November 27, 2004

Worthless Spew Part 2: Oliverstonexander the Great

It actually wasn't as bad as I feared. The film charged through the biography but for the most part the accepted history (or legend) was faithfully presented. Stone may go for the salacious or sensational, but the thing is, this story really was salacious and sensational. Almost every screwed-up thing in the movie is basically true. According to most historians, that is, and not to excessively macho Greek-Floridian lawyers who are shocked, shocked, that Alexander was presented (truthfully, I'll add) as bisexual, and deny this vehemently. Hey guys- news flash: everyone in Hellas was bi back then. Lighten the fuck up. Bisexual Alexander could take all of you with every limb and his dick tied behind his back. Drunk. So could his boyfriend, his eunuch, and his bonkers wife.

Anyway- the movie was kinda like a combo of Peter Greene's pragmatism and Mary Renault's idealism. Oh, and Colin Farrel looks like he could sing for Creed. That's not good, but casting a party animal as the drunken military genius was smart. Same with Angelina Jolie as the crazy-ass bitch that was his mother. The maps, however, sucked. I say this as a geography geek who knows full well that the last comment doesn't matter at all. Also, yes, Indians (you know, from India) are probably correct when they say their ancestors beat back this crazy bastard and made him go home. Why? Hey, the dude didn't let mutiny stop him at least 3 times. The Indians almost killed him. You do the math.

But damn. Rosario Dawson. I said god-damn.

Worthless Spew, Part 1: 4 Rich Irish Dorks

"How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb" seems to be the album U2 have made in the mold they imagine most of the world perceives them to be. Elaborating on that point involves all kinds of silly nit-picking that's ultimately irrelevant if, in fact, this is the album they wanted to record at this unique point in their unique career. I mean, it's their record, right? I can say all sorts of things that are superficially judgemental, such as "Atomic Bomb" is head and shoulders above the good half of "All That You Can't Leave Behind", or that it's not as good as "Achtung Baby", or it's "mainstream", "too safe", or "slickly clean", and hey, even if I did just say that or even if I believe it, which I do, that doesn't matter. The fact is that U2 has decades under their belt, a few knockout albums back there, a killer live show, and has yet to become complete crap, and for some reason, for better or worse, that quashes any arguments as to the quality of this disc. They're up against themselves again, and I'm happy they made a good record in spite of that.

It all sounds like tarnished silver; "Atomic Bomb" is a very conservative step back at worst and a vigorous running-in-place at best. This is "Boy" made by 45-year-olds- a transparently studied stab at youthful spontaneity that is pulled off regardless because, well, this is U2 we're talking about. The old winning formula is here- the original keening chimes of righteousness that we all know and that, really, shouldn't be a crime except that this band has delivered much better before. Nothing really wrong pops up except a few lyrical clunkers from Bono here and there, but again that's business as usual, isn't it? Moments of greatness and permanence are definitely present- at least "City Of Blinding Lights" and "Crumbs From Your Table" ought to stay in the permanent U2 canon. "Vertigo" certainly does get less ridiculous with every listen, the instrumental break in "Miracle Drug" is ecstatic, and the first, icy-crisp, head-spinning note of "All Because Of You" might be the best note on the album.

It's a bit too much over eleven tracks, though. I like epic rock better than anything, but the mood doesn't alter very often, though on the other hand, so what? This stuff will surely destroy in a live setting. It'll absolutely slay, but, you know, in a merciful way. U2 should tour this bastard into the ground- that's where these songs will come to life, as we all know, and that's where the band will prove all pointless reviews like this one to be totally useless. This is their record, and it's not a masterpiece, but as with their best they will allow us to make it ours.

(as reviewd on @U2)

November 03, 2004

Worst Birthday Ever

So. I'm now 28 years and some hours old. It's 2am and it's hard not to take this election result personally. Next time I swear I'm gonna be one of those people who only pays attention to politics for 5 minutes a year. It'll be a hard habit to break- I've been on it since the 5th grade- almost as long as my addiction to rock&roll and only beaten by my jones for baseball. But you all know me, that's what I do- I take things personally when I shouldn't. I mean, I have a good job where I can be creative. I live in a nice California beach-town apartment with a beautiful woman who loves me. I'm white, straight, male, educated, and American. I'm even 1/4th of an ass-kicking rock & roll band (we still have an album to finish, too). I have everything going for me, right?

All that stuff's meaningful and great, obviously, and wil continue to be so long after the pain of this political groin-kick fades away. So why does it feel like so much good, hard work went down the drain? Why should I care who steals this year's election, even if it is on my birthday? No, I won't bitch about this long because I know all of you don't share some of my points of view (though most of you do). So many people worked their butts off, much more than me (especially Brian), only to see a projected record voter turnout be tainted by an apparent extreme fit of apathy on the part of 18-24 year olds nationwide and some cheapjack voting machines in Ohio. An intelligent, experienced and courageous senator whom I didn't originally support but whom I am now proud to have voted for will be made to look like an anti-American sore loser by Thanksgiving (or sooner) because too many people believed the blatant untruths and distortions propagated by the opposing campaign.

Sure, that's politics, and I won't say that it's for some reason nastier than it's been. Read the history about say, the 1800 election and see how truly horrible two of the founding fathers behaved in that campaign and you'll get the idea. Mr. Kerry didn't lose this through any fault of his own (no, really, he owned the last 4 weeks), like Gore did. He was subjected to the most negative campaign I've ever seen- he was attacked mercilessly by the President's campaign because they couldn't run on the issues. They knew that if an honest discussion and debate on the issues were to take place in this country, the President would lose just like his father. Instead, half of our fear-ridden nation and a pliant media were massaged into accepting a fabricated reality as True.

But yeah, just because you want it to be true doesn't make it so. I'll be the first fool to admit that, but it's very difficult for me to believe right now that half of our country are really ignorant, scared suckers. I mean, it really seems like that to me and it has for 3 years now. That's a harsh thing to say, and tomorrow I'll regret saying it, but not now. Now I'm going to finish eating my big-ass chocolate birthday cake, and tomorrow I hope to wake up to some news about how my party's nominees aren't going down without a fight. This is still America, dammit.

October 12, 2004

Three More Weeks of Nail-Biting Insanity

The mercilessly dry Southern California summer has lingered far too long into autumn for me to be in a good mood, but for a multitude of reasons, this stumbling fiasco of an election year hasn’t been weighing too heavily on my psyche. No, I’ve had too much shit to do over the past few months to pay close attention to the delirious grumblings of George Bush and John Kerry, which is why I haven’t been moved to write anything at all about this stinking campaign ever since Kerry clinched his party’s nomination by shaming John Edwards into becoming his veep of choice. It’s all roaring back, now, though—thanks to a few weird events in a (relatively) far-off place—so sit tight, kiddies, cause the Home Stretch is where the Devil does his thang.

Indeed, and in normal circumstances I would have been one of the first to know about shit like that, except this time events had long since overtaken me. See, right about the time Senator Kerry “reported for duty” at the most garishly Stalinist Democratic Convention I’d ever seen, Em and I were moving from Isla Vista down to our new steady jobs in Ventura. It was a short 45-minute drive, but escaping from I.V. after so many years of intense exposure was like finally getting a one-way ticket out of Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island, sans donkey ears. There were plenty of jackasses on C-SPAN, though, once Em hooked up the cable and the Boston convention speeches began spilling into our new living room.

