Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Make my funk the P.J. Funk? Don't wanna get that funked up

Back from Tasmania, and what a pleasant holiday! Got a small bottle of The Lark, as promised to myself. Nice distillery too - a great place to look at Hobart harbor while kicking back, sipping drinks, and reading a Sharpe novel. Even if this item was on my mind.

Ibanez SR-506 

You are looking at a SR506 - a six-string bass manufactured by Ibanez. Mine is the same model except that it's green, about 12 years older and missing a mid-range EQ. If I had a favorite possession, this would be it. Much missed, but not much played. I had to leave it at my folk's place while I lived in Việt Nam for four long years. I had plans to shipped over - I even put it in a packing crate - but it stayed put in my parents' garage. Maybe that's a good thing. God know what Vietnamese customs would have done to the thing if I'd shipped it. Break the pickups while searching for "contraband", perhaps.  

Even when I returned to Australia, I left it be; I was too busy looking for work, and then I was too busy at work. But when that slacked off, I realized I wanted to play again. But the strings were old, and one of the heads was broken and welded to the strings, and so I arranged for it to be repaired before my holiday. I picked it up two days after returning from Tasmania. It cost a lot (3 figures, not 4), but it's cleaner, the rust is removed, the dust is gone, and I don't regret it one bit. I've been having too much fun practicing (which is what I need), and I'm working on expanding my repetroire. Ideas for now:

Every Breath You Take - Police standard. Rather that the "duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh" simplicity of the original, I attempt to play the Andy Summer's guitar riff on the bass one octave down. No, the song is not about love, despite what Puff Daddy and Faith Evans may think. It's really about paranoid obsession, and that's how I'm tackling it. Or do these stanzas sound that romantic to you?

Every move you make
Every vow you break
Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake
I'll be watching you

Jerry was a Race Car Driver - I used to be a Primus fan, and even was inspired to buy the bass after discovering them in concert at "Alternative Nations", one of those rock festivals I used to attend. Drove my flatmates mad with my playing, as one reminded me when I visited her in Melbourne a fortnight ago. I'm not that obsessive now about the band, but I like the "tap-with-the-right-hand/pop-with-the-left-hand" technique of Jerry. [*]

I want to say something about P.J. O'Rourke's latest article: 24 Hours on the 'Big Stick'. Only heard about it because it was reprinted in The Australian. Good points - still an excellent writer on certain subjects, such as what happens on an aircraft carrier. Bad points - using this as a metaphor to tout the virtues of American-style "Conservatism", despite 8 years of Bush demonstrating that the ideology sucks dogs bollocks. He thinks John McCain would be a good president because he was an aircraft-carrier pilot. By the same criterion, Randall "Duke" Cunningham - legislator and confirmed "ace"- would be an even more stellar commander-in-chief. Perhaps he could run in 2016... after completing his 8-year sentence for tax evasion and fraud.

[* "Alternative Nations" was also the same concert where I saw women pelting Ice-T with water bottles. "KKK Bitch" was not appreciated.]

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Escaping the Horse Race

OK folks. I have been on the internet for two US election cycles, and have observed that during a Presidential election year, the political web becomes totally fucking unusable, as one gets sucked into a) a vast amount of pointless horse-race coverage and b) the horrific internecine fights of one's friends in vaguely left-wing politics in the US (this has been mainly over Ralph Nader last time round, but the Hillary/Barrack fight certainly appears to have the legs).

Daniel Davies - I bless the rains...

Lately though, I don’t hear so much outrage. In fact, the readers seem to be suffering from what someone aptly called “rage fatigue.” Which is another way of saying the bastards have simply worn us out. And it’s true.

I am not kidding when I say rage fatigue victims have fallen into an ongoing mid-level depression. (Looks to me like the whole country has, but then I’m no mental health expert.) The less depressed victims can be found lurking near the edges of the Obama cult, consoling themselves that a soothing and/or charismatic orator is better than nothing. Obama may yet be borne through the White House portico by a Democratic host of seraphim, but he cannot do much without the consent of a bought and paid for Congress. Only George Bush can do that, and we can only hope God broke the mold after he made George. And like whoever else wins the presidency, Obama can never acknowledge any significant truth, such as that the nation is waaaaay beyond being just broke, and is even a net debtor nation to Mexico, or that the greatest touch-me-not in the U.S. political flower garden, the “American lifestyle,” is toast. But then, we really do not expect political truth, but rather entertainment in a system where, as Frank Zappa said, politics is merely “the entertainment branch of industry.”

