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11 June 2009 @ 07:51 am
by Dr. Sidicious Bonesparkle

The New York Yankees earned some well-deserved criticism in the off-season when they spent a bazillion dollars on CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira and then started charging admission at the new Taj Mahal Yankee Stadium that was so exorbitant that Donald Trump couldn't afford a seat in the lower deck. Such excess, it was felt, was inappropriate during times of extreme financial hardship such as those the nation is enduring right now.

Well, move over Hank Steinbrenner. Just a few days ago Spanish futbol superpower Real Madrid ponied up a £59M transfer fee to pry Brazilian midfielder Kaka loose from AC Milan. If you don't have your currency calculator handy, that's roughly $94M US. And to be clear, that figure does not include salary. That's just Milan's take on the deal. The good news is that Kaka's weekly earnings probably won't come to more than the GDP of a mid-sized European country.

Wow. That's a record that was bound to stand for a very long time three days. Today it's been announced that those same bottomless-pocketed Los Blancos have reached an agreement to purchase Portuguese midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United for £80M - or $131.6M. Again, that doesn't include salary and benefits, which include hot and cold running hookers and unlimited use of the club's gold-plated jet.Read more...Collapse )
22 March 2009 @ 02:26 pm
In years to come, it seems likely that the ongoing civil suit brought against the University of Colorado by former professor Ward Churchill will provide students in many law classes with a lively case study to debate. If you aren't already familiar with the details of the clusterfuck story, you can catch up at the NY Times and Boulder Daily Camera. If, at that point, you still haven't slaked your thirst for data on all things Ward, you can keep on Googling here.

Buff U is pointing to all manner of irregularities in Churchill's scholarship, asserting that he was fired for plagiarism. Ward's attorneys have another theory:
His lawyer, David Lane, has sought to portray him as the victim of a “howling mob” of university administrators, conservative media and politicians who were “falling over themselves” to have him fired.
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14 September 2008 @ 11:03 am
Last night we watched the Final Cut of Blade Runner again, and if you don't have this package I can't recommend it highly enough. 25 years on, Ridley Scott was able to finally re-craft the film as he wanted it originally, and the result is a stunning achievement. Scott has been one of our greatest directors for a very long time, but this may be his finest moment to date.

This viewing (probably my 35th or 40th - I lost count a long time ago) got me to thinking, all over again, about how little the film was acknowledged at the time of its release. While it was nominated for two technical Oscars (Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Effects, Visual Effects), it's hard to look back and argue that it got anything like the critical acclaim it deserved (a point underscored by how well respected the film is today). In addition, it didn't do very well at the box office (it drew a little over $6M that opening weekend, and the theater I saw it in was 90% empty). More
26 August 2008 @ 11:19 am
I believe I recall Barack Obama quoting Otto Von Bismarck's edict that "politics is the art of the possible," and evidence of that optimism abounds everywhere I look in Denver today. The two words we seem to be hearing more than any others are "hope" and "change," and we saw a wonderfully eloquent articulation of this enthusiasm last night in Wendy Redal's post on starstruck idealism.

There's no question (among rational people, anyway) that change is sorely needed, and after the last eight years hope is a precious and endangered commodity. Hope is the fuel of change, and sadly a lot of our traditional reserves are running dry.

I want to hope, and I'm being implored to hope, but really, should I? More
19 August 2008 @ 09:28 pm
The anticipation is finally over: Project Phoenix, the new CD from Fiction 8, is now out. And was it ever worth the wait.

The new disc represents a significant step forward for the band. Most notably, bassist Mardi Salazar has assumed a much greater role in the creative process, writing and singing about half the tracks on the album. Her contributions afford Project Phoenix a rich balance, both tonally and lyrically. Mike's angst and cynicism are still evident, but are tempered by Mardi's softer, more haunting approach.

Or maybe "softer" isn't quite the right word here. F8's music is unambiguously darkpop - industrial with goth overtones, but essentially pop in structure. Smith's songs have always hit like a boot to the gut. Sometimes the rage is palpable, other times muted beneath layers of self-doubt, but even his most thoughtful moments - and perhaps especially his most thoughtful moments - leave some part of you hurting.(More)
Well, sorta. Check out this stroke of genius.
IBAF changes rules for extra innings

DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—Extra innings will have a new look in what could be baseball’s last Olympic appearance.

