Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Year in Music - 2008

When I originally started writing this post I began with the line: “It’s been a very good, but not great, year in music.” But after finishing up assessing the last year I’ve come to the conclusion that it has been a damn good year. As always there were the usual yawners as well as a handful of riveting albums that I’m sure I’ll be playing for years. Below is a sampling of my favorites from the past year.

The Glam Funk Railroad Award goes to a trio of artists that released glam influenced records this year. MGMT, Pop Levi, and Of Montreal all mined a similar vein of glam funk pop. Typically, though each of these albums is worth owning, the least of them sold the most records. MGMT starts off strong but fades a bit by the 2nd half. Pop Levi topped his previous album with a funky fun album of pop tunes. But it was Of Montreal’s, Skeletal Lamping that blew me away. It was the only album I heard this year that I would claim is a masterpiece. It’s one of those albums that the first listen has you scratching your head, the 10th listen you are slightly embarrassed you are singing along to the blatantly sexually provocative lyrics, and by the 20th listen you just don’t care because it’s that good. If you only like 3 minute, traditionally structured pop away. If you love pop hooks dive in. If you don’t happen to like one of the hooks wait a minute because another will come along shortly. I suspect one of the reasons the album is a hard sell for some is the previously mentioned sexually explicit lyrics. Think early Bowie meets Prince channeled through a transexual. If you can handle that buy this album now! Here's live performance from Of Montreal.

The “He Does it Again” Award goes to Beck for his album, Modern Guilt. It seems extraordinary that he has been around for as long as he has and I’m rarely disappointed. He has earned the label of one of the most important artists of the last 15 years. Bonus points for the great show he put on at the Grand Sierra Resort.

Speaking of artists who have been around, R.E.M. tried (and kinda, mostly) succeeded in revisiting their rocking past. Only a few tracks on Accelerate measured up but I’m glad they at least showed a little fire this time around. Mike Mills just turned 50 and I feel old just thinking about that. It doesn’t seem that long ago I was driving around with friends jamming to Reckoning.

The Turn it to 11 Award goes to the Magnetic Fields who put out an album of Distortion but it’s going to take a lot more than fuzzed up guitars to mask the Tin Pan melodies they continually come up with. This was no 69 Love Songs but it was a worth addition to their catalog.

The Party Album Award goes to The Dandy Warhols. I’m pretty sure the Dandies always get this award when they put out an album. Earth to the Dandy Warhols never got its due but it’s full of catchy stoner songs.

The Please Just Stop Now Award goes to ...........................Coldplay...........................sheesh...........................what can you say abou them? Just when you think they are going to fade away (how far can they get with the same schtick?) they release another of album of catchy, if vanilla, tunes. Never mind that they have some of the worst lyrics of any current rock band. They will never truly be great even if they carry themselves as if they are, but sometimes vanilla is just the right flavor and I’ll be damned if Chris Martin isn’t the hardest working, impossible to hate, dork in music.

The Award for Simple (but not guilty) Pleasures goes to She and Him, the Zooey Deschanel/M. Ward project. There’s a lot of charm here and it makes up for the rather simple production values. A great Sunday afternoon clean the house record, if you know what I mean.

The International Sirens Award goes to a trio of artists. Carla Bruni and Vanessa Paradis put out good albums but may actually be more famous on this side of the Atlantic for their spouses. However, it was Ximena Sarinana who really dazzled with her album, Mediocre. Definitely an artist to keep an eye on.

Some folks are including Radiohead’s, In Rainbows, in their year end lists even though the album has been around FOREVER. I’ll at least acknowledge that it is their strongest record since OK Computer, the best album of the last 15 years.

Finally, The I Can Kick Anybody’s ASS On This List Award goes to, Amanda Palmer. I’m a sucker for strong female musicians and they don’t come much more powerful than this. Check out this early solo performance of Guitar Hero and see if you don’t agree. Haunting and powerful!

Like I said, a good year in music. I’ve purposely ignored a number of artists who already get lots of attention (TV on the Radio). Now I’m just anticipating the many artists with albums due in 2009 (PJ Harvey, Franz Ferdinand, Lilly Allen, Eels(?)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hey...HOT ASS!

