Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
March 11, 2010 - March 4, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Headcounts Update

NSFW: Scenes from inside the Democratic Caucus w/Speaker Pelosi.

OUR FAVORITE NANNY. Yes, lots of things are happening behind closed doors, and we do owe you our best intelligence on what those things are, no matter how opaque the process is. Smart people are working hard to provide informed insight.

Drudge has two somewhat contradictory links today. The first proclaims the Senate bill DOA in the House. The second suggests Pelosi is getting close to the vote count she needs though not quite there yet. But what are we to make of this scary picture?

Drudge also has a reference to something called the 'Slaughter Rule,' which is better explained by The Corner at National Review.

If you value real brains supplemented by encyclopedic information about the makeup and electoral challenges of the House of Representatives, here's a very compelling piece by the incomparable Michael Barone. Feel better? I thought you would. Nobody's shrewder than Barone.

EXCEPT: Last week on Special Report, Dr. Charles Krauthammer said the House would pass the Senate bill. Enough said. Barone may know everything about politics, but it takes a psychiatrist to get a bead on Nancy Pelosi.

Written in stone? Maybe.

The Bourne Idiocy

Personally, I really love the Palestinian scarf he's wearing.

FLYING ACTOR, HIDDEN MORON. I post this with a heavy heart, because Mrs. CP really loves the Bourne movies, even the last one where he was blimped up like a bratwurst and still soaring through the air like a Hong Kong martial arts dink. But Matt Damon has become still another Hollywood clown whose politics really should start bending his career arc in the direction of fellow bratwurst Alec Baldwin. Here are some excerpts from a review by Armond White of the the New York Press:

Damon portrays Sgt. Ray Miller—essentially Bourne in army fatigues—chosen to find WMD in the first days of the U.S. invasion of Baghdad.When his first assignment comes up empty, Miller is instantly skeptical—like a reader of The Nation. He immediately concentrates his efforts on undermining his commanders. He uses a disgruntled local (Ayad Hamsa) to track down a devious Sunni leader while abetting a rogue CIA agent (Brendan Gleeson)—essentially spying against the U.S. campaign.

Miller’s a phantom figure with neither personal background nor political motivation. He’s simply correct; the kind of protagonist that could only arise from the Left’s Bush-era sense of resentment and self-righteousness. Damon converts his over-aged boy scout, tow-headed zeal into a practiced air of moral superiority...

Obviously, Damon would rather play a soldier than be one; and he’d much rather be a propagandist... Stuck in Bush-era cynicism, Greengrass and Damon ignore the success of the military surge but question the legitimacy of WMD claims (“The intel is a problem”), critique the dissolution of the Iraqi army and discredit torture as interrogation.Yet, the Bourne team loves violence: There’s more gunfire and bone crunching than political discussion...

The big problem Green Zone (named after safe territory in Iraq) represents is that these filmmakers, like the makers of The Hurt Locker, no longer know how to characterize heroism. The Hurt Locker’s psychotic G.I. now proves his moral superiority in Green Zone by becoming a traitorous/valorous spy...

Only the privilege of democracy allows such hypocrisy... Ironically, when Miller rats on the Pentagon about “false assertion” and “manufactured intelligence” he could as well be describing how Green Zone itself uses action-movie myths to counter political myths.

Just how many failed Iraq War movies is Hollywood prepared to make to indulge its obsession for slandering the United States and its military? We keep hearing that Tinseltown is obsessed with the bottom line. How low a bottom of flatlined box-office receipts can they live with? That's becoming an interesting question, don't you think?

P.S. In the interests of full disclosure, I should alert you all that Roger Ebert has proclaimed Armond White "a troll" and a "bomb-thrower." Awww. That must mean Green Zone is really a good movie instead. Sorry.

Unless this rings a bell.

Ding ding ding.

The difference between
observation and prejudice

Been there. Know EXACTLY what he's talking about. Hitler Hitler Hitler...

THE DEUCE OF SPADES. I like the guy above. You 90s kids might like this guy (ballyhooed by a National Review editor) better. But then I like the Irish, and Greeks are, well, you know. That's just observation, mind you. Not the other thing.

Let me know.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Motorhead
Looks at Toyota

CARS. I've been baffled by the Toyota scandal. I admit it. In previous posts I've been honest about the fact that I was once a GM consultant . Back then, they were trying desperately to learn from Toyota, whose Just-in-Time manufacturing system I came to know very well because I was teaching it to GM execs, managers, and factory floor employees. Here's a representative excerpt of my past musings:

I learned in the course of my experience with GM management that the company spent more on market research than any other corporation in the world. I learned that it took two full-time engineers a year to design a taillight. I learned that there were so many layers of GM management and so many meetings that a business unit could operate for three or four months without ever laying eyes on its boss. I also learned that from top to bottom, the people who planned, designed, and built GM cars had never driven the competitors' cars. Way back then, the one reform I wanted to enact at GM was to make all the executives I worked with spend weeks or months driving my MR2, not fulminating at its presence in the parking lot. A few months of that would have eliminated the need for most of their market research. Everything about my little Toyota was better than anything GM did. The fit and finish, the driving position, the quality of the materials, the feel of the vehicle as a unit, the suspension, the smoothness of the motor, every damn thing. They had a direct competitor at the time, the Pontiac Fiero. It sucked. Five minutes in my car would have convinced any GM executive of that. They never got that five minutes.

Yeah. I had a Toyota then. Have one now. Full disclosure, don't you know...

The first one (top) and the current one (bottom).
The T-tops on the first one
never rattled. Truth.
The soft top on the second one works faultlessly.

The first one I had for ten years and experienced just one mechanical failure, which briefly stranded me: an alternator that failed in year 9. The second one I've had for four years and experienced one mechanical failure that didn't strand me: an emergency brake that had to be replaced so I could get through inspection. Both have been pure joy to own and drive. The newer one is quicker (0-60 in 6.7 seconds), faster, (125 mph), better handling (1.0 Gs of cornering power), and more parsimonious with fuel (34 mpg), That represents an approximate 20-30 percent across the board performance and fuel economy improvement for an equivalent (inflation-adjusted) purchase price. The one I own now was conceived by Toyota as 80 to 90 percent of the performance of a Porsche Boxster for about half the price. And, I expect, about 10X the reliability and 1/10th the maintenance expense. I couldn't be happier, although it also offers considerably less than half the cargo capacity. The original had a trunk behind its mid-engine configured to stow a full set of golf clubs (or a suitcase or two if you must). The later version has a front storage compartment that might hold a basketball. Not exaggerating.

Which is an easy way of acknowledging that MR2s are, by definition, not typical Toyotas. Especially not typical contemporary Toyotas. Why I've been slow to comment on the whole thing. While they've been growing by leaps and bounds and becoming the number one automaker in the world, for my money they've become drab appliance makers rather than a car company. There's not one vehicle in their current stable I'd ever look twice at, let alone buy.

I think that's what happened to them. They forgot that cars aren't appliances but, well, cars. Things people drive. My MR2, for example, was discontinued some years ago. Not enough like a blender. Manual transmission, old-fashioned dead pedal, you know, too much driver stuff.

That's why I'm finally moved to comment. The YouTube video of the Prius owner up top is, I'm sorry, funny to me. The Prius is no longer even an appliance -- it's a social statement. "I'm all green and everything." Such people don't drive. They parade. I actually kind of like the idea that his parade turned into a Terminator moment. The machine rebelled and took him for a ride. He looks so quiveringly nonplussed and betrayed. Who could ever have imagined that a social statement would have moving parts? 94 miles per hour? I've done more than that on a motorcycle and didn't need a heroic cop to save me from my vehicle. (Hats off to the cop, by the way. It takes real guts to save an idiot motorist from his worst instincts.) You see, the kind of unintended acceleration the Toyota "victims" are experiencing could never happen to my Toyota. I have a manual transmission (you know, shifting and like that). If my motor suddenly revved to the redline, all I'd have to do would be depress the clutch. It takes the engine out of gear instantly. It can scream all it wants, but no power will get to the wheels. And the brakes will work too.

Sorry. I know it's motorhead stuff. But it's also relevant. Perhaps more than you know. For example, here's what a learned lefty professor, Robert Wright, has to say about the Toyota mess:

Let’s do the math.

My back-of-the-envelope calculations (explained in a footnote below) suggest that if you drive one of the Toyotas recalled for acceleration problems and don’t bother to comply with the recall, your chances of being involved in a fatal accident over the next two years because of the unfixed problem are a bit worse than one in a million — 2.8 in a million, to be more exact. Meanwhile, your chances of being killed in a car accident during the next two years just by virtue of being an American are one in 5,244.

So driving one of these suspect Toyotas raises your chances of dying in a car crash over the next two years from .01907 percent (that’s 19 one-thousandths of 1 percent, when rounded off) to .01935 percent (also 19 one-thousandths of one percent).

I can live with those odds. Sure, I’d rather they were better, but it’s not worth losing sleep over. And I don’t think it’s worth all the bandwidth the Toyota story has consumed over the past couple of months.

He also has a truly intriguing analogy to offer:

I suspect that Toyota’s acceleration problems lie in the software — the “electronic throttle control,” which replaces the old-fashioned direct mechanical link between your foot and the throttle with a “brain” that “decides” how much the throttle should open in response to foot pressure, depending on the circumstances...

