Monday, May 29, 2006


We finally saw The Da Vinci Code. Here's my take on it and other movies I've seen recently. I'm way overdue on giving some reviews, so here goes. Short and sweet.

The Da Vinci Code - very good suspense movie. As some of you have already mentioned, it is very faithful to the book. There is an absolutely first-rate cast including, Tom Hanks, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany and Alfred Molino. But most outstanding would be Ian McKellan as Sir Teabing and Audrey Tautou as Sophie Neveu. I've never seen McKellan do a bad role and this is no exception. His performance exudes the erudition and humor of the character in the book to a tee. And add my voice to the chorus of supporters for Tautou. I loved her in Amelie and she's great in this. I actually read a review by some moron who complained that her French accent was too heavy and detracted from the movie. Hello!! She IS French. I understood her just fine. And I have a thing for women with foreign accents. Stupid comments like that from the reviewer give weight to the caricature of the "ugly American". They'd have you believe that if everything is not homogenized and Americanized, it isn't worth watching. And they would be wrong.

The settings in the movie are fantastic. Like in the book, they are practically a character by themselves.

I liked how the codes that Langdon sees in the paintings and elsewhere are illuminated like similar codes were shown in director Ron Howard's film A Beautiful Mind. This could have been something that would have been hard to illustrate visually, but they do a good job with it.

If I could find a weakness with the movie, it would be that it tries too hard NOT to offend the church. There are various instances (including one near the end of the movie) where Langdon goes into a monologue out of the blue stressing how the Priory and the Holy Grail, the marriage of Jesus, etc. are all just speculation. He comes off as much more of a skeptic than he does in the book. In real life, that would be fine. Those things are just speculative. But in the book, he did not have as many doubts as the movie would lead you to think. I think the movie could have been made much more controversial than it was. As it is, in a fictional setting, it can still make people think. If at the least, it makes people question tradition and dogma, good for it.

I really fail to see what all the controversy is about. The Da Vinci Code comes off as a well-paced whodunit that happens to be set in a religious setting. But no one would mistake it for a documentary or scholarly work. To those that are actively and vociferously protesting this movie ... especially if you haven't seen it ... get a life. Grade: B+

For some inciteful reviews and discussions of the movie, see:

Laura at Sarchasm
- Movie Review: The DaVinci Code

Cyberkitten at Seeking a Little Truth
- Da Vinci code nun 'not genuine'
- India Catholics target Da Vinci
- Catholics form Da Vinci film team
- Church acts against Da Vinci film

Jewish Atheist
- Why the Success of The Da Vinci Code is a Good Thing

American Dreamz - The tagline from the movie gives a pretty good heads-up on it's plot: "Imagine a country where the President never reads the newspaper, where the government goes to war for all the wrong reasons, and more people vote for a pop idol than their next President." The story follows a fictional program called American Dreamz (an obvious parody of American Idol) and it's intersection with American life and the President. In the first half-hour of the film, I was disappointed because it seemed like it was hitting the easy targets and painting with just a little wide of a brush. President Staton is played with the same affable southern stupidity that has marked a lot of movies (too many) over the last couple of years (Perry King in Day After Tomorrow and Sam Rockwell in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, to name a few). Mandy Moore plays the Kelly Clarkson-type starlet. Hugh Grant plays the Simon Cowell-like host of the show. I was initially disappointed because it seemed like it was taking a shortcut and was not going to be a deeper satire. While it didn't completely redeem itself, the over-the-top nature of the characterizations were apparently done for a reason. They force you to analyze the nature of stereotypes. And the arc which some of the characters take end up being suprising, especially that of the President. Towards the end, he stops listening to his handlers, starts reading, and becomes human. To our real-life president, we can only hope this happens. Grade: B-

Thank You for Smoking - a great satire. From IMDb, "Satirical comedy follows the machinations of Big Tobacco's chief spokesman, Nick Naylor, who spins on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his twelve-year-old son". A much better satire than American Dreamz in that it's targets are not as obvious. It seems to be attacking the tobacco industry and the promotion of smoking in society, but in reality it's attacking both sides of the debate. Not just the way bad things are spun but also how political correctness goes overboard sometimes.

Some of the funniest scenes are with Eckhart's character and the representives from the gun lobby and the alcohol lobby. They meet frequently at a bar and discuss how many people each of their vices kill. Appropriately, they call themselves the MOD Squad (Merchants Of Death).

