To Fuss is Human, To Rant, Divine!!

Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Perhaps you've read about China censoring web content. The Chinese government, despite the Westernization, the fast cars, the fast food, the fast everything, has decided that intellectual freedom of expression is still out of the question. This goes back to my last post, in which I advocate an Internet Education class for children. Instead of teaching that the internet is a broad landscape of opinions, and that while people have the right to publicize and publish said opinions, one does not have to believe it all, China is restricting news, filtering political commentary, quashing dissidents and removing questionable content.

Why do this? Because information is dangerous? Or because their government, like ours, refuses to advance the state of their education system to catch up with technology?

Our government is better, you say? I say it isn't. Recent efforts to crack down on pornography aside (see - efforts to create .xxx, also, Attorney Gen. Gonzales), why is our government even thinking about restricting cloning and stem cell research? It's the same thing. Different mediums, same concept.

Freedom to publish content online is restricted by the basic laws that exist, like the First Amendment. You can't post kiddie porn. You can't say in a chat room that you're going to kill the President. Our current laws need to be updated (or rather, some precedents need to be established) to reflect the trends in technology, but we do not need to further restrict the freedom of the internet.

For the most part, I feel the exact same way about cloning and stem cell research. Why restrict something that doesn't really exist yet? People are afraid that cloning will get out of hand, we'll invent organ harvesting, take stem cells from dead babies, etc. etc. But by throwing a law on the books that bans stem cell research, or just hamstrings its funding, we're basically doing what China is trying to do to the internet.

Should we ban the cloning of a human being? Perhaps. Should we update our laws to control commerce and trade over the internet? Probably. But along those same lines, should we stop stem-cell research that might lead to groundbreaking treatments to Alzheimers, Parkinsons and a host of other diseases? I don't think so. Should we make it illegal for a website to display consensual pornographic content of dubious taste? I don't think that's healthy either.

Instead of educating individuals, our respective governments are trying to halt progress. Instead of encouraging our kids to pursue the sciences, we argue about intelligent design. Wouldn't a section on scientific ethics in a middle school biology class be more productive than a unit on Intelligent Design? Instead of allowing free and healthy discussion on the internet, China is closing web cafes and shutting down web sites that belong to dissidents.

Science, the internet, all technology for that matter, is not inherently evil. For an extreme example, look at Alfred Nobel and dynamite. People will inevitably use these things selfishly and to hurt others, but we can't go in and impose harsh restrictions before we've even gotten started. It would be as if Nobel invented dynamite, and the government immediate stopped his production, confiscated his materials and prohibited him from selling his prototypes. Yes, lives would have been saved. But dynamite's other purposes - mining and construction for example, would be lost to us.

We learn on the first day of basically every science class about the scientific method - make an observation, form a testable hypothesis, test the hypothesis and observe, if hypothesis is refuted, form another hypothesis and test again.

Laws against stem cell research and internet freedom of speech cut off that process. It kills the process by killing dialogue, by killing experimentation. Yes, there are always going to be Nigerian Princes in your inbox, pyramid schemes, and abuse of scientific knowledge. But the blanket laws being established in China, which are in danger of being established here, do more than censure the bad. They throw the baby out with the bathwater.

One last metaphor - let's say you have a seed. You don't know exactly what might grow out of it, but you know that it might grow into a tree that bears fruit which grants longevity and wisdom, or a tree whose fruit is delectable but carries with it a sentence of a slow, lingering death. Or maybe the tree will bear both kinds of fruit.

Do you

a) Plant the seed, cultivate it as best you can, and leave a plaque for your children and their children warning of the potential goods and evils


b) Plant the seed in an inhospitable environment and hope that it never flourishes?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

"Mark my words," remarked Marky Mark. "That girl in marketing is an easy mark."

Re: No. 9 in my last post.

There is a "CSI effect," but it has to do with jurors and not crimes.

While it's impossible to quantify, I wonder sometimes what the decline in education quality is doing to our nation's juries. I suppose to think about this requires the assumption that our national education used to be good in the first place, but just bear with me for a second. As we trend more towards teaching trades, away from logic, critical analysis, etc. etc., are we sacrificing the legitimacy of a trial by jury?