I’m not a fan of electronic throttle control — I didn’t like the feel of it when I bought my Toyota, and I still don’t — but it’s getting hard to find a car that doesn’t have it. So too with various other little vehicular brains, like electronic stability control, which will deny you permission to take turns at dangerously high speeds; our cars are, increasingly, software-driven — that is, they’re doing more and more of the driving.

And software, as the people at Microsoft or Apple can tell you, is full of surprises. It’s pretty much impossible to anticipate all the bugs in a complex computer program. Hence the reliance on beta testing (and on the subsequent, de facto beta testing that is also known as “selling the product and then reading the user forums”).

Now, “beta testing” sounds creepy when the process by which testers uncover bugs can involve death. But there are two reasons not to start bemoaning the brave new world we’re entering.

First, even back before cars were software-driven, beta testing was common. Any car is a system too complex for designers to fully anticipate the upshot for life and limb. Hence decades of non-microchip-related safety recalls.

Second, the fact that a feature of a car can be fatal isn’t necessarily a persuasive objection to it. One feature that all cars possess and that has been shown to cause death is motion. But we’ve decided that the benefits of automated motion are worth the cost of more than 30,000 American lives each year. [boldface mine]

Don't mean to make an unsignaled right turn here, but doesn't the boldface text above remind you of Nancy Pelosi's latest weird gaffe?

You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.

Isn't she also talking about a Beta test? Robert Wright makes a sound probabilistic argument given his assumptions. But the possibility he doesn't quite allow into his essay is that we all might be better off if cars weren't being asked to do so much in place of informed, well trained driver skill. Yeah, if you're going to cede more and more of what used to be your personal responsibility to a machine that's going to keep you safe without compensating pleasure or decision-making opportunities, you are reduced to calculating the percentages. But why do we have to do that?

Where is it written that we have to submit to cars that lug us around like UPS boxes and occasionally kill us because machinery is never quite as good as a person who feels the road through controls designed to enhance rather than deaden his control of the unpredictable? And where is it written that our institutions -- corporate or governmental -- are absolutely responsible to keep us from harm when we stop paying attention to the roads we travel?

Message to Toyota. Start building cars again.

I'll close with what may be two non-sequiturs. Make of them what you will. The first is a Top Gear clip:

For 'Aston Martin,' substitute your son or daughter's name. Obama's dream.

The second is an anecdote that maybe has nothing to do with anything. I just like it. It's about a motorhead husband and his wife.

Here's how it goes. The 427 Shelby Cobra is one of the most desired and dangerous cars ever made. A big block NASCAR V-8 with four stand-up Weber carburetors producing 500 horsepower and God only knows how much torque in a Brit sportscar chassis that weighs less than 2000 pounds. Absolutely linear acceleration from 0 to 100 mph and beyond, to a peak near 200 mph. Only a few hundred were ever made, and surprisingly most of them still exist. (Replicas abound but they're easily exposed.) They've found their way, it seems, into hands that can both drive them and keep them safe as the treasures they are. Read an interview with one of the owners, who like many Cobra collectors still drives this ultimate beast for fun. (Bugatti people do, too, but other collectors not so much. It's rare.) The relevant vignette concerns his wife, who is also in love with the car and also drives it on occasion. He's asked if that doesn't frighten him somewhat and he replies with a cocked head and a wink: "Don't you ever tell her, but every time she drives it, I disconnect half the carburetors."

A man who loves his wife. He knows where the real responsibility lies. Why don't we?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Learning from Europeans

"Not an Atlanticist"

THE OLD GRAY LADY. Go figure. Two interesting op-eds in the New York Times today. The first is by Stanley Fish, who is apparently trying to steal credit (just kidding) for a view expressed here before the election in 2008. He predicted that within a year of Obama's inauguration, Americans would be wishing they had George Bush back. There's not much of significance in the essay except that he thinks it's time to take a bow for his prescience, which is okay by me. The content that's worth looking at is the comments section, which is in the New York Times, remember. Be sure to read through them, but don't blame me when you're sorry you did. It's like suddenly getting catapaulted back in time, to some old argument with an ex-flame that's every bit as exhausting and depressing in the reliving as it was when it actually happened.

Fish's piece also makes for an interesting backdrop to Roger Cohen's essay "Gone, Solid Gone," which seems to be suggesting that the Europeans might also be missing 'W' more than they'd ever have anticipated. He makes a couple of points that are worth ruminating about. The title comes from this passage:

Europeans... are wondering what hit them.

The situation was well summarized by Jeremy Shapiro and Nick Witney in a report for the European Council on Foreign Relations that described the European attitude to the United States as “basically infantile and fetishistic.” By this, they meant the way European states exist in a form of obsessive dependency on the United States (even as they criticize it) that prevents them from forming strong E.U. positions.

“America wants to be Europe’s partner, not its patron; but it cannot be responsible from without for weaning Europe off its client status,” they wrote, adding that, “An incoherent and ineffective assemblage of European states will be increasingly marginalized...”

Europe needs to get over America to discover itself. That discovery might provide a basis for strong ties going forward. To use Baloo’s memorable image in “The Jungle Book,” the old trans-Atlantic world is “gone, man, solid gone.”

More important is the question of why it is gone. Which is the part that's worth some serious thought:

The Obama presidency has been a shock to Europe. At heart, Obama is not a Westerner, not an Atlanticist. He grew up partly in Indonesia and partly in Hawaii, which is about as far from the East Coast as you can get in the United States. “He’s very much a member of the post-Western world,” said Constanze Stelzenmüller of the German Marshall Fund.

The great struggles of the Cold War, which bound Europe and the United States, did not mark Obama, whose intellect and priorities were shaped by globalization, and whose feelings are tied more to the Pacific and to Africa. He can make a respectable speech on a Normandy beach, but he’s probably the first U.S. president for whom the Allied landing is emotionally remote.

These truths have taken a while to sink in because Europe, in its widespread contempt for President George W. Bush, saw in Obama a savior who would restore trans-Atlantic ties. One by one European leaders have been disappointed by the president’s cool remoteness. A jilted feeling has spread.

The people who need to take particular note of this point are those who believe Obama's ultimate aim is to make the U.S. into a European-style socialist welfare state. Well, if he's "not a Westerner, not an Atlanticist," and if his "feelings are tied more to the Pacific and to Africa," what political, social, and economic models are driving his unique vision of American transformation?

This is the deep reason so many conservatives believe Obama's ambitions go far beyond mere incremental expansion of government's role in American life. It's why they suspect he is, in some very basic way, inimical to what we think of as American life. For if he's not a "Westerner," how can he even be an "American"? Roger Cohen gives us a clue that's probably more revealing than he intended (given that he thinks Obama is merely a globalist "pragmatist"):

I’d say China earns more respect from Obama for its clear if confrontational sense of strategic direction than Europe does for deference in the service of disarray.

You'd say that, would you, Roger? I'd say that, too. I think the clear pattern we've seen thus far in Obama's interactions with foreign heads of state is that he feels more at home, in every instance, with the despots who preside over one-party states that are democracies or republics in name only. He doesn't like the pluralistic European model at all, and he likes the messy American notion that government is subordinate to its citizens even less. In his first year in office, he's shown more punctilious respect for Ahmadinejad's "Islamic Republic of Iran" than he has for Gordon Brown's parliamentary prime ministership or even Brown's democratically defanged monarch. He smiles at Hugo Chavez and blows off polite dinners with the president of France. He bows to the autocrats of Arabia and kowtows to the son of Emperor Hirohito. He can't bring himself, even in Beijing, to criticize China's human rights record (uh, and when exactly did that nation cease to be 'Red China?' Anyone?) and he dispatches the exiled Dalai Lama through the garbage bay of the White House. Are these minor gaffes of international protocol? Or are they indicative of a mentality Americans can't even begin to contemplate because it is so, well, un-American?

Africa and the Pacific? Well, African 'democracies' are almost unanimously brutal one-party systems, a lot like Chicago but with machetes and mass graves instead of mass prison terms. And the same goes for the Pacific. Even postwar Japan has been governed by a single dominant party for all but a few years of the past half century. I wonder what Obama sees when he looks into Putin's eyes. I'm thinking soulmate. And maybe a touch of envy. Putin gets to kill his political enemies and direct the exculpatory investigations afterwards.

Which is why I'll close with an objection to a statement in Stanley Fish's essay. Not because I have anything against Mr. Fish, but because, well, read this:

And the judgment of history? Well, I’m not that foolish, but I will venture to say that it will be more nuanced than anything the professional Bush-haters -- indistinguishable in temperament from the professional Obama-haters -- are now able to imagine. [emphasis added]

This is just flat-out wrong. That's why I enjoined everyone to read the comments on the piece. They have no argument. Only invective. Which is not true of perspectives like that offered here. But it's a wrong that many conservatives of admirable character and dim perceptions are repeating every day. Libs scream about how Bush "lied us into the Iraq War," which is demonstrably untrue. Yet the past dozen times I've seen Obama, practically every word he utters is a lie. ("I don't want the government to control the private sector." "I don't want government bureaucrats between patients and their doctors." Give me a break.) That's a good reason for despising him, but that's all I do. I despise him. I don't hate him. I don't wish to see him dead. He has turned out to be exactly who I thought he was before the election that put him in office. There's nothing irrational about my animus. And I believe that's true of most of the people who are being unfairly compared to the sufferers of Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Which is fine. I don't mind being unfairly characterized in the grand scheme of things. That's bound to happen at times. What I do object to is the blinders. The people who refuse to see who Obama really is, as we've been considering above, because harboring such suspicions is somehow unworthy of us goodhearted patriots. Sorry. I'm not buying that line of bullshit.