I didn’t have much time to meditate on that sorry spectacle, however—never mind the Nuremberg rally that Bush held in New York a month later—because I soon joined the rest of the guys in Honey White on a trip up to San Francisco. We began recording our first full-length album at Take Root Studio in August, with ace engineer Jonathan Mayer at the controls, and what with the overwhelming awesomeness of our Loud Rock Music and its accompanying static of Giants games on the radio, Zappa on the control room stereo, glorious Indian and Vietnamese dinners, and every Simpsons episode on video and ready to play in the studio VCR, we wouldn’t be distracted by presidential politics for very long.

Nevertheless, 2004’s campaign inevitably poked its hideous head into the studio several times. One bad joke about Bush from Jon and we were off—no dipshit Republican was safe from our passive-aggressive liberalized vitriol, and Joe Lieberman would have felt skittish in that company, too. The tipping point came and went earlier this month, though, when Brian joined up with DJ Monkey Mike and his crew of canvassers on a registration drive to Reno. Our genius guitarist had already skipped out on one session back in September (as it degenerated into simultaneous diva-tastic displays from Bryn and I) to go see the Pixies with Owen in Berkeley, so the rest of us were only mildly impressed when Brian sauntered into the studio at our most recent session, dispensing Kerry/Edwards buttons like they were shiny new silver dollars.

“Oooh,” said Jon the engineer, “they’ll look great next to my vintage McGovern and Mondale buttons. All I need is a Dukakis, and I’ll have the complete set!”

I smirked at him and turned to Brian. “Yeah, don’t get cocky, dude. You should know that by now; when Democrats get the hubris bug, they’re almost guaranteed to crash and burn.”

Bryn looked up from tuning his guitar. “Right—we have a record to finish, man, so if you’re gonna get all political and stuff, have the decency to let us know first.” He then invoked the sad story of our heavily employed drummer. “You realize, of course, that Billy would give his left nut to be here right now.”

“Besides,” said Jon, “you still have a guitar part to lay down for ‘Dead Man,’ Brian. We got shit to do, so stash those buttons and grab your axe.”

Brian’s reply came with a genial sneer. “You whiny bastards,” he chuckled. “This is still a tight race. John Zogby is a whore, and those eleven-point gap polls from Time and Newsweek are soaked in dogshit. All the Republicans did in Manhattan was barf out the nastiest, most hateful ugliness they could spew. Remember what happened when Pat Buchanan did that in 1992? Eight years of Bill Clinton. Those fuckers are scared.”

“Maybe so,” hollered Jon from across the wide band room, as he stacked amplifiers and arranged microphones, “but you try getting swift-boated sometime, Brian. There’s no real way Kerry will recover from that, even if he continues to stomp Bush in the deba—“

A low, rumbling boom interrupted Jon, sending him into an immediate, near-apoplectic fit of curses. “Jesus fucking Christ,” he spat, “I told that guy to keep his volume down when we had sessions in here.” He stormed off, heading for the space next door—where we knew a stern, 350-pound black man held court in his motorcycle body shop, bathed in the soothing sounds of Stevie Wonder.

Brian took advantage of Jon’s temporary absence to continue flogging the presidential debates while he plugged in his Strat. “Who do you think won the last one? Bush seemed on speed until he was talking about, well, death, and Kerry stayed cool. The Swift Boat Veterans ain’t got shit—hell, even John McCain called them scum-sucking parasites.”

“Dude,” I shook my head, “Bush had a bionic box attached to his spine—didn’t you see the photos? It was like his second, Stegosaurus-brain back there. He could snort all the coke in Bolivia and still win with Rove whispering cues in his ear.”

“Totally,” agreed Bryn, “but Brian’s still got a point about those polls. Gallup is fucked, and if there’s no criminal activity in Florida or Ohio, Kerry will win big. No incumbent’s ever won in a squeaker, and most of the numbers show Bush’s lead at, like, a chickenshit 2 or 3 points.”

The bass still thumped from next door, and I shrugged. “Whatever. In that case, it won’t take long for some crazed bookie to lose bowel control in Vegas and place stupid odds on a Kerry blowout. Remember, we still have three more weeks of nail-biting insanity before election day. By then, all the work that Brian and Mike did in Reno could be tossed out in favor of a mass karmic enema for everyone who stands to lose if Bush tanks.”

Brian rolled his eyes, but whatever witty riposte he thought up was cut off by Jon as he returned back from the body shop, and the rumbling mysteriously stopped. The engineer wore a devious smile as he flipped the amps’ switches and pulled on a set of rifle-range ear protectors.

“Okay Brian,” he said, “get your ass out there and do the take. We have too many overdubs this weekend to screw around with Bush and Kerry all day.”

Brian shrugged. “Fine, but what about the mechanic next door?”

Jon tapped the earphones before handing them off to Brian. “Put these on,” he said, “and as for him,"—here he jerked his head at the wall separating the studio and body shop—“well, he better have some clean underwear handy.”

He marched into the control room and motioned Bryn and I to follow. “Come on guys—you don’t want to be stuck out here when Brian starts playing, our you’ll both need diaper changes too.”

It didn’t take long to see why. Brian’s guitar thundered through the studio when Jon rolled tape, and it was such an epic feat of soloing that we all forgot about the stupid election for the rest of the weekend. The good mood didn’t last that long, though—on our way back south through San Jose, the Volvo died a quick and horrible death during a torrential downpour on the 101 freeway. I ranted and raved like a maniac, cursing my feeble car and its treacherous betrayal in our hour of need, but Bryn and Emily had the good sense to call Triple A and a tow truck, so it wasn’t long before we retreated out of the rain and huddled around my sister’s kitchen table in Santa Clara.

It was a sodden, sorry end to our creative revelries, and it left me in a mean and bitter state of mind for days after I got home—prime, fertile soil for electoral-related hopes and fears to breed like mice and eat away at every available mental floorboard. Maybe October in an election year is always like this—hell, Hunter S. Thompson even said so, and apparently he’s endorsing Kerry in the next Rolling Stone—but I’ll be damned if I let it fester any more than it already has. The Clinton-Gingrich years weren’t that long ago, and bitter weirdness is always waiting around the corner, so the best thing to do is find something you love and keep the ugliness at bay. Rock and roll stops the traffic, indeed.

August 14, 2004


The place, the city, the state of mind. This is an interesting town- it has pieces of most everywhere I've been in California. Funny that the closer you get to the beach in Ventura and Oxnard, the more farm fields there are.

Anyway, moving of course means I had to re-register to vote. By mail. Which I will photocopy as a, um, "souvenir" of my 28th birthday if/when the election goes our way, which it seems likely to at this point despite the Iowa Futures skew toward the president. Also, since Jon Neal is now running things out in Colorado, we might have some kind of freakiness going on there again anew. Nothing like say, changing Aspen to Fat City, but close.

If you're reading this (and it's okay to say so) you know that the band is now recording our album here. Honey White tramps up to the bay about once a month to track our (eventually) forthcoming debut full length CD/cassette/vinyl/coaster release. Cringe in fear, all four of you.

