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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Wackypoodia

The other day I casually mentioned to friends at Anti-State.com that "I wouldn't trust Wikipedia to tell me my own name"... so naturally one of those clever rascals decided to make an entry for me. While this may just seem like another one of my whims, I just don't have any reason to believe in the validity of any information there. Absolutely none. Also, I've heard people mention that they have "corrected" information there only to have it "uncorrected" back to the original error. Which doesn't at all mean the service isn't unusable, just too flawed for me to count on. Even my buddy purposefully added a fact error for comedy's sake. (I really am not a hawt azn chick.) Not to mention that the entry was a simple gag in the first place.

Then I noticed the entry was slated for deletion and I discovered a discusson page where people "vote" whether the entry should get the axe. What a hoot! At first I was incensed that these bozos would assume that I had made an "arrogant vanity page". Then they proceeded to insult Anarchocapitalism, anarchists and my beloved "Torco the Clown". Who are they to decide whether any information is valuable or not? Some kind of notable know-it-alls? I don't think so, so screw 'em! However, one brilliant person codenamed Arevich made the following suggestion: "Maybe someone should create a new entry for Wiki Troll to describe a person who spends inordinate amounts of time trolling Wikipedia looking for articles to delete". Right on Arevich. This whole page is a textbook example of otherwise impotent/unimportant dorks looking for a place to feel a little bit of power and another reason why I won't trust the information there. Unfortunately, many other websites are now loading Wikipedia info onto their sites and crowding the search engines. So not only I have gotten what I paid for--which was nothing--I'm also getting shafted by them even though I'm actively avoiding them. Wikipedia, I'm marking you for deletion.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Sneaky Credit Card Company

I realize it's cliched, but man those credit card companies can be sneaky!  The latest scam:  I got a letter from Providian offering me 0% APR on balance transfers with no fee.  So naturally I applied for this, and tried to transfer some big booyah from one of my higher APR cards.

When I get back from vacation, I have a notice saying something like, "Congratulations!  Your new Providian card will be arriving shortly.  Your transferred balances will have the low low rate of 9.9% APR, and because you transferred balances with us, you are eligible for our special 0% APR on purchases for 6 months."

Now, I assure you that I get tons of promotional offers from credit card companies, and I only apply for the ones that offer 0% on balance transfers.  The reason I picked Providian's is that they also had no one-time fee for signing up.  True, I didn't save their original letter, so I don't know if they outright lied.  But they certainly wrote an intentionally misleading letter, to get people to think that the 0% would apply to their transferred balances, and not just to new purchases.

Finally, they didn't even transfer any balances!  A little later, I got a letter saying that there was a problem and the balance transfer couldn't be competed.  But hey!  I should still feel free to use my new Providian card, with 0% APR on purchases because of my balance transfer!  Woo hoo!

(It's crap like this that makes people run to the government.  I know, I know.)

Friday, July 23, 2004

Buy Her Beware

Today, I made my semiannual pilgrimage to the department store to buy new brassieres. I arrived to discover that a large proportion of bras this season are of the Wonderbra brand variety: The kind that give a lady the ample bosom that nature did not intend. The original Wonderbra was there but nearly every other brand is featuring a bra that provides an extra letter of womanly goodness. It seemed to run about 70% super-padded. The remaining 30% appeared to be made up of the ultra-sheer variety or the minimizer bras which do exactly what they claim to do. It seemed that nearly all bras featured at eye level were designed to amplify or reduce a woman's breast. Forget about truth in advertising this season, fellas.

Which kind did I get? I'm not telling!

Monday, July 19, 2004

Drats!

Well, it seems I've lost out on the chance to hold a seat in the Duma representing Moldavia, and perhaps will be expelled from the Party completely, as a result of the events of last Saturday night.
 
