Saturday, September 30, 2006

Jihad and Martin Luther King

The violent clash between extremist Islam and Western Culture makes me appreciate Martin Luther King.

The movement that he spearheaded sought for black Americans the rights, recognition, and sense of identity that mainstream America refused to give them. Today, Muslims in Western Europe live in a similar paradigm. When you consider most of today’s real* terrorists, you notice that almost all of them come from disaffected Muslim communities in England, France, Germany, or the United States (and other Western-influenced, modernizing countries such as India and Indonesia). These communities suffer from similar forms of discrimination, inequality, neglect, and racism that black Americans endured leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. These Muslim communities lack many of the advantages their societies offer. Although there are many exceptions, many Muslims are not seen as equals to their white Western countrymen. Overt racism has created hate, fear, and misunderstanding. These sentiments have been institutionalized, creating social barriers that prevent or seriously hamper social mobility, economic progress, social welfare, and equality for these minorities. Indeed, the Islamic struggle in the West closely mirrors the historical plight of many black Americans.

Now, I realize there are several flaws with this comparison and that it runs the risk of oversimplifying and generalizing more complex realities. I understand that the Muslim struggles in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Lebanon involve or involved forces that were not at work during the American Civil Rights Movement. I recognize that my comparison is mostly limited to Western Europe. I concede that jihad is about power , religion, and competing worldviews as much as it is about rights and identity. And I acknowledge that Muslim communities in Europe are largely immigrant populations rather than first-generation citizens like African-Americans in the US. Yet, despite these distinctions, there are still significant parallels between the struggles of black Americans and modern Muslims. Thus, in many ways, today’s Islamic struggle is a modern day movement for civil rights.

As black Americans did in the 1950s and 60s, Muslim communities are speaking out, standing up, and attempting to change the status quo. But the means of change are vastly different.

Whereas King and his followers sought to eliminate injustice with civil disobedience, the leaders of the Muslim civil rights struggle embrace violent jihad. While the Southern Christian Leadership Conference sought inspiration from the writings of Henry David Thoreau, today’s jihadists seek it from rogue Muslim clerics’ interpretations of the Koran. In short, the Muslim civil rights struggle eschews the King doctrine in favor of violent retribution.** Civil rights activists worked within the confines of a system that oppressed them. Terrorists seek to destroy the system altogether.

Given the violent and fearful nature of today’s struggle, my appreciation for Martin Luther King’s doctrine of non-violent direct action grows stronger by the day.

To be sure, the struggle of American blacks exhibited similar violent tendencies. Imagine if Martin Luther King had not risen to power. What if the pre-Hajj rhetoric of Malcolm X had dominated the movement? What if the Black Panther Party had won the hearts and minds of mainstream black society instead? The Civil Rights Movement could have easily deteriorated into the racial-equivalent of today’s jihad. In many ways, after King’s assassination, it did. Remember, he US saw its fair share of riots, bombings, and assassinations too.

But the violent side of the Movement never dominated. It lurked on the fringe, failing ever to dominate the mainstream. Why? Because violence was not effective. Rational sentiments prevailed.***

Thus, we can learn two valuable lessons from the Civil Rights Movement.

First, the Muslim communities must produce a leader or group of leaders with the strength to challenge the status quo without violence. Where is the Muslim Gandhi? Where is the Islamic Mandela? Indeed, today’s Islamic struggle lacks a forceful spokesman for non-violence. Its only leaders are warriors in jihad, fundamentalist Wahabi Muslims that proseletyze violence, holding war and destruction up as the only ways to achieve their goals.

In making this suggestion, we run the risk of over-simplifying Muslim communities by inferring they are all the same. This is a risky generalization. Nevertheless, their struggles are similar enough to unite them. If global leadership is unfeasible, then at the very least, local non-violent leaders must emerge.