Oh, I was talking about Ventura. Well, there's not much else about it right now. I'll say something if we land a gig, how about that?

May 19, 2004

Troy Sucks!

Sucks Sucks Sucks Sucks Sucks Sucks Sucks Sucks Sucks Sucks!!!!!!!!!!

Whew. Got that outta my system. Really, though, it's a wretched film only marginally better than the lame-ass "Helen of Troy" that USA subjected us to last year. Hollywood took Homer and fucked him right in the ass. Bryns rule is the older the subject matter, the more likely the film is to suck, and he also says that he hates the idea of some dumbass modern writer who thinks they can do it better than Homer.

This isn't just about mini-nitpicks like Lord of the Rings. I didn't really care that those movies were changed much cause very little in terms of basic plot was actually alterd. Troy, however, kills people that aren't supposed to die, like say Menelaus, who goes happily home to Sparta and lives into old age. Of course there were characters omitted, and of course the writing was awful, but meddling with Homer like this is just stupid.

Scenery and costumes were nice though. Sean Bean was good too. That's about it. Two thumbs way, way down.

March 30, 2004

Bono Speaking Foremostly... Or Something

@U2 honcho Matt McGee points out, in lieu of Yer Man's inclusion on the World's Foremost Speakers tour:

I don't know. It all sounds pretty uncool to me. Didn't he used to be a singer in a rock and roll band?
Yeah, I think he did. Oh, and the album is supposed to be out in November.


In other U2 news, Q magazine basically rips off Bill Flanagan's classic tome "U2 At The End Of The World" in their latest article about the glory that was U2's Zoo TV tour. No quotes are directly lifted, but the content is close enough for our Dubious Ventures experts to have agreed that Flanagan has a substantial cause of action against Q, and if he doesn't take it, he's... well... a big pussy who works for VH1.

Wait a sec....

Yanks Choke On Opening Day!

King Kaufman stays up until 4am so we don't have to, and is rewarded with Tampa Bay Tokyo stompage!


March 22, 2004

The Mermen Rock Yet Again

So both Mermen shows up in Nevada City were fantastic as expected. Cooper's is a great place to see live bands, and it's another step to familiarizing myself with the Nevada City/Grass Valley area. After the second show Bryn and I even made it back home all by ourselves in total darkness.

The band fired on all cylinders the first night. The set was volatile and the playing superb, but overall did not (fortunately for the sake of my ears) blow us away as much as the 2 shows we saw in Santa Barbara in past years, or should I say the "Shows That Convinced Me The Mermen Are THE LOUDEST BAND I'VE EVER HEARD". One time at Soho in SB, Jim Thomas' guitar rig even shorted the whole bar's electricity three times.

Anyway, this weekend's shows were still great if not stellar. By the second night (that of the bassist's & drummer's birthday) they seemed a little drained and a bit strained, at times visibly griping to each other about what to play next (though always humbly grateful to and appreciative of the audience). However, the performance as a whole was still excellent. Got to hear lots of favorites like "Walking The Peach" and "Prevail Somehow", and felt really cool when we could pick out the older surf covers like "Apache" masquerading as Mermen arrangements. It's lots of fun to watch Jen play the bass- she swaggers it with authoritah. Bryn stepped out to the ATM down the street and said the only thing he could hear outside was her rumbling Fender J. Gotta get me one of them big rumbly Ampegs. Martyn Jones has some big-ass toms and plays them that way, and Jim was impressive as always with his arsenal of oceanic soundscapes.

Mom and Bill even came with us to the first night, and you haven't lived if you haven't gotten drunk with your mom. She even danced a bit.

7-9 hour drive back to SB tomorrow. Poo. Way worth it, though.

March 20, 2004

Sally's Survey, y'all

What time is it: Hang time, all the time.

What time do you get up: I don't get up; I GIT ON UP.

Name: Keir

Name as it appears on birth certificate: Jean-Keir DuBois, Unimpeachable Genius.

Nickname: Gnarly Doobage.

Number of candles on your last birthday cake: Two candles. One was a "2", and one was a "7". Yep, you guessed it, I'm 72.

Pets: I keep my younger brother in a kennel cab out on the balcony. Once in a while I let him out to, you know, eat and pee and sing for the band and stuff.

Natural Hair color: Ah yes. Well, let's just say this falls under the "Once Upon A Time" category.

Body Piercing: Um, no.

Eye color: Fuscia. Matches my clothing on certain days, yo.

How much do you love your job on a Scale of 1 to 10: I'll echo Bryn here: "10 -- I'm unemployed!"

Birth Place: Orange, CA. As soon as I slithered out my parents said "sweet Jesus, what have we done?!?", and decided to raise me in Dana Point for my own good and their own misunderstandings. Ah, the OC. If it weren't so mind-numbingly conservative, it'd be almost pretty.

Current Residence: Isla Vista, CA. It's not, as some would have you believe, the 'hood of Santa Barbara. Neither is the Milpas area, but the few cholos who live there like to think it is. Posers.

Favorite food: Burritos. Hey, speaking of...

If you could have lunch with ANY one person, who would it be: Your Mom. Ok, ok, won't start that again,

Who would you least like to be stuck in an elevator with: Anyone who doesn't have bad BO or debilitating halitosis. Anyone who voted (or who says they voted) for George W. Bush. Anyone who is a religious fundamentalist (from any religion). Anyone who doesn't find me mind-alteringly attractive. I could go on, but there's only so many peeps in the world.

Do you prefer gold or silver: Silver. Gold is for cowards.

Do you prefer radio or television: That's a difficult question. Both are so packed to the gills with blatant stupidity that it's almost a moot point, but then TV does have the Daily Show, so I'll say TV.

Been to Africa: No. Sean's got that covered for me. I'll go to Africa when people start treating it better, instead of as the unwanted stepchild of all the continents.

Been toilet papering: No. TP is expensive, dammit.

Love someone so much it made you cry: Duh.

Have you been in a car accident: Thanks be to Elvis I have not.

Do you prefer Croutons or bacon bits: ............ Wait a sec. I've seen this devious question before. I take the 5th.

Favorite day of the week: Used to be Friday Flip-Up Day, but once a social stigma was attached to that I decided to go with the refeshingly surreal Thursday Opposite Day. As a matter of fact, I've heard that this is the Preznit's favorite day as well, cause then everyone is obligated to believe he's not an ignorant jackass. So maybe that's not my favorite day. I'll go with Wednesday Wedding day, or, as we say in 2004, Wednesday All-American Same-Sex Civil Union Vegas Quickie Day. Anything to get that tax break, kiddies.

Favorite word or phrase: "Chickenshit". We're up to our eyeballs in that these days, aren't we?

Favorite Restaurant: Anything that doesn't serve up that low-carb stuff. What a load of feces.

What do you have for breakfast: Fox News pundits. I mop the floor with those immoral cowards.

Favorite flower: Flour.

Favorite sport to play: Yuppie-punting. Yep, still love to kick the shit outta them yuppies.

Favorite drink: Newcastle Brown Ale. Okay, so it's only 4%. I'm a pussy. Right, Hilarie?

Favorite Ice Cream: Ice cream fucks up my digestion these days, so I'm taking the 5th here as well. You don't want to know anything else about that.

