation isn't too screwed up and they keep good supplies of their upstream sediment, tidal marshes might not be too harmed by rising sea levels, which is also a protection of shoreline against damage. So let's work on keeping them healthy, and not by building giant homes on them, okay? NC? Okay?
- Speaking of NC and SC, looks like that major water war may be getting started, with SC accusing NC of siphoning off its river water. This is one of many possible feuds that could get ugly, and remember the last time SC got aggravated with some other states . . . ?
- More on every other crop being cut back so as much corn for ethanol can be grown. Result? Higher food prices anyone? More hungry people anyone? Save a democracy anyone?
- Interesting article here on a UN study showing how much could be done against global warming with better architecture and use of building materials. The potentials are good for us, but obviously even better for poorer nations still wanting development.
- And speaking of tech advances and changes, here's another piece on all the geoengineering ideas being thrown around out there to let us keep having our fuel cake and burning it, too. What's good about this article is its thorough presentation of the questions we need to be asking before these things get going. Things like:
Simply put, economic analyses can't deal with far-reaching, long-term problems like climate change or geoengineering, he says. There are too many unknowns. "Changing the earth's climate is an experiment we're going to do once," he says. "There are not going to be any do-overs."
Others point out that the mere mention of a techno-fix for climate change could have unintended consequences. If people know that someone will bail them out of catastrophe, they're more inclined to engage in risky behavior, says David Keith, director of an energy and environmental systems research group at the University of Calgary.
Because climate change has winners and losers – one country's breadbasket dries up while another's desert blooms – unilateral change becomes a sticky prospect. Manipulation – even if it's viewed as a corrective measure – will inevitably impinge on another's newfound good fortune. "Even if you're very confident that you can make things better, that doesn't necessarily give you the right to do that if, in fact, you're affecting other people's interests," says Professor Jamieson. Ken Caldeira posits another possibility: "You could imagine some kind of arms race of geoengineering, where one country is trying to cool the planet and another is trying to warm the planet," he says.
Now let's see if anyone pays attention.
I’m not sure what’s scarier, Karl Rove stating that he like to “tear the tops off of small animals” or his “dancing”. Either way this video from the Radio-Television’s Correspondent’s Assn. Dinner might cause reoccurring nightmares for weeks to come. That or uncontrolled laughter.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
- Modest Mouse has a #1 album. That didn’t sound right, so I’ll say it again. Modest Mouse has a #1 album. Occasionally, this world can be pretty cool.
- The Roots, Mos Def, Nas, Rage Against the Machine, Wu-Tang, Immortal Technique, Public Enemy, Blackalicious, and Good Nonsense favorite Brother Ali at the same festival?
- Harp Magazine, which is a pretty consistently good read, has a nice profile of Austin City Limits (via largehearted boy, of course). Gotta love the staying power of that show...granted, you get the occasional Coldplay, but I’ve seen Wilco, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Dixie Chicks, Rilo Kiley, and Bright Eyes (among others) on that show in the last couple of years...and now I get to watch it in HD! Winner winner!
- And finally, it’s a new Guster Road Journal! That’s always cause for celebration. I’d have bought their book of old road journals if I hadn’t already read them all. Good ol’ fecalscope...
"Ugly Betty" continues to pull in good ratings as it enters more and more countries. This story shows it doing well in Canada, and things should get better once they get episodes like the one with Marc and his mom and the really nicely done "winning of one more race" by Alexis that was really a loss of everything she says she wants, acceptance by her brother. They're doing a good job with the show, but you don't need to be told that probably. . . . Of course, you also probably know by now that the show's been picked up by ABC already for next year. . . . This story on the pregnant Salma (!!!!) doesn't really cheer me up. Sure, turns out she studied international relations before turning to acting, but her "boyfriend" (and father of the child she's lugging around inside) turns out to be the 7th richest man in the world. Okay, my wife's safe for sure. I guess. . . . Interesting story on how there's developing a kind of secondary market for programs to be included as part of primary programming, with the model of "Ugly Betty"'s telenovelas as a major component of the overall show. Want to see the telenovela? Want to pay a small price to download it? See the possibilities? . . . This story says that "Ugly Betty" is "the most gay-friendly show in the history of broadcast television." Here's the best quote: "No, what makes the show so extraordinarily gay-friendly is that its sensibility is so gay — and not just its fashion sensibility. Every week, Ugly Betty delivers a message about self-acceptance and being true to oneself, and it reminds us that mere tolerance isn't enough. No, in Betty's world, true understanding and acceptance are what this show is all about." I wonder, though, if the writer making the "gayest" claim has ever seen "House Hunters" on HGTV. . . . And finally, something besides "Ugly Betty." I know I’ve harped for a long time about how “La Fea Mas Bella” long ago lost the sensitivity, spirit, and nuance, not to mention the actual plot, of its far-superior predecessor “Betty La Fea.” And I’ve heard some spoilers and it will get even worse before it’s over. However, if you want a bit of the sense of what “Betty La Fea” was about, I recommend a telenovela on Telemundo right now, just a couple of weeks in, called “Dame Chocolate.” It wouldn’t take you long to catch on to what’s happened (or have a clue about what’s going to happen), but the heroine, an even more fea fea than Betty La Fea, has the vulnerability and fragility that the remarkable Ana Maria Orozco had in the original “Betty” and that Angelica Vale, as good as she’s been, has never brought to “La Fea.” “Chocolate”s plot isn’t that deep, we know “Rosita Amado” (beloved little rose, awwww) will be bonitisima before it’s over, the hero is already far more sympathetic than either Armando or Fernando in “Betty” or “La Fea,” and yet the chemistry is good between the leads. If you can get past a “grandmother” who has the neck wrinkles of a 20-year-old (and, actually, some occasional, too graphic violence), I think you’ll find this one captures the spirit of “Betty La Fea” better than “La Fea” did or by any means does now.
- Next month a study will be published id'ing the populations at greatest risk from rising sea levels and hurricanes ("cyclones" in some parts). A tenth of the world pop lives in coastal areas ten meters or less above sea level. You can get the details of the report now here, and you just have to love any database acronymed "GRUMP."
- More than related to the above, there are now Flood Maps that will show you what will happen to your area when the water levels start creeping in, just like that scene in "An Inconvenient Truth."
- The British National Trust is urging the gov't there to start preserving the country's peat bogs, to stop them from drying out and releasing CO2 into the atmosphere and to maintain as a kind of CO2 storehouse right now. You don't like to hear "It is the forgotten climate change timebomb."
- Over at Grist, David Roberts gets into an ongoing battle over purity v. pragmatism in global warming and other environmental debates. This kind of split is so common in so much of human history. Reading the post, I was reminded of the split among the Irish after they got Britain to agree to get out, between Michael Collins' forces (pragmatists) and Eamon DeValera's (purists) forces. The thing is, DeValera enjoyed later triumph because the clear lack of commitment to basic overriding principle ended up eroding Collins’ original base of support (that and difficulties getting the country on its feet and Collins being, you know, killed in a gun battle). So David should be concerned that his “pragmatism” will have its usual pattern of failing to inspire and thus end up losing out to more zealous types and also losing the reasonableness that the pragmatism was supposed to be insuring. The problem is that the means (process and compromise) can become the end and be held to just as tenaciously and vainly as the “purists.” The trick is to maintain a balance, open as much to chances for purity to be attained as to opportunities to split the baby with obstacles. I would have liked to have seen a little recognition of that in Roberts’ post. We may literally be dealing with life and death here and splitting that baby doesn’t really leave much that’s attractive.
- Long, thoughtful post at Environmental Journalism Now on the coming “holy war” over the environment. Not between environmentalists and the Dobson/Falwell types, but within the evangelistic community itself. Good analysis of why Dobson et al., think they’re doing God’s work in opposing causes promoted by Satanist secularists, even when those evildoers are trying to save God’s planet for all his creation, not just for overly self-impressed humans. Add in the religious zeal of some environmentalists (see above), and you have the makings, as is said here, of something far more potent than creationism v. evolution.
- The human side of the coal-fired power plant boom and what happens, as in TX, when the plug gets pulled. A nice foretelling of what may be happening a lot of places in the future.
- Scientists swear, just swear, that ethanol doesn't have to mean less food to eat for folks. We'll use chutes and leaves, not corn. Problem solved. Except for that grazing land that's already nailing ranchers. And that water thing, that's already going to be a problem even without the enormous amounts that will be needed. Odd that these experts didn't mention this stuff.