More to come.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Business doesn't kill business, government kills business

The state of Florida recently sent out an $1800 Assessment Fee notice to all licensed talent agents. The reason behind the hefty fee is that the state needs it "to cover the costs of regulation". Apparently, there are so few agents that the mere Biennial License Renewal Fee ($405) is not enough to cover the costs of licensing the agents. To add insult to injury during the 2004 Legislative session, a bill was introduced to eliminate the licensing requirement. If it had passed the agents would not have to worry about the fee. Now, since this will cause many agents to close shop are they going to have to send out a second another assessment to cover the costs of agents who quit? Or, are they going to charge those that quit an $1800 "Quitter's Fee"?

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Top Pop

I recently ran across an interesting list of the top 100 albums of the 1970s. It prompted me to think about my own pop favorites. As a result, I offer an albun list of my own -- a dozen or so, not one hundred, and from any decade, not just the 70s.

My list may be missing one of my favorites right now, simply because the album didn't occur to me. And, I must admit, my knowledge pop before the 1960s and after about 1990 is scant. But hey, it's my list. I haven't commented on some of the albums named below as much as I'd like to do -- on a couple I haven't commented at all -- and I intend to add more remarks. But here is what I have so far:

Stop Making Sense, The Talking Heads
I knew nothing about The Talking Heads when I went to see Prince's film Purple Rain. The movie Stop Making Sense happened to be showing with it. I immediately fell in love with the band. I actually prefer the film to the album, both because of how entertaining David Byrne is on stage and because the song "Heaven," perhaps my favorite in the movie, is not on the album. Still, the songs that made it are all performed flawlessly and with great energy.

Uprising, Bob Marley
I believe this is the last album Marley recorded before his death. He was on the verge of achieving a new style of music built on reggae but going beyond it -- listen to "Could You Be Loved," with its dazzling rhythm tracks. "We'll Be Forever Loving Jah" is a beautiful spiritual statement, "Redemption Song" is a classic, and all of the other songs are strong.

Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan
"Idiot Wind" is the greatest trashing of a former lover ever written. How did he ever come up with the opening lines:


Someone's got it in for me, they're planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish they'd cut it out but when they will I can only guess.
They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy,
She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me.
I can't help it if I'm lucky.


"Tangled Up in Blue," "Simple Twist of Fate," and "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" are also among my Dylan favorites. My one complaint is that "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts," while a solid tune, goes on a little long for my taste.

Joshua Tree, U2
Besides the three big hits -- "Where the Streets Have No Name," "With or Without You," and "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" -- this album also has gems like "Red Hill Mining Town" and "In God's Country."

Royal Scam, Steely Dan
I first heard this album echoing out of dorm rooms when I arrived for my freshmen year at UConn. I had no idea who the band was -- in fact, after I found out, I still had no clue that it was the same band that had performed "Ricki Don't Lose That Number" and "Reeling in the Years," both of which I had heard quite often -- but I remember being captivated by the haunting sound achieved on this album. "Kid Charlemagne" cooks, as well as poignantly capturing the passage of a cultural episode. "Hatian Divorce" is a great story, and one of the best reggae songs by a rock band. However, my favorite is "The Caves of Altimira," another great tale from Fagen and Becker.

Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd
OK, I know, this is a trite pick, but it's not my fault that this album stayed in the Billboard top 200 for like 80 years.

Live at the Filmore East, Allman Brothers
The album that introduced me to jamming.

After the Gold Rush, Neil Young
"Don't Let It Bring You Down" is perhaps my favorite Neil Young song. The album ranges across a variety of styles of music, yet the whole has an impressively unified feel to it.

Who's Next, The Who
This is probably my pick for the second best pop album that I can think of. The collection of songs is just fantastic: "Won't Get Fooled Again" -- the best debunking of the promises of political revolutionaries ever set to music -- "Behind Blue Eyes," "The Song Is Over," "Baba O'Riley," "Gettin' in Tune," and "Bargain." I can't think of another album with so many great songs on it.