Or do I need to think about quality of education at all? Perhaps what's really on my mind is more of a worry about attention spans, about spin doctors, and believing everything you see on TV. This is a different kind of education, one which is just as important as the one you get in school (and related, of course). Call it street smarts, call it what you will, but the education system is only partially responsible for it. Just as we should learn about revisionist history in school, we should also learn not to trust everything we hear on CNN (or worse, Fox News).

It's for this reason that I think Intelligent Design is a horrible idea. Even if you could show me that evolution is not a fairly complete theory, and that we did need to teach an alternate form of creation, I wouldn't teach Intelligent Design. Because it teaches kids to assume. It teaches kids to trust that something which cannot be empirically proven is true. If you can't teach the kids to question, to form hypotheses from empirical observations, then you're not teaching science. You're teaching faith.

This is something that is even more important these days, with the internet proliferating millions of opinions with millions of agendas. In the threads on, which I often read, it's amazing how often someone posts a link to a site which helps them prove the point, and the link turns out to be some kind of politicized half-truth or some wildly unrepresentative statistics. At least on Fark, there are intelligent people who question and debunk these sites, but nevertheless, the point still stands.

It's so easy to find whatever you want online. Google something and it's there. Look something up on Wikipedia and it'll be there. But we can't always trust these faceless sources, and we need to teach our children this. Teach them young, and they'll understand when they grow up that it's not just the internet, that it's TV, the newspapers, their Republican co-workers who think "conservative" means being pro-Life, their Democrat co-workers who think "liberal" means turning the other cheek.

Why isn't there a class in 6th grade called "Net Ed?" It would be like Sex Ed but adapted to teach internet etiquette and warn about the dangers of articles without sources and chat rooms. It wouldn't be to make the kid paranoid, but rather, to teach how to question, how to check sources, and so on and so forth. If you don't think it's a potential problem, I'm willing to bet that every year in every school district around the country, there's a 7th grader who comes in their Social Studies report with some insane statistics they found online, possibly fabricated by someone else with an agenda. What's worse, your 10th grader engaging in premarital sex or your 10th grader thinking that Ronald Reagan was the best President the United States ever had? What's worse, your 10th grader not believing God, or your 10th grader believing a random internet article that says they shouldn't wear seat belts? I'm only kind of kidding.

Taking the line of thought about to trials and juries, I don't think jury pools have been diluted to the point where you basically have a bunch of poorly educated housewives, car repairmen and salesmen who watch Fox News, American Idol and Law and Order all day, but I wonder if it's worse than it was 50 years ago. At least then, we didn't have these shows that would make everyone feel like an Assistant District Attorney or a Forensic Scientist. I mean, I don't think Gunsmoke affected how people operated when serving jury duty. Of course, then, people were worried about Communism, spies, and were just as racist as we are today, so maybe my point's not that valid after all.

I still think we need some kind of internet education in our schools though.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Ready or Not

This is just going to be a few of random observations.

1) What's more productive, Barry Bonds hitting home run number 707, and telling the media that Congress should stop focusing on steroids and should look more at Hurrican relief instead, or Florida Marlins closer Todd Jones going to Houston and handing out T-shirts and toys to those devastated by the hurricane?

Sometimes, you have to wonder what sports agents go through with athletes like Bonds. Sure, negotiating a 22 million dollar a year contract is one thing. But trying to make your prima donna athelete keep himself from making himself odious to the general public? Why do I think that would be the bigger headache?

2) If John Donovan make the point that Ryan Howard is the NL Rookie of the Year, is he taking into account defense like most people are taking it into account when considering AL MVP? In other words, if we must discount David Ortiz's non-play on defense, should we also consider Howard's play at first and Francoeur's defense in right field?

3) Mandy Patinkin has a new TV show. It's about him and his team of criminal investigators. I wonder if he has a long standing grudge which drives him to solve crimes. I wonder if said long standing grudge will eventually lead up to a climactic confrontation with Christopher Guest...