And I hope you're not either. There are excellent reasons for fearing the very worst about this man. Not recognizing a truth that's staring you in the face because you're duty-bound to be polite is folly of the worst order.

Here endeth the lesson.

What Dreams Are Made of...

I'd love to fly just like this. How about you?

ANOTHER PIECE OF PYE. At this rate, Lloyd's going to have to adopt his own punk monicker and become a regular. He keeps sending the most amazing stuff. Seems to me this one needs one of you techno-wizards to erase the nasal London narrator and add an appropriate soundtrack. I won't tell you what kind. If there were enough of you, it could be a contest...

Electron Friends

Electron "standing waves," whatever they are.
Although it feels sort of right. How about you?

YOU'LL KNOW WHAT I MEAN. Not speaking for InstaPunk here, who keeps his heart close to himself, with a pattern of beating known only to him, but I'm attempting a kind of inoculation. I know we fling words around here like bricks, but they aren't bricks. They're just electrons streaming through the wire and the air.

What's interesting, what's damned fascinating, is that we have reached a point in time where it's possible to have real relationships with people we've never laid eyes on. I'm not talking the hookup preliminaries that occur on dating websites, which are just dancing in air to a common purpose. They make me suspicious at the least. The end object there is very physical and can be dangerous for everyone involved.

I'm talking instead about an altogether new phenomenon. I'm talking about the two way relationship between writer and reader that occurs on blogs like this one. These aren't just glancing hits -- trolls bouncing off stranger targets or bloggers slamming and banning trolls in passing. Those encounters have their correlatives in, well, real life. Nasty letters written to authors whose works or views we don't like. Authors penning essays denouncing their critics in the op-ed pages of a newspaper. All of that is as old as (probably) Euripides and Aristophanes.

What's different is what happens in a site like this one, which isn't so big that commenters are just the audience in an arena, who clap or boo as an entity that is gauged as if it were a single beast and dismissible as such. We've never been "successful" enough to regard our commenters as a mob or a cheering section. We get to know you. Or at least the distinctive streams of electrons that are the identity you launch across the ether.

I have come to know many of the commenters here in precisely these narrow terms. Is it reality squeezed through a tube one electron wide, or is it just a verbal form of the jostling one experiences in a shopping trip at the mall? I mean, even that is more "real" than what we do here. At the mall the stranger I bump into has a face, a body, clothes, a smell, a size, an age, a sex, any number of identifiers that tell me more truth in an instant than any commenter necessarily shares in six months of words electrons.

I'm telling you this because it's getting harder for me. Not that I'm planning to quit or anything like it. It's that despite all the jousting and back-and-forth jibes, I've come to care about commenters I have no direct physical, personal experience of. I'm caring about streams of electrons as if they were people I drink coffee with in the morning dark. Am I crazy?

Some of you I've met, so you're excluded from this discussion. But I worry about Penny. Who is she, where is she, what's going on in her life? When she's mean, I'm hurt. When I'm mean, as I have a habit of being -- the persona, don't you know, the blogger show-off -- will she come back? Will she understand I'm a professional entertainer here? Dirty Rotten Varmint has disappeared. I offended him. Didn't mean to drive him away, just tweak him, but electrons are such febrile streams that other internetters have adopted stratagems I've been loath to copy -- acronyms reducing emotions to three-letter pills: lol. etc. Others too. DRV isn't the only one. I used to regard it as turnover, but no longer. The web weaves its own web and I'm as caught as any fly on the wing. A valued commenter (a talented artist whose paintings I posted here!) suddenly announced he couldn't keep up with the intellectual level of the site and would never comment again. I thought he was making a joke; he wasn't. Is he still here? Is he okay? Same goes for not just one or two others, but many: JS, Billy 'O,' Eduardo, jaytee, Peregrine John, Betty, more. When they don't come by I feel guilt. I pissed somebody off, again.

Which means -- which has to mean -- that there is such a thing we could call 'electron friends.' I'm thinking, like all extensions of human consciousness, that it's a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because it says that what is most human about us really can survive incredibly drastic dilution and, for once, devoid of sexual complications. I can fret about Penny without being unfaithful to my wife. I can care about Eduardo's personal losses even though we could pass one another in a crowd without even the faintest chance of recognition. His electrons are all I need to connect with his experience, his values, his vicissitudes of joy and pain. Bad because the web is so fragile. When it breaks it's like the severing of a spider's spinneret. If Penny isn't here she could be ill, lost, in need, and I would never know it, even though she's become part of my emotional life. No one would even know to contact me if she were in crisis, and not only is there nothing I could do, there's nothing I would ever know needed to be done, and nobody would know to tell me after the fact. I could never prove in a court of law that I actually know Brizoni. Although IP and I both regard him very much like a son.

Is there a point to all this? I don't know. How do you feel about it? I think I'm simply declaring that something new has been added to the human experience, and I'm inclined to take it more seriously than I would have if somebody had posed it to me as a philosophical riddle a few years back. I think that's why I've been moved to share, in this forum, more personal experience than I would ever have contemplated a few years ago. That's why I write about and solicit your input on intimate preferences like movies, music, places, and reminiscences. I want to reinforce that electron stream, buttress it with something like authentic memories and tastes. I don't want to dread what the Comments section says today. I don't want to discover losses by prolonged absences. I thought, years ago when I began this odd experiment, that I was writing in a new forum. Now I find that I'm living in a new forum. Sometimes it's great. Far better than having my work published on paper between covers with no reader response except sales. But sometimes it hurts. Because I've been careless, thoughtless, blundering, or too full of myself.

I wouldn't trade the experience. To my mind, InstaPundit has lost almost the entirety of the blogging experience because he allows no commenters. Hotair regards commenters as a rabble to be roused or appeased in conjunction with some algorithm about traffic. Me, I feel like Spiderman. All my webs are direct touches. Trolls don't come here. I AND you have scared them away. But what is it we have here? An illusion or a new form of intensely human connection? That's what I'm pondering.

Just thought I'd share. Bottom line: you've become part of my life. For good or ill.

P.S. Please don't preach Facebook at me as some kind of solution. Or I'll be forced to do an even more obnoxious post.

I'd Like to See Her Try...

I suppose every drab cow thinks she can be a prize filly.

TABLOID FUN. Here's a gem:

Kathy Griffin is not known for holding back her feelings --and when it comes to Sarah Palin she’s expressing herself even more vociferously. And this time she has pseudo-family member Levi Johnston as a comedic foil.

The red-haired comic recently took her standup show to Anchorage, Alaska, where she had Levi escort her on stage. As reported, Johnston, 19, also got to shoot an episode of Kathy’s reality show, My Life on the D List.

And while Kathy took plenty of shots at the Alaska governor on her stage show, she really let her have it while shooting ‘D List’ with Bristol Palin’s baby daddy.

“We shot a scene where I show her [Kathy] Levi’s Playgirl magazine and she reacts to it,” a Playgirl rep, who came along for the trip, told exclusively. “Then we went to a gay bar called Mad Myrnas. I asked Kathy what star she’d like to see take a ‘celebrity spill’ and she said ‘I’d like to push Sarah Palin down the stairs.’”

Here's my bet. Anyone want to take it? On who would be thudding their big dim-bulb ass down the stairs...? Got it?

Any doubts? Why is this hottie smiling? She just heard Griffin's moo.

Come o-o-o-o-o-n, dumbshit, lardass, thunder-thighed, flat-chested wannabe celebrity fag moll suckbutt. I dare ya. She'll punt you into the middle of next week's Hollywood Castro rally. Guaranteed.

Or, to put it more tersely:



Who's going to take a bite out of who? (Stay on the line for my bookie's number...)


Monday, March 08, 2010

Conspiracies, Apocalypses,
Monomaniacs & Werewolves

The stele of the hero who slew the Beast of Gevaudan.
Hero until MonsterQuest got done with him. Scientists.

MONSTERS. Another high risk post. A bunch of seemingly disparate stuff bouncing around inside my head. Any chance of pulling it together into an enlightening discussion? The odds aren't good. But let me give it a try. Because I'm trying to find my way to some matters that are important and relevant to all of us. Just bear with me as long as you can. I'm planning a big (really big) payoff.

Let's do it.

After an incredibly busy Saturday, the old bones just wanted to veg out on Sunday, but television proved a challenging medium yesterday for someone who was tired (!) of the endless rehashing of healthcare headcounts and desperate to avoid the flurry of Oscar-related hype and pile-on programming. (Who wants to see the movie The Oscar? Ever. Ultimate spoiler? Sinatra wins.) Dodging the morning network interview programs, I stumbled on a two-hour documentary called "The Real Werewolf." Here's the thumbnail description:

MonsterQuest recently aired a two-hour episode investigating the killing of over 100 peasants by a werewolf-like creature in southern France during the mid-1700’s. As the slayings occurred over 240 years ago, extensive speculation and reconstruction was [sic] involved as provided by a cryptozoologist and a criminal investigator.

The Beast of Gevaudan slaughtered primarily women and children in an often gruesome fashion, at times decapitating the victims, eviscerating them, or consuming limbs. The killings began in 1764, and continued for about three years, drawing the attention of Louis XV whose expert hunters dispatched a large wolf but failed to halt the peasant slayings.

