February 28, 2002

Why do we hate us?

Why do we hate us?

Yep, we've got our own wackos. The non-Islamic kind. Like these ones in Kallispell, Montana.

All I can say is, I'm glad this situation is in the capable hands of Flathead County Sheriff Jim Dupont.

According to Sheriff Dupont, a license plate reform group called Project Seven (so-named because Flathead County license plates all begin with a 7) was "planning on assassinating as many cops and public officials as possible" with a massive arsenal of "weapons, ammunition, survival equipment, booby traps, body armor, explosives, bomb-making equipment, you name it."

"It all certainly supports the theory," said Sheriff Dupont, "that there was going to be big trouble." 

"Last I heard, it didn't take 30,000 rounds of ammo to kill a turkey."

That was basically the situation last I heard, too.

They've collected a lot of evidence, including a couple of encrypted hard drives, but some of the conspirators seem to have been one jump ahead of the cops.

"At one home already investigated with a search warrant, Dupont said, the place was cleaned out before officers arrived."

Outside was "a pile of burnt ashes - fresh ashes," he said.

"There went the evidence." 

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:11 PM | TrackBack

Word on the Street is,

Word on the Street is, the man is coming down on the people

Ken Layne watched the Grammys last night so we wouldn't have to. His play-by-play is by turns funny, sad, thoughtful, silly, and insightful-- and honest: even he couldn't make it through to the end.

I almost wish I had seen Michael Greene's lecture on how the kids are sucking the lifeblood out of the other kids by downloading their "inspired work." Well Mike, my blood has been sucked. I got over it. The hootenanny thing sounds like it was pretty cool; I'm glad Lucinda won, etc.

Still, I "boycotted" the Grammys this year as always. This is not some kind of protest on the basis of deeply-held beliefs or anything like that. I boycotted it in the same way I boycott Touched by an Angel: being not at all interested makes it easy. Instead, my friend Tristin and I went to the King's X bar on Piedmont in Oakland and had a pretty good time drinking and talking about this and that. We had the room off to the side mostly to ourselves, which was nice. Unfortunately, the other occupants were these two unreconstructed lefties (a hippie and his "straight-looking" friend) who were blathering on and on about "the fascist pig government" of George WM Bush (the "M" stands for "monger"--get it?) who stole the White House in a "rich white person" coup, etc. Their verdict on the war was, not surprisingly, that we are the evil ones and we deserve what we get. I know Tris pretty well, and I could tell from the way she was clutching her wine glass that she was a centiliter away from throwing its contents into one or both of their faces. Since one of them was a vaguely refrigerator-sized goon, I'm glad she was able to resist; but I could see her point.

We tried to use the jukebox to drown out their idiotic banter, but sometimes idiotic banter can break the sound barrier, that is, it can make itself heard even over the ZZ Top. (Tris probably suffered more than me, since I'm a whole lot more deaf than she is.)

Anyway, the climax of their conversation was this: the hippie got on the floor to demonstrate his yoga technique. "This is what we call fire breathing," he said, going into a kind of Lamaze method puffer-fish woman-in-labor routine. That's a hippie for you. No sense, no morals, no human decency-- and above all no personal dignity whatsoever. I think we all learned something. The hippie learned a new word ("monger.") The hippie's friend learned some valuable lessons about his chakras or something like that. But Tristin and I learned the most important lesson of all: nothing breaks the tension like a bearded man in labor. We lost it: a wave of hysterical laughter swept the dusky environs of the King's X that night.