The second lesson is equally important. Western societies must continue (or begin for the first time) to pursue multicultural initiatives. We must continue to integrate our communities. Doing so will require extreme patience. Multiculturalism exacerbates racism, xenophobia, and competition among ethnic and racial groups. While token integration might occur quickly, real assimilation and incorporation takes time. Western societies must be able to constantly assess themselves, re-establish their priorities when needed, and continue their commitments to multicultural progress.

Indeed, disaffection will never cease. Individuals and groups will always feel cast out, unrepresented, frustrated, and even oppressed. These sentiments are natural characteristics of human societies. These same sentiments existed before, during, and after the Civil Rights Movement. Despite the successes of the American Civil Rights Movement, many of the same issues of injustice still exist. In fact, some of the progress the Movement brought about is slowly reverting back to pre-1964 social conditions. We must be aware of this and continue addressing it. The Civil Rights Movement will never end.

Injustice has existed since the dawn of humanity – yet it hasn’t always led to violence. Despite natural feelings of alienation, communities resort to violence only when they sense that no progress is being made, only when there’s seemingly no hope for change.

The United States continues to make just enough progress to preserve a sense of hope. Things will change for the better, indeed.

The Civil Rights Movement continues to progress because it is non-violent. Faith in improvement endures few leaders from within the Movement have embraced brutality, war, or murder. To do so is ineffective. Martin Luther King knew this. So did Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Muslims in the West must follow their leads. Western societies must help.

(*NOTE: By real terrorists, I don’t mean the lumped-together group of “turrorists” we hear about in Republican rhetoric and neoconservative policy papers. And I don’t mean the insurgents confined to Middle Eastern theatres of war. By real terrorists, I mean the ones who actually attacked or planned to attack innocent civilians in Western cities like Madrid, London, New York.)

(**NOTE: A comparison of jihad and the Civil Rights Movement can only go so far, though. It is important to acknowledge that jihad is a religious phenomenon whereas the Movement was not. It is also important to acknowledge that jihad is a global struggle whereas the Movement was limited to the United States.)

(***NOTE: Lee Harris addresses the conflict between Reason and violence in a brilliant analysis of Pope Benedict’s recent controversial speech.)

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The scope of this article is broad – maybe too broad. I generalize and ramble too much. Do you agree? Disagree? Can you follow this argument? What do I need to change? Please, dear readers – all 10 of you – GIVE ME FEEDBACK. That includes you, Mom.]

Friday, September 29, 2006

Borat Strikes Again

Borat is the funniest man alive.

Reuters' reports that, while President Bush was meeting with the real President of Kazakhstan at the White House, Borat and his camera-man tried to enter the grounds and invite "Premier George Walter Bush" to an early screening of Borat's new movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

Courtney Love Make Me Throw Up A Little Bit In My Mouth

Read this post about Courtney Love on and share in my disgust.

Rolling Stone treats her a little better, but still....Courtney? What are you doing?

Attack of the Rabid Squirrels


Why write when you can link?

* Hipsters are indeed suckers for marketing. But we already knew this. writes an interesting analysis on "indie" music and movies.

* Bob Woodward's new book about the Bush Administration and the War in Iraq sounds like it's going to make me mad. I hope it's exaggerated and untrue, but I fear that it's not.

* Slate laments how numb and passive we've become to discussions about torture.

* The Village Voice features 2 great articles about the new documentary "American Hardcore: The History of American Punk Rock from 1980 to 1986." The first one is a review. The second is an analysis of the film's message. Both portray the classic VV cynicism we've come to know and love.

Okay, So Solidarity Ain't Dead Yet

Tom Morello was arrested in LA yesterday after participating in a protest for immigrant and hotel workers' rights. Before his arrest, he played a couple of songs.

Ben Harper was there, and he played some songs, too. But he didn't get arrested. Poseur.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bob Dylan: Scion of the Establishment, Spokesman for the Religious Right

Bob Dylan has fooled us all.

