Monday, May 29, 2006

We're in the process of moving

And along with packing up all our shit, we're also throwing out a lot of junk. It's very cathartic.

Anyway, we found this bit of effluvia in the bottom of a drawer and thought it was worth typing out before tossing the slip of paper, which dates back to our high school civics class:

Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor because he doesn't have a cow.

You have two cows. The government takes both and gives you the milk.

Fascism: You have two cows. The government takes both and sells you the milk.

You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.

You have two cows. You sell one and a buy a bull.

Class dismissed.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

"Rumors of Our Demise Are Dead Wrong"

Even though the headline sounds like something Donald Rumsfeld would say, it is a well-researched piece about classical music in the Sunday Times. We've heard it repeated several times in the past couple of weeks that people prefer living in the recent past, and that is exactly what rumors of the death of classical music are--nostalgia for that time, just a while ago, when all seemed just right.

Among the country's 1800 orchestras (whoa! who knew there were so many!), revenues are up and operating costs are down. Newish composers like Gyorgy Ligeti have such a devoted following that both Sony and Teldec are rushing to record everything he's written. Labels like Naxos turn out new CDs by the dozen every month--and Naxos makes those albums available at, too. The most surprising stat in the Times was the revelation that 12% of downloads from iTunes are classical--okay, so that probably just means the gray-hairs buying classical don't know how to use BitTorrent. And now that you mention it, gray-hairs have always been the principal ingredient at a symphony hall event, and there are more of them now than ever before.

Kozinn also touches on the fact that a generation or so ago, nobody listened to Shostakovich. Now, the generation that grew up while Shostakovich was writing listen to him in concert halls everywhere. Ligeti may be next in line for this sort of revolution, but more likely, we'll find someone else to eclipse him, and classical will live on. Joshua Fineberg, back in Salon's glory days, put it this way:

Most art is crap. This may be a shocking idea to many people. We think of art as the great masterworks we know, and it's very easy to forget the mountains of mediocrity that were sifted to lift Bach or Dante or Emily Dickinson to their Olympian heights. I have heard people suggest that somehow the gene pool has been diluted to the point that no more Beethovens are possible (this suggestion actually came from a composer). What they forget is that Gioacchino Rossini was arguably more famous than Beethoven in the early 19th century and that a French opera composer named Giacomo Meyerbeer was much more popular than his rival, Richard Wagner.

In almost any era, the sheer mass of bad or mediocre work tends to dwarf the good or great works. This can lead us to assume that the past was somehow better, since we kept only the best parts and threw out the crap. I would venture to say that there have probably been more masterpieces created during the past 20 years than there were in the last 20 years of the 19th century (an easy bet, since the population is so much bigger now). We just haven't finished sorting the gems from the garbage yet.

And there, he captures both our rosy nostalgia for the good old days and the value of sorting through piles and piles of records or checking out every live band in town. (There's gold in them thar hills!) Of course, Fineberg is not at all optimistic about our continued patience for sifting through yards and yards of manure to find the gold--but then, consider the Shostakovich thing.

UPDATE: Fineberg just finished a book of the same name as his spot-on Salon essay.

UPDATE II: This was originally posted, by coincidence, on Gyorgy Ligeti's birthday. He died on June 12 in Vienna. Lux æterna luceat eis.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Happy Hour, Virginia Commemorative Edition

Next week we are moving to Boston, so we thought that we should drink to DC/Virginia before we ride off and never look back. Virginia has a long history of whiskey, like the rest of the south, even to the point that the land that would become Kentucky, home of bourbon, was part of Virginia in colonial times. Sadly, we have only found two active distilleries in the Old Dominion. (George Washington's collapsed long ago.) One makes "legal moonshine" (question: is it moonshine if it is legal?), a young, unaged 100-proof corn whiskey called Virginia Lightning. Ouch. The other is the Virginia Gentleman, a spicy-sweet bourbon-style whiskey. We're heading over to the liquor store on the lunch break to pick some up, since it is supposed to be cheap but tasty.