Favorite fast food restaurant: Wahoo's. Oh how I miss my Wahoo's. In fact, that's my primary reason for wanting to leave Santa Barbara. That and no one here wants to give me a job.

What color is your bedroom carpet: "Random Stain Brown". No really, it is.

How many times did you fail your drivers test: Never. Came this close though, for rolling through a stop sign.

Besides this one, from whom did get your last e-mail: My U2-geeky buddies from @U2.

Which store would you choose to max out your credit card: what, you mean if I had a credit card?

What do you do most often when you are bored: Think of something to do, you twit.

Most annoying thing people ask/tell me: ask: "Have you found your place in the Heavenly Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ?" To which I say, "well, God already knows the answer to that, dumbass, so why the hell should I tell you?"

tell: "Go fuck yourself". Mm-hm. That one chaps my hide every time.

Bedtime: 2am. Mostly.

Who will respond to this email the quickest: No one. My email-funny has gone down the tubes in recent years.

Who is the person you sent this to that is least likely to respond: Bryn. He knows all this already. I've given up sending these to Emily because she has to live with my dumb shit every day.

Favorite TV show: Funny Fake News with Jon Stewart and his Many Hilarious Homies.

Other than your mate, who was the last person you went out to dinner with: Yeah, Bryn's right, that's an Animal Planet question that I don't need to dignify.

Porsche or BMW: Neither. I am not, per se, a Car Guy. I know jack about fixing them too.

What is the last music you listened to: an epic instrumental band from Tejas called Explosions in the Sky. Oh yes, how they rock.

Time you finished this e-mail: Yeah, what Bryn said: "Why put this in the middle of the damn thing? I don't know yet -- I've got more crap to answer!"

Who was your first love: Your M... never mind.

What was your first language: English. I know smatterings of Geek (in many of its dialects, Jive (but only what MTV taught me, of course), Bureaucrat, and Political Junkie. I pretend to know Rock but anyone who knows me has realized that I only know enough of that one to get by.

Where would you live if any place in the world: It would have to have a Mediterranean or mild climate. I'm a meteorological wimp.

Overall, do you prefer beach, city or country: Like, beach, man. Even though I like, never learned to surf and haven't like had a tan since like the 4th grade. Like.

Fizzy or still water, as a drink: Still. Don't be hosin' my nose, yose.

How many keys on your key ring: 535. One for every office in the U.S. Congress. I'm on everyone's speed-dial, dude.

Red or white wine: Neither. I ain't no wino,

What did you do on your last birthday: Got #*&#(^@! older.

Who could you trust to hold your winning Lottery ticket for you: No one. I was born paranoid.

The FCC are Whores and Chickenshits

So they now declare Bono's Golden Globe award F-bomb indecent, but they're not gonna fine him. Way to stand on both sides of the fence, guys. What's funny is that this isn't even the most offensive part. The song that U2 won for, "The Hands That Built America", is one of their absolute worst, phoned-in performances ever, and the fact that such bilge was rewarded is mightily offensive to this U2 fan.

Besides, this wasn't even the first time Bono said something like this. 10 years ago when accepting a Grammy for Zooropa, he promised U2 would "continue to abuse our position and fuck up the mainstream". Puritannical idiots everywhere went ballistic, but were soon drowned out by the multitudes of folks angry that Sinatra was cut off during a rambling, but revealing, lifetime achievement acceptance speech. Interesting that this hasn't been brought up in the recent brouhaha. Or has it?

Anyway, this new album better be damn good, and same with the tour (and that one's gotta be a mite cheaper, boyos).

March 03, 2004

Super (Thanks For Asking!) Tuesday

Well, the third major engagement of Campaign 2004 took place today, and those of us weak-kneed liberals unaccustomed to such military-speak were completely overwhelmed with envious fury when Big John Kerry emerged as the ultimate victor on the biggest day of the Democratic Primary. Oh sure, many non-Kerry supporters had accepted as early as Iowa or New Hampshire that their chosen candidate wouldn't make it, and most of the rest of us will be coming around...eventually. For now, though, I think lots of people will need a few hours, or even days, to hang back in the weeds and lick their wounds—none more so than the once-rabid supporters of Vermont Governor Howard Dean.

Yes, the Doctor ended his campaign back on February 18, amid rumors that he'd be endorsing John Edwards. Dean's supporters split into several maniacal factions upon their hero's exit from the primary stage, but most seemed to accept Dean's fate and would be supporting Edwards or Kerry against Bush in November. Aside from the suddenly ubiquitous and completely servile sentiment of "Dated Dean, Married Kerry!" one comment in particular was telling—a Deaniac from Wisconsin said something like "Kerry would get my vote, sure, but not my time," i.e. this guy had driven umpteen thousand miles for the Dean campaign and wasn't willing to do it for Kerry. For my part, I never counted myself among the hard-core Dean crowd—my support was admittedly soft and mostly centered on his pre-Iowa Gore-ing by the press, but it would have been nice to have a few more outbursts of Pure Screamadelica from the Doctor before he bowed out. I mean, he did win Vermont decisively. Why not, Howard? How about one last holler for old times' sake?

Bah. As for Johnny Sunshine, he put up a good fight against Kerry in WI but his wave had already crested in that state, and after coming close only in one other primary—Georgia, by 3.5%—Edwards closed his campaign early on Super Tuesday, peppering his concession speech with lots of praise for John Kerry. My brother was livid at this—the California polls hadn't even closed before Edwards threw in the towel.

"That Crisco-headed bastard!" fumed Bryn. "I was still registered as a Green, so I had to write in his name on the goddamn ballot—probably at the same time he was verbally fellating John Kerry!"

I laughed at the time, but soon realized that Kerry would be in for some tough weeks courtesy of the Illiberal Media, and El Lurcho may not have the long-term stamina to survive such an onslaught. It would have been hard on Edwards, too—he surely would have crashed into negative numbers during the long wasteland between now and the August Democratic Convention in Boston. Edwards would have ended up at some low-rent exorcism of bad karma, like the one held in the Harry Caray Restaurant in Chicago a few weeks ago, where the infamous "Bartman Ball" from the Cubs' ill-fated 2003 playoff appearance would be ceremoniously destroyed for all to see. Supposedly, baseball pariah Steve Bartman was invited to see the object of his awful fate removed from this universe forever, but he didn't show.

Okay, well, it might sound preposterous, but John Edwards would have bit the media bullet that bad, folks, and we'll never know now, will we? Or will we? The Dem convention may itself become a weirdly purgative phenomenon, for all I know—but then I've watched the 2003 Cubs, the Howard Dean campaign, and even my own band (at a dud UCSB Campbell Hall gig) get sucked into the vortex of oblivion, so maybe I'm just projecting. Stranger things have happened, of course; I myself finally donated to a political campaign for the first time—25 bucks for Kerry to try to narrow that 100-million-dollar chasm between himself and Bush/Cheney, so—-

Holy Crap, literally. This foul Super Tuesday screed was just interrupted by the appearance at my door of two card-carrying members of the God Squad, apparently out to save the degenerate souls of Isla Vista. A nice older WASPy lady with Barbie-pink lipstick and a younger vaguely Asian woman sidekick thought I might like to consider some of the things about the life of Jesus and our Creator at this Easter-y time of year. They were so nice that it was easy to say "No, thanks" to their simplified, "I can't deal with 16th century English" version of Biblical bullets, Q&A, and talking points. After I closed the door I had a laugh and remembered that my grandma used to (back in the 50s/60s) simply say, "No thank you, we're Buddhists" and that was that. At least these ladies today took "No thanks" for an answer and went on their merry way. Mazel tov!

