09/30/08

Almost in time for my birthday

Filed under: Movies and TV, Music, Newsjksterup   @ 01:56:04 pm

After seven years, Christmas on Mars is finally going to be released on November 11. Happy birthday to me!

Just to remind you, this is the feature-length film that is completely homemade by The Flaming Lips. Wayne Coyne wrote and directed it himself, built the sets in his backyard, and invited his bandmates and friends to act in it.

And, naturally, The Flaming Lips performed the original score, which means we also get an album's worth of new music. The tracklist alone is characteristically mind-blowing:

01 Once Beyond Hopelessness
02 The Distance Between Mars and the Earth -- Part One
03 The Horrors of Isolation: The Celestial Dissolve, Triumphant Hallucination, Light Being Absorbed
04 In Excelsior Vaginalistic
05 Your Spaceship Comes From Within
06 Suicide and Extraordinary Mistakes
07 The Distance Between Mars and the Earth -- Part Two
08 The Secret of Immortality: This Strange Feeling, This Impossible World
09 The Gleaming Armament of Marching Genitalia
10 The Distress Signals of Celestial Objects
11 Space Bible With Volume Lumps
12 Once Beyond Hopelessness

Mark my words: this will be the greatest Christmas-themed psychedelic sci-fi rock music film ever made.

O Canada

Filed under: Education, Newsjksterup   @ 01:26:46 pm

Geoffrey Canada may be the most ambitious social and educational reformer in America. Not content to help just some of the poor kids growing up in Harlem, he has made it his stated goal to change the very culture of the inner city and thereby transform an entire community. My initial reaction when I heard this was "Good luck!"

But it's impressive to hear what Canada has been able to accomplish so far, through an entire system that include charter schools, health clinics, parenting classes, and more. Terry Gross did an interview with him in which he makes some excellent points about how to address social problems in inner cities. I don't agree with his reliance on high-stakes testing, but I have to admit that his rationale makes some sense (he argues that for poor black children to compete for college admissions and jobs they have to do well on tests).

What I thought was even more interesting was the story at the beginning of This American Life last week. It again explains the overall vision of Geoffrey Canada's project, but it focuses on his efforts to intervene in the lives of children starting at birth. Basically, he's teaching poor parents in Brooklyn to raise their kids the way middle class parents do, with lots of emphasis on language, reading, and progressive approaches to discipline.

After teaching low-income kids in rural communities for several years, I am convinced about how important those early years are in shaping the rest of their lives. In my English classes I often ask about the kids' reading experiences as far back as they can remember, and the ones who struggle with reading the most are the ones who say their parents never read to them. I think that the subsequent inability and an unwillingness to read is the greatest barrier that kids in poor communities face, but I've never thought anything practical and sufficiently broad could be done about it.

That is what is so special about Geoffrey Canada. Where other people see unchangeable social trends he proposes solutions. It's truly remarkable.

09/27/08

Time changes everything

Filed under: Politics, Comicsjksterup   @ 05:26:01 am

tom

Three thoughts after the debate

Filed under: Politics, Newsjksterup   @ 05:09:20 am

1) McCain did a lot better than I expected. I'm actually impressed.

2) John McCain would probably be the best Republican president our country could have.

3) I'm still voting for Obama.

09/26/08

I guess that settles it

Filed under: Politics, Newsjksterup   @ 12:55:43 pm

Apparently there's no need to watch the debate tonight.

John McCain has already let us know that he won.

09/18/08

Everything I really need to know about economics I learned from Fresh Air

Filed under: Politics, Newsjksterup   @ 11:50:36 am

Michael Greenberger on Fresh Air yesterday:

We privatize profits; we socialize losses. That is to say, if AIG were booming nobody would ever say that you and I should have the opportunity to take it over. But when it collapses and threatens the entire economy, it becomes our problem.

09/16/08

It's still the economy, sweetheart

Filed under: Politics, Newsjksterup   @ 08:10:20 pm

What we are witnessing in the economy right now is nothing short of the total and devastating failure of the Republicans' policies of financial deregulation.

If you are still unconvinced that Barack Obama is the right candidate for president, please watch this video. The running time seems long, but the most timely stuff is at the beginning. If you're busy, turn your computer volume way up and listen to it as you do work around the house.