- And here, similar experts are expediting the process to bring more nuke plants on line for a big buildup soon. Better get it done soon because Sen. Bernie is moving to get power back to the states to require independent safety reviews. By independent, I don't think he's talking about the "experts."
- For better news, it's possible that hydrogen cell obstacles are on the way to resolution. Which will make a lot of this so moot. Then what will the experts do?
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
..."some people" say Katie Couric tries a little too hard to seem hard-nosed. "Some people" might say she's not very good at her job.
I kept waiting for John or Elizabeth Edwards to ask her who "some people" were exactly, but they didn't. They cheerfully answered her questions. Elizabeth Edwards said, "We're all going to die." And: "I pretty much know what I'm going to die of now." She said that on hearing that her cancer had recurred, she realized she had a choice -- to go on living her life, or begin dying. She said she had chosen to go on living her life. Katie Couric looked at her as if someone had set off a stinkbomb in the room and then asked another "some people" question, this one about whether the Edwardses were "in denial."
Last night on 60 Minutes, Katie Couric quoted John Edwards' remark earlier in the week -- that he was in the race "for the duration," and asked him, "How can you say that, Senator Edwards, with such certainty? If, God forbid, Elizabeth doesn't respond to whatever treatment is recommended, if her health deteriorates, would you really say that?" Thank you, Katie. Thank you for asking that question. The world could not have survived had you not asked it. Of course, "Some people" were undoubtedly thinking it. And it would have been a tragedy not to have given voice to that thought, wouldn't it? Or would it?
Dog saves owner with modified HeimlichLet's just say, I don't see a toy rat terrier doing that one. Or a chihuahua.
Toby, a 2-year-old golden retriever, saw his owner choking on a piece of fruit and began jumping up and down on the woman's chest. The dog's owner believes the dog was trying to perform the Heimlich maneuver and saved her life.
Debbie Parkhurst, 45, of Calvert told the Cecil Whig newspaper she was eating an apple at her home Friday when a piece lodged in her throat. She attempted to perform the Heimlich maneuver on herself but it didn't work. After she began beating on her chest, she said Toby noticed and got involved.
"The next think I know, Toby's up on his hind feet and he's got his front paws on my shoulders," she recalled. "He pushed me to the ground, and once I was on my back, he began jumping up and down on my chest."
Some music notes for you...consider this my Weather-Water-Energy, only not nearly as important...
- First off, John Legend knows his stuff. He was on Real Time last week, and while I don't have HBO, I read the transcript (as I do every week...I'm a nerd), and his answers were at least as good as David Frum's. Then again, that's like saying I'm as good a singer as Sanjaya...not much of a compliment. Anyway, he was good. I know he was a nerd growing up (maybe that's why I like him), and that obviously rubbed off onto more than just his musical skills.
- Moving on, Trip at Teen Kicks has some choice words for Macca and the maker of choice coffee beans. And by 'choice beans,' I mean 'overpriced beans.'
- Via largehearted boy, who let's face it, always provides readers with good links (really, I should just link to their posts every day), I find the A.V. Club's "26 songs that are just as good as short stories." My favorite (other than "Boy Named Sue," of course) has to be the fact that "Cortez the Killer" is slowly-but-surely getting more and more notoriety. What a creepy, cool song. Plus, any list that contains both Barry Manilow and Eminem is pretty cool in my eyes.
- And finally, that Tom Morello...he's the epitome of humble (via RS). “These times, I think, demand a voice like Rage Against the Machine to return. Rage was certainly the most outspoken radical voice in music in the ’90s, and the seven years that Rage was away the country went to hell. So I think it’s overdue that we’re back.” That's one step toward Creed, who once (okay, probably millions of times) said they saved rock and roll, but...well, technically, the country has gone to hell in the last seven years. Get to work, Rage.
A quick Rant™ today as we get closer to Opening Day. Here’s some Pirates news in bullet form...
- Freddy Sanchez, defending NL batting champ, will most likely start the season on the DL after spraining his knee early in Spring Training. He’s missed most of Spring Training, and considering how his batting style is based totally on timing and a quick bat, that’s not the most encouraging news.
- Jose Castillo, the 2006 winner of the “Worst and Fattest 2B in Baseball” award, lost his starting job this year. However, thanks to Sanchez’ injury, he (at least momentarily) got it back. Goodie. Last week, Orel Hershiser said Castillo “has a lazy approach to the game,” but thanks to injuries, he’s still a starter.
- Chris Duffy promises that his .163 Spring Training average (with a massive walk total of 1) should not remind anybody of the fact that he batted <.200 for the first few months of the season, then got sent down to AAA, had a mental breakdown, didn’t report, and basically wasted the first four months of the 2006 season. Nope. “Everything’s going to be fine.” Good to know.
- Promising lefty Tom Gorzelanny, who did pretty well in August and September last year and was slotted to be the #4 starter this season, is now the #5 starter—with a teeny tiny leash—after a wretched Spring Training. Lefties Sean Burnett (their #1 prospect in ’04 before getting Tommy John surgery...which will soon be named Promising Pirates Pitcher surgery) and Shane Youman were absolutely dominant in Spring (despite neither being able to actually strike people out), and both were sent down to AAA last week.
- Brad Lincoln, the Pirates’ new #1 pitching prospect, has avoided getting Promising Pirates Pitcher surgery, against all odds...at least for the time being.
Question 1. "The correlation between total team runs and which spot in the batting order is the strongest:Without a doubt, Pirates GM Dave Littlefield would answer (A) to this question.
(D) 8th in the NL and 9th in the AL
Answer: secondThe Pirates have 3 good hitters—Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, and Adam LaRoche. Needless to say, 3 is not 5.
From the 1986 Baseball Abstract: "[T]he correlation of runs scored in the number two slot to the total runs scored by the team is closer than for any other position--that is, the teams which got a lot of runs out of their number two hitters, also got a lot of runs period."
There are two explanations here from the Abstract: (1) "This could also be taken to reflect the marginal nature of the position. Everybody has at least one good hitter to hit third, so that doesn't tell you that much about the offense, but the only teams which have good hitters hitting second are those which have five good hitters, hence score lots of runs."
(2) "[M]any managers tend to waste the second spot in the order by putting somebody there who isn't one of the better hitters on the team....Too many managers will say 'bat control' as if these words were a magic wand, and place some .260 hitter with a secondary average of .150 batting second....”Jim Tracy absolutely insists on batting Jack “Magic Wand” Wilson in the 2 slot because of his bat control. Jack Wilson’s career batting average is .265. His career secondary average is .161. Just thought I’d point that out.
- David Roberts at Grist has his usual series of great posts, but these two are the ones that stand out for me, one on how "conservatives" base their opposition to global warming measures on their fear and hatred of Gore and not the science of it and one on how their fear and hatred of science has made them virtually reality-free and nothing but pure politics. They create their own reality, just like the Soviets, of whom no one reminds me more than Georgi and his apparatchik, in everything they do, not just climate change.
- Meanwhile, another nation with a history of la-la land thinking, China, finds that reality is a bitch in yet another report of 10m. people and 9m. livestock without water supplies. But keep pumping out that coal-fired power, buddies.
- Don't know if this is good or not, but a new company can tell you the climate and environmental risks of that new house you're thinking about buying. Probably won't go over well on the coasts.
- A couple of British universities are putting up some serious funding to get serious solar power research advanced in their country. Does the sun shine in England? I know it doesn't where Tony Blair usually has his head.
- Speaking of folks with heads up dark places, I guess it's hopeful that even the TX legislature is taking time to examine what global warming will do to the state and how they might stop it. Just like they've got all that incarceration and child poverty taken care of. Good on 'em.
[UPDATE: An AccuWeather forecaster is warning both the Gulf Coast and the Northeast that the 2007 hurricane season is likely to hit them where it hurts. Which is the pocketbook, according to him, but I think we learned from Katrina that that pain comes later.]
A high school senior in Michigan achieved nuclear fusion in his basement. He built his own contraption out of parts from hardware stores and stuff he found on eBay. It took him two years to get results. At this rate, I'm hoping he can solve our no flying cars problem in the next five years.