Ahem. Anyway, the anti-Bushie money was my first-ever donation to a campaign. Never donated to Dean, or Nader or Gore or Clinton. Never been this afraid before of wacko fundies knocking down my door in the name of the LORD instead of nice old ladies stopping by for some sensible chitchat...and I will NOT have my cheery rock & roll indulgence interrupted, folks. I was listening to the breezy recent Sea & Cake album, which I finally picked up after about a year or so. Before that, it was "The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place" by Explosions In The Sky from Tejas and...and...

...and where was I? Has this ugly missive degenerated into just another idiot typing? No, I remember now. Super Tuesday, of course. Anyway, what we might end up dealing with in November could be one or more of several disturbing scenarios: multiple repeats of Florida 2000 in Missouri or Ohio or both (they're so evenly split it's scary), with a few other swing states thrown in for good measure. However, what we might see this time around, election-wise, is a multiple repeat of Florida '00 in Missouri or Ohio or both (they are so evenly divided it's scary), with a few other swing states tossed in for good measure. Bush/Cheny is dropping their nuclear ad-bomb on basic cable tomorrow, and it's gonna be sprawled over 17 states that are in play (AZ, AR, FL, IA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NM, NH, NV, OH, OR, PA, WA, WV, and WI). Given that only about 7% of the actual voting electoriate is soft enough to swing either way, that's a lot of money on not too many voters, but hey, there was only a 537-vote discrepancy in Florida before those Angry Hired Yuppies started rioting for Bush and closed the thing down. Kerry needs to conduct a big fight on a national scale, stay in the news all year, and for God's sake try and shave off some of that bloviating senatorial language from his stump speech. He should show no mercy, for he will assuredly receive none from rabidly partisian Republicans.

Besides the convention in Boston later this summer, Kerry's got another chance to keep in the spotlight: his choice for second-banana/attack dog, or as Mr. Gore used to call it, the "vice-presidency." John Edwards was full to bursting yesterday with positive Kerry-isms, and many have read that as angling tor the bottom of the ticket, but I'm not so sure. Edwards brings no assurances that he can deliver specific states (unlike his primary performance as a generally well-liked candidate by some Republicans & Independents). He's still pretty drenched behind the ears, having only been a senator for 5 years, and I can imagine Kerry not believing that the young dude has what it takes to be President Now, which, though a big deal, is all the VP is really supposed to be. Big John doesn't need to pick someone to fight for him, cause he'll be doing much of the trench warfare himself, and anyway, Edwards' charismatic charm will make Kerry look like an uglier Al Gore. So if Edwards ain't it how come the early exit last night? Well, if he hadn't quit, he'd surely be getting the calls today to do so. Maybe Edwards has basically proven his case to the party that he can run a national campaign, since he did so much better than projected, and will be able to run with full party support in 2008 if Kerry stumbles like a jackass this year- Edwards might not be president now, but he seems to be saying he Could Be in the future.

Other conventional-bloviator Veepy Wisdom seems to cling to the idea of a strong, "battle-tested" congresscritter or governor from some critical swing state. Dick Gephardt (Missouri) and Bob Graham (Florida), both once candidates themselves, would represent this idea pretty well, even though both of them are already hopeless losers who won't even be running for their own re-election at this point. Bill Richardson (New Mexico) has a lengthy resume as well, and people always cite (like people will in this latently-racist country) that he could, as a Latino, bring in a sizeable Hispanic vote. There's also Mary Landrieu (Lousiana), who ran her 2002 campaign directly against the President, since he'd stumped for her opponent, and won in a squeaker. The further down the list we go—and there are many more where these jokers came from—the weaker and more useless the choice, so maybe we should just knock it on the head right now and go into some semi-hibernation before the convention, mmmkay?

Oh wait, almost forgot—here in Santa Barbara, the 3rd district supervisorial race was decisively won by Republican Brooks Firestone. Guess all those lame-ass negative ads paid off. Oh well- I might not even live here anymore by September so whatever. State & federal seats (Barbara Boxer & Lois Capps) are still only in their primary stages, and since the two women are unopposed by any other Democrat we won't hear much from them til later this year. Anyway, the Super Tuesday numbers are below. Kerry stomped mercilessly over everyone everywhere except, as Deaniacs will surely be reminding us forever, Vermont:

California: Kerry 67%, Edwards 18%.
Georgia: Kerry 46%, Edwards 42%
Maryland: Kerry 60%, Edwards 25%
Ohio: Kerry 52%, Edwards 34%
Rhode Island: Kerry 71%, Edwards 19%
Minnesota: Kerry 51%, Edwards 27%
New York: Kerry 61%, Edwards 20%
Connecticut: Kerry 58%, Edwards 24%
Massachusetts: Kerry 72%, Edwards 18%
and....Vermont: Dean 58%, Kerry 34%

That's all folks. See you in August.

March 02, 2004

Don't Answer That, You Idiot!

Calpundit notes that Kerry was asked "Is God On America's Side?" by that chickenshit hack Elisabeth Bumiller during the New York debate. Matt Welch has crafted his own little set of follow-ups. I, too, have a special relationship with the Q&A format. Hence:

* What if the whole universe was like a single speck on the fingernail of some dude sitting in a Starbucks or something?
Like, wow! Oh god man, what if?!? You think that, like, the dude might have been my buddy Owen when he was like, working there or something?

* Does God love Guam and Puerto Rico just a little less? The District of Columbia? American Samoa?
No, the big guy clearly does not love DC. Even the knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers know that. Murder capital of the country, and it has to deal with Marion Berry's snortage? American Samoa is loved, however. Not to the degree it should have been, but hey, there's only so much divine love to go around, which leaves Guam out. Sorry guys. Oh, and Puerto Rico too. If God truly loved Puerto Rico then He wouldn't have inflicted its 600+ year history of shame and degradation upon it.

* What if all this was a dream, and you woke up & you were the president of Mexico?
Then I'd be assassinated by forces in favor of someone prettier, like say Gael Garcia Bernal. Not in the capital, mind you; they'd wait til I was in some torn up border town like Juarez or Tijuana so they could blame it on the yahoo anti-immigrant trigger-happy gringos.

* Do non-human animals believe in oral sex?
Sure, monkeys do. Lest thou forget the 11th Commandment: "Everything shall be more fun with monkeys!"

* If I tackled your wife and stole her socks, what would be the very first thing you'd do?
I'd let her chase you around the world to get her damn socks back. Hey man, she'd probably kick your ass a lot worse than I would.

* Who wins the arm-wrestling contest: Jesus or John Travolta?
Jesus would win, no contest. Not cause he's the Son of God or anything like that, but cause Travolta is just a dumb bastard who's squandered not one, but two comebacks. Jesus got his chance for a comeback and man, according to some folks, Bro Came Back.