But moonshine? Howdya drink that? We've never tried, but we suggest Chatham Artillery Punch. According to Savannah (Georgia now, not Virginia) legend, when Geo. Washington visited the city in 1792, the nearby artillery company saluted him and threw a ball in his honor. The ladies of the group made a punch with wine and fruit juice that tasted good but lacked kick, so every officer in the company tipped in his flask as he walked by the punchbowl. Later, when Sherman completed his march across Georgia, the citizens of Savannah got him drunk on the same recipe, saving their city in the process. In that Midnight in Savannah movie, someone describes it as "three parts fruit and seven parts liquor, whatever is available on both counts," but the traditional recipe has leaked out from the city of cotillions and midnight voodoo:

For 100 People (Or Ten Admirals)

  • 1-1/2 gallons Catawba Wine
  • 1-1/2 quarts Whiskey
  • 1/2 gallon Rum
  • 1/2 pint Benedictine
  • 1 quart Gin
  • 1 quart Brandy
  • 1-1/2 gallons strong tea
  • 2-1/2 pounds brown sugar
  • Juice 1-1/2 dozen oranges
  • Juice 1-1/2 dozen lemons
Mix all the above and let sit at least 48 hours. To serve, place a large block of ice in the bottom of a punchbowl and pour in punch. Add one bottle of champagne and stir gently.

Some purists say that the wine used should be madeira, not the catawba wine of the South Carolina woods. And there is nothing wrong with adding pineapples and cherries to the mix, either. The stuff is nearly 80-proof and the champagne helps get it in your veins faster, so we'll see you next week when you are conscious again.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Beach Reading Season

In preparation for Memorial Day, Slate is rounding up the season's most promising beach reads. Jus' so you know.

UPDATE: For your viewing pleasure, online galleries of 1950s pulp fiction covers, and these pulp covers for editions of the classics.

Bill O'Reilly: As Greasy As Yesterday's Bacon

Rick Rubin called them a "a great rock act making a country album, not a country act making a rock album." Billboard called them Chart Toppers. Bill O'Reilly, though, called them un-American and said they'd never sell more than 2 million copies of their 2002 album, Home. And when he had nothing else to talk about this winter, he said they "have not recovered to this day" for Natalie Maines's 2003 apology for the irresponsible way Texas had unleashed George W Bush on the world.

Now that the Dixie Chicks have a new album--and it rocks--Bill O'Reilly is star-struck. At a Times magazine party, the greasy slime bag all but hit on Natalie Maines. She of course had none of it:

The man, whom Maines described as "despicable," came up to greet her after she performed the song "Not Ready to Make Nice."

"Just want to say that was great," O'Reilly told her. "I really like that new song."

Continues Maines:

"And I go, 'But two million tops, right?'And he goes, 'What?' And I said, 'I saw your show when you said we wouldn't sell more than two million, tops.' And he was like, 'Oh, ah, well, two million's pretty good these days, right?' And I was like, 'Right, yeah. You were saying it in a positive way.'

Then, she says, O'Reilly, who blasted the group on his radio show, added: "We really respect what you did. And we really respect that you stand up for yourself and blah, blah, blah."

The connaisseur of Bill O'Reilly's hypocrisy would do well to watch Keith Olbermann lambast him for this; the clip is available at Crooks and Liars.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

For the Record: No Nude Pics of Lindsay Czarniak Here

Our logs show that approximately 1% of you visit because you want to read something here. The other 99% are directed here when you search for pics of Lindsay Czarniak, the NBC4 sports reporter we hailed as DC's First Hot News Anchor last fall. We want to see more of her, too, but this is a family-oriented blog. Actually, we just don't know where to get revealing photos of Ms. Czarniak.

But since she is the most popular topic around here, we'll link you to some of her work. Last winter, she chronicled the Torino Winter Olympics for NBC4 in a blog that reveals her girl-next-door-ness. To get a taste of Torino, Lindsay recommends Caffe il Bicerin:

It’s the most famous cafe in the city. It was created in 1763 and it’s famous for its "bicerin," the famous hot chocolate drink of Torino. It's coffee, hot dark chocolate and heavy cream mixed together, but the cafe itself is tiny. It's across from a church in a gorgeous piazza where folks leave church zapped of energy and walk across the street for a suger load-up.