Monday, March 26, 2007
She was the star today. If you were in the room, listening, watching and taking it all in, she simply rose way above everyone else. That she came after Obama did her some good, because she, quite frankly, made him look like an amateur. She was personable. Likeable. Knowledgeable in the extreme. There were also specifics to her delivery that were unmistakable and could not be ignored, except by those who refuse to give her a chance. The voters in the room took to her and got her, responding with laughter and applause. I specifically appreciated her choice to stand rather than sit next to Karen Tumulty, the moderator. She was comfortable and natural in the setting, clearly loving this new role, something I can only imagine she's dreamed of manifesting her whole life. Her Midwestern twang is definitely back, which I can appreciate, though it illustrates something else. Hillary Clinton is coming into her own. She's feeling some momentum or maybe she's just having a damn fine time. Whatever it is it shows....and then gets them taken away.
Newer additions to Hillary's fold also suggest that her hawkish profile is about more than just polls. One is her Senate foreign policy staffer Andrew Shapiro. The 39-year-old Shapiro is affable but charged with nervous energy. (Sitting in the audience at a recent Clinton speech on the military, he rocked steadily back and forth like Rain Man at Wapner time.) A Gore-Lieberman campaign aide and Justice Department lawyer, Shapiro was also briefly a research assistant at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a center-right think tank. Shapiro is "a mainstream foreign Democratic policy establishment moderate," says a congressional foreign policy aide. "He's hawkish on defense issues and Israel." It is Shapiro, Hillaryites say, who is in the room for most of her important foreign policy decisions.There's nothing positive to me about Hillary's "midwestern twang," by the way. Just sayin'.
Anybody else 5%
[UPDATE: Here's a bit of interesting news that shouldn't wait 24 hours. Turns out now that scientists are saying that climate change won't just be climates moving north but that completely new climates may be created, with new effects on the ecologies and species (and probably not effects they would be thrilled with). And here's one more reason to be suspicious of ethanol beyond its water-sucking potential described below--auto execs are hyping it and Bushnev is listening. Time to start growing our own food.]
- The author of the famous Stern Report (his name is Stern) is now saying the folks with money on the planet need to be investing $10b. annually to halve deforestation and cut back on the global warming that will otherwise result from the whacking. He says that ""The cost of action, strong and urgent action, will be very much less than the cost of inaction. If we do nothing, if we go on with business as usual, we will eventually derail growth and development." But does Brit Hume trust him?
- For those of you thinking your asthma might get better with global warming, uh, no. But dust mites won't like it either, if that's any consolation. That can't be bad.
- A natural shift in climate and ocean produced a dramatic drop in the sea lion pop around AK (Alaska, not Arkansas) 30 years ago and portends what an unnatural one is likely to do soon.
- Just remember, for every story like this you see on the wonders of ethanol and all the new investment, the process takes a lot of water, which gets us into that self-defeating cycle of energy problem, water problem, energy problem, so on, so on.
- Do you need any more proof that we're ostriches, maybe hearing the whirlwind coming but still not believing that it's anything to do anything about? How about the idiot state of NC, about to okay changes in regs to allow houses to be built CLOSER to the ocean?? I guess people really can survive with solid cork heads.
- Finally, speaking of corkheads, we get the debunking of a silly report at RealClimate that I didn't link to a few days ago with a couple of thermodynamic nerds proclaiming that there couldn't be an average temp to be going up as news reports claim. Sometimes guys think that high math SATs and IQs make them smart. Which tells you how dumb they are. You still have to be able to recognize a clue before you can get one.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
In a world of MySpace, Second Life, and Wikipedia, it's kinda hard not to notice a lot of swirl and remixing going on. This very blog is an example (not a very large one, I admit) of the impressive changes in networking and communicating info that are exploding around us. The idea of using the Internet to open new channels for exploring, testing, reworking how we do things may not have yet hit Gutenberg stage, but it's done a hell of a lot more than CBs did. (And if you have to ask what a CB is, you've proven my point . . . and I want you to leave the room right now.)
With such change, the temptation for existing organizations, ways of thought, and the people who inhabit both is to hunker down and resist. Standard operating procedures, chains of command, hierarchical structures are all threatened whenever new technologies are swarming the gates. And, indeed, we've seen companies and corporations doing as much to repel the new "wiki"-world as to embrace it.
That's the essential theme of Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams--the tension between the existing order in business and the new swirling, centerless, topless possibilities of internetworking within and without traditional orgs, the "art and science" of peer production. Some businesses, they say, have already sprung up based on the new lines, and others have hopped on board, to their success and advantage. Far too many, in the authors' view, have failed to do so and risk being swept away as the proverbial world whizzes by them. And, in chapter after chapter, they spell out why and how.
Wikinomics is based on four principles, Tapscott and Williams tell us: openness, peering, sharing, and acting globally, and they helpfully provide examples of each. They all tie into a philosophy of massive, networked collaboration. No copyrights, patents or entitled privilege here. You solve problems by inviting networked partnerships, like the famous "open source" development of Linux. The product generally is the "ideagoras," a growing and evolving global marketplace of ideas and inventions shared and expanded to take advantage of what all participants have to offer. The result? New orgs, ways of working, necessary skills, a new, more creative and less hierarchical world.
Okay, for those of us who like stable jobs and skill sets, this doesn't make us think "utopia" that the authors fear might be derailed by stubborn resistance of established (and blind) powerbases unable to understand the genius here. (However, since in the music industry, the latter roles are played by some truly unlikeable folks, fighting Napster et al., this sort of balances that possible job loss thing.) And, while the examples for the most part are cool and thought-provoking, this all has the "we'll all buy groceries online" dot-com kind of patina on it. So, let's not get carried away here yet. Too much of this ignores politics and power or believes the wonderfulness of wikiworld will pull it through. Potentials for new collaborations and their results are impressive, yes, but it's likely this will be a supplement to, not a replacement for, the powers-that-be, may be eventually assimilating or being assimilated into the other. (Ready to eat my words, though, if all industries go the music route and risk losing everything to whoever does put it together.)
What interested me here most was the overall lack of application to government organizations. Granted, it's a business book, but is there no overlap? I think there is. Let's look at a normally hierarchical gov org such as a corrections department (you could think "school district" or "public hospital" if you prefer). Problems of top-down direction, communications, record-keeping and transfer, just goal sharing itself are well known in most DOCs. So why not recommend the wikinomics principles for these frequently ineffective bureaucracies?
What might that mean in practice? How about a blog that disseminated not only department news and policies but the latest research and experience on correctional management or programs? Prison staff and parole and probation staff sometimes end up talking different languages or using the same terms for different concepts? Isn't that perfect for a DOC-wikipedia? The org too big for people to know each other anymore at anything but top levels? Staff don't know who to talk to to find info or how something's done? Just want everyone to feel part of the same common org, purpose, mission? MySpace anyone?
Tapscott and Williams are clearly onto something, for government as well as for business. The politics of power still has to play out, and their visions of wiki-greatness are likely to go unfulfilled as power and inertia work their magic. But even half a loaf here will be something amazing. It already is. The future is just not what it used to be, and reading this book will show you where it might go. And they thoughtfully left their final chapter blank for you to contribute to the journey (through their website).
What are you waiting for?
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Michael Atchison is both a fellow Mizzou nerd (he's written a great book, True Sons, covering the history of Mizzou basketball) and a fellow music nerd. He makes up one half of the lovely music blog, Teenage Kicks. And he agreed to take part in Exchange #2. (To read, Exchange #1 with Erik Loomis, click here.) In this post, we cover mostly musical issues...why it's okay to dislike Dave Matthews Band (even though they're great!), why The Hold Steady is so important, why it's been easier to admire Radiohead than actually enjoy them recently, why (once again) Curtis Mayfield is the greatest ever...it's all there.
Let's get right to it. We pick up discussing an Exchange #1 topic, Johnny Cash vs Ray Charles.
Michael Atchison: I love Johnny Cash. I once stood about ten inches from him, a moment I’ll always remember. He casts a long shadow over the history of the popular music of the past fifty years. And he’s not close to Ray Charles.The Boy: As long as you agree that Curtis Mayfield dwarfs them all, we're cool. Actually, it's hard to pick against Ray matching him up against anybody. It's easy to think Dylan was more influential, and as a Dylan nerd I'm inclined to immediately think he was, but was he? Put it this way--the people Ray influenced were a lot stronger than the people Dylan influenced. Dylan influenced a bunch of people to try to be like him, and almost all of them (Springsteen aside...and Bruce was aiming for Freddy Cannon and Motown as much as Dylan) failed. Um, Donovan? Hello? I guess you could say Neil Young was heavily influenced by Dylan, and needless to say that worked out pretty well, but still...