He is not the patron saint of counterculture. He is not the human equivalent of flipping the Man the bird. And, my friends, he is not indie rock.

Bob Dylan is mainstream America, through and through.

When Dylan released Modern Times several weeks ago, it shot to Number One on the Billboard Music Charts. You wanna know how he did it? Just like any other pop star does - he pushed it. And with damn clever marketing, too.

As this week's issue of Rolling Stone notes, Dylan pushed the album on an iTunes commercial:

He pushed it with a music video starring It- Girl Scarlett Johannson:

He pushed it on a MySpace page. And he pushed it (gasp!) in Starbucks.

Yes, friends...Bob Dylan went corporate on us. And dammit, I'm glad he did. Does this mean he's a sell out? Absolutely not. Does it mean that his business acumen is as savvy as his song-writing? Perhaps. Does it mean that he owns the punks and the suits? You better believe it.

On a similar note, this week's Weekly Standard features a fantastic analysis of Bob Dylan's politics. Author Sean Curnyn concludes that Dylan has never been as Leftist as the Left wanted him to be. Depite penning myriad songs about war and injustice (most of which were released well before the escalation in Vietnam), Dylan never made a public anti-war statement. He never endorsed a political candidate, never played at a political rally,never sang about impeaching the president, never pontificated about when the president talks to God, and never went on tour with the words "Vote," "for," or "Change" in its title. Curnyn also notes that in Dylan's memoir Chronicles, Dylan says his favorite politician of the 1960s was Barry Goldwater. The final strain of Curnyn's thesis may be the kicker, though. He offers a quote from Dylan's new song When the Deal Goes Down and suggests (convincingly) that the song proclaims a staunch faith in God. Dylan is, after all, a born-again Christian. Just like George W. Bush.

Dylan the Corporate non-Leftist Christian? Who woulda thunk it? Man, solidarity just took a huge hit.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Cell Phone Passes Go, Collects $2M

Hasbro released Monopoly: Here and Now last week, a new version of the classic board game. Along with other upgrades, the old gamepieces (thimble, iron, leprachaun shoe, etc.) have been replaced with more contemporary items. According to Time Magazine, "You can now travel the board as a Motorola cell phone, a bag of McDonald's fries, a cup of Starbucks coffee, a Toyota Prius, or a New Balance sneaker."

Ummmmmmm, I'm only playing if we can pretend it's a Starbucks triple shot skim latte.

The Undefeated Ain'ts

Panthers fans have got to be pleased with the results of Monday Night Football last night. New Orleans destroyed Atlanta, 23-3. If we can win on Sunday, that will put us in a 3-way labyrinthine tie for first in the NFC South.

A win will not be easy, though. We all knew the Saints offense was high-powered, but their defense put on a show last night. They were able to do something that the Panthers couldn't do - stop Warrick Dunn and Michael Vick. The Dirty Birds never put the ball in the end zone. Jake, Keyshawn, Steve, DeAngelo, DeShaun, and the O-line better take note.

Despite the perceived strength of New Orleans, the Panthers have one statistic working in their favor: teams lose the Sunday after a Monday night game more often than they win. Let's hope the trend continues.

Clinton Info-tainment

Bill Clinton. Fox News. Yes.

If you're like me, you don't know how you're supposed to feel as Clinton blows up on Chris Wallace. On the one hand, you love the outburst for its entertainment value. On the other hand, you're a bit bewildered, wondering how such a greasy-smooth politician could lose his cool so easily.

According to two pundits, though, Clinton's loss of cool was all part of the plan. William Kristol argues that the former president calculated the outburst to demonstrate how Democrats can challenge Republicans on national security issues as the November elections approach. John Dickerson writes "Liberal activists want to see their Washington representatives fight back the way Clinton did. This was a rallying cry and a signal to other members of the party to do the same.

Both journalists also suggest that Clinton laid a brick in the foundation for Hillary in '08.