(On a sidenote, anybody who says Obama gives no specifics about his plans has never listened to one of his speeches)

09/11/08

The breakdown

Filed under: Politicsjksterup   @ 06:03:08 am

I'm glad someone has laid this out in a way that's easy to understand.

If you haven't already, you will soon hear a lot about how Barack Obama plans to raise taxes on working Americans, or has proposed the largest tax increase in history, or some such nonsense.

Like most of what you'll be hearing from ol' Straight Talk McCain, it's just not true.

Taxes

It doesn't get any simpler than this:

If you make less than $227,000 a year, Barack Obama intends to give you a tax CUT.

If you make less than $112,000 a year, Barack Obama has promised to cut your taxes more than John McCain has.

So if you're only planning to vote in your own financial interest and you make more than $112,000 dollars a year you may be better off voting for McCain. Otherwise Obama is probably the best choice for you.

(Thanks to The Washington Post for the graphic)

09/09/08

Obama is wrong on education

Filed under: Politics, Newsjksterup   @ 03:19:49 pm

Never let it be said that I blindly support any political party or candidate. Today I heard some of the details of Barack Obama's plan for education and I must say that I am sorely disappointed.

He has said that he supports increased funding for charter schools (good) and more money to recruit quality teachers (also good). Obama also said that he wants to give schools financial support with No Child Left Behind, which is better than the alternative, I guess, in the way that treating a compound fracture with a bandage is better than not treating it, but this also suggests that he plans to leave NCLB in place (very bad).

Obama also said he thinks teacher pay should be tied to student performance (also very bad) and that some teachers should be fired when their students fail to perform well (very, very bad).

Any kind of high stakes testing that ties school funding or teacher pay to student scores is not only unfair to educators, but damaging to the entire public school system. Already schools spend far too much time teaching students to take a single standardized test and providing teachers with no other professional support beyond addressing test performance.

Mandating that school funding and/or teacher pay be linked to student scores is like requiring that doctors only get paid when their patients live. Certainly there are some bad doctors who cause unnecessary patient deaths and there are some bad teachers who cause students to fail. But good doctors also have patients who sometimes die, and good teachers sometimes have failing students. We simply cannot control all of the variables.

Some of the most important factors in student success are parental support, student ability, and student initiative. If there anything I've learned as a teacher (and especially as a special education teacher), it's that you cannot make a student learn against his will. Good teachers do the best they can with each and every student they have, but the idea that a good teacher can make every student achieve the same level of success is as delusional as the idea that a good doctor can keep every patient alive.

So I'm very sad to see Barack Obama proposing educational reforms that still adhere to the flawed strategies that we've been stuck with for the last eight years. What we need is an entirely new outlook on education that emphasizes hiring and retaining highly qualified teachers and providing them the resources they need to teach students according to the best practices established by current research in education, not according to what the state test requires.

09/07/08

Daniel the poet

Filed under: Home and personaljksterup   @ 06:00:50 pm

I took an adorable video of Daniel talking on the phone the other day:

I was going to provide a transcript of what Daniel is saying, but as I began typing it out and dividing it into lines I noticed that it reads like a strange stream-of-consciousness beat poem. Take a look:

Sit down. Sit down. Sit down.
Plane. A-pop! Pop! Headphone. Turn on song.
Rock Eva in room.
Ball around! Eva barn in [unintelligible].
Down! And books down too.
Outside. Play cars. Yeah.
Rain outside. Hose out.
Up! Airplane.

I think we have a future poet laureate on our hands.

Time Suck of the month

Filed under: Fun and Gamesjksterup   @ 01:08:34 pm

Amorphous

It took me a month, but I finally mastered Amorphous+. It's an addicting little flash game that starts out simple but gets much harder as you progress. It's a lot of fun and there are plenty of challenges and rewards to unlock, which will keep any completionists very busy.

If you need tips on defeating the Razor Queen (pictured above) let me know.

08/31/08

The Palin Question

Filed under: Politicsjksterup   @ 11:50:39 am

Friday John McCain made big news by announcing that his running mate will be Sarah Palin.

The obvious question on everybody's mind is: Will a woman on the ticket help McCain? I don't think so. In fact, I expect a backlash.