If you've been wondering how to stay warm while riding this might be just the ticket. But I don't even want to think about the chafing. The plus side is you'd never have to worry about a wrinkly butt. Product info:
This "heated cycling seat," cleverly named the Iron Saddle, is made from a clothes iron with remarkably few changes. There's no steam, because that could get slippery and safety is always paramount, but besides that it's just an upside-down iron with an attached battery.
Thanks to the Worthy Adversary for this link.

Monday, December 29, 2008

R.I.P. - Eartha Kitt

This profile of Ms. Kitt says more than the recent obits you've probably been seeing.


But the most direct and powerful anti-[Vietnam] war statement of the period was delivered by singer Eartha Kitt at the height of her celebrity.

Kitt, the sultry singer of hits such as "Santa Baby" who died at 81 on Christmas, was, in 1968, an internationally acclaimed music star who had begun making major stage and screen appearances.

So it came as no great surprise when she was invited to a White House luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson. But the first lady was surprised when she asked Kitt about the Vietnam War. "You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed," the singer told the first lady and the 50 other women at the luncheon. "They rebel in the street. They don't want to go to school because they're going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam."

The first lady reportedly burst into tears. The president was furious. Kitt was blacklisted. She was investigated by the FBI and the CIA and ended up on the "enemies list" of Johnson's successor, Richard Nixon.

Kitt spent the next decade performing mostly in Europe until, in 1978—after a triumphal return to Broadway in the musical "Timbuktu!"—she was invited back to the White House by the great healing executive of the postwar era, Jimmy Carter.

Years later, Kitt recalled her White House visit in an interview with Esquire magazine, saying, "The thing that hurts, that became anger, was when I realized that if you tell the truth—in a country that says you're entitled to tell the truth—you get your face slapped and you get put out of work."

It was a painful lesson.

But we remember Kitt as one of those remarkable Americans who was patriotic enough to speak truth to power. And she spoke in such a remarkable voice that it will linger far longer in our memory than those foolish politicians and misguided media moguls who were wrong about Vietnam—and wrong about Kitt.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

T'was the Night Before Inauguration

T'was the Night Before Inauguration
By John Cobarruvias

T'was the night before inauguration and what to my dismay
The market was tanking, I lost my 401K!
The stocks were hung, in downfall they stuck
While Bush did nothing, a truly lame duck

The Republicans were nestled, their heads in the sand
With visions of defeat of the republican brand.
And Cheney with his gun, his heart a pace
Looking for someone, to shoot in the face.

When out on the house floor, there came such a clatter
I sprang to the internets to find what's the matter.
Away to my screen I ran with a flash
Hoping the market, didn¢t crash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
Showed me someone I needed to know.
When what to my eyes, I paused, with a comma
But a vision of hope, It was Barack Obama!

With excitement and conviction in each of his steps
I wondered what he and his elves, would do next.
More rapid than eagles his appointments they came
And he whistled and shouted, and called them by name.

Now, Emanuel! Now, Dashle! Now, Richardson and Biden!
On, Clinton, on Napolitano, and Gates, no sense in hidin'!
To fix the economy, our reputation and more.
And to stop the killing of this unnecessary war.

As Obama stood still, the republicans they trembled
Remembering 8 years of a disaster they had assembled.
They've broken our banks, and doubled our debt.
They scared us to death with weapons of threats.

They squandered a surplus, they started a war.
They shredded our constitution, littered on the floor.
They attack our unions, our immigrants and those who are gay.
They claim to be Christians, yet on the sick they prey.

We may never recover from this hole they dug.
But we will climb to the top with a American tug.
The republican party have destroyed all that matters
They deserve nothing more but to hold the damn ladder.

But his voice did change, along with a smile.
Thinking of the bills that soon would be filed.
Protect those who are old and young alike
Restore our honor and our military might.

Protect our planet, and clean our air.
While creating a surplus we can leave to our heirs
Fix our economy, and health care for all.
And honor those who fought, and those who fall.