It has a very nice cast, especially Aaron Eckhart as the lead and William H. Macy as the Senator. I strongly recommend this movie. It's probably the best satire I've seen in a few years. Grade: A-

Mission: Impossible III - good, clean fun. I enjoyed it in the same vicarious way one would enjoy a James Bond film. I like the implausible espionage stuff and exotic locales. Having a first-class actor play a villain (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) adds to the fun. It includes other top-notch talent like Laurence Fishburne and Billy Crudup. Being directed by J.J. Abrams and written by Robert Orci and starring Greg Grunberg, the movie definitely has an Alias feel to it ... to it's credit. Even though I've liked some John Woo-directed films (Face/Off and some of his Hong Kong films), by the time he did MI-2, the slow-motion jumping sideways and shooting at the same time scenes were getting damn tired. So this MI is a step up from MI-2.

The main quest of the movie, the search for a weapon, "Rabbit Foot", reminded me a lot of the Maltese Falcon in that it doesn't matter to the story that the object may not have value or that you don't really know what it is. It's all about the quest. Grade: B-

Friday, May 26, 2006

Random Thoughts

The controversy of The Da Vinci Code got me to thinking of the Left Behind movie of a few years back. If they are banning and boycotting The Da Vinci Code around the world for it's controversial religious content and accusing Dan Brown and Ron Howard of pawning it off as truth, why didn't people do the same with those atrocious movies made of the Left Behind series? Making a movie based on Rapture sci-fi that evangelical Christians just eat up would be reason enough for a protest. But wait ... there's more. They starred evangelist-in-the-making and former teenage hearthrob, Kirk Cameron. I think I'm going to be sick. I love this review of the first Left Behind movie by Washington Post's Desson Howe: "...a blundering cringefest, thanks to unintentionally laughable dialogue, hackneyed writing and uninspired direction. The more this movie tries, the worse it gets. Its sincerity ends up becoming a bulging bull's-eye for rotten-tomato throwers." Classic. Please explain to me how Left Behind is any better than L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth?

I guess people have protested in their own way ... by not going to see them. Unfortunately, these movies continue to be made. They've even invited a parody on the Simpson's: Thank God It's Doomsday

Here's my vote for who should run in '08

Stewart/Colbert '08

A lot was made of the multiple guilty verdict counts in the Enron trial of Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. For good reason. But what was missed (and what is always missed by the mainstream media) is who is not mentioned ... Dubya. From Mother Jones and Digby:

[T]he reality, as established by a wealth of historical record and recent disclosures, is that Lay and Enron were instrumental in Bush’s rise to power – and Bush played an important behind-the-scenes role in advancing Enron’s aggressive deregulation agenda, which helped the energy trader ascend to its lofty perch as the seventh-biggest U.S. company.

The Bush-Lay coziness earned the Enron chief a nickname from Bush as "Kenny Boy." But more importantly for Enron, Bush pitched in as governor and president whenever the energy trader wanted easier regulations within the U.S. or to have U.S. taxpayers foot the bill for loan guarantees or risk insurance for Enron's overseas ventures.

Imagine if this relationship had involved Clinton instead of Bush. It would have been Kenneth Starr's wet dream. But it didn't and instead we hear a deafening silence. Good job media. Where are the original Woodward and Bernstein when you need them? Even Bob Woodward has forgotten them.

From local AZ blogger friend Vern's Blog:

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bush Snubs Gore Film on Global Warming

"If you asked me to name the three scariest threats facing the human race, I would give the same answer that most people would: nuclear war, global warming and Windows." -- Dave Barry

In a very telling indication of what exactly is wrong with George Bush and with the "stick-your-head-in-the-sand" Republicans, President Bush replied to a question on whether he would watch Al Gore's documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, and said, "Doubt it." This is how Bush responds to any kind of truth that he doesn't want to face. Ignore something is happening and it will go away. Al Gore, who was already one of my heroes, is on his game right now and as comfortable in his own skin as I've ever seen him. And he replied to Bush's lack of vision brilliantly:

WASHINGTON - Is President Bush likely to see Al Gore's documentary about global warming? "Doubt it," Bush said coolly Monday. But Bush should watch it, Gore shot back. In fact, the former Democratic vice president offered to come to the White House any time, any day to show Bush either his documentary or a slide show on global warming that he's shown more than 1,000 times around the world.

"The entire global scientific community has a consensus on the question that human beings are responsible for global warming and he has today again expressed personal doubt that that is true," Gore said in an Associated Press interview from France where he attended the Cannes Film Festival ...