The thing most commentators seized upon is Palin's inexperience. After serving as mayor of a town of 5,000 people she has served for 2 years as the governor of the 4th least populous state in the union. After all his talk about how inexperienced Barack Obama is, John McCain is claiming that Palin, with even less experience is ready to be a heartbeat away from the presidency (a 72-year-old cancer-surviving heartbeat at that).

Even more significantly, John McCain has been building his campaign around the idea that (unlike Obama, presumably) he is a candidate of substance, who always does what is best for his country and not necessarily what is popular or likely to get him elected. Remember that his big line is, "I would rather lose a campaign than lose a war." Yet he very transparently selects a female Vice Presidential candidate in an attempt to win over the supposed masses of disillusioned Hillary Clinton supporters.

Am I reducing the issue? Not at all. I challenge anybody to come up with one quality about Palin, aside from her gender and her age, that would make her a better Vice Presidential than any other Republican in the country.

So much for McCain putting substance and policy ahead of popularity. But will his gambit succeed in winning over Hillary Clinton supporters? I don't think so. Sure, there will always be a few who will change over just because she's a woman (and you can bet FOX News will find them and interview them), but as a whole I believe people supported Hillary Clinton partly because she's a woman, but also because she speaks to the issues that they care about: health care, reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, etc. Hillary supporters aren't going to suddenly switch over to a pro-life, pro-drilling, pro-business candidate just because she also happens to own a pair of ovaries.

In fact, I expect some voters will be insulted by the suggestion that a person's sex is all that matters to them. I'm reminded of Barack Obama's senate race in 2004 when the Republican party drafted Alan Keyes to run against him. It only showed how out of touch the Republicans are that they thought people would vote for another man who also happens to be black, but speaks of none of the issues that the targeted voting block care about.

I don't expect that McCain's selection of Palin will be quite as disastrous as Keyes' Illinois Senate campaign. In fact, I think any direct effect she has on the overall election will be negligible. But I do think the choice compromises McCain's overall message so far, and can only hurt him.

08/29/08

Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra

Filed under: Musicjksterup   @ 07:29:30 am

Remember when I raved about Micah P. Hinson a while back? No?

Well, I was thinking yesterday, "I wonder if Micah P. Hinson is working on a new album yet." I consulted Wikipedia and learned that he was indeed working on a new album and that it was already released last month--and yet I had heard no mention of it.

Next I went to Amazon and found all copies of the CD priced at almost $30. These are obviously imports. The album is supposed to be released (again, according to Wikipedia) on Jade Tree Records in the US, yet the label's official site has no mention of it.

Not willing to buy a $30 CD (or even a $20 used one) before hearing it first, I checked last.fm and found that the entire album is streaming for free.

So I listened.

And I loved it.

And now I know I have to buy it.

I finally went to eBay and found some copies of the CD available from UK sellers. With the conversion from pounds to dollars plus shipping, it looks like I can get the CD for 10 or 15 bucks, which isn't too bad, I guess.

It doesn't seem right, though, that I have to send away to another continent for a CD recorded by a country-folk musician in Texas. I may not know much about how the music industry works, but I think that even a musician of very minor renown should be able to get someone to release a CD in the US at an affordable price.

By the way, if you want to hear why I'm so determined to get my hands on this, take a listen to Throw the Stone.

08/19/08

Mmmm...satire

Filed under: Home and personal, Politicsjksterup   @ 02:29:02 pm

I heard this a while ago, but didn't get around to posting it now because that's just how busy things have been lately.

Republican Enjoys Paying Huge Health Insurance Premiums

Truly, one of The Onion's greatest moments.

My favorite lines:

Kilfoy says he feels privileged to pay a quarter of his income for the 37th best health care system in the world.

Kilfoy says if universal health care is passed in the US he may leave the country, but has yet to find a developed country that doesn't offer it.

08/15/08

Chatty Eva

Filed under: Home and personaljksterup   @ 03:52:05 pm

For those who want to see what Eva's been up to lately, here's a little video:

07/28/08

Best. Batman. Ever.