And now here's my chance to escape the horse race for a while. For what it's worth, I prefer Obama as the next president to Clinton or McCain. I don't care about his "Audacity of Hope"; I just think he's the only one with the potential to be a decent president. Clinton is too prone to being mis-advised, while McCain is too angry. Unless someone works out how to bring back FDR from the dead, Obama is the best option possible now.

I'm going to wean myself off American blogs for a bit. They're definitely more dramatic that Australian ones, but is that necessarily a good thing when American politics is so dramatic - that is, fucked up?

For now, I'm having a real holiday - not a period between jobs, or traveling from one country to another, but a chance to actually see new places - Tasmania in particular. There's a lot of hiking lined up for us, as the place is brimming with National Parks. And at the end of it all, I want to visit a little distillery in Hobart and bring back a bottle of one of these.

The Lark

Monday, April 07, 2008

Nice country - shame about the processed food

Sen. Barack Obama sampled $100 ham, but didn't chow down on a cheesesteak during a visit to the Italian Market yesterday. During a half-hour tour of the market, Obama sampled wares at Claudio Specialty Food and DiBruno Brothers - where he noshed on a Spanish ham that retails for $99.99 a pound.

Staff at DiBruno's told him the ham only recently became available because it was previously barred by the FDA. "All I know is it tastes good," Obama said. As good as whiz with onions? 

In fact, neither Obama nor Sen. Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, has made the traditional stop at South Philly cheesesteak establishments Pat's or Geno's.

Obama - I'll try that cheesesteak next time

I like cheese - good mild cheese, such as Edam. Processed cheese is another thing entirely. I can't understand how a country like America, with so much good agricultural land, could be content with a product involving "regular cheese that has been reprocessed along with additional ingredients such as emulsifiers and stabilizing agents, such as xanthan gum or carrageenan. These products derive their tanginess and flavor from additional ingredients such as citric acid and flavoring compounds." Gag me without a spoon.

So why can't Michelle Malkin work this out for herself? 

I’m flying out of Harrisburg, PA this morning, but I just had to pop in as a Philly-born girl to say my peace (sic) about Barack Obama dissing the cheesesteak.

Yes. Dissing the cheesesteak. Yo. What is he thinking?

"Yuck." If Barack Obama decided to choose "mozzarella, provolone, salami, and prosciutto" over this example of the Philly cheesesteak, then the man has taste.


I showed it to my wife. She grimaced.

"What's that?"

"It's cheese steak."

"It looks like số hai." (A literal translation of "Số hai" is "number two", and is our own family euphemism for "shit".) "That [pointing at the yellow] is people's số hai, and that [indicating the brown] is Timpani's số hai." (Timpani is our family dog - sadly missed - but adopted by our in-laws.) "Where do you get that?"


She shuddered. "If I go to America, I won't eat that!"

And neither would I. 

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Absolut Trolling

Michelle Malkin has got herself into quite a frenzy over this ad. Let me quote the full title for her outrage: Absolut arrogance and the advertising agency behind the reconquista ad; Update: Absolut’s mealy-mouthed response. Fuck me - doesn't that really sound pompous?  

Fear of a Mexican Planet

It's not like the U.S. doesn't have real problems, with a 4000+ death toll in Iraq, a currency that's tanking, a economy based mostly around worthless mortgages, an overexploited working class, and a president who thinks torture is great (up to and including crushing child testicles, apparently). That doesn't bother Michelle Malkin and her wingnuteers one bit. It's mischievous advertising agencies in Mexico City that get them angry!

How do I explain this to an Aussie audience? Once upon a time, places like California and Texas were part of Mexico. In the 1800s, they taken over by the U.S., except for Texas which became independent and then was taken over by the U.S. Fast forward to 2008, where a a lot of Americans are frightened that Mexico will take it back. I have no idea why, but only if I assume reason, decency, half-decent education and a sense of proportion (qualities apparently absent from the readership of that blog). 