Cash carved a niche in a tradition forged by Hank Williams and he became a key player in the broader cultural transformation as part of that epochal roster of Sun Records artists. Charles, on the other hand, is absolutely ground zero of a revolution, the place where soul music started, where the secular and the spiritual first collided in often difficult and spectacular ways, where the music of an oppressed minority became the most popular music in the world. The line goes from Ray Charles to James Brown to complete global domination. His influence is incalculable.
I could be wrong...
And speaking (sort of) of Springsteen...your blog thinks very highly The Hold Steady, who were clearly influenced by "E-Street Shuffle"-era Springsteen. Sell them to me. I got their album a few months ago (I'm listening to it right now), and while it's fun and relatively strong musically, the vocals were almost TOO derivative of Bruce Circa 1973 for me to take them seriously. Maybe I'm just revolting against them because Rolling Stone loves them so much?
MA: First off, I love Curtis Mayfield. That two-disc comp with the Impressions is near-perfect, and I’ve been spinning Curtis periodically of late.TB: That's all I needed to hear. I'll hop on emusic and get their other albums, stat.
As for Dylan, I think you short change him some. It’s not just about the obvious direct influence on someone like Springsteen, it’s the changing of the level of literacy across the board. But frankly, I’m less interested in him as an influence than as an artist, where he has very, very few peers.
The Hold Steady is my favorite band since the Replacements, who were my favorite band half of my life ago. In fact, I thought I was too old for “favorite bands” at this point, but those guys knock me on my ass like I never thought I’d ever have happen again. Though they get lots of Springsteen comparisons (especially for the most recent album), I never would have thought to compare Craig’s vocals to Bruce’s. He’s all about hard cadences and edges (really, I guess, sort of like Dylan circa 1966, but even harder). The first Hold Steady album I heard was their second, Separation Sunday, which I wrestled with for months before it revealed itself to me in its full, wretched glory. The first two albums (Almost Killed Me came before, and I got that one shortly after I got the second one) are far more idiosyncratic than the one you have. They rock hard and the song structures are less conventional, with Craig free to roam about without verse-chorus-verse constraints. His words are unbelievable. Sometimes ridiculously funny, sometimes heartbreakingly sad. And Tad’s riffs are massive, straight out of the Thin Lizzy book. It probably shouldn’t work but it does. I think there are a lot of very good bands working now (New Pornographers, Marah, Wilco to name a few) but I don’t think any of them can touch the Hold Steady. I know plenty of people who don’t like them at all, but I don’t know anyone who just likes them a little. If you’re in, you’re all in.
And yes, as far as Dylan goes, his artistry is unmatched. Paul Williams' 3-part Bob Dylan, Performing Artist series was fantastic in showing that, no matter what the quality of his recorded output was at any given time, his performances (both in how he performed and the songs he chose to perform) always revealed an entirely different level of artistry that almost nobody else has ever possessed. My point was just that, the more people tried to reveal overt Dylan influences in their music, the more their music probably stunk. However, he's had a more broad influence on just about everybody, whether they know it or not.
As for slightly younger bands/performers (i.e. those who weren't in existence before about 1990) who have become extremely influential (in music and in spirit/vibe)...I'm seeing Pearl Jam and Dave Matthews Band as the leaders of that pack. PJ's influence has come in waves--first, their actual sound was ripped off or borrowed by about 25 major label groups, and now, they and Green Day are carrying the "speaking truth to power through music" torch that seems to be influencing quite a few bands. As for DMB...their impact has been a little more subtle. They pretty much drew out the business model for building a grassroots fanbase and using the internet to their advantage--their approach has been imitated by bands at every single level of fandom at this point--and because of that they're pretty much assured of selling out amphitheatre-level venues for the rest of their lives. Thoughts on who else is approaching this level of influence?
MA: like the idea of Pearl Jam – principled band that connects on a mass level – more than I like the band itself, but there’s no doubt that they cast a long shadow. As far as influence goes, it was huge once (and I think maybe for the wrong reasons; record labels tried to churn out as many PJ sound-a-likes as possible) and probably still is. Still, I suspect that any group of guys who grew up in the 1990s wanting to rock somehow absorbed PJ pretty deeply. I just wish they weren’t so short on song ideas in recent years. I have the album that came out last year, and it redefines “OK” for me.I love both PJ and DMB, but it's different for each of them. With Pearl Jam, it's almost a knee-jerk, gut-level defense of them ("DON'T YOU DARE SAY ANYTHING BAD ABOUT THEM!"). I love their earnestness and dedication to both rock music and causes they appreciate. I love how Eddie treats his audience from the stage. I love how they still make better rock music than almost anybody else (their last album was not my favorite, but it was more than OK!).
As for DMB, suffice it to say that I’m not a fan. As a grassroots marketing phenomenon, you may well be right. I do respect how they did that, and they probably did pave the way for a lot of other similar bands to follow.
I guess I haven’t given much thought to the level of influence of more recent vintage bands, though I’d put Radiohead near the top. There are a lot of top-notch Brit bands who cut their teeth on them. And this may be a little provincial, but Uncle Tupelo – who were Blue Note regulars back in my day helped launch a whole generation of alt.country bands. Back when they started, there just wasn’t much music like that. Now it comes in waves.
As for DMB...while I've seen them live about 15x more than PJ, and while they're most directly responsible for my love of live music and made a giant impact on my musical tastes between about 1998 and 2002, when somebody tells me they're not a fan, I just say that I understand. While it's rewarding to delve deeply into their catalog, I've not been a fan of almost any of their singles (same goes for PJ, actually), their music is a pretty acquired taste, and their fanbase--a unique amalgamation of frat dudes, stoners, and complete music nerds like me--is one of the most whiny, self-righteous fanbases out there (and I say that as a member of the fanbase!). I don't defend them nearly as much as PJ, even though I love both equally.
As for Radiohead...you're probably right. For a while there, I was thinking they were almost too ground-breaking and unique to actually influence anybody because it went too far over people's heads (kind of like Outkast on the hip hop side), but you really are starting to see influences, and not just on British bands. Bands like Arcade Fire are also starting to delve into the noise/synth area, though slowly. And Uncle Tupelo...you're absolutely right on this one. The band's rootsy sound has not aged at all and still sounds crisper and much edgier than a lot of the alt.country bands out there today (Jayhawks, etc.). And really, since breaking from Uncle Tupelo, Jeff Tweedy has turned Wilco into even parts UT and Radiohead...it's been fascinating watching them slowly incorporate more and more tricks into their arsenal.
And before we move on to TV shows, I need to ask...since we're talking about Radiohead...Kid A or Hail to the Thief? I was going to ask about The Bends versus OK Computer, but there's only one right answer to that question (OK Computer is leaps and bounds above Bends in every way, though OK wouldn't have existed without the experimentation on Bends).
If we’re picking between The Bends and OKC, I think it’s a lot closer than you do. I’ll take OKC, but not by much. And after The Bends I think it’s a distant third to whatever comes next.
I’ve admired more than enjoyed Radiohead since those two albums. I’d rather listen to Hail to the Thief than Kid A, if only because it’s not so insistently difficult. “Punchup at a Wedding” is probably my favorite latter-day Radiohead tune.
If we’re really moving on to TV next, be forewarned, I’m not likely to be of much use. Between writing the book and having two kids who are now three and six, my evenings haven’t allowed for much regular TV viewing the past few years. I think the last show I saw every episode of was Sports Night, and that’s been off the air for years.
How much have you delved into one of Good Nonsense's favorite shows and targets, Studio 60 (funny how that works...we can't stop complaining about it, but we keep watching it...then again, it's been off the air for a few weeks...hard to keep watching it then)?
(And I do think The Bends is an absolutely fantastic album...it's just that OK Computer took everything that was good about Bends and multiplied it by 10. Hail to the Thief is almost certainly--to me--their best since OKC...I'm all for being challenged, and I'm all for bands taking big risks...but there still has to be some semblance of melody and music, and a lot Kid A and Amnesiac was sorely lacking in that category. Thief was very a very encouraging sign as to what may lie ahead for them. They kept the weirdness and added melody back into the equation.)