And speaking of Hillary's presidential aims, our favorite armageddonist fear-monger chimed in on the subject this week as well. Jerry Falwell said, "I hope she's the candidate, because nothing will energize my [constituency] like Hillary Clinton." Falwell then said, "If Lucifer ran, he wouldn't."

Want to know my favorite part about Falwell's statement? (I mean, other than the part about the Devil being more likely to be elected president than Hillary Clinton?) Falwell uses a possessive pronoun when referring to Republicans. It reminds me of that time when a little old lady was upset that we named our hurricane after an immigrant.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cats Coulda Choked - but Kasay Says Huh-Uh

The snap is good, the hold is good, Kasay's kick - noooooooooooooyyyyyyyyeeeeessssss! Cats win by 2.

The Panthers barely pulled out a "W" today, beating Tampa Bay 26-24 on a last second John Kasay curveball field goal. The kick started off way left - didn't we all think it was no good? But, miraculously, the ball swooped back into play and flew right through the uprights, giving the Cats their first win of the season.

It is scary how close the Panthers came to choking today. The first half was awesome. Steve Smith made a triumphant return, Keyshawn continued his stellar season, Chris Gamble made up for his bungle last week, and the Cats' defense had its way with Chrissy Sims. We went into the locker room with a commanding 20-6 lead.

Something happened, though...and the 2nd Half turned disastrous. Jake Delhomme fumbled twice. DeShaun Foster fumbled once. Tampa Bay scored its first touchdown of the entire season off one of those TO's, then went on to score 10 more points off the other two.

The Panthers staved off a Chernobyl, though. Jake Delhomme came through with a ballsy 12-yard 4th Down Conversion, proving that his frustrating turnovers don't prevent him from being solid in the clutch. Then, John Kasay nailed his fourth field goal of the game. Don't look now, folks - but Kasay hasn't missed this year. In fact, he and Keyshawn are the only consistent things the Cats have going for them.

Remember - we were 1-2 to begin the season last year too. Let's hope we start building our playoff mojo next week when the Ain'ts come to Charlotte.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Can I Kick It? No You Can't.

Show Season, Round 5. Man, it's been a bad week for shows in the Nation's Capitol.

We saw A Tribe Called Quest last night at Love the Club. I don't like to dwell on nightmares, so I'll resort to list journalism to explain why this was one of the worst show-going experiences I've ever had.

1. Way too crowded - a sea of humanity crammed together like books on an overstuffed shelf.

2. Way too invisible. I couldn't tell if Tribe was on a stage, but it didn't really matter. With hundreds of fans and 4 load-bearing, view-blocking pillars in front of me, I probably wouldn't have caught a glimpse of my favorite hip hop group anyway.

3. Way too short. To say that Tribe played for an hour is a generous estimate. Yes, the group did rock most of its classics, but they probably did it all in 45 minutes or less.

4. Way too not the 930 Club. How much better would this show have been at the friendly confines of that old warehouse on 9th and V? Bash it all you want for its commercialism - that place knows how to host a kick-ass show. About the only redeemable quality of Love the Club is the incomparable photo gallery on its website.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Is This Clown for Real?

I know I'm like 3 days behind on this one, but is Hugo Chavez not the biggest clown job on the block?

In his speech to the United Nations Wednesday, the Venezuelan president called George Bush "the devil," adding that the podium "still smells like sulfur." He then crossed himself, Catholic-style.

Next, Chavez went all Oprah on us, recommending we read Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival.

And he says that it's our fault that the UN is irrelevant? Hmmmmmmm......

To conclude, I've got some questions for the group:

1. If Hugo Chavez were to host a "Clowns of the Round Table" dinner, who else would he invite? Who would be the guest of honor?

2. If Hugo Chavez were to start his own Oprah-esque reading club, what other titles would he choose?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wilco Minus Tweedy

Show Season, Round 4. One word summary for Nels Cline and Glenn Kotche's solo performances last night at the Black Cat : NOISE.