That task was accomplished by one Jean Chastel, who used (–what else?) a silver bullet to kill the beast. Speculation by the MonsterQuest investigators and others has been that the true “werewolf” was in fact a striped hyena, which may have actually been trained to accomplish his mayhem by Chastel himself!

The show is responsible for my title, because the investigation touched on all these sensational phenomena. There was a local French monomaniac who had devoted his entire life to amassing an impressively large library containing every scrap of evidence about the Beast of Gevaudan. The investigators were both borderline monomaniacs -- a cryptozoologist who couldn't look at the evidence without seeing echoes of the chupacabra (of whose existence he had video proof) and a criminal profiler who couldn't look at the evidence without seeing an 18th century Jeffrey Dahmer-esque serial killer. Flummoxed by evidence neither perspective could entirely explain away, they flirted with a conspiracy theory involving the Catholic Church's supposed attempt to intimidate French protestants by fabricating an apocalyptic vision of divine punishment for anti-Catholic heresy. And ultimately they settled on a theory in which a monomaniacal psychopath trained an exotic foreign beast to kill on command so that he could become the hero of the legend he created and redeem himself from protestant ostracism.

The whole process of arriving at this utterly unprovable conclusion is presented to us as a triumph of reason and science. There's no question that real science was involved. The ballistics testing of the properties of silver bullets fired from rifles was fascinating (far less accurate and lethal than lead bullets) (though there was no attempt whatsoever to reconcile their arguments about rifled barrels with 18th century muskets and their whopping musket balls... just saying). The long postponed smoking gun of a documented taxidermy exhibit at the Paris Museum of Natural History, titled the 'Beast of Gevaudan' and labeled a 'hyena,' was compelling. The self-satisfied and libellous indictment of a man 200+ years dead as a happy compromise of the two investigators, however, was less so. Both investigators were perfectly willing to discount contemporary eyewitness accounts that didn't agree with their assumptions, but they stuck slavishly to the one-shot-at-20-meters-with-a-silver-bullet version of the beast's slaying memorialized in popular legend. One wonders if either gentleman had ever read "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" and its hilarious sendup of heroic exaggerations. Or, for that matter, fishermen's tall tales about how they single-handedly subdued the Giant Marlin on the wall. Plus, it's hard to escape the impression that they didn't so much abandon the theory of a formal Catholic conspiracy as let it drop in order to avoid unnecessary controversy. As they strolled into the credits like a latter day Bogart and Claude Rains, it was still possible to believe they suspected their man-beast "werewolf" was a cunning invention of the secularist's Transylvania, namely, the root of all evil known as the Vatican.

Okay. I've said more about this case than I meant to. My apologies. But then there was the Oscar coverage no one can completely avoid. And a very long and interesting article this morning about Global Warming. What if all these things are related? Or what if I can relate them? Wouldn't that be grand? You know it would.

First, what may be a red herring. By the time I learned about the Beast of Gevaudan, I had already partially failed in my attempt to avoid the Oscars. On Fox & Friends, I had the misfortune of hearing Lauren Green's exegesis on the importance of faith in many of the Oscar-nominated movies this year.

Guess her picture didn't have to be so big. But she's a doll.

Predictably, she praised Blindside. And Up. Christian and/or life-affirming and so forth. Then she was asked about Avatar and asserted [paraphrasing here] a Christian allegory of physical resurrection -- by the maimed hero -- in a symbolic 'Garden of Eden' setting that I have heard described as such nowhere else. Which reminded me that Fox News in general has resisted any acknowledgment of the conservative opposition to Avatar that has been so thoroughly documented at Big Hollywood. Steve Doocy expressed great affection for the movie when he saw it, despite his otherwise habitual rightwing biases. Born-again Minnesota Republican Gretchen Carlson keeps repeating she hasn't seen it without specifying why. The dyslexic Brian Kilmeade... well, who cares? So: this supposedly rightwing cable news network acts as if there hasn't been a huge reaction against the film on the grounds that it if it's an allegory, it's an allegory of the Iraq War, anti-military, anti-Marines, and an anti-American twist on the experience of 9/11. And that it's also decidedly anti-Christian in the sense that it expresses a pantheistic and expressly pagan view of existence which holds that divinity resides in Nature rather than any transcendant relationship between God and Man. But devout Catholic, troop-loving Doocy claims he loved the movie and Lauren Green seems determined to whitewash it for evangelistic fundamentalist Christians like herself. Interesting. I was wondering, is there some transcendant but clandestine relationship between News Corp (the parent company of Fox News) and the financial success of James Cameron's Avatar? Is this the hint of some conspiracy we might all want to know about? The Nav'i all do have tails, but no one's talking werewolves. Yet. Stay tuned

Now for Global Warming. It's our bridge to the big (really big) payoff. This morning, The Weekly Standard has the best summary yet written of the meltdown underway in AGW science. The author is Stephen Hayward. Love the cover art.

Needless to say, RTWT (er, Read the Whole Thing). Print it out. Keep it and distribute hard copies to the deranged lefty acquaintances whom you still care to associate with for whatever reason. (Also needless to say. Don't understand the desire to maintain friendships with lunatics of this sort, but that would be your business.)

Anyhow. There were two passages in the article that I found hyper-relevant. The first describes the process called the "issue attention cycle" laid out by a political scientist named Anthony Downs about 40 years ago:

A group of experts and interest groups begin promoting a problem or crisis, which is soon followed by the alarmed discovery of the problem by the news media and broader political class. This second stage typically includes a large amount of euphoric enthusiasm—you might call this the dopamine stage—as activists conceive the issue in terms of global salvation and redemption. One of the largest debilities of the climate campaign from the beginning was their having conceived the issue not as a practical problem, like traditional air pollution, but as an expression, in Gore’s view, of deeper spiritual and even metaphysical problems arising from our “dysfunctional civilization.” Gore is still thinking about the issue in these terms, grasping for another dopamine rush. In his February 28 New York Times article, he claimed that an international climate treaty would be “an instrument of human redemption.”

The third stage is the hinge. As Downs explains, there comes “a gradually spreading realization that the cost of ‘solving’ the problem is very high indeed.” This is where we have been since the Kyoto process proposed completely implausible near-term reductions in fossil fuel energy—a fanatical monomania the climate campaign has been unable to shake...

“The previous stage,” Downs continued, “becomes almost imperceptibly transformed into the fourth stage: a gradual decline in the intensity of public interest in the problem.” Despite the relentless media drumbeat, Gore’s Academy Award and Nobel Prize twofer, and millions of dollars in paid advertising, public concern for climate change has been steadily waning for several years... I

“In the final [post-problem] stage,” Downs concluded, “an issue that has been replaced at the center of public concern moves into a prolonged limbo—a twilight realm of lesser attention or spasmodic recurrences of interest.” The death rattle of the climate campaign will be deafening. It has too much political momentum and fanatical devotion to go quietly.

And this:

The lingering question is whether the collapse of the climate campaign is also a sign of a broader collapse in public enthusiasm for environmentalism in general. Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, two of the more thoughtful and independent-minded figures in the environmental movement, have been warning their green friends that the public has reached the point of “apocalypse fatigue.” They’ve been met with denunciations from the climate campaign enforcers for their heresy. The climate campaign has no idea that it is on the cusp of becoming as ludicrous and forlorn as the World -Esperanto Association.

Here we have mentions of monomania and apocalypse. And perhaps the best possible demonstration of what a large-scale conspiracy looks like (clearer by far when you read the whole essay). It's not exactly secret, it's just parochial (i.e., confined and institutionalized with allied communities), elitist, and willingly devious. It doesn't rely as much on subterfuge as it does on a facade of invincible scorn for those it is determined to mislead and manipulate. It is also morally and intellectually dishonest, in that it is willing to use the perception of its its own disinteredness for spectacularly selfish objectives. The major corrupting influences are the desire for power and the arrogance which justifies that desire. It's all for our own good. Except for the ones who are in it for the money. Who know that the only good they're interested in is their own. Instructive that people of such diverse motives can work together so effectively without destructive discord. But not surprising. The desire for money and the desire for power are not exactly strange bedfellows. They're just the yin and the yang of the most dangerous human corruptions.

Almost there. Almost to the big enchilada. As I read the Hayward piece, I thought of the best piece Ed Morrissey has ever done at Hotair -- which was about the utter failure of the American media to pursue the collapse of AGW science -- and I also thought of a phenomenon I had noted without understanding at the best science aggregator site I've found as a resource for InstaPunk,

This is where the werewolves leap back into the picture. Graham Hancock's site has been one of my favorites for years because it provided links to science stories in every field without editorial or predisposing comment. Physics, cosmology, archaeology, anthropology, paleontology, genetics, biology, biochemistry, computer science, linguistics, anomalies, UFOs, psychology, consciousness, religion, and, yes, climate science. No hypothesis articulately stated and defended was too extreme to reference. There's also a separate Forum section devoted to alternative science theories that range from the seriously academic to the mystical and outlandish. (Not that there were no politics. Pyramidologist John Anthony West is the ultimate lefty moron.) At the site as a whole and particularly in the science section, I thought I saw an understanding that monomania was not bad per se, that one could respect learned and determined devotees of virtually any discipline, as long as they made arguments that could be checked, verified, and evaluated on their own terms. I never saw there an advocate for werewolves, but I did see people brave enough to argue scientifically for the existence of Bigfoot, which I am not laughing at btw, although I realize some of you out there will.