4) Mandy Patinkin has a new TV show.

5) Why did no one complain that Fox premiered a TV show called "The War at Home" on 9/11? This seems at best callous to me. And I've never heard anyone else talk about it.

6) The movie coming out of Matthew McConaughey (sp?) and Al Pacino just looks like a gambling version of The Devil's Advocate, with Al Pacino playing the same role.

7) Why the heck would they cast Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh in "Memoirs of a Geisha," a movie about a Japanese woman? I believe the third major female is played by a Chinese woman too. Are there no Japanese actresses out there? What kind of accents are they going to have in this movie, considering that Zhang Ziyi speaks English with a heavy Chinese accent? Do they really think that the American theater going public can't tell the difference between a Chinese and a Japanese accent, or a Chinese face from a Japanese face? Ok, don't answer that.

8) Walking to work today, I saw a homeless man whose clothes were in tatters. He was mumbling incoherently as he walked with a black garbage bag over his shoulder. A woman in tight blue pants walked by him. Her pants were tight enough that you could tell that she was wearing a thong. Guess which person more people were staring at?

9) I wonder if the people who produce shows like Law and Order or CSI will ever be sued when someone commits a copycat crime. I can't believe that it hasn't already happened.

10) Mandy Patinkin has a new TV show.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Quick Baseball Post Part Deux

Just another quick baseball post before I really get down to work this morning.

This needed to happen because of this article at, in which Jeff Merron hails Leo Mazzone as the #1 assistant coach of all time.

I have no problem with the nod to Mazzone (and let it be known that myself and half the writers and wanna be writers who have ever written about Mazzone has used the "Leo Rocks" phrase).

What I do have a problem with is his top ten list. And what better way to critique a list than by listing its problems?

1) Top Ten lists by and large suck, unless they mention Mookie Wilson or they're being read by William Shatner. I still like Letterman's Top Ten lists, honestly, but they're just not as good as they once were. And in any other forum, they're wildly unneccessary.

2) You can't have a "Greatest of All Time" List and not feature anyone who made their biggest impact before 1980. Norm Chow (32 years of experience) and Charlie Lau (hitting coach who worked with George Brett) are the closest Merron comes, but why give a list the superlative "Greatest of All Time" when the majority of "Great Assistants" have done their best work in the past decade?

This list is more of a "Most High Profile Assistant Coaches of All Time".

3) Charlie Weis is on the list at #4, but Romeo Crennel isn't on the list anywhere. The Pats were known (are known, although their defense is much weaker this year) for their defensive prowess, if I understand pro football correctly. Charlie Weis admittedly did a lot for the Pats as their offensive coordinator, but for my money, no one has been a better chess player, to use an analogy I hate, than Romeo Crennel.

4) Mel Stottlemyre at #10. Mel shouldn't be on this list. Mel isn't anywhere close to being on this list. Mel might not make my list of Top Ten Pitching Coaches in the Majors, if only because he does essentially nothing for his pitchers. He's easily eclipsed by Mike Maddux, Rick Peterson, Dave Duncan, and several others. Stottlemyre had a nice career as a Yankee pitcher back in the day, and is one of Joe Torre's trusted crew, but as a pitching coach, who is supposed to fix flawed mechanics, notice tired pitchers and help develop young talent, Mel is anything but a boon to his team.

Look at the Yankees pitcher usage in the past few years. Part of it is Torre's fault for overusing certain relievers (Paul Quantrill, for instance). But Mel didn't do anything with Jeff Weaver. He didn't correct Javier Vazquez' horrible mechanics last year. In fact, articles have been written about how Mel's time with the Yankees is up, since he has never really demonstrated the ability to make pitchers better, and may have in fact hindered development, no matter where he has coached.

This is in the article I link above, but I think it deserves to be quoted here (Quote taken from Jeff Pearlman, author of The Bad Guys Won)

..."Mel had this thing about strikeouts," said Ed Hearn, the Mets' backup catcher in 1986. "He wanted Ron [Darling] to throw more breaking stuff. He did, and he was never quite as good afterward as he was in '86."