Each team’s at-bat in the 11th inning and beyond will begin with runners on first and second bases. Teams may start the 11th at any point in their batting order under format changes announced Friday by the International Baseball Federation and adopted in time for next month’s Beijing Games.

You read that right. In the hotly contested championship game, after a game where both starting pitchers have gone 10 perfect innings, the top of the 11th will begin with Cuba's leadoff and #2 hitters on base and their #3, 4 and 5 guys coming to the plate.Read more...Collapse )
In a long-overdue move, Boulder prosecutors have officially cleared the family of JonBenet Ramsey in the girl's December 26, 1996 murder. I say "long-overdue" because for those of us who've paid attention to the evidence it's been clear for years now - painfully, maddeningly clear - that the family was innocent.

I emphasize "evidence" in that sentence for a reason. There are facts in this case, and pretty much without exception those who are convinced of the family's guilt are people who are relying not on evidence, but on media reports that run the gamut from "inaccurate" to "creative writing." Not all of these people - and I may well be talking about you, I know - are morons. Many are, to be sure, but many more are reasonably intelligent folks who've been victimized by the worst case of journalistic malpractice in our nation's recent history. In a number of ways the "press" failed more miserably with the Ramsey case than it did even with its addled accessory-before-the-fact act in the run-up to the Iraq War. (More...)
Now Playing: Space Team Electra - Songs of Innocence
On his outstanding Prodigal Son CD, North Carolina folk and blugrass legend Mike Cross presents us with a high-stepping little ditty called "Bill is in His Grave." Bill, it turns out, was a scoundrel of the first order, and he'd been recently deceased.

The narrator is asked to say a few words at the funeral, a task that proves daunting for a man who'd rather not speak ill of the dead.

He finally manages this:
If Heaven is pleased when sinners cease to sin
If the Devil is pleased when another soul comes in
If the Earth is pleased to be rid of a knave
Then everybody's happy 'cause Bill is in his grave.
Now Playing: Mike Cross - Bill is in His Grave
02 July 2008 @ 11:29 am
Those of us who sounded off on Mark Udall's capitulation on the FISA bill apparently all got the same nice form letter in response to our concerns. He's happy to hear from us. Let me begin with what he wrote. (More...)
Now Playing: Alice In Chains - I Stay Away
28 June 2008 @ 10:36 am
Wow - imagine my surprise at discovering that the German language has a word for music!

Ahem. As you no doubt are aware, Euro2008 crescendos tomorrow afternoon as Spain and Germany meet in the final. In honor of the summer's premier athletic competition (well, until the Olympics start, anyway), SVR today presents the music of the four semi-final nations, along with some brief explanation as to why a nation's music tells us a lot about their soccer teams.

We'll begin with Turkey. The Turks' spectacular run through the tournament came to a screeching halt in a 3-2 thriller with Germany on Wednesday, but they depart with music in their hearts. Or something like that. This video makes clear that the Turks are a passionate and well-dressed people who love horses, but there's not a soccer ball in sight. (More...)
27 June 2008 @ 12:18 pm
In our most recent S&R poll, readers were asked the following: Two children of a family belonging to the Followers of Christ Church have now died after "faith-healing" was chosen over medical treatment. What do you believe authorities should do?

The results looked like this:
  • Pursue appropriate criminal sanctions. Religion is no defense for child endangerment. (75%, 101 Votes)

  • Nothing. These kinds of cases fall under the absolute right to freedom of religion. (25%, 33 Votes)
The story referenced is here, and links to previous coverage of this sect can be found here.