But I have noticed that this seemingly all-encompassing aggregator site has not been following the AGW meltdown any better than the American media. I continued to see citations of articles talking about symptoms and consequences of Global Warming even while the AGW establishment was dissolving into a chaos of fury and denial. Is that odd or what?

I'll answer the question for you. It's odd. And it's not. What the AGW advocates don't want anyone to know is that their base (like Obama's extreme left wing core) is not rational at all. It's not scientific at all. It's an alliance of New Age tribes who pick their science the same way they pick their belief systems, based on a worldview that is every bit as irrational as the 'ignoramuses' they look down on. There's no criticism of the AGW belief system because it's one they all -- Wiccans, pyramidologists, Druids, UFOists, psychics, multiverse channellers, and Graham Hancock himself -- all subscribe to. An archaic, pre-Christian, pagan, uh, post-modern view that man is a doomed mistake of some kind requiring an external intervention -- by them or some other brilliant agent -- to prevent his inevitable self-destruction.

They're every bit as hostile to arguments against evolution as they are to skeptics of anthropogenic global warming. Their postulate, the one that binds them all in Mordor, where the shadows lie, is the original sin of man that makes him a blight upon the earth unless he's willing to accept the range, impact, and lifespan of a deer. (Well, we're willing to forgive them cave art, pottery, and weaving, but not reins or arrowheads or scalping unless they're Hopi Indians who assure us they have all the answers and some good psychotropic drugs as well.) What nobody anywhere wants to recognize or accept is that Richard Dawkins is the leading contemporary exponent of original sin. The only twist science and its irrational bastard followers have added in their New Age wisdom is the impossibility of salvation.

But they know better. Because they are better. With their crystals and rituals and covens and vibrations and the other crutches that prop up their scientific certitude about Dawkins and AGW. Why are so many of the alternative science "rebels" so leftwing? The source of their unyielding ivory tower oppression is adamantly, unabashedly leftwing. It's pitiful -- the frenzied duel to the death between Stalinists and Trotskyites.They both know better than everyone else and someone's going to get an icepick in his ear. But at least it won't be at the hands of a Christian prole.

SIGH OF RELIEF. We're here now. To the payoff. Which brings me to the Oscars. All those Marxist egalitarians in their mega-dollar getups. Mrs. CP wanted to see some Red Carpet stuff. She's still pining for Joan Rivers, who knew how to puncture superficiality -- with even greater superficiality. (Oscar Wilde would have loved the Rivers woman.) I saw Matt Damon in his perfect tuxedo. I wondered, Who does he think pays for that tuxedo? While he gets ready to promote the virulently anti-American "Green Zone" and his History Channel subversion project called "The People Speak"? Not the first time I've hated Harvard. (Or the first time I've been cross at the Stones.) The Intertubes had also been full of Tom Hanks, sire of Band of Brothers and the Pacific. Why was he suddenly such a lefty? As I remembered my own WWII father's dying declaration that government paternalism had made a mockery of what he fought for?

I read what the self-proclaimed "most cynical" Hollywood blogger had to say about the Oscar telecast. Nikki Finke hated all the old white men, yearned for last year's "Gay" telecast. Which was just one more thudding bore in the long decline of this annual joke. (Sorry, Nikki. You're a bigger bore than the all old white men put together. Nothing more boring than fag molls.) But she said one thing that struck a note:

Wait a minute, it's still going on? Yet another example of how Hollywood insiders are treated more special than anyone else in showbiz who died in 2009. (You don't think this had to do with the fact that Hughes made a lot of his films for Fox, whose execs dominate everything associated with this Academy Awards? Academy president Tom Sherak (at one time a bigtime Fox movie exec), Oscars producers Bill Mechanic (at one time a bigtime Fox movie exec) and Adam Shankman (currently a bigtime Fox Broadcast talent), and Academy Board Of Governors member Jim Gianopulos (currently a bigtime Fox movie exec?)

So 90 minutes have gone by. Can I get those hours of my life back, please?...

Wait, I forgot Best Cinematography.

Achievement In Cinematography

“Avatar” (20th Century Fox) Mauro Fiore

Demi Moore, the living commercial for full body plastic surgery, comes out. Am I the only one who finds it hysterical that she's introducing the "In Memoriam" section of the Oscars marking the 2009 passing of showbiz insiders? Because they're gone, but parts of Demi will live on forever. [boldface added]

[I left in the part about Demi Moore because she seems to have purchased a new mouth along with everything else. Sad. Awful, really. Especially the new mouth. Who would do that to her? Can anyone blame me for thinking about conspiracy theories? Or werewolves? Is Benicio del Toro the next Oscar winner now that it's established werewolves are in the process of replacing vampires (too remindful of menstruation and manipulative male controlishness) as the new sex symbols in movies? (WWs are so out of control and excitingly violent, though pitiful, like, well, all heterosexual men.) Yeah. We agree with Nikki. Bring back the gays. What America wants. The Real America, inside Hollywood, South Beach, and SoHo.]

Which got me to thinking about conspiracies. Global Warming is actually the best example we have of a truly huge successful conspiracy. It's a shame all the intellectuals who worked so hard on the 9/11 conspiracy, and the New World Order, the Illuminati, the Bilderberger Group, the Tri-Lateral Commission, and the Council on Foreign Relations, etc, didn't have this kind of prototype to reverse-engineer. Because I think I've figured out the real conspiracy, the one that's been at work the longest and has done the most to achieve a world many Americans wouldn't want to live in.

Yes, I have a brand new conspiracy to warn you about: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Think about it. (More than that: I want a website, videos, hysterical manifestoes and eyewitness reports. You know. CONSPIRACY shit.) They've been around for 82 years. They control one hell of a lot of money. A lot of which they pump into politics. They pretend to be something other than what they are -- I mean, they act like they don't care about politics. Right. Except for all the actors and directors they give awards to. And now think about this -- every time an actor or director gets rich and praised and powerful enough to be even considered for an Oscar, what happens? No matter where they're from or how humble and unlikely their origins, the actors suddenly start becoming leftwing, anti-American loons -- Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand, Susan Sarandon, Jody Foster, James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn, Tom Cruise, Woody Harrelson, Tim Robinson, Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Sharon Stone, Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Hudson, and Meryl Streep. And many many more.

Some of them went to Harvard (Matt Damon, for a while), but most of them didn't. The majority of them who aren't Yalies are high school dropouts. When did they get so smart about politics all of a sudden? They didn't. What they got was absorbed into the world's largest and most influential conspiracy of all time, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Which, by virtue of its power to contribute to political campaigns and show up smiling on enemy daises around the world, is able to influence everything that happens in the world. To the detriment of America. While we all pay them to do it.

Summing up. We have people who would ordinarily be humble high school graduates. Something turns them into revening beasts leaping at our throats on behalf of some dark destructive energy. Werewolves. Many of them are mildly talented until the Manchurian button is pushed by some faceless power in the Academy and they transform into one-dimensional ideologues obsessed seemingly with destroying their own careers. Monomaniacs. And they spend the rest of their time in service to an organization that has utterly preempted all the excellent work of the Bilderberger Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Tri-Lateral Commission to prevent the barbarians of the world from destroying us. Conspiracy.

Which brings us back again, for a final time, to werewolves. Do you think there's only one way for you to get your throat torn out during a full moon? Look at your own cable listings. The Green Channel. (Ed Begley, Jr, needs to be put down. I'm just saying.) All the apocalyptic overkill on the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, the Learning Channel, History International, the Science Channel, and, well, it goes on. The shows about hypothetical Megadisasters (earthquake, tsunami, and hurricane) in every major city and region, the fusillade of shows about killer asteroids and comets, the endless if outdated crank crap about Nostradamus and 2012, the endless permutations about what variation of climate change killed the dinosaurs, the mammoths and the Mayans, and the appalling glut of completely obsolete crap about what global warming is doing to polar bears, arctic glaciers, antarctic icebergs, the Himalayas, and will do to Miami Beach. The downright masochistic exercises in species self-hatred about what will happen to the works of man after we become extinct. And, now that global warming is under attack, what will happen when we run out of oil next year.


Don't care if you can get Alec Baldwin to narrate your newest apocalyptic "science" series. I know the Academy thinks it knows what it's doing. But "apocalypse fatigue" is here. NEWS FLASH: The overwheling majority of human beings don't think it's curative, enlightening, or entertaining to encounter your barely suppressed delight about how much better off Wisconsin will be without cheeseheads in residence.



For sure.

One last turn around the title nouns. The conspiracies are all yours, and they're all designed to kill us. The apocalypses are all imagined to excite those of you who hate yourselves and us by projection. The monomaniacs would be you -- the narcissists whose divorcement from reality is so complete you don't think of yourselves when you wish for the annihilation of evil mankind. And the werewolves would be -- uh -- YOU. The ravening animals who delight in preying on your kind because you fancy yourselves something superior: once a year in civilized black tie and for the other 364 days amoral animals who rut and fuck and act out in ways you know your own parents would never have approved of. Because you're too good looking to be held to account.

Got news for you. The world is never going to be conquered by good looking people. There are too many of the rest of us. And a lot of us are smarter than you are. Which means, when the shit hits the fan, you'll be looking for protection from those of us who know how to do all the things you never had to learn.

Who's the werewolf? The thing that can't control its urges and acts on base instinct? Think about it.

How did I do? Did it cohere somehow amazingly at the end?