..."Mel just wasn't very good with mechanics," said a former Mets reliever who asked not be named. "If you had a problem with your delivery or if you were trying to work things out after being hurt, you were pretty much on your own.

Leo Mazzone is hailed as a guru because it has been shown that when he gets prospects, he can sometimes help them develop into good pitchers. He keeps his pitchers on a different throwing plan than other pitching coaches and their pitchers.

Some people will say "Oh, but Mel won 5 Series Rings." No no, Mel didn't win those rings. Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Roger Clemen and some of the best offense of the century won the rings with the Yankees. In '86, with the Mets, it was Dwight Gooden, Bobby Ojeda, Ron Darling and crew. Mel has always worked with talent, but he hasn't made the talent better. In fact a lot of people credit Mel with Dwight Gooden's implosion (although to be fair, most of it was drugs and more drugs).

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Summon Materia - Knights of the Round

It's a little bizzare to think about all the influential (or just time consuming) aspects of my adolescence and childhood being transferred onto different mediums. Of course, it's not that surprising, considering that which I found influential was probably also exerted much influence among others, which is why profits will be had all around.

Still, I see all these remakes and reimaginings being brought to life and I can't figure out whether I like it all or not. Would I have been better off not seeing Lord of the Rings and forever associating Frodo with Elijah Wood and Legolas with Orlando Bloom? As much as I did like the Fellowship of the Ring (the other two, I'm more lukewarm about), I'm not sure that I like having the movie embedded into my imagination when I'm re-reading the books. And I do re-read the books.

Rent is becoming a movie. Even though it seems like a straight translation, will I walk out of the theatre with a different image in my head of Mark and Roger's apartment? Do I really want to replace the stage of the Nederlander that exists in my memory when I think of Rent?

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is going to become a movie (although I'm not convinced it's going to be better than the campy and straight by the book BBC versions). To a large extent, just because I loved Lewis' books so much, Christian apologist or not, I want my imagination to hold sway when I think about the lone lamppost in the winter woods, or Lucy walking through a wardrobe of fur coats, smelling camphor, until she steps out into the cold forests of Narnia.

Final Fantasy VII became a movie, and has already been fansubbed and is all over the internet. I should know. I seen it, as they say.

But that's not quite the same though. It wasn't my imagination that sent Cloud Strife and Co. on a quest against Sephiroth, Mr. One Winged Angel. It wasn't my imagination that created those memorable cut scenes. So to a certain extent, it's not quite so jarring when I see those characters again.

For anyone who I've never told, FFVII was a huge time commitment for me. Eric Hunter burned me the game, a while after it came out, but only got the first disc right. So I ended up stuck on disc 1 the first time through, and was up to level 70 before I got around to actually buying the game. That's old news for a lot of people.

At least I didn't share Mike's fate, what with getting up at 3 AM to play the game because he couldn't let his parents find out he was playing.

FFVII is certainly high up on my list of great RPGs, although ones like Chrono Trigger and FFVI and Earthbound surpass it pretty easily. Still, it was quite the phenomenon here and in Japan as well, so it wasn't much of a surprise when Square Enix announced they would be making Advent Children, a movie which takes place two years after the end of FFVII.

It certainly is a pleasure to see Cloud and Co. rendered in today's cutting edge graphics, even though Cloud looks a bit more feminine than I remember him. Tifa's still Tifa though, if you know what I mean. And Red XIII, Barrett, Yuffie and Cid are all largely as we left them in the game. Vincent, of course, is Vincent (which is to say, damn cool).

Everyone's equipment and familiar clothes are left intact. Happily enough, Cloud's sword does seem to have a bit of heft to it, although he sometimes waves it around like it doesn't weight anything. It's one thing when he's doing it on your Pentium II. It's another when he's well-rendered and swinging his buster sword around himself with ease. But that's not that much of a complaint.

I would actually encourage people to go back and play the game again before watching Advent Children. I know I had to think hard about the plot of the game, and what exactly was going on in the movie. As good as my memory is, I think I must have forgotten a bit, since the movie turned out to be quite confusing.

