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Aug. 3rd, 2006 | 09:10 am

In the wake of Mel Gibson's recent legal troubles, I think it may be time to take a fresh look at his prior achievements.

I'm talking, of course, about the torture montage from "Passion of the Christ," which has been recently recast to the dulcet strains of "Sometimes When We Touch," by Dan Hill.

You can't just watch this video - YouTube requires you to log on or sign up, so they have some kind of proof you're over 18. And for once, I can understand. This is not for the easily offended. Or even the moderately easy to offend. In fact, you should watch this only if you crave the crassest, most degrading kind of lowest-common-denominator humor.

If you're like me, in other words.

Watch here.

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Good News

Aug. 2nd, 2006 | 10:12 am

There hasn't been a lot of it lately. Intensifying war in southern Lebanon. Three soldiers in Iraq threatening to murder a fourth if he told anyone that they had already murdered three Iraqis.

But I feel a little bit cheered by the news coming from Kansas, of all places. From today's New York Times:

"Kansas voters on Tuesday handed power back to moderates on the State Board of Education, setting the stage for a return of science teaching that broadly accepts the theory of evolution, according to preliminary election results."

Between this, the recent election of moderates (granted, a relative word) to leadership in the Southern Baptist convention, the arising of a Christian environmental movement, Ralph Reed's primary flame-out here in the great state of Georgia... I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm starting to wonder if the influence of the Christian right has peaked. Not that they still don't run everything, but maybe the mostly-indifferent public is finally starting to get a little bit tired of the paranoia, not to mention the shrill anti-science dogma.

More realistically, though, I'll take anything I can get.

Read more about the Kansas election here.

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Teaches of Peaches

Jul. 23rd, 2006 | 09:47 pm

It took a while, but I have finally found this summer's musical obsession: Peaches.

Peaches was perhaps best described by the Village Voice, which called her an "electroslut." Okay, to be fair, they called her a "no-talent electroslut." But would Iggy Pop fight zombies with a no-talent? On second thought, don't answer that question.

Now, I freely admit that Peaches is a lousy rapper. And a mediocre singer. But she is a delightful potty-mouth - song titles include: "Shake Yer Dix," "Tent In Your Pants," "Suck and Let Go," "Fuck the Pain Away." And the riffs rawk, dude, in a kind of  "I thought this up five minutes ago" way.

So turn your brain off - at least, the parts that aren't still 13 years old - and enjoy. To be against Peaches is to be against life.

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Vote and switch

Jul. 19th, 2006 | 10:40 am

I went to vote in the Democratic primary yesterday - though I briefly contemplated voting in the Republican primary, just to do my part to keep Ralph Reed out of the race in November. Luckily, my vote wasn't needed on that score.

It's been a strange campaign season here, between the near-weekly court reversals on Georgia's bullshit voter ID law and the hot and heavy mud-slinging between the two main Democratic hopefuls for the governor's seat.

But my strangest moment was standing at the voting machine, when I suddenly realized that my ballot didn't look like I expected it to. No, it wasn't a Diebold moment (as far as I know). I had actually been redistricted without realizing it.  Last summer, I was represented in Congress by Cynthia McKinney. Now, my representative is the esteemed John Lewis.

Now, John Lewis is a big step up. Which is a weird thing to say, because McKinney is appealingly left-wing. She's consistently opposed the current war, pushed for the government to release more information about Sept. 11, and criticized the federal response to Katrina.

She also runs off the rails from time to time, though - most notably after a 2002 electoral defeat, when she endorsed her father's statement that "the Jews have bought everyone," and this spring, when she got in a physical altercation with a member of the Capitol police.

In short, I was looking forward to voting against her in the primary (her opponent, Hank Johnson - who has forced her into a runoff - is also a liberal Democrat). But I feel privileged, frankly, to vote for Lewis, a former chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who is also a progressive and an opponent of the war.

Now, if I could only remember that redistricting...

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Training with the enemy

Jul. 7th, 2006 | 10:54 am

I've read the reports saying that the Iraq War has actually increased the likelihood of future terrorist attacks. But now, there's a new twist on that story, one that scares the hell out of me personally: the Southern Poverty Law Center has just released a report detailing the influx of white supremacists into the U.S. military.

The government actually has strict standards prohibiting white supremacist activity in the military, which were instituted after Timothy McVeigh used his military training to pull off the Oklahoma City bombing. But shortfalls in recruiting have cause recruiters - and commanders - to lower their standards. One government investigator says he's submitted evidence on 320 white supremacists at Fort Lewis alone; only two of them have been discharged.

Worse still, some white supremacist organizations are now actively encouraging their members to join the military so that they can gain the skills they will need in a future race war. Once in, they're organizing across bases and across services.

Read the report here.