All in all, it was probably better than the Grammys as far as entertainment value goes, though I guess I wish I'd seen the hootenanny.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:54 AM | TrackBack

February 27, 2002

Everyone has been taking the

Everyone has been taking the "ethical philosophy selector" test and posting the results, so I thought I might as well join in. My results are about what I expected:

1.  Kant   (0%)  
2.  Aquinas   (0%)  
3.  Rand   (0%)  
4.  Augustine   (0%)  
5.  Spinoza   (0%)  

Interesting... but then:

6.  Prescriptivism   (0%)  
7.  Mill   (0%)  
8.  Stoics   (0%) 
9.  Ockham   (0%)  
10.  Sartre   (0%) 
11.  Bentham   (0%) 

No surprises there. On the other hand:

12.  Aristotle   (0%)  
13.  Plato   (0%)  
14.  Epicureans   (0%)  
15.  Nietzsche   (0%)  
16.  Cynics   (0%)

Hmm... that last one gave me pause. But most people who have been reading this blog for awhile will wink knowingly at this:
17.  Noddings   (0%)

and maybe perhaps this:
18.  Hume   (0%)

However, to my surprise:
19. Hobbes   (0%)
20. Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band (73%)

Cool. I now understand myself completely.

Update: the quiz is even more illuminating when it's been pornolized.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:48 PM | TrackBack

Quote of the day... ...from

Quote of the day...

...from the VodkaPundit, on the subject of Patrick Ruffini's Condoleezza Rice for President campaign:

Finally, a President I can hit on.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:29 PM | TrackBack


Ken Layne's Foxblog column yesterday was a great piece about the out-of-touch music biz-- it's densely packed with terrific links, and I urge everyone who hasn't already done so to read it and follow all the links as you go. (I'm usually pretty lazy about this, but I did it this time because I'm so interested in the subject, and in this case it really pays off.)

"The industry" is out of touch, perhaps as never before, but at least as much as it has ever been; the Grammys are a pointless irrelevant waste of time, perhaps more than ever, but certainly as much as they have ever been; and mistreatment of the fans and "the suppliers" (i.e. musicians) by record companies has been rampant. If the industry suffers from "lost revenue" owing to illegal digital trading of songs, the head honchos have only themselves to blame. All attempts to prevent this trading from occurring will fail, and the only thing "the industry" accomplishes by refusing to acknowledge this is to make itself look even more foolish and further alienate its dwindling base of customers. As Ken says, "few will weep when the Record Industry collapses."

I agree with all of this. However, it's not going to collapse. It will, on the contrary, out of necessity re-orient itself and adjust to the changed market, acknowledging that unauthorized copying and distribution is just a part of the cost of doing business (as I assume the computer software industry does.) People are going to go on copying mp3s no matter what, and the industry will eventually figure out a way to remain profitable in the midst of this reality. I don't know exactly how they'll do this, but I'm pretty sure that, contrary to the assumptions of almost everyone who writes about this subject, it won't be to the benefit of the musicians, neither the great nor the humble. As for whether it will ultimately benefit "fans," I have my doubts about that too.

The "free music" that seems to get so many people so excited is a fallacy. Nothing is free. While it's true that the music industry is bloated, wasteful, and certainly could do with some slimming down, it's also true that producing, promoting and distributing records does cost money. Even if costs were cut considerably, a virtually free product would mean that the money to do this would have to come from somewhere besides sales, right? My best guess as to where it would come from is from advertising, sponsorship, that sort of thing. As anyone who ever listens to commercial radio knows, the kind of programming that maximizes advertisers' profits isn't always the best or most interesting kind of programming. Britney Spears (with or without naked pictures), Limp Bizkit, Madonna-- they'd have no problem getting Reebok or Pepsi to fund their big budget albums. The artists who are less appealing as product spokesmodels will be a tougher sell and have a tougher time. And my guess is that the industry will close ranks, pour their resources into the sure things, take even fewer chances than they do now, and let the rest wither away.

"Cutting out the middle man" is a phrase you often hear in these discussions. Yet in a sense, this isn't "cutting out the middle man" but rather adding more middle men (advertisers) to the A&R and development process. Other possible ways to "offset production costs" could be to devise mandatory publishing deals that funnel a greater share of the songwriter's mechanical royalties to the label; or perhaps for the label to swallow a greater portion of the broadcast royalties. There are all sorts of possibilities, as well as a certainty: if the label can figure out a way to screw the artist, they will. A further certainty: they will figure out how.

