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11.29.2004

Target to carry marijuana 

Link here.

Do they know something about the upcoming Supreme Court case that we don't?

(HT: Volokh.)

11.26.2004

Universal Publishing is the spawn of Satan 

Apparently U2 has entered into an exclusive agreement with Universal Publishing whereby Universal is selling all of U2's recorded material on iTunes. However:

1. You can't get the 2 CD recording of U2's Lovetown tour performance in Dublin without purchasing the whole catalog ($150);

2. You can't get the recording of U2's War-era performance in Boston without purchasins the whole catalog;

3. Most outrageous is the fact that Universal is going around shutting down fansites that publish lyrics and tablature, including the treasure trove of information that used to be the U2 Guitar Archive. One of the most memorable moments on the Elevation tour was when superfan Scott Perretta was pulled up onstage at Oakland and started picking the notes to "A Sort Of Homecoming", leading the band to perform an improvised version of the song. I guess that won't be happening anymore.

More Ken Jennings 

From the 11/26/04 show:



Alex: Ken Jennings is our champion. Ken, early on in Jeopardy's run -- this goes back to the early 1980s -- we had a champion, a 5-time champion from Ohio, who ran for Congress and had bumper stickers made up saying, "The answer is..." and then he put his name. Have you thought of politics at all as something in your future because of the great success you've had on our show?

Ken: Um, I've found out in a lot of the interviews that I've done, when I'm asked a question, I tend to give the honest answer, so I don't really think I'm winning an election anytime soon.

(massive applause)

Alex: I like this boy.

Declaration of Independence banned at California school 

Apparently sharing documents from US history that mention God to fifth-graders is a violation of the Establishment clause.

Somehow, I wouldn't be surprised if the Ninth Circuit Court actually did issue a ruling like this.

11.23.2004

Ukraine's presidential election may have been rigged 

but dammit, when I read a news story about it, I want to see the actual evidence of fraud and the alleged statistical anomalies in the first few paragraphs, not buried at the end of story underneath a bunch of quotes from government pinheads.

11.21.2004

Creditor nations to wipe away Iraqi debts incurred under Saddam Hussein 

Good on them.

And yes, this is a major political victory for Bush.

WaPo drops Ted Rall 

You know, the guy who drew the Pat Tillman cartoon. Apparently his most recent submission was too much.

Rall complains that he's being censored. But this isn't censorship; this is cold hard capitalism at work.

11.20.2004

Album review: U2, "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" 

We saw glimpses of the new stylings of 21st Century U2 on the previous album, "All That You Can't Leave Behind," but with "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb", U2 has truly ushered the genre of midlife-crisis rock.

Throughout the album Bono sings about his complex relationship with his recently deceased father, having children, insecurity and uncertainty, the poor and broken-hearted people of the world, God and women (confusing the latter two subjects often, as is his wont). The Edge supplies his trademark chiming, harmonic guitar tones at some points, sequences of plowing, bulldozer-like chords at others, and some nifty slide guitar work on a couple tracks. Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen lay down a perfect dance-pop groove on "Vertigo", but on the rest of the album the rhythms are pretty standard 4/4 rock rhythms, with the occasional faux-triple meter here and there.

From the anthems to the ballads to eveything else, the album is certainly well-crafted, but there really aren't a lot of truly catchy hooks or riffs to entice the listener. Devoted U2 fans will appreciate U2's craftsmanship, but casual listeners may not remain engaged quite long enough for the album's deeper, overarching themes to set in. Then again, I had similar sentiments about "All That You Can't Leave Behind" four years ago.

Here's the blow-by-blow:

Vertigo: Not much to say about this track that hasn't already been said. It's catchy and it shreds. I have no idea why Bono says "one...two...three...fourteen" in Spanish at the beginning. This one will probably open the shows on the new tour, like "Elevation" did last time.

Miracle Drug: This one's about a former schoolmate of Bono who was a paraplegic poet. Never woulda guessed from the lyrics, though. It has the anthemic feel that "Beautiful Day" had.

Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own: This one's a requiem for Bono's father (the line "you're the reason the opera is in me" is a giveaway -- Bob Hewson used to be an opera singer). However, for all of the tenderness and candor expressed in the lyrics, the song as a whole still sounds kind of formal and languid. I'm hoping it sounds better in concert than on the album. The Edge supplies a few guitar parts consisting entirely of harmonics.

Love And Peace Or Else: I'm not really sure why Bono still writes these sorts of songs. I thought the band had taken this sort of stuff as far as it could go on the "War" album.

City Of Blinding Lights: This one's a real gem. It nimbly scampers along during the verses, builds up in the bridge, "getting ready to leave the ground" and soars in a majestic chorus. The line "I've seen you walk unafraid" might be a nod to REM.

All Because Of You: The Edge goes wild. Bono, Adam and Larry also do something.

A Man And A Woman: Bono channels his inner Bob Marley here as he wails, "Little sister/don't you worry about a thing today" at the outset and pushes his falsetto at other spots. Adam Clayton lays down a slinky, seductive groove.

Crumbs From Your Table: This is Bono's plea for compassion and justice for the poor, downtrodden people of the world: "Would you deny for others/what you demand for yourself?"

