US terror threat level dropsDaniel Radosh
US terror threat level drops to yellow. Now that Mr. Rogers has been neutralized.
US terror threat level drops to yellow. Now that Mr. Rogers has been neutralized.
And by "exact opposite" I mean, "How right you are."
Scientists in Barcelona, Spain, have created a new "tune technology" to accurately pinpoint which songs will be hits, using 22 variables, such as melody, beat, harmony and the distance between the singer and the microphone.
Researcher Mike McCready says the computer program is 93 percent successful in picking which songs become hits.
Some music insiders fear the technology will encourage homogenized records, but McCready says it does the exact opposite and cites Norah Jones' Grammy-winning "Come Away With Me" CD as a perfect example.
He says the computer program picked Jones' CD to be huge long ago -- and eight of her songs have hit potential.
Editorial effort of the week. "In such rough times as these of war and want, rocking on can provide salve for the soul. The challenge is to rock on safely."
Not Your Mom's Book Club. The new issue of Newsweek gives Music Club its first national press. Or any press. And the buzz begins for the Music Club how-to book -- coming soon to a bookstore near you! And by soon, I mean, three years or so, seeing as how we haven't even quite gotten the proposal to our agent yet.
Here's the last graf of Seth Mnookin's article about a little-known trend of people getting together to read and discuss books:
"Of course, this isn't a generation known for its long attention spans. Fittingly, some clubs aren't about books at all. Daniel Radosh decided the whole reading thing wasn't going to work for him, so he started a music club instead. "I wanted a shared experience where I could get together and talk about something cultural," he says. His club has held meetings on whether [sic] cover songs are better than the originals, and, of course, songs where the artist shares a first or last name with the last name of an American president. (Think June Carter or McKinley Morganfield, a.k.a. Muddy Waters.) The club's been such a success, Radosh wants to tell other people how to start their own. So what's he going to do? Write a book, of course."
Your government is lying to you. Well, sure, but it bears repeating. (The original version of this article disappeared from the Newsday site).
According to Amazon's Purchase Circles, the book that's most uniquely popular at Oberlin College is The Guide to Getting It On! (The Universe's Coolest and Most Informative Book About Sex. When is the next reunion, anyway?
Now as long as John Ashcroft doesn't find out about Google... From an article about a Vermont bookstore that's offering to purge customer records in order to prevent them from being collected under the Patriot Act: "Peggy Bresee was in Bear Pond Books recently to buy War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy as birthday gifts for a son who lives in Utah. She had the store purge the purchase records. 'It really does make me feel so much better,' she said. 'They're protecting those of us who are readers. It matters.'"
This must have taken forever! And, really, why?
Lost Memorandum to Walt Disney, From the Board of the Walt Disney Corporation. Via the always entertaining Tim Carvell.
That's an odd place to be before, you know, the war has even begun, but here's the situation. A faction of protesters, understandably angered by the actions of the NYPD last weekend, is putting their energy into fighting the cops. The New York Civil Liberties Union put out a heavy-handed call for "reports of police interference and abuse" (hmm, sounds vaguely dirty). United for Peace and Justice, the demo organizers, are, according to an email I got, calling on Police Chief Ray Kelly to resign, and are considering a lawsuit against the city.
Sorry, but does anyone else think UPJ is overplaying their hand? The cops obviously fucked up in their initial judgment that a stationary rally would be easier to police than a march. And they further fucked up by blocking access to the site. And a relatively small number of individuals went overboard in enforcing these poorly thought out policies.
But the significant majority of individual cops that I encountered acted professionally, even politely, and tried to make the best of a bad situation. To tar the entire force with abuse is both an exaggeration and a trivialization of the very real brutality that the NYPD has engaged in in the past. UPJ's initial attempt to call attention to police misconduct largely served its purpose (though I could've told them to 1- make the unedited tapes available to the media and 2- leave Frank Sintara out of this). The cops' defense was transparently lame ("Some of the frustration over access to the protest area may have been avoided had the organizers done a better job of communicating that they moved the stage from 47th Street north to 51st Street." Right, because that would have mattered to those of us who came down 59th Street, only to find ourselves forced to walk north to 70th) and public sentiment was on UPJ's side. (Meanwhile, Brooklyn College Prof. Alex Vitale has written a calm, level-headed open letter to Mike Bloomberg about what the police can do better from here on in. If it gets posted somewhere, I'll link to it.)