Gore's documentary chronicles his efforts to bring greater attention to the dangers of climate change.

"New technologies will change how we live and how we drive our cars, which all will have the beneficial effect of improving the environment," Bush said. "And in my judgment we need to set aside whether or not greenhouse gases have been caused by mankind or because of natural effects and focus on the technologies that will enable us to live better lives and at the same time protect the environment ..."

"... Why should we set aside the global scientific consensus," Gore said, his voice rising with emotion. "Is it because Exxon Mobil wants us to set it aside? Why should we set aside the conclusion of scientists in the United States, including the National Academy of Sciences, and around the world including the 11 most important national academies of science on the globe and substitute for their view the view of Exxon Mobil. Why?"

"I'm a grandfather and he's a father and this should not be a political issue," Gore said. "And he should ask the National Academy of Sciences ... whether or not human beings are contributing to global warming ..."

Who sounds more presidential now? On one side you have an intelligent, compassionate person who leads with ideas. On the other side, a petulant simpleton who's afraid to admit a fault. Thank you for that, Supreme Court.

"There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyze the causes of happenings." -- Dorothy Thompson

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I'd been skirting this issue a bit. Not because I was afraid to talk about it but just because I wanted to be as educated about it as possible before putting my foot in the pool. It's not a black and white issue and proponents of both sides are finding odd bedfellows. One of my friends forwarded me his letter that he sent to the RNC concerning Bush's stance. I thought a critique of it would be a good starting point for a discussion. My friend is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative who prays at the altar of Rush and Krauthammer and Hannity. He's fun to have arguments with because he is fairly well-educated(albeit, misinformed) on his stance. And he doesn't take criticism personally. First of all, here's his letter in it's original context:

Mr. Mehlman,

I'm sorry I cannot sign the petition. While I do agree that our immigration system is broken, I cannot support the President on his agenda. I feel that any immigration reform must start with security first. The President wants a comprehensive plan that deals with all aspects of immigration. This will fail, just like it did under Reagan's amnesty program. Under Reagan's program, there was supposed to be tighter security and employer penalties for hiring illegal workers. None of that happened. All we got was 3 million law breakers made into citizens.

The President wants to give amnesty to those that are here illegally without shutting down the border first. I strongly disagree with this policy. Yes, it's amnesty, no matter what type of spin the President wants to put on it. Allowing those that broke our laws, that demonstrated in our city streets DEMANDING legalization, is a slap in the face to every legal U.S. resident and the millions around the world that are trying to come here through legal channels. Without shutting down the border, we'll be looking at another 30 million or more in the next 20 years. No, I do not believe the 11 to 12 million figure. The President stated that the U.S. has detained and deported 6 million illegal crossers under his watch. Since the U.S. Border Control admits that they catch less than half of those coming in, do the math. If they did catch half, that means 6 million have gotten through at a minimum. That's 6 million in 5 years and this has been going on for 20 years. This doesn't even take into account the children born here to illegal aliens (we need to change that part of the Constitution as well and get rid of the anchor baby status).

There are laws on the books now that deal with employers that hire illegal workers. Here's an idea, enforce them. We do not need another law for this, just enforce what we have now. This would be easy to do if the President and members of Congress weren't afraid of losing big business political donations.

The President spoke of the catch and release policy. Why is it they we immediately send back all OTM (other than Mexicans)? Why release all or most of the Mexican law breakers? They will never show up in court. All of this talk of these illegal aliens "living in the shadows" is a joke. Maybe the President didn't see the millions of illegal aliens protesting over the last few months. They didn't seem to be hiding in the shadows as they demanded their rights. They have no fear of being sent home because the local police cannot detain them unless they are committing a crime.

Yes the system is broke and a big part of it is the President's unwillingness to shut down the border. Does he actually think sending 6000 National Guard troops down to the southern border in a SUPPORT role will make us forget that he has ignored this issue for over 5 years? Why is the President so afraid of Mexico's President Fox? He went out of his way to emphasize that the United States is not militarizing the border. We aren't we? We have a huge problem here. Fox's government is threatening lawsuits if the National Guard directly detains any Mexican entering our country illegally. Am I missing something here? Mexico can militarize their border but we're racists if we do the same? For all the President's talk on security and life after 9/11, it's inexcusable and appalling that he has done nothing to secure our borders. If he really wanted to, the southern border could effectively be shut down within a week. He is selling out this country to Mexico.