Studio 60 is the one thing I’ve watched pretty consistently this year (I’ve tried to keep up with The Office, but I’ve missed it a bunch). My 'Teenage Kicks' partner Trip watches, too, and we’ve had many discussions about it. I think Sorkin is much better when he plays small ball. When he makes personal interaction the focus, he has a really deft touch, and the dialogue can be almost musical. When he goes for grand themes (especially political ones), he’s ham-handed and clunky, telegraphing everything he does. He ought to go back and watch every episode of Sports Night. Those characters all felt real and there was genuine warmth between them. There are good characters on Studio 60, too, but it feels like some of them were hatched as archetypes (Matt and Harriet, especially) more than as people. He needs to fix that.
I like the 'archetypes' comment. That pretty much nails the problem with Studio 60. It's like he had all these different exchanges in his head, and he had to cram them into places they didn't belong. I do almost hope that Studio 60 is renewed (though it gets more doubtful by the day) simply because, when he gets all the pre-conceived dialogues and scenes out of his head, he'd still have some decent characters and settings to work with. I love Timothy Busfield's dopey character. I like the potential of Bradley Whitford and Amanda Peet (and though it was super-slapsticky and predictable, I laughed really really hard when the fake baby's eyes popped out of its head...but that's just because I have a very high sense of lowgrade humor). I like the two rookie writers. D.L. Hugley and Nate Corddry's characters at least have potential.
I just hate the Matt/Harriet plot, and I hate the skits. Even though he got away from showing bits of the skits, even the ideas being discussed stink. He really needs to hire a real comedy writer just for the ideas. It's rare that a show has had such distinct strengths and distinct weaknesses--usually a show with such weaknesses is just an overall trainwreck and easy to dismiss--and it's obvious we've held the show to a higher standard because it's Sorkin, but still...it needs work. Maybe it would just be easier if the show were canceled, but hey...I'm an eternal optimist (obviously, since I'm also a Mizzou fan).
And just to let you know, I did in fact hop on eMusic and pick up the Hold Steady's Separation Sunday. Not bad. I like the lyrics more on that album than Boys and Girls in America, though the spoken-word delivery still has some growing on me to do. The music and the riffs are just spectacular, though. And I also picked up the new Arcade Fire. Usually the 2nd release from an indie band (i.e. the first release where they actually had a recording budget and good equipment) is overindulgent and loses the spirit of the first. Well, Neon Bible is definitely overindulgent, but I think (upon first listen, anyway) I might actually like this more than Funeral. The melodies are just fantastic, and the instrumental excess actually kind of fits their sound. What new releases have caught your eye?
I’ll tackle the new release question first and then finish with The Hold Steady. The new Arcade Fire is in the mail to me now (along with new releases from LCD Soundsystem and Jesse Malin). I’ve actually been listening to the Malin disc for a few months thanks to a dub of an advance copy that showed up in my mailbox. He’s a four-on-the-floor rock and roll troubadour and true believer in the tradition of Springsteen, Lou Reed and Graham Parker. And while I don’t think he’s as good as any of them, he’s pretty damn good. It’s nice to have the cobwebs cleared every once in a while by some fierce, no BS rock and roll. (my buddy Trip has written about Malin extensively on Teenage Kicks.)I guess I'm pretty behind on new artists. I haven't gotten too in-depth with many of the ones you mentioned. Here are some random thoughts...
My favorite recent release is almost certainly Lily Allen’s Alright, Still . . . That’s just a big box of fun. A smart, epic, funny pop album. I’m also deeply enamored with Field Music’s Tones of Town. Think Beach Boys, XTC, the Format. Lots of knotty, circular melodies. Really luminous in places. Other recent offerings to get my stamp of approval: new ones by Peter Bjorn and John, The Good the Bad and the Queen, and the Shins. Two of my very favorite songwriters – Lucinda Williams and Ron Sexsmith – have new albums out this year, but neither has done much for me so far. I’ll have to listen with fresh ears later.
Some recent (and upcoming) releases that I’m looking forward to acquiring: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Amy Winehouse, the Ike Reilly Assassination (the first tune smokes), Andrew Bird, Antibalas, Modest Mouse (I’m interested to hear what Johnny Marr brings to the mix) and the Fratellis.
This will be my last bit of proselytizing on The Hold Steady. As I mentioned before, I wrestled with Separation Sunday for months before it revealed itself to me in its full, decadent, literate glory. Craig Finn’s delivery is what it is. You’ll either like it or you won’t. But I think he has enough charisma to make the razor-blades-and-whiskey voice work (of course, I also think Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Shane MacGowan are world-class singers and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees).
One thing I love about him as a writer is that he trusts his audience to bring a certain sort of knowledge to the table. If you don’t know Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill,” there are a couple of lines in “Hornets! Hornets” (Separation Sunday’s lead track) that will fly right by you. But if you know that song, you’ll just laugh to yourself and think “holy, $*#%, that’s brilliant.” He can also being scathingly funny, like on “Stevie Nix,” when he sings:
She said you remind me of Rod Stewart when he was young
You’ve got passion, you think you’re sexy, and all the punks think you’re dumb
He drops something that great into every song, but it takes a while to hear them. Sometimes it’s like doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. You look at the clue to 68 across (“Bow over?”) twenty-three times before you realize that you’re looking for “retie” and you think “jeebus, it was right there in front of me all the time.”
But Finn is more than just clever and funny. He’s also blindingly brilliant in his vivid depiction of the characters that populate The Hold Steady’s records. Is there anyone working today who can top this?:
Your little hoodrat friend has been calling me again
And I can’t stand all the things that she sticks into her skin
Like sharpened ballpoint pins and steel guitar strings
She says it hurts but it’s worth it
Tiny little text etched into her neck
It says “Jesus lived and died for all your sins”
She’s got blue-black ink and it’s scratched into her lower back
Says “Damn right He’ll rise again!”
I’ll end there because I can’t possibly top that.
-- I saw Lily Allen on SNL, and she was pretty good. She falls into that 'quirky female singer-songwriter' category, which is fine as long as you're good at it. Meanwhile, I absolutely LOVE Amy Winehouse's single, "You Know I'm No Good." Got it as the 'free single of the week' at iTunes a while back and heard it on the local adult-alternative station here in Como the other day. Great stuff. That type of music--where you can hear R&B and rock and everything in between--is exactly where I want music to go, and I'll probably end up with her album pretty soon. Can't say I'm all too impressed with the whole "screw rehab--I love being a drunk" attitude, but hey...good music covers up a lot of faults, sadly enough.
I too am quite interested in the new Modest Mouse lineup. Loved their last album, even after I'd heard "Float On" on the radio for the 657th time. Meanwhile, the other new release I'm really looking forward to, which is QUITE off the beaten path, is the Brother Ali release coming out in a few weeks. Normally when you describe someone as an "albino rapper from Minnesota", one would think you were talking about some funny novelty act, but Brother Ali is one of the most talented, charismatic (and totally serious) rappers around. He represents all that hip hop is supposed to be--he has his own style, he talks about the pain and events of his own life instead of creating some false persona, and he's honed his craft over the long haul. However, I'm thinking I lost a lot of people with the "albino rapper from Minnesota" thing, so I'll stop there!
Anyway, any last words for the smart, witty, and adoring Good Nonsense audience?
Actually, I think Lily Allen falls into the “cheeky British bird intent on dominating the globe” category. She’s so fresh and funny (“oh my gosh you must be joking me/if you think that you’ll be poking me”) and charismatic. I doubt that she’ll ever be as massive on this side of the pond as at home, but I wouldn’t mind if she were. I also appreciate that she’s a pioneer of The New Way of Doing Business. She put her demos up on myspace and found a public waiting to devour them. And she has taken all the right influences – the Specials, the Streets, Kirsty MacColl, the Slits – and digested and used them in a way that’s not the least bit derivative. As for Winehouse’s “Rehab,” I have the same queasy reaction (let’s just say I’ve had some ugly, real world family history), but it wouldn’t be the first time a great tune triumphed despite a questionable point of view.Actually, one more thing: Aaron Sorkin is writing a musical with the Flaming Lips. Good? Great? Apocolyptically bad? Oh, and here's Brother Ali's myspace page...the bio's pretty gutwrenching.