I find the results of the poll (unscientific though it may be) fascinating. Specifically, I'm interested in the thinking of the 25% who believe that letting a child die of a curable condition is ... well, okay. It's okay because their understanding of the Constitution is that the worst form of child neglect and endangerment imaginable is acceptable so long as it's executed in the name of a god. (More...)
Now Playing: Rob Dickinson - Ma Solituda
24 June 2008 @ 04:17 pm
Let's say this guy was running for president on a third-party ticket:
  • proven track record for getting country out of wars
  • strong foreign policy diplomat who forged stronger relationships with powerful developing (and enemy) nations
  • implemented the first significant federal affirmative action program
  • dramatically increased spending on federal employee salaries
  • organized a daily press event and daily message for the media
  • oversaw first large-scale integration of public schools in the South
  • advocated comprehensive national health insurance for all Americans
  • imposed wage and price controls in times of crisis
  • indexed Social Security for inflation and created Supplemental Security Income
  • created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Office of Minority Business Enterprise
  • promoted the Legacy of Parks program
  • appointed four Supreme Court Justices, three of which voted with the majority in Roe v. Wade
Have you figured out where this is going yet? (More...)
24 June 2008 @ 11:42 am
It's hard to think of a band that was greater for longer with less payoff than the now-defunct Catherine Wheel. From 1992's staggering debut, Ferment, through their much (and unfairly) maligned 2000 coda, Wishville, CW gave us three brilliant records, two good ones, and an outtakes/B-sides compilation (Like Cats and Dogs) that was better than most of the best original studio efforts being released today.

Oh yeah, and a lot of insanely great (and obscenely loud) live shows. I was lucky enough to see them three times (and managed to escape without lasting nerve damage), and rate the 10-minute encore of "Black Metallic" that closed the show on the Wishville tour as one of the most outstanding moments in my nearly 30 years of live show attendance. (More...)
Now Playing: Rob Dickinson - Don't Change
As I said a couple weeks ago, let's yank the hood off racist America. Seriously, we know you're out there, so let's get it on.

As Matt Stoller reports, Texas Republicans have apparently answered the challenge. At least partly.

Now Playing: Rob Dickinson - Intelligent People
Yow. If you missed the story, US PsyOps personnel are using music as a torture tactic on captives in Iraq. How silly, you say? Torture someone with music? Well, check out the playlist.
  1. "Fuck Your God" - Deicide
  2. "Die MF Die" - Dope
  3. "Take Your Best Shot" - Dope
  4. "White America" - Eminem
  5. "Kim" - Eminem
  6. "Barney Theme Song" - Barney
  7. "Bodies" - Drowning Pool
  8. "Enter Sandman" - Metallica
  9. "Meow Mix" jingle
  10. "Sesame Street Theme"
  11. "Babylon" - David Gray
  12. "Born in the USA" - Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  13. "Shoot to Thrill" - AC/DC
  14. "Stayin' Alive" - The Bee Gees
  15. "All Eyes on Me" - Tupac
  16. "Dirty" - Christina Aguilera
  17. "America" - Neil Diamond
  18. "Bulls on Parade" - Rage Against the Machine
  19. "American Pie" - Don McLean
  20. "Click Click Boom" - Saliva
  21. "Cold" - Matchbox 20
  22. "Swan Dive" - HedPE
  23. "Raspberry Beret" - Prince
Sweet fancy square-dancin' Jesus. (More...)
14 June 2008 @ 10:32 am
Today SVR honors the noble Scottish Terrier, a breed famed for its courage, tenacity and unswerving faith in the wisdom of its own judgment. Up first, Shootout at the Scottie Corral, a short video proving that Scotties are trainable. (More...)

The NBA is in the news big time today, and not because of last night's Lakers win over the Celtics. Former referee Tim Donaghy, convicted of taking bribes and betting on games he officiated, has now alleged that at least two games - one in 2002 and another in 2005 - involved inappropriate behavior by game officials. In 2002, he says, game 6 of the Western Conference finals between LA and Sacramento was fixed outright.
"Referees A, F and G were officiating a playoff series between Teams 5 and 6 in May of 2002. It was the sixth game of a seven-game series, and a Team 5 victory that night would have ended the series. However, Tim learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew referees A and F to be 'company men,' always acting in the interest of the NBA, and that night, it was in the NBA's interest to add another game to the series.
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Most folks don't realize it - even people who know me fairly well - but I used to be a Republican. Back when I was younger and, one supposes, more naïve about the relevance of certain kinds of economic theory, I was a pretty mouthy GOPper. I voted for Reagan twice and Bush the Elder once, and while I can defend myself by saying things like "Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale and Mike Dukakis," I think it's now clear that history will regard those voting decisions as, at best, insufficiently considered.