I've been a strong support of the President on most issues, but on this one, he is dead wrong. The people of the country demand a secure border. We demand that our laws are followed. We do not want people who broke our laws rewarded with citizenship. It does not matter if they've been here for 15 years, that only means that they've broken our laws for the last 15 years. These people got here illegally, they can certainly return to their country legally and apply for either a guest worker program or one of the other 30 something work visas we already have.

The McCain-Kennedy-Bush amnesty bill would be a devastating blow to this country. While I do agree that we need some type of guest worker program, anything that gets passed in Congress that does not effectively shut down the border to stop the millions of illegal crossing is doomed to failure. I simply do not understand the Republican's short sightedness on this issue. Thankfully we have people like Rep. Tancredo, Rep King, Sen. Cornyn and Sen. Kyl fighting for the will of the American people. I just wish one of them would run for President. The Republican's that support this amnesty will be very sorry come election time. The conservatives will not vote for them ever again under any circumstance. MCain has no chance of being President now. If it's McCain vs. Hillary, most conservatives will stay home and Hillary will win. I hope the GOP is ready for that. Bill Frist has turned his back on the conservatives as well. I'm waiting to see how Mr. Allen votes. He could be the last one standing.

It's a sad day when the demands of illegal immigrants are more important to our elected officials than our laws, our sovereignty and the will of the American citizen.

Now, I'll begin with what I agree with:

"I feel that any immigration reform must start with security first." - Without beefed-up security, any changes in policy could affect the influx of illegal immigrants. The administration needs to go beyond talking about beefing up security to actually funding it. Congress authorized hiring of 2000 new agents yet Bush has supported hiring only 210. Additionally, the responsibility needs to be a federal one. The governor of Georgia recently signed into law a measure that would have local law enforcement detaining people on federal immigration law violations. This is the wrong way to handle it and a dangerous precedent. Local law enforcement is already tasked with maintaining the peace. Having this added burden would hamper their ability to maintain useful relationships with immigrant populations and would be opening law enforcement up to charges of racial profiling and civil rights violations. Governor Napolitano of Arizona saw the folly of a similar measure and vetoed it.

"There are laws on the books now that deal with employers that hire illegal workers. Here's an idea, enforce them." - a very valid point. The biggest obstacle to these laws being enforced is that a large percentage of businesses that support Bush and Republicans don't want it enforced. They make their profits on the backs of underpaid illegal immigrants.

And what I disagree with:

"... we need to change that part of the Constitution as well and get rid of the anchor baby status." - The 14th Amendment states, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.". From Wikipedia, "According to Congressional records of the original debate on the Amendment, the phrase "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" was specifically inserted to make it clear that a person is not a citizen simply by the location of their birth. The intent being that children born to foreign citizens would fall under the jurisdiction of their parent's respective governments, unless their parents are entirely under the jurisdiction of the United States." If I am understanding the amendment, it is written correctly. It is just not being enforced. So the amendment would not need to be changed. I believe this amendment was originally created to grant citizenships to children of slaves. But I may be wrong.

"They have no fear of being sent home because the local police cannot detain them unless they are committing a crime." -- There is a funny little thing called "due-process". Are you sure that you want to open up the can of worms that allows police to apprehend people without knowing they've committed a crime? That is where neo-cons and the Patriot Act are leading us.

"Thankfully we have people like Rep. Tancredo, Rep King, Sen. Cornyn and Sen. Kyl fighting for the will of the American people. I just wish one of them would run for President." -- He-he. That statement is just scary. Here are some of the highlight statements by these Neanderthals:

"We will never be able to win in the clash of civilizations, if we don't know who we are. If Western civilization succumbs to the siren song of multiculturalism, I believe we're finished."

"Well, what if you said something like "if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites," Tancredo answered.

"You're talking about bombing Mecca," Campbell said.

"Yeah," Tancredo responded.

Peter King:
" The world is safer today because of George Bush, 'cause of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya.'"

John Cornyn:
" It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right. Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife."

John Kyl:
Too many to mention. He blindly parroted the neo-con line and pushed lies to get support for the war. Here are just a few: Wrong as Wrong Can Be

"It's a sad day when the demands of illegal immigrants are more important to our elected officials than our laws, our sovereignty and the will of the American citizen." - It's a sad day when neo-cons think they know what the will of the American people is. And could he be any more melodramatic? Sovereignty only seems to come up when they're talking about immigration. They seem to conveniently forget about it when pushing democracy on other sovereign states.