Like any All-American girl she's brought back slides from her trip...

And then in March she did a similar assignment in Indianopolis, where the local favorites, the George Mason Patriots, didn't do so well. )c:

On your way out, be sure to vote for Lindsay for Favorite Woman Sportscaster at

And yes, this entire post was a shameless attempt to get more hits. But if you have pics of hot sportscasters in bikinis, leave a link in the comments!

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Fuzzy Nipple

This isn't one to make it into the David Wondrich's Drinking Database, but we still felt embarassed at not knowing the recipe this weekend. So, for the record, the Fuzzy Nipple is made with:

  • 1 shot vodka
  • 1 shot peach schnapps
  • a dash of triple sec
  • 2 shots of orange juice
The one true peach schnapps is of course DeKuyper's Peachtree Schnapps, although at DeKuyper's site the drink is called a Fuzzy Navel (peach fuzz plus navel orange... we admit they have a point, but we'll call it what we like. besides, their legal dept. probably got all hot & bothered at the mention of the nipple). Grand Marnier or Cointreau may be substituted for the triple sec, but then you are getting kinda classy for such a simple drink. Also, some people leave out the orange liqueur altogether.

Google also found a shot made with equal parts of butterscotch and peach schnapps and still called a Fuzzy Nipple, but we recommend you stay away from shots entirely.

Reservist in Iraq Buys Saddam's Car, Customs Promptly Seizes the Goods

Well, not exactly promptly. While in Iraq, First Sergeant William von Zehle bought a used 1988 Mercedes 560 outfitted with custom armor plating and side mounted flamethrowers (God, we'd love a pair of those for getting rid of those pedestrians who rush into traffic!) that had been owned by someone in the Iraqi government, possibly Saddam Hussein himself. Way back in 2003. He had it shipped home in May 2004, where he had time to do some minor repairs before he was sent back to Iraq for a second tour. Customs agents seized it as soon as they learned of it this past week.

Steve Jobs is Rilly, Rilly, Proud

Steve is obviously very happy with himself--Dell doesn't have a 5th Avenue storefront, do they? We'll admit that based on QTVR of the opening night, this place looks pretty cool. But it isn't worth a trip into the heart of Manhattan. And, uh, guys--isn't there already a store where you can buy Apples 24/365?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Security Through Obscurity is a Small Peg on which to Hang the Safety of a Nation

Especially our nation. But let's step back. Big Brother has leapt from the pages of fiction onto the headlines. That's not it, either. He was lurking in the shadows since at least 9/01 (you know, when the democracy born on the Fourth of July died and a New Order rose from the ashes?) and, thanks to some "treacherous" news reporters, possibly aided by one or more CIA leaks, was thrown onto Prime Time tv.

Of course, Republican Presidents have pulled shit like this before:

None too pleased about AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth doing the National Security Agency's (NSA) bidding, Arlen Specter says he's going to haul the three telecom companies before the Judiciary Committee for some pointed questions. Deja vu; in 1976, the now-deceased Rep. Bella Abzug did the same thing with three telegraph companies for their similar handmaiden-to-NSA roles. Looking back to those events, we can't help but wonder if there's more history that will repeat itself--will the Bush Administration try, as the Ford Administration did, to extend executive privilege to private industry.
Among the administration execs whose feet were put to the fire but walked away totally unshaken were Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney.

Ars Technica has a characteristically well-done round-up Big Brother's activities from that 1976 run-in to Michael Aids's prediction that we will soon learn of email, text messaging, and cell phone snooping. (We ran out of hyphens here in the Ocean, or we'd cram more in there.) Read it.