I’ll look forward to hearing Brother Ali. I wish there was more contemporary hip hop that I loved on a gut level rather than simply admiring on an intellectual level. I liked J Dilla’s Donuts disc that came out last year, but that seems to be in an entirely separate category (like DJ Shadow or the Avalanches), and I understood the critical huzzahs draped on Ghostface Killah’s Fishscale but, honestly, I can feel assaulted and dehumanized by the violence (in theme and delivery) of it. And can we put an end to the between-song skits? Does anyone enjoy these things? If so, please explain.
I still love hearing a great hip hop single on the radio, but it has been a long time since I’ve been taken with an album the way I was with The Low End Theory or The Score.
It’s been a pleasure doing business with Good Nonsense. Let’s do it again some time.
I sampled a little of Brother Ali. I’m predisposed to like fluid beats like his. I’ll have to spend some time with it.Sounds good to me. Thanks for taking part. Next time you're in Columbia, I'll burn you a "Why it's okay to like DMB" disc!
As for Sorkin and the Lips, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that they’ll do something brilliant. I’ll reserve judgment.
Friday, March 23, 2007
- USA Today tries to convince us the nuclear is a viable alternative to carbon-based fuel and that some normally sensible people are coming around. Well, they do at least quote someone who knows that it's a last option, not first. And maybe the reporter should have checked about this: we may have a major nuclear fuel shortage, too. Uh-oh. Shouldn't that be, like, the first thing you check on?
- Good stuff at Grist, including why the Repubs love of nuclear power basically makes them socialists, the drastic need for a paradigm shift on how we manage the oceans, how even conservatives are making the whirly-whirly signal at their temples when Inhofe talks, and more on the scams and hype behind too many carbon offsets that we need to be more wary of.
- This could be cool. The US has developed a CO2 tracking system to show levels all across the country, viewable from the Internet, allowing better determination of emission areas, carbon sinks, etc. And, if it helps our understanding here, the plan is to take in global.
- We keep talking about how the first IPCC report was a conservative, compromised document that may have underestimated the coming warming and pointing out to you examples where reality has already outpaced the models. Well, here's another one. Rising sea levels and melting polar ice-sheets are already at the top levels of those projections. If the ice flows continue at this pace, the IPCC forecasts may have to go up 25% on sea levels. It won't be easy to deal with it, especially if we keep dithering. As one scientist said, "You can't just say we'll just put sea walls." Yeah, good luck with the sand under them. It's the same stuff our policymakers are standing on.
- Finally, this is what I'm very afraid our future will look like. For the last 40 years the people living around Lake Chad and the Chadian gov't have been watching the water dry up, tossing out big words, holding summits, publishing plans, ignoring the political and economic interests growing richer in the short term and preventing action, and generally getting crapola done while the disaster occurs. It's like the old "Twilight Zones," but only Rod Serling is laughing.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
I know I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but how sad the world has become when Lou Dobbs is one of its best sources of wisdom. Here's proof:
This is the same Democratic-controlled Congress that millions of voters thought would be so vastly different from the last gaggle of partisan buffoons in the Republican-led 109th Congress. With almost 30,000 young Americans killed or wounded in Iraq, with a half-trillion dollars spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this Congress can do no better than publicly fulminate in futility and bray endlessly without effect on the course and conduct of the war in Iraq. Is there no sense of proportion and higher purpose anywhere in Washington?
- Climate Progress has done a great job reviewing President Gore's testimonies yesterday in Congress. Lots to pick from but our favorite here has to be his takedown of Sen. Inhofe (OK-REPUB), who went off like the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving . . . and was treated accordingly. You can get good roundups of Gore's major recs here and here. The foundation is there now. We just need to rid the room of lunatic relatives.
- By 2025, 2/3rds of the planet will be affected by "water stress," particularly in the Third World, enough that the World Water Assembly is calling for water to be recognized as a basic right and kept out of private enterprise. Good luck on that latter one.
- Lipo + biofuel = synergy??? New tech to turn any old fat into energy. I'm sensing an irresistible tax credit concept here.
- All the coal-fired plants around the world being built as fast as they can be thrown up before regulations catch up mean an extra 1.2 b. tons of carbon emissions each year. These guys think they're coming up with new tech to make major cuts in those emissions, and these guys think carbon capture (aka sequestration) is the answer (assuming people start actually doing it). You like to think the emission stoppers will win, but you also know human history. We better hope they rise to the occasion. Here's why: "To date, many climate models have not fully accounted for the worldwide acceleration of coal-plant building, scientists say. 'The phenomenon ... would lead to greater CO2 emissions than most 'business as usual' forecasts project,' says Robert Socolow, co-director of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative at Princeton University in an e-mail. 'Fortunately the world has now begun to take CO2 seriously, and coal-power emissions will be target No. 1 worldwide over the next decade. The fact that the US is waking up at last will give us the opportunity to have a positive effect on CO2 policy in the rest of the world,' he adds. Yet another indicator that things will go faster and worse, not slower and better, than the models predict. But let's fiddle.
- Predictions that hurricane season this year will keep the local tv weatherpersons off their meds and borderline hysterical. (Well, actually the local tv thing is my prediction.)
- Stop hunger. Use the new generation of hybrid vehicles. Cut need for biofuels such as ethanol. Save corn for people. The new protest movement.
- Finally, this may be the way to at last get the clueless paying attention to global warming. Drought in Africa = scarcity of chocolate. Heart just clutched, didn't it? See what I mean?
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
First, it looks like Jurassic 5 may be about to break up, and after you read these quotes by J5’s Soup, you will probably change “may be” to “are.”
According to Australia's Gold Coast Bulletin, rapper Soup revealed last month that they the group will be calling it quits after a brief tour of the country and several Japan dates.While I’m sure any or all of them could make one kickass solo album, and I’m sure I’ll buy them all, it’s still very discouraging when one of the more positive influences in hip hop falls apart, and in a pretty negative way. They released an album, Feedback, last summer, and while it was still good, it was fractured in ways that previous J5 albums weren’t. The togetherness represented on Quality Control and Power In Numbers will be hard to match by any group. Plus, it looks like they will mark the first artists on Good Nonsense’s “Good Music” list to fall apart.
"After the tour, that's basically it," Soup explained. "I don't want to sit here and fake around with it--we're not seeing eye to eye right now. People see us as a harmonizing, loving group, but that's far from the truth."
"Some people may say it's a creative thing, but I'm not buying it. Some might say business, some might say merchandising, whatever, there's some really stupid shit, some really childish things, happening," continued Soup. "[But] when it comes down to it, some people here want their own shine, their own thing. If that's what you want, I say more power to you. I hope it works out for you--just don't come up with lame excuses [for J5's demise]."
And then there’s some better news. Actually, strike “better” and replace it with your choice of “strange” or “intriguing” or “befuddling.” Your choice. It appears that a) there will be musical based off of the music of the Flaming Lips, and b) Aaron Sorkin will be writing the script.
In an exclusive interview, Wayne Coyne, lead singer of the Flaming Lips, told EW.com that the psych-rock band will team up with acclaimed TV writer and show creator Aaron Sorkin to turn the group's 2002 album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots into a Broadway musical.Or something like that. Seriously, there’s not a sentence in that article that my brain isn’t struggling to grasp. How strange.
Sorkin's reps confirmed on Tuesday (March 20) that the West Wing creator has officially signed on to write the musical's script. ''Maybe that means they'll need to build a stage with lots of hallways on it,'' joked Coyne of Sorkin's fondness for walking-and-talking characters. ''It will be a giant tube that's always moving!''
The musical's debut is likely years off, and details of the plot aren't specific yet.
Coyne compares the proposed concept to Terry Gilliam's dystopian sci-fi movie Brazil. ''There's the real world and then there's this fantastical world,'' explains Coyne. ''This girl, the Yoshimi character, is dying of something. And these two guys are battling to come visit her in the hospital. And as one of the boyfriends envisions trying to save the girl, he enters this other dimension where Yoshimi is this Japanese warrior and the pink robots are an incarnation of her disease. It's almost like the disease has to win in order for her soul to survive. Or something like that.''
I will say this, though. While there are tons of weird concepts on Yoshimi, there is some serious heart there. “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1” may be about a Japanese girl battling (as the title would suggest) pink robots, but it also displays an element of true dedication and friendship. And as I’ve mentioned before, “Do You Realize???” is the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. There’s potential in this, especially if Sorkin can make something cogent out of the dialogue to balance with the weirdness, but...still, what a strange idea.