All in all, he puts his points forward decently within the framework of what he believes. He has some valid points. He has some misguided ones. Tying it all up in a nice bow and calling it immigration reform just seems to be "polishing a turd". It's still xenophobia or outright racism. They oppose amnesty because it rewards those who "break the law". Breaking the law to get a below minimum wage job is wrong ... breaking the law to steal millions from retired people (Enron) or Native Americans(Reed, Abramoff, DeLay) is OK. Illegal wiretapping is OK too in their book. There is no consistency in conservative beliefs.

My conservative friends seem to be fairly constant fodder for my posts. And for that, I apologize to them. But I'd rather talk about stuff that is personally relevant to me and that I hear about on a daily basis. I'm not trying to hide any of my opinions. I'm not afraid to defend or admit I'm wrong on any point that I've tried to make in person or in writing on my blog. If my opinions are fodder for my conservative friends' blogs (if they have them), more power to 'em.

And I don't want to make these discussions into a personal issue. It's not. I still like my friends, but I have a profound philosophical difference with them on some things.

Maybe I'd trust my friend's intentions more if not for his history. He fired off this missive in an e-mail a few years ago: "There are plenty of things wrong with our justice system. How about 25% of the prison population in AZ being ILLEGAL immigrants. They'll just let them go after their sentence is up to go out and commit more crimes or suck more tax dollars from everyone that is here legally. Hey, here's a thought...send them back to fucking Mexico. Put them all on a plane (or as many planes as it takes) and fly them to the most southern airport available in Mexico. Drop them off at the airport and say "Adios"." I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say his opinions have matured. But a part of me thinks that the neo-conservative movement just uses fancy terms like "immigration reform", "No Child Left Behind", and "school vouchers" to hide their racism.

I do find it amusing that true hard-core conservatives are having problems with Bush, Frist, McCain, etc. They usually aren't this cannibalistic. Hopefully it will translate into big changes in November.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fox News ... White House Press

This pretty much puts to bed any doubts as to whether FOX News is the mouthpiece for the White House. From Crooks and Liars:

MR. SNOW: Well, as I pointed out -- I mentioned this yesterday, and for -- let me see if I can find my quote, because I pulled it out. Chuck Hagel, as you may recall, made a fair amount of news over the weekend when he first said that -- let's see -- "Well, I want to listen to the details and I want to listen to the President," said Senator Hagel -- he said this on "This Week" on a competing network. But I would say this: I think we have to be very careful here. That's not the role of our military, that's not the role of our National Guard." That's what Senator Hagel said on Sunday.

"Fair and Balanced" .... rigggghhhhhtttt. You betcha.

Growing up ...

The little one is growing up ... and I am growing old.

Alex's T-ball season is over:

And he graduated from pre-school last night. I didn't even know there was such a thing. One of Alex's numerous girlfriends. He so much more of a ladies-man that I've ever been. :-)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Favorite Concerts

I was looking through some old concert ticket stubs the other day. I've kept them for every concert that I've ever seen. Probably just a silly compulsion. But when I look at them, it momentarily carries me back to that little slice of time. Music seems to have that ability to attach itself to events in your life. Kind of like a soundtrack.

I thought I'd try to figure out what I considered to be the 10 favorite concerts out of the 100+ that I'd attended. Couldn't narrow it down. So we have a baker's dozen (13). Not necessarily the best sounds or the best performance. It doesn't have to be the best lineup or venue ... though in some cases it was. These were the ones that I considered to be the best "experiences". A combination of band, performance, venue, songs, who I was with, how I was feeling that day. Here goes, in chronological order:

Def Leppard/Tesla -- Hilton Coliseum in Ames, IA -- November 7, 1987
This is the first concert that I ever went to. I was a freshman at Iowa State University and attended this with my brother. I was still in the process of working out of my pop music/new wave phase that I'd endured in my teens. At this point, I was somewhere in between Duran Duran and Ministry. I certainly won't try to tout Def Leppard as being anything other than it was ... catchy pop metal. But we had a blast. Seating was "in-the-round" with the stage in the middle of the arean. We were in the first row of the first deck. Probably only about 60 feet from stage. This was on the Hysteria tour and they played all the obligatory anthems off of that and Pyromania.