Filed under: Movies and TV, Comicsjksterup   @ 07:53:12 pm

Dark

Obviously I loved The Dark Knight. I knew I would: everything I saw leading up to the release promised that it would be even better than Batman Begins. So while it's no surprise that I and just about everybody else in America loved it, I would still like to spend a little time elaborating on my specific reasons for loving it so much.

(By the way, I should mention that this blog post is going to be filled with spoilers throughout. If you haven't seen the movie, I suggest you go see it now. I'll still be here when you come back.)

I could go on about the improved bat-suit (I've always hated the cumbersome body armor--the new model is at least a step in the right direction), the excellent story (I started to wonder where the different threads were leading, but then the final two minutes of the film brought it all together perfectly), and of course Heath Ledger's amazing performance (what else needs to be said?).

As great as these things are, I'm not going to talk any more about them. What I really want to discuss are what I see as the major themes the film addresses. Batman has been around for nearly 70 years, and has seen many new interpretations in the comics. Comic books are like any other medium in that most of the output is crap, but there have been a few ideas about Batman in 70 years that are truly inspired. What Christopher Nolan has done in his films is take the best ideas and make them work together.

My favorite thing about Batman Begins was the emphasis on Batman/Bruce Wayne's dual nature. This is something I realized from watching The Animated Series: Billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne is just an act, and Batman is his true personality. It's a revelation the first time you realize this about Batman, and Nolan nailed it. The Dark Knight adds to it no fewer than three of my favorite concepts from the comics.

The film opens with the idea that Batman's very presence inspires a different class of criminal. I'm not sure where I read this first, but I know it's in some of Frank Miller's comics. It's an answer to the question of why Superman's villains go to prison but all of Batman's go to an insane asylum. I love how in The Dark Knight Batman's success in fighting conventional crime leaves the field open for the Joker to exist as a direct reaction to the newly imposed order. What follows is a brilliant interpretation of the Joker as an agent of pure anarchy which, while maybe always existed beneath the surface, has never been as overt as it is in The Dark Knight.

As the Joker becomes a force of pure anarchy, Batman becomes pure authoritarianism, which is the second revolutionary comic-book-derived theme presented in the film. The idea can be traced directly to Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, which, along with Watchmen, is credited as beginning the deconstruction of the superhero. Before 1986 superhero comics uniformly depicted their protagonists as superior beings who deserved to deal out their own justice by virtue of their special powers and their moral superiority. It was an unrealistically optimistic view. The Dark Knight Returns challenges this basic assumption by depicting a Batman who is very violent, sometimes cruel, and completely outside of the law. For the first time, a Batman comic book raised questions about what moral right a man has to appoint himself a crimefighter. Some of Frank Miller's written and spoken statements since then suggest that his personal opinions about the Batman are more positive than has often been assumed, The Dark Knight Returns can still be read as subverting the superhero archetype. Frank Miller revealed how authoritarian Batman really is, and the reader can judge the morality of it.

This idea is all over the new Dark Knight film, most significantly in the moment that Batman reveals a device that lets him spy on virtually every citizen in Gotham. It's also evident when he asserts that he alone, and nobody else, has the right to be going around in a costume fighting crime. This doesn't mean he's not heroic. Just as with The Dark Knight Returns comic, it's possible to cheer for Batman every step of the way and get thrills from watching him trounce the bad guys, but still recognize the basic moral contradiction behind his actions.

The third thing I was glad to see Nolan incorporate into the new film is not so much a theme as it is a story element or concept. Like I mentioned above, I was wondering for a while how the Joker and Two-Face story threads were going. I thought it was great that the struggle for Harvey Dent's soul also turned into Batman's ultimate fight against Joker's anarchy. The idea that the Joker intentionally took the most good and pure public figure in Gotham and drove him to insanity is lifted directly from The Killing Joke by Alan Moore. It's a pretty simple idea, but greatly executed in both cases. The philosophical struggle between Batman and Joker is far more intriguing than any physical battle could ever be.

So there you have it. These are the ideas that make The Dark Knight not just the best Batman movie, but probably the best superhero film ever made. And I emphasize film, because while people are talking about how this elevates the whole superhero genre, I must point out that all of the moral complexity and philosophical questions it contains were first introduced in the Batman comic books over twenty years ago. In other words, the greatest superhero film of all time has merely caught up to where comics were in 1986.