Some of the CGI work, while brilliantly rendered and amazingly lush, is cut and edited rather badly, so that sometimes it's not clear what is a purpose cut and what isn't. The new plot has certain holes which might or might not be lost in translation.

But fans of the game, myself included, will most assuredly love the chase scenes and the vast number of homages to the game and its characters.

Square-Enix was obviously aware of these, because to a large extent, the movie for me was a large dose of "remember when." As in "remember when Cloud had to ride his motorcycle through that minigame?" And "remember when Aeris died at the end of Disc 1, and even though I had 99 Phoenix Down in my inventory I couldn't do a thing about it because it's integral to the plot?" It's more a trip down memory lane than a movie.

But oh what a pretty trip.

All the characters (side characters such as Reno, Rude and Rufus included) are by and large back, although alas, no Don Corneo.

Nobuo Uematsu is back on the music, and some familiar themes play throughout the movie (and one in a part of the movie which made me laugh out loud).

Fight scenes are even reminiscent of the game - watch for limit breaks, for instance. Seriously.

If I do have one complaint, besides the fact that it's not really a movie, it's that the graphics look like a buildup for Kingdom Hearts 2 at times. There's a lot of the same looks, a lot of the same angles as what we saw in the preview for KH2.

That's enough of that I suppose. Fans of FFVII will just have to see for themselves.


It's been a long time since I saw Rent. Anyone who knows me knows that I was a Rent-head in middle school and (kind of) high school. I managed to see it with much of the original cast still intact, and one of the two CD's that comprised the soundtrack always seemed to be playing in my CD player.

I reacted with a bit of skepticism when I heard that it was being made into a movie, and was being directed by Rob Marshall of Chicago fame (although Chicago was entertaining).

And even though much of the original cast is returning, I still have doubts about the ability of the camera to capture the industrial elements of the original set. I'm not sure how I'll react to the characters running around New York. While it certainly promises some good scenes (Mimi being homeless in Central Park at the end of the movie, Collins and Angel shopping at the bazaar at the end of the first half), the trailer appears to convey a lot more movement through New York than I think is appropriate in the adaptation of a musical (or opera or what have you).

More importantly, the news about the movie adaptation of Rent got me thinking.

I took a lot of things about the dialogue and the songs for granted. I also realized that Jonathan Larson made a few obvious faux pas (faux passes?) and wrote a few elements into the script that were amusing for a 12 year old, don't hold that much weight now.

Just a few examples:

1) I didn't realize for a long time that Tom Collins is an alcoholic drink. That kind of sours the character for me (pun intended if you know what a Tom Collins is), which is a pity, because Jesse Martin was my favorite member of the cast.

2) While I did know that it was based on Puccini's La Boheme, I didn't realize at the time that I saw it what an exact retelling of La Boheme it was.

3) This one is probably Larson's most obvious mistake. Angel, the gay transvestite, is responsible for making Muffy's (Benny's wife) dog commit suicide. But Angel is commissioned by a woman "to make her neighbor's yappy dog disappear." There's also something in the script about it being small and yappy. But "the Akita, Evita" is not a small dog. Why? Because Akita's are friggin humongous. They run between 80 and 130 pounds. Not small at all. They're big things. Jonathan Larson was obviously thinking about a Pomeranian, which is a small, fluffy yappy dog, but you try rhyming Pomeranian in a song. Still, it's a glaring inconsitency for anyone who knows their dog breeds.

4) All gay people get along. This actually a pretty bad stereotype it seems. Collins really gets along with Angel, who gets along with everyone. Maureen and Joanne are a couple, but besides some residual heterosexual tension, it seems that everyone has already worked out the sexuality issues. And for a musical so outspoken about sexuality, this means that homosexuality gets a rather blanket treatment

However, much of the musical should survive the passage of time, all stereotypes, good and bad, intact. The references to AZT are going to be anachronistic, as will be the idea of moving out to Santa Fe, since Arizona is now a hotbed of urban escapees looking for a good nightlife, but the message of the musical is still there.