Obama sprang to his feet, to his team he gave a shout.
The challenges seem impossible, hard work needed no doubt
But I heard him exclaim ere he talked and ran.
Hey! It's not just a slogan, YES WE CAN!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bicycling Bailout?

Click on the image to make this chart more readable.

This article makes a pretty good case for more funding for bicycle infrastructure. Excerpt:

Our government seems to be willing to bail out any sector of our economy so long as it has the following characteristics: it has to be a very, very big sector; and the company executives in said sector must have been sufficiently corrupt and/or clueless to have maneuvered their enterprises to the brink of bankruptcy. Insurance, banking and the automotive industry qualified effortlessly, but so far bicycling seems to be out in the cold.

Although scholars may some day dig into the similarities between Charles Ponzi and Tullio Campagnolo (they were both Italian; they both invented schemes to multiply leverage; they were never photographed together etc.), for now the bicycling sector seems to be outside the scope of indecency necessary to qualify for a government bailout. It’s a shame, because according to a new report by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a little government money applied to bicycling and walking could go a long way toward lowering our dependence on foreign oil, reducing our carbon emissions and reversing the seemingly inexorable trend toward obesity that projects the entire country to be overweight by 2030.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Congressman LaHood Named as Secretary of Transportation

The Association for Commuter Transportation released a statement regarding the appointment of Ray LaHood as Transportation Secretary. Given some of the things I've been reading about LaHood I'm a little surprised but I also think it may be more telling that Obama sat down with bicycle industry leaders in the buildup to the election and spoke of her support for alternative transportation. Hopefully with the money intended for infrastructure we will see some bicycle projects included. Here's Act's statement on the appointment [in case you weren't aware, their mission is to] support individual mobility management professionals and organizational members in their efforts to reduce traffic congestion, conserve energy, and improve air quality.

Congressman Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) last night accepted an offer to become President-elect Barack Obama's transportation secretary and the nomination will be made official in coming days.

Congressman LaHood, 63, who is retiring after representing a rural downstate district in Congress since 1995, becomes the second Republican tapped for Obama's Cabinet. A moderate Republican, LaHood has not shied away from criticizing the Bush administration and has a reputation for working with leaders of both political parties.

LaHood served as longtime chief of staff to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-IL) before winning the seat in 1994. LaHood served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 1995-2000 before joining Appropriations from 2001-present. On Appropriations, LaHood has not been particularly active on transportation issues but has been among the moderate voices within his own party who sided with organized labor on occasion during tough floor votes.

Recently, Congressman LaHood has voted for many pieces of legislation ACT has supported including, the Passenger Rail Investment Act (against the R's),the Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act (against R's), for the renewable energy job creation act (against the R's), so he's not afraid to oppose his own party on transportation at least...

President Obama's Chief of Staff Raul Emanuel (D-IL), is among the many Illinois members who has a very high opinion of LaHood, who often tried to organize bipartisan retreats and other activities to help House Republicans and Democrats get along better.

LaHood's nomination comes as a surprise as his name had not been mentioned by any insiders. However, it should not be a shock as President-elect Obama committed to naming one Republican to his cabinet, and only Transportation & labor had yet to be filled. Additionally, it should be noted that the Achilles heal for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid is transportation infrastructure. Congressman LaHood is familiar with this challenge and would be in a prime position to help as Secretary of Transportation.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Just say YES!

I was not exactly excited about the new Jim Carrey film, Yes Man, until I read that both Eels and Zooey Deschanel are prominently featured on the soundtrack and score. Or, to be more precise, they ARE the soundtrack and score. Apparently Ms. Deschanel is featured as a part of an all-girl group in the film. Not a bad way to make use of her multiple talents. Apparently there is only one new Eels track with various previously released music and the E composed score. Below is the rather absurd song "Sweet Ballad" performed by the fake band, MUNCHAUSEN BY PROXY.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Choose Teaching as a Career?