Now three more words: TOO MUCH NOISE.

One of three things was the case with the Wilco guitarist and drummer's mentality: (1) They were on drugs and the noise was part of the high; (2) They are such post-punk art rockers that the noise actually sounds good to them; or (3) They were looking at the crowd full of indie-nerd-Tweedy-worshippers and saying "Ha! You guys will buy anything if we say it's cool!"

Sinister Joe said that watching Nels Cline perform was like watching someone do a math problem. You know it's hard to do - but that doesn't make it fun to watch.

I have a newfound appreciation for Wilco's multi-instrumentalists. God, I can't wait to see them next month. Is it October 19th yet?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Will Borat's War on Stupidity Get Him Killed?

Of all the movies coming out this Fall, the one I'm most excited about is Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Judging by its raucous reception at the Toronto Film Festival, I'm betting that this movie will be absolutely hilarious. How can it not be? It's Borat.

This excitement notwithstanding, I'm also nervous about the role the film will play in fanning the flames of the PR conflict between the West and Fundamentalist Islam. Sasha Baren Cohen, the actor who plays Borat, argues that his character is designed to show that Western ignorance and silent appeasement drives racism as much or more than outspoken bigots. However, to make his point, Cohen creates a farcial, uber-stereotyped character that makes the Arab Borat look just as bad as anyone else. It's sometimes hard to distinguish who is more of a victim in the satire: the seemingly backward Arab or the Western ignoramuses that don't know what to make of him.

Now, Borat does not explicitly mock Islam. Instead, he stereotypes certain aspects of Arab culture. To many folks, however, this distinction is minute enough not to matter. If that's the case, and Borat comes across as a Muslim basher, then watch out. The results could be harsh. Consider the following:

* Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh made a film criticizing domestic brutality and treatment of women within the Muslim community. A young Muslim fanatic murdered Van Gogh after the film was released.

* The government of Kazakhstan, the home-country of the fictional Borat, has lobbied hard to prevent the film from being released.

* Muslims across Europe and the Middle East rioted violently after a Dutch paper published cartoons that satirized aspects of Islamic prophets and followers.

* The pope provoked violent responses across the Middle East after he quoted an obscure Christian text that disparaged Islam. According to the Washington Post, in response to the pope, "Muslims threw firebombs and sprayed bullets at five churches in the West Bank and Gaza. [Some] torched a 170-year-old church in the West Bank town of Tul Karem and partly burned a smaller church in the village of Tubas. In Somalia, an Italian nun and her bodyguard were fatally shot, but it was not immediately clear whether that attack was related to the pope's speech."

* Indonesian film-makers and musicians constantly push and frequently lose the battle to liberalize the sharia-dominated, fundamentalist-controlled media in their country.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Torture is So Big Right Now

Here are three links to the current discussion about torture and the war on terror:

*The Washington Post reports that Canadian and US counter-terrorism officials arrested an innocent man and extradited him to Syria to be tortured.

*Ron Suskind explores the difference between CIA and FBI interrogation techniquies, explaining that torture is often ineffective and counterproductive

*The Washington Post examines how John McCain's opposition to the White House's stance on the Geneva Conventions may hurt his bid for the 2008 Presidential nomination.

God is So Big Right Now, Too

The Atlanta Braves will break their streak of 13 consecutive NL East titles this season, but they won't go to hell for it. Or at least they'll keep selling tickets.

According to this CBN article, Faith Night is the newest promotion at the Braves' Turner Field. Take me out to the ballgame, buy me a beer and a hotdog, get me a free bible and a Jesus Bobble Head. With something like 2000 churches in the Atlanta metropolitan area, the market is ripe for faith and ticket sales. God in the ballpark, money in the pocket.