So anyway, this is obviously a good time to move on to more important matters, like, you know, stopping the frickin' war on Iraq. But here's the other branch of the crossroad: since the movement clearly has the energy to take up new battles, why not turn our fury against Saddam Hussein? Joe Conason has issued a clarion call to the movement that if we want to stop the war, we must let Saddam know that our call for peace is not an excuse for him to start dicking around with the UN inspectors again. To read it you'll have to sit through a short ad; click on "free day pass." Here's an excerpt:
"The many thousands of decent activists who want to prevent this war -- for reasons that involve no sympathy whatsoever for Saddam -- must impress upon Iraq that this is indeed the last chance. Hans Blix is expected to report to the Security Council again on March 6. By then it may already be too late. Yet it would surely make an impression on Saddam Hussein if even a fraction of the people who marched on Feb. 15 showed up outside the Iraqi embassy on March 8, the following Saturday. In the meantime, anti-warriors can make their feelings known directly via e-mail to the Iraqi U.N. mission (MissionOfIraq@nyc.rr.com) [Road Runner? The Iraqi mission doesn't have it's own domain name? -DLR] and the Iraq News Agency (email@example.com). Pass them on. If those e-mail systems are crashed by a few million messages demanding immediate cooperation with UNMOVIC, perhaps some bureaucrat will be brave enough to tell Saddam."
I'll also add: Contact UPJ and let them know that you'll turn out for an antiwar march that targets Saddam Hussein's regime. If nothing else, it will shut up those morons who like to say that antiwar protesters are all Saddam apologists.
Kevin alerted me to this: one of the best author interviews I have ever read.
Q: Why did you think that anyone would want to read a novel whose central point is that the Bush tax cuts are imprudent fiscal policy? Do you think that E.L. Doctorow would write a book like that?
A: Frankly, other people wondered about this, too. My wife asked me that. So did Warren Buffett, when I asked him for a blurb. He wrote a nice letter back on the bottom of my letter, saying he didn't think a novel was a proper vehicle for my ideas.
Q: I think it might be because you write badly.
Six hundred cities held antiwar protests last weekend. Here are photos from many of them. It's especially cool to see Palestinians and Israelis marching together in Tel Aviv. And I'm guessing the smallest protest was also the largest by percent of population: Antarctica.
Things you find when you Google yourself. Bottom of the page. But really, not even worth clicking on if you're not me, don't read Japanese, or neither.
The Pentagon's apparent plan to let journalists actually cover the Iraq war is as promising as it is surprising, given the situation last time around. Liberal outlets have naturally been skeptical about the new openness -- especially since many had been predicting the opposite for months -- but I think a better response is to laud the military openly and loudly, and make it as difficult as possible for it to back down.
Meanwhile, there's an interesting debate over at Romenesko about who's responsible for the lack of coverage of the ongoing war in Afghanistan. And it's worth mentioning that this whole affair has given us our first fun new vocabulary word of Gulf War II.
I've said before how much I love Jason Little's Tintin-esque Shutterbug Follies. Now Jason alerts me to two Bee Comix events this weekend:
Saturday, March 1, 1 to 4 pm at Jim Hanley's Universe (4 West 33rd Street, between 5th and 6th)
Book signing: Jason Little and Phoebe Gloeckner (The Diary of a Teenage Girl).
The kulture kops over Fox News' PC Watch are chortling (second item) about a high school that was forced to change the name of its school play from Ten Little Indians to And Then There Were None. I happen to agree that Ten Little Indians doesn't exactly qualify as offensive. But it's not irrelevant that the objectionable title in this case was itself, a few years back, considered the softened alternative to something worse. And don't the folks at Fox read The Washington Times, which did make this connection when it wrote essentially the same story a few months ago.
"Much of what has been created is no longer accessible," Billington said. "And much of what disappears is important, one-of-a-kind material that can never be recovered, but will be desperately looked for." When Salon goes under will its entire archives vanish? Even my articles? Of the places I've written for, I've found that sites that were a labor of love tend to stay accessible forever, while those that were just a business get wiped away. Which will Salon turn out to be? Stay tuned.