07/21/08

Modern Guilt

Filed under: Musicjksterup   @ 09:22:47 am

Modern

I bought Beck's latest album last week and have been listening to it repeatedly, trying to develop a firm opinion of it. I don't have much time, but I wanted to at least write a few words about what I think.

It's really pretty good. I love the production style that Danger Mouse brought to the record, especially on Chemtrails and Walls. There's enough going on to keep things interesting, but not so much that it's overproduced, leaving a rough, edgy quality to it that I love. A few of the songs on the album are a little forgettable, but the two tracks I mentioned are amazing, and the rest of the album is generally solid as well.

Right now I think I place Modern Guilt at about the same level as Sea Change, which didn't wow me at first, but grew on me over time.

Here, then, is my ranking of Beck's albums in order from greatest to least:

Mellow Gold
One Foot In The Grave
Odelay
Mutations
Midnite Vultures
Sea Change
Modern Guilt
The Information
Guero
Stereopathetic Soulmanure
A Western Harvest Field By Moonlight
Golden Feelings

07/19/08

On second thought...

Filed under: Movies and TV, Comicsjksterup   @ 08:06:12 pm

I have a few more thoughts on Watchmen, and then I promise I'm going to quite blogging about it for a while.

After watching the trailer a couple more times I've decided I'm not ready to discount the movie yet. I do think the tone of the trailer is completely wrong for the story, but I realize that a lot of movie marketing is designed to pander to the audience rather than faithfully represent the complete film. It's very possible that the movie itself is not nearly as melodramatic as the trailer makes it appear.

What the trailer does give us a strong feel for is the look of the film, which in this case is very glossy and overproduced--but then again, the trailer mostly shows special effects shots. Could the rest of the film have a more toned-down, realistic look to it? Let's hope so.

Even if I suspend judgment on these things, I still have a big problem with the CG Dr. Manhattan. Every filmmaker in Hollywood should have figured out by now that aesthetically speaking, creating CG humans is a bad idea. Computer animation works great for monsters and other imaginary creatures, but when it comes to making something look like a real person, there's no substitute for...a real person. There's also no reason to use anything else, because Dr. Manhattan does not do anything in Watchmen that cannot be done with conventional special effects. Flying, teleporting, being in three places at once, growing to 50 feet tall--all of these things have been done with human actors in movies for decades. The only additional bonus of creating a CG Manhattan is that the audience will look at it and say, "Wow. That's a very CG-looking blue guy."

07/18/08

Light and fluffy Alan Moore interview

Filed under: Movies and TV, Comicsjksterup   @ 06:17:54 pm

Entertainment Weekly has a Q & A with Mr. Moore. It's a pretty fluffy piece with stuff Moore has said elsewhere, but it's nice to see they're including his dissenting opinion in the midst of their Watchmen movie promotion.

I laughed when I read this:

About two years ago, Warner Bros. announced that 300 director Zack Snyder would be adapting that gold standard of comics, Watchmen, into a feature film. The response was nothing short of orgiastic — from just about everyone except Watchmen's own scribe, Alan Moore, who remains ambivalent about all the hoopla.

I would describe his attitude as anything but ambivalent.

I'm actually a little impressed with the interviewer, though, who shows a pretty thorough knowledge of and respect for Moore's career and takes the time to ask him about League Vol. III and his upcoming prose novel, Jerusalem.

And then there are the really hard-hitting questions that other people are afraid to ask, like whether or not he'll ever shave his beard. At least Moore seemed to be a good sport about it:

Should I need to disappear, then, if you see a sort of bald guy with a really bad shaving rash going around somewhere, then that will probably be me.

07/17/08

Watchmen trailer out

Filed under: Movies and TV, Comicsjksterup   @ 02:35:15 pm

Here it is (sigh).

The more I see of this film the more disappointed I prepare myself to be. From the looks of this footage, Zack Snyder has turned the most complex and sophisticated superhero story in the history of comic books into a glitzy CGI-fest.

I don't mean any personal disrespect to Snyder. I think he did well with 300, a comic book that is itself all style and little substance. But for a movie to capture the subtlety of Watchmen it must have a director who is willing to resist the temptation for big special effects shots and create a realistic world populated with authentic human beings, and I just don't see that here.