One Step Closer: Noel Gallagher asked Bono if his father believed in God. Bono said his father was unsure. Gallagher then quipped, "well, he's one step closer to knowing." As might be expected, this is a slow, brooding, contemplative piece all the way through.

Original Of The Species: Three anthems in an album is overkill. And if Bono really wrote this song for the Edge's daughter, I'd advise Mr. Evans to get a restraining order for her.

Yahweh: Four anthems in an album is severe overkill. I like this one better than some of the others, though, because the verses are more upbeat and clever at times ("Take this shirt/polyester white trash made in nowhere/take this shirt/and make it clean"). Bono concludes with a prayer prayed repeatedly in the Bible and in contemporary worship music: "Take this heart/take this heart/take this heart/and make it break".

U2 performs at dedication of Bill Clinton library 

For some unconscionable reason, "Big Girls Are Best" was not on the setlist, though.

Oh, Ron 

He won't have any part of a fight with Ben Wallace after administering a hard foul, but he'll happily run into the stands and start swinging at random fans after he gets hit with a plastic cup of beer.

Maybe he should have taken up his issues with Pistons superfan Chris Chelios, who was also sitting at courtside.

UPDATE: A lot of fantasy league managers are going to be very unhappy.

11.18.2004

Holy crap 

One of my first students at Harvard is Miss Washington 2004. (Hat tip: Deadly Mantis, one of whose members was my course assistant for the class.)

And of course, a MIT alumna is Miss Massachusetts.

Scapegoating 

I have never understood why football coaches will change quarterbacks midseason to "give the team a spark" or "shake things up" if they acknowledge that the team's problems lie outside the quarterback season.

Oh well. Eli Manning will crash and burn, and Tom Coughlin will be out of a job after the season. At least there's a silver lining.

11.17.2004

Low 

I just found out that I was drafted behindYan Zhang in this year's Harvard Ultimate winter league.

11.16.2004

Beavers make big-bucks dam 

Alas, this story is not about a bunch of MIT engineers, as I had hoped. But apparently a bunch of beavers built a dam using bills that were stolen from a Louisiana casino and were for some reason dumped into a creek.

I eagerly await an angry and outrageous response from PETA.

11.15.2004

Darkness singer Justin Hawkins disgraces himself 

Even if you think you have an excellent version of that one line from "Do They Know It's Christmas", you don't go around saying that you deserve to record it ahead of Bono.

Oh yeah, self-consciously trying to imitate Freddie Mercury is a risky proposition at best.

11.12.2004

It's been done 

Jar-Jar Binks to star in Fahrenheit 9/11 1/2? Hardly surprising.

11.10.2004

Stupid Ohio, again 

The Ohio State University was mildly embarrassed when the press learned that middle linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer took summer classes in golf and AIDS awareness to maintain his eligibility, and that Reggie Germany took the field with a 0.00 GPA.

But the recent stories by Maurice Clarett and others -- these constitute a full-blown scandal. I don't care about the handouts that boosters give football players -- that doesn't hurt anybody. But the university is surely turning into a scholastic laughingstock. Or, more of a laughingstock than it already is.

11.08.2004

Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh are soooooooooooo 2004 

The future of political discourse in this country belongs to Jon Stewart and South Park.

Privatizing Social Security 

If Bush wants to create wealth by sinking Social Security funds into investments, why not just get rid of Social Security altogether and return the funds to people so they can invest for themselves? It seems like this would be the conservative thing to do.

11.03.2004

Stupid Ohio 

Okay, it's been called for Bush. But 11 days to count all the provisional ballots?

11.02.2004

Serious election foulups in Chicago 

Lots of people have been having trouble voting in Chicago.

Meanwhile, Kerry is cleaning up with around 70% of the Illinois vote right now. I know Chicago usually turns Illinois into a blue state, but in 2000 the split was around 55-43.

Perhaps the networks are ridiculously oversampling Cook County. Or maybe something fishy is going on. According to this page, Cook County split about 70-30 for Gore in 2000. If Blackfive's precinct is split 70-30, and one assumes that the disenfranchised voters are a representative sample of the precinct, then there's about a 0.14% chance that 10 out of 10 such voters would all be Republican.

This is definitely something to watch.

Massachusetts has lowest divorce rate in the nation 

So says a Christian research group.

I bet this is because people in Massachusetts are shacking up and breaking up instead of marrying and divorcing. It's better that way, I guess...

11.01.2004

Government intelligence 

When I voted last year in Massachusetts (Cambridge city council elections), all I had to do to authenticate myself was to give the poll worker a name and street address. Moreover, the poll worker had the list of registered voters RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER.

Abolish the electoral college 

Once again, the electoral college is moronic and must be abolished.

It gives the biggest states a disproportionate amount of power to decide the Presidential election.

It doesn't do anything for voters in them tiny podunk states out west -- how often do the candidates visit those states under the current system?

It gives lawyers for both candidates an incentive to raise a stink in any state where the popular vote is close. If there were no electoral college, there'd be no reason to try to scrounge up an extra 537 votes in Florida.

Finally, professional windbag Katha Pollitt supports the electoral college. What other reason do you need?

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