I sometimes have troubles with the message actually. "No day but today" is well and good, but does anyone ever wonder if Roger ever performs his song for anyone besides himself and Mimi? Does Mark ever screen any of his movies? Maureen is the only character with any ambition and a) she doesn't have AIDS and b) she's labelled a bitch because of it. Mimi sings about the Spanish babies crying in her neighborhood, indicating that she yearns for an escape, but she's bound by a lifestyle of sex and drugs. While Mimi is encouraged to leave that lifestyle behind by anyone who knows what's good for her, there's a kind of black and white to the story that I've come to realize more lately.

Live for today is a message that isn't even appropriate for people with AIDS, because there is a tomorrow. And even if there weren't, the musical is still uncomfortable with "how to measure the days in a year." To me, it doesn't ever adequately answer that question. Mark either stays a starving artist or sells out. There's no option where Mark makes a scathing video about the life on the streets, and brings attention to the horrors of AIDS to an audience at the Tribeca film festival. Roger doesn't get his message out to anyone. In the end, these characters are still living for themselves, and their friends. But is that what the musical advocates? Is there something bigger that these people should be striving for, even in (especially in) their limited time?

Even if you can argue that the above would make for a shitty ending to a musical (and you can), it could have been done better. It is entirely possible that Larson wrote the end of the musical attempting to convey the fact that his characters are still flawed, and have a good amount of living, learning, loving and losing still to come, but is that really emphasized towards the end of Rent?

None of the characters really reach out to their families even. There are the phone calls, which are a nice way of making the characters deeper, separating the songs, and injecting a bit of Jewish/Hispanic/African American humor. But the whole concerned parents bit is left unresolved at the end, because for the purposes of the musical, the friendships are more important than the families. At the end of the Rent, none of the parents are any closer to their kids than when the musical started.

The white (Maureen's performance) and the black (Benny calling the cops) are never really reconciled, even though Benny does kind of come around in the end.

To me now, the most important part of the message is in the critique, which is why even though I'll enjoy lines that talk about Mark not being able to get it up on the high holy days and "so let her be a lesbian, there are other fishies in the sea," I'll understand that there's a lot more that Rent never touches, and never really dares to touch.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Music Review

Billy Idol - Devil's Playground

Most people know Billy Idol as the frosted blonde guy who, along with Duran Duran, Michael Jackson and Madonna, gave us the MTV that used to be cool. He parlayed a long career out of being a sex image and having a sneer which reminds me a bit of Hayden Christensen (2 - more whiny picture of Hayden) and a bit of Ben Stiller in Zoolander, which is to say, I think he looks quite silly, but to tell the truth, he has a good voice too. Good for growling and crooning alike, which is what made those early songs (Rebel Yell, Mony Mony, et. al) so popular.

His career fell off a bit in the 90's and he released an album in 2001, the kind of album which spells the demise of all bands not named U2 - a Greatest Hits Album. It says a lot about his career that it was a horribly weak CD, featuring two versions of Rebel Yell and a cover of Don't You Forget About Me. Never mind the fact that Mony Mony is a cover too.

But then something happened to send him back to the studio - maybe he ran out of money or something. In any case, Devil's Playground is his first studio work in over a decade.

All that said, it's not as weak an album as you might think. Whoever was producing this album did a good job making sure it exhibited Idol's surprising versatility.

Several songs do stand out, as laden with pop cliches as they are. "Sherri" is the strongest song on the album. It's a bit of 80's fun and escapism, and it's refreshing that Idol or whoever was advising him on the tracks recognized the need to acknowledge that.

More than a couple of songs are more a look back on his career than anything else, and there's nothing wrong with that. After all, Idol is 50 this year, and what else does he really have to write about besides past glories?

A couple of the later songs have an acoustic guitar touch that actually works rather well with Idol's voice.

But much of the album is rather weak - for some reason, there's a Christmas song. Yes, a Christmas song.

Sure, the song is about a drunken father and is essentially a rebellious adolescent's sardonic reflection upon Christman memories, but it still has bells and lines about Santa for God's sake. Not exactly a good fit for a studio release that's not a holiday album.