P.S. Forget all my MonsterQuest opinions. Because there's this from Lloyd: "A reminder that the Starchild and I will be included in a new episode of "MonsterQuest" on the History Channel next Wednesday, March 10, at 9:00 pm eastern time." Watch. That's where I'll be.

UPDATE. The always reliable Lake offered this as a dessert topping:

As always, it was the right sweet note.

Better to burn out
than [something]...

Eduardo wanted me to do a Kurt Cobain Wheaties pic here.
Couldn't find it. I resisted the temptation to insert a Cobain
suicide pic instead. Which is available. But... I'm not like that.

MY GENERATION. Greetings, Instapunk readers. Eduardo here, but sadly not to discuss comic books this time. CP has been waxing nostalgic about the Beatles, Stones and the '60s, but what about those of us who didn't live through the '60s? Beatles fans may disagree, but music didn't actually die with John Lennon. It evolved, just as the Beatles were themselves an evolution of what came before. Granted, there was a decade known as the 1980's that spawned truly abominable, unclassifiable things like this. It wasn't all bad, but it was mostly bad, so we won't go there. That being said, what did we gen-Xers grow up with? Who were our musical icons? What songs were constantly on our radios and casettes/CDs?

Why, I'm glad you asked! Allow me to present to you, in a somewhat particular order, the top 10 definitive gen-X albums. These are not my personal favorites (in fact I originally hated several of these bands for years), but more my chance to wax nostalgic about what I heard and who defined music while I was growing up. If you're close to my age, then you know all of these, and even if you don't like some of these bands, I guarantee you own at least one song from every album on this list.

[NOTE: I did some peer review with my list (and not in a CRU East Anglia way) and one very good point that was made to me was that I should include either Doggystyle by Snoop Dogg or The Chronic by Dr. Dre. I probably should, because gangsta rap did take off due in large part to gen-Xers buying it. However, I hate rap. Always have. And I guess that's pretty much the only reason I'm leaving rap off the list. To quote Seinfeld, it's not you; it's me.]

10. Guns N' Roses: Appetite for Destruction

Did I say we were going to stay away from the '80s? Well in presidential style, I apologize for anyone that may have been misled by that promise to think that we were actually going to stay away from the '80s. But I'm writing this so I can do whatever I want.

So I was not even 10 years old yet when this album came out. Why is it here? First of all, Guns N' Roses were the bridge between '80s metal bands and the '90s grunge stuff. They were the last hurrah of the frizzy hair and the hot pants. I should probably put Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 here since they came out in '91, but I have to list Appetite for Destruction because whenever I think of GNR, I think of this song:

Also featured on this album: Welcome to the Jungle and Paradise City. Now I used to hate GNR (not anymore, but still wouldn't call myself a true fan), but Sweet Child O' Mine has grown on me over the years to the point that I will say I genuinely like it. I bet you do, too. Btw: we brushed on how there have been many sub-par Beatles covers, but if anyone wants to see a textbook example of how not to do a cover, check this out *hurl*.

9. Metallica: Black Album

I consider this Metallica's best overall album. A bunch of cool songs on here: Sad But True, Holier Than Thou, Unforgiven, Wherever I May Roam, Through the Never...all good things and all a little bit different than Metallica's '80s stuff. They are one of the few '80s metal bands that managed to survive into the '90s, but after this album they cut off their hair and apparently their testicles with it. Before that, though, they managed to crank out this classic which I know is on your Ipod (if you're 35 and under):

Sadly, they went from that to covering Whiskey in the Jar and other generally boring things. Maybe Metallica shouldn't be listed separately from GNR since they are both holdovers from the '80s, but I think both bands spawned an interest in rock in the early '90s kiddies and influenced the younger groups that came to fame in the '90s, so they have to both be mentioned.

8. Oasis: (What's the Story) Morning Glory?

"WTF is this doing here?" you may ask. In answer, I reply, "STFU." Sure, I used to hate Oasis like a lot of other people did and still do. But you know what? Somewhere along the line they became my favorite band. Is this unconscionable for someone who just talked about his dislike for the Beatles since Oasis is, essentially, a knock-off of the Beatles? Maybe, but I've got an answer for that: whatever. What was it Woody Allen said? Ah yes: the heart wants what it wants. So it is with Oasis and me. I like their songs, they don't take themselves seriously, and I am endlessly entertained by the antics of Liam & Noel Gallagher (God love you if you make out even half of what they're saying in that clip). Sure, they're nouveau riche, Brit Euro Trash, but they've never billed themselves as anything but. I mean, who else does concerts in windbreakers? Here's a perfect example of what I mean (0:50 in):

Liam starts whining about something, disrupts the song, starts pouting, then sits down and starts smoking what appears to be a marijuana cigarette. Notice how nobody really gives a shit and the song arguably improves, though Noel was sorta phoning it in. I think it's all hilarious, but then again I've never paid to see them in concert. Of course, with their track record of canceling shows and Liam throwing live tantrums, I'm not sure who would.

For those that don't know, Liam had a band that was going nowhere until his brother, Noel, joined up and wrote all the music. The extent of Liam's talents is an edgy singing voice since he does not write music nor play any instruments aside from the tambourine, while Noel can do everything including sing in a range outside of what Liam can do, which is why Noel takes over in parts of several songs. Liam was probably a douche to begin with, but deep down he no doubt developed a deep inferiority complex that sparked the many fights he's had with his brother over the years, including their recent breakup, which is the second or third one they've had.

The most fun this sibling rivalry produced was when Oasis was doing an MTV Unplugged show. Allegedly it was 10 minutes or so until the curtain went up and nobody knew where Liam was. Then he finally stumbled in, drunk as a skunk and incapable of performing. Noel told him to fuck off and did all the vocals himself while Liam heckled him from a balcony in front of the audience and the cameras. The show never aired on MTV.

But enough about their history. This album was the one that launched them to worldwide stardom, and also the one whose success they were never able to match. It was all over the radio, and I don't care what anybody says, there are plenty of guilty pleasure songs here, especially Wonderwall and Don't Look Back in Anger. Am I wrong? Go out and do DLBIA at karaoke sometime. Everybody will be singing along with the chorus, and I mean every-damn-body. Some might be doing it against their will, they might not feel good about it afterward, but they'll still be doing it. And, of course, this album contains their opus (embedding is disabled on this one).

7. Green Day: Dookie

Before Green Day decided to define themselves as America-hating, anti-Bush zealots, they were some sort of silly, imitation punk band with some catchy songs. Everybody in school liked them except for the hard core Nirvana fans. The radio loved them. People went to their concerts, had a blast and came back with a t-shirt. You'd catch yourself humming their songs to yourself while driving or walking around. Then, suddenly, everybody hated them. I'm not sure why, but they were just uncool. Then later they became cool again, though I'm not sure when that was. Probably when they started really hating America and Bush. At any rate, I think half the damn songs on Dookie were played incessantly on the radio, which come to think of it might be a big part of the reason why everybody started hating them. I'm willing to bet this song (embedding disabled) was played the most often.

6. Smashing Pumpkins: Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness

Perhaps nothing epitomizes whiny, angsty gen-Xers like the Smashing Pumpkins. They were my favorite band for years until they became too crappy for me to bear anymore and they also decided to try and latch onto the "hate Bush" atmosphere to sell records (it, uh, didn't work). Most people will tell you their album Siamese Dream was their best, and those people would be right, because it is. However, Mellon Collie was their big one that made everyone notice them.

It's a double album, lots of songs. I'd bet most people have never listened to many of them, but I've listened to every single one many times over.  I first bought this album on casette tape for use in my Sony Walkman. At the time I had a job painting a fence; a really, really long fence. This album is what I listened to, over & over again, to pass the time.

What I liked most about it was the diversity of songs the Pumpkins were able to pull off. This album swings from heavy, angry stuff like Tales of a Scorched Earth to the mellow & bouncy slacker ballad 1979 and everything in-between.  There are a lot of good songs on here, several of which got lost in the shuffle, but this (embedding disabled) was the album's massive hit. In fact, that video is a pretty good illustration of why I got tired of the Pumpkins and now favor Oasis. What happened in the daily life of a middle class white kid that would make them so angry at the world? Their parents got them a silver car instead of a red car for their 16th birthday? Please. Give me windbreakers any day over the nutty silver pants and Zero shirt Billy Corgan wore for like a year straight after this album came out. So artsy it hurts.