Abbey Road, The Beatles
This is my pick for the best pop album of all time. The first side is not as strong as some of their other work, but the magnificent second side more than compensates. Lennon and McCartney turn the personal drama of the band's breakup into great art. I've always loved:

One sweet dream
Pick up the bags and get in the limousine
Soon we'll be away from here
Step on the gas and wipe that tear away


McCartney's bass work is stunning, creating little melodic masterpieces hiding underneath the main melody.

It is always striking to me that this album was recorded in 1969. Unlike other bands efforts from that time, some of which I like very much, there is nothing about Abbey Road that sounds "sixties." It could have been made last year.



Monday, July 12, 2004

An Old Puzzle

When I was 18, I was a lifeguard at a beach in Norwalk, CT. One cloudy day, when no one was in the water, my friend and I stood on the porch of the guard shack chatting. Two middle-aged men walked up a sidewalk that passed in front of the shack. As they came within earshot, we heard one of them say, "First there was Rod McKuen, then there was me, then there was Spiro Agnew." Then they were out of earshot again.

To this day, I can't imagine what the context of the remark could have been. Not only were McKuen, this fellow, and Agnew in some group together, the group even had a sequence to it -- first McKuen, then him, then Agnew.

Any suggestions?

Everyone Knew

Among the many absurd arguments the warhawks now put forward to justify the US invasion of Iraq, perhaps the most hilarious is that "virtually all governments acknowledged that Iraq had 'weapons of mass destruction' before the war."

Sure, and just why did they all "acknowledge" that? Maybe because of the phoney intelligence propogated by the warhawks? Nah, couldn't be.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Disease Treatment as Self-Expression

Across the street from a Brooklyn bar I've been to once or twice -- oh, OK, maybe three or four times -- all right already, twice a week for the last year -- is a billboard advertising some drug for treating HIV. I don't recall the name of the drug, but the featured slogan is "Treat HIV your own way."

Isn't there something very odd about that? I mean, if I had a life-threatening disease (and please, I'm not trying to open a discussion about whether or not HIV is the cause of AIDS, an irrelevant issue given that the target audience of the ad accepts that it does), my focus would be on treating it in the most effective way, not in my own way.

Is one's course of treatment now a fashion statement, like a haircut or a body piercing? Obviously, at least some marketing professionals think so, since this ad campaign is out there.

If you go someplace to look at a b*tthole...

...you should at least be able to see it.

I took my Dad to see Picasso's Suite 347 exhibit at the Bass Museum last night. Once inside, my Dad immediately started to complain about the lighting. The lights were low to protect the art but if it were up to him he'd have brought a searchlight. He was so irritated that he asked the poor volunteer "is there someplace we can go to see the art?" Sheesh, Dad. (I noticed that these etchings were dirty as sin and wondered if the low lights were to hide all the private parts.)

After listening to Dad's ranting about being unable to see anything, I noticed there were pieces as high up as about the ten foot level. (Maybe they were the naughtiest ones?) We tried to look in the catalog, but they were tiny even in the book. It was a complete failure as far as he was concerned but we just kept laughing to ourselves like a pair of crazy bums loose in a smutty art shop.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Bush vs. Kerry

OK, I'd like to see Bush lose, primarily because anyone who so badly misleads -- whether willfully or through incompetence -- the people he supposedly serves should go. Still, I'm always surprised at the people who are clearly quite enthusiastic about Kerry. Do they really think Kerry is not just as much a member of "the establishment" as Bush is? Are they aware he claims we need more troops in Iraq? Do they really think there will be any drastic change in domestic policy if Kerry wins? If so, have they ever looked at the government growth rate under Clinton versus that under Bush?

Searching for Service

So, I go into the bathroom at a restaraunt the other night. I do my business, then turn to the sink to wash up. Above it, I see a sign reading, "Employees Must Wash Hands."

Well, not being one to flout the rules, I patiently waited for an employee to come along and do so. However, 10 minutes seemed long enough, so I went ahead and washed them myself.