I'd love to see the industry "shaken up." Maybe it would even be a good thing to get it all out in the open; something like this narrowing process has been occurring gradually for years anyway. (I listen to music all the time, yet like a lot of people I pretty much ignore what the mainstream industry offers. Not on purpose: I'm just not all that interested in being bored.) If artists enter into disadvantageous agreements, they have only themselves to blame. They should strike out on their own instead. But ultimately the economic logic applies to the non-mainstream, too. My small independent low-budget rock band usually spends around $15,000 to record an album. Since we're pretty sure we can sell at least 10-15,000 records, our small independent label can afford to give us an advance to cover this cost. We could reduce the recording budget by cutting corners, but we can't reduce it to zero. Obviously, Reebok isn't going to come to our rescue if such recordings lose their market value and become mere promotional items that can't pay for themselves. Ken's willingness to drive to Bakersfield to buy a CD from Buck Owens rather than buy one at a store or download it is touching. But it's not $15,000 worth of touching. And Buck has already recorded those songs. What about the Buck Owenses of the future?

Things haven't progressed to the point where recordings are valueless, promotional items, of course. Maybe we'll never get there. For most independent bands, digital trading is more beneficial than harmful, since people still do buy CDs. It can be like a kind of advertising. That model only works, however, if there's some product to sell. The commercial can't be identical to the product.

Finally, no matter how evil the Record Industry is, taking someone's copyrighted material without authorization is stealing, and stealing is wrong. The fact that technology makes it easier than ever to do this, or that the behavior of big companies makes people feel better about doing it, doesn't change that. Even if some enterprising "content provider" figures out a way to turn it to his advantage, that still doesn't alter the ethics of the situation. It's still wrong if it has no market effect whatsoever, as it probably does in many cases.

Of course, ethics don't matter. In the "real world" nothing is true and everything is permitted. I'm not saying that anybody could or should try to stop the inevitable process. All I'm saying is that while this process may be inevitable, it's not an unequivocal blessing. Under the "free music" ethos, a lot of great recordings, being swapped over DSL connections even now, never would have been made in the first place.

Anyway, read Ken's column, as well as the letters from readers that he has posted. Lots of food for thought there. And, if you do end up watching the Grammys: you have my deepest sympathies.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:54 PM | TrackBack

Dude, don't get a Dell

Dude, don't get a Dell

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:47 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lileks Time James Lileks really

Lileks Time

James Lileks really goes to town on that "Guardian undercover at the Olive Garden" article by Matthew Engels that I blogged yesterday. I'm not going to pull out any quotes, because I can't choose. Oh, yes I am. Here's one:

Engels: Europeans are inclined to think that the Americans, having been late for the last two world wars, are determined to be early for the next one.

Lileks: Damned witty, Wilde. Damned witty! Deuce it all! Look: we were “late” for the last world wars like a policeman is usually late for a murder. One could easily say that Europeans are determined to be late for the next world war because they’re still feeling guilty about the last time some nutcases wanted to slaughter all the Jews. Except, of course, they’re not guilty at all. That was all Hitler’s fault. He had that big shiny hypnotism coin from the novelty catalog, and everyone just fell in his power.

You've really got to read the whole thing: it's a masterpiece.

One more quote:

Here’s the deal: we don’t need your support. But understand that if Iraqis had flown planes into Big Ben, we’d take out Saddam, because we understand that an attack on you is an attack on us. The West is not defined by Belgian edicts on acceptable levels of tomato sauce viscosity. The West is a set of ideas that need defending. Forgive us our passable wines; forgive our standardized veal. Forgive us our simple-mindedness, for we - from Alabama on outward to outer, distant Alabama and beyond - have a gut feeling that “quarrels” usually boil down to two sides. Forgive us for believing that fascism's side ought to lose.

And if we seem arrogant when it comes to beating fascism, forgive us once more, for we have something you don’t.


The Brits deserve a great deal of credit for resisting fascism, of course; but the posturing of Euro-elites (who surely include many Guardianistas) open them up to this kind of commentary. Plus, and here's the clincher: leaving aside the substance, in the battle of wits Lileks ultimately wins because his piece is funnier. Engels is going to have to crank up the wry wit and do much better next time if he hopes to out-Lilek Lileks.