Everyone loves "Best of __" lists. So why not make a music zine of nothing but "Best of __" lists? Blender has. They've got the 500 Best Songs Since You Were Born, which will also hook you up with the 500 CDs to Buy Before You Die!, and also worst of lists such as the 50 Worst Artists, the 50 Worst Songs, and so on. Go on, you know you're going to be reading these all day. In a mag full of The 50 Best All-Time Lists, celebrity playlists round out the rest of the articles.

Their blog, which similarly sensationalizes the Best Album Cover of the Week and such, scores big points by linking us to the antique Chris Isaak Wicked Game video.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Reaching for the Pullitzer in Mango Writing

Back in March, the Bush Administration lifted the trade ban on Indian Alphonso mangoes. We don't know why there was a ban on importing mangoes, either. Now that the mango season is at its peak in Mumbai, so Jonathan Allen has scouted out what we're looking forward to, described in florid prose that we can only hope is tongue-in-cheek:

Feeling ready to try out my mango technique on the real thing, I head to the 19th-century Crawford Market, haunt of housewives and head chefs. With its blackened Gothic clocktower, it looks like the wicked stepsister of the Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village. But mango season is one of the least intimidating times to visit the place, with the sweet-smelling mango stalls offering necessary respite from the market's many less inviting parts, like the blood-puddled corridors past the butchers' stands and the notoriously dispiriting pet section with its grim array of birds and small animals slumped in tiny bare cages.

Unlike the caged puppies, newly arrived mangoes at the market get to bed down in hay for a whole week, ensuring that they ripen evenly from cool green to hot yellow. Then, once the mangoes are ready, shoppers nuzzle them affectionately against their faces as if the mangoes were sad and needed comforting, another treat withheld from the arguably more deserving puppies. The shoppers are in fact hoping to inhale the distinct whisper of mango perfume, which only barely leaks out the skin of the perfectly ripened fruit.

"Arguably more deserving puppies?" We think not. Give us the mangoes.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Life Imitates Art

The Washington Post has a headline ripped from the plot of The Constant Gardener: Pfizer, purveyor of life-saving medical therapies, tested an unregistered antibiotic in Nigeria back in the '90s without so much as telling the unsuspecting patients, and although they have been trying to deny the dirty truth of their little trial since at least 2001, but lawyers for the families of the test subjects finally found the company's reports. The drug, trovafloxacin, was briefly available in the US but later restricted from most uses due to liver toxicity, but it is worth noting that none of the drugs in its class are used in children because of reports of damage to growing cartilage. So Pfizer's notion that they were providing the drug as a humanitarian effort to ease an epidemic at the time is completely bogus, even if they could explain why their "humanitarian effort" ended before the epidemic.

What's more, according to the 2001 BBC article (above), the control group in this study received half the usual dose of a competing drug, and six of them died as a result of being insufficiently treated. Aside from the inhumanity of it all, such crappy scientific methodology takes the air out of Pfizer's argument that the high cost of drugs is because of the cost of the research involved in bringing a new drug to market, since they are not only morally degenerate but also cheap and sloppy when it comes to testing their drugs.

In all, a panel of Nigerian doctors figures that Pfizer violated Nigerian law, the international Declaration of Helsinki that governs ethical medical research, and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. We figure that the punishment for these crimes will amount to exactly nothing.

The guys at Ars Technica brought up the idea of boycotting drug cos for this kind of behavior, but 1) Pfizer, in addition to its stable of "me-too" drugs with sketchy profiles like this, has a number of drugs with proven safety and efficacy, and 2) all the other drug cos have similar records, and you gotta go somewhere to get better. We'd like to see their patents revoked, so that their drugs would go generic, effectively taking away the exclusive power over these drugs that they have demonstrated they are not qualified to wield.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Friday, May 05, 2006

Whom Defeat Could Not Dishonor

Shandy noticed a damned good question from the comments on TNR's report of a Virginia Senator's affinity for the Stars and Bars:

Can anyone explain to me the allure of the Confederacy? I've heard plenty about how the romance is "not all about slavery" but about other things worth cherishing.
We spent some time in Dixie--near Atlanta, where there is a theme park with a huge granite relief of The War's heroes that is animated as part of a nightly laser show so that Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis can come back to fight for the South, and where our high school band had these gray uniforms so that when they took the field, it looked like the Confederate army was poised to shoot down the opponent.