Must. Keep. Straight. Face. The vice president of a U.S. news outlet has publicly stated that his organization's role in Iraq is to give the Butcher of Baghdad and his cronies "their best opportunity to tell their story," and that his "fair-minded journalists" are the ones to help him. Fox News would be outraged at this sucking up to Saddam if they weren't the ones doing the sucking.
The New York papers really fell down on the job in their coverage of at least one aspect of Saturday's demo. It's hard to complain about the Times' A-1 tongue kiss, but given the pre-demo uproar about security and the NYPD's ability to handle things, it's amazing that none of the local papers have reported just how severely the cops fucked this up. Think about: between 70 and 300 arrests were made in an event that should have had none. That's not the demonstrators' fault, it's the cops'. The people nabbed were not engaging in either civil disobedience or spontaneous violence, they were simply trying to get to the pre-approved rally site, an action that cops had essentially made illegal by blocking off all the streets leading to it. The group I was with ended up out of confusion, lack of alternatives, and sheer joy marching up 2nd Avenue, stranding cars, and forcing cops to rush barricades into place. Somewhere in the mid 60s at about 12:15 I heard one policeman declare to his colleagues, "We've lost the streets." When 2nd got too jammed, we moved (at an officer's advice) to 3rd, in order to keep heading north. Other protesters took over Lexington. We finally were able to turn east to 1st Ave at 70th, Street, joining the rally proper at about 2:00. Hey, it's all good as far as I'm concerned. Shutting down the Upper East Side, and getting to march despite efforts to prevent a march was great fun. But how much easier would it have been from the NYPD's point of view if they'd simply allowed a march in the first place, and cleared the route in advance? You can bet they wouldn't have had to issue their highest mobilization or spent $5 million. Ray Kelly should stop whining about his horses and admit he made a mistake.
UPDATE: The L.A. Times, oddly, does a slightly better job reporting this angle:
"The New York event was engulfed in controversy before it began, when city officials -- citing security concerns -- denied organizers permission to march through the streets in front of the United Nations. Leaders of the event protested bitterly, and were forced to schedule a stationary antiwar rally on Manhattan's East Side.
"But they may have won a victory when police Saturday forced the larger-than-expected crowds to walk up dozens of heavily congested blocks to reach the site. As they inched forward, people staged their own impromptu demonstrations.
"'We're marching, we're doing exactly what they didn't want us to do,' said Bill Cohen, a Greenwich Village resident who looked warily at police on horseback trying to keep the crowd orderly."
UPDATE 2: The Washington Post is even better, quoting one police lieutenant saying, "It's nuts. If the city gave them a set march route down an avenue, you wouldn't have these problems." Why on earth couldn't the Times, the NY Post, the Daily News, or Newsday get even one comment like that?
UPDATE 3: The Times plays catch-up. What? I should have given them a day's grace period?
The New York Times today has two separate articles about the difficulties involved in issuing terror alerts. And yet neither one mentions the most relevant difficulty: that the FBI now admits our most recent alert was at least partly based on a lie. In fact, I don't think the Times has reported this fact at all (The Washington Post buried it, but at least, unlike the Times, it's not just letting its earlier, inaccurate reporting hang out there.
"And tonight I have a message for the people of Iraq: Go home and die." Bush's Sate of the Union address, remixed. More surreal than last year's, and at least as funny.
as to say this timing was intentional, but while a number of people have pointed out how the media has fueled panic in response to the whole code orange nonsense, I haven't seen anyone acknowledge that the duct tape and plastic sheeting hype wouldn't have been nearly so dramatic if this wasn't sweeps month, when the news always runs "watch or broadcast or you risk death" reports.
TV's Phony Ratings Game. In the new issue of The Week, I answer all your questions about Nielsen ratings and sweeps month (except the unanswerable one about the return of Birds of Prey).
Get your Freaks and Geeks DVD now! OK, not now, but eventually. If enough people express interest. Judd Apatow and Paul Feig write: "As you may know, we have been trying to get the show released on DVD for the past year, but it has been difficult due to the cost of the music you hear on the episodes. The only way we can get Dreamworks to buy the rights to the original music and release the DVD is by showing them that a lot of people would buy it if it was for sale." Don't let them down.