At any rate, the blogosphere has not been kind to Mr. Engels. Bill Quick also has some pointed comments on his swill opinion piece. The Brits themselves are even getting into the act. At least Natalie Solent is, and so is Iain Murray who has it on good authority ("political friends," don't you know) that Engels is a "dreadful person." Strong words...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:52 AM | TrackBack

Sad news via Iain Murray:

Sad news via Iain Murray: the great Spike Milligan has died. Rest in peace.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:51 AM | TrackBack

While it comes as a

While it comes as a great relief that Natalie Solent is finally back from her "hols" and up and at 'em once again, I'm truly sorry to hear of her recent family loss: sincere condolences and sympathy go out Natalie and family.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:50 AM | TrackBack

Andrew Sullivan says: Be a

Andrew Sullivan says:

Be a part of blogging revolution - for as little as a few bucks!

I think when Andrew says "blogging revolution" he's referring to himself, which is is fair enough. But I'm going to go ahead and assume that I'm included, too. If he can do it, so can I. Can't I? I am the blogging revolution! And vive moi! Last year, Sullivan's $27,000 in donations was the only reason he stayed afloat. How do I stay afloat? I have no earthly idea. But you can assist in the dubious project of delaying my inevitable descent to Davy Jones's locker by tossing some dough into the Blogs of War tip jar over to the left. Andrew Sullivan will be glad you did.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:40 AM | TrackBack

Instantman strikes! Wow, Instapundit-ed overnight!

Instantman strikes!

Wow, Instapundit-ed overnight! To all the thousands (yes, thousands) of folks who are stopping by to read Tristin's beautiful essay, it's here. Welcome, new readers. If you do stick around to read some of this other stuff, thanks. And feel free to let me know what you think.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:37 AM | TrackBack

February 26, 2002

Empire Schmempire

Here's another pointed review of Empire, the dreadful best-seller by Michael Hardt and convicted Red Brigade terrorist Antonio Negri, which celebrates “the irrepressible lightness and joy of being Communist."

Hardt and Negri seek to update Marx’s Capital for the era of economic globalization. In doing so, they plunder every imaginable recent source of academic foolishness, from postcolonialism to Queer Theory to French post–structuralism, and wed it to Marx, Lenin, and even Mao, making the book a kind of up–to–the–minute manual on how to get tenure in today’s university.

Sad, and maybe even true.

The author of this review sees the book's commercial success as an indication that the nutty far left is alive and well and more powerful and dangerous than ever. Perhaps so, but I'm skeptical. The bestseller lists are full of books that are frequently bought yet seldom actually read. Next time you're at a Barnes and Noble, just pick up this book and try to read one of its five hundred impenetrable pages at random-- have fun. Here's one sentence, quoted by Alan Wolfe in his excellent review in the New Republic:

The analysis of real subsumption, when this is understood as investing not only the economic or only the cultural dimension of society but rather the social bios itself, and when it is attentive to the modalities of disciplinarity and/or control, disrupts the linear and totalitarian figure of capitalist development.

Sound like a good time?

Wolfe says that "Empire is to social and political criticism what pornography is to literature. It flirts with revolution as if one society can be replaced by another as easily as one body can be substituted for another." But a lot more tediously. The gushing New York Times review last year reflected poorly on its editorial policy, and the book's faddish popularity is no cause for celebration; but I doubt its "ideas" will ever be in a position to do much harm. After all, this is also a best-seller. So was this.

Finally, I just can't resist quoting what is perhaps my favorite sentence written about this (or any) book. This is from the Amazon.com "editorial review" by one Eric de Place:

if Hardt and Negri's vision of the world materializes, they will undoubtedly be remembered as prophetic.

Undoubtedly. (via Andrew Sullivan.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:24 PM | TrackBack

Our Canadian Friends, eh? A

Our Canadian Friends, eh?

A dimwitted "humorist" in the Canadian hipster music publication Trucker Magazine has managed to come up with what is arguably the most offensive 9/11-related document since Elizabeth Wurtzel's notorious turtleneck interview