Geez, if you're going to make rules like that, at least make it easy to follow them!

Mandatory Post Explaining Recent Lack of Blog Entries

I've concluded that any blog worth its salt must include one or more posts explaining a recent lack of posts. So here is ours: I've just moved. Besides the disruption the mere fact of moving creates, I also screwed up: For some reason, I thought that switching my phone service, which includes my DSL connection, to the new apartment would be a simple matter of some tech at Verizon filling in some form on a terminal at his desk. But no, apparently, it still entails sending someone out to climb up a phone pole, and, obviously, it takes some time to persuade anyone to do anything so silly, so we won't be reconnected for a week.

Fortunately, there is an Internet cafe one block from my new place (still in Brooklyn, by the way). Unfortunately, it's often filled with 14-year-old boys playing computer games while swearing loudly at each other. In any case, whenever I'm willing to endure hearing five-minute conversations in which a full third of the words are "shit" or "fuck," I can still get online.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

More Random Thoughts at 12:12 AM

I don't know if there is some sort of blog protocol (and can't people write diary entries however they please?), but I'm on a dial-up and so I don't want to make separate posts...

(1) Here's a funny compliment from an art historian to Gene Callahan. http://arthistory.about.com/b/a/076944.htm I wonder if this person realizes what a bunch of wackos write for LRC??

(2) Regarding the post below, can someone please explain to me what the point of sanctions on Cuba is? As far as I can gather, the thinking goes like this: If not for our sanctions, Castro might hold on to power...

(3) Here's a pithy quote from an upcoming Strike the Root article. I doubt it will work its way into Reader's Digest.

"If Iraq were a giant lavatory, the sign outside would still read, 'Occupied.'"
--Bob Murphy

Saturday, July 03, 2004

The fun never ends...

New travel restrictions to Cuba kept travelers stuck in the Miami International Airport this week. At the last minute, they learned that the planes they were to board did not have permission to fly people to Cuba before these new restrictions took place. Amusingly, while they were in the airport protesting their bad luck, Florida Congressman Lincoln Díaz-Balart happened to land at MIA and walked straight into the angry crowd. Even more entertaining is that Congressman Díaz-Balart is distantly related to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. So when are the inner tubes going to start taking Cubans back to the Island? Perhaps after the November election? The Cubans are rightfully livid. They've felt that they got Dubya into office and he's done nothing to help their plight and are considering voting Democrat this time around but it might not be enough to help Kerry take the state. You see the Jewish vote is leaning toward George "Friend of Israel" Bush. In short, the Cubans are voting Democrat, the Jews are voting Republican, you need permission to leave the US and Fidel's kin are politicians on this side of the Florida Straits too. But this is typical for Miami...things are bound to get even more screwy as the mercury rises.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Libertarianism Is to Blame

Defending his pro-Iraq-war stance, one "libertarian" commentator told me that, if I was honest, recent terrorist strikes would lead me to see that radical libertarianism is unworkable or dangerous and must be abandoned.

I understand how he can think that way; after all, the consistent application of radical libertarian ideas by the US government over the last several decades is certainly what got us into this mess!

Thursday, July 01, 2004

I'm a Firm Libertarian, But..

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy (Motto: we're the libertarians on the side of the state!), Randy Barnett writes:

"I confess that my instincts here are driven by the fact that I disagree sharply with the anti-war stance of these libertarians, and they with me, but I do not believe my libertarian principles, or my commitment to them, have changed in the slightest."

Yeah, right Randy. And when you come out for the drug war, gun control, and the draft, you'll still be a libertarian, baby.

The Board's Prayer

Our government, that art in Washington
Inclusive be thy regulations
Thy taxman come, thy planning done
In Duluth as it is in the Belyway
Give us this day our daily bread and housing and rural electrification projects and bee-keeping subsidies
Fail to prosecute our trespasses
As we litigate those who trespass against us
Legally forbid us all temptation
And deliver from evil ideas
Through the good of the Board
Amen