So here is our theory of why the South insists it will rise again, based on our sociologic studies of the Southerner in his native habitat:

When all those rebels came back defeated, they couldn’t get it up.

So all the rebel women started feeding them this pablum about how they weren’t REALLY defeated, because they still had their honor. They had gone to fight for something important (notice how no one ever defines that “something”—they half-heartedly deny that it was racism while praying that you don’t ask any follow up questions. Sometimes they say something about states’ rights, but that is pure bullshit, since the only states exercising any rights are Oregon with their physician assisted suicide, Mass. with gay marriage, and maybe California with car emissions that the reds want to shut down). They had stood up with manly determination against the unreasonable aggressor (sure, we know who fired the first shots at Ft. Sumter, but give the mythmakers a little poetic license).

“You’re right, honey,” said Johnny Reb, rising to the bait. “We fought with heart. They only beat us because they had more money. An’ I suspect the damned French helped them out. Or sumthin’, ‘cause we fought harder and better than those hypocritical little boys with their Harvard educations, and even if they did win the war, we were on the side of what’s right, so we still have our honor.”

“That’s right,” said Scarlet O’Hara, “now come to bed.”

"And let me tell you sumthin' else," Johnny Reb continued. "The South shall rise agin'..."

This myth of how the Northern aggressor had won only through guile and trickery while the Southerners had lost only in a technical sense and maintained the moral high ground became an obsession and a mass delusion. Every child heard the story of how Daddy had to go to war because Lincoln threatened to take away his right to be a man; the Daughters of the Confederacy diligently set about erecting memorials to the Confederate soldier in every town south of the Mason-Dixon line. So much energy is spent repeating the myth and clinging to its every symbol because the minute you step back and look at the whole thing, you see all the holes in the poorly made fabrication. So you have to stay immersed in it to continue believing it.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Why We're Jealous of Portland

Our neighborhood bookstore goes out of its way to employ stereotypically mousey, bespectacled types. There book selection is first-rate (everything in the place is top-shelf), don't get us wrong, but the world needs more well-read hotties. At the very least, we'd like to see some eye candy while browsing the stacks.

And the Portland Mercury tells us that Powell's Books has acheived this, with pictures to prove it. What's more, the Powell's Pearl Room is apparently (scroll down for best public sex spots in Portland--they'd do well to distribute this list at the airport) as good a pick up spot as the 2nd floor of the old alma mater's library, which was once listed in Playboy as one of the top ten hookup spots in the country. (Our experience failed to verify that.) Powell's also has a great blog featuring posts from guest authors, sorta like book readings but online, but, sadly, nothing XXX-rated.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

For the Medievalists in the Middle East: Some Required Reading

Juan Cole has a great idea: Give the Islamofascists in the Middle East a course in American history. The good stuff, as in, Common Sense, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers--all the ideas that made us the greatest nation in the world before we found Jesus and got corrupt. Translated in to Arabic, of course, which doesn't seem to have occurred to the US government's PR team.

See, the current PR team's idea of spreading American culture amounts to blasting Top 40 Pop as loud as possible, showing Britney Spears laboring, delivering, and breast pumping on Sony Megatrons in the middle of Baghdad, and generally proclaiming Hollywood in the most stereotypically loud, obnoxious American way possible. We hate all that about America and so will the Middle Easterners. This Americana Library, despite the retarded name, is certainly a better idea.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Firefox Flicks Winners

Firefox, the open-source browser, launched an open-source ad campaign last year: Users fired up about the browser were asked to submit homemade commercials. The winners were announced the other day, and we are mightily impressed with the results. Grand-prize winner Daredevil, which will presumably get tv airtime sooner or later, is polished and professional (we had our doubts about programmer dorks making commercials--see Wheee!), and This is hot, which got an honorable mention, is as good as anything from Pixar.