A locus for eccentrics (hopefully)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Vote or Die

In light of next week's inauguration, Dan Savage is using the bully pulpit of his weekly column to redefine "saddleback" as any of a number of questionable or profane sexual practices or related topics. You may recall that "santorum" was previously redefined as "the frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes a byproduct of anal sex;" I'm sure we can do even better with this one. His column can be found here.

I'm voting for option 5:
"Saddlebacking" should be the term for the phenomenon of Christian teens engaging in unprotected anal sex in order to preserve their virginities. "After attending the Purity Ball, Heather and Bill saddlebacked all night because she's saving herself for marriage."

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Israel, Gaza and the Terms of the Current Debate

I don't claim to have a whole lot of knowledge concerning the historical and strategic intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but why does it seem like the US's cart blanch support for Israel has become the third rail if American Politics? Very few foreign policy issues are so black-and white that uniformity amongst opinionmakers and lawmakers results (with the exception of benign stuff like "Slobodan Milosevic and Charles Mugabe are bad guys).

So how is it that very few mainstream media outlets or politicians dare to criticize Israeli policy towards the Palestinians? The recent assault on Gaza seems to be a perfect example. I really have no dog in this particular fight. I am not remotely qualified to comment substantively on the culpability of Hamas and the Israeli govt. But I *do* know that at the very least, the situation is complicated enough and both sides have shown sufficient savagery (is that a word?) to generate a debate on the merits of what's been going on. Yet no criticism of Israel, even when their actions toward Gaza seem a bit of a disproportionate respose to assaults on its territory and people. I mean, I just heard that they targeted a fucking school where refugees were seeking to escape the attacks.

Really? A school? The Israeli govt claimed that Hamas was using the school as a shield.

I'm all like "So?" Does that give the Israelis an excuse to target the school? I've heard reports that they knew that there were sizeable amounts of civilians there. I mean, they have been doing a pretty effective job pounding Gaza with missiles and launching a comprehensive ground invasion. The UN Estimates that over 500 people have died at this point. What does it cost the Israelis to hold off targeting the fucking SCHOOL for a few days while it ascertains who is where?

The missiles launched by Hamas since Dec 27 have killed 4 people. This is tragic. But the response seems a bit much.

And not a single solitary mainstream figure in the US will dare criticize Israel. Putting aside the notion of wh is right and who is wrong, it just seems as if the Israeli response will do very little to lessen attacks by Hamas in the near future. The sight of 30 casualties at a girls school would seem to be a very effective recruiting tool for would-be terrorists.

But we can't even say this. Shortly after Jimmy Carter lost the Presidency, he gave an exit interview where he was asked what he knew then that he didn't know when he assumed office in 1977. He looked into the camera and said that the Israeli lobby was the single most powerful group in determining American foreign policy. You don't fuck with these people. We have a book in my house in DeKalb about politicians who dared to speak out concerning Israel's staggeringly disporportionate influence in American Foreign Policy and who were aggressively targeted by opposition in their re-election fights, people who were pretty much blackballed from the ability to comment and publish in mainstream media outlets.

This has pretty much been the case for decades. I just feel it is not healthy for any country's long term security, especially the US and Israel. I have rarely, if ever, come across a subject that is so taboo in our political debate. And I have no idea why this is the case.

Again: I can't really take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for I lack a proper grounding and understanding of even recent history. What I do know, however, is that the tenor and tone of whatever passes for debate surrounding this issue is fairly one sided. Why, I don't know.

Come to think if it, it would make for a great Political Science dissertation subject for you guys. On second thought, perhaps not. I'd like for you to be able to get jobs afterwards.

I would welcome any insight into this.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Music best-of, 2008 edition

I'll be the first to admit that although my music consumption remained high in 2008, most of the stuff I listened to was from the '70s. Tons of massively good roots reggae offerings from that golden age of yesteryear (Keith Hudson, Ijahman, Fred Locks, Burning Spear, Big Youth, Yabby You, Willi Williams, Hugh Mundell, and many many more); a bunch of handspun gems from the likes of D. Crosby, Zevon, Fleetwood Mac (they ARE really good, at least insofar as Tusk and Rumors are concerned), and Bob Seger, to name-drop a few; delicious soul classics from Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes, and Curtis Mayfield, not to mention the funkgeist of Funkadelic; and of course the unstoppable funk from the likes of The Meters, Allen Toussaint, and Professor Longhair.

But shiiiiiiiiiiiit, this is the oh-eight era, and that's what concerns us now. The doo-doo hit the proverbial fan in that I finally lost my zeal for the mass-marketed indie that sounded like tired retreads of half-hearted efforts from 2005 (see Of Montreal, Kings of Leon, Vampire Weekend, and surely others). Portishead's offering, which should have been right in my wheelhouse, really didn't move me at all. I still can't stomach Craig Finn's voice from The Hold Steady, and honestly their anthems feel like they're going through the motions. And although a few made my list, there is a disconcerting trend towards the wavering falsetto this year.

With those caveats, I give you the best stuff I heard in 2008. NB: I haven't yet checked out TV on the Radio's new one (their other stuff was meh to me) nor Drive-By Trucker's new one (I am guessing that would definitely make the list, as I really enjoy their oeuvre).

1. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

Far and away my favorite of this year. A haunting, plaintive eulogy of lost-love that sounds timeless and true. This one does fit into the "wavering falsetto" camp that I harped on earlier, so listener beware. Nonetheless, it has held up to repeated listens and comes closest to catharsis of anything I heard over the past 12 months.


2. Black Mountain - The Future

Already I'm second guessing this choice--probably could sit here or anywhere as low as 5. It's a groovin' affair, to be sure, all cocksure and swagger with excellent guitar work and a nice propulsion to it all. I know some are dissuaded by the vocalist, but I'm OK with the juxtaposition. Definitely a '70s dirty rock vibe, which, oddly enough, still sounds fresh and alive to these ears.


3. Stephen Malkmus - Real Emotional Trash

Yes, THAT Stephen Malkmus from Pavement. This one is full of epic, proggy guitar solo goodness. I think I appreciate the space in this record--a sense of choice and improvisation that I enjoy. And I don't really even like prog!


4. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

I've only streamed this a few times online, and a copy is forthcoming in the mail, but from what I heard I really was blown away by the textures and beauty of it all. Again falling into the falsetto camp, I still thought this a gorgeous outpouring of harmonies and originality.


5. Beach House - Devotion

This is very different--slow, melodic, and the very definition of dream pop. It's one that, at first blush, I was completely enamored with. But honestly, I have not felt the need to listen to it again after my initial enjoyment. Still, I think it is a well-crafted, unique record and one that merits a look-see.


6. Sun Kil Moon - April

Here's another that I was REALLY looking forward to hearing--Mark Kozelek really has a gift for melancholy steeped ennui. I have enjoyed listening to this, but, it wasn't quite what I hoped for--which is not unexpected, given the greatness that is his previous effort, Ghosts of the Great Highway.


And that's it my friends. I do plan to give a chance (perhaps second ones) to Portishead, TV on the Radio, DBT, maybe a few others.

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