Metallica/Cult -- Hilton Coliseum, Ames, IA -- June 11, 1989
By this time at college, I was fully immersed in my heavier music stage, listening to a steady dose of Metallica, Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, etc. And this was the first time that I got to see Metallica. This was on the ... And Justice for All tour. They played for a long time and had great imagery and props, including a collapsing statue of the classic image of justice. (per anon. request, here's a scan of the ticket)

Clash of the Titans -- Civic Auditoreum, Omaha, Nebraska -- June 6, 1991
One of the best lineups of a show that I'd ever been to: Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth and Alice in Chains. When you first see Alice in Chains listed there, you think they are a bit out of place. They were an up-and-coming band at the time. They could have been easily intimidated by the more established and loud fans of the other bands, but they were up to the task and played awesome. I'm glad I got to see them then as they very rarely toured because of singer Layne Staley's numerous drug rehab stints (and eventual death).
Slayers fans are a completely different breed and were by far the loudest. If there was a house band for hell, Slayer would be that band. They were incredible. Anthras was great too and was the most party-oriented band there. The day of the concert, my brother and I saw the drummer Charlie Benante at a record store in old town Omaha and we went up and got his autograph.
Megadeth was the main band that we were going to see and we were able to work our way up to the stage for their set. Great performance and I think my ears are still ringing.

Red Hot Chili Peppers/Pearl Jam/Smashing Pumpkins -- C.Y. Stephens, Ames, IA -- October 19, 1991
As they say, it's sometimes better to be lucky than good. We bought tickets for this show as soon as they went on sale because the venue was small (about 1500 seats) and the Chili Peppers were very popular at the time. We didn't know much about the opening bands at the time and almost showed up late for that reason. Luckily, we did show up on time and caught awesome sets by two little bands you may have heard of ... Pearl Jam and The Smashing Pumpkins. This was the tour for the Pepper's Mother's Milk, PJ's Ten, and Pumpkins' Gish albums. Like I said, we were morons but lucky morons.

Prong -- The Roxy, Phoenix, AZ -- October 26, 1994
Prong for many years was my pet band. I saw them probably half a dozen times in little over a year. I had first been exposed to them in college accidentally. My college roommates and I were visiting a hole-in-the-wall record shop in Iowa City (home of the University of Iowa) and I saw a Prong CD single with artwork by the classic metal artist Pushead. You usually see his work on Metallica t-shirts. Anyway, having never even heard of Prong, I bought the CD, went home and listened to it and was hooked. It was very primal, bare-bones metal. Post-industrial.

This show at the Roxy was particularly good and we got right up to the front of the stage and I was able to shake singer/guitarist Tommy Victor's hand.

Tammy Wynette -- Don's Celebrity Theatre, Laughlin, NV -- February 11, 1995
I know ... this listing seems kinda incongruous, but there's a reason. We went to this show with my folks at the Riverside Casino in Laughlin Nevada. This is one of those classic dinner theaters that you would imagine Frank Sinatra appearing at. It was nice being able to sit at a table, have a drink or two and enjoy the show. My parents bought the tickets. We had a suprisingly good time. The highlight was actually getting to meet Ms. Wynette after the show and get her autograph. She was very nice and had none of the usual celebrity trappings.

R.E.M/Luscious Jackson -- Blockbuster Desert Sky Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ -- May 5, 1995
The only time that I have seen R.E.M. Blockbuster (now Cricket Pavilion) is an outside venue that can hold 20,000 or more. It was a bit warm even in May. But it was worth it as R.E.M played for 2 hours plus and were consummate showmen.

Ministry -- Mesa Amphitheatre, Mesa, AZ -- May 11, 1996
I've never seen so much black clothing in one location. Ministry was the first heavy band that I liked in college but they never came to Ames when I was there. I finally saw them in Mesa and was not disappointed. Pure aggression.

Lollapalooza -- Compton Terrace, AZ -- July 27, 1996
Dusty, hot, windy, sweaty pit in the middle of the desert. We had thunderstorms and 108 degree weather. Not my favorite venue but it seemed oddly apropos with a band lineup of Rancid, Devo, Ramones, Soundgarden, Metallica. My only band disappointment was the abreviated set by Soundgarden. They were irritated that some fans had booed the Ramones, who had preceded them. And I agree with SG on this one. It was my first chance at seeing either SG or the Ramones and was appreciative of the opportunity. The Ramones only performed 5 more concerts in their career after this one and I was lucky enough to be there. To be able to see both the Ramones and Devo together was special.

Rage Against the Machine/Foo Fighters -- Mesa Amphitheatre, Mesa, AZ -- September 26, 1996
Another show in one of my favorite venues. This was the perfect combination of two great bands at the height of their game and with similar political leanings. One of the great things about them, though, is that they would never do political posturing during a show. They would let their music speak. I've heard much more poltical garbage and jingoism at the few country concerts that I've attended.