Here's how I think. There are 30 odd million "Hispanics" in the U.S. (as their Census defines) - and that's not just people from Mexico but also from Cuba, Guatemala and even as far south as Tierra del Fuego. However, my impression is that they left their countries for a better life in America - not for expanding their own countries' borders. Escaping to the U.S. and bringing their own country with them seems quite the contradiction. I really doubt that Mexicans-Americans want to swap the corruption of the Republicans for the more extreme corruption of the PRI, or have the high inequality of the U.S.A. replaced by the higher inequality of Mexico. But the way things are going, it looks like six of one against a half dozen of the other.

I found the whole saga funny, in a sad way. The sadness is that the only other person around here who would have really "got it" would have been my dad, and he passed away a few months ago. Wetbackophobia isn't a common malady in Brisbane, and certainly not in West End where I live; people are pretty cool with the Latin Americans in the community. The only "Mexicans" folk know in this area are New South Welshpeople up for the State of Origin.

On Balloon Juice (where I discovered this story), a commentator by the name of "r€nato" suggested regarding the right-wingers:

I have an idea for an Absolut ad which would (hopefully) give ‘em all aneurysms: A Photoshopped pic of Bush languishing in a jail cell after his war crimes trial, with the tag line: “Absolut Justice”.

You mean, something like this?1

Absolut Justice.

Ask and ye shall receive. It's not quite what you're looking for, but it will do. I don't think it will bother the mouth breathers that much, because they can't imagine Bush and cronies in the dock at the Hague. They will say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. 

The person I feel sorry for is Jeffrey Moran, Ad Executive at Absolut. As unwilling contact man, he's been getting a few nasty grams from the trogyldytes. If he's been deleting them unread - good for him! But I wonder how else he'll deal with this. My guess is that he'd create another ad. Michelle, this drink is on me.

Absolut Petulance.

[1] Acknowledgment goes to Billmon, who created the original picture. No URL for it, I'm afraid; he went off line at the end of 2006. God bless him wherever he is. 

Observed on a letter signboard outside a church

It took three seconds for this to sink in.



Thursday, April 03, 2008

Iraq: it's not the battles - it's the goals

'Who Won Iraq's "Decisive" Battle?', asks Gary "War Nerd" Brecher, and answers: 

What happened in Iraq this week was a beautiful lesson in the weird laws of guerrilla warfare. Unfortunately, it was the Americans who got schooled. Even now, people at my office are saying, “We won, right? Sadr told his men to give up, right?”

Wrong. Sadr won big. Iran won even bigger. Maliki, Petraeus and Cheney lost.

For people raised on stories of conventional war, where both sides fight all-out until one side loses and gives up, what happened in Iraq this past week makes no sense at all.

Read it all, as they say - it's one of his best. It's hard to say that the Iraqi Army won, with troops defecting or refusing to fight, and dragging the Americans (and the British I hear) as unwillingly props. And then four farcical days later, Sadr calls for a ceasefire, and looks gracious doing so. No doubt he's going to milk everything he can out of the incident election season this year.

Some people seem to be of the "Peace offers are for Losers" persuasion. If they think that way, fine. But do real losers get to keep their weapons? The Mahdi Army did. After all, it's not about the battles, it's the goals. One of Sadr's main ones is to get the Americans out of Iraq. The last few days have moved him a lot closer to grabbing power off Maliki. Once then, I have no idea. But I feel he'd rather order the Yanks out than shoot them out.

It's not that I trust the guy - I don't - I have little tolerance for fundamentalists. I would rather have me an Iraqi Olaf Palme or Nelson Mandela, but they don't exist. Given this, Sadr is probably what we're looking at Iraqi leader a couple of years down the track, and (woo-hoo!) sitting on a lot of untapped oil as well. We'll have to deal with the man. But at least he's no Saddam (I hope), more liberal than the ibn Saud family (not fucking hard), gets along with the Sunnis (unlike the other Shi'ite groups), and might even come out looking better than Bhutto. After all, he never capped his brother, did he?