5. Dave Matthews Band: Crash

Okay, if I was being totally objective about this list, here is where I put the rap stuff, and I would have chose one album between GNR & Metallica and put DMB at number 9. Dave Matthews Band is another group that I initially hated, then came to grudgingly accept as not that bad years later, although their more recent stuff is terrible. They were sort of the "musician's" group of the '90s, and by that I mean either musicians liked them because they did more jazzy-type stuff or people felt more musician-esque by proclaiming their love for Dave Matthews; or because they smoked a lot of weed and would get high and listen to DMB. They were a force for a while, though, until people figured out that all their stuff sounded kinda the same and it got boring after a while (as well as the fact that Dave Matthews can't actually sing). Did I mention they haven't had a decent song in about 15 years? Here's the one you couldn't get away from, no matter how hard you tried:

4. Alice In Chains: Dirt

And now we get to the core of the gen-X library: the Seattle grunge. For the record, Alice In Chains was always my favorite of the grunge bands. They had an interesting dual-vocal dynamic between Lane Staley and Jerry Cantrell. Other than that, what sets them apart in my mind is that after Dirt they suddenly mellowed out a great deal for their next two EPs, Jar of Flies and Sap. Their self-titled album returned to the darker, harder stuff, and then their unplugged album swung back to mellow. I prefer all of their albums after Dirt, but this album is the one full of the pure grunge hits, as well as one of their all-time classics (even though I prefer the unplugged version) written by Cantrell about his dad, a Vietnam vet:

3. Red Hot Chili Peppers: Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik

I like the Chili Peppers, but I never liked this particular album as much as everyone else. Part of the reason is because many of my Chili Peppers acquisitions have been a-la-carte. I will hear a song, like it, then get it er - legally from a store or something. Yeah. They have a unique sound and are from L.A. instead of Seattle, as a friend reminded me, so they bring something a little different to the table. Politically they are douche bags, and every so often that spills into their music. I also have no idea what the fuck lead singer Anthony Kiedis is talking about in his lyrics 90% of the time (and he probably doesn't, either) but I get sucked in by the bass lines and the funky rhythms. This album was out there around the same time as Metallica's black album and if they were handing out Olympic medals for grunge pioneers, the Chili Peppers would be on the podium. What is arguably their most famous song is below. It's about heroin or something:

2. Pearl Jam: Ten

One of my brothers insists that pearl jam is a euphemism for semen. Not sure if that's true, nor if the band named themselves after male ejaculate, but since I never cared for Pearl Jam enough to consider myself an actual fan I never felt obligated to find out the truth. I liked them well enough through Vitalogy and after that they became absolutely dreadful. This album, though, was huge with a lot of people. Its biggest hit is also what I consider the definitive Pearl Jam song. It's good, but you can't understand a damn thing lead singer Eddie Vedder is saying, and come to think of it Vedder is probably the most incoherent vocalist of the '90s. When your parents asked how could you possibly like the music when you couldn't even understand the lyrics, they had probably just overheard you listening to this song:

1. Nirvana: Unplugged

I know what you're thinking, and you're right; Nevermind is supposed to be here and Smells Like Teen Spirit should be the lead song. But come on, how predictable and boring would that be? Even so, you're asking how it could possibly make sense to put Nirvana's last album on the list when I don't have any of the rest of them. Well, hear me out.

First off, Nirvana has to be the number one gen-X group. I insinuated that the Smashing Pumpkins are the epitome of all the worst things about gen-X, but really that's not true. Kurt Kobain is. The more successful he was, the more unhappy and angry he became until he finally blew his fucking head off with a shotgun, leaving behind not only his legions of adoring fans but also his crack whore wife Courtney Love and their little baby. Kurt sent out the message loud and clear: top that, bitches! No one has.

I can't help but laugh when I think about that, because I didn't like Nirvana and was on the outside looking in at all those fans who had worshiped The Kobain. I think his suicide is a perfect example of where all this nihilistic big talk ends (if you watch nothing else, watch that link; seriously). He was a Pied Piper of sorts, leading his minions along who never once questioned where they were going, then one day BANG, they found out. Turns out Kurt was just as lost and clueless as anyone else, if not much more so. Who knew?

But anyway, I did end up coming around to like Nirvana some time after Kurt's suicide, even though I don't musically respect them (if that makes sense). The Unplugged album was the first one I got. Nirvana were the Beatles of my generation, and Kurt's death was similar to John Lennon's (though much messier). Kurt's death symbolized the passing of the grunge era into whatever it became, which was almost ska but then morphed into some kind of pop/rap/emo hybrid as well as outright gangsta rap. When there was a band called the Verve and another called the Verve Pipe who both had hits at the same time, I knew it was over. I mean, really? Come on, guys.

Back to this album, though. It's a really good album. It's very mellow and different for Nirvana and it was released right around Kurt's death, so it was almost like the wistful grunge farewell album. Several of the tracks are covers written by other people, including what is my favorite Nirvana song of all time (a David Bowie cover) [Man who sold the world]:

So there you have it. Feel free to criticize any of these bands except for Oasis. You're not allowed to do that. I'm very sensitive about them. No, I'm kidding, you can if you want. And before I go, let me leave you with one more atrocious cover. It's a doozie.

ED: Ya know... well, screw it. I've got some BIG time problems with this post, but I'll hold my fire until tomorrow at least.

Kicking Eduardo's Ass

Aren't they cute? Pretend to speak for a whole generation, and you
wind up associating with crumb-bums you don't want in your house.

REBUTTAL. The 90s were really the best, weren't they? All those growly, manly rockers, who knew that life was going absolutely nowhere what with no more eighties and all. Like every single band Eduardo nominated. Except he left out the growliest ones, all but Metallica, who always hated everything from Day One. God, they were smart. Let's see if we can help him out with more testosterone. Grrrrrrr. Oh, and btw, what do we need? Even more growliness. And more opaque lyrics. How about Bush? (Gotta warn you -- here in IP land, you gotta have at least two songs to qualify for -- what'd he call it? -- best album.) Always a mistake to go beyond what you personally respond to and think you're representing some populace. Nobody's more arrogant than IP but even we wouldn't lay ourselves open to that kind of attack...

But Eduardo did. Which is why he gets Bush. Personally, child of the sixties that I am, I love'em. Have no idea what they're talking about. At all. Cool.

I know. Not growly enough. Or maybe not depressing enough. How about somebody simultaneously darker (growlier) and lighter (hopefullier)? Well, not that much hopefullier. We didn't have Obama in the awful Nineties. But we had Creed.

Sorry. I keep forgetting that the youngsters are so much more sophisticated about their rock and roll music than we were. They didn't require it be absolutely deadly depressing and enervated and growly as long as it could be esoterically masochistic and whiny Which is why they've always loved Radiohead. Oxbridge boys who make both the Beatles and Stones look as corporate as Michael Douglas. That's a ticket to ride, eh?

Didn't mean that the way it sounded. Nineties kids were also free of any and all of the evil capitalistic prejudices the rest of us oldsters might have had. They were the first middle class "share the wealth" kids who also grooved to rap:

But then the nineties started to bleed away all the obsolete passions, didn't they? I'm old, I'm out of touch, I don't have the slightest f___ing idea what Metallica is doing, but I can understand Moby:

And then, astonishingly, the nineties ended. What to do? How about keep up? For example, there was Eminem:

But if you were tired of the sentimentalism of Eminem and Coolio, or the exhausted nonentity of grunge rock, you could throw all caution to the winds and and try to live up to the old guys (uh, like the ones Dave Matthews duetted "Wild Horses" with on the Babylon Tour) and their apparently inexhaustible vitality:

Yeah, Eduardo. I know itt's hard. It's so much easier to, like, plight your troth to Gregorian heavy metal, the Metallica way. (Note that I haven't said a single nasty word about that band you can't stand hearing a nasty word about. I wouldn't do that/) Never mind that I liked Guns'n'Roses before you were born and always did enjoy the Red Hot Chili Peppers because unlike you, I've always loved vital music. Including rock and roll. Which isn't part of your necessary nineties set.

Sorry. Do I sound harsh? Not my intention. You wanted to play. But you're just kids. With every opportunity to grow up and learn what's good. In time.

Are we all smiling now? I thought so.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Counting Heads

SHAMED INTO RELEVANCE. Many thanks to Brizoni for updating our clueless readers about what's happening in Washington, DC. Following his example, I can't wait to share with you all the news today, which is -- with almost no exceptions -- about counting heads on the healthcare bill.

Excitement! Information! Nonsense aplenty! Let's dig in!

Here's inside info about the headcount in the House.

Here's more inside info about the headcount in the House.

Here's even more inside info about the headcount in the House.

And here's some inside inside info about the headcount in the House.

Golly gee. I bet Brizon is shitting himself for having missed such gihugic scoops.

If only the old men at InstaPunk had enough youthful vigor to repeat everybody else's repetitions.

I don't have to be honest. This is satire.

Stones Retrospective Postscript

I Win

RENEWED. I was feeling low. It was February. Always had a problem with February. Depression. You know. Or maybe you don't. For those of us who suffer from depression, it's real. No energy. No joie de vivre. To put it mildly.

So I started writing about the Stones. In an historical way, mind. I don't listen to them anymore. Because I'm grown up and grown old. I can be spotlessly objective about their cultural influence.

Which was just my darkest inner self calling out for a healing burst. Writing about the Stones meant listening to the Stones again. Which, it turns out, is what my soul needed.

I apologize if any of my rambling ruffled your feathers. But I'm feeling much better now. Curiously energized. Alert. Engaged. All that stuff.

Which is why I'll now play one of my least favorite Stones songs. It's in the category of too famous. But it's what you know and have come to expect, so here it is. Except for a couple of other cuts I need to play first. Like this one, which highlights Charlie Watts:

And this one, which gives us Keith in his full glory.

And Mick, of course, in all his horny glory:

Yeah. I still want Keith's silk zebra shirt. Penny? Somebody?

No end. Really. But, as I promised, I'll give you this, because it's also what they've done, once again, this time around:

Mission accomplished. I'm running hot. Again. Never ever ever gonna stop. If that's winning ugly, I'll take it.

P.S. Oh, For you Beatles fans, there's this:

Had it wit yoo.

Thank You, Peregrine John

RIPPLES. Eduardo has promised a GenX "Top Ten" post I'm waiting for. In the meantime, I'm giving props to another oldster with a legitimate affiliation: Peregrine John loves Led Zeppelin. And he is a musician -- a real one -- even if he doesn't trumpet that fact.