The topics of American Christianity, religion and politics, and faith and popular culture are all over the mainstream media these days:

*The Economist reports that 57% of Europeans disapprove of American foreign policy because they think it's guided too much by religion and not enough by secular policy.

*The cover story in last week's Time Magazine asked "Does God Want You to be Rich?" Among other subjects, it explores Prosperity Theology , the rise of "mega-churches", and the influence of rock star preachers like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren.

*The American Interest examines the dichotomy of fundamentalism and relativism, offers an interview with former Senator and Episcopal Priest John Danforth, assesses the true defintion and political reach of American "evangelicals," and explores just how much the war on terror is a religious war.

Oscar Season Begins

I caught an early screening of All the King's Men last night. The highlight of the film, by far, was Sean Penn's performance. As the fictional Louisiana Governor Wille Stark, Madonna's ex-husband was absolutely convincing. Hmmmm, Sean Penn, believable as a populist demagogue? Who saw that one coming? Sarandon and Clooney must be proud.

Smart-ass Hollywood jabs aside, Penn carried this movie. I would contend that he, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Bill Murray are the best actors of the 21st Century.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Juice is Loose

Holy crap - I feel terrible. I made no mention of Julius Peppers in my previous post. Jules, please forgive me. Know that I still love you; know that I still want to be you.

Beastiest line of Week 2: 3 sacks, 8 tackles, a blocked kick, and a pass deflection. Hercules and Wolverine got nothin' on you, man. Welcome back.

Panthers 0-2: WTF?

Let the Gamble-bashing begin - or not.

The Panthers' 16-13 loss to the Vikings ruined Week 2 for me.

The Panthers had the game locked up. With a 13-6 lead halfway through the 4th Quarter, all the Cats had to do was receive the kick, notch a couple first downs, and run out the clock. Game over. We're 1-1 going into Tampa Bay on Week 3.

But, no - that's not how it went down. In what will surely become one of the Top 5 Worst Calls in Panthers' History, Chris's Gamble's failed trick play gave the Vikings the ball and the momentum. The Panthers could not recover, permitting a late-game touchdown and an overtime field goal. Game over. Cats are still winless.

The unfathomable detail is that the play-call trickery came from the coaches' booth. It would be a lot easier to blame Chris Gamble for the bone-headed bad decision. But instead, we will be plagued with the question of why. Why, John Fox? Why call that play? True, I still love you in a Dean Smith kind of way - but why?.

Despite the meltdown, there was still some good news to salvage. DeAngelo Williams looked awesome. So did Keyshawn. I hope Steve Smith's hamstring loosened up after receiving the good karma from our offensive improvement. Furthermore, we played well in hostile territory, held our own on artifical turf, and saw our defense play more like the talking heads' had said they would.

But still - what a painful loss.

I'll end this post the same way I did last week - at least Tampa Bay looked worse.

Loose Chain

What's the best wedding song: "Hey Ya" or "Baby Got Back?"

How about both? Loose Chain , the best wedding band of the 21st Century, played both songs, back to back. I just returned from nuptials where these guys truly rocked the party. After goading the groom into doing "the Worm," Loose Chain played "Hey Ya" followed by a seamless transition into "Baby Got Back." I cannot say enough good things about hip hop's invasion of white people's weddings. Good bye Wild Cherry, hello Run DMC.

During one of the band's intermissions, I approached Loose Chain to ask where they were from. As if I even needed to ask - the A.T.L., baby. The city that Outkast built, of course - nothin' better. I was impressed by the group's Andre 3000-esque flair, their impeccable choice of indoor-sunglasses, and their offer to play anytime I needed them to - even for my or any of my friends' Bar-Mitsvahs.

Loose Chain's website ( is not functioning, but if you're interested, shoot 'em an email at

Full of Cheese and Good Advice

Forgive this non-hipster foray into the world of universal morality, but I really like this excerpt from the weekly bulletin at Temple Baptist Church in Charlotte. Although it's full of cheese, it's a hip question followed by a good list of canny aphorisms:

"Want to Get Along?"