I've been thinking a lot about this article written at Salon's blogging site the last few days. This author is a (soon to be ex-) teacher who rants about the reasons she originally wanted to be a teacher and why she is now stepping away from the profession. I can certainly relate to some of her criticisms:
I didn’t expect, for one, to find myself hustling for part-time jobs every summer because my nine-month salary wasn’t really covering the expenses. I didn’t expect to watch my courses swell from 25 students to 35 or 40 per section, or my course load to raise 20% with a corresponding reduction in pay of 3%. I didn’t expect every failing student to start questioning not just their grades, but my competence. I didn’t expect them look me straight in the face and tell me they know more about writing than I do. Students came right out and asked me if I would just bump up their grades. They showed up, after not turning in a single assignment all semester, demanding a passing grade. It was common practice for students to plagiarize if they could get away with it. Well over 50% of college students regularly cheat, and I’m pretty sure the number on my campus is much higher. None of this was unusual, either. It was norm, standard practice, the way my students thought the world ought to work.
All valid reasons to not teach in my book. But what rubs me the wrong way is that the choice to be a teacher is not one a person should make so they have "time to write" with the flexible schedule:
I went into academia for the same reasons anyone with an MFA does – because ostensibly there’s time in the year to write, one gets to focus on language every day, there’s a flexible work schedule. I really wanted to write more than I wanted to teach, but teaching seemed like a good route to writing when I was in graduate school.
Fundamentally this is flawed logic. The reason to become a teacher is, get this, because you want to teach! Yes, teaching gets easier the more you do it. But the mental work that goes into teaching never goes away. I wake every morning at 5 thinking about teaching and hardly stop until my day is over. Even weekends end up being consumed with thinking about how to improve my classes, how to use something I'm reading for "myself" gets turned into something I can use in my classes. The bottom line is that that is exactly why I teach and that is why people should go into the profession.
If you are an intellectually curious person that likes to influence the lives of young people than I say become a teacher. If you just want a paycheck and time to write, there are any number of jobs out there that allow you to leave work at the office door at 5. I know, I had one for years, but in the end I felt dead inside.

Read the rest of the original post here.

Bicycling Projects Should Be Considered For "Shovel Ready" Infrastructure

A little editorial from Sacramento pointing out the viability of bicycling projects being considered part of the infrastructure monies likely to be coming from the federal government.


"Safe Routes to Schools" projects create safer neighborhoods for walking and reduce morning bottlenecks around schools. Bicycle route improvements allow more people to make the choice to ride, which benefits both cyclists and drivers. Dozens of these projects are on the SACOG list of immediate stimulus options.
More here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dinner and a "Show" - The Reno Santa Crawl

I went out to Beaujolais Bistro Saturday night with my wife to celebrate a belated birthday. It's my favorite restaurant in town and I was sick a few weeks ago when it actually was my birthday. Luckily for us it was also the night of the 2008 Santa Crawl. We were seated at a front table with a great view out onto West Street (near the new market). I hadn't quite expected the show that we received during dinner. One Santa flashed us and a non-participant loitered on the sidewalk nearby conspicuously jamming his hand into his pants every time a group of "slutty Santas" walked by. Eeeewwwww! And, why is it exactly that whenever an event occurs that requires people to venture out in costume that 90% of the ladies think it is there opportunity to dress like a hooker? Just wondering.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - Guitar Hero

I'm finally succumbing to the force of nature that is Amanda Palmer. I'm sorry to say I missed her show in Sacramento last night. Anything described as "cabaret punk" is going to catch my interest.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Latest Issue of Carfree Times...

...hit my mailbox and it (like always) is definitely worth a look. In particular I like the thought-provoking "Agenda for Obama" piece. There is an excerpt below but I encourage people to check out the site if only for the great historical carfree images from Europe.

Where We Are
... and Where We're Going
An Agenda for President Obama
J.H. Crawford
Where are we? What do we want? Where should we be headed? These questions come at the moment of the greatest global crisis in my lifetime. Not since the upheavals of 1968 has there been a similar disquiet among large numbers of people all around the world. The spring of 1968, however, occurred largely in the face of the unjust war in Vietnam. Ultimately, little lasting change resulted, unless it be in the realm of sexual mores. The unparalleled horrors of World War II caused comparatively small changes; ultimately, the United Nations proved to have little more influence than the failed League of Nations, which had been established following the tragedy of World War I. Not since the financial collapse of 1929-1933 has real change resulted from a crisis. In light of these challenges, I offer this agenda to President Obama.