I'm gonna have to say, yeah, Pet Sounds did have a huge effect on the Beatles, and others. Not that I'm a big fan of what either the Beach Boys or the Beatles subsequently did. Like Michael X, I'm Meh on both, especially after they tried to get serious instead of remaining fun. I think the positive potential of Pet Sounds got turned into farce by a widespread (some say generational) case of self-importance, amplified and protected by a variety of illegal substances.

Weird thing is that I only obliquely ever paid attention to the Stones, though I've never not liked anything I've heard from them after their first album (which has been covered here already). CP's reductio(n) may be absurd(um), but it rings true. I should mention that the Stones also appeal to rocker girls, even closeted ones, who like their men strong, smart and scruffy.

How do people get so freakin' reverent about the Beatles? Not a clue. But I know any number of worshippers at that shrine. But what do I know? I'm the Zeppelin fan you were asking about.

I can get behind that. Which is why I'm taking this opportunity to say "Thank you." I love this song. a lot. As well as a bunch of other Led Zep music. Truly. Just not as much as, you know. Apologies, Mr. John.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

on CP's Email

A Beatles cover CP likes.

QUICK MARCH. So. CP got pissed. Why? Because he's never been a nice guy. I could have told you that. Mrs. CP is a saint to put up with him. But he's also fair sometimes. Which is why he gave me permission to reproduce part of an email exchange he had with Eduardo, who said:

I know you are disappointed by the Stones/Beatles bickering in the comments section, but I couldn't walk away without one last jab at Harkin.  That whole exchange is a perfect example of why I don't like the Beatles or their fans.  And it really doesn't have a whole lot to do with their music, as Harkin pointed out but doesn't quite understand.  Sorry to sully your comments with more shenanigans.

But anyway, just wanted to mention that at work I sit next to a gentleman originally from Philly who is in his early/mid fifties.  I asked him, out of the blue with no background on the question, who he would rather listen to for a music marathon driving in the car: the Beatles or the Stones.  He narrowed his eyes at me a bit in a "what are you, kidding?" sort of way and emphatically said, "The Stones!"  He went on to say some slightly derogatory things about the Beatles similar to what I've said, but his overall point was that the Stones are truly rock and roll while the Beatles aren't.  His best comment was when you hear a Stones song you turn it up, and you don't do that with a Beatles song.

And I had to ask my coworker this while my branch manager, who sits next to us, wasn't around, because he is a huge Beatles fan, whom he speaks of so reverently you'd think he was speaking about Jesus Christ.  He's a nice guy and everything, but if the topic of music is brought up around him it inevitably leads to him talking about how "all" music after the Beatles is just a pale imitation of them, etc blah blah yadda yadda.

PS - I... petition you... [for] an essay on your feelings for Beatles fans.

CP responded thus:

It's not your fault. Sometimes -- what with blizzards and seemingly endless computer woes -- I get grumpy.

I'm not really sure I have that much to add to a Beatles discussion. I'm not an expert on the nuts and bolts of music, but it is my understanding that the real skeleton in the Beatles' closet is the Beach Boys, whose sophisticated harmonies the Beatles copied in service of hippies rather than surfers. There's an album called "Pet Sounds," which got lost in the Sgt Pepper craze, that some folks think embodies everything the Beatles subsequently did. But I'm not the person to make that case.

I have no objection whatever if you want to expand your comments and anecdotes into a Beatles post. Mostly all I can offer is a few remarks that agree entirely with what you said and how you've characterized it.  My favorite Beatles recording is Twist and Shout, which wasn't their song but indicated the road not taken -- a hard rock Lennon-led band with some balls instead of wet panties. I also liked a couple of the songs Lennon did solo -- not the lyrics because he was the most imbecilic lyricist ever -- but a song like "Working Class Hero" had an edge that anticipated (dare I say it?) punk. But then Yoko put his balls in a jar and that was all she wrote.

Basically, my own reductio ad absurdem of the Beatles-Stones rivalry was that the Beatles were for girls and the Stones were for guys. My sister was in college the same time I was and I'll never forget the first time I visited her -- the dorm hall was filled with music hardly anyone played in my freshman dorm -- Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Laura Nyro, Donovan, and the Beatles. It wasn't long before I just HAD to get out of there.

The other point I'll note is that the Beatles were done in 1971. Completely. Much of the enduring Stones canon came after that. They continued to comment on the life I was leading, including my corporate life and my private defiance against my own generation, the determination to survive their slick nihilism. The Beatles became nostalgia for those who, unlike me, didn't hate the sixties or hadn't actually lived them. To me, they've sounded nothing but dated for the last 35 years. They seem to me not timeless but absolutely time-locked. That's why I feel animus for their legion of fans. Did I mention how much I hated the sixties? Why would anyone lionize such pap -- generally nonsensical lyrics, pop melodies that translate okay to elevator music, and a "taking ourselves way too seriously" ambiance that never once rose ABOVE their time but only reflected the utter self-absorption of a pretentious and contentless adolescent tantrum.

It's interesting -- and I can't explain why -- that there have been so few successful covers of either the Beatles or the Stones. Have you heard Britney Spears' cover of Satisfaction or, even worse, Rod Stewart's cover of Jumping Jack Flash? I honestly do like GNR's cover of Sympathy for the Devil. And there's one Beatles cover I think was genuinely superior to the original -- Sinatra covered "Something" (not the studio cut, which was better, but this is a fair facsimile) in a very late album of his called Trilogy. It was lovely.

You see? That's just about all I have to offer on the Beatles. Unless I were to dig a lot deeper, which seems like kind of a grim chore.

Again. Not your fault. You have nothing to apologize for. Sometimes I'm just in a bad mood. I'd be very interested in what you have to say. Your perspective is different from mine, but, I suspect, strangely complementary. And I'm thinking -- as I think about it -- what you have to say is almost certainly worth saying. Okay?

CP is as CP always was. Something of a visionary and something of a prick. As opposed to me. Who was always much more the latter than the former.

P.S. Did anyone else notice that the "Quick March" didn't include word one about "Paint it Black" and the girl of CP's dreams? I don't know about you, but I'm feeling sort of cheated. I know the guy and haven't ever heard this story. If Brizoni wants to show off his cojones, this is what he should be demanding in his impetuously impetuous way.

UPDATE. More email. Eduardo replied:

I don't know why anyone would lionize such pap, either.  My branch manager I mentioned was very excited that the "Rock Band" series of video games had a special edition coming out that featured nothing but Beatles music. Not because he plays video games or anything, but because he overheard his son talking about it and envisioned some type of Beatles renaissance occurring b/c of this game, and that all the kiddies out there would discover what real music is, not like modern music anymore, and I guess listen to Sgt Pepper and the White Album over and over again. But why would someone want their own kid to get into a band like the Beatles? What would the gen-X equivalent be, wanting my kids to worship Nirvana?

You're right, they are time locked, which is one reason I mentioned that I like several other bands of the '60s and '70s. When I hear Beatles I can't help but think about the '60s and drugs; lots and lots of drugs. Can't relate and don't want to relate. But even a song like Paint it Black, which I think was probably an anti-Vietnam ballad, is still a really cool song. I saw some old footage of the Stones performing that live way back in the day on some TV show, and whoever the dude playing the sitar was was definitely the epitome of hippie, but I can still look past that.

But I did forget about Twist and Shout, you're right about that, too. See? I don't even think of that as a Beatles song. I had heard a bunch of their other stuff before I first heard their version of T & S, and I had a hard time believing it was actually the Beatles doing it because it sounded so, well, cool.

Thanks again for laying out so much info on the Stones, though. I feel like I have been missing something. I am going to dig into their music library. I don't know how much I will like it all because for better or ill, my tastes do tend to gravitate toward the '90s alt rock/grunge/whatever type stuff (my favorite band for years was the Smashing Pumpkins), but based on the Stones songs I do know I think I will have a favorable reaction.

There is one Beatles cover I have to send you. It's a live version of Daytripper that Oasis did. I have no idea where or when it was done, or who the person is that sings the first verse (b/c he's not in Oasis), but it's awesome. I don't even like the original Daytripper but I like this one. I think it's better.

CP responded:


Thanks. Here's another Beatles cover I like.

I hate to postpone or delay, but can I also quote from your latest email? Love the part about Paint it Black.

btw: all the various Stones comeback albums: Some Girls, Tattoo You, and Voodoo Lounge. And some of the albums in between: Goatshead Soup, Black and Blue, Emotional Rescue, and Undercover. Great individual songs on all of them, including Hand of Fate, All the Way Down (Stones rap), Memory Motel, She Was Hot, etc, etc.

Here's the thing. What lifelong Stones fans have realized is that the first hearing means nothing. You can listen to a Stones song and hate it. And then, if you keep listening, it starts to bore into you. I know of no other band to whom this phenomenon applies. That's the secret of Exile on Main Street, for example. You start to realize that Jagger has multiple, quite different falsettos, that Charlie Watts is the best rhythm drummer ever (lots of anecdotal evidence about his dead-on timing), and finally, you begin to realize that the Stones are an amazing synthesis of hard, hard rock and roll, satire, capitalism, endurance, sex (and sex and sex and sex), and Keith Richards (who is still, against all odds, alive). If they weren't so damn English, they'd be an American parable. While the Beatles are an episode of "This Is Your Life." Like, who doesn't remember this? Yawn.

Oh well.

I admit it. I like the Stones too. So sue me.

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