I’ve been severely neglecting the Random 10 as of late...
From Favorites List...
1. Build You a House (live), Dave Matthews Band
2. Cinco de Mayo in Memphis, Jimmy Buffett
3. Boogie With Stu, Led Zeppelin
4. Both Sides of the Gun, Ben Harper
5. The Bends, Radiohead
6. Walk On, Neil Young
7. Wrong ‘Em Boyo, The Clash
8. Could Have Been a Song (live), Pat McGee Band
9. Hit the Switch, Bright Eyes
10. I’ll Keep it with Mine, Bob Dylan
Wow, by far the least diverse Random 10 ever. Oh well.
From All Songs List...
1. Pass the Popcorn (revisited), The Roots
2. Kind Hearted Woman Blues, Robert Johnson
3. Habit, Pearl Jam
4. The Food, Common & Kanye West
5. Nothing Was Delivered, Bob Dylan & The Band
6. Right Brigade, Bad Brains
7. Honey, I’m All Out & Down, Leadbelly
8. Grown Man Business, Mos Def
9. All Your Love, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers
10. Ya Viene El Sol, Ozomatli
Here are the first two paragraphs of the CNN story:
During his eight days as a part-time high school biology teacher, Kris Helphinstine included Biblical references in material he provided to students and gave a PowerPoint presentation that made links between evolution, Nazi Germany and Planned Parenthood.
That was enough for the Sisters School Board, which fired the teacher Monday night for deviating from the curriculum on the theory of evolution.
Here's the headline:
Biology teacher fired for referring to Bible
See any connection?
Such is what passes for journalism in 21st century America.
- President Gore told Congress what it had to do to have any chance against global warming and challenged it to do the right thing for our posterity. The legislators with brains took it seriously. Not clear yet if that constitutes a majority in either house.
- Meanwhile, Boehner and the other morons in the House have shunned any Repubs who understand the issue in order to fill the House select committee on energy and warming with Inhovs.
- John Edwards at least puts Gore's call high on his Pres campaign agenda.
- While we fiddle, Japan assumes world leadership.
- Tyson Foods cranks out as much greenhouse gas as an auto manufacturer? This story convinced me.
- With rocketing power bills, lawmakers in a half dozen states are scaring up that old boogeyman--regulation. Which coincidentally corresponds with more effective and certain outcomes in most cases. As folks in AL are figuring out in dealing with pollution of its water resources and WA and OR work to combine hydro and wind "synergies." While NE grapples with the property rights associated with the development of wind power in the state. And LA is at least pulling folks together to plan and plot its global warming future.
- Very good and thorough overview of the current state and future of fuel cells and their contribution to our energy demands here.
- Finally, we started with logic, common sense, and proactive leadership and we'll end with it. This time from a world meterological conference in Spain that reaffirms the human role in global warming and the human role in dealing with it. Remember that the next time the media haul in a meatball "meteorologist" or two to proclaim the world in peachy keen.
...some extra good headlines from The Onion's "The War In Iraq: Celebrating Four Years of Winning" issue...my favs:
- Bush Announces Exit Strategy: "We'll Go Through Iran"
- Bush Quietly Rolls Back Iraq Death Toll to Zero
- Iraq Declares Partial Law
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
It is time. I’ve been putting off writing a new Rant™ for as long as possible, but we’re over halfway through March, and it’s time to start looking at the season ahead. Feel the excitement.
Actually, there is a little bit of excitement because, quite simply, it’s halfway through March, and March is the time for all baseball fans to dream a little bit.
Well, most Marches are. Last March, fresh off the Pirates’ brilliant signings of the decrepit Jeromy Burnitz and almost-decrepit Joe Randa (and a trade for Sean “Runs the 40 in 6.2 seconds” Casey), even my most optimistic prediction was “Pirates start fast, the really old and really young players lose their legs as the season wears on, Pirates finish with 75-78 wins.” Not exactly the stuff of dreams there. But of course, the Pirates didn’t start fast. In fact, they had one of the worst starts I’ve ever seen. At the end of April, they were 7-19. At the end of May, 19-34. It was absolutely brutal, though it did give me plenty of Rant™ fodder.
Between November 2005 and November 2006, Dave Littlefield quite possibly pulled off the worst 12-month span for a GM in the history of baseball (well, at least Top Ten). His free agent signings were horrible, not only because the guys he signed were horrible, but because their presence blocked (temporarily, at least) the track of young guys who have at least an ounce of potential. His trading deadline feats were five steps beyond horrible. Again, it gave great Rant™ fodder, but come on.
Despite having the worst GM in baseball, the Pirates’ play improved after the All-Star break. Well, their record did at least. After the Break, their record was 37-35. While marginally improved play—especially from the young pitchings taff—was involved, most of the reason for success was simply a regression to the mean. Over the first half of the season, the Buccos’ record in 1-run games was wretched, and their record was well below where their Pythagorean Record suggested it should have been. After the All-Star Break, their 1-run record was great, and they won more games than their Pythagorean Record suggested.
In other words, they underachieved in the first half of the season and slightly overachieved in the second half. Whoopee. In baseball, things tend to balance out in the world of records and statistics. But that didn’t stop manager Jim Tracy for taking all the credit in the world for the marginal improvement, claiming that it proved that his methods worked, and that the reason for their success was that the players simply started listening to him. And he’s been repeating this line for the last five months. Humble man, that Jim Tracy.
Anyway, this offseason, Dave Littlefield has actually made some smart decisions. (Either that, or the bar has been lowered so far that decisions that aren’t totally stupid look like the work of genius.) His major move was to spend about four months working on a trade for the Braves’ Adam LaRoche, finally pulling off the deal in January. It cost him closer Mike Gonzalez and #3 prospect SS Brent Lillibridge, but he got his man, and the Pirates’ offense is unquestionably better because of it (of course, the bullpen is unquestionably worse, but we’ll deal with that later).
The LaRoche trade actually served a secondary (but every bit as positive) purpose as well—it distracted Littlefield and took up so much of his energy for so long that he wasn’t able to overpay for 38-year old free agents. But the time the trade was done, almost all of the free agents had been yanked up for 300% what they were worth. I guess you could consider his avoidence of free agents as some sort of smart strategery, but I’m not willing to give Littlefield that much credit. I say he was just distracted. Otherwise, the pull of 49-year old Darin Erstad or 62-year old Luis Gonzalez would have just been too strong.
The other thing Littlefield did this offseason that could be considered smart by some definition was, he actually began to look into new foreign lands for talent. Instead of continuing to get 8th-tier Dominican and Venezuelan talent and brag about the inroads they’re making, which was the general international strategy for the last five years, he turned to Japan and Cuba...well, Cuban refugees, anyway.
From Japan, he signed Masumi Kuwata. Kuwata was a major star in Japan, but now he’s washed up at 38 (he will turn 39 on April 1). His ERA in Japan over the last 3-4 seasons has been pretty wretched. In other words, Kuwata almost certainly will not make much of a positive impact on the diamond, in 2007 or any other year. And I’m pretty sure he knows he’s washed up—he actually took a lesser deal to play for the Pirates instead of signing with the Red Sox because he knew that playing time would be much easier to earn in Pittsburgh and that his window for playing in the major leagues was closing quickly.
But the Japanese media, at least the members who aren’t following every breath Daisuke Matsuzaka takes, are following every breath that Kuwata takes. And that is bringing desperately-needed international attention to the Pirates. Plus, Kuwata was signed to a minor-league deal, meaning he won’t cost much. In other words, this is a pretty good long-term situation and, gasp, a good signing. Kuwata likely won’t do anything well on the field, but the Pirates will look more appealing to future potential Japanese signees.
From Cuba, he signed refugee Yuslan Herrera to a minor-league deal as well. Herrera’s a relatively young pitcher with strong stuff. He hasn’t hardly pitched in two years, and he’ll spend most of this season (at least) in the minors, but he has talent and potential—more than can be said of any of the aforementioned 8th-tier Dominicans that the Pirates have signed recently. Last week, he obtained former Met Alay Soler, also a Cuban refugee. Soler is getting too old to be considered a prospect, but again...a) he has at least some talent, b) he’s extremely low risk, and c) it wasn’t a horribly stupid move, therefore it’s tolerable. For the first time since Littlefield became GM in (sigh) 2001, he actually made a couple of moves designed to pay off in the long-term.