* Do you agree that the music from The Lord of the Rings was in fact the very worst thing about the whole 43-hour trilogy, especially that ear-scraping treacly nonsense with the ethnic flute (to say nothing of the Annie Lennox "song"), and that they should not have won those Academy Awards?
Why are you insulting the Democratic process? Don't you believe in the Rule Of Law? Hell, it worked in Florida, didn't it? Why can't you sniveling pricks just grow up and move on? Clearly, God is on the side of the Kiwis. Run. Run and hide, you queasy American scum.

* Who killed Tupac?
Bryn says Fear Of A Black Hat, but I say they were outta town at the time.

* Quick, and no looking at your notes -- Who is the president of Turkshittystan?
George W. Bush, of course.

February 10, 2004

Enduring a Frigid Interlude in New Mexico

Altitude sickness has always been a bitter enemy of mine, but right now, at 7,000 feet above sea level in my aunt and uncle's house in New Mexico, what concerns me most is the temperature. February in Santa Fe can be goddamn balls-ass freezing, folks, and for a feeble, California-bred child of suburbia like myself, five days' exposure to even the inside of a comfortable home in this city is still a bone-chilling experience.

That's right, for the past week or so, I've been hunkered down in one of America's weirdest locales, shivering like a popsicle and unable to rouse myself into few activities more complicated than eating, excreting, and sleeping. Santa Fe has turned me into a hibernating animal, and all because my brother and I needed to get the hell away from Isla Vista for a week. We were long overdue for a visit--I'd last been in 1999, and it had been longer for Bryn, so with a break in Honey White rehearsals before a show later this month, we decided to fly up the mountain to endure the last lashings of winter. This being an election year, I thought maybe we'd observe the aftermath of the New Mexico Democratic caucuses, preferably in the company of our good college buddy Crazy Jon Neal, who had somehow elbowed his way into Wesley Clark's fizzling campaign. Ideally, we could do it all while taking in a Cracker show--the rootsy alterna-clowns would be rocking the Paramount on February 4th.

So yeah, we had a plan at one point, sure, but that was hopelessly fucked before we ever left California. Hell, we were doomed before we even got to LAX; I knew it might be a close one when we became desperately mired in traffic on the 405 a half-hour before takeoff, but I really thought we'd make it right up until Bryn actually said "Hey, that's probably our flight up there," and I followed his gaze to a jet banking over Catalina before making the turn inland. Well, who knew if it was really ours, but the deal was done, and by the time we were booked on an alternate Phoenix-Albuquerque run by two highly attractive Filipino girls posing as America West desk attendants, I realized I hadn't freaked out even once about missing the flight.

I mentioned this to Bryn as our new plane launched itself into the sky, and my brother was taken aback for a second. "Yeah," he said, acknowledging my incremental personal growth with a shrug, "I was feeling kinda strange for a bit there, and I had no idea why, but now I know what it was: you weren't hyperventilating at all. Way to go, man." A week later that bizarre mercy has stayed with me, sort of--I have yet to collapse into the usual black moods and blistering migraines that plague me at this altitude--but other than the good food and company, that's been the only bright spot of this trip.

Our grand designs unraveled almost immediately when we got into town. I'd eaten a skimpy breakfast the day of our flight, and what with missing it, waiting for the next one, and the stopover in Phoenix, I'd barely eaten anything at all, so by the time Bron picked us up in Albuquerque I was famished enough to inhale a rubbery McDonald's fish sandwich. "Ugh," I'd gagged, mouth full of polymers, "Bronwen, I hope you realize how momentous this is." My aunt merely giggled from the driver's seat, and I tried to ignore Bryn's fish-sandwich-fueled Leon Phelps impression from behind me as I swallowed. "Seriously," I said, "I haven't come near a McDonald's for, like, eight or nine years. This is some dangerous backsliding, okay?"

Exhaustion finally body-checked both Bryn and I when we arrived in Santa Fe, though, and we were in no condition to turn right around and run out to the Cracker show, let alone keep up with Jon as he came down from the dizzying heights of the General's certain political flameout. So we never called him and instead ditched Cracker and stayed home to eat fancy Italian take-out in front of a roaring fire while Bron and Jeff gently disabused us of any ideas concerning the less-than-action-packed New Mexico caucuses.

"Oh, it was weird," said Bron. "The Dean people were staggering around like they'd just been gutted, the Clarkies huddled in a corner with a single pot of coffee, and John Edwards' crowd couldn't stop smiling, even after he'd clearly lost to Kerry."

"What about the Kerry people?" I asked. "Were they still flogging that dipshit 'dated Dean, married Kerry' line?"

"You bet," nodded Jeff. "They were clearly fixated to a disturbing degree." My uncle declined to state if that was a professional opinion, or merely an observation, but after he regaled us with his story about meeting Howard Dean himself at a fundraiser some months before ("The candidate did a double-take when he heard my name was the same as the Confederate president, and when I said 'that would probably be worth 5 percent in some states,' he couldn't contain his nervous laughter!"), everyone was ready for bed. The rest of the trip passed in a frozen haze of activity, and it was mostly a question of creatively enduring the cold, whether by jamming at some local guitar shops with Jeff or taking in Canyon Street art galleries with Bron or simply learning how to move around under six layers of clothing.

Miraculously, I avoided altitude sickness the whole time, which I can take some perverse pleasure in reporting to you all right now as I slake my shameful thirst for the Internet here in Jeff's office. Nothing much has changed in the outside world: John Kerry continues his brutal march to Boston, knocking out Clark after big wins in VA and TN. Edwards tries to stay relevant but seems more and more like a veep. Dean limps to WI and his own line in the sand. Bush looks like a chump every time he speaks, and I'd be happy about that if I weren't so worried about the October surprise sure to come in som ugly form or another. At least there's no more Joementum.

Oh, and in music news U2 apparently brought in old hand Steve Lillywhite to take over production of their new album. Par for the course, ya bastards--hopelessly delayed again. We'll return to your regularly scheduled Isla Vista mania momentarily. Hang in there, sports fans.

January 28, 2004

Watching C-SPAN So You Don’t Have To

There was a lot of blood in New England this week, but you wouldn't know from the C-SPAN coverage of Campaign '04. The Democratic primary endured another high-profile orgy of retail politics in New Hampshire, as last week's Iowa upset by Big John Kerry gave way to another Kerry win, albeit with a reshuffled deck of also-rans in the winter snows underneath him. The numbers went like this: Kerry 39%, Dean 26%, Clark 14%, Edwards 13%, Lieberman 9%, Kucinich 2%.

Kerry's double-digit stompilation of Howard Dean may have sealed the Doctor's fate, but Dean has so far refused to drop out, and is still making noise about a turnaround on Super Tuesday. All the projection in the world won't help him now, though- initial polling pointed to a finish like this, but a delusional few still held out hope that Dean could close the gap to single digits and force Kerry to feign breaking a sweat. Deaniac desires were ultimately dashed, however, and the Doctor's supporters are now fanning out across the land, looking for someone to blame besides themselves and their candidate.