The current economic crisis might have been averted had the measures adopted after 1929 not been abandoned shortly before they were once again needed. Are we capable of learning bitter lessons and remembering them, as a society, for more than the span of a lifetime? It appears not, but we must at least make the attempt.

This time around we must actually induce permanent change on a global scale. This is a daunting challenge, but nothing less than the fate of the Earth is at stake. If we are to induce lasting and effective change, we must first acknowledge that there are not one but two crises at hand. The more evident one is the ongoing financial crisis. The less evident one is climate change and global sustainability. This problem is actually more serious and longer lasting. There is a joint solution to these crises, and indeed it is the only lasting solution to either of them. If we elect to solve the financial crisis by business-as-usual means, which is the method so far attempted, we will fail to address either crisis in the long term.

The current mess is actually a unique opportunity to restructure the economy for long-term sustainability.
The End of Growth
The first hard truth we must accept is that, as the Club of Rome reported 35 years ago, there are limits to growth. These are not economic limits but limits of the physical world. In the first 25 years following the publication of the original report, it seemed that we might have escaped these limits, as new sources of raw materials were found that permitted the global economy to grow at a prodigious rate. Now it has become apparent that we simply cannot continue growth in the manner prescribed by the World Bank and the IMF. Unfettered capitalism is the road to vast riches for a very few people, a better standard of living for many, but not all, people, and massive damage to the ecosystems that sustain life on Earth.

The only solution is a completely different approach. We must focus not on material standards of living but on quality of life. For most economists, these are the same: more toys equate to a better life. Deteriorating conditions that have no obvious monetary value are not counted. But as has become apparent in the rich nations, rising material standards of living have led, in the main, to a falling quality of life. We must focus not on goods, the manufacture of which is nearly always accompanied by damage to the environment, but on services, which can provide a livelihood to enormous numbers of people while improving the quality of life and protecting the environment. One service in desperate need is indeed the repair of damage we have already done to the environment. Other services include education and health care (or better, wellness).

It is true that billions of people need a higher material standard of living if they are to enjoy a reasonable quality of life. As Ernst U. von Weizsäcker proposed in his 1997 book, Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use, we need to make more effective use of resources. I fear, however, that the cheerful notion of doubling wealth (or, more accurately, standard of living) for the world's population is a chimera. If we are able to sustain even current levels of production, I will be surprised. We need to achieve the four-fold resource productivity improvements that Weizsäcker postulated, while holding production steady. Of course, even such a four-fold improvement is not, in the long run, sustainable, but if we can reach this goal in 40 years, we will have a breathing space to consider how ultimately to end the consumption of non-renewable raw materials. Fortunately, improvements on the scale Weizsacker proposed are not really so difficult. It does entail sharp cuts in the most resource-intensive practices, such as extensive personal automobile use, routine long-distance flying, and massive shipments of goods and raw materials around the world.

If we are to freeze production at something like current levels, this can only be achieved by an actual reduction in standards of living in the rich nations, unless we are willing to accept that half the people on the planet will live in poverty. Making this change requires graduated taxation in the rich nations. It must become confiscatory for people making very large amounts of money. As late as the end of Dwight Eisenhower's administration, the top marginal US income tax rate was 93%. Howls of protest from the super-rich must not hold us back from a return to such rates. Only by some form of economic justice is it possible to hold consumption steady while allowing poor people to acquire the basic goods they need for a decent life.

One of the obvious requirements is recycling, remanufacture, and reuse of virtually all goods. A less obvious requirement is that we return to the manufacture of goods that can be expected to last a lifetime. When I was a child, most of the durable goods acquired by a US household could be expected to last decades. Things like toasters and refrigerators lasted more or less indefinitely and could be repaired when they did finally break. Today the expectation is that families will return to Wal-Mart every few years to replace these goods, now made cheaply in China. This business model is at an end. All manufacturers must be required to take back their products and recover their materials (or remanufacture them) when the end of their economic lifetime is finally reached.