The highlight of the show was the surprise appearance of local resident Maynerd Keenan of Tool (he lives in Jerome, I believe) during Know Your Enemy.

Bruce Springsteen -- Gammage Auditorium, Tempe, AZ -- October 21, 1996
Great sound. This was on his one-man acoustic Ghost of Tom Joad tour. Just him and a guitar. Very evocative of a Bob Dylan show. Ghost of Tom Joad is probably my favorite album of his. The title is an obvious reference to the John Steinbeck classic, The Grapes of Wrath. And the songs are all similarly relating to the plight of the working man. The only other person to appear on stage at this show was his longtime guitarist Nils Lofgren (who lives in Scottsdale) who played for a song or two.

Faith No More -- Electric Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ -- October, 1997
Another great venue. The stage is at the bottom of a bowl in the middle. No seat in the house is more than 75 feet from stage. I had loved Faith No More since college but this was the first time that I got to see them. Opening band Limp Bizkit was understandably forgettable. This was before they hit it big. Their cover of George Michaels's Faith was high-energy and entertaining enough. But the real reason that I came was Faith No More. I believe they were one of the most underrated bands out there. They consistently suprised with every album. Never sticking to a formula and never pandering to the mainstream. Interesting side note: I saw Michael Moore in this same venue prior to the elections of '04.

Slipknot/Lamb of God/Shadows Fall -- Glendale, AZ -- April 6, 2005
Slipknot are fellow corn-fed Iowa boys. You wouldn't know it from seeing them. They are a scary 9 piece band straight from the bowels of hell. I'm fairly large (6'1", 225) but I feared for my life at this show. It was awesome. See here for a review. Shadows Fall and Lamb of God also performed.

I'd be curious to hear some of your favorite concert experiences.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


"The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be." -- Socrates

As you know, I like writing about hypocrisy. And today I'm going to write about one of the biggest hypocrites I know ... ME. Mine is the worst kind because I actually have some control over it. Casting aspersions on others and ignoring my own shortcomings would be no way to live. Here goes:

I tout the advantages of communal living and criticize urban sprawl yet live in what many would consider the suburbs. It's especially tough when you have a kid. You are trying to balance everything ... cost, schools, access to employment, etc. But they are all just excuses. I truly believe in the merits of higher density city living. At some point in my life, I'd like for us to to move nearer the city center of a major city.

I like to think my wife and I are environmentalists yet we hold jobs that involve each of us driving 70+ miles a day. If I could figure out some way of getting to all my clients in a timely manner riding the bus, I'd do it. But with the large area of the valley, it is impossible logistically and time-wise. Solution ... I need to get a different job. Someone needs to pay me gobs of money to stay home and write. I can dream, can't I? We have little 4 cylinder cars. But we could do better. I'd love for us to both have hybrids. We're working towards getting me one within the next year.

I espouse the merits of patronizing local businesses but I still go to places like Target and Costco. Again, this is where a lively urban center would be an advantage. You would have many businesses of all types ... locally owned ... within walking distance. Money would be staying in your community. There would be less pollution because of less driving. When it comes to the big box stores, I do try to pick the lesser of two evils. See my earlier post on Costco. If faced with several undesirable choices, at least know what is going on with your money. This is a good site for checking on businesses:

I completely understand why it is good both personally and globally to consume organic foods, yet I don't take advantage of the numerous resources (whole food markets, farmers' markets, etc.) as often as I should. There are starting to be quite a few inexpensive supermarkets that offer organic foods: No real excuse for me to not to use them other than being a lazy sod.

We try to be charitable and volunteer when we can, but I don't think we do enough. We give quite a bit, but you can always give more. We've volunteered for voter registration drives, at the food bank and at Michelle's church, but there are many more opportunities to help. Again, this is a case where you try to balance raising a child, running a business and being a good citizen. If I wasn't so chicken-shit, I'd just sell our house, liquidate all of our 401K's and IRA's and go join the Peace Corps or do some kind of huminatarian work in another country. And I think it would be a unique life experience for us all. It would certainly provide a different perspective to Alex that Michelle and I did not get exposed to growing up in small town Iowa. There are times where I really, really think that's what I should do. Most of the rest of the time I think maybe I can do more good by continuing to work as hard as I can for the next 15 years or so, retire and then volunteer extensively for the rest of our lives.