The real fight in New Hampshire was on the undercard, between John Edwards (coming in off a 2nd place finish in Iowa), Wesley Clark, and Joe Lieberman (both of whom skipped Iowa to concentrate their efforts here). The Carolina senator held his own for most of the night, but when the final numbers rolled in they favored the general, and Edwards was pummeled by the hated and feared "electability" meme. The exact meaning of that term has been slowly coagulating into a definition resembling militarized self-righteousness, as if voters seem to believe that the best way to take on George Bush is to offer up a candidate who actually saw combat.

This seemed a bit oversimplified to my elitist liberal brain, so Brian and I argued briefly over the quantity of bullshit coursing through the bowels of "electability," and my genius guitarist observed that perception, in this case "perceived electability," holds a voodoo-like sway over so-called "Flyover Country." We sneered in unison at our own cleverness, and finished our conversation beating up on Joe Lieberman.

"He's behaving like a crazy old lady," laughed Brian, phoning it in from San Francisco, "like some inverted, Faulknerian she-troll that keeps a decaying corpse of Scoop Jackson in her attic."

"Totally," I replied. "Only in the world of Lieberman-gothic would we ever hear a crime against English like the word 'Joementum."

After we hung up I pondered some more confusing minutiae. For instance, throughout the week Kerry kept insisting that he was not the frontrunner and kept campaigning like he was fifteen points down, as if he could almost smell the inevitable media barbs that always aim for Number One. Kerry further insulated himself behind a phalanx of veterans, who manned the phone banks on his behalf, repeating to anyone within earshot that "outsider anger" was a losing formula that would drag the party back into the wilderness of defeat.

There seemed to be something to that, of course, what with Dean's pathetic finish in the face of the Kerry campaign's last-minute push in Manchester. The senator's victory speech slipped into incoherence far less so than after Iowa, and according to the babbling dingbats on CNN, he will now seek to replenish his weary, but winning, organization with an injection of cash. New England is Kerry's home turf, and it will look like a blissful winter wonderland compared to the wholesale-hell he'll have to deal with come Super Tuesday. February 3 is still make-or-break time for everyone left standing, winners included.

No one is counting on that more than Howard Dean. Back in the ditch of his own making, the Doctor did penance for his bronze finish in Iowa by squirming his way through a wretched interview with Diane Sawyer, who honed in like a vulture on Dean's media-exaggerated temper, asking multiple inane questions of Dean and his wife Judy. It was an excruciatingly dull piece of television, and it should be an insult to women everywhere that Dean's numbers in that demographic seemingly rose on the merits of Sawyer's dumb fixations alone. Once free of the studio, the Doctor calmly outlined his stump speech at a “Women For Dean” rally: condensed by a spokesman to "universal healthcare, responsible foreign policy, better environmental policy, and reigning in the president’s failed economic plan." Dean made several other squeamish, supposedly “kinder, gentler” appearances like this during the week, which only made him look like a craven sucker once the final tally came in.

Dean's other bugaboo is the evaporation of his 2003 surge, which is now basically worthless after every other candidate overtook him in anti-war fervor. They're all wanking furiously, though; if Democratic primary voters really believe that the best way to fix Iraq is through a "responsible" war effort short of anything but full withdrawal, they deserve these jokers. Cleaning up after George Bush's utter stupidity won't be a glamorous job, gentlemen, but those Democrats feeling duped at their willingness to give Bush the benefit of the doubt are now aligning with the candidates who apparently feel the same way- Kerry and Edwards. Dean’s problem now: if the Vermont governor can’t win next door, where can he win? Dean has to pick up one or maybe two wins next week, or all the money in the world won’t push him into March.

The show position ended up being such a collection of mediocrity that I can't even expend worthy vomit on it. Wesley Clark had NH to himself during the Iowa caucases, but his brutal hazing began swiftly, and he barely held on to a 3rd place finish. John Edwards, whose campaign visibly gathered steam all week, is set to bounce form here to South Carolina, and will give Clark a few cheap migraines down there. Clark’s problem is based on the fact that all the reasons to like him are shared with another candidate: Southerner? So is Edwards. Strong on national security? So is Kerry. "Outsider?" So is Dean. Clark insists that he can yoke gullible conservative voters, but theoretically so can Lieberman. If voters like any of those reasons, so far they’ve shown a modicum of cerebral forethought and chosen the other guy, not the General.

Joe Lieberman predictably failed to make a decent showing for all his time spent in NH, and if he stays in the race til next week he may win in Delaware (where he’s been polling well) but is toast on the national stage. Speaking of burn-outs- in the concurrent Republican NH primary, Bush won, of course, but the striking thing was how many Republicans wrote in their choices, and those choices happened to be any one of the top 5 Democrats. Kerry, Dean, Edwards, Clark, and Lieberman all scored at least 100-500 write-in votes from NH Republicans. Chimpy McFlightsuit has been having trouble with both the "moderate" and “independent” Republicans (who apparently enjoy yanking Bush's chain) and this is now borne out (admittedly on a small scale) in his first primary.

If you can take even more cynicism, try this: the two guys who have done well in the past 2 weeks are “Washington insiders” Kerry and Edwards, to the point where speculation has begun centering on a Kerry/Edwards ticket. At this point, after only 2 contests, that sounds absurd, because the February calendar isn’t exactly merciless:

Feb. 3: AZ, DE, MO, NM, ND, OK, SC
Feb 7: MI, WA
Feb 8: ME
Feb 10: VA, TN
Feb 14: Wash DC, NV
Feb 17: WI
Feb 24: ID, UT, HI

So, retail campaigns will be horribly fucked as the campaign devolves into a mass-media blitz, especially next week. The dropouts will fall soon, and fall hard. Splatter is inevitable, gang. Stay tuned.

January 20, 2004

The Ghost of Muskie Haunts Iowa

I know I said I wouldn't make the DV a political blog, but events have overtaken me, and so I am now altering the deal, Calrisian. Pray I don't alter it any further. I gave in to the 2004 election sometime around the New Year, in a momentary fit of excitement at the possibility of seeing the Bush/Cheney ticket demolished in November. Election day is on my birthday this year, and the last time that happened, a Democrat won. Now, that Democrat happened to be Jimmy Carter, but let's not be too hasty in making assumptions yet. The Iowa Democratic Caucus isn't even cold, okay? The freak finish, Kerry-Edwards-Dean-Gephardt, certainly looks strange at first glance, considering the amount of Dean-frenzy in the past year, but the inside-baseball talk is already calling the nomination for Big John.

Oh sure, Kerry will now have to face General Clark, who abandoned Iowa, and who's been hiding out in the New Hampshire snows for weeks now, and the two old soldiers may indeed maul each other to death yet, because if Kerry's victory speech was any indicator, El Lurcho is still tired and listless despite regaining his precious frontrunner status. His main line of assertion at this point, that of "electability," is eerily similar to that of another glowering golem from primaries past: Ed Muskie of Maine, who crashed and burned at the feet of George McGovern way back in 1972, despite wide acclaim for Muskie as the only man who could beat Nixon. If that's any model at all, Senator Kerry is in for a bitterly cold week in New Hampshire.