Not that he should be around to reap the benefits of these moves in the long-term. But I’ll hold off on the pessimism a little longer.
Aside from the fact that Littlefield didn’t further destroy the Pirates in the offseason, what other causes for optimism exist, particularly for 2007? Well, let’s see...
* No other team in the NL Central (what a crappy division this is this year) can boast the young pitching talent the Pirates have in their starting rotation. Zach Duke (18-17, 3.72 ERA for his young career) and Crazy Ian Snell (14-11 record, 169 K’s in 2006) lead the way, followed by Paul Maholm (#1 pick in 2003) and Tom Gorzelanny (3.79 ERA in 11 starts last year). None of these pitchers are over 25. So far this spring Snell has been untouchable and Duke and Maholm have at least done better than they did last spring, so that’s encouraging. Gorzelanny has gotten lit up, possibly because he gave up beer for Lent, and while that’s a cause for some concern, it’s not horrifying just yet. The fifth spot in the rotation will likely go to either Tony Armas Jr. or Shawn Chacon. Neither of these pitchers are what we would call “good” or “talented”, but nobody in the NL Central has a #5 starter who fits that description, so I guess that makes it okay.
* The worst offense in the NL last year probably won’t be the worst this year! Oh baby! I can’t say the offense will be good per say, but it will be better with the addition of LaRoche.
* Salomon Torres probably won’t totally suck as Mike Gonzalez’ replacement at closer. Torres is known for getting off to a horrible start to the season, then being pretty much untouchable after the All-Star break. If he does that as closer, there are issues. But I’ll remain optimistic for now.
* The NL Central sucks. Yes, the Cardinals are the defending World Champs, but a) that was relatively fluky, and b) they’re a year older older and no better this season. Yes, the Cubs spent about $1 billion in free agency this season, but they’re still relying on a lot of unproven players, and Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are still injury-prone. Actually, that’s a misrepresentation of the word ‘prone.’ Prior and Wood are health-repellant. Yes, the Astros usually put together a pretty competent team, but they seem to have more and more trouble doing that each year. Without Petitte and Clemens, they’re probably in a bit of trouble. Yes, the Brewers are young and have the highest ceiling in the division, but until they actually prove themselves (which could be this year...who knows...), they’re still the Brewers. Yes, the Reds have signed (or traded for) every single middle-reliever in the major leagues, but...well, they suck.
I know, I know...you’re probably pretty disoriented right now. You tuned in to read a Rant™, and you got the Four Bullet Points of Relative Optimism. Well fear not. Here are just a few reasons why March Optimism probably won’t last till mid-April.
* How’s this for an omen? The first two notable things that happened this spring were a) the Pirates’ top pitching prospect injuring his arm, and b) the Pirates’ starting RF losing control of his intestines. Call me crazy, but that doesn’t bode well for the season.
* Upon the insistence of Jim Tracy, the top two slots in the batting order will still be manned by Chris Duffy (who’s having a bit of a problem getting on base this spring, just like last spring) and Jack Wilson (who never gets on base). Also, apparently Jason “I’m by far the best hitter the Pirates have” Bay will be batting fifth, meaning Duffy and the sub-.200 average he maintained for the first half of last season will be getting many, many more at-bats than Bay. So will Wilson, who as I may have mentioned before, never gets on base. Sticking your best hitter in the middle of the batting order instead of the #3 slot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but I guess I can only ask for so much from this crew.
* The Pirates’ farm system still sucks. Despite the non-stupid moves that Dave Littlefield made this offseason, he can’t avoid his past. This organization has had nothing but high draft picks over the last half-decade, and yet when Littlefield traded away Lillibridge to the Braves, the number of decent prospects in the Pirates system went from 3 to 2. That might sound unbelievable, but it’s true.
As was written on Fox Sports recently (via Bucs Dugout): “If you're going to suck eggs at the highest level to such an extent, then you'd at least like to know things are looking up down on the farm. That, however, isn't the case with the Pirates. The farm system at present is arguably one of the five worst in all of baseball.”
It’s depressing to know that, even if the Pirates overachieve in 2007 like no team (not even the 2003 Royals) has overachieved before, there is absolutely no reason for optimism down the line.
* It’s also depressing to know that, if the Pirates overachieve like I just mentioned, Dave Littlefield will take all of the credit (all of it that he can pry out of Jim Tracy’s hands, anyway) even though he deserves almost none of it. Zach Duke and Ian Snell? Drafted by Cam Bonifay. Jason Bay? Littlefield obtained him in a trade, but only because he couldn’t get Xavier Nady, the guy he really wanted (and finally obtained last summer). Freddy Sanchez? Littlefield obtained him in a trade, but only by accident—the guy he really wanted, crap reliever Brandon Lyon ended up being injured, so the Pirates and Red Sox had to engineer a new deal, and the Pirates got Sanchez instead. Also, if he had successfully traded for Lyon as was his goal, Mike Gonzalez would be in Boston right now. And it’d have been pretty hard to trade for Adam LaRoche if the main cog in the trade—Gonzalez—wasn’t with Pittsburgh.
So this is what it’s come to—the Pirates have somewhere between a 1% and 10% chance of being a competitive team this season, and if they are (and make no mistake—even the most bitter Pirates fan/blogger will get caught up in the excitement), Littlefield will get a long extension and clinch the fact that the Pirates will suck for the good portion of the next decade. Feel that March Optimism, baby.
First, we’ve got Mondesi’s House giving us 79 reasons why it’s hard to be a Pirates fan. Here’s a taste (sans the picture of Sid Bream celebrating in ’92...that picture will never be posted on my blog):
11. Simply awful drafting. The Pirates always stink, so they always get a high draft pick. The problem is, their draft picks rarely pan out. Since 1979, the Pirates have had three players who they developed who hit 30 or more HR in a season in a Pirate uniform: Aramis Ramirez in 2001 and Barry Bonds in 1992 and 1990. Before you write to correct me, they didn't develop Jason Bay or Brian Giles.And then we’ve got Pat from Where’s Van Slyke addressing this ludicrous work by Paul “Baghdad Bob” Meyer, suggesting that, since lots of the current Pirates came up together through the minors, the Pirates have no choice but to go to the playoffs one of these years.
10. The arrival of Adam LaRoche. LaRoche was celebrated as if the Pirates traded for a combination of Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, and Roberto Clemente times 100. Anything less than 82 home runs and 195 RBI this year would be considered a disappointing season.
9. Randall Simon...weiner whacker.
8. The Aramis Ramirez Trade. Seen by many as the ultimate waving of the white flag by the Pirates as a legitimate franchise. They dealt the promising 3B, who had a reasonable contract, to the Cubs at the 2003 deadline, throwing in Kenny Lofton to boot. The Pirates received strikeout machine/3B Jose Hernandez, backup IF Bobby Hill, and minor league Matt Bruback. A sad day in PirateLand.
7. Francisco Cabrera and Sid Bream. I hate you both.
6. A serious lack of development. Players don't get better when they are drafted by the Pirates, they get worse. Their 1st-round picks in 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002, all pitchers, all blew out their arms. After changing their direction to drafting position players, the Pirates selected pitcher Brad Lincoln in the 1st round of the 2006 draft. As expected, Lincoln was promptly shut down for the year shortly thereafter. Direct your ire at Senior Director of Scouting Ed Creech and Senior Director of Player Development Brian Graham, who are clearly stealing paychecks.
This is a minor league system so thin that when we traded Brent Lillibridge away most informed Pirate fans were up in arms because he was one of our best prospects. Not to rain on Lillibridge's parade, but Cal Ripken Jr. he is not.Perhaps I'm belaboring an obvious point too much, but I hate articles like this that misinform casual fans that read them. I understand that none of the Pirates were here when the losing streak started 14 years ago, but then again almost none of them were here for the 100 loss team of 2001. It's not the culture of losing that dooms this team, it's crappy baseball players and poor management. There's no correlation between number of minor leaguers that come through the system and how good the major league team is, because if the system is shit than the players that come through the system are probably going to be shit, too. The goal isn't to win in the minors, it's to produce good players for the major league team, even if it comes at the expense of wins in the minor league system. The offensive producers on the Pirates, Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, even Xavier Nady if you count him, are all from other systems. Without those guys, we would have one awful baseball team.That’s enough for now. With 162 games to go, I guess I don’t need to exceed 3,000 words a post in mid-March, eh?