And other songs suffer lyrically. Idol was never known for his lyric stylings; they had shock value, but that was about it. Now that the shock value is more dormant (although it's certainly still there, as we will see), the amateur lyricist comes out in Devil's Playground.

The euphemism of "You're on your knees, You are my little queen, You know exactly what I mean, Climb up my lemon tree" is a bit confusing, but unmistakable. He does, after all, sing "suck it." But why lemon tree? Is it an English thing? Either way, this song still has some amusement value for its crassness.

Then take the song "Plastic Jesus"

Rule #1 of songs about plastic Jesus on the dashboard of your car) you should NEVER include the lyrics "I don't care if it rains or freezes as long as I've got my plastic jesus on the dashboard of my car." Those lyrics just don't have an impact, especially when you repeat "dashboard of my car" about 100 times during the song (actually 9, but that's 9 too many). Other aspects of the song convey the dashboard and the car, namely, the lyrics about traffic jams and the road.

I think a good way to convey the effectiveness and even the sound of this album is to compare him with a fellow Englishman, whose most popular days have passed, who also wrote a song recently about Jesus. Not Sting - he writes about Tantric Sex. No, I'm talking about Morrissey. (Ok, Morrissey is technically Irish, but that's besides the point - he grew up in England)

Before you think "Wait, Morrissey and Billy Idol? Completely different sounds! They stand for polar opposite philosophies!!" let me extrapolate.

First of all, let's take a look at Morrissey's song, off his 2004 release "You Are the Quarry," entitled "I Have Forgiven Jesus."

Right off the bat, it makes you smile, because it's a great song title.

And the lyrics convey a wonderful adolescent Catholic angst, without mention of the words religion, Catholic, cross, church or priest.

To obtain full effect, read lyrics with glass of dark red wine

"Why did you give me so much desire
When there is nowhere I can go
To offload this desire?
And why did you give me
So much love in a loveless world
When there is no one I can turn to
To unlock all this love?

And why did you stick me in
Self deprecating bones and skin?
Jesus do you hate me?
Why did you stick me in
Self deprecating bones and skin?

Do you hate me?
Do you hate me?..."

Now, Morrissey is obviously known for his lyrical stylings than Idol. When Billy Idol goes from general adolescent anarchy to snide social commentary, it doesn't work because it still comes off as a child screaming through an adult's vocal cords. Idol's attempts to convey disdain for organized religion through personal experience come off quite lame in comparison. But Morrissey can get around that. His Jesus song is the despair of an adult looking back upon the blind faith of his childhood.

Both Morrissey and Idol grew up in the same era. Morrissey is 46, and grew up in the heavily Sex Pistol's influenced English music scene, just like Idol. The comparison's largely end there, as Idol was always in the limelight as a pop star, which Morrissey has been essentially an icon of indie rock, but it might also be pointed out that they both have very unique vocal abilities. But listening to Idol's latest work, one can't help but think that he's trying to channel some of Morrissey's black humor, and it's really not very successful.

Part of it is because Morrissey's sound with the Smiths was already laced with the irony and humor more evident in his solo work, but most of it is because no one taught Idol how to write a good set of lyrics.

When Idol sticks to singing about girls and how good he is, he can still convey that sex-rebel-your-father-would-be-scared-to-death-of-image. But otherwise, Devil's Playground sounds like a 50 year old's admission that he'd like to mature and write some witty shit, but can't because he's still reliving his adolescent glory days.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Quick Baseball Post

I think most people who read my blog have already stopped reading after the title.

Oh well. Tough noogies.

Barry Bonds might be back today. He might not be. I could really care less.

What I do care about though, are the reports that he got into a fight with a teammate in June, in which "Bonds punched the player in the jaw, whereupon the player put Bonds in a headlock and retaliated." (Source:

Why do I care?

Because what kind of mutant monstrosity is capable of placing Barry Bonds in a headlock? I imagine that it would be something like the fight between Cary Elwes and Andre the Giant in "The Princess Bride."

Barry, who's listed as an imposing 6'2'', 228 lbs., would be a tough cookie, even after knee surgery. Think about it. Either his teammate jumped off a bench to get Barry in a headlock, or is really big himself.