This cycle's other flashback, the rabid badger of a doctor-governor known as Howard Dean, is looking more and more like a freak hybrid of McGovern and Gene McCarthy, with a few Dukakis alleles thrown in for good measure. The Doctor choked in Iowa, or rather, his organization did. What many armchair analysts figured was a well-oiled machine turned into a swaggering phallus on the caucus floor, where Dean partisians failed miserably to convert Gephardt or Kucinich supporters. Dean himself proved unequal to resisting Gep's bait of relentless negative advertising, and the Doctor lashed out often, looking like Nicholson's Joker pumped up on good trucker speed. NH is now, arguably, as must-win for Dean as it is for Kerry, even though the Doctor apparently still has enough cash to last him through Super Tuesday.

Dick Gephardt, who last ran for President in 1988 alongside Gore, Hart, Jesse Jackson, and other hopeless losers, demolished his 2004 campaign by heaving-ho at Dean. Armed with twenty-plus years of Washington grease, Gep apparently took one for the party-establishment team behind Kerry, blowing himself out of the race and now out of public service as well (he has declined to run for his Missouri seat again). Perhaps someone who cares more than I do should write his political eulogy, because right now Gep's back down in the ditch with all the other well-meaning, useful idiots, where he will stay for the forseeable future.

The only real winner in this scenario besides Kerry is John Edwards, the freshman senator from North Carolina. Miraculously, his refusal to go negative on anyone made his platform jump to the fore, briefly, and he survived the Dean/Gep mudwrestling session by apparently cutting a deal with Dennis Kucinich. The Ohio congressman released his Iowa supporters to Edwards at crunch time, catapulting the senator and his fantastic haircut above Dean. Several Iowa papers were seduced by the Edwards pitch, and their endorsements evidently meant more to Iowans than Dean's retinue of party heavy-hitters (Gore, Bradley, and Mosley-Braun). Several high-profile bookmakers now predict that if John Edwards can use an Iowa second-place finish for momentum into NH and keep up his "positive" message campaign, then he's got life after South Carolina on Feb 3 (where he'll still have to face Clark and Lieberman).

Speaking of those two, they own NH at this point by opting out of Iowa. Look for next week's primary to be another four-way grudge match of hideous quasi-liberalism, this time with Kerry/Edwards/Dean/Clark as the principals. Joe Lieberman is doomed; there's not much further he can drag out his shameful status as the party's boundary on the right, and if he continues with his Maggie's-Ma mantra of "scold first, think later" he's gone after next week with no hope in South Carolina. As for Dennis the Menace, he should have dropped out tonight as well. If the deal with Edwards is any indicator he may soon do so, and follow that with an Edwards endorsement.

Jesus, that's a lot of talking out of my own ass. If I don't turn off the TV I'll start throwing things at it (which is also why I won't be watching Bush's state of the union speech tomorrow). If I can bring myself to care enough, you'll get more virtual reporting from desolate New Hampshire. This young year is already horribly ugly and it's only gonna get worse. Ugh.

January 02, 2004

U2004 Pontifications

My late-breaking entry in @U2's predictions:

2004 is looking to be one of the meanest, nastiest twelve months in history. Any self-righteous theologically political rock band will have sensed this intrinsically some time ago, and will have either run screaming and wailing into the comforting arms of nostalgia, or instead will have decided on blundering gamely inside the gaping maw of mass media to suffer gross misinterpretation and crushing overexposure before being mercifully cut off from all supporting record conglomerate cash flow, leaving the field to the bland ravings of hyper-hip art rockers, loopy hip-hoppers, and libidinal pop tarts.

Bono, being the stubborn bastard he is, will gallantly lead his semi-skeptical bandmates into the coming year’s swirling maelstrom with a confidence bordering on the delusional, but, I predict, will somehow emerge relatively unscathed, retaining for U2 a phoenix-like avatar status among their peers despite a slew of assaults upon common sense, practicality, good taste, and other sick and twisted enemies of rock & roll. Plus, since people seem to put stock in such things, a Hall of Fame nomination to boot.

U2 can’t do this without a killer album, and I don’t mean a safe return to simplicity like “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” or “Electrical Storm”, and certainly not in disjointed, throwaway narratives like “The Hands That Built America”. No, for me, this record is going to need an epic scope on a personal scale in order to come across as not only relevant to today’s wretched times, but to stand up to the high points of their own back catalogue, since U2 are in effect competing with themselves at this point despite any protestations otherwise. That’s a lot to expect from a middle-aged group of rich Irish dorks, and I don’t blame them for giving two fingers to bogus pontifications like that.

Still, sonically this might be a corker. If Edge can interpret the “Psychocandy”-riffage of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club into whatever he’s doing, I’ll be interested, even if that only amounts to a kind of name-dropping, selectively pruning endeavor which might just disguise how much of a third-generation theft it would be. Elaborate sonic appropriation was all that “Achtung Baby” was at its roots anyway, and I went for that full bore.

Well, went for it because of the lyrics on top of that theft, anyway. Bono’s lyrics are going to need to be top notch here as well, or else he’ll have to resort to a delivery that may be beyond his physical range these days. Let’s face it, folks, the two or three lyrical cracks showing on “Pop” burst into a gaping hole of banality on the vast majority of U2 tunes that followed. Valiant though his globe-trotting, world-saving ambitions may be, Mr. Hewson needs to balance that energy with his verbiage-generating reserves, lest we all be afflicted by more “Elevation”-style nursery rhymes.

U2 have more leeway from prickly geeks like me when it comes to touring. The 2001 tour waited a long time to degenerate into a victory-lap jukebox affair, and until that point we were treated to a very well-rehearsed band charging through our favorites and their favorites, with a (relatively) dynamic setlist. The shows, as most of you know, were fantastic, if you could actually get a ticket for them. If the album’s good (or the promotional campaign is, at any rate- Olympic tie-ins, anyone?), I may yet again end up waiting in line for hours before scoring expensive, last-row arena seats. Oh well. I hope U2 will take the good aspects of Elevation and run with them- namely, showcasing a wide variety of their material for as long as possible, or at least the older stuff that fits well in context with the new album, before shoving a live version of their 80’s hits album down our throats when James Henke and Cleveland come calling. A new version of “We Will Rock You” would also be nice in this vile election year.

Even so, lots of this is small potatoes compared to my other pressing musical questions: will PJ Harvey’s new album be as awesome as the last one? Will Elbow finally break Coldplay’s stranglehold on the all-powerful demographic of 25-45 year-old-women, or will R.E.M. finally regain that crown? Will people finally get sick of the ruling Strokes-White Stripes oligarchy of uber-cool? Will Radiohead float off into the proggy ether again? Will Wilco continue to quietly demolish everyone else? Will my brother still insist that Pearl Jam is the greatest live band ever? Will sniping critics ever stop saying “Rock is dead!” Will my own musical myopia ever allow me to become a rock star in my own right? (easy answer for that one: No, you twit.)

Oh, one other thing: I predict that I will, at some point in the future, write an article about U2 that will be criticized as insufficiently fawning and hopelessly stupid by someone on or some other French fansite. This actually happened in the wake of my lukewarm Elevation show review (discovered thanks to a Google vanity search)- apparently my Cali-yankee sensibilities so offended someone in Gaul that they publicly mocked my fandom and my intelligence. Welcome to the majors, Mr. Hobbs.

Anyway, I hope your coming year in U2 brings you either exactly what you wish for or exactly what you deserve. I’ll probably get a heaping helping of both.

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