We oppose both Saddam Hussein and the U.S. War on Iraq. Just another reminder that those of us against the war are not in favor of "doing nothing."
The results of Music Club's PERFECT POP Songs meeting is in. There were so many possibilities for this one I had really tough time after narrowing it down from my half dozen finalists. Went back and forth several times before settling on Teenage Dirtbag, which, while perhaps not as perfectly poppy as some of my backups, seemed the right combination of relatively obscure and insanely catchy. And as obvious as I thought my backups were, only one person brought a song by the same artist, Marshall Crenshaw (though I was considering Someday, Someway). Among the songs I had to let go: You Might Think, There She Goes, Let the Music Play, Cruel to Be Kind, and Up the Junction.
Inevitably there were a few quibbles. OK, fist fights. The most iffy track is Elizabeth's offering of Badge, which, however much you may like it, can only be considered pop in comparison to the other Cream songs. A lot of people also vehemently objected to Anthony's pick: Don't Tell Me. Sure, I would've gone with early Madonna instead, but I personally don't have a problem classifying this one as pop. I'm more unsure about Eve's Marvin Gaye song, but no one else seemed to mind. Other than that, here's 45 minutes of fine head-bobbing pop:
1. I Want To Hold Your Hand The Beatles
2. Cynical Girl Marshall Crenshaw
3. Wouldn't It Be Nice The Beach Boys
4. Seems So Apples In Stereo
5. A Taste Of Honey Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
6. Sugar Sugar The Archies
7. David Duchovny Bree Sharp
8. Teenage Dirtbag Wheatus
9. Letter From An Occupant New Pornographers
10. Badge Cream
11. Can I Get A Witness Marvin Gaye
12. Funky Town Lipps, Inc.
13. Don't Tell Me Madonna
14. I Get Around The Beach Boys
15. Don't Do Me Like That Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
Next month's theme is CHILDHOOD. Very tricky. Can be songs about childhood, or songs that evoke childhood (one's own or in genera), or that are performed by or for children, etc. I'm likely to go with a song about childhood, but my cutoff is adolescence. Teenage angst/romance songs are a separate category. I can think of a few, but nothing really great, so please send in your suggestions.
Looking for something to do after the demo? Campuses Say No To War is holding an event Saturday night featuring:
Speakers : Scott Ritter (former weapons inspector), Medea Benjamin (Global Exchange), Amy Goodman (Democracy Now), Anthony Arnove (editor of Iraq Under Siege), Michael Letwin (NYC Labor Against War), Mike Marquesee (British Stop the War Coalition), Rania Masri (Institute for Southern Studies), Dhalia Hashad (ACLU), Ahmed Shawki (editor of International Socialist Review), Marla Brettschneider (Jews for Racial and Economic Justice), Hany Khalil (Racial Justice 9-11), Nelly Bailey (Harlem Tenants Association), Youth Bloc, Minou Arjomand (Campus Antiwar Network), Hamid Dabashi (Professor), Monica Tarazi (Arab Anti-Discrimination Center), David Cline (Veterans for Peace).
Peformers: Def Poetry Jam, Welfare Poets, Alvin Ailey Dancer, VTek, Performers from the Broadway Musical Rent, Stephan Smith, Captain Deathwhistle and the Thumpists.
Tickets Now Available - $5 ($10-$20 Solidarity)
to reserve, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
February 15th, 8pm
Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers (21st Street & 12th Avenue)
Geek correction of the week. From Volokoh: "I referred to the German upper house as the Landsraad rather than the Bundesrat. The house represents the German states, y'see, and a German state is a Land. From there, my neurons blooped and grabbed information, not from the poli sci corner of my brain, but from the SF geek corner. The Landsraad is the aristocratic pseudoparliament in Dune." (Thanks to Todd Seavey for bringing this and all things nerdy to my attention.)