What I do see are lots of special effects and flashy CGI shots.

I understand that this is just a trailer, and it may be playing up the action to get people interested, so I'll reserve final judgment for when the film comes out. I have to say, though, that I'm not expecting much. It may turn out to be a fine summer action blockbuster, but I doubt it will come anywhere near the subtle complexity of the source material.

07/10/08

Gettin' the Led out

Filed under: Home and personal, Musicjksterup   @ 05:53:36 pm

Today, for the first time ever, I paid money for a music download.

I've resisted until now because I still see downloading music from iTunes as paying too much money for an inferior product. For $10 you get music that is lower quality than a CD and comes with DRM that prevents you from using it however you want. My case has only been made stronger by the fact that Amazon, to compete with iTunes, now offers most new CDs for $9.99 (my new Beck CD is on the way as I write this).

But this morning I saw a deal I could not pass up. Rhapsody was offering The Complete Led Zeppelin for $9.99. That's every studio recording and every official live album for $9.99. Plus, the downloads are 256kbps mp3 files with no DRM.

How could I not buy this?

The link for the product was here, but it no longer goes to The Complete Led Zeppelin. In fact, I don't see that offer anywhere on the site anymore, which means it was either a very limited offer or a mistake. Either way, I now legally own Led Zeppelin's complete catalog and I'm only $9.99 poorer for it.

By the way, I found out about this offer through www.passwird.com, a great way to find Internet deals.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some Zeppelin to listen to.

07/08/08

Prison Overcrowding Crisis

Filed under: Newsjksterup   @ 09:50:09 am

NPR: San Quentin's Gym Becomes One Massive Cell

The link above will take you to a story about California's San Quentin prison, which embodies the problem of prison overcrowding in just about every state in America. I highly recommend listening to it.

Prisons in America have reached a point at which they are merely adding to the crime problem. When someone is arrested for minor drug possession or a parole violation, he is placed in the type of place described in the NPR story: a dangerously overcrowded criminal population segregated along racial lines. That man is forced to choose a gang to join, which teaches him a host of new criminal behaviors. With no rehabilitation or career education programs, is it any surprise that he will be arrested again soon after being released?

What is especially frustrating about this problem is that the only reason for it is politics. During the 80s and 90s a sure way for a politician to get elected was to talk about getting Tough On Crime and creating harsher sentences for minor criminals. This approach was very effective at winning elections, but we are now faced with the real-life consequences.

What's even more depressing is that there is no easy solution that policymakers are willing to take. The only way to decrease prison populations is to stop putting people away for minor crimes and parole violations--but suggesting we go easier on criminals is political suicide.

So our politicians continue to play at being Tough On Crime to win some easy votes, and we continue to add to our overcrowded prisons without considering any lasting solutions.

07/07/08

The Terrible Twos

Filed under: Home and personaljksterup   @ 06:25:29 pm

Boy, I'd heard the twos would be bad, but I never imagined it would be this bad. Daniel is just impossible to reason with.

When we're picking up the house, it is very important to him that everything be put away neatly and in its right place. And if we put his things away for him he gets upset because he wants to put them away by himself.

And what a struggle eating is! Today at lunch he wouldn't eat his sandwich because he just wanted to eat his raw carrots and broccoli. Even after he finished his, he was asking me to give him more carrots off my plate.

And then there are the problems with his baby sister. Daniel is constantly wanting to hug her and kiss her and read to her. It's unbearable.

I just don't know how much of more of this difficult behavior I can take.

(Seriously, though: I'm amazed at what a sweet and cooperative little boy Daniel is. How we ended up with him I have no idea)

An album for every year I've been alive

Filed under: Musicjksterup   @ 01:32:38 pm

I saw this over at the AV Club.

I had some trouble with the first half of this list. As some people know, I was pop-culturally unaware during all of the 1980s and didn't start listening to secular music until ninth grade. This has left me with not only a big gap in my music collection, but a general disdain for all 80s music. The few albums I do have from that decade are from the back catalogs of bands I discovered much later (thus the over-representation of U2 and The Flaming Lips you're about to see).