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Nice Hat

Jul. 5th, 2006 | 07:20 pm

I bought a new hat on my vacation earlier this spring. It's a sky-blue porkpie hat with a thin ribbon band; in other words, it's the kind of hat more usually seen on the wispy bald head of an elderly man.

But I had a tan porkpie hat when I was about 10 years old. I wore it to camp every day one summer, convinced I was the hottest thing going. My new hat makes me feel exactly the same way, except for the nagging voice in my head saying that an old man's hat just might not be the little fluffy cloud of coolness that I think it is. That I might somehow appear to be (I know, might?) a big dork.

Still, heaven help me, I love the hat. So when my mother (in town for the holiday) and I headed out for a Braves game this weekend, the hat came too, tilted to a particularly jaunty angle for the occasion.

We took the train downtown, then headed to the shuttle that would ferry us out to Turner Field. As we headed down to the boarding area, we passed a man leaning on a wall nearby.

"Need Braves tickets?" he asked.

"No thank you, sir," I said, "we already have ours."

"Well, have a great afternoon," he said, "Nice hat."

So there you have it. You upstanding, rule-following citizens just might think I look like a nerd in my jaunty blue old man's hat. But the scalpers of the world are on my side. Vive le porkpie!

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Jun. 26th, 2006 | 03:16 pm

I did my very first all-day meditation on Saturday, and it was interesting in a boring kind of way. Basically, we started at about 8:30 a.m. and ended at about 5 p.m.; we took regular breaks (including an hour for lunch) so I was actually meditating for about six-and-a-half hours of that.

Which, as you can imagine, is still a really, reeee-lly long time. I was hoping for hallucinations, but no such luck. Instead it was just me, my bench, and my aching butt. With the occasional pause for grape juice and Ruffles.

It was not terribly romantic, in other words, but it was educational. Sitting all day gave me the time to go through at least four separate major obsessions over the course of the day (the first, which hit at about 9:30 a.m., being "why the hell am I doing this?"). 

All four seemed very important, and all four passed away without leaving a trace. So I guess that's what I learned, if anything: my obsessions - both intellectual and emotional - will all pass away in time, especially if I don't put a lot of energy into feeding them and justifying them. Not a bad lesson, as these things go.

When I left the zendo at the end of the day, I felt a great sense of calm. Which lasted about four hours. So much for the afterglow...

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Can't Stop Won't Stop

Jun. 22nd, 2006 | 10:19 am

Many thanks to Dick Umbrage, who recommended Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang to me. It's a great read, tracing the development of hip-hop from its beginnings as a teenage fad confined to a seven-square-mile area of the Bronx to its present status as an international cultural - and marketing - phenomenon.

Chang's talked to Kool Herc and Talib Kweli and everyone in between. Best of all, he connects the development of the different waves of hip-hop to specific developments in specific cities. He starts with the building of the Cross-Bronx Expressway in the 1950's, pointing out how it destroyed tremendous amounts of housing in the Bronx and started a trend that pushed white families into the suburbs and many black families into the projects. He talks about the transition in West Coast rap from NWA's anger to Snoop Dogg's chill, and traces the change to the groundbreaking L.A. gang truce in 1992.

It's a great lens for him to look at America's cities and at the massive consolidation of the media. If there's a down side, it's his tendency to jump back and forward a bit in the timeline without always making it clear what year he's talking about. And, of course, a history of hip-hop can't do everything - he touches on the misogyny that seems so ingrained in hip-hop without really delving into the causes or effects, for example. And he doesn't get into rap homophobia at all (he does dig into both rap anti-Semitism and black-Korean relationships, however).

In short: read it. You'll like it. And you'll learn some stuff, too.

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Which people, Zin?

Jun. 19th, 2006 | 06:54 pm

So, Karl Zinsmeister - Bush's new domestic policy advisor - is a rabid conservative. No surprise there. But apparently he's also a complete fucking freak.

Here's a little quote from our boy Zin (from a PBS interview). The topic, so beloved to conservatives, is sex:

"It's something -- it's intense; it's fire. It drives people to insanity. . . . People fall in love with prostitutes. People kill prostitutes. All kinds of things happen in the heat of sexual passion, so my point is because it's fire it needs to be governed and treated with respect and treated carefully."

Dude, did they ever find the Green River Killer?

For more on Zinny's inimitable verbal style, read here.

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Shooting War

Jun. 14th, 2006 | 02:39 pm

So I've never seen an on-line graphic novel before, but a really good one just got started: Shooting War, by Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman. It's the story of a videoblogger sent to cover the Iraq war in 2011 (when President McCain's numbers are at an all-time low).

It reminds me a little of a more focused Transmetropolitan, actually, only without  the Hunter Thompson obsession. Good stuff - check it out.

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