1. Keep chains on your tongue and always say less than you think. Cultivate a pleasant, persuasive voice.

2. Keep an open mind on all controversial questions. Discuss without arguing.

3. Be cheerful. Keep the corners of your mouth turned up. Hide your pains, worries, and disappointments under a smile.

4. Never engage in gossip. Make a rule to say nothing about another unless it is something good.

5. Don't be too anxious about your rights and having favors repaid. Let the satisfaction of helping others serve as its own reward.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Franken, Coulter, and Harris

I don't like Al Franken, I can't stand Ann Coulter, and I think Katherine Harris is loony tunes. However, when you're going to be a blow-hard know-it-all jack-ass, the least you can do is try to be funny. In that case, Franken has the upper hand.

That said, this week's Time Magazine features an interview with Al Franken that displays his impeccable wit. I laughed - no, I guffawed - out loud when I read this:

Time - Who would you rather be stranded with on a desert island: Ann Coulter or Katherine Harris?
Al Franken - Hmmmmmmmmm. I'd say Katherine Harris because there's more meat on the bone.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Natrone Means Leadership

Rest assured: our favorite Tar Heel bruiser has made it as a Blue Bear .

After wrapping up his Heels' career with two consecutive 1,000 rushing yard seasons in 1991 and 1992, Natrone Means went on to lead the San Diego Chargers to the Super Bowl . Next, he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, then went back to the Chargers before ending his career with the Carolina Panthers.

Today, he is the running backs' coach for the Livingstone College Blue Bears in the CIAA , located in Salisbury, North Carolina. This year, he and his staff must improve upon last year's meager 1-9 record. "Boys, we won one today. If we win one tomorrow, that'll be called a winning streak." -- Coach Lou Brown (Major League)

Finally, you've got to check out this Natrone Means Fan Site. It's priceless.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Band of Horses

Show Season, Round 3. Band of Horses came to the Black Cat last night and brought a whole bunch of beards and plaid with them. Apparently, the Music from Big Pink look is the new indie.

Wisely, the band played their hit song "The Funeral" early, getting it out of the way to prevent over-anticipation from killing it. Unwisely, the band did not play "St. Augustine." Wisely, the band covered David Allan Coe's "You Don't Have to Call Me Darlin'." [EDITOR'S NOTE: The Coe cover features one of the top 5 lyrics of all time: "I was drunk the day my momma got out of prison./ And when I went to pick her up in the rain./ But before I could get there in my pickup truck/ she got run over over by a damned ole train.")

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Whigs

Show Season continued last night. The Whigs killed it in the back room of the Black Cat. There is nothing quite as satisfying as garage chord frat punk ringing off cinder block indie club walls. (The above photo originally appeared in a 2006 Rolling Stone article where the Athens-based trio was featured as one of the "Ten New Artists to Watch")

Junior Boys

Show Season started Saturday night. Canada's Junior Boys rocked Iota in Arlington. These Pitchfork darlings sounded like a mash-up of Air, The Postal Service, and The Disco Biscuits. Iota is a great club, and if it weren't for the huge-ass wall in the middle of the room, it would be the best place in the DC area to see a show.

What Would the Conspiracy Theorists and Left Wingers Do Without 9/11?

Time Magazine's Lev Grossman wrote an intriguing article about 9/11 conspiracy theories. Despite no coverage from the mainstream media, these theories thrive on the internet. Most of them conclude that the Bush Administration planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks to increase its power at home and justify war abroad. Grossman's article explores why conspiracy theories never die, despite their implausabilities. He concludes that "we need grand theories to make sense of grand events or [else] the world just seems too random...[The] idea that there is a malevolent controlling force orchestrating global events is, in a perverse way, comforting."