As time passed and I grew more ... educated ... I became more and more conflicted. There were things about Republican philosophy that appealed to me: fiscal responsibility was one, and also a live-and-let-live approach to how people pursued their own lives. Social libertarianism, in other words. And while most now regard me as pretty darned progressive, the fact is that I remain committed to fiscal responsibility and am more socially libertarian than I ever was. (More...)
Technically we're still a few days away from Solstice, I know, but ... you should see the weather here in Colorado. Trust me, folks - it's summer. So to sort of pre-honor the arrival of sun season, SVR today presents a few vids to put you in a surf, sand and sky kinda mood. Up first, the supremely cool Scot Sax's Bachelor Number 1 project with my all-time favorite summer song, "I Am the Summertime." (More...)
06 June 2008 @ 11:08 am
It was one of this election season's most surreal moments. Right about the time the other night that Barack Obama was clinching the Democratic nomination, a reanimated corpse Sen. John McCain took the podium in Kenner, Louisiana to regale an audience of literally several on the virtues of ... change? (More...)
Now Playing: Ladytron - The Lovers
First, watch this:

Barack Obama has said we need a national conversation on race. One of the reasons I'm so eager about a potential Obama presidency is that I think it's time we stood up, went nose to nose with racism, and made clear that while we're open to a good-faith conversation on race, we're done tolerating racism. (More...)
31 May 2008 @ 01:34 pm
Welcome back to another episode of SVR Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom.This week, join us as Jim pushes deep into the treacherous suburban jungle in search of the elusive Scuridae carolinensis - the common yard squirrel.

This specimen demonstrates the ingenuity and tenacity with which the fearsome pine gopher pursues his prey. (More...)
29 May 2008 @ 09:21 pm

Insolent Flunky: Count da money.
Count de Monet: de Monet! Mo - nay! Say it with me, Mo - nay!

The legendary Harvey Korman is dead at 81.

I don't usually do obituaries and even if I did I doubt I'd be very good at them, but I imagine there'll be quite a few outstanding reflections on his career in the coming days. What I will do is note that there wasn't much on TV when I was growing up. We had three stations and only one TV in the house, so whatever we watched, we watched together. In that world there wasn't any room for niche programming. To be successful you had to entertain the kids, the adults, and in my case, the grandparents.

The Carol Burnett Show did that, and it's hard to imagine it without Korman. I especially recall his sketches with Tim Conway, which frankly were just about the funniest things on television. Korman couldn't look at Conway without cracking up, so everything they did together was basically doomed from the get-go. As a rule Conway would play some sort of bungler and Korman would try, desperately but in vain, simply to keep a straight face. In some cases he'd barely have a line. He could be a brilliant comedian just by sitting there trying not to break character.

After the first couple of times they worked together I'd start giggling as soon as I saw them on the screen together, because no matter how badly they butchered the skit, you were going to laugh. The whole family was going to laugh. America was going to laugh as one.

Thanks for the memories, Harvey.

I've been a very big Don Dixon fan since the late '70s, so when his new CD, The Nu-Look, dropped I was bouncing around the living room like Snoopy doing a happy dance. Sadly, a lot of people don't know Don's music - although many know his work as the producer of Murmur and Reckoning by REM and multiple records from The Smithereens and Guadalcanal Diary (as well as stuff from Chris Stamey, Beat Rodeo, Kim Carnes, The Connells, Marshall Crenshaw, Hootie & the Blowfish, Tommy Keene, Let's Active, James McMurtry, The Pinetops, The Reivers, Matthew Sweet and X-Teens).

The new disc marks something of a departure. Don has been playing live with Jamie Hoover and Jim Brock for a good 20 years, but they've never recorded a full disc together as a band. Now, though, they have a name (Don Dixon & the Jump Rabbits) and an outstanding power trio record that does credit to the careers of all three men.

For this edition of TunesDay Dixon agreed to sit down and endure a second interview with me (the first, from 2000, is an absolute must-read if you haven't seen it already). In this round Don talks about the band, the new record, his first bass, and how he almost wound up as producer of Nevermind.(More...)
Like a lot of people, I'm fascinated by magic. Oh, not the real kind - you know, the sleight-of-hand/parlor trick/Houdini stuff.

I used to know Whit Haydn and have seen him do stuff so well that even though I was pretty sure I knew how he was doing it, and even though I was able to stand about a foot away and watch, I still couldn't catch him.

I'm not sure I understand exactly what it is in us that responds so powerfully to illusion - maybe it's that the day-to-day world is so mundane and bereft of hope that we're automatically drawn to even the most subliminal suggestion that there could be more to life than meets the eye.