So what does it all mean? It means none of us are perfect. As long as we are trying to do good and trying to do better, there is hope for us. Never be content that what you are doing is enough.

"The unexamined life is not worth living." -- Socrates

Saturday, May 06, 2006

I Love South Park ...

Taking a cue from Sadie, I Hate South Park But ..., I made myself into a South Park character:

Check it out at South Park Studio. Thanks for the link Sadie. It was pretty amusing.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Lies, Lies, Lies ... Yeah!

"Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it." -- Adolph Hitler

A former co-worker and friend of many years forwarded the following e-mail to me (and several hundred of her dearest friends) in the last week:

Dr. Dobson & CBS Response

Apparently we are to be allowed to watch TV programs that use every foul word in the English language, but not the word "God." It will only take a minute to read this and see if you think you should send it out


CBS discontinued "Touched by an Angel" for using the word God in every program. Madeline Murray O'Hare, an atheist, successfully managed to eliminate the use of Bible reading from public schools a few years ago. Now her organization has been granted a federal hearing on the same subject by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, DC.

Their petition, Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the gospel our Lord and Savior, on the airwaves of America.

They got 287,000 signatures to back their stand! If this attempt is successful, all Sunday worship services being broadcast on the radio or by television will be stopped. This group is also campaigning to remove all Christmas programs and Christmas carols from public schools!

You as a Christian can help! We are praying for at least 1 million signatures. This would defeat their effort and show that there are many Christians alive, well and concerned about our country. As Christians we must unite on this. Please don't take this lightly.

We ignored this lady once and lost prayer in our schools and in offices across the nation. Please stand up for your religious freedom and let your voice be heard. Together we can make a difference in our country while creating a way for the lost to know the Lord.

Please press "forward", and forward this to everyone that you think should read this. Now, please sign your name at the bottom (you can only add your name after you have pressed the "Forward"). Don't delete any other names, just go to the next number and type your name and state. Please defeat this organization and keep the right of our freedom of religion.

REMEMBER! : Our country was founded on freedom of religion and our Constitution is based on the 10 Commandments.

People that forward this kind of crap are the worst kind of morons (sorry ... you're a friend but in this case, you are either naive or a moron or both). It illustrates the following:

  • -- You will believe anything especially if it is religion-related and even more if James Dobson is associated with it.

  • -- You are gullible and will do anything if asked to in an e-mail.

  • -- You apparently don't have the time to take 2 seconds to go to and double-check something before spamming everyone in your address book. Variations of this e-mail have been bouncing around the internet for 10 years: Petition to Ban Religious Broadcasting

  • -- You assume that everyone in your address book cares about whatever subject you are sending. It is your public service responsibility to enlighten us.

  • -- You are part of a huge majority yet continue to try and pawn off yourself as a persecuted minority. If I hear one more time that you can get in trouble for saying Merry Christmas, I will personally hunt you down and I may have to resort to violence ... even though I'm a pacifist.

  • -- Lies and hyperbole are apparently just as good as facts. I couldn't help thinking of Stephen Colbert's line from this last weekend: " ... and reality has a well-known liberal bias."

"People do not believe lies because they have to, but because they want to." -- Malcolm Muggeridge

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Change of Heart

Thanks to all the kind wishes by everyone. My mom's surgery went great and she should be released from the hospital tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. The folks were thrilled (and suprised) that my brother and I had made the trip up. I'm glad we did.

Now ... while these are not quite as amusing or disgusting as Laura's recent arterial pictures, we can agree that the results are happier:

This is a picture of the problem area prior to the surgery (click any of the images to get a larger picture):

A picture of the actual stent:

The artery after the surgery:

From Wikipedia:
... a stent is either an expandable wire mesh or hollow perforated tube that is inserted into a hollow structure of the body to keep it open.

The main purpose of a stent is to overcome important decreases in vessel or duct diameter. Stents are often used to diminish pressure differences in blood flow to organs beyond an obstruction in order to maintain an adequate delivery of oxygen. ... the most popular use of stents is linked to the coronary arteries.

Prior to deployment, a stent is collapsed into a small diameter; current stents are self-expandable or can be dilated using an inflatable balloon. After expansion, stents are affixed to the vessel or duct wall by their own radial tension. These devices are most commonly inserted under fluoroscopic guidance or endoscopy, procedures that are generally less invasive than conventional surgery.

... general anesthesia is usually not required for stent insertion. For these reasons, stents have offered clear benefits over conventional surgery that include, overall, shorter recovery periods and hospital stays.