I was hoping someone would make this point about Colin Powell's self-serving characterization of the latest Bin Laden tape. Actually, I had only remembered that Powell had once written off Bin Laden's attempts to link himself to Palestinians. Saletan points out that the Secretary of State dismissed Bin Laden's claim of a connection to Iraq too: "Sixteen months ago, Powell wanted to isolate Bin Laden from other Muslims, so he said Bin Laden was lying about being involved in Iraq. Now Powell wants to justify war against Iraq, so he says Bin Laden is telling the truth." Fortunately, the liberal media will never let him get away with that... will it?
"Among movie obsessives, this week brings with it a cherished holiday tradition: The New York Times' proclamation that the forthcoming Oscar race is an anomaly, in that it is too close to call." Tim Carvell, in Slate, Jan. 2002.
"Those who practice pre-Oscar shamanism, studying the awards strewn across the landscape like the entrails of slaughtered sheep, have noted that no obvious frontrunner for best picture has emerged, nor even a plausible two-way race. Where is this year's "Beautiful Mind," its "American Beauty" or its Shakespeare versus Private Ryan showdown?" A.O. Scott in The New York Times, Feb. 9, 2003.
It worked for Stephen Ambrose. "I would call my colleagues' attention to the fine paper the United Kingdom distributed yesterday, which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities," said Powell... The bulk of the nineteen page document was copied from three different articles -- one written by a graduate student....The chief contribution of the British intelligence analysts appears to have been the addition of such terms as "terrorist."
Joe Conason wants to know why the US media has finally found a plagiarism scandal it's not interested in covering.
The Lost Artwork of Buffy the Animated Series. Sixteen sketches from the show we'll never see. Coulda been so great. Although I suspect a younger Dawn would only be even more annoying. Also, the chatter on Whedonesque is that Him was salvaged from an Animated Series script, so maybe it wouldn't have been so hot. At least that explains why that episode felt so first season.
A few years back, I wrote an article about the genesis of popular TV shows for the first and only issue of Nick at Nite magazine. Here's a graf I highlighted from a book called First You Laugh:
"Actually, after CBS had nixed the first pilot, Head of the Family, Reiner and company had kicked around a few other titles Double Trouble, Two Loves Have I, and Mommy! Daddy's Home but they all sounded too dull, too cute, or too much like a soap opera. Eventually, Reiner and CBS settled on The Dick Van Dyke Show. They figured that if the show was a hit, that's what everyone would wind up calling it anyway."
Finally, Romenesko is officially just Romenesko.
Even if some of Powell's facts don't quite hold up, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on overall accuracy. What he didn't address, however, is what for me has always been the biggest issue: Even if Saddam Hussein is a menace to the people of Iraq (no question), and is secretly developing WMDs (almost certainly), and is in league with al Qaeda (dubious, but within the realm of possibility) why is war the best solution to these problems? Bush & Co. have created a false dichotomy between going to war and "doing nothing" (inspections alone, let's face it, count as doing nothing in the long run). But there is a Plan B. Once again, I point to Robert Wright's brilliant essay, A Real War on Terrorism. He's not primarily dealing with Iraq here, but it's easy to extrapolate. The question the administration needs to answer, for me, is why their plan is better than this one, which not only involves less killing, but is also more likely to work.
And if that fails, hey, there's always Plan C.
I got into The Donnas a few years ago after illegally downloading a bunch of their MP3s. As with other bands I discovered this way, I'd been thinking about paying actual money for their new CD. Yes, file sharing can be good for the industry. But of course I'd have wanted to play the album on my iPodand man would I have been pissed as hell if I'd found out too late that's not allowed.
So now I plan to do two things: Write my representative about DMCRA, H.R. 107. And download the new Donnas album from one of the numerous industrious folks who managed to crack the "copy protection." I mean, did they really think that wouldn't backfire?
The Car of the Future. Readers of The Week knew all about hydrogen-powered cars more than a year ago. (Not written by me, but read it anyway.)
Sorry for the recent silence. My craptastic Internet Service Provider recently changed its security protocol without telling anyone to shut down data transfers from unauthorized servers, including, oops, Blogger's. Somebody has now apparently managed to drum some sense into their heads, so I won't need to figure out Moveable Type after all. I shall try to recapture my blogging momentum. Meanwhile, I used the time to add a few new items to my writing archive, including a little-seen meta-humor essay from an early issue of McSweeney's, and a eulogy/autopsy of Sassy from a 1994 New York Press.