I agree, but there's another element at work as well. People do not trust the American government - and for good reason. With Watergate, Vietnam, and the Iran-Contra Affair on his resume, not to mention myriad other shadowy historical events, Uncle Sam has not given us many reasons to trust him. And when it comes to war - he has a particularly miserable track record. Most major American wars have begun under the cover of dubious auspices or outright lies. From the Mexican War to the USS Maine to the Zimmerman Note to the Gulf of Tonkin Affair to Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction - there has been ample evidence to suggest that, when wartime rolls around, there is a disconnect among the facts, the American government, and the American people. (Howard Zinn discusses this much more eloquently in America's Blinders.)

As I was discussing similar issues with Sinister Joe last night, I concluded that groups like PETA and ELF - the epitomes of the far left - provide a necessary check against the authoritarian nature of the status quo. I'd like to add conspiracy theorists to this group too. Kudos to them for standing up, speaking out, and living the dream. Yes, their respect for things like "evidence" and "logic" and "balance" is non-existent. But aren't those virtues a bit overrated? Shouldn't the Far Left and the conspiracy theorists be given a free pass? Can you imagine how boring society would be without them?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Don't Believe the Hype

Jake Delhomme knows two things are true: (1) the Panthers will lose on opening day and (2) the Falcons will have the Panthers' number.

Given all the Panther pre-season hoopla, yesterday's performance was not the way they wanted to start: 0 touchdowns, -9 first down differential, -13 minutes time of possession differential, and the clincher, -187 rushing yards differential. The Dirty Birds absolutely worked the Cats. It was painful to watch...a re-run of the 2005 NFC Championship game, indeed.

The only good news from yesterday is that Tampa Bay looked even worse than Carolina.

Let's hope the Cats can stop their 2-game skid next week at Minnesota.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hipsters Schmipsters

Monday, September 04, 2006

You Don't Need a Weatherman to Tell Which Way the Wind Blows

First Emma Goldman, nextBernardine Dohrn - this is a real life Hipsters' Guide to Revolution.

Bernardine Dohrn was a leader of The Weather Underground, a student revolutionary group during the 1970s. Here are some interesting tidbits about this group of idealistic and hypocritical yet fascinating and bona fide iconoclasts:

*Among their multiple bombing targets, they successfully detonated bombs in the US Capitol Building and in the State Department.

*They helped break Timothy Leary out of prison.

*They named their group after a lyric from Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues."

These guys were something else. Most of them were white and came from affluent middle class families. Most members also attended major US colleges and universities. Their two main goals were to bring a quick end to the Vietnam War and to end the oppression of black Americans.

I just finished watching a fascinating, Oscar-nominated documentary about this puzzling and confused group. Its called The Weather Underground, and I highly recommend it to anyone curious about the utter tragedy of impulsive and disaffected youths of privilege during the late 1960s and early- to mid-1970s. The scenes where individual group members recount cutting ties with their parents and families are powerful in their sadness.

Friday, September 01, 2006

First Tiananmen, Now Mao

Those crazy Communists are at it again. In the ever-evolving Battle for Information in China, the newest front focuses on the history books. Today's New York Times documents government-mandated changes to Chinese high school textbooks. Now, in addition to not learning about Tiananmen Square, Chinese students will also not learn about Mao. In the new textbooks, Mao is mentioned once - ONCE! - in a sentence about etiquette. ETIQUETTE! According to the New York Times, the new propaganda, ummm, I mean, curriculum is designed "not so much [to] rewrite history as [to] diminish it. The one-party state, having largely abandoned its official ideology, prefers people to think more about the future than the past." Man, it seems so easy. Erase history and all the problems go away.

Indie Rock, Indian Rock

Here's a thought-provoking article about the growing Indian and Pakistani global music scene. It's also an interesting look at how globalization and multiculturalism are transforming the dynamics of American urban society - not to mention high school. Jeff Tweedy and the Velvet Underground both said Rock and Roll can save your life; perhaps the world is next.