In other words, I'm pretty sure it wasn't Omar Vizquel, who is listed generously as 5'9''.

I also wouldn't expect it to be a young player, because I would think he would be rather intimidated by Bonds' hulking presence in the locker room.

No, my money is on LaTroy Hawkins. He's not bulky, but he is 6'5'', so he has a bit of a height advantage on Barry. LaTroy also angers easily and gets irrational, if his days as a closer are any indication.

This is where MLB needs to step in. Not to intervene in fights, but to promote them. Their PR department is scrambling already amidst this whole steroids thing; why not just resign yourself and make a few bucks off it?

UPDATE: It was NOT LaTroy Hawkins. No, it's better. Apparently it was Jason Christiansen, who is no longer pitching for the San Francisco Giants but is still in state with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He logs in at 6'5'' as well, but is a burlier 230. That makes sense. He's also 36, so he wouldn't be afraid to take it to the BALCO-nator.

UPDATE II: Jen points out that it is entirely possible that Christiansen didn't really have the strength, but merely crippled Bonds first with either a rabbit punch or a swift blow to the crotch, thereby rendering him prone to a headlock. I suppose this is possible, and it is also certainly possible that the papers were too queasy to report it. But then I think that most major newspapers in this country would be happy to report Barry taking a shot to the shrunked testicles, since they would love to do it themselves.

Jason Christiansen is probably guaranteed a job at some media outlet after his pitching career is over. I'm surprised no article has hailed him as a hero yet. Perhaps after his retirement, he will become Jason Christiansen, a mild-mannered journalist by day (Yahoo! correspondent?), Asshole Crotch-Disabler Extraordinaire (ACE) by night.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Plans of Mice and Men

Under duress, I take to my blog.

Although I suppose I should be writing more these days. I just haven't really felt particularly like sharing. I think I need a timeout, or a naptime. Snack? I'm partial to Cheez-Its...

Oh well. Here goes.

This is my show and tell

Exhibit: Piece of Mail, I, William W. Li 05, got today.

It is a 4 by 6 greeting card. Very fancy. Expensive card stock, cream color background. At the forefront of the card is an artist's rendition of Dartmouth Hall and the buildings surrounding. The buildings are not all the same colors I remember, and I certainly don't remember that white picket fence job in front of the road. Wentworth is a brick red, and so is Thornton. Both buildings are white in my mind.

Looking closer, there's no paved road at all, only a dirt path, crossing over the green. Even that path isn't in the same pattern as it is today.

On the back of the card, it says "Dartmouth College," about 1840. Attributed to Ann Fraces Ray (Mrs. Gilbert Pillsbury, Dartmouth Class of 1841).

I knew it. This wasn't my Dartmouth. Not the Dartmouth I know. Oh, it's definitely very similar. But this looks like horses and carriages, not gas guzzling SUV's. Men walking around in shirts and slacks, not men and women skimpily dressed on the first sign of Spring.

Ms. Ray didn't even get the color of the sky right. She did the buildings okay though. I could look outside from the second floor of McNutt and get essentially what she drew in 1841.

But I see something different in my mind. My Dartmouth, not hers.

Perhaps the card itself holds something more like the Dartmouth I know?

The card opens to fancy green cursive text. Green is good. Green is like Dartmouth Green, like our supposed mascot.

"The Dartmouth Club of Washington, D.C.
The Office of Alumni Relations
cordially invite you to a reception with

President James Wright
Susan DeBevoise Wright

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

National Press Club
529 14th Street, NW.
Washington D.C.

Cocktail Reception 6:00 - 7:00 PM
Formal Program 7:00 - 8:00 PM

Complimentary hors d'oeuvres
Cash Bar"

Not quite.

This isn't my Dartmouth either.

National Press Club? As in, the Club for the people who grill the President? Formal program? That probably means dressing up, doesn't it. I'm not even a big cocktail person.

Hors d'oeuvres?

That's not . . . wait . . . that's free food.

Now THAT'S my Dartmouth.