It was a lot of fun to pick out my favorites from the 90s on and discovering which albums were released in the same year. Who knew that Beck's Mellow Gold (and three other simultaneous releases) came out the same year as Johnny Cash's American Recordings? As my wife pointed out, I never would have listened to Cash at the time, but that's not really the issue here.

Anyway, take a look at my albums and judge my musical knowledge (or lack thereof) accordingly.

1979: The Wall by Pink Floyd
1980: Boy by U2
1981: October by U2
1982: Concert in Central Park by Simon and Garfunkel
1983: War by U2
1984: The Unforgettable Fire by U2 (see what I mean about my lack of diversity in 80s music?)
1985: The Flaming Lips EP by The Flaming Lips (I'm not sure if EPs count, but otherwise I have nothing. That's right: I don't own a single full-length album from 1985)
1986: Graceland by Paul Simon
1987: The Joshua Tree by U2
1988: Telepathic Surgery by The Flaming Lips
1989: The Offspring by The Offspring
1990: In a Priest Driven Ambulance by The Flaming Lips
1991: Mental Jewelry by Live
1992: Automatic for the People by R.E.M.
1993: Debut by Björk
1994: Mellow Gold by Beck
1995: Clouds Taste Metallic by The Flaming Lips
1996: Endtroducing... by DJ Shadow
1997: OK Computer by Radiohead
1998: In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel
1999: The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips
2000: American III: Solitary Man by Johnny Cash
2001: Gorillaz by Gorillaz
2002: ( ) by Sigur Rós
2003: Elephant by The White Stripes
2004: Real Gone by Tom Waits
2005: Illinois by Sufjan Stevens
2006: Ships by Danielson
2007: In Rainbows by Radiohead
2008 (so far): Third by Portishead

It's too early to call 2008 yet, and I haven't even had a chance to buy most of the new releases I want, but with new music by Beck, Nick Cave, Sigur Rós, and Bonnie "Prince" Billy it's looking to be a good year for music.

My best year for music overall is 1994: 4 releases by Beck, The Beastie Boys' Ill Communication, Weezer's self-titled debut, and Johnny Cash's first American Recordings album made it hard to pick just one.

07/01/08

Bush escalates covert ops in Iran

Filed under: Politics, Newsjksterup   @ 07:52:43 am

This may be the most important news you'll hear this year.

Despite the failures in Iraq, America's over-extended military, and overwhelming public opposition, George W. Bush is intent on beginning a war with Iran.

This isn't speculation. It's already started. On Fresh Air Terry Gross interviews Seymour Hersh, an investigative reporter who's written his findings in the latest issue of The New Yorker. Here are the facts:

Right now there are American operatives carrying out covert and clandestine operations in Iran.

President Bush secretly asked the 8 top leaders in congress for funding for further operations.

Furthermore, Hersh asserts that this is the beginning of a plan whose goal is to stir up violence in Iran to justify American attacks.

As Hersh and Gross point out in the interview, this is very similar to the Bush administration's early attempts to generate public support for a war with Iraq. We've already been hearing for some time about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program (which a National Intelligence Estimate discredited), as well as claims about Iran supporting Iraqi insurgents (also dubious).

The patterns are clear: just as it did with Iraq, the Bush administration has already made the decision to attack Iran, and only needs to generate public support and pressure congress for approval. Fortunately, it's not too late. We know what the administration is doing right now, and we know it will try the same propaganda tactics it used to lead us into war with Iraq.

So please, America, for the sake of our national security, the safety of our armed forces, and our standing in the international community, I implore you: do not be taken in a second time.

When you are told by the Bush administration and the media that Iran poses a nuclear threat to Americans, don't buy it.

When you are told that Iran is supporting insurgents against US forces in Iraq, don't buy it.

When you are told that Iran is committing aggressions against the US directly and that we need to defend our freedom by attacking Iran, don't buy it.

And please, please, on November 4, 2008 elect a president who will take us off this path to war and work to achieve legitimate peace in the world.

One last thing: If you have any doubts about these claims of covert operations in Iran or want to know the whole story, you must listen to the Fresh Air interview with Seymour Hersh. This comes from a legitimate and reliable source, who was the first to expose the truth about the My Lai massacre and the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse. He has a long record of reporting the truth about American conflict, which is more than can be said of most mainstream journalists.

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