This may sound ridiculous to today's younger people, but my parents purchased a toaster when I was a small child and used it until ten years ago. Subsequent replacements have lasted only a year or two. My grandparents bought a refrigerator in about 1925, then a very expensive purchase. As of 2001, that refrigerator was still in use and probably more energy efficient than today's models. If we could achieve this with the rather primitive technology of the time, we should be able to do much better today.
Read the rest here.

These Are the Daves I know

Kids in the Hall at their absurd best!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Ximena Sariñana

I can't stop listening to Ximena Sarinana's album, Mediocre. Trust me, it does not live up (or is it down?) to its namesake. Below, a great live version of my favorite track on the album, and below, a more polished studio single:

And something else that's fun:

Pedal Power

I asked for this book as a Christmas present so I can't personally say how good it is but this is a pretty solid review. Excerpt:
[The author] begins by discussing the perceptional differences between motorists and bicycle users…how bicyclists tend to be more aware of their surroundings and thus more likely to notice changes and problems (and addressing them when discovered). Using a bicycle as transportation in any city fosters a sense of community — and encourages the use of undiscovered and underappreciated public spaces that are completely foreign to motorists who spend most of their traveling time in their air-conditioned “private bubbles”, insulated from the world around them. Much of that will come as no shock to those of you who are regular commuters; we tend to “see” our surroundings differently because we are out in it every day, sometimes off the beaten path and in places most motorists will never travel.
Read the rest of the review here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bicyclist on Bicyclist Road Rage

How stupid can you be? Excerpt:

Bicyclist attacked after confrontation with two other bicyclists, police say

A bicyclist who suggested to a pair of fellow riders they should use lights when bicycling at night was rewarded for his concern with a beating, according to Madison police reports.

The 51-year-old victim, Colin O'Brien, who owns Cronometro, a Williamson Street business that builds custom bicycles, was cycling home last Wednesday at about 6:30 p.m. along South Shore Drive when someone behind him alerted him he would be passing on the left. A man and a woman bicycled past, and as they did, O'Brien said "Get a light." The male bicyclist turned and asked what was just said, and O'Brien repeated, "Get a light."

The couple yelled at O'Brien to "mind his own business," and the male bicyclist tried to run O'Brien off the road, police reported.

The two followed him to the driveway of his East Side home, where the discussion continued and where the female rider commented that the "victim seemed to have plenty of lights and asked for one."

O'Brien obliged, giving her a light, according to police, but the woman's companion, "still upset about the original comment, proceeded to clamp his hands around the victim's head, police said.

"He twisted the victim to the ground, and kneed him in the ribs."

Read the rest here. I have one account that says the two assailants were caught but no confirmation as of yet.

Monday, December 08, 2008

All I Want For Christmas...Part 2

I don't know where I would wear this but clearly I need it.

The Electric Grasshopper Foldable Bicycle Test

Well I wish I could test this out anyway. Cool design and the colors are pretty great. But that head angle! I'm no engineer but it seems like the handling would be a bit crazy from eyeballing that photo. I'd still like to try it out for a week on my bike commute. More from the company on the target market:
Want to keep up the good work when turning green (and we don't mean turning into the Incredible Hulk)? Well, here's a winning concept - the Grasshopper foldable electric bicycle. This non-polluting form of transport relies on composite materials for rigidity and strength, capable of satisfying those who cycle around the city everyday as well as for those who love to go off the beaten path from time to time. The main market demographic would be active people with environmental concerns in addition to urbanites who are concerned about their health. The battery relies on regenerative braking to charge in addition to stationary bicycling. Perfect for storing in your living room as an exercise bike when it rains too heavily outside for some exercise. Hurry up and produce this concept already!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Prop 8...the Musical

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Cars Are the New Smoking....?

Somehow I missed this post from Squawkfox about the auto industry having parallels with the tobacco companies. The laundry list of comparisons is quite compelling actually. Given the looming bailout of the auto industry, perhaps some regulation of how the money can be spent is in order. Posted below a couple of the comparisons but click here for the full list.

1. Cost.

Both smoking and car ownership are expensive. Smoking cigs and driving fuel-hungry cars can burn horrendous holes in your wallet. Smokers can pay thousands a year for the cancer sticks alone, but the cost to their health is priceless. Drivers burn through thousands a year on fuel. Add the cost of the vehicle, maintenance and insurance, and your whacked with the stench of some serious cash gone up in smoke.

2. Addictive.

It took years for cigarette maker Philip Morris to admit nicotine is addictive. What about cars? One could argue that cars have a dependence on fuel consumption to function while people have a repetitive habitual reliance on cars. The increase in gas thefts certainly makes one consider how siphoning fuel from your neighbor’s gas tank could be considered addict behavior. Perhaps these fuel thieves are the new dope dealers. Drivers of gas guzzling cars are the addicts. Rather than adjust their driving lifestyle, they opt for the black market and buy the fuel stolen from their neighbors’ tanks.

3. Killers.

Smoking cigarettes will kill you. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports there are 5.4 million tobacco-related deaths every year. The situation is so deathly dire in developing nations that kagillionaires Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg have pledged $500 million to combat tobacco consumption in Asia, Africa, China, and India.

Cars are no life savers either. The WHO reports that worldwide, an estimated 1.2 million people are killed in road crashes each year and as many as 50 million are injured. Automobile related deaths are so common they fail to attract media attention in favor of less frequent types of tragedy. Sorry to be all doom and gloom.


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Venus and Mars/Rockshow/Jet

I don't usually have too many regrets from my life but one I do have from my youth was not getting to see the Wings Over America tour. I was a huge fan of the Beatles and Paul McCartney as a kid and the year he finally decided to tour with Wings I moved to South Africa. Ok, so it was a pretty good trade. How many kids from the midwest get to live in Africa. Still, it would be years before I finally saw Macca in concert and it was a long way removed from the days of Wings. At least I still have youtube to enjoy the show.

Autophobia-Love and Hate in the Automotive Age

This looks like an interesting book just published by the University of Chicago Press.

From the Model T to the SUV, Autophobia reveals that our vexed relationship with the automobile is nothing new—in fact, debates over whether cars are forces of good or evil in our world have raged for over a century now, ever since the automobile was invented. According to Brian Ladd, this love and hate relationship we share with our cars is the defining quality of the automotive age. And everyone has an opinion about them, from the industry shills, oil barons, and radical libertarians who offer cars blithe paeans and deny their ill effects, to the technophobes, treehuggers, and killjoys who curse cars, ignoring the very real freedoms and benefits they provide us. Focusing in particular on our world’s cities, and spanning settings as varied as belle epoque Paris, Nazi Germany, postwar London, Los Angeles, New York, and the smoggy Shanghai of today, Ladd explores this love and hate relationship throughout, acknowledging adherents and detractors of the automobile alike.
More info here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

What's Wrong With Black Friday

As if the Walmart worker getting trampled to death this past Friday wasn't enough reason to avoid the craziness that is our Xmas consumer culture, this article nicely details 10 more reasons we're doomed. Thanks to my bro-in-law for pointing this piece out.


Today is Black Friday, a day dedicated to our basest and most pathetic inclinations. The day after giving thanks for all that we have, we turn around and jump through horrible hoops to accumulate more at the insistence of sleazy, desperate retailers. It's a nice summation of everything wrong with this country and the holiday season, an appropriately named cancerous mark on our calendars. Our behavior today is the sort of thing an alien race would use as justification for our destruction. Let's run through the specifics, shall we?

1. Deals in Exchange for Dignity
You know what sucks? Not being able to afford something you really want, like an HDTV, unless you sacrifice your dignity by camping out in front of a mall in below-freezing temperatures on a night that should be spent with your family. The insane early-hour doorbuster sales force people, especially people with lower incomes who rely on discounts and sales, to physically suffer for their purchases. No cheap Blu-ray player is worth that.

2. May the Worst Man Win
Once you've spent the night camped out in line in front of a store, knowing full well there aren't enough discounted plasma TVs to go around, you turn into an animal. After all, if you leave empty handed you've wasted your entire night. So when those doors finally open, you don't have a line of shoppers—you have a line of bloodthirsty, vicious monsters that aren't afraid to throw a few elbows to get to that pallet of merchandise first.

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